Sunday, September 30, 2007

Secondary Mnemonics

As part of a small thread about MEmorials on Invent-L, Greg Ulmer reminded some of us that choragraphy includes commemoration as the frame for e-mnemonics. He nudged us to look at "Yellowstone Dessert," the final chapter in heuretics, which I hadn't looked at in a while, and indeed it is a coal mine of ideas.

Heuretics offers up ideas like:
--"learning in hyperrhetorical is conducted more with memory than with argument or narrative" (189).
--"The Greeks developed mnemonic picture writing as a supplement to the alphabet in order to deal with the information overload that resulted from manucript culture" (Bolter 56) (191).
--mnemonics formalized in Rhetorica ad Herennium; St. Martin's Guide the print culture equivalent. "Heuretics is part of a movement that will be to the St. Martin's handbook what the handbook is to the ad Herennium. To adapt a phrase from McLuhan and Ong, electronic is not secondary orality but secondary mnemonics" (191).
--"the electronic citize may negotiate the data environment of cyberspace the same way an orator memorizes immense quantities of written materia, or the way an actor learns a play. The difference between chorography and oratory or acting is that what the latter two memories suppress (the performance of a tour through the places) is made manifest in the former. A more obvious difference is that in chorography the mnemonic scene is entrusted to writing, where it may be manipulated critically, not kept in the head (and body)" (192-93).

I was also reminded of Basho: "Do not follow in the footsteps of the master, but seek what the master sought." In working on my MEmorial project, I was aware that I was not using the popcyle as a tool for invention, although I have already composed a MYstory shaped by the popcycle (at least partially) that clearly informed my MEmorial project. Although a MEmorial, the "ME" for me was present in the linking of Sudanese Lost Boys and Roger Maris--no one else was suggesting that connection, no one else I am aware of is living in Fargo, working with Lost Boys, visiting the Roger Maris museuem. Just as students ignore the St. Martin's Guide or the Call to Write or whatever textbook we assign when we assign composing, I started from but also significantly ignored Ulmer's advice in composing my MEmorial. A good lesson in patience to me as assigner of writing.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Michael Halloran, Remembering Saratoga

I have the pleasure this morning of listening to Michael Halloran deliver the keynote address at the Linguistic Circle of Manitoba and North Dakota's 50th annual conference.

He is framing his talk with Kenneth Burke, which interests me, because I am always trying to figure out similarities and differences between Burke and McLuhan, and Halloran's opening use of Burke makes me think of War and Peace in the Global Village. Me paraphrasing Halloran paraphrasing Burke heard that humans are inclined to war, but can be drawn away from it by literature, art, symbolic action in general. Halloran's talk, however, moves in the direction of examining symbolic purifications of war; he is puzzled by Burke's tendency to overlook the materiality and brutality of war.

The good stories of Saratoga, he suggests, are used to serve the storyteller's immediate needs and goals. The stories of Saratoga and Daniel Morgan specifically seem to have enabled an American tradition of thinking of war as inevitable and noble. Where Burke sees war as an aberration on peace, Halloran wonders if America in particular has constructed a tradition of thinking of peace as the occasional respite from war.

Bruce Maylath followed with a great question and contextualization of the battle as a turning point in defining America and Canada, and as a Canadian, I can certainly say that our national narrative is one that presents us a nation of peacemaker rather than warmongers. I'll let the Americans decide if they are a nation of warmongers or not, or more reasonably, if they are a nation of gunfighters, an argument I have seen. The most famous moment in Canadian military history, perhaps, is the Battle of Dieppe, a failed invasion of France that led the way to D-Day, but also led to thousands of Canadian deaths. How many other countries focus on their military loses as a way of shaping identity (albeit the implication being that Canadians needed to be more autonomous and stop following the British--deadly habit).

Halloran responded with a re-emphasis on his point that the storytelling of Saratoga functions as a suppression of U.S. diversity--the southerner Morgan (a slave owner) essentially emerging as the savior of the north.

Great talk, interesting discussion. Hope I did it justice.