But then I think education is something that enriches your life, not something you do things with.
I hope that didn't sound too condescending.
But then I think education is something that enriches your life, not something you do things with.
I hope that didn't sound too condescending.
italic = rabbit path
bullet = goat path
sheep reads everything
rabbit: eats only the tasty bits
sheep: grazes only on cultivated pasture for which it has developed tastes and habits
goat: can eat anything but refuses what is not sensible or of poor quality
rabbit: selects books and opens pages by chance (sometimes using numerical patterns or random numbers), seeking literary style or beauty more than content, remembers intrinsic features – e.g. that something was one third of the way down a left-hand page near the middle of the book – does not follow continuous text unless the book accords with its deeper intuitions (but ignores what does not fit these)
sheep: reads every page from first to last, reading every footnote, enjoying and believing everything. Does not realize when it is being misled or manipulated, is grateful for everything and won’t venture into unfamiliar pastures unless assured by fashion or recommended by critics or by word of mouth (but it cannot take in what is original or new, nor can it change its reading habits)
goat: studies the contents list carefully, also the index, tables, and typographic indications of the structure, questioning everything – it reads and understands the book thoroughly or else rejects it quickly if initial scrutiny shows it to be worthless (or is foreign to its own ideas)
Le città invisibili
Italo Calvino (1972)
Le città e la memoria. 2.
All’uomo che cavalca lungamente per terreni selvatici viene desiderio d’una città. Finalmente giunge a Isidora, città dove i palazzi hanno scale a chiocciola incrostate di chiocchiole marine, dove si fabbricano a regola d’arte cannocchiali e violin, dove quando il forestiero è incerto tra due donne ne incontra sempre una terza, dove le lotte dei galli degenerano in risse sanguinose tra gli scommetitori. A tutte queste cose egli pensava quando desiderava una città. Isidora è dunque la città dei suoi sogni: con una differenza. La città sognata conteneva lui giovane; a Isidora arriva in tarde età. Nella piazza c’è il muretto dei vecchi que guardano passare la gioventù; lui è seduto in fila con loro. I desideri sono già ricordi.
tr. William Weaver (1974)
Cities & memory 2
When a man rides a long time through wild regions he feels the desire for a city. Finally he comes to Isidora, a city where the buildings have spiral staircases encrusted with spiral seashells, where perfect telescopes and violins are made, where the foreigner hesitating between two women always encounters a third, where cockfights degenerate into bloody brawls among the bettors. He was thinking of all these things when he desired a city. Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is the wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.
I emerge from the depths of the Black Hole Also Known as Work to geek out over the release--finally! after years of delay and one cancellation--of the monumental Dictionnaire du monde germanique, a 1000-page encyclopedia covering historical, cultural, artistic, economic, political, sociological, religious and scientific aspects of the German-speaking civilization published by Editions Bayard. Last September 2007. Which just goes to show how out of the loop I am since I've been waiting for this book for ages. I'm not a Germanist but projects of this sort are close to my nerdy little heart.
Under the general editorship of Jacques Le Rider (EPHE Sorbonne), Michel Espagne (Normal Sup) and Élisabeth Décultot (CNRS),
the book features articles written by leading Germanists from
around the world. Originally scheduled to be published by the Presses universitaires de France in 1999, the book was delayed until 2001, then 2002, and finally cancelled. Eventually there was talk that Bayard would publish it in 2005.
2005 came and still no book. Finally, in January 2007
Bayard indicated that it would most likely be released some time in
Fall 2007. Priced at 129 Euros, I don't even want to think about
what the Philippine retail price will end up being. If it does get here at all (most likely not).
Title: Dictionnaire du monde germanique
Sous la direction de Michel Espagne, Elisabeth Décultot et Jacques Le Rider
Publisher: Éditions Bayard
Publication Date: 27 September 2007
Format: Broché, 24 x 17 cm, 1100 pages
Features: Illustrations en noir et blanc, cartes
Retail Price (France): 129 Euros
What follows is a preliminary partial list of contributors and article titles, pieced together from information found here and there on the web. I have no idea if all of these made it into the final product.
Pierre Monnet (sub-editor of the Mediaeval section of the dictionary)
As time permits, I'll be adding more information to this preview.
Watched "The Brothers Grimm" and for some reason kept thinking of a movie about the Brothers James all throughout. As in James, William & James, Henry, because that would be... snarky beyond belief, for one. (I know that there have been movies about the Brontes -- I was interested in the 1979 Andre Techine production "Les Soeurs Bronte" starring Isabelle Adjani, but thought it was rather flat. I was expecting a film concentrating on the Brontes as writers instead of metaphysical manifestations of a deconstructive French gloss on the Victorian female mystique. Yeah.)
I'm always a little bemused when I find "Wuthering Heights" interpreted as the ideal of Gothic Forbidden Romance though. It's definitely gothic, but Heathcliff doesn't really bear any resemblance to the dark brooding moody exotic save-me-from-myself heroes he's supposed to be the template of. People seem to forget how psychopathic he's become by the second half of the novel, plus the love (and obsession) he shares with Cathy doesn't so much strike me as neo-Romantically romantic as it is platonically incestuous. Which are not mutually exclusive, of course, but I think that the pattern of their relationship takes more after the Byronic model of brother-sister relationships filtered through German romanticism rather than through overwrought Victorian serials.
Went back to the apartment in good spirits after a dinner with friends but progressively felt more tired and feverish upon arrival, though I couldn't sleep. To divert myself, I picked up a critical edition (with modern English interpolations) of Alfred the Great's Anglo-Saxon translation of the Venerable Bede's Latin history of the Christian foundations of England. I had been meaning to read it but had to finish and organize my thoughts on other books first.
I was distracted from my unseemly inward whining about invisible aches and pains by the rendering of one passage, in particular. The scene takes place on the outskirts of York, where the buildings of ancient Eburacum, the Roman capital where Septimus Severus died, were still in only the first stage of their existence as ruins. Edwin, king of Northumberland, at that time the most powerful prince of the British heptarchy, had recently received a request from a Christian missionary to evangelize in his land. He summoned his council. As was fitting, the high priest of the local deities, a certain Cofi, was invited to speak first.
"To be frank, Your Highness," he said in effect, "since I have served our gods and presided over our sacrifices, I have been neither happier nor more fortunate than a man who is not devout, and my prayers have rarely been granted. Therefore, I am in favor of welcoming another god who may be better and stronger, if he can be found."
The priest spoke pragmatically; the leader of the clan who followed spoke as a poet. Asked to give his opinion on the introduction of a god named Jesus into Northumberland, this thane, whose name (according to the scholarly commentary) is unknown, replied:
"The life of man on earth, my lord, in comparison with the vast stretches of time about which we know nothing, seems to me to resemble the flight of a sparrow, who enters through a window in the great hall warmed by a blazing fire laid in the center of it where you feast with your councilors and liege men, while outside the tempests and snows of winter rage. And the bird swiftly sweeps through the great hall and flies out to the other side, and after this brief respite, having come out of the winter, he goes back into it and is lost to your eyes. Such is the brief life of man, of which we know neither what goes before nor what comes after."
The thane's conclusion accords with that of the priest: since we know nothing, why should we not appeal to those who may know? The monk Augustine was then authorized to preach Christianity in Edwin's lands and the rest, as they say, is history.
But setting aside this history and its effects, let's go back to the thane's speech, which I found very interesting. Adveniensque unus passerum domum citissime pervolaverit, qui cum per unum ostium ingrediens, mox per alid exierit. Bede's Latin prose is awkward and yet perhaps still too classical to express the metaphor contained in the passage. Alfred's English, on the other hand: Cume an spearwa and braedlice thaet hus thurhfleo, cume thurh othre duru in, thurh othre ut gewite. (But for all that, it's misleading to fall into the cliche that would set this mental world, which looks forward across a thousand years to the somber poetic universe of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," in opposition to Greco-Latin parameters of thought, which is assumed to be more logical and much less mysterious. It's a matter of epoch, I think -- a hero out of Homer or an Etruscan lucumo might have spoken the same way).
Looking closely at the text, which is beautiful in itself, one perceives that the thane's thought opposes certain age-old habits of mind which persist even today. Those who, like Vigny, see life as a luminous interval between two infinite periods of darkness readily depict those two shadowy zones of before and after as inert and undifferentiated, a kind of frontier of nothingness. For Christians, despite their belief in a blessed or infernal immortality, what will follow after death (they pay little attention to what came before life) is perceived, above all, as eternal rest. Invideo, quia quiescunt, said Luther. For this unknown man, in contrast, the bird issues from a storm and returns into a tempest. Between these two storms, the thane interprets the flight of the bird across the hall as a moment of respite (spatio serenitatis). That's quite surprising. Edwin's thane knew perfectly well that a bird which has flown into a house of men darts about madly, running the risk of dashing itself against walls, of burning itself in the fire. Life as we know it is hardly a moment of respite. Yet, there it is.
Of course the image of the bird come out of nowhere and gone back into nowhere is a valid symbol for man's brief and inexplicable passage on earth. One might even go further, and make another symbol of the hall besieged by snow and wind, lit up for a brief moment in the depths of winter -- a symbol, perhaps, for the mind, that lighted chamber, that generating fire, so to speak, placed for each of us temporarily at the center of things, without which neither the bird nor the storm would be either imagined or perceived.
To bed, I think. It's so chilly here.
I've, uh, been thinking of kingship in Mesopotamia and how the theory of divinely inspired kingship in selfsame is said to have been current since around 3000 B.C. or so, which period is shading off to Near Eastern proto-history, so it would then seem almost sui generis as well. There are some scholars who claim that the institution of kingship is a relatively late political development and that Sumer was previously organized along the lines of 'primitive' city states, but opposing parties claim that there's really no evidence for that, textually or otherwise.
I've read parts of S.N. Kramer's translation of "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta," one of two strange and complicated myths (the other one being "Enki and Nihursag" which I think is about the creation of an idyllic paradise situated in the island of Dalmun by the god Enki) that deal with how the Sumerians imagined their origins, harking back to a sort of golden age. The first myth alludes to very remote times when people paid homage in one language to Enlil (literally, "Lord Air" and one of the three principal gods of the Sumerian pantheon; An or Anu, the sky god, used to be considered the sovereign deity and the highest power in the Mesopotamian universe, but at some unknown date the theologians of Nippur supplanted him with Enlil, who then became the 'force of heaven,' 'the king of kings' who chose the rulers of Summer and Akkad and 'put on their heads the holy crown' XO) until rivalries between the gods and their worshippers led to a confusion of tongues, a theme which we know recurs in the Tower of Babel.
Re: bishounen and bonsai -- I think the metaphor can be sourced to Nanshoku okagami/The Great Mirror of Manly Love, is it (I had thought at first that it's from one of Saikaku's shorter homoerotic tales, but no). He means to say, I presume, that beautiful boys -- like bonsai -- shouldn't ever have to grow. A short lived and artificially stunted beauty, as per the pure ethics of Knabenliebe, samurai cool. Hah.
And Nosaka Akiyuki (not Tanizuki? if I recall correctly) did say once that the true bishounen should have something sinister about him. Hence, in retrospect, Yoshitsune and kabuki. And maybe, who will ever know, the Shinsengumi. It is interesting to note that Mishima was perhaps the first Japanese writer -- that I've read in English anyway -- to ever employ the now archetypal Evil Bishounen, in his novel Forbidden Colors (Kinjiki). Yuichi, the male protagonist, is the perfect beautiful boy. He is taught by an old misogynistic novelist how to feign emotions, how to pretend to love women, so he can destroy them.
And what of the translators of Thomas Mann, I ask you.
But yeah, speaking of Buddhist nuns. I forgot to ask how they ought to compare to female Byzantine saints, because, come to think of it, it must needs asking, aren't we. Kristina mentioned the intimate connection between gay, death and enlightenment -- not necessarily in that order -- in Buddhist monasteries and, you know, while the Byzantines before the 10th century AD weren't Buddhist and had pretty vague ideas about manly love compared to Tokugawa aesthetes, they did have an exhaustive documentation as regards the presence of eunuchs in Byzantium and their ecclesiastical position both in the Church and in monastic communities, and their importance in imperial politics. There were particular ranks of the court hierarchy reserved to eunuchs, and many prominent clerics and patriarchs were eunuchs. Within religious communities eunuchs were considered fortunate, in that their condition was believed to spare them some of the sexual temptations visited upon 'whole' men. Of course this *is* a piece of rank misinformation, one of many that circulated about eunuchs (which should bear writing a treatise on if you're in the field of Byzantine scholarship. I try, sort of, to keep track of publications and I don't think I've seen one yet), but in contrast to the prejudice against eunuchs in the West, there was no objection to their promotion to ecclesiastical careers in Byzantium.
So anyway what I'm trying to point out is that eunuchs were accepted in the Church, and those who didn't aspire to a clerical office lived their lives in monasteries. And this is where the connection with women saints comes in, because up until the eighth century or so the pattern of creating female saints was contextualized -- and codified in their Lives -- within a woman's pursuit of a solitary or communal religious life disguised as a eunuch. By cutting their hair and adopting male dress, women were able to pursue their dedication to religion without being inhibited by what should have been their destiny as per their status in society. There were numerous stories about women fleeing from arranged marriages, escaping dictatorial fathers and husbands, repenting of their previously unchristian lives as prostitutes, all of which ended with them seeking refuge in a monastery where angry relatives were least likely to come looking. These stories always concluded with a good Christian moral and were very popular -- the misadventures of eunuch women like St. Eugenia, is it, and St. Euphrosyne made for great reading, not to mention the lives of reformed prostitutes like St. Pelagia, who also disguised herself as a eunuch -- though bizarre twists were implicit in a hagiographical text of this sort. For example: the 'isolated' hermit, a holy man respected widely, dies and turns out to be a man after all; the woman disguised as a man is accused of making a nun pregnant and suffers otracism, until the truth is revealed by the deceitful nun. (You can read a pretty good selection of these stories in an anthology of the more interesting Lives edited by... er, let me check the book in the apartment). There's also another variation of this genre, this time dealing with the abortive attempts of women to approach otherwise misogynistic holy relics. There's a story about a woman who wanted to be cured by the relics of the Patriarch Tarasios, but because she wasn't allowed to enter the monastery where his tomb was situated since she was a woman and all, she had to disguise herself as a eunuch and thus was admitted. She was miraculously cured and escaped the monastery to tell the tale. But other male saints weren't so benevolent, I believe, and were a lot more suspicious of and hostile to the device.
I don't know stories about Buddhist nuns in medieval Japan -- save that cited below, and I only read about in a source I don't know how many times removed from the original text -- so, yeah, I was wondering.