Information Ashvins

April 23, 2010

Salve, Señor Gaius Mucius Scaevola.  I mentioned, but didn’t really elaborate on the oral storyteller.  The storyteller is the bard, the singer of tales, the epic poet.

Horace wrote this rule for the epic poet in his Ars Poetica: “semper ad eventum in medias res / non secus ac notas auditorem rapit et quae / desparat tractata nitescere posse relinquet.”  The purport of this rule is the following, as given by Thomas Schütte.  “… the mandate to begin in the middle of things is a mandate to try by every means to move the listener, the one who attends or hears the poet’s words.  The listener is addressed ‘as though’ he or she knew the narrative beforehand and this prior knowledge is a resource for the poet, who therefore may act with greater freedom in presenting the narrative in a new order.  But the listener’s prior knowledge also asserts a demand, for the poet must make such history worthwhile and what escapes the poet’s powers cannot be deliberated upon and recaptured; the poet must move on, abandoning what is beyond [his] creative resources.”  Wouldn’t you agree that that’s what we’ve done with this web log so far, at least the in medias res part?

I was exposed to Albert B. Lord‘s The Singer of Tales, which is referred to in that post-Paths Ahead note, in a class taught by Prof. Minkowski.  An emphasis in that class besides formulaic language in epic poetry was on the unusualness of frame stories in the Mahābhārata, which are discussed here.  These frame stories involved conversation or dialogue between pairs Vaiśampāyana and Janamejaya, Ugraśravas and Śaunaka, Saṃjaya and Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Vasiṣṭha and Parāśara, Lomaśa and Yudhiṣṭhira, and others.  This conversational/dialogic style is a hallmark of Saṃskṛta texts which I feel is a good style to have.  The blog has been of this form so far, and I see no reason to change it up.  Do you?

The Minkowski paper I linked to has its own sort of frame.  It begins with a description of a study by that opponent of Krishna Maheshwari, Michael Witzel, which discusses the Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa and its frame story involving the Aśvins, the divine doctors and twin brothers.  The twin doctors are “young, handsome, brilliant and agile,” basically everything that the Louisville Lip was too. They bring the dawn light and all of the metaphors that that entails.  As discussed here, they are “the personification of coordinated action by a duality.”  “Their harmonious ability to coordinate themselves in good works is a model for all happy dualities.”  Now that we have both become doctors, I hope we will coordinate to do good and do well in the future, especially in the areas of information science, information theory, information systems and allied topics: strive to be Information Ashvins.



  1. […] with technological development, isn’t it?  (And indeed the same with formulaic language in epic poetry or mathematics prose.)  When we were discussing prize theory last year, this whole crossing the […]

  2. […] David Ferrucci’s), and is related to storytelling thoughts I have shared here previously (1, 2, […]

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