“yahoo” annotation assignment

For next week, you will note on the syllabus that there’s a “yahoo” annotation assignment. Since we’re thinking about the history and future of annotations in the study of literature in this unit, I thought we could do a quick experiment prior to producing together an actual annotated edition of Benito Cereno. I want to see what happens when we’re confronted with, on the one hand, a relatively blank text–the Project Gutenberg plain vanilla HTML formatted text of Benito Cereno with no notes, introductions, or scholarly apparatus whatsoever–and, on the other, our own relative ignorance about the text.

The challenge, then, is to make annotations that mark areas of questioning or uncertainty, that provide interpretation or analysis of key moments, or gloss difficult words or concepts for peers, using little bits of research (e.g, the Oxford English Dictionary or other useful reference texts). We’ll use good ol’ hypothes.is for this, and please use both the allred720 tag and a “benito” tag as well, so we can pull out just these annotations as a separate stream if we like.

In terms of expectations, let’s say that you must make a minimum of five annotations for next week, but that your annotations can be on absolutely anything from any part of the text. And be sure to annotate the text I’ve posted on this site so your annotations will be with everyone else’s.

And in closing, you may find these two passages from Melville useful or therapeutic as you face this assignment.

First, from Benito itself:

Relieved by these and other better thoughts, the visitor, lightly humming a tune, now began indifferently pacing the poop, so as not to betray to Don Benito that he had at all mistrusted incivility, much less duplicity; for such mistrust would yet be proved illusory, and by the event; though, for the present, the circumstance which had provoked that distrust remained unexplained. But when that little mystery should have been cleared up, Captain Delano thought he might extremely regret it, did he allow Don Benito to become aware that he had indulged in ungenerous surmises. In short, to the Spaniard’s black-letter text, it was best, for awhile, to leave open margin.

Second, a riff on the unbearableness of whiteness from Moby Dick:

Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the visible absence of colour; and at the same time the concrete of all colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows—a colourless, all-colour of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues—every stately or lovely emblazoning—the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colourless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge—pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear coloured and colouring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?


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