je ne sais quoi

28 February 2007

When the writer (or the artist in general) says he has worked without giving any thought to the rules of the process, he simply means he was working without realizing he knew the rules.

-Umberto Eco, in the postscript to The Name of the Rose

Mr. McCourt, what the hell is going on in this room? You’ve got these kids reading cookbooks, for Christ’s sakes. And singing recipes? Are you kidding us? Could you kindly explain what this has to do with the teaching of English? Where are your lessons on literature, English or American or anything else?

. . . Except for Brian’s little moment of rebellion, hadn’t we had three days of complete class participation?

-Frank McCourt, in Teacher Man

Why these two quotes? Because I think they speak to one of the things I’ve been trying to articulate about science. In terms of novel prose, though, I find that Chet Raymo has already broken trail here.

If in science the user really understands the process through and through, and if in art they do not, and if art and science are really two separate realms how do we decide where the borders are? There’s another question in there about what each realm produces, but that might be for another day. For know, let’s just content ourselves with pondering the watershed.


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