Monday, February 13, 2006

Index Joy

Because the index of my book seems to feature every historical personage from "Abelard, Peter" to "Wulfstan," it is taking me what seems to be eons to complete.

Here are my favorite entries so far.

cattle 87-88, 97-100

Celts: formation of Celtic Fringe, 35-36; as modern invention 44, 179n; as strategic designator, 30

deer-cow 103

difficult middles: and alternative histories, 3, 47, 59-63, 72-76; and blood, 72, 73; as borderland, 7, 10, 100-104; defined, 2; denial of, 12, 41, 57; doubling within, 29, 56-57; exclusion and return, 41, 73; as mixture without synthesis, 98; and postcoloniality, 112. See also hybridity; monsters

English: and Bede, 47, 48, 50, 52, 64; as frigid, 33; as mutable, 11, 23, 55, 58; hairstyles, 17-18, 123; mixed origin, 35, 44, 45, 50-51; tails, 39-40; unity, 110-111; as uncivilized, 35, 38, 39, 55. See also Angles and Bede.

Irish: 54, 191n; and cattle, 87-88; clothing, 18, 87; as barbarians, 87; bestiality, 87-90, 97; as equals and allies, 20, 35, 46-47; monsterization of, 35, 78, 86-90; as primitive, 35, 87; as unkempt, 18; as werewolves, 86-87, 89

monkey-puppies 103

monsters: as aboriginals, 27; and cultura mestiza, 102; and gender, 105; and hybridity, 3, 6, 7, 8, 16, 41, 59-60, 100, 102; and freedom, 6, 102; and middle spaces, 76, 99-102; as mixta 100, 102, 103; monsterization 3, 5, 11, 105, 112; and postcolonial theory 6; and race 41. See also Britons; centaur; difficult middles; hybridity; Irish; Jews; Minotaur; Ox Man; Picts; Saracens; Scots; Welsh; wolves

polygamy 20, 34

pork 14, 21, 22

toads, man-eating 95; poisonous, 147


Anonymous said...

what, no discussion of irish hairstyles?

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Perhaps the Irish were all bald in the Middle Ages?

But that does remind me that I need to add an entry for Irish beards. Gerald of Wales was obsessed by them (perhaps because he loved bad puns, and Latin allowed him a real groaner on beards and barbarity).

Karl Steel said...

Have you read the Apologia de Barbis of Burchard of Bellevaux? I haven't, but as he's mid-12th century, maybe you can use him at some point?


There's also my favorite bit on centaurs, which is from Palaephatus's On Unbelievable Tales, "What is said about the Centaurs is that they were beasts with the overall shape of a horse -- except for the head, which was human. But even if there are some people who believe that such a horse once existed, it is impossible. Horse and human natures are not compatible, nor are their foods the same: what a horse eats could not pass through the mouth and throat of a man. And if there ever was such a shape, it would also exist today" (30).

Reminds me that when my brother and I were kids we took great delight in intoning 'wrong!' whenever something happened in a cartoon that we found unbelievable, e.g., a seed turning into a tornado.

I'd love to see your pork references JJC. I've more than I know what to do with.

Karl Steel said...

Oops. I meant to put this in the previous comment:

Have you see

Jongen, Ludo. “Do Centaurs Have Souls? Centaurs as Seen by the Middle Dutch Poet Jacob van Maerlant.” 139-54. in Houwen, L. A. J. R. and Egbert Forsten, eds. Animals and the Symbolic in Medieval Art and Literature. Mediaevalia Groningana 20 (1997)

There's some great material in this. There's some material from Thomas of Cantimpre that I'm working on and having all kinds of fun with.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Thanks, Karl, those references look wonderful -- I'll certainly check them out. It's obviously too late for this book, but I have an ongoing project of researching medial and indeterminate creatures like the centaur as figures for dreaming alternative identities.

Anonymous said...

I like it that you've mentioned both man-eating and poisonous toads. Lord knows that they're not the same thing!

Karl Steel said...

I engage Thomas of C mainly in the second half of my first chapter. Here's the key quote:

Et non mirum, si monstra huiusmodi alicuius actus habilitatione ceteris animalibus preferantur, quia forte secundum quod plus approprinquant homini exteriori forma in corpore, tanto illi approprinquant sensu estimationis in corde.
(from Thomas of Cantimpré, Liber de natura rerum, Helmut Boese ed. (Berlin: W. De Gruyter, 1973), 97)
[And do not marvel if the acts of some of these monsters in habit rise above the other animals, since perhaps according to the more they approach they human outwardly in bodily form, the more they approach human sense in their mind]

I'm quoting this, first, because I find the Latin in this bit a little opaque: medieval folks, is my translation fine?

Here's a portion of what I do with this, if y'all are interested:

Thomas posits that the capacity for reason depends upon how proximate the creature’s body is to the characteristic human form. The effects of this argument disrupt both the qualitative difference between humans and every other living thing and the connection between the characteristically human form and humanity itself. In the usual working of the corporeal tradition, the human body should be as much the sole possession of humans as their mental and spiritual capacities: humans are rational, and as that shape is related to reason, so too is their shape human. In Thomas’s addition to the tradition, the corporeal forms characteristically those of humans no longer belong, at least theoretically, exclusively to humans. Rather, nonhuman creatures have purportedly human qualities to the degree that they exhibited the form typically identified as the human form. Thus, the form and its benefits function along a continuum rather than snapping neatly into one or the other binary. One end of the pole was occupied entirely by humans and the other by animals, but now a space between these could be inhabited by monsters...

Moreover, this focus on the function of the form suggests that it could no longer quite be thought of simply as the human form. Instead, this form also became the manifestation, guarantee, or enabler—Thomas’s theory, like so many others, does not provide for clear distinctions between these three possibilities—of the inseparable qualities of dominance and reason for whatever creature had the form. In other words, the form becomes not a form of any particular creature but rather the form, so to speak, of an interrelated set of abstract qualities. With this, the idea of “anthropomorphism” must be jettisoned. Creatures might instead not be thought “human shaped” so much as “shaped appropriately for reason.” Centaurs and satyrs are nearly identified with this form, and so have some modicum of speech and reason, whereas humans were fortunate enough to be shaped perfectly for reason: at least, this would be true for humans thought to be “complete” in body by the dominant discourses. In Thomas’s solution neither the form nor its benefits are no longer exclusively human; all that remains exclusively human is how thoroughly and powerfully humans have these qualities.


Folks, if you've made it this far, confirm this: I've not seen Thomas of C's argument about corporeal form and reason stated this explicitly anywhere else. Is his argument in this form uniquely his own?

Karl Steel said...

In Thomas’s solution neither the form nor its benefits are no longer exclusively human

Folks: I spend a weekend with my family and my language skills fall the hell apart.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

I've seen NOTHING like Thomas's argument before, and I like your close reading of it, Karl. Any idea what sources have inspired him as he launches into this riff? It's really quite amazing.

Karl Steel said...

No idea what Thomas’s direct sources would have been. I suppose I could ask Medtext….

I’m citing from his preface to Book III, “De monstruosis hominibus orientis,” whose content is otherwise pretty typical stuff. He begins this preface with Jerome’s centaur and satyr, moves into Augustine DCD XVI.8 (which he silently, and significantly, revises), and then slips in the shocking bit I analyze above. This bit appears in the Jacob von Maerlant Dutch translation of Thomas (Der naturen bloeme, which I encountered in the ‘Do Centaurs Have Souls’ article) but not in the Old French translation of Thomas De Natura III, either because this OF translation omitted the preface because it thought the preface sketchy or because the OF was interested only in doing a sort of quotidian moralized teratologic catalog.

In part II of Chapter I, I connect Thomas to what I term the corporeal heuristic of reason. This heuristic is the longstanding connection between the human form and humans’ purportedly unique capacities and the animal form and animals’ base incapacities: most commonly, folks will say that human bipedality indicates their responsibility/capacity to think on celestial things, and that animal quadrupedality indicates their inability to think on anything but food and other terrestrial things. Normally this heuristic doesn’t account for bipedal animals or animals that are otherwise “anthropomorphic” (but see my discussion above on this term). The exempla and doctrinal collection Ci nous dit does (in a way wholly unlike Thomas), so does Gregory of Nyssa (whom I get at via William of St. Theirry via Eriugena) (in a way unlike, but not wholly unlike, Thomas), and so does Thomas. What distinguishes Thomas from every other instance of the heuristic is his appreciation of partial forms as persistent as compared to the temporary form of a bipedal monkey (Ci nous dit) or the (im)possible form of a human without hands (Gregory of N).

Karl Steel said...

to what I term the corporeal heuristic of reason

Although this morning, I thought: "corporeal heuristic of reason"? Huh? Do I have to do jargon to do interpretation?

Is this phrase too snooty? Just misleading? Fine? Did some German come up with a term 150 years ago that could serve me just as well, and combine the pleasure of obscurantism with the respectability of age? Or do you have something better in mind, gentle readers?

Jeffrey Cohen said...

"Corporeal heuristic of reason" ... if ever in your career you had the right to use such terms, it is now, Karl.

Personally I don't find it snooty, though it did give me pause: I had to linger over it for a while before I got what it was you coined the phrase in order to convey. And once I did get it, it made perfect sense.

Karl Steel said...

Thanks for the ok. I'll have it embroidered on my blazons, especially because, well, some cigarette company already took "In hoc signo vinces."

..and, I gotta say, JJC, there's an advantage to working as a lowly adjunct at the institution across the street from my lofty U: next week I get to teach Frankenstein. I should be able to detect the merest hint of longing in you, gentle host.