Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"The Romans created time machines that we still inhabit."

So states Denis Feeney in the Chronicle of Higher Education (7/13/07). According to the article, Feeney traces the permutations of the classical calendar from "synchronization" ("events are elaborately correlated backward, forward, and sideways") to the "horizon between myth and history" ("an imaginary boundary which can be activated to reflect relative movement," creating the elasticity in dating the founding of Rome and "deep nostalgia among Romans for a past golden age") and finally to
the Roman consular year and other indigenous time charts that preceded the Julian calendar, and shows how Caesar's new system, grounded in astronomy (how can something be grounded in the astral, wonders JJC), altered the world overnight -- January 1, 46 BC. When told that the constellation of Lyre would rise days into the new year, Cicero was amused. "Yes, by decree," joked the orator.
More information on the book here.


Anonymous said...

I am listening to a recording I made not moments ago of my son hearing his own recorded voice and reacting to it in a very engage fashion. He echoes his own voice with great interest. At twenty-four months, he is already embedded in the Digital Ages, where banal archives abound.

My digital technology encoded a moment in which my son used his language skills to inquire about another creature’s wants; it captured a moment of caring. That emotion, “caring,” a spark of love, has timelessness about it, an aura that exists only as a radiant gist in the moment of its expression. By attending to it, by playing with his sounds on my computer, I hope to arrange that moment and care for it over time. I just want something that I can turn to that will help me feel the way I felt when I witnessed what I did today.

I want a pre-packaged emotional zinger device.

Reading Benjamin at the dawn of the Digital Ages has radically changed my perspective and understanding of time, particularly in terms of time’s relationship to technology and to the institutional memories enabled by these technologies that we collectively call “history.”

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Great vignette, Tim, and nice theorizing of this emotion-laden moment. It's impossible NOT to be nostalgic around young children, because their ever-changing bodies are rocketing them forward in time in ways that we slow metabolism adults forget. The child's voice will be VERY different next year.