ENGL 1101: Fire, Disease, Disaster: Catastrophe and the Shaping of Public Space

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    Prof. Gold

    Dear Class,

    Apologies for posting these discussion prompts so late. I will extend the deadline for responses through Sunday evening to give you enough time to respond.

    I’m going to throw out some questions here. I would like you to answer them or to start up your own conversation threads here on the discussion forum, if you’d like. Your comments should show that you have read both of the assigned Borges stories. At least one of your two required contributions to the discussion should be a response to a fellow student’s discussion board post. When you are replying to another student, please attempt to use the They Say/I Say templates in your response.

    Questions for Discussion:

    Funes, the Memorious
    1. What do you think is the most important sentence in this story? Why?
    2. How does the story of Funes relate to the concept of the archive? To the notion of personal, cultural, or institutional memory?
    3. What connections can you make between Funes and various aspects of digital culture?
    4. What does this story have to say about archives?

    The Library of Babel
    1. How would you interpret the title of this story?
    2. We have been to the Brooklyn Historical Archive and have learned briefly about some of the ways in which they organize manuscripts and other materials. In what ways is this story a commentary on such organizations systems?
    3. What is the most significant phrase in this story? Why?

    Overall questions:
    1. How do these stories relate to each other?

    As you answer these questions, please try to use quotations from the text wherever appropriate.



    I’m not sure if im the first one to post, or if I’m posting in the wrong place….
    Funes, the Memorious.
    I think that through this work, we can visualize the importance of memory. Not only memories concerning a situation, but also every aspect and detail. Life in the city, one see many people doing many things, but at the end of the day how many of those people can actually sit down and write down, or even tell someone, all the aspects of his or her day.
    On the one hand this idea of remembering everything in such detail seems oblivious; however, on the other hand without memories their is no advancement in life, everything would always be new.

    The Library of Babel
    I don’t quite understand this piece… If anyone can explain it to me it would be great.



    I don’t know how accurate this may be, but for The Library of Babel i believe that they are referring the library to the complexity of human life. If you notice at the beginning of the whole essay, Borges, is describing the structure of the library. I don’t know if I was the only one but I couldn’t keep up with his description. Maybe, he made it complicated to describe some of the complexity. The librarian is usually referred to as the person that knows everything about his or her library. In the essay i believe Borges uses the word librarian to describe a god or something like one anyway. God, knows everything, pretty close comparison. “Librarian has gone through it and he is analogous to a god.”(Borges) The actual name sounds a little and makes you think of the Tower of Babel which is a bible reference. In the book of Genesis the Tower of Babel was built by “a united humanity of the generations “(wikipedia). The peaks of the tower reached the heavens. The story goes that in this attempt to reach heaven, in God’s annoyance he confound their languages so no one will understand each other. Kinda goes back to the fact that none of the books related to each other.

    To end this post, i believe that the most important phrase is: “Man, the imperfect librarian, may be the product of chance or of malevolent demiurgi; the universe, with its elegant endowment of shelves, of enigmatical volumes, of inexhaustible stairways for the traveler and latrines for the seated librarian, can only be the work of a god.” I think this for the reason that i believe this is the line that summarizes the whole essay.



    Funes the memorious
    I think that the one of the most important sentence was when he said “Ireneo was nineteen years old; he had been born in 1868; he seemed as monumental as bronze, more ancient than Egypt, anterior to the prophecies and the pyramids.” I pick this because it show what he thought of him. It basically shows why he also call the story ” Funes The Memorious” as he said in the story “Without effort, he had learned English, French, Portuguese, Latin. I suspect, nevertheless, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes there were nothing but details, almost contiguous details.” Fumes was able to do at that at the age of 19. This story has to archive by when he writes about what had happen in the 1884 to 1889 the life he had and how the time was.

    The Library of Babel
    When i first read the tittle of The library of Babel I thought that the story was going to be about a great library and the books that it had in the place. The story commentary show organization system by when it said “There are five shelves for each of the hexagon’s walls; each shelf contains thirty-five books of uniform format; each book is of four hundred and ten pages; each page, of forty lines, each line, of some eighty letters which are black in color.” Also through out the the story it explains what the Hexagon book and what it means. Its shows how they organization the story.

    The story relate to each other because they both tell story and how archives are important and what it means.



    “To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes there were nothing but details, almost contiguous details.” It is the most significant line to me because it envelops the whole idea of this passage. That is, that when we form a memory, we subconsciously remember only the fragments that simplify that memory intro pieces that are easily memorized and dismiss the small details, which at the time all played a role in what we felt and thought.
    The basic concept of an archive is to store as much information possible about history. That is also true for personal, cultural, and institutional memory, where people try to store as many facts about the past to hold for future reference. In the story of Fumes he actually remembers every dent, crack, and angle in each of his memories precisely, even that which he doesn’t want to remember, a skill which could be useful in said sources.
    The World Wide Web is the first thing that comes to mind. In the digital culture people feed this invisible archive with data that will forever be stored. Every word, keystroke, click, image, frame and sound will kept in there even when it is “deleted”. Once its on the internet it is there for everyone to see. So, like an archive, it is accessible by anyone who knows where to look. Fumes is similar in a way because he is a vacuum of information.
    In “Fumes, the Memorious”, the concept of an archive comes to mind a number of times because storing information, although very useful also, has to be limited to that what is useful.


    Eliza B.

    Library of Babel
    Some may see the world as a library. Control and organized by a librarian, well in this case the librarian is God. God as the librarian, fixes all the confusing things in the world, as the library and puts it in its right place. In the bible, in the book of Genesis, many of the people decided to build a great city and in this city they were to build a tall tower. The tower would reach the heavens. “God knew that if they all kept together, those that were wicked would lead away from God those that were good, and all the world would become evil again, as it had been before the flood.”(http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/tower_of_babel.htm) So God slowly gave the people different languages. And the people were scattered among the earth. “And the city was named Babel, a word which means ‘confusion’.” (http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/tower_of_babel.htm)

    “There are five shelves for each of the hexagon’s walls; each shelf contains thirty-five books of uniform format; each book is of four hundred and ten pages; each page, of forty lines, each line, of some eighty letters which are black in color. There are also letters on the spine of each book … ” (The Library of Babel) All the books are uniform, all have same number of pages, same number of lines per page and same number of letters per line. Compared to the Brooklyn Historic Archive, which all the information is uniform, its all about one thing and that is Brooklyn.

    “Five hundred years ago, the chief of an upper hexagon came upon a book as confusing as the others, but which had nearly two pages of homogeneous lines. He showed his find to a wandering decoder who told him the lines were written in Portuguese; others said they were Yiddish. Within a century, the language was established: a Samoyedic Lithuanian dialect of Guarani, with classical Arabian inflections.” (The Library of Babel) I believe this is the most important phrase in the story because it shows that the library is filled of confusing books, as like the world is filled with confusing languages.



    Funes, the memorius
    The most important sentence to me in this passage is “Two or three times he had reconstructed an entire day; he had never once erred or faltered, but each reconstruction had itself taken an entire day.” The reason that I have chosen this because it summarizes what Ireneo Funes went through on a daily basis. How i see Funes story being alike with the idea of archives is because he stored every drop of information/detail he saw even if it was a glimpse it was forever in his mind.
    He used the components of his memories to piece them together to make a connection within them. Archives are collections of historical documents or records providing information of a specific topic. The relation between Funes and archives is due to the fact that they both use every bit of information to help keep the recollection intact. Funes seem like he lived an eternity with all these memory’s in his head but he was only 19 years old.
    The way that I can connect the digital culture with Funes is since this digital era we live in anything can be traced back to its starting point even if deleted it will always remain on the internet. With Funes he precisely recognize where he saw the object with time and date even thought this things are meaningless. What Funes, the memorius have to say about archives is no matter whether how useless the information is it still means something and maybe an important part of a segment in history.



    Funes, the Memorious
    I similar to an archive in the sense that the author Jorge Luis Borges, creates a document attempting to capture his memories of Funes. Borges admits to not having met Funes many times but still feels it necessary too write about him. Borges captures with great details his encounters, why does he recall these meetings so vividly?



    Funes, the memorius
    In the overall story I think that the most important sentence in this story will be when Borges quoted “He knew that at the hour of his death he would scarcely have finished classifying even all the memories of his childhood.” referring to Funes ability to remember with great detail his life. The fact it’s that everyday in our life represents a memory, until the last minute of our existence in the world a memory of every breath, gesture, image or dialogue we make it will be archive. Funes story relates to the concept of archive in the way that as archive, which preserves object that have a historical significance, human have the ability to preserve in our memory life encounters and interaction with things. I think that Funes and the digital culture which I live in, can be parallel to each other, because as Funes recollect and preserve his memory, in our culture the technology can serve as a massive digital memory, which preserves everything from videos to any writing material. It’s interesting how these story shows how the idea of an archive that not necessarily has to be an actual place but that it can be something as personal and present as our memory.
    The Library of Babel
    The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges can be interpreted in many different ways, the title it self can be a subject of discussion, for me this title subjected a place (the library) that it was part of ancient times. It’s interesting how the Brooklyn Historical Society organized their archives in such way that it can be easy to access, yet in Borges description quoted “Someone proposed a regressive method: To locate book A, consult first book B which indicates A’s position; to locate book B, consult first a book C, and so on to infinity … In adventures such as these, I have squandered and wasted my years.”, can be seen as more disorganized and time consuming than the Brooklyn Historical Society library. In this particular essay I think that the phrase that is the most significant is when he quoted “Like all men of the Library, I have traveled in my youth; I have wandered in search of a book, perhaps the catalog of catalogs” I think it has such power because it resembles the search of identity and the hunger for answer that any person goes thought as they pass through their life cycle.



    The Library of Babel,
    I interpreted the title like this; he sees the word as a complex and geometrical library. The books are the people’s lives and all the knowledge of the world. It is explained as random books maybe useless to others other then who the book is about or what it contains. It is made up of vast hexagons, another way of showing complexity and depth.” The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible.”
    Both Library of Babel and The Brooklyn Historical Society have a way of organizing books and information. On one hand In the Library of Babel author Jorge Luis Borges describes the books as being put away randomly but each having there own organized category. Its characteristics of each book like grammar and such. On the other hand the Brooklyn History Archives are organized with dates titles and stuff. “There are five shelves for each of the hexagon’s walls; each shelf contains thirty-five books of uniform format; each book is of four hundred and ten pages; each page, of forty lines, each line, of some eighty letters which are black in color. There are also letters on the spine of each book; these letters do not indicate or prefigure what the pages will say. I know that this incoherence at one time seemed mysterious.”
    The most significant phrase in the story is” The Library exists ab aeterno. This truth, whose immediate corollary is the future eternity of the world, cannot be placed in doubt by any reasonable mind.” This is the most important part of the story to me because it describes exactly how the author puts together his world. It can not be understood just like the real world, people cant always comprehend what is going on or the deepness of this world.


    Freddy H


    That concept is very interesting. I didn’t really notice the reading like that, at first I didn’t even understand it. After reading your post I think I agree with you. That is a very unique and interesting concept you have there.


    Freddy H

    Funes, the Memorious:

    “Ireneo began by enumerating, in Latin and Spanish, the cases of prodigious memory cited in the Historia Naturalis: Cyrus, king of the Persians, who could call every soldier in his armies by name; Mithridates Eupator, who administered justice in the twenty-two languages of his empire; Simonides, inventory of mnemotechny; Metrodorus, who practised the art of repeating faithfully what he heard once. With evident good faith Funes marvelled that such things should be considered marvellous. He told me that previous to the rainy afternoon when the blue-tinted horse threw him, he had been – like any Christian – blind, deaf-mute, somnambulistic, memoryless. (I tried to remind him of his precise perception of time, his memory for proper names; he paid no attention to me.) For nineteen years, he said, he had lived like a person in a dream: he looked without seeing, heard without hearing, forgot everything – almost everything. On falling from the horse, he lost consciousness; when he recovered it, the present was almost intolerable it was so rich and bright; the same was true of the most ancient and most trivial memories. A little later he realized that he was crippled. This fact scarcely interested him. He reasoned (or felt) that immobility was a minimum price to pay. And now, his perception and his memory were infallible.”(Paragraph 14) The whole paragraph fourteen is the most important quote in Funes, the memorious because it shows how Funes began to memorize things after his accident that made him crippled. Funes, relates to the concept of an archive because after seeing or reading something once he memorize it. The purpose of an archive is to store primary sources from a long time and Funes does that by memorizing things and being able to recite them without messing up. This story shows how an archive works, someone writes a letter or takes a picture and another person discovers it later and is astonished at what they are looking at. They have a piece of history right in their very hands. With an archive it allows many different documents to be stored and looked at later in life, then when the people are looking at it they are able to ask questions and gain a sense of history that they have never encountered themselves.


    Sheily F.

    I agree with you Freddy, this is the most important part of Funes, the memorious, because it is the turning point of his life where changed from having a common memory to a great storage of every detail of every moment, situations, person, object he had seen. However, I would rather highlight the last sentences “On falling from the horse, he lost consciousness; when he recovered it, the present was almost intolerable it was so rich and bright; the same was true of the most ancient and most trivial memories. A little later he realized that he was crippled. This fact scarcely interested him. He reasoned (or felt) that immobility was a minimum price to pay. And now, his perception and his memory were infallible.” (Funes, the Memorious) It was as if he has born again, with a new mind and a different ways to perceive things. Funes ability reminds me of an autistic woman named Temple Grandin ( http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2006-Ei-La/Grandin-Temple.html), who developed an incredible picture memory. Such as Funes, she had more than a library on her mind. Temple could remember everything she had seen and every encounter with every object or person to the perfection due to her autism, which helped her to pass from being a sick child to a successful business woman. These kind of people exemplify the functions of the archives. In this case Funes’ incredible memory is similar to the Brooklyn Historical Society archives which is designed to reserve and keep carefully the information from years ago in order to preserve the history of Brooklyn. In my point of view Funes would be considered a primary source of information since he can remember everything not matter of how old the encounter with it was.


    Adam Elkhouly

    Library Of Babel

    I find the title of this story very ironic; I noticed that before I even started the reading. As I continued into the reading, I noticed that the library wasn’t related to babel at all but in fact the complete opposite. A babel is defined as “a scenery of noise and confusion” and the library appears to be anything but that, the library is precisely organized down to how many lines each book has. On top of the library’s organization, the library seems to know all as well “There was no personal or world problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon.” I feel as if this story is a metaphor to mankind, not so much the organizational parts but how it says “Thousands of the greedy abandoned their sweet native hexagons and rushed up the stairways, urged on by the vain intention of finding their Vindication.” This seems a lot like how people move forward and conquer other lands (hexagons) to reap the area for their own benefits. Also, how the author writes “Others, inversely, believed that it was fundamental to eliminate useless works.”, this seems like a reference to genocide and how some people believe that “inferior” people or races must be eliminated.

    Funes, The Memorious

    I feel as if the opening sentence is the most important because it is incredibly descriptive down to every single, small detail, “looking at it as no one has ever looked at such a flower. People are only able to remember things in such incredible detail if the event is important or memorable to them, meaning that the encounter the author had with Funes was a very important one to him.

    The story of Funes relates to the concept of archiving because the story is a primary source for how things were during 1887. Without intention, the author goes to great lengths to describe the area “I crossed the cobblestone patio, the small corridor; I came to the second patio. A great vine covered everything, so that the darkness seemed complete.”, because of this we have more insight to the that time period then if the work never existed.


    Freddy H

    WOW! I thought the same thing when i read the story. The first person that came to mind was Grandin and how pictures helped her create things like the gate in her aunts house and the new way to slaughter cows. I had recently seen the movie so it game to mind while reading the story. It was a great movie I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

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