Talk:Eric A. Havelock

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Featured article Eric A. Havelock is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
Main Page trophy This article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on November 6, 2006.
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Date Process Result
February 27, 2006 Peer review Reviewed
March 8, 2006 Featured article candidate Promoted
Current status: Featured article

formatting of block quotes[edit]

In my browser (Firefox), the first block quote isn't indented correctly. However, if I delete the image of the book cover and do a preview, it's indented. This is apparently a bug in Firefox. I fiddled with it to make it look right, but changed it back once I realized that it seemed to be merely a browser bug. --Bcrowell 00:50, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

I use Firefox too, and this has been bugging me forever. I moved the image to the right, and then moved the previous one to the left. What do you think? Chick Bowen 01:12, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis?[edit]

Was Havelock influenced by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? Some of his ideas (about the changing meaning of nouns, etc.) wouldn't seem to make sense unless you believe in a fairly strong form of Sapir-Whorf. The accumulation of evidence seems to rule out Sapir-Whorf in its strongest form, so does that weaken Havelock's thesis?--Bcrowell 00:56, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

This is a fascinating question, which I hadn't previously thought about. Havelock doesn't mention Sapir or Whorf in anything I've read, but I can do a little more research. Wouldn't Sapir and Whorf have objected to Havelock's emphasis on writing as opposed to language itself? I don't know their work (only second-hand), but my understanding is that they're primarily interested in the idea that the organization of mental activity is based on the structures of language. Havelock seems to me to be arguing something s bit different: that translating a language from an oral to a written form changes the mental possibilities that can exist for someone who knows that language. I think there are two ways that could go, and Havelock was a little bit ambiguous about which way he wanted to go. One is kind of a parallel direction to Sapir and Whorf: an intimate and inextricable relationship between language and thought. The other is to emphasize writing at the expense of the centrality of language, which seems to move away from anything that might be associated with linguistics and more toward a non-linguistic theory of writing such as you find in Derrida. It's this latter possibility that makes literary theorists so interested in him, though I imagine it would also make linguists, as you suggest, unsympathetic. As I tried to say in the article in as NPOV a way as possible, I don't think anyone's really been convinced by Havelock--people find his ideas useful for thinking about other ideas. I'll have to think about this more, though--thanks for the question. Chick Bowen 01:12, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
On second thought, let me rephrase that. It's the starkness of the division between orality and writing in Greek history that I, at least, find unconvincing--the idea that Socrates would have meant something different by a word than Plato even though Plato quotes Socrates using that word. The general theory of transition seems more compelling, but it only works if you extend it over time rather than trying, as Havelock did, to pinpoint it. Chick Bowen 01:17, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

overly complex sentence[edit]

Hi Chick: I wonder whether you could simplify sentences such as:

Observing (as was well-known) that the philosophical texts were written not only in verse but in the meter of Homer, who had recently been identified (still controversially at the time) by Milman Parry as an oral poet, Havelock eventually came to the conclusion that the poetic aspects of early philosophy "were matters not of style but of substance."[1]

In particular, the parenthetical phrases make it hard to get through. Tony 01:35, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for this and for your edits, Tony. I completely rewrote that bit. I might fiddle further in the morning. I'll look for other sentences like that (it's a bad habit of mine). Thanks again. Chick Bowen 02:43, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
By the way, that redlink for oral poetry has been driving me nuts, but it would be awfully hard for me to write that article within miles of NPOV. Maybe I'll put a stub together. Chick Bowen 02:46, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

influence on McLuhan[edit]

Donald Theall, a student of McLuhan's and author of two books on the subject, has written an essay titled "the Toronto School of Communications" (available here: ), in which he describes Havelock and Harold Innis as the two founding pillars of the type of historical inquiry that McLuhan ran so far with. Indeed, if one made a stack of McLuhan's books in which 'Preface to Plato' was highly praised and recommended, it would dwarf the stack of those where it goes unmentioned.

I don't know what to add or how to summarize, but the article might benefit from McLuhan's celebrity endorsement. The link at the bottom is good, but hardly fair to Havelock's importance to McLuhan. Linus Minimax 07:04, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

Thanks--that's a great article. I'll add something about it in the morning (EST) if no one else does first. Chick Bowen 07:18, 6 November 2006 (UTC)
I added a paragraph; feel free to expand, clarify, or improve it. Thanks again. Chick Bowen 16:49, 6 November 2006 (UTC)
Cool. I tweaked it a bit, adding the words 'established' and 'later' to clarify that Havelock was not presently or intensively involved in the later McLuhan-Carpenter milieu, also changed '1940's' to '1950's' since it was in the Fifties that Innis and Havelock blasted McLuhan out of his previous, morally indignant, Wyndham Lewis-inspired analysis of cultural content ('Mechanical Bride' 1951 vs. 'Gutenberg Galaxy' 1962). Also the link to Theall's essay wouldn't work, I noticed an end bracket probably out of place, so I hope it now works. Thanks for including it so quickly, while the article is still featured! Linus Minimax 22:14, 6 November 2006 (UTC)


Note that the site has been vandalized. Please correct and protect.

Revert yes, but as a general rule we don't protect pages linked to from the Main Page unless the vandalism is coming so thick and fast we can't keep on top of it. —Angr 21:56, 6 November 2006 (UTC)


I have reverted the addition of an infobox. I am, in general, against them. But this article makes particularly clear the problem with them: the infobox added stated that Havelock's nationality was British, which it was not--he was born there but the article does not mention his citizenship because I was unable to confirm it in researching his life. The infobox also stated he "researched transition from orality to literacy" which, besides being an awkward sentence fragment, is inaccurate--Havelock researched 7th through 4th century philosophy, and over time came to formulate a view of that philosophy which depended on a theory of the transition from orality to literacy. The lead presents these issues in a clear and concise way; I don't think they can be summed up in a phrase without over-simplifying, which is particularly dangerous to do with a thinker whose work is quite complex. Chick Bowen 06:16, 24 November 2010 (UTC)

  1. ^ Literate Revolution, quoted in Swearingen 141.