The Metaphysics of the Internet; or Can Lydia Maria Child’s Ghost Read My Comment?

I’m in the midst of the metaphysical chunk of my dissertation. In these two chapters I examine how American writers in the middle of the nineteenth century looked to India for sources to build religious alternatives to orthodox Protestantism. Thoreau, Emerson, Blavatzky, all the usual suspects are there.

Today I’m working on the writings of Lydia Maria Child. I was trying to track down a copy of her essay from The Atlantic “Resemblances Between the Buddhist and Roman Catholic Religions” and I found it here. It was odd to read an article from 1870 as a 21st century webpage complete with sidebar ads. Scrolling down the page, I was surprised to find a comment on the article from 8 months ago. User hans_hassler decided he must correct Child’s argument that there is a resemblance between Buddhism and Catholicism. It is the only comment hans_hassler has made on The Atlantic website.

This is a fascinating situation. I’m not sure what to make of it.

I like what Per D. Smith tweeted about it:

Maybe we all need mediums on retainer. There is an odd spiritualist feel to all of this. When 19th century spiritualists channeled the dead there was a moment of chronological discord. The past and present overlapped at the table. As I sit at my desk and stare at hans_hassler reprimanding Lydia Maria Child I get a small inkling of that desire for spirits, for knowledge, and for the bridge between past and present.

And I can’t help but wonder if she can read it.

UPDATE- Yoni Appelbaum makes a great point:

About these ads

4 Comments on “The Metaphysics of the Internet; or Can Lydia Maria Child’s Ghost Read My Comment?”

  1. Nick says:

    I just had the same realization two days ago, with Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think”: https://twitter.com/npseaver/status/252980398022356992 Something interesting about the status of content in different delivery schemes going on here, especially given how mundane and spammy many of the comments are…

  2. If you go to Brazil, the spiritualist movement is alive-and-well there: plenty of mediums to choose from. :-)

  3. [...] michaeljaltman.net – Tagged: Oxpeckers View on Counterparties.com → Amazon.com Widgets var [...]

  4. [...] The Atlantic has comments enabled for an article written in 1870 - Michael J. Altman Jerry Seinfeld’s hilarious letter to the NYT on the usage of the word “really” [...]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,969 other followers