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Sep 23, 2009


"Ramifications of third level gematrian permutations of the Letter B in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales"

In T.K. Mouser’s methodology, the letter B is represented by 11, typed the PhD student. While this is an improvement over the simplistic Rationalist school’s approach of equating B with 2, it remains a second level permutation, which does not allow the same complexity of third level permutation. In the third level gematria advanced by the New School, however, all attempts at consistency are abandoned and the value assigned to Letter B is determined by random selection of an integer 0-9. The same methodology, of course, is applied to the other Letters, except in Scott’s system, in which Z and X are always 0, but CH is represented as a third level Letter.

After a moment, the student added, “[Note to self: What about TH?]”

Reading the computer screen over the student’s shoulder, the student’s room mate said, “I don’t get it. What does this have to do with Chaucer?”

“The only way to interpret texts such as Chaucer is to use gematria,” explained the student. “The old system was to equate A with 1, B with 2, C with 3, and so on. Then you add up all the numbers in a given word and compare it to other words with the same numeric value elsewhere in the text to find the hidden meanings.”

“The hidden meanings?” asked the room mate. “What about the actual meanings?”

“Only people who read for pleasure worry about that,” said the student. “This is Literary Criticism, not bourgeoisie consumption of literature as entertainment.”

“Oh,” said the room mate.

Indeed, typed the student, the rotating random assignment of a single digit numeric value to a Letter results in unsettling fluidity of interpretation, constantly transgressing the boundaries of conventional Alpha-Numeric dichotomies, contesting and problemetisizing the stereotypes of which Letter constitutes which number, and profoundly challenging the norms of racism and sexism.

“I don’t think most racists and sexists are going to be profoundly challenged by Literary Criticism,” said the room mate.

and heterosexism, added the student.

The student continued typing while the room mate wandered off to drink a soda. When the room mate returned, the student was typing:

…thus, since in this fourth reading of The Canterbury Tales, the word “reeve” had the same numeric value as “nun” but in the fifth reading, the same value as “weeping” this shows that…

“How can it show anything?” asked the room mate. “You just assign numbers randomly to words, and it’s not even the same numbers every time. I can’t believe you can get a PhD writing this nonsense.”

“I can’t believe you’re belittling my career like that.” The student sounded more sullen than wounded.

“Sorry. All I’m saying is, since the original words are just turned into random meaningless numbers, which are just compared to other random and meaningless numbers, and the whole point of the methodology is to prove that all literature is random and meaningless… well, why even bother reading The Canterbury Tales? You might as well just analyze Stephen King.”

A guilty flinch from the student compelled the room mate to lean closer. “Hey! You are just reading Stephen King.”

“Okay, yeeeeesss,” allowed the student. “But it’s still not easy to write this stuff. I have to churn out another fifty pages.”

“I’ll go get you a soda,” said the room mate.

Graduate School

If you've been kind enough to wonder if I've fallen off the face of the earth, I'm afraid I have, more or less: I'm in graduate school now, working on my PhD. Until the holiday break, I won't have much time to blog. For your amusement, however, I'll post a flash fiction inspired by my studies.