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TSE  March 2008

TSE March 2008

Subject:

Re: "Zietgeist" (Was Inventions of the March Hare )

From:

Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Fri, 21 Mar 2008 10:59:04 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (263 lines)

Dear Diana,

I'm delighted that you care about this and want to know more.  So sorry
but here's more.  

I have no doubt at all that you can find books and websites that include
Scots with English.  There are two main reasons for that.   First,
Northumbrian and Mercian are both Anglo-Saxon and the term used for them
both was "Inglis."  That is, they were different dialects of what was a
form of Germanic language called "Inglis" for both.  So the conflation
of the term "Inglis" with what became modern English seems to
incorporate Scots.  But that is just about naming.  The significant
point is that they were separate dialects of a Germanic language that
were already separate as far back as any texts exist, and they developed
separately.  

The second reason is that a very long time it was believed that Scots
was merely a version (and a degraded one) of English.  It was only in
the 19th century with increasingly knowledge of the history of language
that the history started being re-examined.  Even Scots in the 18th
century, for example, believed it, but there were many scholars who did
not, and the introduction to Jamieson's 1808 edition is a great example
of the resistance to that even before the philology made it clear.  But
current scholars of Scots language have the long history to demonstrate
it.  Moreover, the long hegemony of England over Scotland sustained a
notion of English as somehow primary, and it became so economically, but
that has nothing to do with its origins OR with the fact that it is
still spoken all over Scotland in various degrees.  In Edinburgh High
Street shops, for example, you will hear a Scots-accented English, but
you could go to villages in Fife or the Northeast and find it very hard
to understand a word--the same for a Glasgow pub.  Scholars of language
all over Scotland, however, would never say that it is just a version of
English except in the historical sense that English is also a version of
Scots.  So that claim in books and websites is the ignorance of a long
history of appropriation.

What is spoken in the Highlands is often Gaelic-accented English.  The
Highlands were, until the late 18th/ early 19th C, before the
Clearances, Gaelic speaking, not Scots speaking or English speaking. 
Sorley Maclean, for example, wrote in Gaelic and translated his own
poems.  I once heard him read, and it is beautiful.  Scotland has three
languages:  Scots, Gaelic, and English.  And the language in Rankin or
McIllvaney or other Scots writers will include dialects of Scots,  not
dialects of English, because Scots is not just a dialect of English. 
But the language and sounds are extremely varied, and some--like Glasgow
or Northeast Doric are more different and take longer to follow than
others.  So the term "dialect" has to clearly distinguish the fact of
many dialects of Scots from the notion that Scots is a dialect of
English in the way, for example, that Downeast speech is a dialect of
American English or that the speech of the Queen is one dialect of
English, which it is.  This historic sources make the distinction of
Scots/English different from, say, American/English.

If you want to read a passage of braid Scots (broad Scots) that is very
beautiful, read the opening of Lewis Grassic Gibbons's SUNSET SONG.

And brava! to you for caring about it,
Nancy

>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 03/21/08 9:47 AM >>>

Nancy I have been thinking seriously about what you wrote yesterday
about Middle Scots and first of all want to thank you for holding my
feet to the fire on this issue.
 
In replying to Carrol's objection to my use of "zeitgeist" I was
focussed on defending it as a definition of the "différance" between
texts produced in different historical periods in contrast to the
universal or mythic deep structure they may share.
 
(I was thinking in terms of Joyce's Ulysses, which shares the deep
structure of a hero's homecoming with Homer's tale. The difference
between Homer's telling of the story and Joyce's is in a signBut I did toss off that remark about the Scots ballad being a subset of
the English thoughtlessly, even though I have found numerous books and
websites on old ballads that include the Scots with the English.
 
I have printed out your message below and will study it. I can't tell
you how grateful I am for you and other members on this list who call me
on my sloppy usage. No sarcasm intended. You guys help me to clarify my
thinking and become more precise in my writing.
 
I do have an intense interest in language; David Boyd sent me a
dictionary of colloquial Cumbrian dialect that I just love, as I do the
East Midlands dialect Lawrence uses in his poems and novels set in
Nottingam and Hardy's "Wessex" dialect. One of the great joys of the
mystery novels starring the Scots detective that your recommended were
the samples of contemporaneous native dialect. 
 
I have watched every episode of "Monarch of the Glen" more than once
because I love to listen to its characters who speak Highlands dialect!
  
Again, many thanks! Diana
> Well yes, I do want to get very accurate about it.> > It is not
laughable; it is accurate history of language. Scottish> ballads are not
a subset of anything. In fact most of the ballads from> the United
Kingdom are from the Scottish Borders and most historians of> poetry
would see them as one of the major poetic creations of Scotland. >
Scotland was until 1707 an independent nation and when the kingdoms>
united, it remained in many ways separate: Scottish law and the Church>
of Scotland, for example, have always remained separate. "LOL" is>
condescending--and, frankly, offensive--apart from implying a false
idea> of literary history, and I think you would find any Scottish
history of> ballads hardly imagining them a "subset"--whatever that
would mean. > Moreover, I think it time everyone was a great deal more
accurate about> it. Significantly, there is now (for nearly a decade) a
Scottish> discussion session at MLA and a Scottish literature section in
the> bibliography. Scotland, moreover, now has a separate parliament
again> for internal affairs. > > Of the medieval ballads, the Collins
Encyclopedia of Scotland says "they> form the bulk of Scotland's folk
literature, described by an American> critic as 'unsurpassed by any in
the world.'" They were collected and> written down by Child, Burns,
Walter Scott, and recently Edinburgh"s> Scottish Studies department,
especially Hamish Henderson, but they had a> long prior history as oral
poetry in the Scottish Borders.> > The language also is not a "subset"
of anything. Anglo-Saxon had four> dialects: Northumbrian, Kentish, West
Saxon, and Mercian. Middle Scots> came from Northumbrian and developed
into modern Scots. Middle English> of Chaucer was from Mercian and that
developed into modern English. > Scots was separate from as far back as
any text is known in Anglo-Saxon;> it did not develop from English. In
fact, the oldest text in> Anglo-Saxon is "Caedmon's Hymn," which was
first in Northumbrian. So it> makes just as much sense historically and
linguistically to see English> as a subset of Scots as the opposite. But
neither would be accurate. > If you want to know something about it,
just look at the four huge> volumes of Jamieson's Etymological
Dictionary of the Scottish Language> and see the immense vocabulary that
does not exist in English--as well> as the sounds and rhythms and
idioms. Try to get a feel for "sonsy" and> "couthy" and "scunner" and
"antrin" and "wheesht" and "bool" and> "broukit" and "byspale" and the
sounds of "the Sauchs in the Reuch Heuch> Hauch" before laughing out
loud at what you have apparently never read. > > I find this so wrong
and so inaccurately mocking of a great literary> tradition that I am
amazed to see it from you. I think you might try> reading some of
Scotland's long history of great poetry and look> especially at modern
and contemporary poets like Hugh MacDiarmid, > Sorley Maclean, Tom
Leonard, Edwin Morgan, Liz Lochhead, Kathleen Jamie,> Carol Ann DufJackie Kay. I am sorry, but it is disgraceful for> anyone who cares
about poetry to laugh at an entire tradition and treat> it as a joke.
Since I have spent many years studying it, I find it> astonishing. I
realize I am using strong language, but "LOL" and> "subset" are both
false and demeaning.> Nancy> > >>> Diana Manister
<[log in to unmask]> 03/20/08 4:36 PM >>>> > Well yeah, if you want
to get all accurate about it! LOL. Scottish> Ballads are a subset of
English Ballads in most compendia.> > Diana> Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2008
13:11:39 -0400> From: [log in to unmask]>> Subject: Re: "Zietgeist"
(Was Inventions of the March Hare )> To:> [log in to unmask]> > Dear
Diana,> > My point is that "Sir Patrick> Spence" is not in Middle
English; it is in> Middle Scots.> Nancy > > >>>> Diana Manister
<[log in to unmask]> 03/20/08 12:49 PM >>>> > > Sorry,> I don't know
why I wrote "spoken English" in my previous message.> My> bad. Diana> >
> > > Nancy, I should have written "more pronounced German> elements in>
English." That's an unintended pun! Middle English shows> its German>
origins more than modern English.> Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2008> 11:21:10>
-0400> From: [log in to unmask]> Subject: Re: "Zietgeist"> (Was>
Inventions of the March Hare )> To: [log in to unmask]> > I'm not>
sure> what you mean by "the elements of German in daily speech,"> but>
that is> misleading here. The ballad is in Scots, which developed>
from>> Northumbrian. Modern English developed from Mercian. Both have>>
elements> of German, and in Scots the sound changes developed later
and>> less> completely than in modern English. But words like "milk,">
"house,">> "glass," "wine" remain cognates in English and German. My>
point is that>> this is not English with some "elements of German": it>
is Scots with>> some sounds and words that are Germanic--since all>
Anglo-Saxon was a>> Germanic language. Modern Scots retains, for>
example, three sounds that>> do not exist in modern English: the sounds>
of "licht," "loch" and>> "muir."> Nancy> >>> Diana Manister>
<[log in to unmask]> 03/20/08> 10:44 AM >>>> > > Carrol,> > Language>
enacts the history of its time;> it's a time capsule. It> provides more>
information than was recognized> by the writer. Just as> when a
snapshot> is taken, neither the subjects> nor the photographer> could
know how> strange hairstyles and clothing and> the 1938 Ford will> look
to those> looking at the picture in the future.>> > "THE king sits in
Dumferling> toune,> Drinking the blude-reid wine:> ‘O> whar will I get
guid sailor,>> To sail this schip of mine?’> > Up and> spak an eldern
knicht,> Sat at> the kings richt kne:> ‘Sir Patrick Spence> is the best
sailor> That> sails upon the se.’"> > Sailing ships, knights,> the king,
the smallness> of a world in which the> best sailors were> well-known,
and many other> factors of the culture of> that time, not the> least of
which are the> elements of German in daily> speech, are> communicated in
just first> stanzas from "Sir Patrick Spens."> > Another> ballad, having
the same> deep structure of describing a hero, is> the> following:> >
"Born on a> mountain top in Tennessee,> Greenest state in> the land of
the free.>> Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree,>> Killed him a
b'ar when he> was only three.> Davy, Davy Crockett> King of> the Wild
Frontier."> >> "West Side Story" and Shakespeare's "Romeo and> Juliet"
tell the same>> story of lovers facing the same obstacles, in> other
words they have> the> same deep structure. Everything else is>
zeitgeist.> > The I Ching> is based on the metaphysical belief that>
"everything that> occurs in a> moment partakes of that moment." Whether>
you share that> belief or not,> you cannot deny that language>
incorporates its historical> period. Or,> to put it another way,
history> is inseparable from language.> > I> regret using the word
"zeitgeist;" it> invites ridicule. No one uses it>> anymore, but it does
say what I mean:>> > American Heritage New> Dictionary of Cultural
Literacy, Third Edition:>> Zeitgeist "The general> moral, intellectual,
and cultural climate of an>> era; Zeitgeist is> German for
"time-spirit." For example, the Zeitgeist>> of England in the> Victorian
period included a belief in industrial>> progress, and the> Zeitgeist of
the 1980s in the United States was a>> belief in the power> of money and
the many ways in which to spend it."> >> Analyzing a work> of art for a
manifest point-to-point correspondence>> with events such> as the
storming of the winter palace, or the general>> strike or> lynchings in
the south ignores the condensation found in the>> language> of art. Even
the most linear thinker has dreams in which>> logical> connections are
replaced by simultaneity in time. > > Julia> Kristeva> writes in
Language The Unknown that dreapainter who, in a picture of the> school
of Athens or of Parnassus,>> represents in one group all the>
philosphers or all the poets. It is> true> that they were never in fact>
assembled in a single hall or on a> single> mountaintop; but they>
certainly form a group...."> > Whether> Eliot placed any credence in>
Freudian theory or not, if Freud> was> art language and dream
language,>> Eliot's poetry would exhibit Freudian> insights (birds are
not>> ornithologists.)> > Freud wrote: "Dreams are> brief, meagre and
laconic> in comparison with> the range and wealth of> the
dream-thoughts." The> extreme dream-symbols parallels that of> literary
symbols, which likewise> are> over-determined and represent in> a single
symbol contents that> "are> often widely divergent in their> nature."> >
So that lynchings in> the south may be expressed in a> multi-valent
symbol> or image whose> ostensible referent is not slavery> but which is
partly> determined by> the existence of lyncings in the> south. > > Van
Gogh's dreams, like his> paintings, would necessarily> include horses,>
carriages, gas lamps and> absinthe, while a painter in> our time would>
dream and paint out of an> experience of orbiting spy> satellites,
video> games, cell phones and> computers. Both dreams might> have the
same deep> content, i.e., tell the> same story, but the> zeitgeist in
both cases> finds ways to have its> say.> > Diana> > >> Diana Manister
wrote:> > > > At least in TWL the> zeitgeist speaks.> >> Carrol wrote:>
> 1. I would challenge the existence> of any such entity>> as the>
"Zeitgeist." Any age I know of exhibits too> large a variety of>>
fractured> spirits to speak of _A_ spirit of the> age. Put otherwise,
I>> don't even> know what "spirit of the age" could> conceivably mean.
It>> seems utterly> empty of content.> > 2. Eliot did> explicitly deny
that>> TWL expressed some spirit of> disillusinment of> the age or
something>> like that. Nancy or Marcia could> probably be more> explicit
on this,>> citing the text and correcting my> sloppiness here.>> > 3.
What does> The> Zeitgeist say? Storming of the Winter Palace? The>>
General> Strike?> Lynchings in the South? (TWL follows by only a
couple>> decades> Twain's> masterpieces, "The United States of
Lyncherdom" and> "To> The> Person> Sitting in Darkness." The
resignation, protesting> Wilson's> War> Policy,> of William Jennings
Bryan: that is his true> heritage, not> the> stupid> trial? My great
uncle, who organized> sheepherders in Montana>> for the> IWW. Beginning
of the (hopeless?)> struggle to end English 1> (its>> inventor called it
the greatest mistake> of his life)? The murder> of> Rosa> Luxemberg? The
Easter Rebellion? The> failure to hang the> various> war> criminals (all
responsible politicians> of Germany,> France, England,> &> U.S.)
Imprisonment of Gene Debs?> Freeing of Gene> Debs by the only> honest>
u.s. president in the 205h c.> -- Warren G.> Harding?> > 4. When> did
this Zeitgeist leap into> existence, and when> did it sink> into the>
grave? Would we recognize it> were we to meet it> walking down a> dark>
alley?> > And so forth.> >> Carrol>>>
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