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Re: Nonlinear paradigms
Judith B. Kerman writes,
>the most cogent examples of people who study books deeply (single books, I
>mean) are probably religious scholars, especially in Judaism and Islam. I
>don't know the Islamic textual tradition, but Talmud in Judaism is really
>already a hypertext system, based on the "mining" of Torah texts which are
>perceived as inherently both discursive and nondiscursive, existing at 4
>levels simultaneously (the levels are roughly translatable as
>surface/plain meaning, exoteric/legal analysis, extrapolative/midrashic
>storytelling and esoteric/kabbalistic mysticism levels).
>I keep thinking, the more I see what hypertext impends for literacy, that
>Talmud is a valuable model for our "new" relationship to textuality and
I understand your comparison of hypertext to refer to the several
commentaries placed on the page of the Talmud around the mishnaic text in
the center, and upon which the commentaries are based, or on a more
elementary level, the Pentateuch with the commentary and aramaic translation
placed around the Pentateuchal text on the page. For Canonical reasons, this
is a closed system. Hypertext can take you across the page, to carry the
simile of the Talmud or Pentateuchal volume, infinitely. The links are not
closed off by Canonization of the text.
The Pentateuch and the Talmud are closed systems, and hypertext is not. As
you know Talmudic scholars were expected to be so familiar with the texts
that some were reputed to be able to tell you which words were being pierced
by a pin stuck through any part of the page as far as the pin entered and
pierced the pages. In fact, many scholars knew long portions of the Talmud
"by heart." This is, of course, a function of its being studied so
There are stories about famous rabbis who had their scholars memorize
portions of the Talmud, sort of like the outlawed "books" in Ray Bradbury's
Fahrenheit 451, so the seminarians could study the text even if the volumes
were not there, for the same reason that the "books" memorized their texts,
because the Talmud was often a prohibited book.
This is not a picture of the Talmudic reconteur but the Talmudic
storyteller, the memorizer.
Hypertext in the computer is the epitome of an open system of text, the
reconteur gone bananas. We have not had this experience.
I have taken hypertext rides out to the boonies of where I had started, and
suddenly wondered how it happened. So I back-track through text after text,
and suddenly I am back where I started, and I continue to read discursively
until the next hypertextual sidetrip. It is a fascinating experience. I do
not know what it portends in the way of an epistemological paradigm shift,
but if a child becomes acquainted with hypertextual reading as an ordinary,
unnoticable, taken-for-granted part of his or her reality, how will that
child understand the world?