The rhetoric of enumeration

The rhetoric of enumeration

Umberto Eco on the importance of curating lists:

[T]he list maker often is compelled to acknowledge that each accounting predicates an uncountable number of shadow lists, alternative choices abounding. Such recording seeks order even as the process implies the chaos of ever-lengthening inventories — thus the “infinity” of lists.

On the job of the list maker:

If the list maker’s first task is to choose, the next might be to make more from those choices than mere addition: A list can tell a story. What Eco dubs the “rhetoric of enumeration” we might understand as the drama that flows from rhythmic excitation. In Leaves of Grass, Whitman’s incantatory compilations rise to crescendos and fall back to rumination, taking accurate measure of the pulsing landscapes the poet feels compelled to swallow whole.

There is a tempo and a shape to lists, be it aural, visual, or curatorial, and ultimately, what is present can be less fascinating than what is absent.