The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
A penn'orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
`It seems very pretty,' she said when she had finished, `but it's rather hard to understand!' (You see she didn't like to confess, ever to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) `Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas -- only I don't exactly know what they are!'
Generally, Dante is regarded as structuring his work on Aristotelian division; but indeed he is far more Platonically based than Aristotelian. In fact, the structure of Dante's work rests on the Medieval structure of the Liberal Arts which, itself, is dependent on an earlier educational model of the Divided Line as laid out in Plato's Republic.
Margherita Fiorello nicely outlines this structure of the Liberal Arts as correspondent to Medieval Alchemy:
…it is futile to defend Western culture by attacking feminism, gay liberation and other movements which have captured the curriculum. For these movements are the effect and not the cause of cultural uncertainty. And this uncertainty occurs not at the level of the curriculum, but at the level of social reproduction. The loss of the transition from youth to adulthood means the loss of sexual restraint, and therefore the loss of trust between the sexes. The sexes cease to be partners and become rivals.
In a study of Orwell’s 1984… Alain Besancon argues that the totalitarian society envisaged by Orwell can be understood only in theological terms. For it is a society founded on a transcendental negation, a supreme ‘naysaying’ to the human condition to which ther is and can be no merely human rejoinder. In this society there is only power, and the goal of power is power. In the place where love should be there is absence; in the place of law another absence; in place of obligation, friendship, responsibility and right only absence. Truth is what power decides, and reality no more than a construct of power. People can be ‘vaporised’ – for their existence was never more than provisional, a momentary arrest in the flow of unmeaning. Language has been turned against itself, so that the attempt to mean something – the desperate bid for a significant utterance – will always fail. Newspeak deconstructs the word, so that nothing speaks (or writes) in it save power. And ruling through this power is a supreme cleverness, the Mephistophelian irony of O’Brien, who undermines in his rhetoric the very system that he serves, mockingly enforcing through torture the view that torture, like everything else, is utterly pointless… When at last the veil is lifted (on this mindset of deconstructionism), we perceive a wondrous landscape: a world of negations, a world in which, wherever we look for presence we find absence, a world not of people but of vacant idols, a world which offers, in the places where we seek for order, friendship and moral value, only the skeleton of power. There is no creation in this world, though it is full of cleverness – a cleverness actively deployed in the cause of Nothing. It is a world of uncreation, without hope or faith or love, since no ‘text’ could possibly mean those transcendental things. It is a world in which negation has been endowed with the supreme instruments – power and intellect – so making absence into the all-embracing presence. It is, in short, the world of the Devil.p. 147 – 148
The humanities, as these emerged in the nineteenth-century university, were not designed to instill a common culture. On the contrary, they assumed the work of ‘acculturation’ to be already complete. Their purpose was to reflect on the human world, by providing images, stories, works of art, and expressions that would become part of the mental repertoire of those who absorbed them.We have abundant scientific knowledge of our world and technical mastery over it. But its meaning is hidden from us. We have knowledge of the facts, and knowledge of the means, but no knowledge of the end. … this peculiar ignorance – not ignorance that, or ignorance how but ignorance what. We no longer know what to do or what to feel; the meaninglessness of our world is a projection of our numbness towards it…. That is the point of high culture; neither to ‘do dirt on life’, nor to emphasize its senselessness, but to recuperate by imaginative means the old experience of home.…we need the vision of ourselves as ennobled by our aims and passions, existing in ethical relation with our kind. But we must free ourselves of those last romantic illusions – including the illusion that love is the answer. Love is not the answer, but the question, the thing which sets us searching for meaning in a world from which meaning has retreated.
Posted by ARex at 12/01/2014 04:02:00 PM
Teaching "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens and noticing this time around an excellent example of mythopoeic speculation. Bernard Batto in his great analysis of the book of Exodus, "Slaying the Dragon" defines mythopoeic speculation as,
The conscious, reflected application of older myths and mythic elements to new situations...the process by which new myths are created or old myths are extended to include new dimensions.
|Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Percival|
he was slain, and six of his sons likewise. Now the name of his seventh son was Peredur, and he was the youngest of them. And he was not of an age to go to wars and encounters, otherwise he might have been slain as well as his father and brothers. His mother was a scheming and thoughtful woman, and she was very solicitous concerning this her only son and his possessions. So she took counsel with herself to leave the inhabited country, and to flee to the deserts and unfrequented wildernesses.Similarly, Pip's father and mother died in his infancy and he has grown up in the marsh country, raised by his sister and her blacksmith husband, Joe Gargery. Dickens makes Joe very rustic; uneducated, good hearted, well meaning but clumsy and plain. The marsh is remote, wild, isolated, a scene well depicted in the BBC version of the story.
"Mother," said Peredur, "what are those yonder?" "They are angels, my son," said she. "By my faith," said Peredur, "I will go and become an angel with them."a desire he immediately tries to fulfill by leaving home, defeating a a knight, and traveling to Camelot clad in the defeated knight's armor. Percival then enters, like many other knights, on the grail quest. In the Arthurian cycle, however, the grail is closely associated with the image of the feminine. The shape of the cup, the attraction toward the beautiful, the gentling effect the grail has, all point to a connection between the grail cup and the belle dame image of chivalric lore. Percival encounters his belle dame in the pageant of the grail castle;
Thereupon, behold five maidens came from the chamber into the hall. And Peredur was certain that he had never seen another of so fair an aspect as the chief of the maidens. And she had an old garment of satin upon her, which had once been handsome, but was then so tattered, that her skin could be seen through it. And whiter was her skin than the bloom of crystal, and her hair and her two eyebrows were blacker than jet, and on her cheeks were two red spots, redder than whatever is reddest. And the maiden welcomed Peredur, and put her arms about his neck, and made him sit down beside her.The grail is also associated with the cup of the last supper and the crucifixion of Christ (it is both the cup used to initiate the Mass and the cup that catches the blood of Christ on the cross) but its connection to the feminine raises an intriguing Medieval comment on the nature of sexual desire as it relates to salvation; a governing of desire toward its proper end and a putting of oneself at the service of beauty in order to channel desire toward selflessness.
"Biddy," said I, after binding her to secrecy, "I want to be a gentleman."The fact that Pip is either trying to gain Estella or spite her indicates a misplacement of his motivation; he is not motivated out of real life or equality to her but is motivated for selfish reasons. Thus she becomes the temptress by the shore - a temptress that he can only defeat by remembering death and calling on the "cross" of reality. In other words, Pip has to have an awakening to the hollowness and emptiness, the vanity, of the material world - a world gained for him by the suffering of Magwich and confirmed in its brutal inhumanity by the character of Drummle - lest he become a damned soul and fail at the grail quest.
"O, I wouldn't, if I was you!" she returned. "I don't think it would answer."
"Biddy," said I, with some severity, "I have particular reasons for wanting to be a gentleman."
"You know best, Pip; but don't you think you are happier as you are?"
"Biddy," I exclaimed, impatiently, "I am not at all happy as I am. I am disgusted with my calling and with my life. I have never taken to either, since I was bound. Don't be absurd."
...Biddy turned her face suddenly towards mine, and looked far more attentively at me than she had looked at the sailing ships....
"Do you want to be a gentleman, to spite her or to gain her over?" Biddy quietly asked me, after a pause.
"I don't know," I moodily answered.
"Because, if it is to spite her," Biddy pursued, "I should think—but you know best—that might be better and more independently done by caring nothing for her words. And if it is to gain her over, I should think—but you know best—she was not worth gaining over."
Exactly what I myself had thought, many times. Exactly what was perfectly manifest to me at the moment. But how could I, a poor dazed village lad, avoid that wonderful inconsistency into which the best and wisest of men fall every day?
(GE: Chapter XVII)
"What is this?" demanded Peredur, concerning the saddle. "It is a saddle," said Owain. Then he asked about all the accoutrements which he saw upon the men, and the horses, and the arms, and what they were for, and how they were used. And Owain shewed him all these things fully, and told him what use was made of them.Percival is entranced by the illusion of the material and does not ask questions that might bring him beyond that temporal world. His mother exacerbates the problem when she tells him, upon his leaving home, not to ask too many questions. Thus, when Perival is later in the grail castle, he does not ask about the pageant of the grail that passes before him. Because he does not so do he is incapable of healing the Fisher King, a king who has a wound in his vital parts (his groin) that cannot be healed by natural causes. As Matthew Annis points out,
...the Fisher King originates (as a literary character) in Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval. The reader first encounters the Fisher King when Perceval meets a fisherman who offers Perceval lodging. In his castle, the fisherman reveals himself to be a king who is weak and bedridden, and yet has such an abundance of wealth that he can provide his guest a grand feast. During the feast, Perceval witnesses a Grail Procession but fails to ask his host any questions pertaining to what he sees. As a result, all the inhabitants of the castle disappear the next morning (Chrétien de Troyes 32-37).This story has found numerous incarnations in Western literature. Annis notes in the same article that
There are many different versions of the story of the Fisher King, and the character is not represented uniformly in every text. In the medieval period, Chrétien de Troyes' Percival makes him a completely ambiguous figure, while Wolfram von Eschenbach provides him an elaborate background in his Parzival. The Vulgate Cycle expands the Fisher King into multiple Maimed Kings, each suffering from some type of wound; yet Thomas Malory virtually ignores the Fisher King in his Morte Darthur. Modern texts treat the Fisher King less as a character and more as a motif: T. S. Eliot incorporates the motif of the Fisher King into the desolated modern city and its people in his poem, The Waste Land; in other modern texts, the Fisher King is embodied in a Vietnam War veteran, children in search of their fathers' identities, and the baseball coach of a team on a hopeless losing streak. The Fisher King also appears in various films, from Eric Rohmer's adaptation of Chrétien's Perceval to Terry Gilliam's buddy comedy, The Fisher King. In every version of the story, though, the Fisher King is completely helpless and depends on another to alleviate his suffering.The wounding of the Fisher King parallels the wounding of Miss Havisham. Just as he is wounded in that part most vital to manliness, the genitals, from which a man draws his power as a man and effects the world in a procreative way, so too Miss Havisham in the novel has been wounded in the heart. She has been jilted at her wedding by an unscrupulous man and carries with her a wound in the seat of emotion from which women draw their intuitive power and ability to receive love. In medieval literature, the seat of power for men is dynamic, procreative, inseminating, sexual power; the seat of power for women is the intuitive, receptive, emotional heart (an image that only begins to take shape in medieval romantic literature as heretofore the kidneys, not the heart, were the seat of emotions). Havisham, like the Fisher King, cannot be healed by normal means but must have a supernatural healing - a healing by the fire of the holy spirit - to cure her of her bitter entombment in a false material world.
Then, by and by, the lady grew very fond toward Sir Percival, and she put her arms about his shoulders and held him very close to her. With this the wine swam still more powerfully in Sir Percival's head, and he knew not very well what he said or did. And he said, "Lady, tell me — what is this, and why am I here?" To this she answered, "Percival, thou glorious knight! this is the pavilion of Love, and I am the spirit of Venus who inhabits it. So yield thou to that spirit and take thou the joy of thy life whiles thou mayst."
Therewith she reached her arms again to Sir Percival and he reached his arms toward her and he took her into his arms. And kissed the lady. Sir Percival kissed her upon the lips and the fire from her lips passed into his heart and set his soul aflame.
Then, in that moment, he knew not why, he suddenly bethought him of that fair lady whom he had met in the tent when first he went forth as a knight, clad in his armor of wicker-work.And he thought of how he had kissed her that time; and he thought of how he had beheld her in that cold and windy room of the castle, lying dead and white before him ; and he thought of how he had beheld the Spear and the Grail that time in the castle. Then it was as though a wind of ice struck across the flame of his passion, and he cried out thrice in a loud voice, "God! God! God! What is this I would do, and why should I sin in this wise?" And therewith he drew upon his forehead the sign of the cross.
Then in an instant the lady who sat beside him shrieked very loud and shrill, and all about him was confusion and turbulence. And Percival looked, and behold! it was not a strange and beautiful lady who sat beside him like a wonderful goddess, but it was the Enchantress Vivien, clad in red and bedecked with her jewels. For it was she who had thus planned the undoing of Sir Percival by causing him to sin.
Posted by Abecedarius Rex at 10/30/2014 11:30:00 AM