Κυριακή, 8 Δεκεμβρίου, 2013
“Greece was the mostly sought Eastern country by travelers during the 19th century.” (1)
Lord Byron visited Greece for the first time in his 1809-1810 travels to the South of Europe.
While in Greece, he heard a story about a woman who experienced terrible death by been thrown into the sea alive inside a bag.
This story gave Lord Byron the material for his poem “The Giaour”.
The “Giaour” is Byron’s only narrative poem, and the first of four Turkish tales that he wrote.
It is also a poem that in a way contributed the birth of the “vampire”, albeit a vampire different from the one we are accustomed in the 21st century.
George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron
George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron, was born on 22 January 1788 in London.
In July 1823, Byron left Italy to join the Greek insurgents who were fighting a war of independence against the Ottoman Empire.
On 19 April 1824 he died from fever at Messolonghi, in modern day Greece.
His death was mourned throughout Britain. His body was brought back to England and buried at his ancestral home in Nottinghamshire.
Byron had enormous influence on the romantic movement and European poetry. One of the poets greatly influenced by Byron was Goethe.
He is also the only English poet Bertrand Russell included in his History of Western Philosophy.
“Romantic Orientalism, then, became part of the larger movement of British Romanticism, which was further enthused by Napoleon‟s invasion of Egypt (1798–1799) and Greece‟s War of Independence (1821–1828). To Romantic travelers, scholars, artists and men of letters the Orient constituted a distant world which conveniently suited their search for the exotic and sublime experiences.” (1)
In his book “Orientalism”, Edward Said observes: “Popular Orientalism during the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth attained a vogue of considerable intensity”
Apparently Byron was not driven to orientalism by accident. In “Interrogating Orientalism”, the editors observe (3):
In late August 1813, Byron had advised his friend Tom Moore to read Antoine Laurent Castellan’s Moeurs, usages, costumes des Othomans (1812) for poetic materials:
“Stick to the East; the oracle, Stael, told me it was the only poetic policy. The North, South, and West, have all been exhausted; but from the East, we have nothing but Southey’s unsaleables. . . . The little I have done in that way is merely a “voice in the wilderness” for you; and, if it has had any success, that also will prove that the public are orientalizing, and pave the path for you. (Letters and Journals 3:101)”
adding that “the public are orientalizing.”
Following his own advice, he dashed off and published three more “Turkish tales” before the next year was out — The Bride of Abydos (published in December 1813 and reissued in ten further editions of 1814 and 1815), The Corsair (published in February 1814 — selling ten thousand copies on the first day — and reissued in eight or more editions through 1815), and Lara (published in August 1814, with five or six subsequent editions in the next couple of years). (6)
The word “giaour” means foreigner or infidel, and in this Moslem context Byron’s hero is a Christian outsider, in a situation enabling contrasts of ideas about love, sex, death, and the hereafter.
The Giaour was started in London between September 1812 and March 1813, first published by John Murray in late March 1813, and finally completed December 1813, after having, in Byron’s words, “lengthened its rattles” (BLJ III 100) from 407 lines in the first draft to 1334 lines in the twelfth edition. (4)
According to one of Byron’s letters, the story in the poem was a tale he’d overheard “by accident recited by one of the coffee-house story tellers who abound in the Levant,” and he blamed the fragmented style on a “failure of memory,”
The narrative is built around a doomed love triangle, composed of the Giaour, a nameless Christian, Hassan and one of his wives, Leila. Leila « breaks her bower, » goes out into the world of men and taking the Giaour as a lover, lashes out against the values that structure her society. Hassan attemps to reestablish the balance by confining her to a space even smaller than the harem : a canvas bag which is then summarily thrown over the side of a boat unbeknownst to its crew and the reader, to whom this episode is recounted through the eyes of a fisherman. The Giaour takes his revenge, ambushing Hassan in a mountain pass, then, crushed by his part in Leila’s death, spends the rest of his days spurning the solace offered him by a man of the cloth, representative of orthodoxy. (7)
The heroine of the poem, Leila is a silent and passive heroine.
Another Leila in Byron’s Don Juan has a similar profile (8)
Following a visit to England in 1825, Eugène Delacroix, the leading Romantic painter in France, based this painting on the poem The Giaour (pronounced jor) written by English poet Lord Byron in 1813. The subject—passions avenged on the faraway Greek battlefield—is perfectly suited to the Romantic vision of exotic locales and unleashed emotion.
In the painting, a Venetian (my note: according to others, Giaour was a Christian without more specifics, but it does not really matter, does it?) known as the Giaour—a Turkish term for infidel—fights the Muslim Hassan to avenge the death of his lover, who was killed by Hassan after fleeing his harem. The stark setting and aggressive movements place the focus of the painting on these two main characters. Weapons poised, the enemies face off in mirrored poses: the Giaour in swirling white with bloodshot eyes, Hassan facing his opponent with his weapon raised. The dynamic motion and emotion of the composition, which looks back to the Baroque style of Peter Paul Rubens, is further heightened by the artist’s use of high-keyed colors and bold and loose brushwork. Delacroix’s handling of pigments was influenced by a mid-19th-century color theory that stated that a spot of color will appear to be surrounded by a faint ring of its complement. In Delacroix’s painting, the adaptation of this effect is seen in the artist’s use of complementary colors, rather than the addition of black pigment, to create shadows.
The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan was included in an exhibition at the Parisian Galerie Lebrun to benefit the Greeks and their war of liberation from the Ottoman Turks (1821–1832). This political cause inspired numerous Romantic artists, writers, and musicians, and was the subject of one of Delacroix’s best-known paintings, The Massacre at Chios. The latter painting was based on an actual incident in the Greek wars of independence, unlike the Art Institute’s painting, which is derived from a work of fiction. Both are examples of Orientalism in Romantic painting, in which depictions of the Middle East and North Africa emphasize the exotic appeal of the lands and their people.
As an article in BBC informs us,
“Byron was one of the first authors to write about vampires and his image even inspired the look of the monsters.” (2) The following is an extensive quote from the article:
Dr Matt Green is a lecturer at the University of Nottingham. The Gothic expert said: “The vampire first comes into English literature around the end of the eighteenth century.
“One of the first poems the vampire features in is by Lord Byron. It’s a poem called The Giaour (a Turkish word for an infidel or nonbeliever).
“At one point the giaour is cursed by his enemy to become a vampire and to prey and feed on his descendents.”
The poem goes: “Bur first, on earth as Vampire sent, Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent: Then ghastly haunt thy native place, And suck the blood of all thy race.”
“At this stage the vampire in Byron’s poem and in English literature is more a zombie figure. He comes out of the ground and he eats those around him and then goes back into the ground. He can’t wander far from his place of birth and his family.”
That perception was about to change and Byron would be central to it.
The university lecturer said: “It’s not until a couple of years later that the vampire becomes this cosmopolitan, seductive figure. That has to do with Byron as well.”
Excerpts of the poem
The maid for whom his melody,
His thousand songs are heard on high,
Blooms blushing to her lover’s tale:
His queen, the garden queen, his Rose,
Unbent by winds, unchilled by snows,
Far from winters of the west,
By every breeze and season blest,
Returns the sweets by Nature given
In soft incense back to Heaven;
And gratefu yields that smiling sky
Her fairest hue and fragrant sigh.
The foam that streaks the courser’s side
Seems gathered from the ocean-tide:
Though weary waves are sunk to rest,
There’s none within his rider’s breast;
And though tomorrow’s tempest lower,
‘Tis calmer than thy heart, young Giaour!
I know thee not, I loathe thy race,
But in thy lineaments I trace
What time shall strengthen, not efface:
Though young and pale, that sallow front
Is scathed by fiery passion’s brunt;
Though bent on earth thine evil eye,
As meteor-like thou glidest by,
Right well I view thee and deem thee one
Whom Othman’s sons should slay or shun.
Not thus was Hassan wont to fly
When Leila dwelt in his Serai.
Doth Leila there no longer dwell?
That tale can only Hassan tell:
Strange rumours in our city say
Upon that eve she fled away
When Rhamazan’s last sun was set,
And flashing from each minaret
Millions of lamps proclaimed the feast
Of Bairam through the boundless East.
‘Twas then she went as to the bath,
Which Hassan vainly searched in wrath;
For she was flown her master’s rage
In likeness of a Georgian page,
And far beyond the Moslem’s power
Had wronged him with the faithless Giaour.
Somewhat of this had Hassan deemed;
But still so fond, so fair she seemed,
Too well he trusted to the slave
Whose treachery deserved a grave:
And on that eve had gone to mosque,
And thence to feast in his kiosk.
‘Yes, Leila sleeps beneath the wave,
But his shall be a redder grave;
Her spirit pointed well the steel
Which taught that felon heart to feel.
He called the Prophet, but his power
Was vain against the vengeful Giaour:
He called on Allah – but the word.
Arose unheeded or unheard.
Thou Paynim fool! could Leila’s prayer
Be passed, and thine accorded there?
I watched my time, I leagued with these,
The traitor in his turn to seize;
My wrath is wreaked, the deed is done,
And now I go – but go alone.’
Yet died he by a stranger’s hand,
And stranger in his native land;
Yet died he as in arms he stood,
And unavenged, at least in blood.
But him the maids of Paradise
Impatient to their halls invite,
And the dark Heaven of Houris’ eyes
On him shall glance for ever bright;
They come – their kerchiefs green they wave,
And welcome with a kiss the brave!
Who falls in battle ‘gainst a Giaour
Is worthiest an immortal bower.
”Tis twice three years at summer tide
Since first among our freres he came;
And here it soothes him to abide
For some dark deed he will not name.
But never at our vesper prayer,
Nor e’er before confession chair
Kneels he, nor recks he when arise
Incense or anthem to the skies,
But broods within his cell alone,
His faith and race alike unknown.
The sea from Paynim land he crost,
And here ascended from the coast;
Yet seems he not of Othman race,
But only Christian in his face:
I’d judge him some stray renegade,
Repentant of the change he made,
Save that he shuns our holy shrine,
Nor tastes the sacred bread and wine.
To love the softest hearts are prone,
But such can ne’er be all his own;
Too timid in his woes to share,
Too meek to meet, or brave despair;
And sterner hearts alone may feel
The wound that time can never heal.
The rugged metal of the mine,
Must burn before its surface shine,
But plunged within the furnace-flame,
It bends and melts – though still the same;
Then tempered to thy want, or will,
‘Twill serve thee to defend or kill;
A breast-plate for thine hour of need,
Or blade to bid thy foeman bleed;
But if a dagger’s form it bear,
Let those who shape its edge, beware!
Thus passion’s fire, and woman’s art,
Can turn and tame the sterner heart;
From these its form and tone are ta’en,
And what they make it, must remain,
But break – before it bend again.
My spirit shrunk not to sustain
The searching throes of ceaseless pain;
Nor sought the self-accorded grave
Of ancient fool and modern knave:
Yet death I have not feared to meet;
And the field it had been sweet,
Had danger wooed me on to move
The slave of glory, not of love.
I’ve braved it – not for honour’s boast;
I smile at laurels won or lost;
To such let others carve their way,
For high renown, or hireling pay:
But place again before my eyes
Aught that I deem a worthy prize
The maid I love, the man I hate,
And I will hunt the steps of fate,
To save or slay, as these require,
Through rending steel, and rolling fire:
Nor needest thou doubt this speech from one
Who would but do ~ what he hath done.
Death is but what the haughty brave,
The weak must bear, the wretch must crave;
Then let life go to him who gave:
I have not quailed to danger’s brow
When high and happy – need I now?
‘I loved her, Friar! nay, adored -
But these are words that all can use -
I proved it more in deed than word;
There’s blood upon that dinted sword,
A stain its steel can never lose:
‘Twas shed for her, who died for me,
It warmed the heart of one abhorred:
Nay, start not – no – nor bend thy knee,
Nor midst my sins such act record;
Thou wilt absolve me from the deed,
For he was hostile to thy creed!
The very name of Nazarene
Was wormwood to his Paynim spleen.
Ungrateful fool! since but for brands
Well wielded in some hardy hands,
And wounds by Galileans given -
The surest pass to Turkish heaven
For him his Houris still might wait
Impatient at the Prophet’s gate.
I loved her – love will find its way
Through paths where wolves would fear to prey;
And if it dares enough, ’twere hard
If passion met not some reward -
No matter how, or where, or why,
I did not vainly seek, nor sigh:
Yet sometimes, with remorse, in vain
I wish she had not loved again.
She died – I dare not tell thee how;
But look – ’tis written on my brow!
There read of Cain the curse and crime,
In characters unworn by time:
Still, ere thou dost condemn me, pause;
Not mine the act, though I the cause.
Yet did he but what I had done
Had she been false to more than one.
Faithless to him, he gave the blow;
But true to me, I laid him low:
Howe’er deserved her doom might be,
Her treachery was truth to me;
To me she gave her heart, that all
Which tyranny can ne’er enthral;
And I, alas! too late to save!
Yet all I then could give, I gave,
‘Twas some relief, our foe a grave.
His death sits lightly; but her fate
Has made me – what thou well mayest hate.
His doom was sealed – he knew it well
Warned by the voice of stern Taheer,
Deep in whose darkly boding ear
The deathshot pealed of murder near,
As filed the troop to where they fell!
He died too in the battle broil,
A time that heeds nor pain nor toil;
One cry to Mahomet for aid,
One prayer to Allah all he made:
He knew and crossed me in the fray -
I gazed upon him where he lay,
And watched his spirit ebb away:
Though pierced like pard by hunters’ steel,
He felt not half that now I feel.
I searched, but vainly searched, to find
The workings of a wounded mind;
Each feature of that sullen corse
Betrayed his rage, but no remorse.
Oh, what had vengeance given to trace
Despair upon his dying face I
The late repentance of that hour,
When penitence hath lost her power
To tear one terror from the grave,
And will not soothe, and cannot save.
(1) Romantic Orientalism-LU Lecture, Naji B. Oueijan, Notre Dame University-Lebanon
(3) Interrogating Orientalism, edited by Diane Long Hoeveler and Jeffrey Cass, The Ohio State University Press
(4) BYRON’S “TURKISH TALES”: AN INTRODUCTION Peter Cochran
(5) The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan, The Art Institute of Chicago
(6) The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Lord Byron, from The Giaour: A Fragment of a Turkish Tale
(7) A domesticated villain – Lord Byron’s The Giaour, DesOrient
(8) A Comparison Between two Turkish Heroines in Lord Byron’s Poetry: Leila in “The Giaour” and Leila in Don Juan, Mona Sulaiman Farraj Albalawi
Τρίτη, 26 Νοεμβρίου, 2013
A sculpture of Aphrodite, Pan and Eros, exhibited in the National Archaelogical Museum of Athens, in Greece, is the subject of this post.
The sculpture was made at about 100 BC of Parian marble, and was found on the island of Delos, in the House of the Poseidoniasts of Beirut. On the low base of the group an inscription is carved: ‘Dionysos, son of Zenon who was son Theodoros, from Beirut dedicated [this offering] to the ancestral gods for his own benefit and that of his children’.
A few introductory words about who is who are in order.
Aphrodite (Venus for the Romans) is the goddess of love and beauty. A victim of her own success and beauty, Aphrodite has never lost her sense of earthy pleasure.
Eros (Cupid for the Romans) is the god of love, son of Aphrodite. Somethies he is innocent, with rosy cheeks and beautiful smile, other times he is totally vicious, tormenting humans with his arrows.
Pan is the god of the Wild, half goat half man, and a very very notty old fart!
What is the story in the sculpture?
Aphrodite, is stark naked. She appears to be trying to fend off an overwhelming expression of affinity by Pan.
Her right hand is slightly raised and holds a sandal.
Is she ready to strike Pan?
It appears to be so.
But it isn’t.
For one, a closer look at ther muscles will show us that is very relaxed.
For another, her face is almost smiling. A veiled smile emerges. And the angle of her head is such that she is not directly looking at Pan.
The last unmistakable signal that Aphrodite sends to the observer of the scene is the position of her left hand. A woman under attack would almost by instinct try to cover her most exposed nudity, touching the puberty area using her palm. But Aphrodite is not doing that. Her palm is relaxed and at some distance from her flesh.
Pan is in a hopeless state. He cannot help himself and is totally at a loss.
He is trying to embrace Aphrodite in the most awkward of ways. Look at his right hand, how high it is in Aphrodite’s back. Not exactly a gesture of aggression. More a gesture of creeping affinity.
It is like he is lusting for her but at the same time he is shying away from expressing his lust.
Eros (I would have preferred to call him “Putto” like the Italians do, but being Greek I have to stick to my mother tongue) is a little devil in the middle of the two protagonists of this subdued ensemble action. His apparently tries to separate them, in a sense protecting Aphrodite.
But is he?
His smiling face, his posture (look at the angle of the head) is more like saying “I want to be part of this”.
His bodily posture is a posture of palying. He pushes Pan’s right horn ever so gently, more touching than pushing, smiling all the time.
And the old boy returns the smile.
As a final observation before my conclusion, I offer the angle of Aphrodite’s left ankle. How gentle and relaxed and playful! Restrained and at the same time powerful, but not aggressive!
And this brings me to the supreme feature of the sculpture. Its ambivalence.
All three protagonists are doing something and at the same time they are not.
And in the process, being totally submerged into this ambivalence, they have a hell of a good time!
Ancient Greece at her best!
Σάββατο, 23 Νοεμβρίου, 2013
With considerable delay, I publish today one of the absolute delicacies: crispy stuffed zucchini flowers.
It is November, Christmas is coming, and I dream of the Summer and its delicacies!
The whole secret is to have the super freshest of zucchini, cut from the vegetable garden a split second ago!
Time is important, in case you have not noticed, not only in what we do, but also in how we prepare our food.
I stuff the flowers with a soft white cheese mix. I use myzithra from Crete, add salt and pepper and some chopped coriander and mint.
Fresh ricotta would also have been perfect for the dish.
After stuffing the flowers I dip them in water and dust them with flour before dipping into the batter mix.
The batter has to be full of bubbles! A bubbly batter does it! Stir vigorously until you have the bubbles that will give lightness to the batter.
Served and ready to be enjoyed!
I slice them in two halves with a knife, and subsequently eat them with my hands. Totally different sensation.
I do not know about you, but I am good for a little more!
Δευτέρα, 18 Νοεμβρίου, 2013
By reconstructing Mill’s argument, I will show that there is no contradiction between Mill’s determinism and his views on tendency laws. Mill was consistent in his approach. In the context of his deterministic method, he provided adequate explanation of why we should be viewing the phenomena of the world as tendencies, both in the physical and the (mental or moral) social sciences, without negating causality. However, at the same time, Mill outlines the limitations of causality and its laws.
This essay has two parts. In the first part I consider Mill’s tendency laws in the natural sciences, while in the second part I focus on tendency laws in the social sciences.
I have sourced Mill’s original material from ‘System of Logic’ (SOL) and ‘On the Definition of Political Economy and on the Method of Investigation proper to it’ (DPE). Both are included in Nagel (1). In the text I use ‘social science’ to denote Mill’s ‘mental or moral science’, or ‘political economy’.
Part I: The physical sciences
Mill’s determinism is based on ‘the various uniformities of the course of nature, which when ascertained by what is regarded as a sufficient induction, we call he laws of nature’ (SOL, Book III, Chapter IV, § 1; 1, 187). The law of causation dictates that every fact which has a beginning has a cause. He proceeds to define ‘the cause of a phenomenon to be the antecedent, or the concurrence of antecedents, on which it (the phenomenon) is invariably and unconditionally consequent’. (SOL, Book III, Chapter V, § 3; 1, 197-198). The repeating, invariable and unconditional consequence of the phenomenon enables us to generalize, inferring its cause.
A phenomenon will occur again and again, as long as the phenomena comprising its cause occur again, and provided that ‘no other phenomenon having the character of a counteracting cause shall exist’. (SOL, Book III, Chapter V, § 5; 1, 203).
The concept of a counteracting cause is opening the door to tendency laws. It so happens that in some cases: ‘There are often several independent modes in which the same phenomenon could have originated… Many causes may produce mechanical motion; many causes may produce some kinds of sensation; many causes may produce death’. (SOL, Book III, Chapter X, § 1; 1, 239).
Given the multitude of causes in some phenomena, it is possible that diverse causes act simultaneously, in composition; in such case ‘two or more laws interfere with one another and apparently frustrate or modify one another’s operation, yet in reality all are fulfilled’. (SOL, Book III, Chapter X, 4; 1, 246).
Therefore, when a phenomenon may be explained by a multitude of causes and opposing causes occur simultaneously, we cannot be certain about the outcome. This does not mean that the laws are not valid. They are fulfilled, but the outcome of the acting of opposing causes may produce different outcomes. For this reason: ‘All laws of causation, in consequence of their liability to be counteracted, require to be stated in words affirmative of tendencies only, and not of actual results.’ (SOL, Book III, Chapter X, 4; 1, 248).
Part II: The social sciences
In the social sciences we have to cope with two major issues: great complexity and our ignorance, to degrees that are by far higher than in the physical sciences. ‘We study nature… in circumstances… of great complexity and never perfectly known to us, and with the far greater part of the processes concealed from our observation.’ (DPE; 1, p.427).
Causes will operate in a certain manner unless they are counteracted. ‘We may be able to conclude, from the laws of human nature applied to the circumstances of a given state of society, that a particular cause will operate in a certain manner unless counteracted; but we can never be assured to what extent or amount it will so operate, or affirm with certainty that it will not be counteracted; because we can seldom know even approximately, all the agencies which may co-exist with it, and still less calculate the collective result of so many combined elements’. (SOL Book VI, Chapter IX, § 2; 1, 334).
It is impossible to be ‘quite sure that all circumstances of the particular case are known to us sufficiently in detail and that our attention is not unduly diverted from any of them.’ The unknown circumstances, the ones that ‘have not fallen under the cognizance of science, have been called “disturbing causes”’. (DPE; 1, p.429).
We can never be assured to what extent or amount the disturbing causes will operate, or affirm with certainty that a particular cause will not be counteracted. ‘We may be able to conclude, from the laws of human nature applied to the circumstances of a given state of society, that a particular cause will operate in a certain manner unless counteracted; but we can never be assured to what extent or amount it will so operate, or affirm with certainty that it will not be counteracted; because we can seldom know even approximately, all the agencies which may co-exist with it, and still less calculate the collective result of so many combined elements.’ (SOL, Book VI, Chapter IX, § 2; 1, 334).
Having established the existence of disturbing causes, Mill proceeds to preserve the integrity of causality, by claiming that: ‘The disturbing causes have their laws, as the causes which are thereby disturbed have theirs; and from the laws of the disturbing causes, the nature and amount of the disturbance may be predicted “a priori”, like the operation of the more general laws which they are said to modify or disturb, but with which they might more properly be said to be concurrent. The effect of the special causes is then to be added to, or subtracted from, the effect of the general ones.’ (DPE; 1, p.430).
As the last sentence reminds us, what makes all of this line of argumentation valid is the compounding of causes. ‘When an effect depends upon a concurrence of causes, those causes must be studied one at a time, and their laws separately investigated, if we wish, through the causes, to obtain the power of either predicting or controlling the effect; since the law of the effect is compounded of the laws of all the causes which determine it.’ (DPE; 1, p.421).
We have now arrived at the conclusion of the argument. ‘It is evident that the social sciences considered as a system of deductions a priori, cannot be a science of positive predictions, but only of tendencies’. (SOL, Book VI, Chapter IX, § 2; 1, 334). This is the same conclusion Mill arrived at when considering causality in the physical sciences. One might say though, that the tendencies are more evident in the social compared to the physical sciences, due to the higher complexity of the phenomena and our ignorance.
Mill closes the “loop” of the scientific process with verification using the “a posteriori” method. The “a priori” method of investigation is supplemented by the “a posteriori” method as a means of verifying truth and ‘reducing to the lowest point that uncertainty before alluded to as arising from the complexity of every particular case, and from the difficulty (not to say impossibility) of our being assured “a priori” that we have taken into account all the material circumstances.’ (DPE; 1, p.431).
Social phenomena are complex, and there are potentially many disturbing causes, most of which, if not all, we do not know of. Therefore the relevant laws governing the phenomena can only be stated as tendency laws which we verify using the “a posteriori” method. The verification process may give us knowledge about some of the disturbing causes and their laws.
Having shown that Mill was consistent in his approach, I want to conclude by briefly considering the legacy of “tendency laws”.
‘When things are not ceteris paribus, the laws in question still apply. But they now describe tendencies – partial elements of a complex situation. (Therefore) ceteris paribus laws and tendencies go hand in hand – and that seems reasonable enough’ (2). Kincaid’s statement practically attributes the “ceteris paribus” approach to Mill. And many economists and philosophers agree with him. Given the importance of ceteris paribus laws in economics, we can conclude that Mill’s “tendency laws” have played a very important role in the shaping and the development of economics.
However, the limits to our knowledge and understanding of complex phenomena must not be underestimated. As Hayek argues: ‘…we can reasonably claim that a certain phenomenon is determined by known natural forces and at the same time admit that we do not know precisely how it has been produced… It would then appear that the search for the discovery of laws is not an appropriate hallmark of scientific procedure but merely a characteristic of the theories of simple phenomena as we have defined these earlier; and that in the field of complex phenomena the term ‘law’ as well as the concepts of cause and effect are not applicable without such modification as to deprive them of their ordinary meaning.’ (3)
When it comes to complex social phenomena, “tendency laws” may in addition to providing some explanations, reveal the limits of causal determinism, and enhance “our knowledge of our ignorance” (4, quoted by Hayek in 3).
1. Nagel, Ernest. John Stuart Mill’s Philosophy of Scientific Method. Hafner Publishing Company. New York, 1950.
2. Kincaid, Harold. Defending Laws in the Social Sciences, in: Martin, Michael and McIntyre, Lee (eds.) Readings in the Philosophy of Social Sciences. MIT Press, 1994.
3. Hayek, F.A. The Theory of Complex Phenomena, in: Martin, Michael and McIntyre, Lee (eds.) Readings in the Philosophy of Social Sciences. MIT Press, 1994.
4. Popper, K. R. “On the Sources of Knowledge and Ignorance”, Proceedings of the British Academy. 46, 1960.
Πέμπτη, 7 Νοεμβρίου, 2013
I recently visited a gallery in London, where works by Sarah Lucas are exhibited.
I have written about Sarah Lucas before, namely about her powerful metaphors of food, linking eggs, chickens, burgers to genitalia and body parts, recognizable or not.
What impressed me the most in the Sarah Lucas exhibition, is the disappearance of the body. Most of her recent works are about genitalia and body parts, twisted, deformed, or otherwise. But the body has disappeared, except in one of the exhibit rooms, where she presented some wall-size photographs of the lower half of male bodies ornated with artifacts.
This is quite interesting if you contrast it with the work of JAke and Dinos Chapman. In @Fuckface@ we have not only a body, albeit a conflated one, but also faces. A merging of genitalia and the human face, accompanied by a rather sad rendition of the rest of the body. But in spite of its sorry state, the body is present.
This is not the case with Sarah Lucas. But it does not stop there. Her “Nud Cycladic” Series introduces renditions of body parts that cannot be called recognizable. They may trigger associational processes and as a result various other images, but immediately recognizable they are not.
I left the exhibition rather dazed and disoriented. I do not usually get exposed to this bombardment of genitalia and body parts floating about, or standing on their own on the floor, or hanging from the walls or the ceiling. My rescus came from the “Pauline Bunny”, Lucas’ of 1997. I recovered it from my archives and felt that I came back to some sense of regularity. What previously looked like a monster, became like a friend I had not seen for a long time.
Could it be that the body has not disappeared but is disappearing? And will eventually come back?
Τρίτη, 22 Οκτωβρίου, 2013
Today I want to tell a story. About a captain named John Saris, who in 1613 brought back to England some “pictures” from his travels in Japan. But they were not pictures that English or European people would consider ordinary. They were “Shunga” pictures. It so happened that it was not only Captain Saris’s compatriots who were shocked when they saw these pictures. The following incident is characteristic:
“Francis Hall, one of the first US businessmen to visit Japan after the reopening of the country in 1859, was amazed when the respectable married couple who had entertained him to dinner in their home proudly showed him some treasured examples (of Shunga), husband and wife together.” (1)
But what is Shunga?
“Shunga, literally ‘spring pictures’, is the name given to the major genre of explicit erotic art created in Japan during the early modern period (my note “the Edo period”), c.1600–1900. At its best, shunga celebrates the pleasures of lovemaking, in beautiful pictures that present mutual attraction and sexual desire as natural and unaffected. Generally the couples shown are male-female, sometimes married, sometimes not. It is not unusual – particularly in the earlier part of the period – also to find male-male couples, according to accepted custom whereby a mature man courted a youth. The genre’s artistic conventions include facial expressions conveying a sense of deep pleasure, exaggerated sexual organs that are the source of that pleasure and surroundings filled with gorgeous textiles, accessories, food and drink. Often the pictures will contain snippets of humorous and even farcical conversation between the lovers. Another common name for a spring picture was ‘laughter picture’ (warai-e).” (1)
The Edo period
The Edo period is the period between 1603 and 1867 in the history of Japan, when the country was under the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
“Men and women during the Edo period really enjoyed life and this is reflected through shunga,” says Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery director Angelika Li. “Look at the facial expressions and the interactions depicted, they are enjoying what they are doing, it’s not perverse, it’s relaxed, it’s saying that sex is just a part of life to be enjoyed.” (2)
There was no strong sense in Edo Japan of sex as ‘sinful’, certainly not according to the native beliefs we now call Shintō, which traced the mythical origins of the Japanese islands and the imperial lineage to the conjugation between the deities Izanagi and Izanami, who learned the techniques of lovemaking by watching the twitching tail of a wagtail. (1)
The Meiji period
The Edo period is followed by the Meiji period, which starts on 3rd May 1868. Meiji is the restoration of the imperial rule in Japan, under Emperor Meiji. It was a response to the perceived threat by the colonial powers of the day. Japan was weak militarily and centuries of isolation had kept the country underdeveloped in armaments and industry.
“By the Meiji period, the influence of Western values had transformed shunga into a thing of taboo, and contemporary Japanese society continues to struggle with prejudices against shunga.” (2)
East India Company
The East India Company (EIC) was incorporated by royal charter in 1600. The charter granted a monopoly of all English trade in all lands washed by the Indian Ocean (from the southern tip of Africa, to Indonesia in the South Pacific). Unauthorized (British) interlopers were liable to forfeiture of ships and cargo. The company was managed by a governor and 24 directors chosen from its stockholders.
It was 11th June 1613 when Clove, a British ship, sailed into Hirado, a port on the westernmost tip of the island of Kyushu.
It was the first British ship to arrive in Japan.
The Commander of the voyage, John Saris, was warmly welcomed by the local ruling family, the Matsuura, and the lord himself went aboard the Clove to view it.
Clove set out of England in the Spring of 1611, leading a mission of three ships. The trip was organised by the East India Company, then headed by Sir Thomas Smythe (c.1588-1625). (3)
Ravaged by scurvy, dysentery and hungry cannibals encountered during their traumatic two-year journey, the surviving crew of the East India Company’s galleon, the Clove, staggered ashore at Hirado, Japan’s westernmost port, in June 1613.
Clove was met by William Adams, or “Anjin Miura” (the Pilot from Miura), an Englishman who had arrived 13 years earlier as the pilot of a Dutch ship, understood the language and had risen to honorary samurai status.
What happened in Japan?
Saris and Adams took a month to reach Shizuoka, entering the city along a road lined with severed heads on pikes. The journey gave Saris time to observe the Japanese: he liked their “cheese” (in fact, tofu) and the women were “well faced, handed and footed”, although he was somewhat put off by their practice of dyeing their teeth black. The journey also gave the two men time to get to know each other. The crew of the Clove had expected an effusive welcome from a compatriot marooned for 13 years, but were offended by Adams’s coolness towards them. Saris distrusted him as “a naturalised Japaner”. The historian James Murdoch likely echoes Adams’s view of Saris as “a mere dollar-grinding philistine with a taste for pornographic pictures”. (5)
Shogun Ieyasu granted trading rights to Captain John Saris, who established the first English trading post in Japan. In this capacity he was able to acquire many goods, including the “shunga” pictures he brought back to England with him.
The return to England
Saris took the Clove out from Japan in late 1613 with many Japanese artefacts, in addition to the presents, such as lacquer, screens and (not for sale, but for Saris’s own amusement) erotic images, called shunga.
The Clove arrived home in Plymouth in September, and in London in December, 1614. The lacquer was sold at auction and is the first art auction ever held in English history. The screens were auctioned second.
Things, however, for the Captain were not good. After his return to England Saris was charged with cruelty towards his men and with smuggling.
The shunga was confiscated by the East India Company and destroyed, being considered scandalous.
Though officially reprimanded, he was also awarded a ‘gratification’ for his achievements of over £300.
Now rich, he left the Company and some time later married Anne, granddaughter of a former Lord Mayor of London. When she died childless after a couple of years, Saris moved to comfortable retirement in Fulham, a fashionable suburb in 1629. He took a house on Church Gate, behind All Saints Church. Saris died on 11th December 1643, leaving much of his money to charity. His grave is modest and sadly has been damaged and removed from its original site. (4)
Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese art, An Exhibition at the British Museum
Among the trade goods Saris brought back to London and displayed at the Royal Exchange, were ‘lascivious’ pictures, now presumed to have been Japanese shunga. These were promptly burned by outraged Company officials. Destroyed in 1615, locked away in 1865, shunga was finally publicly displayed for the first time in London in 1973 as part of a general exhibition of ukiyo-e prints organised by the Victoria & Albert Museum. In 1995, the British Museum included all the major shunga works by Utamaro in its special monograph exhibition of that artist.
Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese art is the first comprehensive exhibition to focus in detail on the beauty and humour of shunga, setting this fascinating art form in its historical and cultural context. (1)
1. British Museum Magazine – Timothy Clark, curator of Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese art talks about the exhibition
2. INTERVIEW: Uragami Mitsuru on Japanese Erotic Art, Shunga
3. The Voyage of ‘The Clove’ – Japan 400 Years Ago, Eccentric Parabola
4. Historical Overview - 400 years of Japan – British relations
5.The Daily Telegraph: Japan: 400 years in a fascinating land. Michael Booth retraces the footsteps of the first English samurai.
Δευτέρα, 14 Οκτωβρίου, 2013
“Ephemeron” refers to an object of a transitory or impermanent nature.
“Ephemeral”: beginning and ending in a day.
“Ephemerality”: the state and /or condition of being ephemeral.
Manifold: ephemerality, changeability, and transitoriness.
The transition from something to something else; from something else to nothing.