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The hedgehog and the fox

Anne Dalke's picture

Last thought for the night....our discussion today of the distinctions Hayles makes between "deep" and "hyper" attention, and between "close" and "distant" reading, put me in mind of the famous line coined by the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: "the fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." We were talking about this idea in the evolution class last week. This line has been picked up by lots of folks, among them the great paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who wrote a book called The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox: Mending the Gap Between Science and the Humanities, in which he uses the habits of these two different animals to evoke a classic dichotomy between "persistence" and "agility" of thought.

Sound familiar? "Persistent"=close reading, deep attention. "Agile"=hyper reading, flexible attention. Some of us incline more to one end of the spectrum than the other. And both modes are useful, for different tasks.




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