Page 3 of 5 FirstFirst 12345 LastLast
Results 31 to 45 of 71

Thread: Canon statement

  1. #31
    Title user custom
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    France
    Posts
    207
    I love the fact that most people addressed two obvious elements of the question (biasedness and the corpus itself), but so far they've failed to discuss throughly the most meaningful one: the language.
    My blog about literature (in spanish): http://otrasbentilaciones.wordpress.com/

  2. #32
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Belo Horizonte- Brasil
    Posts
    3,309
    What is there to discuss about language? Everyone know well that Shakespeare and Milton wrote in english, Voltaire and Victor Hugo in French, Cervantes and Lope in spanish, etc.

  3. #33
    Bibliophile; Listmaniac
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    226
    Quote Originally Posted by Arrowni View Post
    I love the fact that most people addressed two obvious elements of the question (biasedness and the corpus itself), but so far they've failed to discuss throughly the most meaningful one: the language.
    If we agree that a piece of literature is best read in its original language, then the most influential works of literature should by necessity be read by many people who can still understand the original (written) languages in which the works were written.

    On the other hand, influence can't really just be current popularity, and I would argue that older works (as long as they remain in the Canon ... in this category I actually would exclude "excavated" works like the Epic of Gilgamesh) are generally more influential than later works, for the simple fact that the earlier works have the possibilities of influencing later works, but not vice versa.

    We can assume on a statistical basis literary influential works are generally evenly spread-out in proportion to the number of people literate (across langauges), but that would rule out a specific factor of "prestige" out of the consideration - in reality, there might have been as much "good works" in Portuguese than in Italian, but somehow in prestige terms works in the later language clearly considered more influential than the former.

    So the criteria here is:
    - Works written early
    - Yet continued to be read by sizable literate public in its original (written) language
    - Language prestige

    Statistically, pure math should suggest that Chinese works would need to be over-represented in a top 100 or top 1000 work list (when statistics start to matter), both because it started early enough and (some portion of) its written language is still taught to most high-schoolers in China. Lower prestige than English for sure, but nowadays probably not much lower than any other language.

    Next might be Sanskrit - as early (oral versions earlier, written versions later) as Chinese, still learnt by those interested in learning the language in high-school under the 3-language formula. High prestige

    Pali is of similar age to Sanskrit - and probably still learnt by monks in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand - just a guess would be less populous than Sanskrit learners, probably also less than Greek and Latin. Lower prestige than Sanskrit.

    Greek is as early as Chinese / Sanskrit, but sizable literate public? Much smaller. High prestige

    Latin is later (by some 500 years), and I guess literate public in Latin is about the same size as Greek, or slightly larger. High prestige

    Tamil is next in line timing wise, but current literacy % of its ancient form probably not that high in my guess. Lower prestige than Sanskrit

    Arabic is yet some 500 years later, but still taught widely in the Arabic world (I guess ~200-300M folks nowadays), plus Muslim who needs to learn Quran in Arabic. High prestige

    Japanese is probably about the same age as Arabic in terms of the earliest texts, literacy is high nowadays out of a smaller population (120M?). Lower prestige than Chinese if we talk about works before 1900.

    New Persian is another 4-500 years later, but current literate people probably less than Arabic. Prestigious, but not as much as Arabic.

    Tibetan might be even slightly earlier than New Persian, but current population is probably an order of magnitude smaller than Persians. Low prestige.

    Very roughly speaking, English, Spanish, Portguese, French, German are 2-4 centuries after New Persians (now I am discounting the likes of Bede's works, and start counting with the likes of Chaucer, somewhat arbitrarily). And within this set, English is most understood and has highest prestige now, followed by Spanish. French and German have prestige over Spanish I guess, but population wise on the order of Japanese only. Portuguese is more probably on the order of French and German combined, but prestige-wise could be lower than Spanish

    Turkish is probably of the same literary vintage (in age), and prestige probably similar to Portuguese, with a ~100M or so current population. It is also very unclear to me with script change how much of the more ancient texts are actually still accessible to the literary public. Low prestige.

    Hindi-Urdu is very late in formation (maybe 17th century for Urdu as literary language, and Hindi arguably only in the 19th), though some 16th century works by say Kabir are considered "understandable" enough to be counted in. Population-wise now estimates vary from above Portuguese to below Spanish. Probably Hindi still considered low prestige, Urdu might have fared better, possibly above Turkish.

    Presumably the age of great Russian works are as late. Prestige probably slightly higher than Spanish? Used by maybe ~150-200M folks.

    Bahasa (Malay-Indonesian) are probably late in formation, I am just not knowledgeable about its literary works to say more. I am not sure if there is a lot in fact. Possibly works that exists might be of Javanese-Bali languages.

    Equally as late we might count in Bengali - prestige-wise probably similar / slightly lower than Hindi/Urdu; population ~250M. Age of great writers (Renaissance) is even slight later than the Russians.

  4. #34
    All this talk about which language has the best prestige score made me feel sick.
    De omnibus dubitandum.

  5. #35
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    6,360
    yeah, such a load of crap. Seriously, everyone knows that the most prestigious language is Old Church Slavonic, though Maltese comes as a close second.

  6. #36
    Bibliophile; Listmaniac
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    226
    If you feel sick, you should go see the doctor.

    And yes, there are of course many more languages. But are there other ways to address the questions (besides calling the question itself crap) other than set up some criteria and then see how each language in question fits in?

  7. #37
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    LA
    Posts
    1,914
    Blog Entries
    39
    Lawpark, I'm a little confused by your criteria. On the one hand, you seem to be saying that only the languages still in regular use by large portions of the world's population should be considered canonical. Thus, languages like Chinese and Greek are still in, but Tamil, Sanskrit, and Latin are out. But then, even Chinese and Greek aren't the same as they were some twenty-five centuries ago, and probably aren't understood by everyone in their own modern ethnic group. At the same time, the Jews and Hebrew aren't anything like a large portion of the population, yet their influence is felt throughout the globe. On the other hand, there are a billion people in Africa, and I don't think most people would consider their literary heritage on a par with that of the Jews. I don't believe you can weigh a literature by the size of it's modern population any more than you can by the ancientness of the written language. Your premise is somewhat flawed.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
    "This ain't over."- Charles Bronson
    Feed the Hungry!

  8. #38
    Bibliophile; Listmaniac
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    226
    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Lawpark, I'm a little confused by your criteria. On the one hand, you seem to be saying that only the languages still in regular use by large portions of the world's population should be considered canonical. Thus, languages like Chinese and Greek are still in, but Tamil, Sanskrit, and Latin are out. But then, even Chinese and Greek aren't the same as they were some twenty-five centuries ago, and probably aren't understood by everyone in their own modern ethnic group. At the same time, the Jews and Hebrew aren't anything like a large portion of the population, yet their influence is felt throughout the globe. On the other hand, there are a billion people in Africa, and I don't think most people would consider their literary heritage on a par with that of the Jews. I don't believe you can weigh a literature by the size of it's modern population any more than you can by the ancientness of the written language. Your premise is somewhat flawed.
    I agree that overall the criteria are not that refined. How would you answer the question Arrowni posted - how should one consider language balance in a canon list? I am interested in what you think.

    In response to your questions, to refine on my earlier criteria a bit, I think what I am saying is:

    - Influence needs to be measured somehow, I think my proposed criteria would be a mix of a) total people "influenced" by the texts and b) duration of the influence. Conceptually, it could just be "total people ever influenced in history" - but given the population explosion in the past two centuries, a Dan Brown probably would blow many canonical authors away to create a list that even I can't accept. Thus I think it needs to be a mix.

    - There are different levels of influence at the current time, from a language balance perspectives, there are at least 2-3 levels: A) original language still taught and understood directly by a mass of population, without translation; B) original language still taught and understood by a good portion of academics / specially-trained professions, and the language is considered "classical" and thus widely translated in subsequent language; C) language really no longer understood by other than a handful of folks, predominantly understood through a translation. In Chinese high-school, written form of ancient Chinese are taught as a matter of course, so it is A). I assume Greek secondary schools would teach ancient Greek, so partially it is A), but for the majority of others in the world, Greek, Sanskrit, and Latin belongs to category B), and all these can be taken as secondary school classes, though maybe at most a 10% of students take these electives.

    - To address questions like African vs. Hebrew, the criteria I inserted is the beginning of the literary tradition - ultimately we are talking about texts, so it would work in this case. Now if you ask the question of Hebrew, it is an interesting question. My counter question is, do you think Old Persian is an important literary language in a canon? On one hand, there is almost not text available in that language. But it is presumably what Zoroastrianism (possibly earlier than Judaism as a monotheistic religion) which probably has the type of influence on some Hebrew Old Testament texts, similar (but potentially less direct) to Hebrew on Greek / Latin / Syriac / Ethiopian (Christianity) and Arabic (Islam). Old Persian also clearly influenced Middle Persian, where Avestan texts remained, and are still used as a liturgical language by maybe 2M Parsis in India. So my thought is Old Persian is probably less influential than Hebrew (based on current population, and strength of influence on later traditions), but given its potentially more "ancient" in the sense that Old Persian likely to have influenced Hebrew texts more than the other way round. So Old Persian is likely less influential than Hebrew, but not by much. In a canon list, I wouldn't feel compelled to include Old Persian, thus in the same vein, I am feeling the same for Hebrew. Other than Old Persian, you can ask the same questions on Aramaic / Syriac.

    All this still comes back to the original question. What criteria can we use to weigh balance of languages in a canon list?

  9. #39
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The USA... or thereabouts
    Posts
    6,083
    Blog Entries
    78
    Statistically, pure math should suggest that Chinese works would need to be over-represented in a top 100 or top 1000 work list (when statistics start to matter), both because it started early enough and (some portion of) its written language is still taught to most high-schoolers in China. Lower prestige than English for sure, but nowadays probably not much lower than any other language.

    Unfortunately art is not egalitarian or even democratic. If we look to the visual arts where we are not confronted by the problems of translation we discover that there is no statistical correlation based upon population. We don't discover that for every 10 million individuals we get X-number of artistic geniuses. Countries such as Italy... in spite of their relative small scale in contrast to other nations... produced far more art of real genius than statistics suggest they should have. England, in spite of its wealth and power cannot rival France, Italy or even Holland in the visual arts. We discover the same thing in music. Even if we limit ourselves to the music of the West we find Germany/Austria absolutely dominates music to an extent far beyond what was achieved by France, Russia, England, and any number of other nations.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
    My Blog: Of Delicious Recoil
    http://stlukesguild.tumblr.com/

  10. #40
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    6,360
    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    Statistically, pure math should suggest that Chinese works would need to be over-represented in a top 100 or top 1000 work list (when statistics start to matter), both because it started early enough and (some portion of) its written language is still taught to most high-schoolers in China. Lower prestige than English for sure, but nowadays probably not much lower than any other language.

    Unfortunately art is not egalitarian or even democratic. If we look to the visual arts where we are not confronted by the problems of translation we discover that there is no statistical correlation based upon population. We don't discover that for every 10 million individuals we get X-number of artistic geniuses. Countries such as Italy... in spite of their relative small scale in contrast to other nations... produced far more art of real genius than statistics suggest they should have. England, in spite of its wealth and power cannot rival France, Italy or even Holland in the visual arts. We discover the same thing in music. Even if we limit ourselves to the music of the West we find Germany/Austria absolutely dominates music to an extent far beyond what was achieved by France, Russia, England, and any number of other nations.
    Still, countries like China have had a very strong literary culture and development throughout. The promotion of literacy and of writing through official program didn't hamper that - simply put, something like poetry has always been central to the culture, and the body of poetry, the sheer number of poems, are far heavier than Europe. That is excluding things like folk songs which also abound in the Chinese tradition, as they do in others.

    Simply put, it is almost possible to weigh the Chinese tradition as a tradition against something as vast as the European tradition in terms of size, number of works, development, genre scope, richness, and any other number of criteria. That the texts as of now have not been translated is irrelevant, since, for the most part, 1/4 of the world population is privy to them in the original.

  11. #41
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    LA
    Posts
    1,914
    Blog Entries
    39
    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    Unfortunately art is not egalitarian or even democratic. If we look to the visual arts where we are not confronted by the problems of translation we discover that there is no statistical correlation based upon population. We don't discover that for every 10 million individuals we get X-number of artistic geniuses. Countries such as Italy... in spite of their relative small scale in contrast to other nations... produced far more art of real genius than statistics suggest they should have. England, in spite of its wealth and power cannot rival France, Italy or even Holland in the visual arts. We discover the same thing in music. Even if we limit ourselves to the music of the West we find Germany/Austria absolutely dominates music to an extent far beyond what was achieved by France, Russia, England, and any number of other nations.
    I have to agree with StLukesGuild. Literature is not a numbers game. I'd rather the canon reflected aesthetics far more than populations. If we start valuing influence over merit then first rate writers in small isolated societies would be at a disadvantage to second rate writers of larger societies. English is spoken by almost 2 billion people today and Hungarian is only spoken by about 14 million people. Robert Browning and Janos Arany are contemporary European poets of roughly the same level. Should Robert Browning be more canonical or should they be equal? Should we stop reading Henrik Ibsen, the greatest playwright of the 19th century because he was Norwegian and only 5 million people can read him in his original language?

    I think what Arrowni was getting at was how difficult it is to judge the worth of a work accurately when you don't speak the language it was written in and must rely upon translations to read it. But, of course, this is just the usual kind of kvetching you find on these boards. If you are reading bad translations which don't give a reasonable likeness to the original work, then your selection process and ability to gauge fidelity is in question anyway and you probably couldn't discriminate a good book from a bad book any more than you could a good translation from a bad one. Ta da! Problem solved.

    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    That the texts as of now have not been translated is irrelevant, since, for the most part, 1/4 of the world population is privy to them in the original.
    I'm of the opinion that the best Chinese literature has already been translated, in some cases several times, and is easily available through book shops, Amazon, or your local public library. I am literally sitting within footsteps of 20 different Chinese books, half a dozen of which I own. All of the major novels are here. The Book of Odes and the Three Hundred Tang Poems are represented. I have The Peony Pavilion, Pu Songling, Feng Menglong, Hanshan, Lu Xun, Lu Yu, essays by Han Yu. I have a handful of different anthologies full of different versions of Li Bai, Du Fu, Bai Juyi, Wang Wei, Qu Yuan, Tao Qian, Xu Ling, Yuan Zhen, Su Shi, Li Qingzhao, Li Houzhu, Yuan Mei, and Yuan Hongdao. I can get a hold of The Analects of Confucius, The Book of Mencius, or the Tao Te Ching at the drop of a hat. But do you know how many books my library has on Korean or Vietnamese literature? One each. The world is paying attention to China, JBI.

    By the way Lawpark, Chinese was the written language of Vietnam, Korea, and Japan for a thousand years. Do the Chinese include those writings in their canon?
    Last edited by mortalterror; 09-30-2011 at 08:04 PM.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
    "This ain't over."- Charles Bronson
    Feed the Hungry!

  12. #42
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    6,360
    Trust me, translation is not even. Japanese is well translated because of U.S. foreign policy for instance. I just finished reading an essay about how American interior decorating reflects the presence of the empire on the international scale, with the late 19th century beginning to show the American cosmopolitan presence in the world.


    Japanese had the benefit of the Ford Foundation and the Japanese military funding excellent translations for years.

    As for Chinese, much of it is still new ground. How many complete translations of Li Bai are there, or of Du Fu? the 300 tang poems is but a 300 poem sample, after all.

    Or better yet, what of a wider range of texts, or translations without new-ageish philosophies behind them. Trust me not even 1/10 of the major canon has seen translation, much less good translation.

  13. #43
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    LA
    Posts
    1,914
    Blog Entries
    39
    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    How many complete translations of Li Bai are there, or of Du Fu?
    That's a bad example. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of translations of those two poets. We may not have the absolute fringe, but we got those two covered.

    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Or better yet, what of a wider range of texts, or translations without new-ageish philosophies behind them. Trust me not even 1/10 of the major canon has seen translation, much less good translation.
    I'm not sure I get your meaning. All of the new age type translations I see are coming out of the philosophy section of translation rather than the poetry or fiction sections.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
    "This ain't over."- Charles Bronson
    Feed the Hungry!

  14. #44
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Posts
    347
    I heard there weren't any good translations of chinese poetry.

  15. #45
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    6,360
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.lucifer View Post
    I heard there weren't any good translations of chinese poetry.
    very very few.

    As for another point Mortal, the author Jin Yong has solved hundreds of millions of novels, and had bootlegged copies of even more sold. His major novel, Eagle Shooting Heroes has yet to be translated into English.

    If even something that popular hasn't been translated, what of more esoteric books like a complete Jade Terrace poems.

Page 3 of 5 FirstFirst 12345 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Mozart in English
    By Musicology in forum General Movies, Music, and Television
    Replies: 369
    Last Post: 03-21-2021, 11:42 AM
  2. Towards a world canon?
    By mal4mac in forum General Literature
    Replies: 48
    Last Post: 08-04-2011, 02:12 PM
  3. In defence of the cannon
    By LitNetIsGreat in forum General Literature
    Replies: 77
    Last Post: 02-27-2009, 03:00 AM
  4. Owning Pets Is Cruel Debate
    By Lote-Tree in forum General Chat
    Replies: 179
    Last Post: 01-01-2009, 01:30 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •