Orpheus

And then . . .A still from Cocteau's Orpheus

In the Cocteau movie, Orpheus crosses into the abyss. My favorite scenes are the ones in the Princesses’ black Rolls Royce, where Orpheus listens to radio static and hears a series of words and numbers “ . . . nine . . . twelve . . .”

To everyone else it’s just static, but to Orpheus, it’s poetry— I suspect that is the dominant attitude of the majority of those who were drafted into the faculty of U Blog.

Professor Delacour was right to ask: “which hegemony is that?” I meant the faculty of U Blog. Unmotivated to read the fifty-plus reactions to the article due to my biased assumption that most were brief contextual pointers, I relied upon my peers.

Thankfully, the Abraham J. Simpson Chair of Desultory Conjecture presents a masterful function-follows-form supporting argument. His reasoning is stellar; sometimes “rules” are a good thing which force us to reach further creatively than merely replicating structure. Using the antiquated technology of e-mail, I quickly confirmed my suspicion that Meg’s argument was entirely intuitive (no doubt fueled by her undergraduate education in English), and she did not, in fact, know that a substantial body of theory supports her strategy.

My affinity for intuition need not be restated. However, Professor Delacour’s assertion that Meg’s argument lacked nuance needs must be addressed. My training by those tightly suited and bow-tied “New Critical” folks suggests to me that a great point of departure would be simply to return to the text. Let’s have a look at the proposito and diviso of the article:

If we look beneath the content of weblogs, we can observe the common ground all bloggers share — the format. The weblog format provides a framework for our universal blog experiences, enabling the social interactions we associate with blogging. Without it, there is no differentiation between the myriad content produced for the Web

This celebration of the “At” level of the phenomenon warms the visual-learner side of me. However, she uses the word beneath misleadingly, as if she were plumbing the depths. No, what she’s looking at is the surface, as Stavros and Jonathon quickly surmised. It seems timely to point out that the explosion of postmodern thought stands on a foundation of structuralism and, in lit-crit, the New Critics— we got to this postmodern condition by exploring the difficulties with surface. The key nuances in Meg’s argument are found in enabling and differentiating.

Rather than straining to interpret the phenomenon of hypertext and social networks, as most of the big J’s before her, she declares a narrow field. Changes in tools have enabled new subset of literacy growth which is best addressed from its surface. Because what is literacy if not a universal set of expectations within a community, forged through interaction? What differentiates a blog from a static web-page is structure. This indeed, I feel, is a finely nuanced assertion. It has limits, much like Chomsky’s work on transformational grammar, but it might explain some things as well as Chomsky explained syntactical ambiguity. What seems most important in this case though, is that the tools create the grammar. We create the tools. We can —perhaps— speed or slow the transformation by better understanding the tools. The tools are the deep structure, which does perhaps support her usage of beneath after all.

The “Through” level of blogging is a controversy already in process. That’s where these questions of identity and sincerity are going. Just how reliable are the impressions we receive from our blog reading? This level is important as well, but can possibly be illuminated by examining the difficulties of maintaining serial consistency in identity, a conflict forced by the nature of the tools themselves. The addition of an examination of the “At” level was welcomed by me, as indeed a leading gesture, not a following gesture. I’m happy that Meg has not elected to just get out of the way.

Orpheus was a powerful rhetorician. He could convince the trees and rocks to conform to his will. But Cocteau’s Orpheus became mad due to voices only he could hear. The degeneration into schizophrenia is one of those side effects of hearing the poetry among the noise. However, there is the possibility of a bright side at the end of all this. In Cocteau’s movie, after first meeting the Princess Orpheus wakes in a field and the narrator observes:

And a silver shape like his early love doth pass

Upborne by her wild and glittering hair

And when he wakes on the fragrant grass

He finds night day

I think the confusing night represented by hypertext has been turned to day by blogging. I feel this represents a change of consciousness. This is hard to explain, but a fairly hegemonic view in the education industry. For a taste, look at this excerpt from Vygotsky. In Vygotsky’s view of cognitive development, language turns inward becoming “inner speech.” Havelock, Ong, and others propose that the transition from speech to writing modulated inner speech, creating new patterns of thought. Writing changed consciousness— as writing changes, we change.

Hmm, this sounds a lot like the conversations I’ve overheard around the water-cooler at U Blog. Upon reflection, perhaps hegemony was a rather noisy word to use. U Bloggers might better be labeled hegemony crickets. I’m just squeaking along with the rest, and of course their frequency makes a great thermometer. Seems to me that writing involves both form and content. Separating them seems dangerous indeed. Of course, the Princess in Orpheus was death. Death is the ultimate expression of temporality. Temporality seduced Orpheus, which seems completely in line with Meg’s exploration.

[listening deeply, and being seduced by the siren sound of secondary orality]

1 thought on “Orpheus”

  1. I knew it was bound to happen. I was quoted while I was still tweaking along. I have a tendency to write live. Perhaps I need to start using a blog in prog sticker like AKMA so that people won’t miss the jokes which always occur to me after I’ve completed writing something, and won’t quote bloated sentences which I’ve changed after reflection.

    I rather liked “hegemony crickets” (you have to know how to pronounce it to get it).

    Lest anyone should wonder, the structural similarity between this entry and the previous one was purely intentional. Imitation is a big part of learning to write. However, I know I’ve crossed into dangerous territory when I start imitating myself. Even worse, I suppose, is starting to comment on yourself.

    —–COMMENT:
    wishing upon a star . . . when i call up your links now . . . the page appears without any url . . . i miss the url for documentation . . . oh well . . . just different searching with the invisible flashlight in the night or day . . . take care
    —–COMMENT:

    There’s an easy fix for that. Under View (on IE anyway) select the toolbars submenu. Enable the address toolbar. I disabled most of the buttons on the pop-ups, but left the menu intact for that reason. You can make it into a regular browser window using the toolbar options.

    I originally set things that way because I liked the cleaner look. If I ever get around to switching to MT, I’m going to do away with the centered javascript pop-up function entirely, but for now, that’s the workaround. The address also appears in the status window before you click it, as long as you have that enabled in your browser.

    —–COMMENT:
    thanks for the guiding toolbar . . .

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