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Notes Towards Day 4 (Thurs, Sept. 13): Experimenting with thought and language

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
* Maddie is leading us to Taft Garden, behind Canaday Library, where we will hold this class (repeat on Tuesday? led by Alex)

* Susan needs to reschedule her Monday afternoon conference:
can Sara L, Wanhong or Claire come instead @ 4 p.m?
Shengjia--let's meet @ 11:05!
* introductions--whose name do you still not know?
(tell us something --in "flowing," verb form!--that will help us remember it....)

* questions about your next paper
, which is due Friday @ 5, & begins w/ an image...?
(stepping off of Solnit's discussion of the selectivity of maps, exploring another way of
"representing" the College....).
Following Solnit, tell me what is foreground & background
in this visualization, where its boundaries are, what is terra incognita here...You can
write in conversation with Solnit, or in response to her, or ignore her entirely...but think about your tone & your audience's response to it.

* by 5 p.m. on Sun, select an on-campus site that you will re-visit throughout the semester.
Then, following the instructions @ How to Add an Image, post on-line the visualization of the Bryn Mawr campus you used in your Friday paper, along with a paragraph explaining what it is and why you chose it. Also (important!) explain its connection to "your" site [for help w/ uploading images, consult w/ Barbara, Alex, Maddie, Hannah...who have all done this already in our course forum].

* for class next Tuesday, we are going to learn some more about "green grammar" from The Ecolinguistics Reader: Language, Ecology, and Environment, where Andrew Goatly says that Bohm has been "quite eloquent" in pointing out the "inadequacy of language to reflect scientific emphases on active processes," but "was unable to give a useful discussion of resources for re-representing the all-embracing world of process."

Goatly tries to do this in a 20-pp. paper; there's also a short reply by Mary Schleppegrell, and a shorter response to her reply by Goatly. It's complicated reading (linguists don't write very clearly!); I'd suggest focusing on the abstract, part 1 and the conclusion of Goatly's essay (skipping the "technical center"), and then reading the two replies...spend 1-2 hours on this (riff on learning to skim/deciding what's worth reading, because you will not be able to do it all....)

and (again) coming to class having written down what makes sense to you from this--
something "added to you" by reading it (as well, of course, w/ whatever questions
may have arisen for you in the reading!)

II. For today, I asked you to read David Bohm's essay on "the rheomode,"
and to bring a question for him, for me, and for the class, and to think about
what Thoreau's writing--or yours--might look like it re-written in this mode.

Keynotes to review

Bohm focuses on how language structure influences and shapes our thinking,
how conventional English usage, in particular, invites/forces us to imagine
that the world is made up of separate entities:
it continually implies an "inappropriate division between things,"
when, really, all is unbroken and undivided movement;
"things" are abstracted as invariant aspects

every language form carries a dominant world view, and it's difficult to
express one contrary to what's implied in the primary structure of language--
so this chapter experiments w/ changing the common structure of English grammar,
to make it more appropriate to/reflective of current scientific thinking about the
way the world works--not in separable fragments, but by "undivided movements"

Bohm starts by calling attention to the conventional subject-verb-object
structure of English sentences, which he calls "divisive," because it implies
that there are two separate entities (the subject and object) that are fixed and static
and then he asks if it isn't posssible to end this fragmentation,
by giving a more basic role to the verb

his key idea here is that--rather than fixed, invariant forms, separately existent things--
physicists' primary understanding of the world today is one of movement,
and so we need to experiment w/ a new mode of language that reflects this understanding,
a mode in which the verb (rather than the noun) plays a primary role;
he calls this the "rheomode," or "flowing mode"

he suggests that common language has some features that call attention to how it works:
for ex, to talk about "relevance" is to "relevate/lift into attention,"
it's a creative (and ever-changing) perception of whether something "fits"
using language in this freer, more informal, "poetic" way shows
the fluid nature of the difference between relevant/irrelevant-->
to "re-levate" is to lift into attention again, to see if it still fits, is "re-levant"--
so "relevance" is not separate and fixed, but ongoing...

then (somewhat sillily?), Bohm does the same thing w/ a whole "series of flowing movements":
"videre" (to see)--> "to vidate"-->"revidate"
"divide" (to separate, a special case of vidation)--> "divate/re-divate"--> "redividate"
"ordinate" (to order)-->"re-ordinate"-->"re-ordinant"
"verrate" (to perceive truth)--> "re-verrate"
"factate" (to make)--> "re-factate"--> "re-factant"
"constate" (to establish/confirm/"stand together")-->"constare"-->"con-stant" -->"constatate/re-constate"
(continually tested to see whether it will "stand up"/cross-checking to see if it is stable)

what's important here is not losing sight of the formation of words,
but acknowledging the process of combination (= the way science thinks about particles):
in the rheomode, the "atomistic" attitude to words is replaced w/ "field theory,"
in which "particles" are only convenient abstractions from the whole, undivided movement

it's arbitrary to give too much significance to the breaks between words,
which are just "marks" in the larger movement of the world/language;
language is an order, like a symphony, in which we have to understand
each aspect in light of its relationship to the whole

the rheomode does not make a sharp distinction between
the acts of perception and experimentation and the activity
of communicating verbally about what we have observed and done

(cf. Rochelle W: I think…that it is not possible…. to fully experience
something while at the same time trying to document it….)

"all of these are regarded as ...aspects of an unbroken and undivided whole movement...
we do not fall into a fragmentary division beween our 'inward' mental activites and their 'outward' function...
apparaently static things are abstractions from an unbroken and undivided whole movement"

III. Let's try it--a concrete experiment in which we apply the theory!
I asked you to bring a copy of the essay describing your Thoreauvian walk w/ you--
can everyone access this? (needed for the experiment).

Chose a single sentence (I'd recommend the last one...).
Re-write it in "rheomode". For example, Minh wrote,

 "I might not need four hours a day to spend on saunter but just an hour
every few days would be enough for me to relax and to be who I really am."

How might that be re-formatted in rheomode? What elements might be changed
to make it more "flowing," less "fragmented," more focused on verbs than nouns....?

IV. Questioning
Have any of your queries been answered? What's left to ask Bohm, me, the class?