Histories of Meaning

A Seminar

Winter 1999

Jackson, Jr.

Our Task

Our first encounter with the Platonic dialogues may have taken you
aback. Even the first glimpse of the first two dialogues we read should
make it clear that a lot of cultural, historical, and intellectual context
is needed for a any „real“ encounter with the texts to be possible. It
is not possible to cram a major’s worth of classical education into ten
weeks. But a lot can be done in ten weeks, with fortitude and imagination.

One of the places that the imagination comes in most practically is
the Internet, speaking of tekne. In preparing
this seminar I surveyed, bookmarked, and used hundreds of sources I found
through surfing and directed searches on the WWW and elsewhere. I kept
logs, bookmarked, and contoured hotlists. Then I went back and edited and
annotated the penultimate lists, whose shape and substance are coeval with
the conceptual contour of the seminar itself.

Here on this site you will find guides to the resources available, as
well as tips on how to use them. I am also happy to tailor-make lists for
people with specific research agendas. I will also discuss these in class,
and demonstrate those that benefit from demonstration. The Internet does
not replace libraries, classrooms, or the real time contact of those collaborating
on the ongoing project of learning (that’s us). The technology offers extensions
of our activities – not replacements. It does not replace books, libraries,
in-person encounters in the classroom, and most of all it does not replace
thinking. Technology, moreover, is no short-cut (believe me). But who ever
went into academia to save time?

Here I want to offer a brief introduction to the next strategy of the
course: the integration of specific technoresearch skills (and the emphasis
is on „research“ not techno-) with the already underway projects of reading,
discussing, and preparing the written assignments. From the second week
on, the weekly responses and/or synopses of arguments should demonstrate
increasing facility with research methods and ever more fine-tuned synthesis
of methodological rigor and critical engagement. I know that sounds like
a lot to ask for, but why be at the university at all if not to take on
challenges, and not to end up a different kind of thinker/practioner as
the result of a deliberate askesis (training)?

Here are some specific steps to take.
1. Visit the first list of annotated resources. It is hyperlinked
to its own url at the end of this sentence

2. Read over this list, and sample whatever site strikes your fancy.
Do this for awhile.

3. Bookmark the site for ready online reference (On Macs that’s command-D;
on Windows it’s control-D).

4. Download the page (save as source, not text, otherwise the links
won’t give you the URLS). You will now have this as a ready reference you
can print up over even amend as part of a hotlinks source on your own site.

5. Go to the page headed „Outline for Potential Backgrounds.“

This page consists of two very skeletal lists:

(a) Periods in Greek History

(b) Periods in the History of Greek Philosophy

Although these are extremely rough and general, they are the periods
you should have as a primitive background you can fill in and specify as
your research progresses. I started you off hypertextually by hyperlinking
the period names of Mycenae and Crete with some relevant Internet resources.
I left you on your own for the others.

6. Download this page (again save as source, you don’t want to lose
those precious few URLS there). Use this first as a reference, but very
soon as a worksheet. You should be filling in the information that will
be pertinent to your specific research directions. And while you’re becoming
a classics researcher, you should also be becoming [how’s that for a modal,
an aspect and a participial construction? Wouldn’t Thucydides be proud?]
a bibilographer and a webibilographer. Fill in hard copy resources you
come across and the urls of sites you discover [and which you find useful].
These resources should be regularly reviewed and then organized formally
by the time you’re finishing your final project. This compilation (with
comments on the most useful sites) will be part of the project you submit
at the end of the quarter. And it is also nice to supply info like this
with each other while the seminar is underway, in the spirit of collegiality.
Consider the enormous effort and intellectual generosity reflected in all
those Classics Resources and Resource Directories on the Web. Emulate it.
If Arete can’t be taught, it can’t just be downloaded either. It’s up to

7. Go back to either the Meno
or the Ion. If you
go back to the Meno, go back also to the summaries you summited in the
first week of class.

8. Rethink you original summaries (if the Meno) or your responses (if
the Ion). Support your reconsideration of your earlier reading with research
that begins with a synthetic consultation of the historical outline I provided
and using the research sources on the tekne1.html

9. Continue doing this and variations of this with every text we read
from now on.

10. As one addendum to our Cratylus
discussion, read the text on the page you get when you click this


Item 10 above is the first example of optional topics for weekly response
papers I will be giving to encourage directed and sustained thinking and
research methods. I will also assign specific bibliographic tasks now and

First Resources

The Meno Summaries


The Syllabus

A Duet for Cratylus


in Daily Life
Painless tips on using the Internet for research


Fantasy Campus


The Seminarians – names and email addresses

Earl Jackson Jr., Web-top 

Another Scene and 

Lets Deviant!