Thursday, August 03, 2006

Connections Week (#4): Letters to Wendy's, or Voluminous still-accumulating results

In "The Intelligencer," Rachel's EdSupp piece on Ron Hoeflin and other super-IQers, we learn that
Hoeflin is fascinated by the idea of a "maximum human potential." Every afternoon, he goes to Wendy's in Hell's Kitchen and reads for several hours with a magnifying glass—he's legally blind—as preparation for his three-volume treatise, The Encyclopedia of Categories: A Theory of Categories and Unifying Paradigm for Philosophy With Over 1,000 Examples.

Curiously, while preparing my own piece on the academic novel, I picked up Middlemarch in order to check up on Mr. Casaubon.

The fictional Casaubon's immense, impossible project sounds not unlike the real-life Hoeflin's quest for some "unifying paradigm":
Dorothea by this time had looked deep into the ungauged reservoir of Mr Casaubon’s mind, seeing reflected there in vague labyrinthine extension every quality she herself brought; had opened much of her own experience to him, and had understood from him the scope of his great work, also of attractively labyrinthine extent. For he had been as instructive as Milton’s “affable archangel;” and with something of the archangelic manner he told her how he had undertaken to show (what indeed had been attempted before, but not with that thoroughness, justice of comparison, and effectiveness of arrangement at which Mr Casaubon aimed) that all the mythical systems or erratic mythical fragments in the world were corruptions of a tradition originally revealed. Having once mastered the true position and taken a firm footing there, the vast field of mythical constructions became intelligible, nay, luminous with the reflected light of correspondences. But to gather in this great harvest of truth was no light or speedy work. His notes already made a formidable range of volumes, but the crowning task would be to condense these voluminous still-accumulating results and bring them, like the earlier vintage of Hippocratic books, to fit a little shelf.


Blogger Jenny D said...

I was fifteen or so when I first read Middlemarch and though I was in general a, you know, good understander of all sorts of literature that grown-ups annoyingly thought I was not old enough to read, I have to admit that it was very, very hard for me & went deeply against the grain of my reading instincts to acknowledge that Eliot wants the reader to believe that the key to all mythologies is not a very good project....

8:00 AM  

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