myth-industrialism and historical scholarship:coexistence

Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Tue, 21 May 1996 17:25:54 CDT

today is breathtakingly good. I am stunned by the level of excellence which
prevails. The contrast with the turgid legalisms, prioritizing of pettinesses
in elite factionalism perhaps far beyond that apparent to the masses of the
populations in the periods covered; the personalizing and dynasticizing of
Rulership, the mystifications of Legitimacy (always most Legitimate post
facto, *after* the Settlement of the War of the Spanish, Austrian, Polish,
Carlist, Bavarian, grosso modo Catholic-Suart/Protestant-Orange, whatever;
or *before* the incumbent's infertility induces sponsorship of pet claimants
in cages by some Serious Power); the aridity of the chronological presentation
in vacuo; as prevailed among the texts of musty Grand History by dust-covered
Vast-in-Erudition White Male Eminents, now Dead, and the social-structural,
anthropological, culturally multiply-dimensionalized, even deconstructed, from
odd texts hitherto beneath True Historians' contempt, and best of all, the
sense of Alienness-Otherness wherewith the past, ostensibly sometimes our Near
Chronological Neighbours but now somehow Truly Off The Wall in ways difficult
to capture! It's a whole new History ballgame!

Pardon that sentence, but I had to gush. Kinship diagrams illustrating
marriage transfers in Medieval China, with kinship diagrams, are my favourites
for reassurances as to beneficial cross-disciplinary mutual influences: I've
noted several times the vast authority wherewith Patricia Buckley Ebrey and
members of her school use the anthropological literature to, say, illustrate
and explicate theoretically the transition from Bridewealth among the Tang
(618-907) elite to Dowry in the Northern Song (960-1126), always with
Patriarchal/Patrilineal/Patrilocal constraints which stifled, suffocated,
stunted the unilinear progress toward "diverging devolution," posited
by Goody and to him par excellence characteristic of Europe. Feminism,
arguably the most important dynamic element in social-science theorizing
in recent decades, rejuvenates the past in conjunction, sometimes uneasy,
with Marxism, where everyone is a Marxist now that - forget Cuba and North
Korea - it's no longer ruling doctrine. I can no longer keep track of which
previously Unimaginably Alien institutions were Strikingly Similar to the
Medieval European (Byzantine, for instance, late eleventh to early thirteenth
centuries); which society's feudal warrior class, previously snugly analogized
to a "Western Model," as was Japan's, is startlingly stripped naked to reveal
something Alien and Other all along. (Just read a very recent volume, Divine
Warriors: The Evolution of the Japanese Military, 500-1300.)

Whatever gives with the Movies, professional historians' History is better
than ever, and as we should comfort ourselves crossdisciplinarily, come
Funding Cutbacks as they may, *you cannot keep the procreative powers of
graduate education from vastly expanding and hybrizing the hardier breed
of the successor generation*; successive food supplies will be outrun; yet
newer pastures expand for devouring, as there is no limit to the aggregate
global datamass*.

That's my optimistic message.

The other side of the potsherd, no, let's try *postcard*, still not
satisfied, is no longer a homemade, village craftsbeing, People's, that
is to say, catchascatchcan (say, John, where in Mexico is that), contingent
on the poet-bard-supply and its quality control level, of Myth Development.
If that had ever been true, as is increasingly doubted. That classic study
of a Bosnian Muslim bard who "generated," we should say, an Epic chanson
de geste of a Heroic Warrior for the Faith as long as the Iliad in a trice,
ie, on demand from the ethnowhatchacallits, *but lousy*, is cited as evidence
for perpetual novelty in culture; and I've said myself, this is what culture's
*for*, in part: Society is self-reproduction whose condition for accomplishing
this is interference with its exact self-reproduction; and this is separately
true for biological, material, cultural, and political reproduction. The same
entity is driven by an imperative to become sufficiently different to persist,
whatever that means.

Discourse on method: Say it first; figure out what you meant later.

Culture I defined for many years on this list as "the mental life of
society and the material objects wherein that mental life is objectified,"
full well recalling that, as fixated upon by Marxist historical sociology
and genuine-authentic Marxist anthropologists of astounding sophistication
whose names and contributions have been obscured and marginalized by the
one figure whose name is stuck, splinterlike, in my head at this time, whose
Marxist credentials are invalidated by all the nameless and unnamable above,
Marvin Harris, I also mentioned, prior to the cultural, the sphere of material
social reproduction.

Discourse on clarity of definition: For the eighty pages I wrote defining
what, of material products, what exactly was material and what cultural,
whose mutual exclusiveness was notional excepting only in emic distinctions,
the wherein of the meaningfully different, I found but one reader,
unable to stay awake to finish. So I assure you:
"I have got the answer,
"Let it be."

How much repetition of specific mental-life creations, how long the
design continuities of, say, geometric pottery (an expert may discriminate
among Early Geometric, Developed Geometric, and Late Geometric for Greek
pottery of Early Iron I,II,III; but what of the, uh, *homemaker*, required
in a pinch (or husbandly punch badly aimed) to make do with alternative
crock, doth indeed it matter if, quoth she, I go to pot yet my immortal
soul gets sunk in the dregs of Hades' container). Frankly, I have no idea
as to what's usable emergencarily, transhistorically or crossculturally.
Too many taboos make for either a damned nuisance or religioethnic identity
(ie eg the 613 Jewish *mitzvoth*, honored vastly to this day in the breach
most of all). As I was saying, actually:

People get bored. Across cultures, they get bored differenly, by various
culturally specific boring Thingies. The construct of the Golden Oldie is
contingent on the preservation of folkart less monumental than pyramid or
cathedral. What's boring, when it bores, calls forth innovation which ensures
change where elite repression doesn't supervene. Climbing of the charts is
antecedent to the very charts and capacity to read (or sit through) what's
popular. Elite culture can be folkdittified; peasantisms are promotable as
*romance de la boue*, but mainly, in class societies, above all the capitalist,
cultural innovators are hired in the labour market at the low end and cultural
products are sold in the art market at the high end.

"Won'cha sit down on the couch."
"Just wuzzis mike doing here?"
"Foss, you remember the Haight-Ashbury scene, I wasn't born yet."
"There was stuff, posters, underground comix, buttons, promos for rock
groups, craftsy stuff, mystical stuff, underground papers...."
"Got myself crates of those stashed away, yeah."
"And today, some of it sells for thousands of dollars as Collectors'
"Supposing, now, Foss, Chicago in the Nineties, like, *REALLY TAKES OFF*
like that. I wanna have more than just saying, yeah, I wuz there myself. I
wanna have *money*, lots of it."
"Wozzis gotta do with me? I'm nothing, got no talent, can't do nothing f'r
"Foss, look backatth' Haight scene, thinkuv allada shits with *less talent
than you got* even, and the kinda money made by or offadem. Frankly, right
now, true, you aint shit. But onna smallest chance you just might get into
sompin', I could clean the [deleted] up! What's t' lose?"
[End verbatim transcription.]

A small step for a speculator in the futures market; but very giantistic
steps are taken routinely by routined noncharismatic Japanese megacorporations
in hopes of producing "content" for their gadgets; which fail for now; whilst
ultimate-bottomlineified "content" and jet-engine-manufacturing multiglomerate
General Electric heeds whips and scorpions of contemporary capitalist hero Jack
Welch to manufacture mental life such that annual rate of return is perpetually
higher this year by 15% minimum than last; and creator-factories must hold
positions one or two in market share of whatever market the Thingies created
sell in; ou la mort. Those who fail are Sold Off into the corporate outer
darkness, a dispatch remarkably simple for artistic entities managed roughly
along the lines of houses of prostitution with the overt and covert
facilitation behaviours reversed.
In a latebreaking story, I have suggested to Doctress Neutopia that this
has happened to her without her knowledge; check with her agent to make sure,
lizzy; and for this reason she will be sent to Istanbul for May 27 meetings,
with a side tour to an archeological site amid heavy Turkish Army and PKK
guerrilla activity. Just who, exactly, owns the rights to your martyrdom,

Hardly mythic myself, the more so should I relax e-correspondents'
avoidance taboos (inquire Mike Lieber,, further
information, ie, that I was "bad," is unexceptionable, howbeit its
premeditation and attribution to my fleawill in unsupportable), I mythify
Doctress Neutopia, who by herself is nothing and has done much to deserve
it thus far; that's for now. When, under what circumstances, there will be
a Mass Market for the Neutopian Myth, faith in Neutopianism having attenuated
to agnosticism in Neutopia herself, being oprional following ticket purchase,
compulsory of course, is the province of marketing specialists. But I shall
not tell her all; the poor woman is depressed by capitalism tout court as it
is. The greatest certainty in the life of Neutopia is, upon its passing the
actress cast as lizzy herself will fit the role better, much better, than the
original. I think Elizabeth Shue would be perfect, if the price is right. This
is almost real. For true modern fiction, read Martin Amis, The Information,
1995; a book which is what it says.
My favourite novelist at this time is David Foster Wallace, whose vast
novel, Infinite Jest, 1996, was published immediately following the devotion
of the preceding issue of The Suday New York Times Magazine to the author's
*Sudden Celbrity*. Grabbing his debut novel, The Broom Of The System, 1987,
I was converted by the inside back cover photo: An avowed great artist
domiciled in Syracuse NY for whatever reason is hero material. And suddenly,
he looked Jewish to me.

Daniel A. Foss