'The hole' in theory and thought
August 28, 2017 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I am interested in 'the hole' in its conceptual, metaphorical, and literal crossovers. Who has written about holes? In the ground? In theory? In myth and fiction?

I'd be super keen to read theory that cites specific holes found in myth and fiction, or people who have written about sinkholes, boreholes, etc. from geological/geographic perspective, but also, as mentioned above, the hole in a more conceptual level is super interesting.

Holes as the absence of geographic materialities, loss, gaps, and collapse of meaning. Holes as potential sites of openings, creativity, and reconstruction of new or recovered meaning.

Any ideas or leads welcome!
posted by 0bvious to Writing & Language (33 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
In Philosophy, David and Stephanie Lewis are famous for their discussion of the metaphysics of holes. Their paper on it is here.

(use sci-hub.org to get access) - but it might be better to take a look in some contemporary metaphysics textbooks rather than starting there! The Stanford Encyc. article about it is a bit tough going, here.

There's a tweet here to a cartoon of a couple of racoons discussing the ontology of holes, touching on the Lewisean theory mentioned above – it's a trailer for a game where YOU are the hole, called 'Donut County'. Looks cute!
posted by Joeruckus at 9:51 AM on August 28, 2017

Came to also suggest the Lewis paper. In addition, Achille Varzi is often considered the leading expert on the ontology of holes. This is probably the most famous book on the subject. Varzi also wrote most of the Stanford entry on the subject. Varzi has also done some more pop kinds of things on holes. Also more from Varzi about the Magic of Holes.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:33 AM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think Sartre had a bit about holes in Being And Nothingness. iirc, he thinks we are compelled to fill them.
posted by thelonius at 10:45 AM on August 28, 2017

There is of course the "memory hole" made famous in 1984.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:50 AM on August 28, 2017

This thread would be incomplete without Junji Ito's short horror comic "The Enigma of Amigara Fault" – this hole... it was meant for me!

It's available as a bonus story in volume two of his excellent manga Gyo, or you can read the whole thing on imgur* (translated, but still read right to left).

* trigger warning for body horror and claustrophobia, for real
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 10:51 AM on August 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

A hole in the ground, in the form of a dried-up well, figures prominently in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.
posted by duoshao at 11:38 AM on August 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

"And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you." Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
posted by exogenous at 12:21 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Cards Against Humanity raised over $100,000 to dig a giant hole in the earth. From their FAQ page:
What’s happening here?
Cards Against Humanity is digging a holiday hole.

Is this real?
Unfortunately it is.

Where is the hole?
America. And in our hearts.

Is there some sort of deeper meaning or purpose to the hole?

What do I get for contributing money to the hole?
A deeper hole. What else are you going to buy, an iPod?

Why aren’t you giving all this money to charity?
Why aren’t YOU giving all this money to charity? It’s your money.

Is the hole bad for the environment?
No, this was just a bunch of empty land. Now there’s a hole there. That’s life.

How am I supposed to feel about this?
You’re supposed to think it’s funny. You might not get it for a while, but some time next year you’ll chuckle quietly to yourself and remember all this business about the hole.

How deep can you make this sucker?
Great question. As long as you keep spending, we’ll keep digging. We’ll find out together how deep this thing goes.

What if you dig so deep you hit hot magma?
At least then we’d feel something.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:28 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

"I read the news today, oh boy
4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall...."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:29 PM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

There's the Medicare Part D prescription coverage donut hole.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:40 PM on August 28, 2017

Suzan-Lori Parks's excellent The America Play features a location called The Great Hole in History.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:45 PM on August 28, 2017

The mathematical field of topology is interested in holes. Here's a pop-sci article about n-dimensional holes.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:01 PM on August 28, 2017

Joe Frank, At the Border, 1987
In a remote province of Russia, a strange sect emerged at the turn of the century called the Hole Worshippers.These peasants, having lost their faith in God, would drill a hole in the wall of their huts, and pray to it. They considered the holes sacred. Their idea was to face the emptiness, the void, the godlessness of the universe, while at the same time maintaining the ethical principles of religious faith. They prayed to their holes and continued to live spiritual, humane lives.
posted by Rash at 1:16 PM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ooh, ooh, my favorite Jonathan Lethem book, As She Climbed Across the Table, is about a spatial anomaly (a hole into another universe) that the narrator believes is stealing his girlfriend.
posted by rikschell at 1:38 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

This seems less "literary" than some of your suggestions, but it fits so nicely, I have to share. In Tad Williams' War of the Flowers, there is a saying that "every goblin story has a hole in it", meaning that they tell the beginning and the end, and you have to figure out the middle.
posted by tracer at 2:33 PM on August 28, 2017

Holes by Louis Sachar

I have neither read the book nor seen the movie but I'm pretty sure it's about holes
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:12 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have read the book and seen the movie and I can assure you there is plenty of hole-digging in both.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 3:34 PM on August 28, 2017

It's a deep well *cough*, and it only relates to holes in as far as one can construe holes as absences or lacks, but it may be interesting to look at what Lacan (and thinkers responding to him of course) had to say about signifiers being symbols of absence, as well as his ideas about desire.
posted by juv3nal at 4:32 PM on August 28, 2017

Also, Yonic symbolism.
posted by juv3nal at 4:33 PM on August 28, 2017

According to the Firesign Theatre, "...if you dig a hole deep enough, everybody will want to jump into it."
posted by doctord at 5:09 PM on August 28, 2017

The song "Hole in the Ground" comes to mind.
posted by w0mbat at 5:48 PM on August 28, 2017

The oubliette bit in Labyrinth has always stuck in my mind: After solving a riddle Sarah falls into an oubliette, which is described by Hoggle as "A hole where you put people to forget about them."
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:33 PM on August 28, 2017

And maybe trypophobia, the fear of clusters of holes, is of interest to you? Though I don't recommend you search for it if you think you might have it!
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:35 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The word lacuna (pl. lacunae) may come in handy. Lacan, Deleuze (with and without Guattari), Irigaray, Derrida, Badiou, and Kristeva come to mind.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:44 PM on August 28, 2017

Miner's Refrain by Gillian Welch
posted by rouftop at 12:49 AM on August 29, 2017

I don't have sources in English (only in Swedish with a summary in English), but maybe look into research on poetry? Both as literal empty space on the page and silence/lack of language/the unsayable/etc.
posted by hannala at 1:13 AM on August 29, 2017

Also in doctord's Firesign Theatre link is Nino Savatte's Psychic Minute, in which from his own mind to yours he thinks to you about holes, "the most mysteriest, importantest, and vaguest subject of them all." "As the Holy Book says in the Book of Holes, Chapter One: 'And they knew not their holes from an ass on the ground.'"
posted by Devoidoid at 8:26 AM on August 29, 2017

And there's also the navigational problems presented by the Sea of Holes in YELLOW SUBMARINE.
posted by Devoidoid at 8:28 AM on August 29, 2017

Examining paranormal holes / Wells to Hell can be productive


the well to hell
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 10:37 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Douglas Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher, Bach" discusses flags with holes in them.
Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" has the rabbit hole.

You mention sinkholes... There's a radiolab episode about how kids today aren't scared of quicksand, only adults are. http://www.radiolab.org/story/quicksand/. There's a Slate article that was probably the genesis of the episode. They point to a website of quicksand enthusiasts: http://www.dellamente.com/quicksand/

My adult son recently recalled his attempts to dig a hole to China.

"Holes as potential sites of openings, creativity, and reconstruction of new or recovered meaning." - brings to mind Huxley's "Doors of Perception".
posted by cyclicker at 2:50 PM on August 29, 2017

Here's another one, Electron hole, from Wikipedia,
In physics, chemistry, and electronic engineering, an electron hole (often simply called a hole) is the lack of an electron at a position where one could exist in an atom or atomic lattice. Holes in a metal or semiconductor crystal lattice can move through the lattice as electrons can.
posted by Rash at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

In Donut County you are the hole.
posted by slightlybewildered at 4:46 PM on August 29, 2017

This video on the deepest holes in the earth is pretty good, though the title is a bit misleading—it's not about "how deep can we dig" but rather "how deep have we dug" (the video's creator in comments says, however, he doesn't think we can go much further than we already have).
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 4:29 PM on August 30, 2017

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