1993 Polanyi Society Annual Meeting-Washington D.C Discussion with William H. Poteat Tapes and Transcripts

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1993 Polanyi Society Annual Meeting-Washington D.C
Discussion with William H. Poteat
Tapes and Transcripts


In November of 1993, Bill Poteat appeared as the featured guest of the annual meeting of the Polanyi Society held at the American Academy of Religion/Society for Biblical Literature meeting in Washington, D.C. I was unable to attend because my father's funeral was held in Memphis at that time. That was one of very few AAR/SBL/Polanyi Society meetings I have missed in over fifty years and I was deeply sorry to miss it, not only because of my father's death but also because Poteat was my professor, mentor, dissertation advisor, and eventually department chair during the nine years I was at Duke from 1967 to 1976.

I received a recording (originally done on a cassette recorder) on CDs sometime after the event but I only listened to it carefully very recently in 2023, after the Kansas City Polanyi Zoom group spent several months discussing Poteat's work. I had read his books, which were the focus of the 1993 session, many years earlier - sometimes in drafts that he sent to me and, I assume, many of his former students. All were written and published after my time with him. I believe many in the Polanyi Society, whether they were in attendance in 1993 or not, will want to read or re-read these transcriptions of the 1993 sessions while they listen to the recordings.

In his opening remarks, immediately after Ron Hall's appropriately adulatory introduction, Poteat directly addresses the relation of his work to that of Polanyi as well as the nature of his work. On Saturday morning, he reflects on Polanyi's reaction to one of his key essays, Polanyi's occasional "backsliding" from his post-critical philosophy, and the relation of Polanyi's tacit-explicit image to his own key image of retrotensive-protensive. Other Polanyian themes occur throughout, and the sessions go beyond his writings to reflect on Poteat's life-long project with candor, insight, and humor. And Poteat recalls several personal interactions with Polanyi over two decades which are not discussed, to my knowledge, elsewhere. Charles McCoy moderated the Saturday morning session and Poteat's responses to his attempts to get Poteat to place himself in relation to Polanyi and other philosophers are quite interesting.

He answers questions and addresses criticisms of his work raised by many Polanyi Society members including Jere Moorman, Wally Mead, Dale Cannon, Walt Gulick, Bruce Haddox, Bob Osborn, David Rutledge, Ed St. Clair, Taylor Scott, Joe Kroger, and Phil Mullins. Others we were able to identify on Saturday morning included Doug Adams, Beth Newman, Arimenta Johnston, Richard Gelwick, Jim Stines, and there are a few others we are not able to identify.

The recordings were poor quality although we have attempted to use contemporary software to improve them. So there are a few words and many sections identified in my transcription by question marks (???) or "inaudible" where I was unsure of exactly what Bill or, more often, others were saying, even after playing back those sections fifteen to twenty times. I have, for the most part, resisted trying to fill in with my projected interpretation, tempting though that was. Punctuation, including bolding and italics for words emphasized, of course, is all mine--he could speak for paragraphs, if not pages, with no indication of sentence breaks, not to mention commas or semi-colons which he loved to use in his writing.

The digital files are available below if you want to hear the session, and if you never had the joy of hearing Poteat in person, you will definitely want to listen to his comments at the opening of the sessions or even try to follow the five plus hours of exchange with the aid of the transcriptions before you.

I would also say that transcribing Bill's oral remarks to the written page demonstrated for me quite dramatically how truly he was on to something very important with his reflections on "oral/aural" and "literacy" in Western sensibility. His words written down are not the same as hearing them on the recording and, I am sure, even more different from hearing them in person. There is some discussion of such phenomena in the session, and far more in his books, and it made me wary of even attempting this kind of transcription. It was, of course, easy for me to conjure him up in my imagination as I basically sat at his feet for nine years. Perhaps if you listen to these recordings while reading my transcription, you will see what I mean, and get a better experience of his amazing presence.

Thanks to Ron Hall who was able to find a written version of his Friday night introduction that helped immensely and to Phil Mullins for his careful attention to my drafts, his help identifying voices I did not recognize, and his work on getting files posted here. And thanks to the Kansas City Polanyi Zoom Group for a stimulating discussion of earlier versions of the transcriptions and recordings in Summer of 2023 --- almost 30 years after the sessions originally occurred!

Gus Breytspraak
(Fall 2023)

The Polanyi Society sponsored a March 2, 2024 Zoom Session that discussed the audio tapes and transcripts below of the 1993 Society Annual Meeting sessions in which William Poteat was the featured guest. The link for the recording of this Zoom session is available on the Zoom cloud here. A copy of the March 2, 2024 recording is also available on the Polanyi Society website posted here.

Friday Evening: Tape 1

Friday Evening: Tape 1 Transcript (pdf file)

Friday Evening Tape 2

Friday Evening Tape 2 Transcript

Saturday Morning Tape 1

Saturday Morning Tape 1 Transcript

Saturday Morning Tape 2

Saturday Morning Tape 2 Transcript