Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Just Contempt of Learning

I'm finishing seminar papers this week, so my blogging productivity is going to be low for the next couple of days. Unless it's not. Unless this very technology inspires hyper-productivity. My old misogynist friend (and topic of one seminar paper) Jonathan Swift worried in 1704 that the printed word would so saturate eighteenth-century culture that scribblers would be doomed to banality: when authors can print anything they want, they'll be prone to over-production.

"Now, it is not well enough consider'd, to what Accidents and Occasions the World is indebted for the most Part of those noble Writings, which hourly start up to entertain it. If it were not for a rainy Day, a drunken Vigil, a Fit of the Spleen, a Course of Physick, a sleepy Sunday, an ill Run at Dice, a long Taylor's Bill, a Beggar's Purse, a factious Head, a hot Sun, costive Dyet, Want of Books, and a just Contempt of Learning. But for these Events, I say, and some Others too long to recite, (especially a prudent Neglect of taking Brimstone inwardly,) I doubt, the Number of Authors, and of Writings, would dwindle away to a Degree most woful to behold." (A Tale of a Tub, p. 1704, italics original)

I looked around and tried to figure out if anyone had cited this passage in the myriad criticisms of blog culture--easy access to blogging produces only banality--but I haven't seen it.

That said, Ben, if you have an ill run at Dice (I think I've see a draft of a post about a rainy day in Georgia and maybe also a sleepy Sunday in the works), let us all know. I'll write up something else about my Just Contempt of Learning.

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