arts & humanities student council literary journal
the university of western ontario
volume 5 spring 2011
The Arts and Humanities Student Council proudly presents The Semi-Colon Volume V - 2011 The Publications Team is Caroline Diezyn - Editor-in-Chief/Graphics Andrew Shaw - Managing Editor: Academic Zale Skolnik - Managing Editor: Creative Inna Yasinska - Layout Editor Kayleigh Wilson - Copyeditor The Semi-Colon accepts A-grade essays written within the past calendar year for any undergraduate department within the University of Western Ontario. All copyright remains with the creators The Semi-Colon is generously funded by the Student Donation Fund. The Editors would like to thank the professor review board who helped select the essays printed within this journal. Arts and Humanities Student Council The University of Western Ontario University College room 112F London, Ontario, Canada email@example.com - firstname.lastname@example.org Online catalogue: issuu.com/ahscpublications Disclaimer The sole responsibility for the content of this publication lies with its authors. Its contents do not reflect the opinion of the University Students’ Council of the University of Western Ontario (“USC”). The USC assumes no responsibility or liability for any error, inaccuracy, omission or comment contained in this publication or for any use that may be made of such information by the reader.
contents Foreword.........................................................................................5 “What Does This Mean?” Jordan Patterson............................................................................7 When is it Wrong to Withhold Forgiveness? Drew Maharaj...............................................................................19 Evidence and Motivation Nicholas Hamilton........................................................................29 Artificial Intelligence, the Turing Test, and the Chinese Room Reid McNaughton........................................................................37 Views of the Female Genitalia in Ancient Greece and Rome Lauren Flynn................................................................................43 Dramatic Interpretations Erika Marczak..............................................................................55 Geoffrey’s Double Role in The Canterbury Tales Kimberly Rodda...........................................................................65 The Dark Side of Love Briana Maguire.............................................................................73 Redefining the Cage Joel Szaefer....................................................................................83 A Beast of Great Eminence? Moira McKee...............................................................................93
foreword Lady Gaga. Geoffrey Chaucer. Double Rainbows. Alan Turing. These are just some of the fascinating topics discussed in the essays you will find enclosed in this, the fifth volume of the Arts and Humanities Student Councilâ€™s academic journal, The Semi-Colon. Provocative, informative, and entertaining: these essays are deserving of a wider audience. The diversity of these topics is testament to the diversity of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Western Ontario. On behalf of the publications team and the rest of the student council, I would like to thank the talented writers who submitted papers for publication. The team, and later the professor ajudication panel, had a difficult time choosing only ten to publish from all of the submissions (over 100 different essays). You will find papers from comparative literature, classics, womenâ€™s studies, film, art history, English literature, and philosophy courses. We are honoured to count these writers among our peers.
We hope you enjoy The Semi-Colon.
All the best,
Caroline Diezyn Editor-in-Chief 2010-2011
Volume V 2011
“What Does This Mean?”: A Fourfold Interpretation of the Double Rainbow Simile in Paradiso XII By Jordan Patterson
“As twin rainbows, parallel in shape and color, arc in their pathway through translucent clouds when Juno gives the order to her handmaid -the outer one born of the inner, like the voice of that wandering nymph whom love consumed as the sun does vapors -and allow the people here on earth to know the future because of the covenant God made with Noah, that the world would not again be flooded, so the two wreaths of those eternal roses circled all around us and, thus reflected, the outer circle shone in answer to the inner.” - Paradiso XII.10-21 (trans. Robert Hollander) As Youtube user Bear Vasquez, also known as Hungrybear9562, asks when confronted with a miraculous double rainbow - “What does this mean?” (1:17). Though the question is humourous amidst other such laughable shrieks of joy and ecstasy found in the Youtube video, it is an exceedingly appropriate question for any reader of Dante to ask when confronted with the same such image of a double rainbow in Paradiso XII. Dante uses the double rainbow as the central vehicle of a complex
simile describing one circle encircling another. Contextualization here is necessary. In the Heaven of the Sun, Dante receives a chance to speak with some of the greatest minds of the Christian Church. In Canto X, Dante first speaks with St. Thomas Aquinas, a conversation that continues into the next Canto. In Canto XII, the circle of saints in which Dante is encircled is itself encircled. To describe the sight, Dante relies on his rhetorical prowess to illustrate such a magnificent vision, and so he creates an elaborate, complex double simile full of typological references and abounding with allegorical meaning. Initially, the passage is daunting. The lines are complicated and the meaning is hard; yet, if one approaches these twelve lines with the method Dante himself has prescribed with which to read his poem, the manifold meanings become clear. In his “Letter to Can Grande,” Dante famously explains his fourfold method of reading - a method with which he suggests reading the poem - so as to clarify the abstruse verses. The key to reading Dante’s poem is that “it should be understood that there is not just a single sense to [the Divine Comedy];” instead, it is “polysemous” or has “several senses” (Dante 189). Specifically, Dante notes four levels. “The first sense,” he writes, “is that which is contained in the letter” (189). This level of reading is the literal level, and contains within it not only the happenings of his poem and the journey of Dante the Pilgrim, but also the rhetorical operations and the text on the page. The next three levels are labeled the “allegorical, … moral,… [and anagogical]” (189). The allegorical, or typological level, is a level of reading at which Dante’s poem is compared and contrasted to other literary works, and sometimes even his own. Such comparisons often provide fruitful insight to The Divine Comedy, and often lead to the next level of a fourfold reading, which is the moral or tropological level. At the tropological level, the reader or interpreter derives a moral from the text, often springing directly from the typological level. Finally, there is the anagogic level, at which the poem is read sub specie aeternitatis, or from the providential viewpoint of God. This level of interpretation considers the state of the blessed in eternity, and as tropological level often derives from the typological level,
Volume V 2011
the anagogic often derives from the tropological. Armed with a well-defined method of exegesis, Dante’s poem becomes much more comprehendible and much less obscure, particularly the rhetorical and conceptually complex passages such as Paradiso XII.10-21. Beginning with the literal level, lines 10-21 of Paradiso XII are purely descriptive; no speech and no action occurs within these lines. At this moment in the poem, after Dante the Pilgrim has spoken to St. Thomas Aquinas for the first time in the Heaven of the Sun, a second circle of solar intellectuals encircles the first, which was outlined by St. Thomas in Canto X. The poet then describes the second circle as a double of the first by way of an elaborate simile. Reading this passage literally, two elements in particular are greatly emphasized: the twofold nature the similes describe, and the necessity that in this duplicity, one half derives from the other. The simile operating in this passage is rhetorically complex, as within the larger simile there is a smaller second simile, and both similes relate the doubled effect of the circles. Even the two similes themselves reflect this notion, in concept and in their textual construction- one literally is contained within the other. Here, the text mirrors the literal action of the story, so the second simile’s existence, being contained within the first, is necessarily dependent on the existence of the first. Within the context of the larger simile, the vehicle is the image of a double rainbow and the immediate tenor is the second circle of souls doubling the first. The simile contained within the other also focuses on the duplicity of the circles. In this second simile, the vehicle is that of the wood nymph Echo and her repetitive speech, and the tenor, again, is the second circle of souls doubling the first. As well, doubling is present not only in the vehicles and tenors of the similes, but in the textual construction of them. The diction of this passage is focused on duplicity, with many words reflecting this quality: “twin” (10), “parallel” (10), “outer” with “inner” (13), “two wreaths” (19), “reflected” (20), and again, “outer” with “inner” (21). Also worth noting is this passage’s context within the poem. These lines occur in Canto XII, which is itself twinned in Canto
XI; translator Robin Kirkpatrick rightly notes that “the themes of Canto 11 and its linguistic characteristics are mirrored - with significant variations - in those of Canto 12” (377). Each canto features a great mendicant leader telling the story of the opposite leader’s order’s founder; St. Thomas Aquinas, in Canto XI, tells the story of St. Francis, while in Canto XII, St. Bonaventure relates the story of St. Dominic. The chiastic structure of these two cantos suggests duplicity, but also an interrelatedness, as the similes suggest exists between two rainbows, a voice and its echo, and the two wreaths of souls in the Sun. Indeed, in all of the doubling present in the literal level of this passage, there is a sense of necessary interconnection between the two objects described - the outer ring is described as “like the voice of that wandering nymph / whom love consumed as the sun does vapour” (14-15), and thus an echo, and also as “reflected” (20). In both instances, the inner circle is necessary for the outer to exist, for an echo requires an original sound to which it will respond, as does a reflection require an original image to reflect. On this reflective point, Barbara Reynolds notes that “it was believed that the outer [rainbow, in a double rainbow,] was a reflection of the inner,” because “the outer ring is of fainter hue than the inner”; the reflection is that “which Dante seeks to convey by comparing the reflection to an echo” (161). Furthermore, Dante writes of the two circles that “the outer one [is] born of the other” (13), again conveying the necessity of the circles’ doubleness, the line in Italian, “nascendo di quell d’entro quell di fiori”, is chiastic in structure, further emphasizing the parallelism of the two circles. With such rhetorical emphasis on the necessarily twofold nature of the “wreaths of those eternal roses” (19), this twofold nature becomes central in typological, tropological, and anagogic readings of this passage. Reading typologically, this program of duplicity continues, and the typological material in these twelve lines is manifold. The rainbow image is supported by pagan as well as Christian typologies, and the second simile centres on the Ovidian story of the nymph Echo. Furthermore the comparison of the two circles of souls begs a reading of Dante’s poem typologically to itself.
Volume V 2011
The rainbow is the central vehicle in the twelve line simile, and its Roman typological link is found in the reference of the rainbow as that which arcs “through translucent clouds / when Juno gives the order to her handmaid” (11-12), that is, Iris. Both Musa and Hollander remark that in this simile there are possible references to both Virgil and Ovid (Musa 100, Hollander 321). Musa notes three separate instances in the Aeneid in which Juno sends Iris forth as a rainbow, but Hollander is correct in finding it more likely that Dante had Ovid in mind, particularly Book I of the Metamorphoses (Musa 100, Hollander 321). Ovid is a more likely candidate because of the context in which Iris appears in his poem. In Book I of Metamorphoses, Iris appears as Juno’s handmaid during the great flood Jove creates to destroy the earth, whereas in the Aeneid, Iris appears in other less notable and in ways less relevant her mention in Canto XII. Ovid’s Iris is more relevant in the context of the simile because the flood of Genesis is also referenced, in lines 16-18, and the juxtaposition of the two floods is strong evidence in favour of the Ovidian reference as opposed to the Virgilian reference. Essentially, in the Metamorphoses Zeus creates a flood because he perceives that “the demon of madness is holding dominion the wide world over”, and he is angry with humankind (Ovid 1.241). The rainbow’s second typological link, as already mentioned, is that of the story of Noah in Genesis, where again the rainbow appears in the context of a great, worldwide flood. Again, the story centres around the divine creation of a flood to destroy mankind. Specifically in his poem, Dante refers to covenantal aspect of the rainbow, the promise “that the world would not again be flooded” (18). Both the Ovidian flood and the flood of Genesis are extremely destructive, but a key difference lies in the role of the rainbows in the context of the floods. This key difference lends itself to a tropological reading. With the typological links now clear, consideration and meditation upon these typologies leads to tropological insight to the selected passage. Dante makes two separate references in his rainbow simile, one from Ovid and one from Genesis, though the stories referenced are very similar. In each story, a flood is created by divine power to wipe humankind from the face of the earth, and
each story figures a chosen survivor of the flood, Noah in Genesis and Deucalion in the Metamorphoses. The key difference between the stories, as relevant to Paradiso XII.12-21, is the rainbow that is featured in each. In the Metamorphoses, “Juno’s messenger, decked in her mantle of many colours , / Iris the rainbow, sucked up moisture to thicken the clouds” (I.269-270). Thus, in the Ovidian tale, the rainbow aids in the deluge, feeding the clouds with evermore moisture so that the downpour may continue, and thus the rainbow is a destructive image. In the Christian story, the function of the rainbow is contrary, as it guards against destruction. The rainbow is a reminder to humankind that “neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:11). With the rainbow, Dante conveys a pagan image of destruction, and subsequently negates this image with the proper Christian image of hopeful promise. When this tropological insight is applied to the poem, the double rainbow becomes not only an illustrative simile, but a double promise and symbol of hope - one in each circle surrounding Dante. Translated into a moral lesson, the Christian, seeing the rainbow in the sky, should remember God’s covenant with humankind, and as God is faithful to creation, creation should be faithful to God. The second image to consider typologically is that of the second simile, the comparison of the circles of souls in the Heaven of the Sun with that of Echo and her voice. This simile references the Ovidian story of Echo and Narcissus. In terms of the immediate tenor of the simile, Dante references Echo and her voice that can only repeat what others have said to illustrate how the second circle is like a repetition or an echo of the first, and is born from the first. The story of Echo and Narcissus is in Book 3 of the Metamorphoses. Essentially, the wood nymph Echo betrays Juno and is cursed with the inability of proper speech; instead, Echo only possesses the ability to repeat, to echo, the words of other people. She falls desperately in love with Narcissus, who spurns her, and she wastes away. Narcissus, in turn, falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and drowns in an attempt to grasp onto his reflection. These instances of unrequited, misdirected, and
Volume V 2011
self-destructive love beget a fruitful tropological reading. This second Ovidian reference, that of Echo and Narcissus, must be considered and meditated upon to derive tropological import. On a purely illustrative level, Dante includes the simile of Echo to effectively convey the duplication of the first circle that has occurred in the second, which has originated from the first circle. Moving past this literal level illustration, the inclusion of the reference to Echo and Narcissus contains further import. The story is a story of failed love - Echo wastes away because Narcissus does not return her love, and Narcissus’ love for himself is misdirected and leads to his death. Musa incorrectly reads this passage, remarking that “under the terms of the Echo simile, the outer circle of lights pines for the narcissistic inner one, striking an antiphonal note to the double rainbow image” (Musa 100). This reading, however, must be incorrect. Here, Musa identifies the outer circle as the nymph Echo and the inner circle as Narcissus and translates the occurrences of the Ovidian tale directly Dante’s poem; yet if this is the interpretation, the circles would not exist at all. The narcissistic inner circle would destroy itself from too much self-love, and the outer circle, identified with Echo, would only exist in voice. Furthermore, if Musa’s reading is correct, there is a suggestion of antagonism between the two circles, yet this is certainly not the case. Dante’s simile stresses the duplication, harmony, and concord between the two circles, and the two circles of lights are very much present and whole, not existing merely in voice or destroyed. If this pagan tale is reversed, as is so often the Dantean idiom, Echo and Narcissus are joined together, and their love is requited, constructive, and properly directed, which is a much better illustration of the two circles of light. The moral derived from such meditation is that the Christian’s love should be directed to God, where it will be requited and constructive. Otherwise, misdirected love, like that of Narcissus, is destructive and useless. Lastly, while Dante frequently references external literature, he also encourages reading his own work typologically to itself. Canto XII, and these tercets, are one such instance where a typological reading of Dante with Dante a fruitful, and even
necessary, endeavor. Canto XI and XII are extremely similar in format, and there is an obvious parallel between the two. The great Dominican Thomas speaks of Francis in the first, and the great Franciscan Bonaventure orates on Dominic. The most important thing to understand from this pairing of Francis and Dominic, as relevant to Paradiso XII.10-21, is that each saint, almost metonymically, stands to represent a particular virtue. As Thomas tells Dante, speaking of Dominic and Francis, “One was all seraphic in his ardor, / the other, by his wisdom, was on earth / resplendent with cherubic light” (XI.37-39). In this statement, Francis is the one filled with love, and Dominic is the saint characterized by wisdom. Even their representative speakers, by way of their epithets, perpetuate this distinction - St. Thomas is called the Cherubic Doctor and St. Bonaventure is often referred to as the Seraphic Doctor. That Francis stands for divine love and Dominic for divine wisdom is exceedingly important for tropological and anagogic readings of this selected passage. As Dante writes for St. Thomas, speaking of Francis and Dominic in Canto XI, “I shall speak of one, since praising one, / …is to speak of both”, and this is the major tropological import of the passage selected; that is, the interrelation of love and wisdom, each virtue represented by its appropriate saint (XI.40-41). With the previously mentioned chiastic structuring of the cantos and necessary interrelation between the two rings, each represented by its particular orator, “Dante conveys his conception of the divine union and inter-relation of love and learning, of seraphic ardour and cherubic insight” (Reynolds 161). An overall tropological reading arises from the singular tropological readings of the individual typological references. Firstly, the Echo typology comments on love. The original Ovidian tale is concerned with the failure of love - Echo’s love for Narcissus is not requited, and Narcissus’ love is misdirected, at himself, and is self-destructive. In the tale’s inversion in Paradiso, the love of the circles is properly directed, requited, and constructive. The rainbow typology, with its pagan and Christian counterparts, illustrates God’s love and promise to humanity that he would never again flood the world. Also, the double rainbow,
Volume V 2011
understood as two promises from God and two symbols of hope, finds a proper correlation in the two circles, thus the two wreaths of saintly lights, each a rainbow according to the simile, become two signs of hope from God. The two rings of lights gain further meaning if they are understood to be represented by their assigned orators, Thomas and Bonaventure and their respective orders’ founders. If understood in this manner, the inner circle is characterized by wisdom, and the outer circle is characterized by love. As well, that Francis and Dominic are two symbols of hope from God is evident in Paradiso XI, when Thomas says that God, so that the church might function, “ordained… two princes / … to serve as guides” (XI.35-36). Finally, applying Dante’s rhetoric in lines 10-21 of Canto XII to the tropologies listed here, the two hopeful promises from God are wisdom and love, but more importantly, these lines illustrate the wisdom precedes love, or that love comes from wisdom. This is in perfect accordance with the theology of St. Thomas, as Barbara Reynolds notes that, “in the Thomist theology, knowledge of God precedes love”, and so, as Musa states, “the learned are appropriately the ‘source’ of those who love” (Reynolds 161, Musa 100). She continues, stressing another non-theological point: “In the lesser, historical, sense, this image, suggesting an ideal partnership between these and other Orders” (161). Thus, the combination of more individual, specific tropological readings leads to a greater, overall tropological significance of the passage. God cares for his creation; he has assured its protection through the sign of the rainbow, and is still active in the world, sending figures like Francis and Dominic to aid the church. The Echo simile illustrates that misdirected love is destructive and useless, but well-aimed love, love directed at God, is constructive, beneficial, and requited. Finally, perhaps the central and most imperative tropological moral implicit in the overall simile, wisdom is the source of love. The overall tropological import of the passage then leads to the final reading of the fourfold method, which is the anagogic. In an anagogic reading, one considers a given passage sub specie aeternitatis, which is to say from the providential perspective of God or from an eternal viewpoint. Essentially, reading in
this manner considers the condition of the blessed in eternity. Interestingly, in Paradiso, since Dante’s literal journey is a journey through the Heavens, the anagogic level in Paradiso is often collapsed into the literal level of reading. Nonetheless, is not the same as the literal level and the anagogic level is not necessarily obvious or evident when reading the passage literally. While the condition of the blessed is partly visible through what the poem makes evident for the reader, further insight into their eternal condition comes from the tropological level. In this particular instance, the second ring of solar intellectuals encircling the first, the souls of the Heaven of the Sun actually actuate the tropological morals derived from the typological readings. Tropologically, the interplay of love and wisdom is emphasized, as well as the importance of well directed, constructive love. As well, God’s involvement with and care for creation is also noted. These three tropological elements are central to the lives of the solar blessed. Firstly, nobody’s love is better directed than the saints - throughout Paradiso, that the saints are active as intercessors and as contemplators of the greatest good is readily evident. Their love is well-aimed, at both the Divine Creator and those on whose behalf they intercede, and in their position in Heaven, they are living in a position of an abundance of perpetual divine love. In the appearance of the two circles of saints, the circle representing wisdom literally appears before the circle representing love, physically acting out the Thomist notion that understanding precedes love. Finally, the tropological significance of God’s involvement and covenant with humanity, symbolized by the rainbow, is manifest in Francis and Dominic, and also in Thomas and Bonaventure. God is active in the world and sends such saintly individuals to act on his behalf and do good in the world. The condition of the blessed in Paradiso, as apparent in this passage, is a condition that exemplifies God’s love for creation, and the proper love that creation should have for God. Dante’s fourfold method of reading his poem is not merely an interesting or amusing way of reading. Instead, it is absolutely essential to understand even a fraction of his monumental work. Without Dante to guide the reader through his own poem, it is
Volume V 2011
easy for anyone to lose the straight way and for the poem to seem “savage, dense, and harsh” (Inferno I.5). As the poet plays the Virgil to the reader’s Dante Pilgrim, The Divine Comedy, though replete with obstacles, he prompts the reader forward with his fourfold interpretation. The simile of Paradiso XII.10-21 is one such obstacle, one of countless others. Initially, this passage is difficult; it is rhetorically complex, and layered with meaning, but with Dante’s fourfold guidance, the readers become as one who understands. At the literal level, the poem seems easy to interpret, but Dante’s complex rhetoric reveals hidden meaning. Typologically, this short number of lines is dense, with two Ovidian references, a Biblical reference, and references to The Divine Comedy itself. From the typologies the tropological level arises and various morals are put forth: the importance of welldirected love, the notion that wisdom precedes love, and through God’s covenant with humankind, that God is active in creation. Anagogically, the reader sees the saints in their eternal, blessed condition as living in a state of perpetual love and wisdom, mindful of God, rejoicing in his presence. The saints’ love is properly directed at God and they are part of God’s action in the world. Through his great poem, Dante guides his readers and provides instruction for the Christian life so that all who read it may be directed to the greatest good and Prime Mover of all things, God. As for Hungrybear9562, if he is still puzzled, perhaps he should turn to Dante - the fourfold method of interpretation just might answer his question. Works Cited Alighieri, Dante. Inferno. Trans. and Ed. Robert Hollander. New York: Anchor Books, 2000.Print Alighieri, Dante. “From The Letter to Can Grande”. Trans. Robert Haller. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2010. 188-190. Alighieri, Dante. Paradiso. Trans. Dorothy L. Sayers. Ed. Barbara Reynolds. New York: Basic Books Inc., 1962. Alighieri, Dante. Paradiso. Trans. and Ed. Robert Hollander. New York: Anchor Books, 2006. Print.
Alighieri, Dante. Paradiso. Trans. and Ed. Robin Kirkpatrick. London: Penguin Books, 2007. Print Musa, Mark. Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy Volume 6: Paradise, Commentary. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2004. Print. Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. David Raeburn. Penguin: Toronto, 200. Print.
Vasquez, Bear. “Yosemitebear Mountain Giant Double Rainbow 1-8-10.” 8 January 2010. Online video clip. Youtube. Accessed on 7 December 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQSNhk5ICTI&featur e=related>
Jordan Patterson is in third year pursuing a degree in English and Comparative Literature. This paper was written for the Paradiso section of Professor Miller’s Dante cycle.
Volume V 2011
When is it Wrong to Withhold Forgiveness? By Drew Maharaj
An Examination of the Role of Forgiveness in Society and the Conditions by Which it is Justified or Obligated It is a common view that the decision of whether or not to forgive is at the discretion of the victim; one cannot be blamed for refusing to forgive. This notion is especially intuitive when the wrongful action is considered heinous, malicious, or traumatic. However, it is my assertion that regardless of the severity of the wrongful action, forgiveness is a moral requirement in the presence of certain conditions viz. repentance on behalf of the wrongdoer, and a justified belief that the repentance is genuine on behalf of the victim. I will argue that in order to meet these criteria, the victim must necessarily reconceptualise the wrongdoerâ€™s moral status and character, rendering continued resentment irrational or misdirected. However, I will also show that meeting these criteria is not as easily attainable as it may seem. In her article, Women, Anger and the Unrepentant Abuser, Judith A. Boss makes the case for forgiveness being an imperfect duty in the presence of repentance. That is, she does not hold the victim responsible for being unable to forgive but would deem the victim praiseworthy should she choose to (Boss 244). Her main argument is that to hold a victim morally responsible for refusing to forgive her wrongdoer is to claim that the victim owes something to the wrongdoer (Boss 243). Such a claim would place too much of a burden on victims and would give too much power to the wrongdoer (Boss 243). This view is especially convincing in the context of Bossâ€™ article, where the wrongful action is spousal abuse and therefore serious and traumatic. However, I submit that with a comprehensive understanding of forgiveness, it is a misinformed position. In order to give an adequate rejection of this view, I will first present a theoretical account of forgiveness and then return to address these particular concerns with making forgiveness a moral
requirement. The idea of forgiveness is something of a conundrum. It entails the forswearing of resentment, without any change to the facts about the wrongful occurrence (Hieronymi 530). That is, the forgiver maintains that another person has wronged her, that this person is a member of the moral community, that the person is a suitable candidate for blame, and that the forgiver ought not to have been wronged (Hieronymi 530). It is difficult to imagine how one could wilfully forswear resentment while continuing to affirm these propositions. According to Pamela Hieronymi, another claim is implicit in the victim’s resentment, mainly that the wrongful action constitutes some threat to her self worth (Hieronymi 548). Thus resentment is a form of protest to this claim (Hieronymi 548). On this view, the purpose of forgiveness would be to reaffirm one’s moral worth. I disagree that forgiveness is always tied to an agent’s moral worth in this way. Hieronymi has made a threat to one’s self worth or status a necessary condition of resentment and therefore forgiveness. However, upon reflection there are certainly cases when one might feel resentment in the absence of a threat to one’s self worth. For example, I may appropriately feel resentment towards a member of parliament who makes an openly racist assertion, regardless of whether I am a member of the targeted race. Such an assertion would not challenge my self worth directly, but my resentment would not be unusual or inappropriate. As such examples illustrate, a more accurate definition of resentment is required. Margaret Walker defines resentment as a response to “a perceived threat to expectations based on norms that are presumed shared in or justly authorized for common life (Walker 146).” This seems to be a more accurate definition, and it can also accommodate elements of Hieronymi’s definition , as very often threats to social norms which are personally directed at us can constitute threats to our self worth. Although, I would still assert that whether or not such a violation constituted a threat would be dependant on the victim and the nature of the threat. It may certainly involve a claim about the worth of the victim, but that does not necessarily mean that this claim will be taken seriously, or
Volume V 2011
that the victims self worth isnâ€™t already so diminished as to make her impervious the further diminution. Such personally directed norm violations do seem to be qualitatively different than more generalized wrongdoing. That is, although resentment may be similarly applied in both situations, we certainly take normative violations directed at us on a more personal level. Whereas I will feel some displeasure or anger towards the racist politician as a non-member of the target race, as a member of the race I will additionally see such statements as a deceleration of opposition. I will see the politician as stating that he is not with me, but against me; my enemy. Personally directed violations of social norms (which include all moral transgressions against others) are thus like declarations of interpersonal moral war; it is the instigation of a moral conflict. This is true regardless of whether the other party intends to retaliate (revenge) or reforge peace (forgive). However, intrinsic to any human society are natural social forces which urge us towards forgiveness rather than revenge; whereas the forces which compel us to take revenge seem to be more internal and animalistic. It is dangerous to have enemies; dangerous to our social, mental and physical well-being. It also inhibits progress and diverges useful cognitive resources, such as attention, away from more productive endeavours. According to political theory this costly interpersonal conflict is one of the central forces behind the formation of societies to begin with. If true, it is not difficult to see how similar forces could create social pressure towards moral solidarity with those who have wronged us. By moral solidarity, I do not mean to imply friendship or even positive relations; rather, on this account it is the absence of conflict and the presence of mutual respect as members of the moral community. A fundamental element of this mutual respect is also mutual trust not to harm each other. When two people stand in moral solidarity in this way, we may call this the standard condition for social relations. This is not to say that the purpose of forgiveness is to re-establish relationships. One may forgive, yet decide to refrain from any future social relations with the wrongdoer. All forgiveness requires on this account is mutual trust (not to harm) and mutual respect as members of a moral
community. From this view, we may extrapolate the true purpose of forgiveness: the re-establishment of the standard condition of social relations. This theory alone does not constitute a reason for forgiveness, for the re-establishment of the standard condition of social relations is only appropriate given two other conditions: 1. repentance on behalf of the wrongdoer, and 2. a justified belief that the repentance was genuine on behalf of the victim. These conditions, I argue, constitute necessary conditions for justified forgiveness. Here, repentance is not merely an apology, but a sincere expression of regret, an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and a claim that one no longer endorses her past behaviour or statements. Forgiveness then is not characterized merely by the forswearing of resentment, but also by a reconceptualising of the wrongdoer’s moral identity. I take moral identity here to mean the collection of inclinations, principles, and beliefs that constitute a person’s moral schemata and character. Thus to forgive is not just to say ‘I no longer resent you for what you’ve done’ but also ‘I no longer equate you with your previous moral identity.’ One might worry that such a view makes forgiveness too easily acquired for some individuals; especially when the victim is gullible or susceptible to manipulation. A wrongdoer would need to merely express regret and claim to have changed. However, an element of the second condition is that the victim’s belief must be justified. That is, like any proposition, the firmness of one’s belief should correspond to the strength of the evidence in favour of it. In the case of the abused wife, if her abuser has expressed regret and made claims of personal change in the past yet continues his abuse, then we would not take an expression of regret and a claim of personal change as sufficient evidence to warrant forgiveness. However, if an abusive husband seeks treatment in an anger management program or from a psychologist, then perhaps after a certain amount of time has passed without abuse and with proper evidence of remorse then such claims might be taken seriously. A relatively long period of time between the offence and the forgiveness does seem to be necessary in many cases, the time period being somewhat proportional to the seriousness of the
Volume V 2011
offence. This is because one needs to be free from the harmful behaviour for some time before one can form a justified belief that it wonâ€™t occur again. There are no objective criteria to determine whether or not some evidence is sufficient to warrant such a belief, however common sense and past experience in these matters should suffice. If one finds herself repeatedly betrayed by those she has forgiven, then she should re-assess her willingness to believe claims of remorse in the future. A further worry is perhaps that this account leaves room for the victim to avoid rightful forgiveness by simply withholding the belief that the offending individual has changed, despite very strong evidence to the contrary. As has already been asserted, oneâ€™s belief should correspond to the strength of the evidence in favour of the particular proposition being examined; therefore one may be blamed for failing to form the appropriate beliefs to warrant forgiveness in light of strong evidence as well. Although conditions 1. and 2. may sound like good reasons to forgive, it may not be apparent why they should render forgiveness a moral requirement. Suppose I wilfully withhold forgiveness when I truly believe the wrongdoer is regretful and has assumed a new moral identity. This is to implicitly make certain claims. If I believe in the ethical notion that I should treat others the way I expect to be treated, then it is to claim that either: 1. I would never commit a similar wrongdoing, or that if I did, 2. I would not seek forgiveness for it. Neither of these claims can be supported. As for the latter, seeking forgiveness for a similar wrong doing would precisely be expecting to be treated differently than I treat others, for I am not willing to forgive. It is difficult to imagine someone who truly regrets past transgressions against someone, but does not desire forgiveness. The first claim is a more plausible excuse for withholding forgiveness, but I believe also ignorant of our human capacity to do wrong. Most of us are unaware of our capacity for wrongdoing, but how many corrupted politicians entered politics with good intentions? How many Nazi soldiers were previously seemingly normal individuals with no thoughts about genocide or racism? Boss might object in the specific case of abused women on statistical grounds. In the vast majority of abuse
cases, the offender is male (Boss 235). Thus it appears as though females could perhaps have a legitimate right to the â€˜I would never do that to youâ€™ claim. However, unless one believes that women are somehow morally superior to men, then this claim is baseless. It is more likely a combination of physical power and the power structures within patriarchal societies that put men in a position to abuse said power. There is nothing to suggest that women would not abuse their power similarly if the roles were reversed. Boss points out that woman who are victims of spousal abuse are more likely to abuse their children (Boss 243). This supports the view that given the same position of power, women too have the potential for this sort of wrongful action. People are corruptible by power, regardless of gender. Thus to withhold forgiveness in the presence of the stated conditions is to necessarily be hypocritical (2.) or self righteous (1.). One might object to this view on the grounds that certain special relationships make forgiveness unwarranted, even in the presence of the previously stated conditions for justified forgiveness. For example, if your friend steals your car and crashes it while driving recklessly, we may consider this act to be much more difficult to forgive than if another person had done the same. Although either case would be difficult to forgive, you would likely feel especially betrayed by your friend. It seems questionable to assert that to refuse to forgive your friend for this act is wrongful. However, it seems equally questionable to give more consideration to the regret and rehabilitation of a casual acquaintance or stranger than a friend. If we are to forgive, it is necessary that one form a justified belief that your best friend is truly regretful and has a new moral identity, but this would not be easily accomplished. Your friend would likely have to re-assess his life and make positive changes, offer apologies and other evidence of deep regret and remorse. Shouldnâ€™t we then be at least equally willing to forgive either party? In political philosophy, there is a puzzle as to why people consider their fellow countrymen more important than members of other nations. For example, when watching the news it is common for Canadians to react more strongly to the news of Canadian deaths than the deaths of others. It turns out to be very
Volume V 2011
difficult to give an articulated account of why this favouritism is justified. I believe this is somewhat analogous to our best friend scenario; it is not apparent why it should be so much more difficult to forgive a good friend for wrongdoing than an acquaintance. Accepting the fact that we are all capable of wrongdoing it seems intuitive that, if anything, we should be more willing to forgive those who are closest to us. It seems that regardless of special relationships, in the presence of both the stated conditions for forgiveness we ought to forgive, and in the absence of those conditions we ought not to forgive. Any violation of that principle would seem unfounded. We may now return to Bossâ€™ objections towards blaming a victim for failing to forgive. According to Boss, the primary reason to forgive is to reaffirm moral equality (Boss 243). However, by making forgiveness a requirement in certain cases we are placing an unfair onus or burden on the victim. It is as to suggest that the victim owes something to the wrongdoer (Boss 243), which is not equal. Reflecting on the previous discussion concerning implicit claims involved in withholding forgiveness, we can determine that it is not that one is placing the wrongdoer above oneself in refusing to forgive, rather, if the criteria for forgiveness are satisfied then such a refusal can actually be construed as reducing the offender to a lower status than oneself. It has already been shown that to withhold forgiveness under the stated conditions is necessarily hypocritical or self righteous, for surely one would seek forgiveness given similar circumstances and reassessment of oneâ€™s life and moral character. If resentment implies wrongdoing, and one can rationally justify feeling resentment towards another for withholding forgiveness without cause (for example, if a previously close friend would not forgive me for stealing candy one year prior), then withholding forgiveness must be, at times, morally wrong. An additional objection that Boss might raise would be that a willingness to forgive, even the repentant, might encourage future abuse. On my view, however, a judgement that a wrongdoer has the potential to abuse in the future would disqualify that individual as a candidate for forgiveness, and a judgement that the wrongdoer
would not re-offend would seem to make this objection irrelevant. In any case, withholding forgiveness does not seem to discourage future wrongdoing, so why believe that offering forgiveness would encourage it? If I choose to harm someone, that person already stands in such a relation to me whereby I judge them to have low worth or value as a moral agent. Thus, I would not be disencouraged by the prospect of not receiving forgiveness. That is, if I lack enough respect to wilfully harm you, then I probably don’t care on any significant level about whether or not you will forgive me, at least not at the time when I commit the harmful action. Insofar as the purpose of forgiveness is to re-establish the standard condition of moral relations, then under certain circumstances withholding forgiveness can be morally blameworthy; we rely on the standard condition of moral relations for society to function. Thus, when conflict arises through the violation of social norms, there are always social forces which encourage reconciliation. Furthermore, under circumstances where the conditions for forgiveness have been satisfied, withholding forgiveness can be seen as hypocrisy or self righteousness. As the mentioned conditions are, in fact, necessary conditions for justified forgiveness, it also follows that to forgive in absence of those conditions is unjustified. Works Cited Boss, Judith. “Throwing Pearls at the Swine: Women, Forgiveness and the Unrepentant Abuser.” Philosophical Perspectives on Power and Domination. Eds. Lara Duhan Kaplan and Lawrence F. Bove. Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 1997. Pp. 235-247 Hieronymi, Pamela. “Articulating an Uncompromising Forgiveness.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Vol. LXII. No.3, May 2001. Pp 529-555 Walker, Margaret. “Resentment and Assurance.” Setting the Moral Compass: Essays by Women Philosophers. Ed. Cheshire Calhoun. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. 145-160
Volume V 2011 Drew Maharaj is in his fourth year at the University of Western Ontario majoring in Philosophy. This paper was written for a class titled â€œEthics and the Emotions.â€?
Volume V 2011
Evidence and Motivation By Nicholas Hamilton
The debate concerning the existence of God has been fraught, especially in recent years, with accusations of false presumption and irrationality. To the sophisticated philosopher, there is perhaps nothing worse than being so accused. The prominent atheist Antony Flew claimed, in his paper, “The Presumption of Atheism,” the burden of proof lay squarely on the theists and natural theologians to prove God’s existence, and furthermore that the theologians simply could not produce enough evidence to rationally believe in God.1 In this paper I will argue that if the natural theologians can produce at least as compelling a case for the existence of God as the atheists can produce for the non-existence of God, then in such a case of parity, and contrary to common epistemological obligations (which would have the inquirer be agnostic and withhold belief altogether) the best decision to make is to believe in God’s existence, because as ‘Pascal’s Wager’ demonstrates, it is more in our self interest. Moreover, I will argue that even if Flew is correct in his assertion that the burden of proof lies on the theist, this burden is half as heavy as it would have been without the necessarily invested self interest involved in the decision of God’s existence. This self interested motivation is not enough on its own to inspire belief, but enough that given an epistemic deadlock between the two propositions, it is wiser to believe than to be agnostic. Finally, I will discuss the merits of belief that is inspired from self interest, and whether it can truly be considered belief. In epistemology it is commonly said to be responsible, that when making claims to knowledge one ought to have sufficient reasons for believing these claims. In other words, one ought to 1 Antony Flew “The presumption of Atheism” in God Matters eds. Raymond Martin and Christopher Bernard (- : Pearson Education, 2003) 151.
be able to justify one’s beliefs in order to responsibly hold them. This can be further extended to the realm of decision making. In any case where two opposing propositions are presented, the epistemically responsible thing to do would be to choose that proposition which had better justification. In a case where each proposition was equally well defended, in other words, where an epistemic balance was encountered, the responsible choice would in fact be not to choose at all, but to withhold belief on the matter, rather than choosing arbitrarily. While this practice of epistemic responsibility generally helps truth seekers avoid holding unwarranted beliefs - thus keeping them out of trouble - it can prove to be a much more difficult position to hold than it might appear. To illustrate, let us examine the logical symbolic form for any proposition ‘A’ and its negation ‘~A’. If I were to say “either it is the case that A, or it is not the case that A” I would be presenting a logically true sentence. That is to say, for every possible truth-value assignment for A, the sentence as a whole will be true. This can be further demonstrated by going through each of the possible truth values for A. Keeping in mind that a disjunction is true if at least one of its atomic components are true, then we can see that when A is true, its negation ~A will be false, and when A is false, its negation ~A will be true. No matter what we assign to A, the disjunction (A or ~A) will always be true. The importance of this for the responsible epistemologist is encountered when meaningful propositions are inserted. If ‘A’ were to be replaced with the proposition ‘God exists’, the disjunction would be reiterated as “Either it is the case that God exists, or it is not the case that God exists.” As we have seen, one of these options is necessarily true; it cannot both be true that God exists and true that He does not, nor can it both be false that He exists and false that He does not. Though it seems that this does not provide any new information, it eliminates a certain type of suspension of belief, in this case, a type of agnosticism. One cannot avoid committing to one side or the other by saying they are unconvinced by either position and thus believe neither. As we have seen, this is untenable: one side must be true.
Volume V 2011
In what way then, could a responsible epistemologist still claim agnosticism? Only by temporarily suspending belief. And indeed this is often the case, that belief is often withheld in the name of responsibility, until the epistemological balance is shifted. As William Rowe notes, even sometimes when the balance does shift in favour of theism, it can still be said to be more responsible to withhold belief, especially when the evidence is only marginally more convincing.2 But such agnostic appeals to epistemic responsibility do not always work; our beliefs and our decisions are inextricably tied to our interests, and these can rightfully conflict with our epistemic obligations. To demonstrate such a conflict, take the following analogy: for the fantastical creature ‘Bigfoot’, the same disjunction as above can be proposed “Either it exists, or it does not exist.” Presented with this question about its existence, the logical thing to do is to examine the evidence for both claims, and side with whichever appears more compelling. Most would be capable of doing so in a completely disinterested way, based on the content of the proposal. In other words, since Bigfoot is commonly defined as a large, hairy, ape-like being that inhabits pacific northwestern America, then unless one were a zoologist or a person living in that area, whether or not it exists would have little to no bearing on one’s life; such a person would be capable of completely disinterested inquiry. Inquiry without any invested interest in the result. However, if one were to embark on a camping trip in the area where it is said - if it exists - to dwell, disinterested inquiry would no longer be possible because the answer could have an effect on such a person’s life. More importantly, if part of the definition of Bigfoot was that he was a vicious, human eating creature, then to the person camping in northwestern America, if epistemic parity were achieved between the case for Bigfoot’s existence and his non-existence, it would no longer behoove precautionary suspension of disbelief but to the contrary would motivate prudential belief in Bigfoot in order to avoid 2 William L. Rowe “The problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism” in – eds. Geivett and Sweetman (1992) 3342.
possibly being eaten. This is not to say that such a person has been epistemically irresponsible by choosing to believe under conditions of epistemic parity, because only when the proposition up for inquiry has no, or little effect on the inquirer can epistemic principles be completely isolated for use in decision making. The notion of disinterested inquiry is not a new one; it has for a long time been the case in statistical and scientific studies that scientists cannot be asked to make reliable judgements about the companies that fund them, because even with their most sincere honesty, it is known to be in their best interest not to condemn the company that pays them.3 Invested interest is of particular relevance to the case of God’s existence. In the case of Bigfoot, a non-zoologist living outside of northwestern America could perfectly well conduct disinterested inquiry, since the answer will have little to no bearing on their lives. A scientist too, as long as she was reporting on a disassociated company could detach interest altogether. But no one can claim disinterest in the study of God, because by definition, as creator and preserver of all things, every human is directly influenced if God does exist. It is true that prima facie the atheist has a fairly strong counterargument here, namely, that they never accepted that definition of God, and therefore God’s existence does not necessarily affect them. But this is not so strong as it might appear. Recalling the analogy of Bigfoot; it was not the case that the person camping in northwestern America, when confronted with the additional information that Bigfoot ate humans responded with “I don’t accept that definition of Bigfoot, so I remain unconcerned.” Of utmost importance in this example, was the fact that it was assumed the evidence on Bigfoot’s existence was equally compelling for both sides, and so the news of Bigfoot’s vicious nature was also accompanied by an epistemically ambiguous case for that very fact. In the same way with God’s existence, when we charge the natural theologians with the task of achieving epistemological parity with the atheists, we assume that inherent in this epistemological deadlock are certain assumptions about God, 3 Nicholas.
This was brought to my attention by Dr. John
Volume V 2011
or the natural theologians have not done their job after all. We are thus necessarily presented with an invested self interest in the argument for God’s existence. In the famous article “Pascal’s Wager” Blaise Pascal argues a similar point. Significantly though, he assumes as an epistemological starting place, that there can be no evidence or proof provided one way or the other.4 Any arguments or proofs are fruitless, and as Douglas Geivett puts it, “The context is... epistemically vacuous.”5 From this epistemic vacuum Pascal suggests that given the two possibilities and no way of ever deciding through evidence, one should consider what we stand to gain in each scenario, and what we stand to lose. Ultimately, if we decide God does not exist and we are right, we gain only epistemological satisfaction, if we are wrong we face repercussions as possibly dire as eternal damnation. If we decide God does exist and we are right we gain both epistemological satisfaction and a life of eternity with God, if we are wrong we lose epistemological satisfaction and whatever other freedoms theism would deny us. Thus presented with these two options, it seems most prudent to choose to believe God exists, given what we stand to gain (and also, possibly, given that eternal damnation is worse than holding a false belief). The notable similarity between Pascal’s Wager and the notion of interested inquiry is that in both cases the deciding factor is the motivation from personal gain, from self interest. The notable difference though, is that as previously mentioned, Pascal assumes an epistemic vacuum as opposed to epistemic parity. Both a type of balance, but of a crucially different kind. The problem is that the atheist can simply respond to Pascal saying “But I need not resort to your wager because I can produce at least some evidence for believing that God does not exist. The situation is not void of evidence after all.” To this, Pascal could 4 Blaise Pascal “Pascal’s Wager” in God Matters eds. Raymond Martin and Christopher Bernard ( - : Pearson Education, 2003) 197. 5 R. Douglas Geivett “A Pascalian Rejoinder to the Presumption of Atheism” in God Matters eds. Raymond Martin and Christopher Bernard ( - : Pearson Education, 2003) 167.
respond by denying the validity of any evidence produced by the atheist, and proverbially, stick to his guns. Or he could respond by simply meeting each argument with counterargument and producing what Geivett calls “a moderately successful natural theology” one that stays on par epistemically with the atheists.6 It is a difficult position to hold, that there can be no evidence produced one way or another and as such, most atheists (and even many theists) would tend to reject the wager in its original form, because it presupposes the existence of an epistemological vacuum. But the case is not in fact hopeless, because though we do not have an epistemological vacuum, we can have epistemological parity, and given the examples above of Bigfoot and the scientist, a form of Pascal’s wager, which is a motivation from self interest, appears to apply similarly in cases of epistemological parity. The question then becomes, have the natural theologians in fact achieved parity with the atheists? This is not a question that is easily answered, and a full examination of both sides of the debate is outside the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that it is certainly possible, that is, there is nothing logically preventing theists from producing arguments that are just as convincing as those produced by the atheists.7 Perhaps more importantly, the task the natural theologians are faced with is half as hard, now that self interested motivation is taken into account. Without such motivation, the scope for the atheists and agnostics is huge. As Antony Flew proposed, one should presume atheism at the threshold of inquiry, and not until the theist can produce enough evidence to compel you on purely epistemological grounds should you be convinced.8 Given this presumption, the theist is faced with an enormous task, particularly 6 Geivett, 166. 7 As a matter of fact, the prominent theist and debater William Lane Craig has participated in many debates against the leading atheists, and has arguably been moderately successful. For his most influential article, see William Lane Craig “The Kalam Cosmological Argument” in God Matters eds. Raymond Martin and Christopher Bernard ( - : Pearson Education, 2003) 82-94. 8 Flew, 151.
Volume V 2011
because, as Rowe noted, even given more evidence for God then against Him, it can still be said to be epistemically responsible to withhold belief.9 In such a scenario, the case presented by the natural theologians would have to be nearly undeniable even just to convince the agnostics, let alone the atheists. But if epistemic concerns are not isolated, and are rather combined with Pascalian motivation, or interested inquiry, the theologians need only do half the work, and aim for epistemic parity. Such an accomplishment would seem to be a coup for the theists, but as was the case with Pascal’s original proposal of the wager, and as William Lycan and George Schlesinger have tried to defend against, there is a strong intuitive sense that belief out of self interest, or out of fear is not truly belief.10 This is not even a criticism that is necessarily posed by the atheist, but by the theist, who, upon convincing an agnostic to believe by presenting the wager, realizes that the person doesn’t really believe, they are simply saying they do to save their neck. But again their is a notable difference between Pascal’s wager which assumes a vacuum of evidence, and interested inquiry which requires a balance of evidence. In the latter scenario the case for the converted agnostic is much more reassuring, because they are already on the fence. They were already hanging in the balance between belief and unbelief (there having been equal evidence for both sides) and all they need is some motivation for one case or the other, which is exactly what is provided. Lycan and Schlesinger make the important point that it matters not where your faith began, but where it ends up11 (and indeed, the previously mentioned notable atheist Flew spent his entire life campaigning against God, and decided near the end of his life that God existed).12 Very much in the same way, Geivett argues that sincere inquiry can act as a first stepping stone, and that if we seek God (and possibly only if 9 Rowe, 33-42. 10 William Lycan and George Schlesinger, “You Bet Your Life” in God Matters eds. Raymond Martin and Christopher Bernard ( - : Pearson Education, 2003) 198. 11 Lycan and Schlesinger, 198. 12 This was brought to my attention by Dr. John Thorp.
we seek God) He will find us.13 So while belief out of self interest could be condemned for not being true belief, if the motivation is presented in an epistemic deadlock, it may not take much more to turn fake belief into real faith. What then has the theist accomplished? She certainly has not proven that it is rational to believe without any evidence, nor has she provided the evidence that is necessary. But the situation is much less dire than it would appear. Because the question of Godâ€™s existence is necessarily intertwined with issues of self interest that could directly influence us, it cannot be examined in a purely epistemological way. Therefore, the traditional concept of epistemic responsibility, that would have a case of evidential parity turn one into an agnostic, cannot be observed, because as Pascal pointed out, there are compelling motivational factors at hand. This means that the goal of the natural theologians need only be to match the atheists argument for argument, and all those who would formerly have claimed agnosticism as their epistemic duty, can be motivated to believe. From there, what faith they find is up to their own seeking, but one thing is clear: the situation for the theist is much more hopeful than the atheist would have us believe.
Nicholas Hamilton is in the third year of an honours specialization in Philosophy with a minor in Music. This paper was written for Professor Thorpâ€™s Philosophy of Religion.
Volume V 2011
Artificial Intelligence, the Turing Test, and the Chinese Room By Reid McNaughton Alan Turing, in his article “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” outlines his perspective on the plausibility of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in digital computers. As a functionalist, Turing believes that all that is required for a computer to have intelligence is an internal state that is functionally identical to (though perhaps qualitatively different from) its human counterpart, producing a behavioural output that is also identical.14 Given this, he describes a test in which a human interrogator engages in a written conversation with two unseen entities. One entity is another person, and the other is a computer. If the computer is able to fool the interrogator into thinking that it is not a computer, but a human, Turing says the computer has passed the test and proven itself to be intelligent. It is with this point that I take issue. This essay will be an examination of Turing’s theory of intelligence, and will demonstrate that the Turing Test, since it aims to demonstrate only a functionalistic notion of intelligence, is not a good indicator of it. I will examine a few of the objections to Turing’s notion of intelligence, along with his responses to them. I will then examine the Chinese Room objection from John Searle. Ultimately, it will be shown that, while the Turing Test is a good test for weak AI, when it comes to strong AI it leaves much to be desired; intelligence, whatever it is, must subsist in more than simply behavioural outputs and functional states. Before proceeding, it will be helpful to define and clarify a few of the terms that will be used throughout this paper. First, when referring to computers, I will mean specifically digital 14
Turing is not a self-proclaimed functionalist as far as I understand him, but his association of internal states of computers with thoughts/ideas in brains/minds makes his theory of intelligence very much akin to that of functionalism. An explanation of this can be found in: Janet Levin, “Functionalism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http:// plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2010/ entries/functionalism/>.
computers, such as the one on which this paper was written, and is being read (or off of which it was printed, if that be the case). It is not necessary for the interface (laptop/desktop, operating system, etc.) to be the same, but only for the computer to have a store (i.e.: a capacity or memory), an executive unit (i.e.: a CPU of some kind—the hardware), and a control (i.e.: a software or program that instructs the executive unit).15 Second, as seen above, I draw a distinction in this essay between weak AI and strong AI. Weak AI is characteristic of anything that imitates intelligence but does not possess it. Such a thing might be argued to already exist in the form of talking computers and video games with characters that behave somewhat unpredictably but with recognizable patterns. Only those computers that are actually conscious can possess strong AI.16 When referring to intelligence, it will be in the strong sense unless otherwise indicated. Turing begins with a description of his test, which I will call the Turing Test. By his standards, if a computer can, in five minutes of written conversation, fool an interrogator over 70% of the time into thinking that it (the computer) is human, then it is intelligent.17 This is actually a very high standard, since it means the computer entity must in some sense be “cleverer” than the human entity. I do not have any reluctance in saying that a computer with this ability might someday be constructed, but one’s intuitions say that a computer with this ability is still not intelligent. In response to such reservations, Turing outlines an extensive list of nine objections and replies, three of which I find especially impressive and worthy of discussion here.18 Those three are the 15
Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, in John Heil, ed., Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 215.
John Searle, “Minds, Brains, and Programs”, in John Heil, ed., Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 235.
I limit the discussion to three of the objections in the interest of space, but the full list is as follows: the Theological Objection, the ‘Heads in the Sand’ Objection, the Mathematical Objection, the Argument from Consciousness, arguments from various disabilities, Lady Lovelace’s Objection, the Argument from Continuity in the Nervous System, the Argument from Informality of Behaviour, and the Argu-
Volume V 2011
Mathematical Objection and the Arguments from Consciousness and Informality of Behaviour. The Mathematical Objection is derived from Gödel’s Theorem, which states that any logical system will have certain sentences within it that cannot be proved or disproved by that system. From this it follows that there will always be certain questions a computer cannot answer. Some have argued that this means a computer can never be intelligent. Turing points out that there are also questions humans cannot answer (though they are not necessarily the same questions with which computers have difficulties). Yet no one seriously objects that humans are not intelligent, therefore it does not follow that the inability to answer certain questions entails non-intelligence.19 The Argument from Consciousness is arguably the strongest of the nine objections. In short, it is a denial of the validity of the Turing Test as an indicator of intelligence, as well as a challenge to Turing’s notion of intelligence on the whole. According to this objection, only a thing with creative and emotional capacities and an awareness of those things could ever be considered intelligent. Turing, however, argues that this ultimately reduces to solipsism (the notion that only one’s own mind can be known to exist) since the only way intelligence could ever be verified in a thing would be to actually be that thing.20 This, of course, is utterly unreasonable. Lastly, the Argument from Informality of Behaviour says that, since computers rely on rules to work, and there are no set rules to human behaviour, no computer could ever behave like a human. Turing makes short work of this objection by pointing out that the fact that such a set of rules has not been found does not mean that no such set exists.21 This response seems rather weak, though Turing is no doubt convinced that just such a set of rules does, in fact, exist (otherwise it would be very difficult to construct a computer that could pass his test). I might add to his ment from Extra-Sensory Perception. These are outlined in full detail in: Turing, 220-228.
19 20 21
Turing, 221-222. Turing, 222-223. Turing, 227-228.
response, though, that if such a set of rules does not exist, it is still conceivable that computers might be programmed with a capacity for complex pattern recognition such as that on which humans operate. This might then allow them to pass the Turing Test. With the refutation of the above three objections, Turing appears to have made any higher standard for intelligence utterly unreasonable. John Searle, however, manages to throw a spoke in Turing’s wheels with his “Chinese Room” thought experiment: if a man who understands no Chinese is placed in a room with several sheets of scratch paper and a rule ledger that tells him how to produce an appropriate output of Chinese script from any input of Chinese script, it would not be far-fetched to think that a Chinese-reader outside the room would think that the man inside understands Chinese. Clearly, though, the man in the room does not understand Chinese; he simply processes symbols that he does not understand according to rules that he does not understand. This, says Searle, is exactly how computers work.22 There is a problem, then: if Turing’s functional notion of intelligence doesn’t work, since it does not lead to understanding, and the notion of intelligence derived from the Argument from Consciousness doesn’t work, since it leads to solipsism, then how can intelligence be defined? Here is where Searle’s distinction between weak and strong AI becomes important. One can say without issue that a computer that passes the Turing Test has weak AI, for it clearly imitates human consciousness very well. One could not, however, say that it has strong AI, for as the Chinese Room thought experiment demonstrates, an entity that simply processes inputs, produces outputs, and does nothing else cannot have any understanding, and a thing without understanding can certainly not be said to be intelligent. Turing would likely disagree with this, saying that weak versus strong AI is a false distinction; anything that imitates intelligence is intelligent—that is all that is required for something to be functionally intelligent. However, I am still in agreement with Searle. The question of what strong AI might subsist in, though, is unanswered. Searle claims that the only indicator of intelligence is intentionality, but how this might 22
Volume V 2011
be recognized in an entity is not known. Intentionality, then, is a nomological dangler.23 We are now left without any notion at all of that in which intelligence subsists. It is clear, though, that there is a real problem with Turing’s theory. Reconciling his theory of intelligence or proposing an alternate one is not something I pretend to be readily able to do. The problem is clear, though, and one must conclude that Turing’s notion of intelligence is in some way incomplete. Turing manages to summon a very impressive set of responses to almost all objections, but it is not clear how he can justify his notion of intelligence against the Chinese Room objection and the notion of strong versus weak AI. It seems, as is so often the case in philosophy, that the problem ultimately becomes an argument over semantics: can intelligence be understood in the functional sense? If yes, then the Turing Test is a satisfactory indicator of intelligence, but for non-functionalists like myself, the holes in the theory and one’s intuitions point clearly to the need for something more than mere functional states and behavioural outputs. What that “something” is is still up in the air, but while the nomological danglers of theories other than functionalism are hard to ignore, the flaws in the functional theory of intelligence as outlined by Turing are just as apparent and damaging. BIBLIOGRAPHY Cole, David, “The Chinese Room Argument”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/ archives/win2009/entries/chinese-room/>. Levin, Janet, “Functionalism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2010/ entries/functionalism/>. Searle, John, “Minds, Brains, and Programs”, in John Heil, ed., Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology. (Oxford: 23
David Cole, “The Chinese Room Argument”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato. stanford.edu/archives/win2009/entries/chinese-room/>.
Oxford University Press, 2004). Turing, Alan, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, in John Heil, ed., Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Reid McNaughton is a third year student in Honours Specialization Philosophy. He wrote this paper for his Philosophy of Mind class.
Volume V 2011
Views of the Female Genitalia in Ancient Greece and Rome By Lauren Flynn
The vagina has always played an extremely important role in all societies. The source of children and sexual pleasure, it could also be a source of power to women. Not so, however, in ancient Athens and Rome. During the reign of ancient Greek, and later Roman, society, women were usually treated as secondclass citizens. Certainly, women of citizen status, and especially women of the rich upper classes, could be given certain legal rights and privileges – but mostly in regards to their husbands or fathers. Women were seen as only useful in regards to men. They watched over the house, tended the children – and provided sexual pleasure and amusement for their husbands. The vagina, therefore, came under intense scrutiny by men, especially in the extant literature. The vagina comes in many shapes and forms, and the men of antiquity criticized them all. They saw women as sexually rapacious, and unclean. The vagina could be completely ignored as something practically negligible within society. Men misunderstood it, studying it without really gleaning any knowledge; they labelled women cold and moist from their observations of the vagina. Some men, however, found beauty in the vagina, or at least in the youthful one. The elite men of antiquity wrote volumes on their lovers, yet much of what they wrote has been lost. The remaining fragments of poems and discourses may show us the true feelings of men in antiquity towards the female vagina – and only the feelings of the men, as female writers are few and far between, and what little we have of them rarely, if ever, discusses their own sexual organ. What views and opinions documented in this essay must be remembered to be belonging to the elite men of the times, as, at least back in those days, theirs were the only opinions that mattered – or at least recorded. Many women in antiquity were viewed with suspicion by their men. Husbands constantly worried about the adultery their
wives could be committing while they were away, and as a result, women of the household, or at least women of elite households, were often secluded in the gynaecium. They viewed their women as sexually insatiable, possessing little or no self-control (sophrosyne), and it was mostly, if not completely, because of the vagina, in my opinion. The vagina, unlike the penis, needed no rest before it could take on another sexual partner. One can see the ancient views on women, in works like Artistophanes’ Lysistrata, in which all the women are able to think about is sex. In his Metamorphoses, Apuleius shows the unquenchable sexual desire of woman in his scene of bestiality involving the main character Lucius, who, having been turned into an ass, is made to have sex with a human woman upon her request.24 The literature has little good to say about female sexuality. Meanwhile, in artwork, the main view seems to have been that women, particularly prostitutes, were something like cisterns – a fact that was symbolized many times in the art by the placement of a krater beneath a bed where a man and prostitute were shown having sex.25 The krater could take on as much liquid as needed, in much the same way that women could take on as many men as required. Because it was not necessary for the woman to achieve orgasm, Greek and Roman men could not see that there was any rest time needed between climaxes – simply because, most times, the woman probably did not climax. The fact that women could have sex seemingly without end, without needing to rest or recharge before having another go at it, seemed to the men in antiquity to be a sign that women were sexually insatiable, and could never get enough. The tale of Messalina, Claudius’ “whore empress,”26 illustrates the idea that even women of the highest classes were sexually rapacious: A more than willing Partner, she took on all comers, for cash, without a break. Too soon, for her, the brothel-keeper dismissed His girls. She stayed till the end, always the last to go, 24 25 26
Apu. Met. 10.20-22. Lecture, Feb. 23, 2010. Juv. 6.
Volume V 2011
Then trailed away sadly, still with a burning hard on...27 The authors of the time portrayed women as burning with an incredible and unquenchable desire for sex, whether real or imagined, often in order to humiliate or verbally abuse them. The vagina itself was the source for this belief in women’s undying need for sex, as the vagina was undoubtedly viewed as knowing no limitations and needing no time to rest up before having another go. The vagina in literature was often portrayed as incredibly disgusting. Ugly or old women usually had a vagina to match. Old women, often depicted as lustful and uncontrollable, are usually cited as having disgusting, odorous genitalia: Within her raunchy Crotch her hole lies buried underneath her paunch; Beneath a pelt that comes and goes with winter’s cold, The fetid door is guarded by a cobweb’s mold.28 The vagina of the old woman was repulsive, something to cause a man to lose his erection. The old woman who attempted to have sex with younger men was even more repulsive, as they were thought to be far beyond the age where sex was enjoyable, or even appropriate – even though old age for these women started when they reached their thirties. Not only was a youthful vagina something to be desired, but so was a hairless one. Depilation was the style for women in antiquity, which can be found not only in the literature, but in the art as well. Consider as an example the Aphrodite of Knidos. Her genitals are perfectly smooth, with no indication of pubic hair whatsoever carved into her marble flesh. While it is possible that pubic hair was painted on afterwards and the paint has just flecked away, it seems more likely when considering the literature that the Knidia had no hair at all on her genitals.29 Interesting to note was that, before the institution of Praxiteles’ statue at Knidos, pubic hair was occasionally depicted on hetairai in art. It was only after the Knidia was created that all 27 28 29
Ibid. Priapea 83.25-28. Lecture, Jan. 21, 2010.
subsequent females in art were given smooth genitals.30 Whenever the artistic convention came about, however, it was nonetheless important for women who wished to be sexually attractive to be entirely depilated, especially around their genitals and under their arms. Even men dressing as women should remove their pubic hair, or so Aristophanes would have us believe; his character Mnesilochus has the hair singed from his genitals when he goes to impersonate a woman at the Thesmophoria festival.31 This would suggest that depilation was an inherently female ideal, to the point where it was not just about sex appeal, but about femininity in general. And although it is impossible to say what the percentage was of men who preferred their women depilated as opposed to au naturel, it can probably be fairly safely assumed that it was the same as today. But the vagina did not just have to be beautiful on the outside; it had to be sexually satisfying as well. The term laxus cunnus refers to a vagina which is not tight, and which gives little or no sexual pleasure to the man penetrating it. After all, in ancient terms, a pretty girl was fairly useless if she was not good in bed. The writers have only bad things to say of women who try to have sex when the sex with them is unappealing. Their rather descriptive language leaves no doubt as to what they are talking about: â€œ... looser still than Persian breeches...â€?32 The woman who gave no sexual pleasure was useless, especially if she was not a married woman. While married women existed not for their husbandsâ€™ sexual pleasure, but for the creation of a legitimate male heir, any other woman, to a citizen man, would be completely negligible except as a source of pleasure, at least in my own views. The laxus cunnus, therefore, was something to be disdained and avoided at all costs. Female nudity was a common convention in Classical art, if not as common as male nudity. The Aphrodite of Knidos, undoubtedly the most famous female nude of its time, is a perfect example of the female genitalia in artwork. While every part of her 30 31 32
Spivey 1996: 183. Aris. Thesm.215-47. Priapea 46.5.
Volume V 2011
was carved in shining detail by the master Praxiteles, her breasts and buttocks perfect, admired by all viewers, her curving hand hides, or perhaps seeks to call attention to, her vagina, which was carved with one clear biological flaw; a lack of labia. The Knidia’s genital area was as smooth as a Barbie doll’s. And Praxiteles’ masterpiece was not the only art piece with missing labia; many vase paintings and sculptures have female figures with no delineation to show labia. This lack of representation of the female genitalia could be interpreted in several ways. It is possible that the female genitals were viewed with a kind of disgust, and a desire to hide them from public view. Breasts were all well and good, but the vagina was something shameful, to be hidden away. This is one possible explanation, yet it seems unlikely, as the ancient views of sexuality were far different from our own, and doubtless there would have been little shame arising from the viewing of a vagina. An alternative theory could be that the vagina was simply viewed as a useless artistic convention; it was a passive sexual organ, and could therefore be ignored. The penis in art had many different meanings; to make one laugh, to show courage and manliness, or to show dominance. The vagina displayed none of these traits. The only characteristic the vagina could be said to display is submission and passivity, something which the arrangement of a female figure in the artwork already symbolized. A woman was inherently quiet and passive, a sexual object; to display her vagina would be redundant. If neither of these explanations seem suitable, consider a third alternative; the belief in antiquity in the link between the mouth and the vagina would mean that if one set of lips was present, the other did not need to be. The Aphrodite of Knidos, although she has no clear set of labia, has her mouth slightly open, a possible allusion to her missing genitals.33 The surviving medical records leave no question that ancient physicians believed that the female mouth and vagina were connected: “...the womb is a reversed jar with its own neck, mouth and lips, in sympathetic relationship with the corresponding parts of the upper female body...”34 The artist could have therefore only carved her mouth, 33 34
Lecture, Jan. 21, 2010. King 1995: 142.
slightly open, and left the genitals to oneâ€™s imagination. In my own opinion, the lack of any delineation in the genital area certainly, at the very least, shows the artistâ€™s lack of concern for depicting the female genitalia, as they were unimportant to the artwork. It seems clear to me that women would have been a foreign animal to the men of antiquity. Kept apart from the females for most of their youth, introduced to sex often not by women but by men, they would not be confronted with the female sexual organ until in their late teens at the very earliest. The vagina could have, therefore, been a possible source of confusion to the male of antiquity. The penis was natural, normal; many scholars of the day saw men as being perfect, and women as imperfect. Consider how often a man might be able to study a vagina. A man might have sex with a slave girl at the symposium as his first heterosexual encounter, but he may not look closely at her sexual organs. With the taboo on cunnilingus, a man would never come near to studying the vagina up close. When a man got married, he rarely saw his wife, as she generally lived within the confines of the gynaecium. This wife would come into the house a virgin, not used to having a man see her naked; she would most likely have been embarrassed about her nudity. Being at least a decade younger than her husband, she would definitely have been very shy around him. Being unused to sex as well, she may not have been enthusiastic about it, and sex may not have occurred very much at all between a husband and wife; marriages were about procreation, not love. Plutarch said that a husband should show his affection to his wife three times a month, to help with marital pressures.35 Thatâ€™s not to say that many, or even any, married men followed this advice, but just the fact that the notion was voiced gives us the idea that husbands did not interact with their wives much, except for the occasional attempt at procreation. This leaves slaves and prostitutes to get acquainted with the vagina, and it seems unlikely that a citizen man would debase himself to thoroughly examine any part of a slave or prostitute, rather than just use them for sex. Men were even encouraged to stay away from women, by the use of pederasty within society. The pedagogic love of a citizen boy was 35
Plut. Solon 20.3.
Volume V 2011
admired within the ancient society for many reasons. The erastes/ eromenos relationship was used to instruct youths in civic duty, at least in theory. It was also, however, utilized because to be around women too much, or to enjoy the company of them, was to become rather effeminate. The company of men, even sexual relations with other men, was seen as more manly. Indeed, Plato said that Socrates dismissed his wife Xanthippe from his deathbed, as he wanted to be only with his male companions.36 This strengthened the belief that women had nothing to offer, and were to be used only as sexual objects and producers of legitimate heirs. It seems to me, therefore, that the vagina may have remained something of a mystery to men, if only in part because they did not care enough about the sexual organs of their female partners to consider them. The vagina probably did not take up a lot of men’s thought processes when they were not thinking about sex. The vagina would have been completely useless to the man of ancient Greece or Rome, when it was not in relation to a penis. From the misogynistic viewpoint of the ancient world, as a woman was nothing without her man, so too was a vagina nothing without a penis. Even when depicting, not scenes of sex, but scenes of female masturbation on vase paintings, the women are always seen holding olisboi. The Greek or Roman man could not conceive of a woman getting sexual pleasure without a penis. This is evidenced by a line from Martial, “You are mistaken if you think this is a cunt when it no longer has anything to do with a cock.”37 A woman’s vagina would have been completely ignored and forgotten – until she was desired for sex by another man. Some men, however, tried to take a more scientific approach. Doctors of the ancient world sought to heal their female patients by studying them, and in doing so, came to the conclusion that women naturally were moist and cold, whereas men were hot and dry.38 Furthermore, women’s diseases were often caused either by the movements of their womb throughout their bodies, or by 36 37 38
Pl. Phd. 3.60A Mart. 10.90 Lecture, Jan. 26, 2010.
“blockages of menstrual or lochial bleeding.”39 Because it was what made women different from, and therefore inferior to, men, the vagina was thought to be the source of all problems to women; yet it was also where most cures were applied. Pessaries were often applied directly to the vagina, or even inserted into it.40 These salves, liquids or vaginal suppositories mixed from herbs and other healing materials were often used to call the womb back into place. Pessaries were used not only to cure diseases but also to bring about an abortion.41 These pessaries were often irritants, designed to repel the womb or to abort a foetus. Because of this, although they may have the desired effect, these types of medications “could cause ulcers, inflammation and septic abortions, leading to sterility or even death.”42 These methods of healing, brought about because doctors assumed that all women’s diseases were caused by the vagina and womb, were often fairly harmful to the woman. When a patient finally seemed better, often the telltale sign that they were cured was the return of menstruation.43 The decision of ancient doctors to describe most any abdominal pain as coming from the womb indicates the doctors’ tendency to describe most women’s illnesses as a result of their being female. In effect, doctors seemed to view the vagina and the womb connected to it as the source of most women’s problems. Finally, while the vagina more often than not induced disgust or indifference in the ancient Greek or Roman author, we do find the odd verse honouring the beauty of the vagina. While most of the time, the vagina excited little or no sexual arousal in men, there does seem to be one passage concerning the judgement of three young ladies’ “Meriones,”44 in which the judge describes each vagina in rather flowery verse: Rhodocleia’s was like alabaster, with fluid brow, 39 40 41 42 43 44
Demand 1994: 35. Kapparis 2002: 19. Ibid. Ibid., 21. Hippocrates, Places in Human Anatomy, 47. Greek Anthology 5.36.
Volume V 2011
like a newly carved statue of a god in a temple.45 As the verse ends with the judge “crowning” all three ladies, it can be assumed that the man was quite aroused by the women’s displays. This small fragment of literature shows us that the vagina was not always taken as an uninteresting or even repulsive part of the female anatomy; it could excite sexual arousal in the male viewer, particularly if the woman’s vagina was also displaying signs of sexual arousal, as were the ones described in the above verse. Proof of this attraction to a partner who reciprocates the desire for sex is found in Martial, where he describes the “itch” of a girl named Phlogis as being just as necessary as beauty.46 While it is true that female sexuality was often viewed as “excessive and threatening,”47 it is also obvious that not all men felt this way. The vagina could be a beautiful thing, described with just as much affection and elegance as any other part of the body. The enjoyment from sex, and the beauty of the woman’s vagina, is no more evident than in the passage that describes sex between a woman named Doris and the man who “became an immortal in her blooming flowers.”48 The use of the word “flowers” as a substitute for vagina is quite descriptive, and gives the impression of softness, floral scent, and beauty. This vagina is not as the many others described above, disgusting, unclean, and abhorrent to men. It is something lusted after, and is quite clearly a pleasure to its owner, as the following lines in the poem would lead one to believe. It seems apparent, therefore, that the vagina could incite some sexual arousal in the men of those times, even though most of the existing literature would lead us to think otherwise. The rarity of the displays of lust after a vagina, I believe, stems more from the desire to keep away from women and avoid showing much interest in them than it does from a feel of disgust towards the female genitals. The ancient views of the vagina differ significantly in the literature, and often in the art as well. The sexual advances 45 46 47 48
Ibid. Mart. 11.60. Zeitlin 1999: 60. Ap. 5.55.
of the old woman were to be avoided, while the luscious vagina of the young was to be sought after. Throughout the remaining literature, however, we do tend to see a pattern of either complete indifference towards the sexual organs of the authors’ sexual partners, or disgust in them. The vagina was not viewed as important within the ancient Greek or Roman societies, and so is mostly left unmentioned in the literature, while other sexual characteristics like the breasts and buttocks were revered and praised. The authors’ incredibly descriptive and often rather graphic prose on the subject leave one with a feeling that most men found the vagina completely abhorrent, especially as the subject’s owner grew older. The symbol of difference between man and woman, it was usually seen as the source of all women’s illnesses, and as such was usually the first thing to be treated when the woman was sick, often to the detriment of the patient. The vagina was, when not in clear view of a man, completely negligible to Greek and Roman society, and so was mostly ignored by men. It is because of this passivity that so little has been said about the female sexual organ, as well as women in general, and the struggle to find more sources for opinions on both the vagina and women as a whole is one that must continue if we are to ever really learn the full extent of both gendered halves of these two great societies.
Works Cited Demand, Nancy. Birth, Death, and Motherhood in Classical Greece. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1994. Kapparis, Konstantinos. Abortion in the Ancient World. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 2002. King, Helen. “Self Help, Self Knowledge: In Search of the Patient in Hippocratic Gynaecology,” in Women in Antiquity: New Assessments. Ed. Richard Hawley and Barbara Levick. London: Routledge, 1995. 135-148. Pomeroy, Sarah B. Goddesses, Whores, Wives & Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. New York: Schocken Books, 1975. Spivey, Nigel Jonathan. Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meanings, Modern Readings. New York: Thames and
Volume V 2011
Hudson, 1996. Zeitlin, Froma I. â€œReflections on Erotic Desire in Archaic and Classical Greece,â€? in Constructions of the Classical Body. Ed. James I. Porter. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999. 50-76.
Lauren Flynn is a third year student in the Classical Studies program. She wrote this paper for her Ancient Sexuality class.
Volume V 2011
Dramatic Interpretations: The Representations of Women Artists in the Films Artemisia, Camille Claudel, and Frida By Erika Marczak
Film is one way through which the art world can enter into the sphere of the mass media. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, films based on the biographies of artists have brought art topics before a broad audience. Famous artists can acquire even greater notoriety once their stories are consumed by popular culture. In the past few decades, films about women artists have brought historical figures to the forefront. Three such films, Camille Claudel (1988), Artemisia (1997), and Frida (2002), depict the lives of historically significant women artists. The representations of the women in all three of these films reveals an attempt to appeal to a mass audience. The films invoke Hollywood conventions of romance and melodrama, and they portray the women artists as highly sexual and male-dependent. Camille Claudel, Artemisia, and Frida depict the lives of women artists who were fairly obscure during their time but have received recognition in recent decades. The feminist movement of the 1970s resulted in an expansion of the male-dominant art history canon to include women artists who had been excluded and forgotten.1 The Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593- ca. 1653) was reasonably successful during her lifetime and received commissions for her work, but following her death, she received little attention from art historians until the emergence of gender criticism in the 1960s and 70s.2 The French sculptor Camille Claudel (1864-1943), although she received praise from prominent critics during her lifetime, sold little work and had few commissions.3 The Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) achieved some success during her lifetime, but during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, her popularity grew far beyond the success she
received during her lifetime.4 The popular success of the films Artemisia, Camille Claudel, and Frida accompanies a greater shift in cultural attention towards women artists, but the films also help to increase that posthumous attention. While the artists are, at least, receiving some overdue recognition, they are also endowed with a celebrity status which has the potential to distort and exaggerate the reality of their lives. They become characters to be consumed for the entertainment of the masses. Biographical films about artists can be difficult to produce accurately. Historical information is often pieced together from various sources and the film often ends up as a combination of both fact and fiction.5 Even when accurate historical information is known, film makers may choose to adapt aspects of the film for theatrical effect or to appeal to a certain audience. The film Artemisia has been highly criticized for its distortion of historical knowledge. According to historical records, Artemisia Gentileschi was raped by her painting teacher Agostino Tassi and he was brought to trial and found guilty.6 In the film, the relationship between Gentileschi and Tassi is turned into a love story. The rape scene shows Gentileschi briefly protesting but then submitting to Tassi’s persuasion. Tassi is portrayed as gentle and apologetic, and in a following scene, it is Gentileschi who initiates sex with Tassi. The couple develop a relationship and it is Gentileschi’s father who reports the rape after he hears about the relationship. Gentileschi is devasted and confronts her father. The father proclaims, ìHe raped you!î and Gentileschi replies, ìHe gave me pleasure!î7 Furthermore, during the trial, Gentileschi never states that Tassi raped her. It is Tassi who confesses to the crime when Gentileschi is being tortured to tell the truth. Historical records do not suggest that Gentileschi denied the rape and was protective of Tassi. In fact, Tassi supposedly denied the charges against him and claimed that Gentileschi was promiscuous.8 The film masquerades as an historical film (through carefully recreated costumes and sets), but it takes artistic license in portraying a love story based on limited historical evidence.9 Although the film Artemisia is French, not American, it has been criticized for conforming to a conventional
Volume V 2011
Hollywood presentation of tragic romance.10 The filmmakers prioritized the appeal of a love story over the accurate portrayal of historical events. Camille Claudel, which is also a French film, has similarly been criticized for conforming to Hollywood conventions.11 It focuses more on emotional melodrama than it does on Claudel’s struggle as a female artist in a time period which was not supportive of female artists.12 Melodrama is the genre most stereotypically associated with women. It typically employs a dramatic narrative centered around a woman who is the recipient of male desire.13 The emotional ups and downs of the character’s experience are marked by musical accompaniment which adds dramatic feeling to the narrative.14 The film Camille Claudel employs this emotional drama. In one scene, after Claudel ends her love affair with the sculptor Auguste Rodin, she passionately attacks a piece of clay which she had been in the process of sculpting. Sensuous orchestral music highlights the emotion of this scene. The art becomes an outlet for emotional suffering. This makes art an accessory to the emotional narrative. Claudel’s art is less of a focus in the film than her tumultuous love affair with her mentor Rodin. This makes the film more accessible to a wide audience accustomed to the conventional melodramatic tragic romance. The film Frida is likewise a conventionally ìHollywoodî interpretation of history. Similar to Artemisia and Camille Claudel, Frida focuses on a dramatic love affair. In the case of Frida, it is the depiction of Frida Kahlo’s tumultuous marriage to the muralist Diego Rivera. The couple’s marriage is portrayed as alternately passionate and bitter. Both Kahlo and Rivera engage in extramarital affairs, but Kahlo is shown as having emotional difficulty with Rivera’s unfaithfulness. One scene in particular depicts Kahlo walking in on her sister and Rivera having sex. Kahlo’s reaction is highly emotional. She throws various objects at Rivera while screaming, ìMy goddamn sister! You’re an animal!î15 She then collapses in tears. Kahlo’s emotions throughout the film are
dramatized with melodramatically superimposed music.16 The film centers around Kahlo’s suffering: the emotional suffering in her marriage along with the physical suffering which resulted from a streetcar accident. The streetcar accident caused major injuries and complications which plagued Kahlo for her entire life. This is not necessarily an inaccurate portrayal since Kahlo once said herself, ìI have suffered two grave accidents in my life. One in which a streetcar ran over me...The other accident is Diego.î17 Nevertheless, the tragedy and suffering in Kahlo’s life would have been attractive to filmmakers looking to appeal to a wide audience. Of the three films, Frida seems to dedicate the most screen time to the artist’s actual work. Several still shots of Kahlo’s paintings are included in the film. They are harmoniously inserted into the film at moments when they relate to the events of the storyline. Animated sequences even morph the figures in the paintings into the film’s characters. This technique creates effective transitions between the art work and the film sequences. Nevertheless, Frida along with the other two films, Artemisia and Camille Claudel, takes advantage of the romance and melodrama suggested in the biographies of the artists. Artemisia, in particular, exaggerates the romantic and dramatic aspects of Gentileschi’s biography. As accompaniments to the romantic story lines in Artemisia, Camille Claudel, and Frida, the women artists are portrayed in these films as highly sexual. In Artemisia, a scene close to the beginning of the film shows Gentileschi examining her own body as a source for drawing anatomically accurate figures. Because she is in a convent and she is doing this secretly by candlelight, there is a sense of forbidden sexuality. In a scene shortly following, Gentileschi secretly witnesses a couple on the beach having sex. She watches with interest and after the couple has left, she goes over to the spot and lies down in the indentation in the sand where the woman had been lying. It is as though Gentileschi is trying to imagine what it would have been like to be that woman. These scenes establish the Gentileschi character as being unconventionally open to nudity and curious about sex.
Volume V 2011
Her enthusiasm to draw from nude male models and her sexual relationship with Tassi are also aspects of the film which depict Gentileschi as sexual. Since the film also informs the viewer that women were not allowed to draw from nude male models during that time period and that respectable women did not engage in pre-marital sex, the viewer is shown that Gentileschi’s sexuality went against the social expectations of women during that time period. This reinforces a stereotype about artists being openly or unconventionally sexual. The Claudel character in Camille Claudel is similarly portrayed as unconventionally sexual. Not only does she work with nude male models and engage in a love affair with Rodin (who has a common-law wife), but her relationship with her brother, Paul Claudel, is implied as an incestuous relationship.18 One scene shows Camille and Paul lying in bed together as though they were lovers. Paul says to Camille, ìYou look at me so sweetly,î and Camille replies, ìIs that a sin?î19 Later on, after Camille starts seeing Rodin, Paul tells her that he is going away. In this scene, Camille and Paul seem more like parting lovers than they do brother and sister.20 These aspects of the film suggest to the viewer that Camille does not conform to societal expectations about sexuality. In Frida, Frida Kahlo is portrayed as sexual from a young age. In a scene near the beginning of the film, when Kahlo is still a student, she is shown having sex with her boyfriend. Throughout the film, Kahlo has extra-marital affairs with both men and women. Her bisexuality is used in the film as a means of appealing to an audience through visual pleasure. According to Seth Fein, the film ìconventionally eroticizes Kahlo’s bisexuality, never meaningfully exploring emotional or intellectual aspects of her romantic relationships with other women.î21 This shows how sexuality is used in the film to appeal to the scopophilic viewing pleasure of the audience.
The films, Artemisia, Camille Claudel, and Frida, also portray the women artists they depict as being fairly dependent on the males they engage with. In Artemisia, Gentileschi admires and exalts the painter Tassi. She begs him to take her on as a pupil. He refuses at first and relents only when Gentileschi’s father convinces him. This shows how the males in Gentileschi’s life make the decisions for her. Although Gentileschi is portrayed as strong-willed and unconventional, she is still fairly dependent on the work of Tassi.22 In addition, she is highly influenced by the work of her father, Orazio Gentileschi, who was also a successful painter. These details emphasize the male influences in Gentileschi’s life.23 This male influence is, of course, an aspect of the time period in which she lived, but the film highlights this male-dependence by excluding the later years of Gentileschi’s life when she became more successful and received her own commissions from major patrons.24 The film only focuses on a period in Gentileschi’s life when she was under the influence of her father and Tassi, and consequently endured a rape trial. In Camille Claudel, Claudel also becomes dependent on her male mentor with whom she has a love affair. She admires Rodin’s artistic ability and she longs to become his apprentice. When she does become his apprentice, there is a period of time during which she loses her own artistic identity.25 A scene in the film shows that her father has recognized this. He says, ìSince you met Rodin you’ve done no work of your own [...] You’ve exhibited nothing yet this year [...] My daughter didn’t wait for Rodin in order to exist!î26 By the end of the film, Claudel regains her own artistic direction. After she ends her love affair with Rodin, she attempts to differentiate her work from his. She sculpts clothed figures (Rodin did nudes) and she depicts scenes from everyday life.27 Nevertheless, this differentiation from Rodin only occurs after Rodin has rejected Claudel by refusing to marry her. Her return to artistic independence, therefore, results from anger and
Volume V 2011
bitterness towards Rodin. During her love affair with Rodin, she was consumed by her infatuation with him, and her own integrity suffered. The portrayal of Kahlo’s integrity also suffers in the film Frida. The film has been criticized for depicting Kahlo as dependent on male mentors. An earlier biographical film based on Kahlo’s life, Frida, naturaleza viva (directed by Paul Leduc, 1984), depicts Kahlo as being more independently active and outspoken in politics whereas in the more recent film, Kahlo seems to follow along with the political activism of the male figures in the film.28 The film also depicts Kahlo’s support and admiration of her husband’s work. It is only after leaving Rivera that she focuses more on her own work. In all three films, the women artists have less artistic integrity when they are romantically involved with their male mentors. All three women also went on to gain greater independence once separated from their lovers, yet the films focus more on the romantic relationships than on the later independence of the women. This reinforces the idea of women artists depending on and being influenced by male artistic masters. Artemisia, Camille Claudel, and Frida are films which attempt to garner recognition for women artists who were once excluded from the art historical canon. All three films were successful in this respect. They brought the lives and works of Artemisia Gentileschi, Camille Claudel, and Frida Kahlo into the popular media. Nevertheless, these films are less feminist than they may initially appear because they retain many of the patriarchal conventions of melodrama and sexually objectified women. These films must be considered only as interpretations of reality. History-based popular film has the task of working with available historical knowledge in addition to appealing to a wide audience. These films, therefore, should be viewed with the understanding that they are designed to be entertaining. They take the biographies of women artists and translate them into the language of the mass media by highlighting the romance and drama.
Bibliography Artemisia. DVD. Directed by Agnès Merlet. France: Miramax Zoë, 1997. Benedetti, Laura. “Reconstructing Artemisia: Twentieth-Century Images of a Woman Artist.” Comparative Literature 51, no. 1 (1999): 42-61. Camille Claudel. DVD. Directed by Bruno Nuytten. France: Gaumont, 1988. Fein, Seth. ìFrida/Frida, Naturaleza Viva.î American Historical Review 108, no. 4 (2003): 1261-1263. Frida. DVD. Directed by Julie Taymor. USA: Miramax, 2002. Lindauer, Margaret A. Devouring Frida: The Art History and Popular Celebrity of Frida Kahlo. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1999. Lynch, Joan Driscoll. ìCamille Claudel: Biography Constructed as Melodrama.î In The Literature/Film Reader: Issues of Adaptation, edited by James M. Welsh and Peter Lev, 259- 269. Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2007. Pollock, Griselda. ìFeminist Dilemmas with the Art/Life Problem.î In The Artemisia Files: Artemisia Gentileschi for Feminists and Other Thinking People, edited by Mieke Bal, 169206. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005. Walker, John A. Art and Artists on Screen. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993.
Erika Marczak is a third year student in Visual Arts. She studies both studio art and art history. She wrote this paper for her Art and
Volume V 2011 Mass Media class.
Volume V 2011
Geoffrey’s Double Role in The Canterbury Tales: Defending the Text’s Performative Aspects By Kimberly Rodda
V.A. Kolve posits Chaucer’s reader—medieval or otherwise—in a problematic relation to The Canterbury Tales, arguing that the text becomes performative when a speaker recites it to an audience. This speaker, “on behalf of the poet, exercises a maximum power over the experience as a whole” (Kolve 16). For the audience, “the work is the performance” (16); the text itself becomes secondary to its oral presentation. A reader, by contrast, accesses “the book as a physical object, in which all the words of the poem co-exist at any given moment,” with the “freedom” to flip through pages at will (16). In neither case does Kolve consider the “auctoritee” (Chaucer, W o B 1) of the text itself, with its inherently performative nature. By attributing “maximum power” to the speaker and individual reader, Kolve denies the authority of Chaucer the poet, whose text performs through the language of Chaucer the pilgrim, or Geoffrey. The latter plays a double role, as both character and narrator. The presence of Geoffrey’s narratorial voice forms the foundation of the text’s performative nature. The text’s structure allows Geoffrey to shift from a descriptive to a demonstrative mode of narration, following Brecht’s dramatic principles, as he performs the voices of the tale-tellers, his fellow pilgrims. Through this narrative style, Geoffrey creates the illusion of multiple voices, and Chaucer thus succeeds in deploying a performative text to the reader. Indeed, Kolve’s argument is flawed because it fails to recognize the value of private reading. Textual references to the act of reading together with guiding elements of the manuscript, notably glosses and visual cues, prove that Chaucer did not intend for his audience to experience The Canterbury Tales exclusively through recitation, but also wrote for the individual reader. Private reading actually trumps recitation in terms of experiencing the text’s performative nature, which takes root in
Geoffrey’s language, because only readerly interaction with the physical text reveals the full extent of the narrator’s dramatic presence. This dramatic presence is two-fold. Geoffrey betrays awareness of his double role as character—a pilgrim “with ful devout corage” (Chaucer, GP 22)—and as narrator, telling “this tale” (36), and bringing attention to the text as such. As he lays the story’s foundation in The General Prologue, the pilgrim creates the illusion through reflexive language that he, rather than the persona of Chaucer the poet, authors the text. The narrator establishes an authorial relationship with the reader, through direct address: “as I yow devyse” (34). He “presents himself” (Nolan 512) to the reader not simply as the first-person narrator, but as the writer. Nolan’s “pilgrim as auctor” (522) reflects on the restrictions of “tyme and space” (Chaucer, GP 25), cementing the illusion that the fictional pilgrim is writing the text. Geoffrey takes it upon himself to describe the “companye” (24) to the reader: “Me thinketh it acordaunt to reason / To tell yow al the condicioun / Of ech of hem” (37 – 39). However, this is no infallible author. He continues, clarifying, “so as it seemed me” (39), and later in the Prologue continues to address the reader directly: “I prey yow to foryeve it me, / Al have I nat set folk in hir degree / Here in this tale” (743 – 745). His “wit,” in his defence, “is short” (746). This he admits to “ye” (746), addressing the audience of a recitation in the plural, or the individual reader with respect. In either case, the performative nature of the text emerges through the language of the text itself, as Chaucer the poet ironically acts out the voice of a slow-witted pilgrim. Taking Geoffrey not exclusively as the narrator, but also as the fictional “auctor” of the text has implications: in recording the voices of his fellow pilgrims, he simultaneously acts their parts, mediating the audience’s experience of the tales. Geoffrey may not be a talented writer—the Host urges him to “telle in prose” (934) his Tale of Melibee, since such “drasty ryming is nat worth a tord” (930)—but he proves himself a gifted actor. In The General Prologue, the narrator becomes “a player with voices” (Nolan 518). He promises to speak “hir words properly” (Chaucer, GP 729),
Volume V 2011
yet reminds the reader that he “pleynly” (727) does the speaking. Indeed, Geoffrey colours readerly interpretation of each pilgrim’s tale through his character descriptions in the General Prologue, very consciously: “I told you soothly, in a clause, / Th’estaat, th’array, the nombre, and eek the cause” of the “compaignye” (715 – 717)—details which, “cause” especially, imply an inherently subjective approach. However tempting it may be to comment on the polyphony of voices within The Canterbury Tales, it is essential to remember that the text’s overarching structure arranges these voices as “a series of impersonations” (Nolan 512) by Geoffrey. Relating the tales to the reader falls under Geoffrey’s textual authority as narrator. Though each tale-teller maintains a unique voice, the narrator mediates the reader’s experience by setting the tale-tellers in context, and presenting their tales through impersonation. Without Geoffrey’s presence as actor as much as “auctor,” The Canterbury Tales would be nothing more than a medieval compilation, rather than a “fiction enclosing other fictions” (Kolve 4). Geoffreys’s moments of direct narration bridge the gaps between various tales, providing cohesion. Appearing in the Miller’s Prologue, when “the Knight had thus his tale y-told” (3109), the narrator creates a transition between the texts by describing the Miller’s drunken interruption and promise to “quyte the Knightes tale” (3119). Geoffrey continues his direct narration to warn the reader that, since the “Millere is a cherl” (3183), it might be wiser to “chese another tale” (3177). By placing the tales in a larger context of which the narrator is aware—a contest for a free “soper” (GP 799)—Chaucer the poet creates a unified text which draws its diversity purely from Geoffrey’s voice-throwing skills. Through his narratorial voice, Geoffrey therefore constructs the text as a performance, whether an audience experiences the text through its recitation, or through private reading. The narrator undoubtedly composes his text with both the listener—“as ye may heere” (KT 858)—and the reader—“[t]urne over the leef, and chese another tale” (MT 3177)—in mind. However, the text incorporates certain performative aspects that cannot translate into oral presentation; Kolve’s “work” that “is the performance” (16) fails to
represent the full performative potential of the text. This potential emerges through the interference of Geoffrey’s voice into the tales he pretends to record directly. While a reciter’s voice remains singular, Chaucer’s text captures many voices. Even as Geoffrey performs the voices of other characters, his own voice occasionally emerges within their tales. This distinction, in an oral presentation, remains ambiguous. A private reading of the Ellesmere manuscript, however, draws attention to the author’s voice: Auctor is a recurring gloss. The significance of this recurring gloss requires some rhetorical study—though ‘Auctor’ does not strictly denote authorial intrusion, the effect is ultimately the same. The Ellesmere glosses mark “examples of the intrusive figure apostrophe (invariably marked ‘Auctor’)” (Hanna 13). Apostrophe within the text, however, implies the relationship between the author and reader, recalling Geoffrey’s habit of addressing the reader directly throughout the General Prologue and narration between tales. Hence the addition of “Auctor” to distinguish the narrator’s address of “O stormy people! unsad and evere untrewe!” (995) from the remainder of the Clerk’s Tale. The “Auctor” interrupts the tales to offer personal commentary, expounding upon “Sowdanesse, roote of iniquitee!” (225) in the Man of Law’s Tale, and imploring the reader to “Herke this conseil” (294) after a discussion of “sodeyn wo, that evere art successour / To worldly blisse” (290 – 291). The Merchant’s Tale incorporates a slew of such asides, including “O perilous fyr” (1783), “[o] sudden hap! O thou Fortune unstable” (2057), “O Januarie” (2107), and “O noble Ovyde” (2125). The gloss is notably absent in Chaucer’s two tales, of Sir Thopas and Melibee, in which the voices of the tale-teller and narrator coincide. While the Ellesmere manuscript was not penned by Chaucer himself, it possesses a degree of textual authority, both dictating how a modern audience interprets the text today, and offering a medieval interpretation. Thus the manuscript clarifies ambiguity between voices, in a way that would be impossible to demonstrate during a recitation without breaking poetic rhythm. More effectively than Kolve’s “reciter” (16), the act of reading serves as a continual reminder of the narrator’s presence by implying that a writer is at work. This heightens the illusion
Volume V 2011
Chaucer creates through his language that his pilgrim-self plays an authorial role. Seeing words on the page—especially the hand-written words of a manuscript—becomes only part of this exclusively textual reminder. Clear divisions of the tales, such as the four-part Knight’s Tale, and “running titles” along the tops of pages “guide the reader’s progress through a lengthy text” (Hanna 12). Besides these visual reminders, reading the manuscript and its glosses further troubles the assumption that the narrator’s voice does not interfere in the tales of the other pilgrims. The Ellesmere manuscript titles the song at the conclusion of the Clerk’s Tale “L’envoy de Chaucer,” or Chaucer’s Envoy, pointing to Geoffrey’s presence as the fictive author. The running title “Chaucer” across the Prologue and Tale of Sir Thopas likewise reminds the reader of the narrator’s presence, and heightens the illusion of Geoffrey’s double role, as both character and author. The “Chaucer” of the running title corresponds to the “me” (695) whose “drasty speche” makes the Host’s “eres aken” (293). The running titles continue through the narrator’s Tale of Melibee, creating multiple points of correspondence between “Chaucer” and the many personal pronouns—“quod I” (926, 936), “I wol telle yow” (937), “as I suppose” (938), “I shall yow devyse” (942), “I mene” (951), “I varie” (954)—that the narrator uses. Until the last page, where “taketh the makere of this book his leve” (956), the narrator refuses to remove his textual presence. Furthermore, even where Geoffrey does not bridge tales with straight narration, he sustains his presence and guides the reader by announcing the text’s direction: “[h]eere is ended the knyghtes tale / Heere folwen the words bitwene the hoost and the Millere” (Ellesmere). Through his language, Geoffrey thus becomes a demonstrative narrator, rather than simply descriptive, as the “guiding” (Hanna 12) nature of the manuscript emphasizes. The narrator guides the reader through the text by maintaining an authorial presence. “Heere,” he motions to the reader, “endeth the Wyf of Bathe hir Prologe / And bigynneth hir tale” (Ellesmere). Such instances of narratorial intrusion provide visual cues, rather than oral, and imply an active reader, rather than a passive listener: the tale begins “Heere,” rather than “now.” The pilgrimage “has
taken place; what you are seeing now is a repeat” (Brecht 122), as Geoffrey presents the illusion of himself penning the experience. Chaucer’s text unfolds as a performance according to Brecht’s dramatic principles. Geoffrey presents the other characters’ voices as Brecht argues an actor must present his role: “the actor must remain a demonstrator; he must present the person demonstrated as a stranger” (125). Brecht warns that the actor “must not go so far as to be wholly transformed into the person demonstrated” (125); Geoffrey takes on other voices, but retains his identity. “The feelings of the demonstrator and demonstrated are not merged into one” (125), because Geoffrey reminds the reader of his own presence, distinct from other characters even as he impersonates their voices. This demonstration gains clarity with the addition, as in the Ellesmere manuscript, of headings describing the contents of each passage which remind the reader that the text is authored. Geoffrey has “written down the subject’s exact words, learnt them by heart and rehearsed them” (Brecht 127). In reciting the pilgrims’ “words properly” (Chaucer, GP 729), Geoffrey “is performing a text he has learned” (Brecht 127). There is no illusion of immediacy—the performative nature of the text emerges through Chaucer the poet’s illusion of the fictional narrator as “makere of this booke” (CR 956), and the grand illusion that the pilgrims’ voices exist outside Geoffrey’s pen. The company’s pilgrimage operates on more than one level, much as Biblical texts do according to St. Augustine. Ostensibly the text traces a literal pilgrimage, to Canterbury; however, the pilgrimage is equally allegorical, representing a spiritual journey. In the Parson’s Prologue, the “thorpes end” (12) to which the pilgrims come implies that “the pilgrimage seems no longer to have Canterbury as its destination,” but instead “the Celestial City of which the Parson speaks” (Donaldson 510). Ultimately, the allegorical reading becomes the more significant, as the pilgrimage tradition by design includes a spiritual dimension, mimicking the Christian’s journey to the “fatherland” of Heaven, according to St. Augustine (327). The performative nature of the text likewise functions on two levels: the actual performance of a recitation, and the allegorical performance of a private reading. Performative
Volume V 2011
aspects emerge through the reflexive language of Geoffrey, who functions through his narration to construct a unified text. Throughout the text, he performs the voices of other characters, demonstrating authorial “auctoritee.” Chaucer’s language thus provides a foundation for the text’s performative nature, widening Kolve’s image of “a poem incorporating other poems, a fiction enclosing other fictions” (4) to include a performance featuring other performances. Just as St. Augustine considers the allegorical meaning of a Biblical text more significant than the literal, private reading outweighs oral presentation, since the latter limits the performative nature of the text. Engaging directly with the manuscript through the act of reading allows the reader to observe authorial intrusion in the tales, and heightens awareness of Geoffrey’s presence as “auctor.” The manuscript reveals the demonstrative nature of the narratorial voice, which, according to Brecht, emphasizes the dramatic quality, and hence performative nature, of the text. Throughout The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey sustains the illusion of his role as author, as a fictional extension of Chaucer the poet. Works Cited Brecht, Bertolt. “The Street Scene.” Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. Ed. and Trans. John Willett. New York: Hill and Wang, 1964. 121-9. Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue. Ed. V. A. Kolve and Glending Olson. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1989. Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales ~ Presented by The Electronic Literature Foundation. The Electronic Literature Foundation, 1999. Web. 22 Nov. 2010. <http://www.canterburytales.org/canterbury_tales.html>. Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Ellesmere Manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: A Working Facsimile. Cambridge: Boydell and Brever, 1989. Donaldson, E. Talbot. “Chaucer the Pilgrim.” The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1989. 503-11.
Hanna III, Ralph. “Introduction.” The Ellesmere Manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: A Working Facsimile. Cambridge: Boydell and Brever, 1989. 1-28. Kolve, V. A. Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative: The First Five Canterbury Tales. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1984. Google Books. Web. 22 Nov. 2010. <http://books.google.ca/ books?hl=en&lr=&id=USW1GqN-28oC&oi=fnd&pg=PP15&dq =chaucer canterbury tales&ots=bLX4uahiYe&sig=3Lb3t0JdcmMi1Ul3YYmkaAc5hM# v=onepage&q&f=false>. Nolan, Barbara. ““A Poet There Was”: Chaucer’s Voices in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales.” The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1989. 511-33. St. Augustine. “Human Life as a Pilgrimage.”The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1989. 326-7. Kimberly Rodda is in the third year of her honours specialization in English, and wrote this paper for Professor Moll’s course on Middle English Language and Literature.
Volume V 2011
The Dark Side of Love: Contemporary Gothic Depictions of Love in Brite’s Drawing Blood and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and “Paparazzi” By Briana Maguire
The modern gothic culture represents love as a tool capable of more than just rousing butterflies in one’s stomach. Various gothic representations in literature and music focus their depictions of love on its darker aspects. Writer Poppy Z. Brite explores the horrors associated with love in Drawing Blood, as does musician Lady Gaga in her music videos “Bad Romance” and “Paparazzi.” The material that gothic artists, such as Brite and Gaga, produce often depict how being in love renders the smitten to a state of emotional and physical vulnerability. Furthermore, the gothic genre focuses on how love can be harmful or hazardous to one’s life. In true gothic nature, the genre’s subject matter borderlines social taboos, narrating explicit details of lovers’ sexual encounters and pleasure-filled fantasies. Both Brite’s and Gaga’s work pertain to the dark side of love and reflect the gothic’s fascination with the ramifications of being in love, such as emotions of vulnerability, danger to one’s wellbeing, and a focus on highly erotic experiences. Love is often regarded as a positive emotion that evokes feelings of happiness; however, one emotion that is also evoked by love but often overlooked is that of helplessness. The modern gothic genre explores how being in love can render a person vulnerable to their loved one. Brite highlights this notion when Zach thinks, “the second you make yourself vulnerable to someone, they start drawing blood” (Brite 205). In this respect, Brite’s character is alluding to what happens when one lets one’s guard down - how after one comes to trust a person wholeheartedly the emotional walls of self-defence slacken, thus making it easier for a lover to strike when you least expect it. Zach makes his approach to intimacy clear when we says that he “do[es]n’t
usually have sex with people [he] respects” (215). Zach is aware of the effects of intercourse and how it often leads to a romance; moreover, he is aware of how being in love can be used as a tool for emotional manipulation; yet he does not wish to use to it weaken his friends. When lovers are in sync both emotionally and physically they sometimes feel as though they inhabit one body, only reaching their full potential as human beings when they are with their partner. Without their other half, lovers can feel weakened or reduced to lesser versions of themselves. When Zach is in Birdland he thinks if he does not take Trevor back with him it would be like leaving behind his brain or his heart. Zach notes, “that was how deeply people become grafted into you when you love them like this” (309). Their love connection is so strong that even when Zach takes off his glasses to perform on stage he can feel Trevor’s presence in the crowd without even seeing him; he equates their bond to a strand of invisible energy, connecting them like a web (294). Incidentally, causing harm to your lover can be interpreted as self-destructive behaviour because many gothic artists try to establish a focus that shows how couples in love are like two spirits integrated into one. When Trevor and Zach make up after a big fight, Trevor reinforces this notion when he contemplates how the reflection of his own body can be seen in Zach’s: “He could feel their very souls, their molten cores of pain, flowing together like white–hot metals” (207). Therefore, it can be argued that love in contemporary gothic weakens an individual and contrasts how incomplete or helpless one is without their significant other, as demonstrated by the relationship of Zach and Trevor in Brite’s Drawing Blood. Equally, Gaga’s music reflects society’s understanding of the helplessness that transpires in the presence of love in the imagery she creates in her music video and song lyrics. The rendition of “Bad Romance” depicts Gaga at a bathhouse in a position of slavery being sold off to the highest bidder of a mob group. The opening line of the song reads, “Oh, caught in a bad romance.” What exactly constitutes a “bad romance” is left up to the audience to interpret; however, Gaga insinuates that she
Volume V 2011
is trapped in a situation against her will, as she fights against the bathhouse attendants to be removed from the tub, force fed a drink, and then compelled to dance for the mobsters. This is a different type of helplessness from the one discussed in Brite’s novel, as the love Gaga is met with is not natural and reciprocated, but forced and bought. Thus, Gaga is victimized by the mobsters’ search for love. Her helplessness is further illustrated in the closeup shots that show Gaga with tears in her eyes as she repeatedly says, “caught in a bad romance.” Feelings of helplessness are also evident when the attendants forcibly remove Gaga’s trench coat, exposing her body to the mobsters. Embarrassed, Gaga tries to use her hands to conceal herself. Hence, it can be argued that Gaga’s feelings of helplessness result from the mobsters’ pursuit of love; their presence alone is the reason why she is made so exposed and vulnerable. Another strong visual of Gaga’s helplessness is seen when she is naked and enclosed in what appears to be a dark metal shower stall. This display creates a grim image for her audience of a caged and defenseless animal. Gaga’s message to society can be interpreted as a warning about love and how it has the power to generate a state of helplessness. Gaga continues to examine helplessness as a negative repercussion of love in her music video “Paparazzi.” Two types of love are presented in this video: romantic love with a partner, and constant and attentive love from the public. At times these two types overlap as Gaga shows an interest in being loved by both her boyfriend and the tabloids. Feelings of helplessness first surface when Gaga trusts her lover so completely that she gets blind-sided by his betrayal. After reaffirming their love for each other Gaga allows her boyfriend to carry her out onto the balcony ledge and, without her knowledge, situates her perfectly in view of the awaiting paparazzi. The volatile love that Gaga experiences in her relationship victimizes her, as she gets physically overpowered and thrown from the balcony. The image of physical weakness and vulnerability is then manifested when Gaga emerges from her fall, body damaged and broken and career slighted by the media. Moreover, Gaga is depicted as helpless when she has to rely on the help of her male attendants to place her in a wheel chair and pass
her crutches. Thus without love from her boyfriend and attention from the paparazzi Gaga is reduced to a weaker version of herself, in the sense that she is not reaching her full potential as a woman or an artist without love in her life. Parallels can be drawn between how Gaga feels desolate without love and the way Zach and Trevor do not feel whole when apart from each other. Correspondingly, for Gaga fame is love and the obsession with securing love is a reflection of society’s preoccupation with “fame whoring.” The vulnerability that stems from Gaga’s attempt at finding love with a romantic partner and simultaneously from the media represents a willingness to jeopardize everything for affection, but which only produces feelings of dependency or helplessness. In short, “Paparazzi” highlights darker aspects of love, especially the feelings of weakness that can result from a disagreement with a romantic partner and/or the dissolution of a reputation among the media. In addition to rendering people vulnerable, being in love is often regarded as having a dangerous or lethal element that gets overlooked in contemporary society’s depiction of love. Brite draws attention to the perils of love by exposing how in loving someone it is possible to love them too much for their own good, consequently jeopardizing their wellbeing. An example of this is evident by the love Robert (Bobby) McGee has for his family and the love his son Trevor has for Zach. Bobby’s love can be described as violent, brutish, and a twisted display of affection, as he viciously bludgeons his wife Rosena and their three-year-old son Didi to death before he commits suicide. Growing up, Trevor believed that the reason why Bobby did this was because his father loved his mother and brother more than him. He asks, “If you loved someone, really loved them, wouldn’t you want to take them with you when you died?” (Brite 110). Trevor believes that Bobby did not love him because he consciously chose to leave him behind in the world of the living. But it is Zach’s interpretation of Trevor’s family that leads Trevor to conclude quite the opposite: “if you love someone then you want them to be alive” (235). Most would agree with Zach’s conclusion; however, it would seem as though the McGee men take love to an extreme as they set out to harm
Volume V 2011
those they care about, demonstrating the gothic’s understanding of the dangers associated with love. Furthermore, Trevor, like his father, reminds readers about the dangers surrounding love with respect to his boyfriend Zach. Even though Trevor repeatedly harms Zach, their relationship never falters: “The first time I saw ever laid eyes on you; I tried to knock your brains out. Now I’ve poisoned you. How come you’re still here?” (186). The response Zach gives insinuates that he is not in this relationship for his health (186). Trevor gets violent with Zach several times throughout the novel; an example can be seen when he punches Zach in the face after he confronts Trevor about his idea of committing suicide: “Trevor realized that he had not been ready to just hit Zach, but to repeatedly hit him until he either shut up or died, he didn’t know which” (204). Seemingly, Trevor’s anger and rage do not cancel out his feelings of love towards Zach; rather, they complicate their relationship further by mixing emotions of affection amid aggression. When Zach and Trevor become intimate, Trevor’s thoughts race: “Its too fast… It’s too dangerous! He’ll drink your juices and taste your brain, crack your soul open like an egg!” (209). Trevor then says, “Hell, I think I want him to do all that” (209). It is clear that Bobby’s twisted understanding of love has been passed on to his son, as Trevor believes, “if you love someone, you should know their body inside and out. You should be willing to taste it, breathe it, wallow in it” (236). Moreover, Brite’s text suggests that Trevor struggles with the boundaries of being in love and loving someone too much that you end up physically hurting them. Trevor says, “How do I even know I won’t hurt you? Your flesh feels so good in my mouth, between my fingers, sometimes I just want to keep pulling and tearing and chewing” (252). Bobby influences Trevor’s perception of love and justifies the use of violence by professing, “It’s because you love them, because you want all their secrets, not just the ones they decide to show you. And after you take them apart, you know everything” (348). Bobby and Trevor’s violent treatment of the ones they love signify the risks that are often overlooked in society’s representation of the notion of love. Similar to Brite’s novel, the dangers of being in love,
or of loving someone, surface in Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and “Paparazzi” videos. “Bad Romance” depicts a story of Gaga being dominated by the employees of a bathhouse for the overall benefit of mobsters. The video opens with the camera panning over coffin-like pods; this imagery gives off the impression of death or impending doom before the lyrics even begin. Gaga’s wellbeing is jeopardized as the attendants toss her around forcefully and physically abuse her in an attempt to make her put on a dance show. The love that Gaga exhibits towards the man that purchases her is an example of lethal love. Albeit her feelings for him are not genuine, because she has to pretend like she is interested; however it is because of the mobster’s quest for Gaga’s love that danger ensues. To illustrate the hazardous effects that can arise in the presence of love, Gaga lights the mobster’s bedroom on fire; his carpet, bed, and night stand all burn and the mobster himself perishes. By destroying the mobster as well as his bedroom, the primary location of lovemaking, Gaga is drawing the contemporary gothic genre’s attention to how love is capable of evoking very extreme emotions, and in some instances criminal or lethal behaviour. Likewise, in her other music video “Paparazzi,” Gaga revisits the notion of lethal love as she seeks revenge on her boyfriend while simultaneously regaining her title as a successful pop icon in the media. The importance of demonstrating how Gaga presents love is to illustrate how the unconventional aspects of love fascinate gothic artists, who often focus their work on how being preoccupied with love can be hazardous to one’s health. After her lover tries to kill her, Gaga emerges with a vengeance and returns to finish him off. The lyrics read, “Promise I’ll be kind, but I won’t stop until that boy is mine,” implying that Gaga will be ruthless with the implementation of her revenge. It is clear at the onset of the video that Gaga’s relationship was hazardous to her wellbeing (as her boyfriend attempts to kill her); however, the main focus of the subsequent scenes turn the situation in reverse as she succeeds in murdering him. Gaga fixes her boyfriend a drink mixed with lethal poison, and after stirring the concoction she licks the spoon and giggles. It would appear that her encounter with death has
Volume V 2011
made her more physically resilient to the harm that is associated with love, both mentally and physically. Most likely, Gaga’s boyfriend’s attempt at murder has made her reconsider her feelings towards him and reevaluate her love. Irony is thus created when Gaga wears black lipstick, as her act of murder can be viewed as a reflection of the metaphor of “the kiss of death.” Gaga calls 911 and admits to the crime, and then she places her sunglasses on her boyfriend and walks out of the room unfazed. This behaviour demonstrates Gaga’s confidence in her actions to spark a media frenzy that will reaffirm her reputation among her fans. Thus, Gaga’s “Paparazzi” exemplifies the dangers associated with love and how it can spur lovers to act merciless or inspire one to commit lethal crimes of passion. As previously demonstrated, gothic artists like to focus on the darker aspects of love and how they can evoke feelings of helplessness or harmful behaviours; but many artists, such as Brite and Gaga, also accentuate the highly physical component of love. Brite provides her readers with an unabashed description of the graphic sexual feelings that Trevor has towards Zach. Brite writes about his bodily urges and yearnings, something that most mainstream writers tend to shy away from due to its explicitness. Thus, Brite is depicting a more inclusive account of what it is like to be in love. Brite explains how Trevor equates holding Zach’s penis in his hand to what it would feel like to hold someone’s heart (Brite 213). Many of the sexual and graphic images she creates are centered on the idea of the spilling of a loved one’s blood and taking it within oneself as a literary allusion to the nature of vampirism - vampires being both seductive and extremely dangerous. An example of this can be seen when Trevor sucks deeply at Zach’s scars and tears them open: “Deep wet crimson ringed his mouth and streaked his face, shocking against the whiteness of his skin (313).” And furthermore, vampirism stemming from erotic attraction is evident when Trevor sinks his teeth into Zach’s throat (356). In the heat of passion and once highly aroused, Trevor behaves very beast-like, conjuring up savage intentions - like when he professes, “I love you so much, Zach. I want to climb inside of you. I want to taste your brain. I
want to feel your heart beating in my hands” (356). Accordingly, sex in the gothic overlaps with a dangerous element because at times there is a lethal quality to Trevor’s sexual thoughts. Blood is the source of human life; as such, the sucking or mixing of Trevor and Zach’s blood represents a juxtaposition of euphoria and demise. Contemporary gothic material such as Brite’s Drawing Blood accentuates the darker and sexier side of love by disclosing a vivid depiction of the nature of sex and how physical arousal can lead lovers into a realm of perilous conduct. In addition to Brite, Gaga exploits the idea of erotic attraction in her video “Bad Romance.” Gaga uses very suggestive hand motions as she says, “I want your psycho, your vertical stick.” Her viewers can interpret these signs as Gaga making sexual innuendos towards the mobsters. Her lust factor, or sex appeal, is what the mobsters are paying for, and as such her various wardrobe changes serve to accentuate the curvature of her female body. Love and lust are treated as one in the same; as the mobsters are not interested in developing a relationship with Gaga, their objective is to use her to meet their bodily needs by providing erotic pleasure. Gaga feeds into their perverse fantasies when she screams into one of the monster’s ears, as she dances in his lap “I’m a freak bitch, baby!” Similar to Brite, Gaga touches upon components of love that are not normally discussed in mainstream society, such as rough intercourse or, in the case of “Bad Romance,” the desire for anal sex. This notion is drawn from Gaga’s lyrics that read “I want you in my rear window, baby you’re sick. I want your love.” Although her writing does not explicitly state that Gaga is talking about anal sex, given the context of the song this conclusion can be rightfully drawn as most of her lyrics have double meanings and underlying sexual implications. The significance in drawing attention to Gaga’s lyrics serves to reinforce a darker side of love that gets explored in the gothic genre. Lyrics such as “You know that I want you, and you know that I need you” and “I want your ugly. I want your disease,” indicate an advocacy for rough, pleasure-driven intercourse without a fear if being infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Affection or fondness, as often illustrated by society as a key element of love, is not a requirement
Volume V 2011
for Gaga and the mobster. Therefore, Gaga’s video “Bad Romance” is an exemplar of erotica, which constitutes a significant portion of the concept of love; however, many artists are reluctant to include it in their interpretations of love as it can be seen as provocative or inappropriate for some viewers. Furthermore, Gaga’s video “Paparazzi” is another example potent with sex appeal and erotic imagery. The video opens with the couple in the bedroom sharing a heated moment as they express their love for one another in between kisses. Gaga is wearing heavy makeup, a thin sheer feather shall, a white silk corset, and high heels; it can be concluded that she is assuming the role of the innocent vixen in their dress-up game of sexual fantasy. Gaga then contrasts the passionate and romantic love she had with her partner - prior to him trying to kill her - with later scenes that depict a raunchy orgy with several different women. Gaga’s erotic sexual experiences reflect the gothic’s understanding of the concept of love as a physically driven union. Gaga’s wardrobe changes from a white silk corset to a cut-out black leather dress, symbolizing her frame of mind at the time she engages in intercourse. When she is with her boyfriend and admits to being in love she takes a more passive and submissive role allowing him to take advantage and harm her. Conversely, towards the end of the video, after returning from her fall and experimenting promiscuously, Gaga appears to be more domineering and audacious in her approach to love as seen by her final interactions with her lover and chosen method of getting the media’s attention. Thus, Gaga embodies the social anxieties associated with love, such as powerful sex appeal, wanton conduct, and provocative clothing. Gaga’s “Paparazzi” video sheds light on taboo social norms with specific focus on how love in the gothic genre is understood to focus highly on eroticism and bodily attraction. In sum, gothic artists such as Poppy Z. Brite and Lady Gaga represent a darker understanding of the notion of love; one that focuses on feelings of vulnerability, the dangerous components surrounding love, and sheds light on certain erotic and taboo sexual practices. The gothic’s preoccupation with love provides society with a more encompassing account of the consequences that can
result, rather than merely promoting the romantic fairytale of lovers living happily ever after. The gothic genre not only introduces the three aforementioned negative facets, but demonstrates how love can be lethal, drawing in people by playing off their sexual desires, reducing them to feelings of helplessness, and ultimately threatening their emotional and physical wellbeing. Love is not all that it is made out to be: the gothic’s interpretation illustrates how literal one can interpret the saying ‘love kills.’ It was Brite’s character, Trevor, who makes a very realistic conclusion about love, one that incorporates the darker elements that the gothic sets out to highlight. Trevor says love is “trusting someone else not to hurt you, even if you’re sure they will” (Brite 264). In general, that is what love is: taking a risk by trusting someone with your heart in hopes that they will not break it. Works Cited Brite, Poppy Z. Drawing Blood. New York: Random House, 1993. Print. Lady Gaga. “Bad Romance”. Fame Monster: Universal Music, 2009. Web November 23 2010. Lady Gaga. “Paparazzi”. Fame Monster: Universal Music, 2009. Web November 23 2010. Briana Maguire is in her second year of an honours specialization degree in English Language and Literature. She wrote this essay for Cultures of Blood: The Contemporary Gothic.
Volume V 2011
Redefining the Cage: Women’s Education and the Illusion of Agency in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique By Joel Szaefer
“[M]any ingenious arguments have been brought forward to prove that the two sexes [...] ought to aim at attaining a very different character” (Wollstonecraft 60). When a woman is born, she is “born on the wrong side of the line” (de Beauvoir 157). There exists within society a fundamental separation between how men and women learn and develop throughout their lives. Though modern society continually increases its efforts to promote equality between genders, it is still a society predicated upon the archaic notion that Man represents the ideal—the positive agent full of potential—and “Woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria” (149); she is his dutiful, obedient counterpart. Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1952) and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) both draw attention to the system of institutions and disciplinary norms in the mid-twentieth century that shapes women into the perfect Others for men, a system of education that cages women, presenting them with no laudable existence other than the “ideal” life of subjugation: “to get married, have four children, and live in a nice house in a nice suburb” (Friedan 163). There is nothing inherent in men or women that suggests the life they should eventually lead. Rather, the drive women may feel to become the complement to men stems from a system of education that is at once both ubiquitous and hidden, both based upon pedagogy and emulation. The “thousand expert voices” (162) that comprise the patriarchal education of women comprise a system that imposes itself on a woman’s mind until she becomes filled with inauthentic longing, that pits women against one another in the effort to secure a man, and that continuously reinvents itself
so that it may continue to instruct the modern woman, and women today, like those for centuries before her, are caught in a society that crafts an illusion of agency while subtly moulding woman into the perfect Other for man. De Beauvoir argues that “every human being is always a singular, separate individual,” but that men have relegated women to the domestic sphere that is “everywhere enclosed, limited, [and] dominated by the male universe” (157). There is nothing essential about the differences between men and women, nothing that biologically suggests superiority, yet men have established a system that does not allow Woman an existence outside of the role of subordinate. The female body, then, becomes a socially constructed visual marker of Otherness, and the physiological differences that make her capable of being a wife and mother “imprison her in her subjectivity, [they] circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature” (149). Patriarchal society has created a means of educating women so that they become the perfect Other, beautiful and submissive, and has labelled this Otherness “femininity,” so that it seems natural for a woman to adopt it. Over the past several centuries, women have been taught that “all they had to do was devote their lives from earliest girlhood to finding a husband and bearing children” (Friedan 162). Though there may be women who are completely happy as wives and mothers, patriarchal society attempts to craft the domestic realm as the only realm for women. Man has tried for years previous to Friedan and de Beauvoir to preclude women from the public realm, offering a catalogue of roles that they may adopt in order to provide them with a sense of fulfillment, when they are merely roles of subjugation. A woman may be a “wife, mistress, mother, nurse, consumer, cook, [and] chauffeur” (166), but nothing beyond these prescribed roles, as all of these roles require men in order to attain a sense of completeness; a woman cannot be a nurse unless there is a child or a man to heal, she cannot be a cook unless she has a husband and family to feed, so society forces her to adopt many, if not all, of these roles so that she may be there for man should he require her. Humanity, therefore, is a particularly male entity, and
Volume V 2011
man “defines woman not in herself but as a relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being” (de Beauvoir 149). This need for man to establish Woman as other seems to stem from an extreme insecurity—he must create a system where woman depends solely upon him in order to assert his dominance, his role as the One; however, no man may set himself up as the One “without at once setting up the Other over against [himself]” (149), and so he relegates woman to the role of Other out of his need for self-actualization, his need for a sense of completeness. De Beauvoir and Friedan attempt to understand how this subjugation has continued for so long. Friedan argues that though women may be bound by the subjective chains of suburban housewifery, “the chains that bind her in her trap are chains in her own mind and spirit;” they are chains that she has constructed as a result of a societal education intent on moulding her into the perfect Other, “chains made up of mistaken ideas and misinterpreted facts” (167). In the mid-twentieth century, women began to feel a compulsion to get married earlier in their lives, to attend college less, drop out more, and only seek jobs as a method of finding a man. If women did get a job for reasons other than “man-hunting,” they were not seeking a career, rather they were married and did sought jobs to “put their husbands through school, their sons through college, or to help pay the mortgage” (163). For Friedan, there is no selfactualization, no goal, in getting a job solely to support someone else. Instead, these jobs simply provided a means for women to aid their own subjugation. These women who have “lived their whole lives in the pursuit of feminine fulfillment” (166) according to the patriarchal ideals of femininity often find themselves longing for more, a desire that de Beauvoir deems “authentic” because it attempts to reach beyond the limits laid out for her by society. For both Friedan and de Beauvoir, the main way that society teaches woman her role is by drowning out her authentic longing for self-fulfillment and instilling her with what de Beauvoir terms “inauthentic longing,” a yearning to be the Other that a woman feels when “the delights of passivity are made to seem desirable” by everyone and everything around her (158). Society repeatedly bombards her with salvos of advertisements, stories,
articles, and idealized representations of other women who are beautiful and submissive. Friedan speaks of predominantly male “experts,” psychologists, counsellors, and authors, who give women advice on how to catch a man and how to deal with the daily problems of being a housewife (162). Women are not told that they may need to strive for a career or an education to achieve a sense of fulfillment; rather, they are taught to find fulfillment within the confines of the domestic realm. De Beauvoir argues that a woman “is indoctrinated with her vocation from her earliest years” (157). Though a woman may seem to have agency, it is merely an illusion since society crafts passivity as the desirable goal for her, and subtly presents her with apparent “choices,” all of which lead her to Otherness. Friedan presents several examples of women who convince themselves of the reality of their agency; women who tell themselves that they can go on business trips with their husbands, or that they want “men to make the major decisions” (163) show how the illusion of agency is so pervasive, and yet so subtle, that it can guide women toward passivity without their awareness, without their considering any alternatives. For Friedan and, especially, de Beauvoir, the indoctrination of women occurs early, and it grows in intensity as the girl reaches womanhood, as the most ostensible differences between the sexes begin to appear during puberty. At the onset of puberty, society begins to assert that a woman’s primary vocation should be securing a husband (de Beauvoir 157). Her life goals change from becoming an individual to becoming a counterpart, from growing up alongside men to growing up for men—a change towards which society guides her. At puberty, women are taught to take pride in their femininity, and pity the awkward, “neurotic, unfeminine, unhappy women who [want] to be poets or physicists or presidents” (Friedan 162). As inauthentic longing becomes prevalent in a woman’s life, she begins to ignore or hide any desire she may have for a life not completely dedicated to her own subjugation, and when she cannot ignore the gnawing desire for more, she seeks solace in the comforts of modernity, she takes “tranquilizers like cough drops” (167) to numb the pain. This passive resignation in women stems from a lifelong education
Volume V 2011
that is as much the result of pedagogy as it is emulation. A proper woman should not feel unfulfilled as a housewife if her mother was satisfied as one. Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990) argues that gender is an act that is “both intentional and performative” (190). Men and women see other men and women performing their gender through outward gestures and eventually learn to internalize and repeat those same gestures. A woman learns from other women how to be a “Woman” in the corrupt, self-replicating sense. One of the main problems with the system Friedan and de Beauvoir describe, a system that teaches women that they require men in order to feel complete, is that women begin to see each other as competition, not as allies. Friedan states that the authentic longing of the suburban housewife “lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women” (162). Women may find relief in speaking with other women, and Friedan gives examples of this, but at the same time society guides women toward isolation, not unification; for each woman, all other women are originally enemies, an antagonistic group all vying for the same coveted prize: a husband. Because “women do not say we” (de Beauvoir 150), they do not understand that their problem is a communal one unless they get past the initial barrier of women’s antagonism. Though this “frenzied, desperate search for a man” ( Friedan 165) may seem slightly archaic today, the “fight to get and keep” (163) a husband still exists, and still pits women against each other in an effort to find a man. If a man is the only means to completion, then without a husband women cannot be whole, and they will fight against other women to catch and keep a man. Today, there is a swath of talk shows (Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, etc.) dedicated to female antagonism, and daytime television creates a spectacle out of several women vying for the same man. Despite the dubiousness of the individual stories these talk shows present, the shows still predicate themselves upon a theme prevalent in modern society: women fighting over men. Morever, programs like “The Bachelor” fashion a “reality show” out of female antagonisms, and even though the show has its female counterpart, “The Bachelorette,” both shows present the notion that heterosexual marriage is the best way to live one’s life.
Unfortunately, this problem is not strictly a twentieth century one, as Mary Wollstonecraft remarks in 1792 that “Whilst [women] are absolutely dependent on their husbands, they will be cunning, mean, and selfish” (62). Because society teaches Woman that she requires a man in order to be whole, some women will do anything to gain that completion. Though de Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex in 1952, and Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, they could have just as easily written their works in 1792. The questions that Wollstonecraft discusses in her Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) about woman’s subjectivity and how society differently instructs men and women are the same questions with which de Beauvoir and Friedan deal, leading de Beauvoir to remark that “These questions are not new, and they have often been answered” (152). Wollstonecraft identifies a fundamental flaw in society that has persisted for centuries: that the difference between men and women “arises from the superior advantage of liberty” (62), and not from any biological causes as patriarchal society often argues. In their efforts to keep women subjected, male “voices of tradition” (Friedan 162) have provided various arguments over the years to suggest inherent differences between men and women. De Beauvoir states that the dominant class for a long time has been men, and when the dominant class creates any argument for the subjugation of Others, it “bases its argument on a state of affairs that it has itself created” (153). Men have created a set of customs that teach men and women to behave differently, then use the results of this education, women as passive and housewives and men as active and career-oriented, to prove there is a difference between women so that they may continue the paradigm of gendered education. Harriet Taylor argues in Enfranchisement of Women (1851) that even if a custom is based “on some universal practice,” its history “is no presumption of its goodness when any other sufficient cause can be assigned for its existence” (72); however, men have constructed a system of instructing women on how to become passive Others that is predicated solely upon archaic customs. In a world that seems to be constantly innovating itself it seems
Volume V 2011
odd that such an archaic method of culturally enforcing difference upon men and women still exists. Though more women today seek independence, and there are more women seeking careers for themselves today than there were in the society de Beauvoir and Friedan depict, women’s movement into the public realm is the result of them seeking self-actualization, and not the result of a fundamental shift in patriarchal society’s treatment of women. Unfortunately, the lengthy history of gendered education is tenacious, and is able to persist even as society repeatedly reinvents itself. Men benefit greatly from this unfair system because they may explore limitless possibilities, and “one of the benefits that oppression confers upon the oppressors is that the most humble of them is made to feel superior” (de Beauvoir 153). No matter how ashamed a man may feel when comparing himself with the successes of other men, he can always take comfort in the fact that he is still One, and woman is still Other. As society changes, the tools of educating women must change as well. Luis Althusser argues in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (1970) that one of society’s greatest strengths is that it can reinvent itself whenever necessary and continue reproducing “submission to the rules of the established order” (1485). Though the established order refers explicitly to the government, the family is an ideological tool the government uses, and represents a microcosm of the State as it instructs countless women in familial obedience. For Althusser, the “State of the ruling class” (1489) constantly adapts in order to ensure that it remains dominant, and patriarchal society repeatedly finds new ways to seduce women into complicity. Where women of 1963 were “Free to choose automobiles, clothes, appliances, [and] supermarkets” (Friedan 163), women of today are free to choose which brand of minivan they wish to use to chauffeur their kids, whether the bra they purchase in order to look like a billboard ideal will be from Victoria’s Secret or La Senza, whether the Maytag or Kenmore stove will cook the perfect roast; society allows her to make decisions within the confines of the domestic realm so that she may forget she is a prisoner of a patriarchal ideal. Television commercials show young girls acting the mother and wife, taking
care of baby dolls, and playing with slim, blonde Barbie in a dream house complete with a full kitchen, whereas similar toy commercials intended for young boys show them playing with action figures—men, like their future selves, who possess limitless possibility to seek adventure and fulfillment. When Friedan writes of the 1960s woman who dyes her hair blonde, and starves herself in order to look like an advertisement model (163), she could have been just as easily writing about the woman of 2010. The only new thing about today’s patriarchal system of Woman’s education is that it has modernized the choices so that it may keep hidden the fact that the agency it offers her is an illusion. Whether it is the woman of 1792, 1952, 1963, or 2010, she is going to face a “destiny that is going to be imposed upon her from without” (de Beauvoir 158). There is no agency present in a destiny crafted and controlled by forces exterior to oneself, and patriarchal society tries to enforce this destiny upon women. Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique discuss women who have been lured into this illusion of agency. In a society dominated by patriarchal desires and predicated upon archaic customs that teach a woman how to become the perfect Other without her knowing, the only choices present to a woman are merely baubles to placate her—means to seduce her into complicity. Woman learns, whether through emulation, pedagogy, or advertisements, to develop a sense of inauthentic longing, to desire a man for completion, and to view other women as obstacles. The problem with gendered education has been around for centuries, and the only thing “advanced” about how patriarchal society treats women today is that it has created new ways to craft the illusion of agency; it has masterfully redefined the cage, isolating and subjecting women without them feeling a sense of strong resistance because society has made them complicit in their own domination. These problems are not new, many writers have written about them before, yet there have been no major innovations that attempt to ameliorate the differences in the way in which society educates men and women. Friedan urges society to no longer “ignore that voice within women that says: ‘I want something more than my husband and my children
Volume V 2011
and my home’” (167), and, hopefully, society will listen to her and finally move into an epoch of individuals who coexist without subjugation—who live, but not at the cost of an Other. Works Cited Althusser, Luis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” 1970. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. 1483-1509. Print. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. 1990. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print. De Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex.” 1952. Feminist Theory: A Reader. Ed. Wendy K. Kolmar and Frances Bartowski. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. 147-158. Print. Friedan, Betty. “The Feminine Mystique.” 1963. Feminist Theory: A Reader. Ed. Wendy K. Kolmar and Frances Bartowski. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. 162-167. Print. Taylor, Harriet. “Enfranchisement of Women.” 1851. Feminist Theory: A Reader. Ed. Wendy K. Kolmar and Frances Bartowski. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. 70-75. Print. Wollstonecraft, Mary. “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” 1792. Feminist Theory: A Reader. Ed. Wendy K. Kolmar and Frances Bartowski. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. 60-64. Print. Joel Szaefer is a fourth year English honours specialization student. He wrote this paper for Foundations of Feminist Thought.
Volume V 2011
A Beast of Great Eminence? The Mythological Wild Man of The Renaissance: A Synthesis of Conflicting Interpretations By Moira McKee
Myths are things that never happen but always are. Sallustius, On the Gods and the Universe Heretical, irrational and savage, one would assume that the wild man was a pariah during the Renaissance when the Western world had a deep reliance upon Christianity and the order it gave to the lives of the civilized. Yet, it is specifically the religions inherent rationality that necessitated the wild man’s invention in diverse mediums such as engravings, manuscript illuminations, stained glass, oil painting, tapestries and metalwork. Often the scapegoat for unexplainable occurrences in nature as well as a pedagogical tool in terms of morality and the standards of the general conduct of society, the wild man embodied all that civilized man hoped he was not; but changes were occurring, and the wild man would come to be much revered. To understand the ambiguity of the wild man’s symbolic function in the Renaissance, E.H. Ghombrich in New York, The Cloisters, The Wild Man, notes, “We must distinguish between the deciphering of a code, the spelling out of a metaphor, and the diagnosis of a symptom.”1 With a rather crude background, the wild man’s ubiquitous representation in works of art spanning the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by some of the most skilled artists of the Northern Renaissance period is allegorically complex, and the evolution of this figure begs the question as to what provoked his existence at all. The wild man has origins with the Greeks who conceived of inbreeding between animals, humans and gods to ensure that
any anomalous species would not be perceived as distressing, and as such, moral deficiencies were not ascribed to these hybrids. Ancient Hebrews on the other hand, saw inbreeding of different species as horrific, believing that it would consequently produce an uncivilized and savage race. The Curse of Ham, Noah’s youngest son, as he appears in The Book of Genesis 9:20-27, became linked with notions of race as outlined in Gustav Jahoda’s Images of Savages: Ancient Roots of Modern Prejudice in Western Culture: After the flood…evil and (therefore) wildness returned to the world, especially in the descendents of Noah’s youngest son, Ham who was cursed for revealing his father’s nakedness. From Ham was descended…that breed of ‘wild men’ who combined Cain’s rebelliousness with the size of the primal giants. They must have been black, since through etymological conflation, the Hebrews ran together word roots used to indicate the colour black, the land of Egypt (i.e of bondage), the land Canaan (i.e of pagan idolatry), the condition of accursedness (and, ironically, apparently the notion of fertility), with the proper name of Ham and its adjectival variations.2
Later, the legend of Ham was attributed to providing a justification for the oppression of blacks, and the fusion of preChristian mythology with Christianity led to the creation of early images of the wild man of the woods. This theme emerged in works such as Master of the Playing Card’s (active: 1435-1450), King of the Wild Men, ca.1440, (Figure 1), where the wild man became recognizable subject matter to the extent that he makes an appearance as a generic symbol in a deck of cards, a popular game introduced from the Orient. In his writings Augustine was the first major Christian writer to discuss monstrous races, further ascertaining that Nimrod, a descendant of Ham, was to blame for the establishment of the tower of Babel, leading to humanity’s fragmentation through the circumscription of divine intentions. With this in mind, Nimrod appears to have been one of the primary sources of the myth of the wild man whose figure emerged in literature, folklore and art of the Middle Ages, embodying the barbaric characteristics that we now attribute to human existence as
Volume V 2011
it commenced during the Stone Age. The wild man typically appeared naked, with a body covered in hair (only his face, hands, knees and feet devoid), his fur being the most obvious indication to his position beyond the civilized order of man. He was often shown wielding a large stick, indicative of his strength and thought to assist him in the abduction of women who he would rape and subsequently eat. Wild women, too, possessed uncontrollable urges to copulate with civilized men. This behavior was believed to be the result of living a solitary life in the company of devils and bears, making them lacking the ability of speech and rationality. Although thought to harbor nature’s secrets, both the wild men and women were thought to know neither God nor morality, further separating them from civilized humanity. The biblical origins of the wild man, and his exegesis in art, saw his perception as barbaric revised following encounters with what were deemed primitives during the rise of colonialism in the Americas during the late fifteenth century. The acceptance of the wild man and the eventual demythologization of the concept of wildness or savagery was due in part to the increasing colonization and an extension of knowledge into areas of the world which had served as places where humanity could formerly project their anxieties and fantasies. As uncivilized regions were brought under control, humans became increasingly despatialized. As Hayden White states in his essay “The Forms of Wildness: Archaeology of an Idea,” “This [despatialization] was attended by a compensatory process of psychic interiorization. And the result has been that modern cultural anthropology has conceptualized the idea of wildness as the repressed content of both civilized and primitive humanity.”3 Upon discovery, the formerly comforting tenet that the wild man exists in a realm beyond became replaced with the notion that he could be conceivably lurking within every man, suppressed, beyond the power of God, and yearning for release. With the collapse of feudal Europe and the rise of the middle class, advancements in travel and scientific knowledge assisted in dispelling the physical myth of the wild man, while the social climate exposed the internal myth that was previously
predicated on the concept that he was a personification of the original sin of humanity. The disillusionment and subsequent upheavals in Europe demanded radical change while this notion of man’s condition was challenged, and an alternate existence that was free from social impositions and returning to a rudimentary lifestyle were highly sought. The wild man’s once frowned upon manner of life became highly coveted. As stated by Timothy Husband in The Wild Man Within: Medieval Myth and Symbolism, “Although the wild man was not necessarily superior to man, his closeness to nature rendered him immune to the ills of civilization and his existence could therefore be considered ideal.”4 His intimacy with animals and disdain towards an existence among civilized men is expressed in a variety of inscriptions on works such as a Swiss tapestry from the fifteenth century that reads, “Mit disen dierlen sun wier uns began die welt git bussen lon – With these animals have we consorted, for the world gives evil reward.”5 Already possessing an affinity towards nature, Northern European artists felt empathetic towards the wild man, presenting him as one with nature, a protagonist with quiet nobility. Sharing much in common with the Satyr of Antiquity, the coalescence of animal and human traits, an unrestrained sexual appetite, and lacking the ability to speak, the wild man was not necessarily a lost cause. Richard Bernheimer’s extensive 1952 publication on the subject, Wild Men in the Middle Ages: A Study in Art, Sentiment and Demonology, suggests that with the absence of human faculties, he was perhaps a projection of Freudian libidinal impulses repressed by civilized humans. He suggests, “For these deficiencies the wild man is compensated by the growth in him of powers which fully conscious human beings cannot boast, since such powers arise only when all the usual controls have lapsed.”6 This is not to convey that the wild man was a distinct species from man, but rather to adhere to the premises of the Christian system of salvation, he was thought to have become degenerate due to extenuating circumstances, and thus be capable of reacculturation despite a lengthy lapse in “human” status. The hostile conditions of the wild man’s life, such as a loss of mind, upbringing with beasts, or various hardships of
Volume V 2011
environment necessitated physical attributes that were key to his survival. Most notably, his subsistence was assured by the hair that enveloped his body—a bestial and preternatural outward indication of his strength. Bernheimer observes, “We know from the story of Samson and Delilah as well as from other early myths how intimately hairiness is connected with physical power, and how quickly the strongest man is reduced to the usual frailty once he is deprived of his bristly covering.”7 Although contemporary aesthetics may not adhere to this conception of the ideal male, during the Renaissance such robustness made wild men ideal candidates in careers as knights in the court, albeit lacking the requisite ethical grounds. The theme of transformation from wild man to knight was also logical in terms of redemption and salvation in the Christian sense through the acquisition of chivalrous and ethical traits attributed to knighthood. This juxtaposition appears in Israhel van Meckenem’s (ca. 1445-1503) Wild Man Tournament of the fifteenth century (Figure 3). In this dry point, two wild men with their ornately rendered body hair battle one another under the guise of Knights, in what appears to be an entertaining show for the civilized. The wild man with his insurmountable strength was considered a highly prized beast for a knight to conquer. In Hans Burgkmair’s (1473-1531) Wild Man in Combat With Knight, ca. 1503, (Figure 4), the heroic knight lunges towards the wild man who is twice his size and presumably surrounded by his victims. The appeal of subjugating the wild man is explained by Jahoda: This quality was one that held considerable fascination for many men in the Middle Ages, as a counterpoise against traditional limitations of thought and behaviour, it is true that to venture into the woods and there to prove ones mettle by slaying the dragon, the giant, or the Saracen meant to combat the ever present threat of natural and moral anarchy, and thus to strengthen, the beneficent rule of Christianity. But wildness embodied not only a task but a temptation, to which one exposed oneself by plunging into the great wild unknown.8
Is this dichotomy in these images perhaps presented to us to reveal the wild man as representing the primal and irrational side of man
as equally matched to the knight’s elevated moral compass of honor and nobility? As we will see, the disparity in representations of the wild man led him to become increasingly popular as a flawed and mercurial figure that civilized humans could relate to. By the second half of the fifteenth century, representations of wild men as shield-supporters were highly marketable subject matter in the North, incorporated into works such as German engraver Martin Shongauer’s (1445-1491) Two Shields with a Hare and a Moor’s Head, Held by a Wild Man, ca. 1490, (Figure 5), to meet a growing demand for prototypes of heraldic designs. These often presented a wild man or woman with an empty shield containing a simple design, allowing the possibility for other artists to utilize these models by posting the appropriate emblem in the space. Aligned with mythological creatures such as griffins, dragons, and unicorns, they had a significant protective status. Bernheimer notes, “It was enough to know that these creatures all commanded extraordinary strength, and anything confided to their care could be trusted to be well-kept and defended.”9 Depictions of the heraldic role of the wild man, though dutiful, began to transform into images of them possessing shields of a personal nature; inscribed with a variety of objects and ornamental designs revealing his symbolic function within the work. Albrecht Dürer’s (1471-1528) engraving, Coat-of-Arms with Skull, Woman, and Wild Man, 1503 (Figure 6), is an early synthesis of both the amorous and macabre facets of the wild man’s personality in his post as a shield supporter. Not being content to merely fulfill his task, he offers his attentions by leaning in to kiss the coy maiden. In contrast to this scene of courtship is an image of a human skull depicted on the coat of arms the wild man holds. This memento mori, despite its allusion to the theme of death as it appears in works such as Hans Baldung’s (1480-1545) Death and the Maiden, 1517 (Figure 7), sees Dürer’s maiden adorned with a bridal crown, making this engraving a type of marriage print. The artists intention in doing so seems to suggest the ephemeral quality of life through the juxtaposition of the skull and the young bride with the wild man uniting the two. Of Dürer’s work, Bernheimer comments, “It speaks for the depth and accuracy of
Volume V 2011
his mythological insight that he should have used his knowledge to expand the conventional theme of the wild man as shield-supporter into an allegory of the eternal polarity of love and death, creation and destruction, being and nonbeing.”10 This expanded symbolic usage stemmed from a dualism in the wild mans nature that was predicated on his altered perception following social and religious changes at the turn of the century. In terms of the origin of prejudice in Western culture, interpreting the wild man from a contemporary perspective brings with it the awareness that despite the strangeness of his physiological appearance and transgressive lifestyle, a distinct racial prejudice had not yet become established during the Renaissance period. In “Difference with a Difference: Wild Men, Gods and Other Protagonists,” Vanita Seth postulates, “The wild man is of significance not only because his representation is entirely unracialized, but because it precluded the possibility of race.”11 This notion of ‘the possibility of race’ deserves further exploration. That the concept of difference or that one normative race would not exist during a period when such a dramatically anomalous icon pervaded societies imagery as an allegory for the sins of man is quite astounding. Seth reports that following his first trip to the New World in 1492 Columbus’ accounts of contact with indigenous Americans and their various physiological differences weren’t preceded by references to racial discrimination. It was this context in which the wild man emerged, before Spanish colonization (and the established conception of a hierarchy of race that accompanied it) was fully underway and this influenced his reception. As Seth posits, “His very existence signified the myriad possibilities of human difference.”12 In the realm of Christianity, human difference as discussed earlier in Jahoda’s account of the Curse of Ham, was often imposed as punishment as in the case where Ham’s body was blackened, distinguishing him as a “wild man.” Seth diverges greatly from Jahoda in her stance, proposing that Christianity was responsible for the lack of prejudice contributing to the popularity of wild man, as he was never segregated from the divine realm. She states, “What the wild man literature ignores when it translates
this semi-human figure into a metaphor of human anxiety, desires and fears is that his very existence attests to a world within which the boundaries between humans, gods and nature are porous and fluid”13 For God to have allowed such diversity in his creation allows for miraculous creatures both favourable and unfavourable to be equally received. The word ‘existence’ when speaking of the wild man and his significance to the art of the Renaissance is as crucial a term as the ‘wild’ in wild man. The birth of the myth and its subsequent longevity depended upon the particular circumstances of the Renaissance period. He satiated a need, at different moments depicted as noble, courageous, and virile, in others as a seducer with a mercurial temperament. In the later years of his conception he was elevated to a plane above the rest of civilized society in his seemingly magical relationship with nature, maintaining a rogueish charm that further lent to his popularity. As confirmed by Bernheimer, “The existence of figures such as these, whose wildness in their formative years is the cause of condition for their later eminence, affords us a first glimpse of an evaluation of wild-man life, not in terms of its imperfections as compared with civilized practice, but of superiority.”14 The surprising rise of the wild man figure in the art of Renaissance is a testament to humankind’s intrinsic link to both nature and a primal past; a romantic culmination of traits that were long lost but not forgotten. List of Figures (see page 105) 1. Master of the Playing Cards, King of the Wild Men, ca.1440. Engraving. 13.34 x 8.89 cm. ARTstor. 2. Israhel van Meckenem, Wild Man Tournament, fifteenth century. Engraving. 15.2 x 22 cm. ARTstor. 3. Hans Burgkmair, Wild Man in Combat with Knight (The Combat of Valentine and Namelos), ca. 1503. Ink on paper. 21 x 28.5 cm. http://wapedia.mobi/en/Woodwose. 4. Martin Shongauer, Two Shields with a Hare and a Moor’s Head, Held by a Wild Man, ca. 1490. Engraving. Diameter: 7.8 cm. ARTstor. 5. Albrecht Dürer, Coat-of-Arms with Skull, Woman, and Wild
Volume V 2011
Man, 1503. Engraving on paper. 15.72 x 21.75 cm. ARTstor. 6. Hans Baldung, Death and the Maiden, 1517. Oil on wood. 29.21 x 19.05 cm. ARTstor. Notes 1. E.H. Gombrich, “New York, The Cloisters, The Wild Man,” The Burlington Magazine 23, no. 934 (1981): 58. 2. Gustav Jahoda, Images of Savages: Ancient Roots of Modern Prejudice in Western Culture (London: Routledge, 1999), 5. 3. Hayden White, “The Forms of Wildness: Archaeology of an Idea,” in The Wild Man Within: An Image in Western Thought from the Renaissance to Romanticism, eds. Edward Dudley and Maximilian E. Novak (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972), 7. 4. Timothy Husband, The Wild Man: Medieval Myth and Symbolism (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1980), 15. 5. Richard Bernheimer, Wild Men in the Middle Ages: A Study in Art, Sentiment, and Demonology (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1952), 116. 6. Ibid, 9. 7. Ibid, 10. 8. Jahoda, 20. 9. Bernheimer., 181. 10. Ibid, 185. 11. Vanita Seth, “Difference with a Difference: Wild Men, Gods, and Other Protagonists,” Parallax 9, no.4 (2008): 83. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid, 79. 14. Bernheimer, 19.
Bibliography Abulafia, David. The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus.New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. Bernheimer, Richard. Wild Men in the Middle Ages: A Study in Art, Sentiment, and Demonology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1952. Dudley, Edward and Maximilian E. Novak. The Wild Man Within: An Image in Western Thought from The Renaissance to Romanticism. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972. Gombrich, E.H. “New York, The Cloisters, The Wild Man.” The Burlington Magazine 23, no. 934 (1981): 57-59. Husband, Timothy. The Wild Man: Medieval Myth and Symbolism. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1980. Jahoda, Gustav. Images of Savages: Ancient Roots of Modern Prejudice in Western Culture. London: Routledge, 1999. Seth, Vanita. “Difference with a Difference: Wild Men, Gods, and Other Protagonists.” Parallax 9:4, 75-87.
Moira Mckee is a fourth year Arts and Humanities student completing her Honours Specialization in Art History and Criticism. She completed this paper for Professor Barteet’s class on Northern Renaissance Art.
Volume V 2011
103 Figure 1
Volume V 2011
105 Figure 5
Volume V 2011
qwertyuiopas dfghjklzxcvb nm qwertyuiop asdfghjklzxc vbnm qwertyui opasdfghjklz xcvbnm qwerty uiopasdfghjk lzxcv bnm qwer semi-colon tyuiopasdfgh jklzxcvbnm qw ertyuiopasdf ghjklzxcvbnm qwertyuiopas dfghjklzxcvb nm qwertyuiop asdfghjklzxc qwertyuiopas
The Arts and Humanities Student Council at the University of Western Ontario presents its academic journal: essays by undergraduate students...
Published on Apr 14, 2011
The Arts and Humanities Student Council at the University of Western Ontario presents its academic journal: essays by undergraduate students...