The Charm of a List: From the Sumerians to Computerised Data Processing
by Lucie Dolezalova, Stan Ruecker
Lists, one of the most archaic literary genres, stand behind many of our complex mental or rhetorical structures and they often influence the way we conceptualize the world (even if we are unaware of it). They seem plain but may conceal a complicated inner logic. They are agrammatical but may tell a story. Their basic features – selection, order, and layout – may be enough to give them enormous power: by including they exclude, by ordering they create a hierarchy, by taking on particular physical aspects they place themselves into a specific context. These and other issues are discussed in the present transdisciplinary volume collecting the best revised contributions to a workshop on lists held at the Center for Theoretical Study in Prague in November 2008. Each of the 13 articles by researchers from seven countries provides a case study on the subject of list. The fields covered include late antique, medieval and early modern history, philology, philosophy, cognitive and computer science. The contributors aim both at presenting particular cases – specific lists or list-types – and, at the same time, at addressing methodological issues: exploring the ways of researching lists in their particular disciplines, formulating relevant research themes and questions, contextualizing the subject. Since theoretical discourse on lists has not been established yet, this volume should be seen as a first step in the process, showing the variety of possible research directions on a transdisciplinary level, and raising interest in the topic, which, although it may seem a bit obscure at first, has indeed a lot to offer.