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"Hapax Legomena" at CBU

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How many times, over and under, will Cory Dugan have to explain what hapax legomena is at the opening Friday night for "Hapax Legomena"? "Fifty times," he says.

According to Wikipedia, because I certainly did not know, hapax legomena (sing. hapax legomenon) is a word that occurs only once within a context, either in the written record of an entire language, in the works of an author, or in a single text.

The paintings and video of the exhibition use hapax legomena from texts such as John Donne's Holy Sonnets, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, and the complete dramatic works of Shakespeare. However, Dugan is quick to point out there is much debate among academics whether Shakespeare is using a hapax or a nonce, meaning a made up word. "Aren't all words made up?" I ask. "It is a little esoteric," he says. I wonder what the over and under is for the number of people who actually debate that. We can keep it at 50.

Say what?
  • Say what?

With the Shakespeare text, Dugan created his first video art piece, incorporating elements from Orson Welles' Othello. "The dramas seemed to suggest it; Shakespeare needed it," Dugan added.

He also uses specific books in the Hebrew Christian New Testament, but Dugan states, "I do not know what the words are. It is completely visual to me."

Well, that got me wondering, how does one find out the hapax legomena of a text if you do not even know the language? "There is an app for that," Dugan says. Of course.


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