Tue

23

Aug

2011

What is "balance"?

Still a puzzling question - in representing the world's literary tradition, what should balance mean?

 

Somehow, I feel the fundamental metrics need to be about population - definitely current population; but possibly also literary population or literary production.

 

In my list of 36, I insisted on balance by broad genre, by "traditions" (both religious and geographic), and also consider things like language and timing of writing. I believe these are the key factors, but in my imagination of a list possibly 5-6 times the current size (180-216), maybe it needs to be further thought through.

 

Some thoughts I have:

 

- Possibly 2-3 layers of geographies: current "countries" (near 200 in total), broader (cultural?) "zones" (8-10 in the world), and broadest "areas' (in my mind, 3 of them - East, South and West). With a list of ~200, countries that has <0.5% of world's population, which would be <=30M ~2000A.D. probably does not really need to be considered - that only is about 37 countries or so. But of course, the key questions is what do people in these countries actually consider as classics - especially in the curriculum up to high school and undergraduate. If we take this 37 countries too literally, for example we would be excluding Israel or Saudi Arabia, where the Bible and Qu'ran originated.

 

- Languages - as we are considering only written works, this question should have been much easier, but ... still a very complex issue. What literate population actually learn to write - what is considered as essential "foreign" languages and "nearby" languages and/or "classical" languages need to be taken into account. Though I am inclined not to think about language families - yet, I find that it may actually creep back in the final consideration set. Among modern languages, again using the 30M rule - there will only be 45 languages (including dialects of Chinese considered as languages) in total, according to 2000 version of Linguasphere. But of course, the "classical" language dimension clearly cannot be ignored.

 

- Timing - earlier is of course the bigger possible range of (population under) influence. Hard to do sheer "balance" - but really the distribution within a tradition needs to line up with periods of "efflorescense" - or at least periods later remembered as periods of great creativities.

 

- Religions - clearly very consolidated - if we excluded "lumped-together" religions - we really don't need to move further away from top 3 religions (Buddhism, Islam and Christianity) - the next closest, per what this Wikipedia article says, is Sikhism with only 23M adherents. Judaism - only 14M. Current population numbers make it hard to justify inclusion of a text to represent in a list of ~200.

 

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