Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Gone to Ireland

Won't be posting for a while.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Medieval Noise

"Few academic journals can pull off two articles about farting in one issue, butExemplaria does it with panache."

So writes Bettina Bildhauer in the Times Literary Supplement (10 March 2006) about the "Medieval Noise" cluster.

I'm just relieved that a pun about the cluster being full of hot air was avoided.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Quotes of the day

The uncanny intersection of these two declarations, it seems to me, are at the heart of the "problem" of the Green Children: this medieval historian and this contemporary philosopher meet in a space made infinite through the possibilities offered by the monster.

Is he dreaming of another world containing kingdoms without number?

-- William of Newburgh, History of English Affairs, 1.Prologue

It is the inhuman, the beyond the human, the less than human, the border that secures the human in its ostensible reality ... We must learn to live and to embrace the destruction and rearticulation of the human in the name of a more capacious and, finally, less violent world, not knowing in advance what precise form our humanness does and will take.

-- Judith Butler, Undoing Gender 218, 35

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ides of March

Inspired by my brother, who took Latin with me in high school, I celebrate the Ides by eating Caesar salad and drinking an Orange Julius.


(And if you'd like to see where this image is from, go here.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Green Children

Here, as an early Saint Patrick's day post, is a story I'm working on from William of Newburgh's History of English Affairs. I'll be delivering a lecture on it at this conference on March 17. It is a truly weird story that deeply disturbed William.

The narrative of the Green Children (De viridibus pueris, Historia 1.27) in William of Newburgh's wide-eyed account:

In East Anglia there is a village which is said to lie four or five miles from the famous monastery of the blessed king and martyr Edmund. Close to the village some very ancient ditches are visible. In English they are called Wlfpittes or wolf-ditches, and they lend their name to the village close by [modern Woolpit, in Sussex, a village that now uses this story to attract tourists]. At harvest-time, when the harvesters were busy in the fields gathering the crops, two children, a boy and a girl, emerged from these ditches. Their entire bodies were green, and they were wearing clothes of unusual colour and unknown material. As they wandered bemused over the countryside, they were seized by the reapers and led to the village. Many people flocked to observe this most unusual sight, and for several days they were kept without food. So they were now almost fainting with hunger, yet they paid no attention to any food offered to them. It then chanced that beans were brought in from the fields; they at once grabbed these, and looked for the beans in the stalks, but when they found nothing in the hollow of the stalks they wept bitterly. Then one of the bystanders pulled the beans from the pods and offered them to the children, who at once gleefully took and ate them.

For several months they were nourished by this food until they learned to eat bread. In the end they gradually lost their own colour when the qualities of our foodstuffs had their effect. They became like us, and also learned the use of our speech. Persons of prudence decided that they should receive the sacrament of holy baptism, and this was also administered. But the boy, who seemed to be younger, lived only a short time after baptism and then died prematurely, whereas the girl continued unaffected, differing not even in the slightest way from the women of our kind. She certainly took a husband later at Lynn, according to the story, and was said to be living a few years ago.

Once they had the use of our language, they were asked who they were and where they came from. They are said to have replied: 'We are people from Saint Martin's land; he is accorded special reverence in the country of our birth.' When they were next asked where that land was, and how they had come from there to Woolpit, they said: "We do not know either of these things. All we remember is that one day we were pasturing our father's flocks in the fields, when we heard a mighty din such as we often hear at St. Edmund's when they say the bells are ringing out. When we turned our attention to the sound which caused us surprise, it was as though we were out of our minds, for we suddenly found ourselves among you in the fields where you were harvesting." When they were asked whether people believed in Christ there, or whether the sun rose, they said that it was a Christian country and had churches. "But the sun does not rise among the natives of our land," they said "and it obtains very little light from the sun's rays, but is satisfied with the measure of its brightness which in your country precedes its rising or follows its setting. Moreover a shining land is visible not far from our own, but a very broad river divides the two." They are said to have made these and many other replies too long to narrate to interested enquirers. (1.27)

Sometimes the riches of the internet cause my sense of wonder to ache.

Who would have imagined that there could be a site entitled, and that it could have a whole section on the Green Children of Woolpit?

That pesky animal/human divide

Through the magic of Netflix I am once again seeing some films in which the animals do not talk, crack jokes, or sing. One that is relevant to the discussions of medieval animals on this blog is Grizzly Man, a documentary by Werner Herzog. The film examines the life of Timothy Treadwell, a man who used bears as fantasy bodies through which to create an alternative universe where he could co-exist with the bears he loved -- and in which he was (he thought) accepted and at peace. Somehow he managed to live among the grizzlies of Alaska for several months of each year for more than a decade. I will give nothing of the film away by also saying that eventually a bear devoured him.

The film winds up being as much about Herzog as Treadwell, with both men using the bears to detail vying portraits of what Nature is and how Nature works (for Herzog it is sometimes indifferent, sometimes cruel, and in one key scene both hungry and bored; for Treadwell it is a space of primal union and unmediated beauty). Sometimes heavy-handed, sometimes in danger of turning its subject into a freak show, but all in all surprising in the way it reads "found" footage and a horrible demise, this was a provocative piece of art. It also has a queer undercurrent on sexuality that I'm still trying to figure out.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A few thoughts on the American Middle Ages

I am almost finished with the draft of the afterword for Reality, Television and the Middle Ages .

Reading through the essays collected in the volume was a pleasure. The winding threads of their shared conversations often led to unexpected conjunctions: cable television with Chaucer, the evening news in Florida with Orderic Vitalis, George Bush with wolves and Henry Bolingbroke, penance manuals and Arthurian myth with reality television. Forget the clichéd progress narrative of how the contemporary had to leave the medieval behind to become its resplendent self. Forget the historical denigration of the medieval as abject, other, undeveloped. In their insistence upon the intimacy of the medieval within the modern and the modern within the medieval, these essays collectively offer nothing less than a theory of temporal interpenetration. The chronologies detailed here are complex, nonlinear stories of how the past cohabitates the present and might even potentially trigger unexpected futures.

The essays gathered in the book have much in common, but one shared trait that resonated for me as I read through the volume several times is their implicit American ambit. The war in Iraq and television shows like Survivor are, from one point of view, inherently international. Yet even if they mainly unfold in distant geographies and involve other countries as participants, spectators, or victims, these are still American events (the war was instigated and is being run by the Bush administration; the castaways vying for a million dollars might sail to Panama or Polynesia but they are US citizens being watched by US citizens). The Middle Ages that informs the majority of the essays in this book is a fairly Anglocentric and Christiancentric one: not surprising, of course, given that the version of the Middle Ages that dominates the American academy is mainly an anglophile and Christian one. This enduring postcolonial inheritance determines what past is most easily available for both scholars and the public to love. Reality, Television and the Middle Ages tends to Americanize the past as that past gets reevaluated – but this is not some kind of anachronistic practice but (within the critical language articulated so well in the editors' introduction) amounts to a strategy of reading texts carefully against their own grain, discovering what they have to say of the worlds that produced them as well as to the worlds in which they now find themselves.

These spaces, both medieval and modern, tend to be realms and times where placid words like "internationalism" fail to capture the turbulence that sweeps through them. When peoples, cultures, religions intermix, the results are seldom that "melting pot" of which Americans were so enamored not too many decades ago. Such collision points are far more likely to engender conflict-prone and uneasy admixture, a roiling stew of competing ideologies, languages, values.

A stew, or perhaps a soup.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

JJC in, um, forty years or so ...

The Un-Retiring

I link to this story because last week I was elected the next chair of my department -- though not, like Dr. X, for life.

Breaking news in teratology

Courtesy of Karl:

LONDON (AFP) - The discovery of a Turkish family that walks on all fours could aid research into the evolution of humans.

Researchers believe the five brothers and sisters, who can walk naturally only on all fours, may provide new information on how humans evolved from four-legged hominids to walk upright.

Nicholas Humphrey, evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, told The Times the discovery opened "an extraordinary window on our past".

"I do not think they were designed to be quadrupeds by their genes, but their unique genetic make-up allowed them to be," he said.

"It has produced an extraordinary window on our past. It is physically possible, which noone would have guessed from the [modern] human skeleton."

The siblings, the subject of a new BBC documentary to be aired on March 17, suffer from a genetic abnormality that may prevent them from walking upright.

Instead, they use their palms like heels with their fingers sticking up from the ground.

The BBC said the documentary would contribute to fierce scientific debate and raised profound questions about what it is to be human.

Humphrey, who has contributed to the documentary, believes the style of walking may be a throwback to a form of behaviour abandoned by humans more than three million years ago.

Two sisters and one son have only ever walked on two hands and two feet, while another daughter and son occasionally walk on two feet.

All five are mentally retarded and have problems with language as a result of a form of underdevelopment of the brain known as cerebellar ataxia.

However Humphrey told the Times their behaviour may be partly the result of their parents tolerating the behaviour in childhood.

They are aged between 18 and 34 and live in southern Turkey, athough the makers of the documentary have not disclosed their exact location.

"They walk like animals and that's very disturbing at first. But we were also very moved by this family's tremendous warmth and humanity," Jemima Harrison of Passionate Productions told the Times.

Does the fact that this family, transformed into a remnant of the human past and discovered in remote Turkey, is made to tell an uplifting story about "warmth and humanity" -- by a documentary outfit named Passioante Productions, no less -- bother anyone else?

Quote of the day

Because the very basic idea that history lives, that even distant and relatively unexplored times and places are relevant to twentieth-century American lives, suggests sites of cultural relation that are unpredictable, uncontrollable ... we can forge dynamic relations to the past, even the distant or unfamiliar past, even if at present we do not know where such relations will lead ... using ideas of the past, creating relations with the past, touching in this way the past in our efforts to build selves and communities now and into the future. (Carolyn Dinshaw, Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern 177, 206)

That was published in 1999, though I first heard it on the conference circuit several years earlier. I had believed that this line of thinking was best being realized in postcolonial medieval studies, but the recent collection on television, politics and the Middle Ages for which I've been composing the afterword convinces me that its ripples are considerably more extensive.

Nessie the elephant?

Astute readers of this blog will know that lake monsters had their brief thread of discussion here (search "Nessie" and you will learn something about the preferred reading of Kid #2, an aspiring cryptozoologist). JKW, an astute reader and someone who seems to find something odd every time he hits the internet, sends the following story from the BBC:

Elephant theory in Nessie search
Unexplained Nessie sightings could have been elephants swimming

Unexplained sightings of the Loch Ness monster could have been elephants enjoying a swim, a scientist has said.
Neil Clark, curator of palaeontology at Glasgow University's Hunterian Museum, spent two years researching Nessie.

He said they could have been circus elephants, as fairs visiting Inverness would often stop on the banks of Loch Ness to give the animals a rest.

To which I must respond: why can't someone pay me to spend two years concocting theories like this one?

Now, because this blog is educational, and to give its fluff a patina of scholarship, here is the first sighting of Nessie, spotted by St Columba (c.521-97) at the banks of the River Ness:

When the saint stayed for some days in Pictland, he had to cross the River Ness. Reaching its banks, he saw spome locals burying a corpse. They told Columba a water beast had snatched and savagely mauled him while he was swimming ... Columba astonished these men by ordering one of his companions to swim across the river and sail back in the little boat on the other shore. The companion obeyed immediately, took off his clothes and dived into the water. The beast was deep beneath, still hungry for prey. It sensed the swimmer's disturbance of the waters and swam quickly towards the surface, mouth open and roaring furiously. The man was only in midstream. All the bystanders froze in terror, but Columba raised a hand, made the sign of the cross, and commanded: 'Desist. Do not touch the man. Go back immediately.' At the sound of the holy voice the beast swam away in terror, as quickly as if ropes had pulled it away.

-- Adomnan of Iona, Life of St Columba 2.27

The heathen Picts who witness this miracle convert, of course, to Christianity. Funny how by the time Nessie arrived in the 20th century, she had gained a gender (how does anyone know she's a she?) and lost her bloodlust.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Blood and medieval identity

Although I reviewed this book quite a while ago, I found myself returning to it in thinking about medieval intermarriage and the disappearance of the mother. When the Trojan exile Brutus marries the Greek princess Ignoge in the History of the Kings of Britain, for example, it doesn't seem to matter that their children will carry an enemy inheritance in their bodies. Much of the time in medieval texts it seems to be only the race or ethnicity of the father that determines the identity of the offspring. I like McCracken's book for many reasons, but most recently for its clear argument of why the mother's blood returns in her children to tell a story that can't be overwritten by the father.

H-France Review Vol. 3 (December 2003), No. 137

Peggy McCracken, The Curse of Eve, the Wound of the Hero: Blood, Gender, and Medieval Literature. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003. xii + 178 pp. Notes, bibliography, and index. $38.95 U.S. (cl). ISBN 0-8122-3713-7.

Review by Jeffrey J. Cohen, George Washington University.

Any new book in medieval studies that begins by quoting heavy metal from the 1970s (an Alice Cooper song from 1975, no less) is a brave work. Peggy McCracken's The Curse of Eve, the Wound of the Hero is not just daring (examining a variety of blood-related topics which have not been widely investigated by scholars, especially those who specialize in literature); it is also refreshingly original.

McCracken argues that blood is a substance that signifies differently according to the gender of the body from which it issues. Women's blood, especially when associated with menstruation or parturition, tends to be represented as abject, enfeebling, and proper only to private spaces. Men's blood, especially when it flows on the battlefield or in the veins of progeny, is regarded as powerful, identity-giving, and suitable for public celebration. Yet there are deep ambivalences in the social coding of what was to the medieval mind a fundamental biological substance. "The curse of Eve" (as Peter Abelard called menstruation) might produce a cure for leprosy or purge the feminine body of harmful excesses; the bleeding male body could become feminized. Medieval literature, McCracken argues, tends to uphold the valorization of masculine blood over feminine but can also at times undermine dominant gender values.

This short book is composed of a preface, six chapters, and a conclusion. Each explores a different literary representation of blood. Although the texts that McCracken examines largely derive from England and France in the twelfth through fifteenth centuries, her comparative method allows her to range widely through space and time. The first chapter, "Only Women Bleed," traces the linking of women's menstrual blood to suffering. In Chrétien de Troyes's Chevalier de la charrete, for example, Lancelot bleeds on Guenevere's bed during their clandestine lovemaking. When the bloody sheets are revealed and the queen is accused of adultery, Guenevere argues that she must have suffered a nocturnal nosebleed. If she is going to lie, McCracken wonders, why does she not claim that she has had her period? The impossibility of asserting such a straightforward explanation leads McCracken to meditate on the absence of menstruation in medieval romance. As it turns out, "in the world organized by battles and the exchange of women between knights, only men bleed" (p. 13)--that is, only men experience a sanguineous efflux that has social consequences, such as the acclamation of heroism in battle.

"The Amenorrhea of War" (chapter two) explores why women are "naturally" excluded from warfare, the goriest of public spaces. A scene from the Ridley Scott film G. I. Jane in which Demi Moore's character "suffers" amenorrhea (loss of a monthly period) as a result of her combat training allows McCracken to remark how biology must be transcended (and femininity abjected) to allow a female body into battle. A similar removal from corporeality and desire attends the representation of most women warriors, especially cross-dressing heroines both fictional (Roman de Silence) and historical (Joan of Arc). From this analysis, McCracken concludes that such representations exist to demonstrate that women are "unsuited to leadership in battle" (p. 26), an incompatibility revealed in the blood of menstruation as well as of parturition.

Why is it that when a father is willing to kill his child the act can be accounted sacrifice (Abraham and Isaac, Jephthah and his daughter), but a mother's infanticide is always murder? "The Gender of Sacrifice" (chapter three) investigates literary depictions of parents murdering children: Philomena in the twelfth-century French poem bearing her name, Abraham in Le Mistére du Viel Testament, the Amicus and Amelius legends, in which a father sacrifices his own children to wash the leprosy from his male friend. Paternal blood, McCracken writes, is shared with the offspring, making a woman's killing of a child an offense directed against that child's father; maternal blood, on the other hand, is imagined to be shed at the scene parturition, a "suppression of the mother's bleeding body" (p. 60).

Monsters tend to arise at social borders, policing what is permitted and what is illicit. Not surprisingly, they were associated with the stigma placed on women's blood. Contrary to the directness of its title ("Menstruation and Monstrous Birth"), chapter four examines not menstrual blood in its relation to monstrosity but "a menstrual logic" that clusters around negative depictions of maternal bloodlines. In works such as Le roman du comte d'Anjou and Chaucer's "Man of Law's Tale," worries about a mother's impure (non-noble) blood allow a lie about her having given birth to a monster to be believed. This denigration of maternal inheritance seldom works for long, however, and does implicitly acknowledge the intimate and enduring connection between the bodies of mother and child (even while rendering that intimacy a threat). Post-partum purification rituals, mandating that a mother be blessed at church after a mandatory "lying in" (gesine) of a month, likewise devalue the mother's blood, this time by rendering it a taint that needs ecclesiastical purification.

"The Scene of Parturition" (chapter five) continues this investigation into the dangers imagined to be posed to patriarchal culture by the corporeal bond between mother and child. Here, McCracken reads the construction and subsequent violation of feminine privacy zones, most notably in Le roman de Mélusine. In Jean d'Arras's romance, a fairy-descended mother forbids her husband from ever viewing her at her bath; when he violates the taboo he beholds her as half-woman, half-serpent. McCracken argues that the interdiction that has in fact been violated is against the witnessing of menstruation (another kind of "bodily transformation" [p. 83]). She then turns to an examination of the prohibition of men being present at the scene of birth, especially as a parturition episode is worked out in three versions of the Beves of Hampton story. Because birth scenes underscore "the fragility of the figural values associated with paternity," McCracken concludes, "the scene of birth is always monstrous" (p. 91).

A disharmony between literal and symbolic meanings of blood is often witnessed in representations of childbirth. A similar interpretive knot may be seen in the Grail romances, where a magical chalice is represented as bearing the blood of Christ. This divine substance is also associated with that flowing from the grail's keeper, a wounded (often castrated) king. A close reading of Perlesvaus and the Estoire de saint graal allow McCracken to discern in these narratives an intricate linking of conversion, conquest, and embodiment--seen, for example, when a Saracen woman is cured of a bloody flow upon becoming a Christian. This miracle enables McCracken to invoke a category that has been haunting her analysis all along but had yet to be invoked, race. Male Jews were often thought to experience a menstrual-like bleeding, a fundamental difference in biology that set them bodily apart from Christians, rendering their blood similar to that of women. A closing section returns to the vagina-like wound of the Grail keeper, arguing that this king's efflux ultimately suggests the "occasional inadequacy of gendered categories to describe bodies and blood" (p. 109). A brief conclusion entitled "Bleeding for Love" reiterates the main theses of the book, reads a rich scene of bloodletting in Marie de France's Equitan, and asserts that although blood tends to be gendered in predictable and discouraging ways, literature can sometimes "intervene" in this system of representation to question its "legitimacy" and "values" (p. 117).

The Curse of Eve, the Wound of the Hero is an ambitious work, provocative and wide-ranging. There are times, however, when it is not well served by its own brevity. For example, even though I admire McCracken for her comparative methodology (at least in the early chapters; the second half of the book is rather more circumscribed in discipline and geography), the danger of a comparative method is that there is likely to be more within the field or body of literature to which one alludes than can be covered in a few pages of reference. In chapter two McCracken turns to Old Irish myth to discover all kinds of negative representations of women, war, and bodily function. She focuses mostly on Medb, the warrior queen who proves herself superior to the men of Ulster until during battle she finds herself incapacitated by her period. McCracken connects this episode with the unforgettable scene when the otherworldly woman Macha gives birth to twins during a running contest, an event that causes her to curse the Ulstermen with the recurring labor pangs that came to be their definitive mark. This second episode seems to me rather like the bloody sheets scene from Chrétien, where McCracken focuses so much on Guenevere and menstruation that she nearly neglects the source of the blood, the torn (post-virginal?) body of Lancelot. Macha's curse effects a fundamental bodily transformation of the Ulaid (men of Ulster), making them suffer repeatedly the pain of parturition. This is well-deserved justice for their unfeeling treatment of pregnant Macha and seems to offer an alternative to the denigration of birth scenes McCracken explores elsewhere. Compared to the women in most of the works which McCracken examines, women are quite differently portrayed in the Irish sources, exhibiting a potential for valorized "masculine" behavior that makes them rather similar to the women of Old Norse texts. The great hero Cu Chulainn, for example, is trained in Scotland by the matriarch Scáthach and has his only son with the warrior princess Aífe; these women appear to offer an undemeaned alternative to Demi Moore, Silence, and Joan of Arc. A similar criticism could be advanced for McCracken's treatment of the Jewish choice of taking their lives 'al qiddush ha-Shem rather than be forcefully converted by crusaders at Mainz in 1096. The episode is so tersely narrated that it lacks context, especially because its depictions of women's blood are as highly literary as any found in the texts examined at more length in the book.

As McCracken herself admits, the problem with writing a selective book on a capacious topic is that most readers will find that some favorite scene of flowing blood has been omitted (p. 111). I do not mean to judge her work for what it might have been rather than for what it is, especially because it is such a valuable contribution to gender studies, medieval studies, and corporeal theory. The Curse of Eve, the Wound of the Hero: Blood, Gender, and Medieval Literature is a fascinating, lively, entertaining book. Built upon solid scholarship and proceeding through nuanced close readings of an impressive range of texts, it is a work that anyone interested in feminism, the history of the body, and the historical complexities of human identity will want to read.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Call me maudlin

and mawkish and schmaltzy and any other adjective for "overly sentimental" that you'd care to hurl at me from your thesaurus. Discovered today in kid #1's bookbag, a 3rd grade economics exercise:

The worker I'd like to be is:
Profesore [sic]

Human Resources:

Natural Resources:

Capital Resources:

Because my dad is one and I love him

What I'm reading now

Bruce Holsinger, The Premodern Condition: Medievalism and the Making of Theory

The Premodern Condition identifies and explains a surprising affinity for medievalism and medieval studies among the leading figures of critical theory. Drawing on a wide range of philosophical, literary-critical, and sociological works produced within the French nouvelle critique of the 1960s, Holsinger argues for reconceiving these discourses, in part, as a brilliant amalgamation of medievalisms. (from the University of Chicago website)

What I will read soon

Sharon Kinoshita, Medieval Boundaries: Rethinking Difference in Old French Literature

In Medieval Boundaries, Sharon Kinoshita examines the role of cross-cultural contact in twelfth- and early thirteenth-century French literature. Starting from the observation that many of the earliest and best-known works of the French literary tradition are set on or beyond the borders of the French-speaking world, she reads the Chanson de Roland, the lais of Marie de France, and a variety of other texts in an expanded geographical frame that includes the Iberian peninsula, the Welsh marches, and the eastern Mediterranean. In Kinoshita's reconceptualization of the geographical and cultural boundaries of the medieval West, such places become significant not only as sites of conflict but also as spaces of intense political, economic, and cultural negotiation. (from the University of Pennsylvania website, which also offers a tantalizing excerpt and lists March 2006 for date of publication)

Sonic vibrations from the long dead not possible after all

From the anthropology group blog Savage Minds:

A recent ‘discovery’ on what appears to be French (Belgian?) TV made the rounds on a couple of mailing lists I was on recently—the claim was the researhcers were using new archaeological techniques to recover sound from pottery that is hundreds of years old. The idea is that you can, for instance, recover the sounds of people saying things like “damn—why did it get so dark all of a sudden” in Latin off of vases that were dug up in Pompeii.

Not surprisingly, this turned out to be a hoax. It turns out that this idea has quite a history. The idea was first reported in the article Ancient Recordings from Antiquity which appeared in the Proceedings of the IEEE in 1969. From there it appeared in Gregory Benford’s 1979 short story Time Shards, which itself spawned episodes of X-Files and CSI.

I don’t think anyone took this recurring hoax very seriously, but you know how it is—anything with a long enough Google Trail is going to convince someone that there must be something to the story. Also I sort of like the weird alignment of people who seemed most interested in this story—cultural studies types to whom this seemed technically feasible, the Boing-Boing/Make crowd who think it ought to be true even if it isn’t, and of course the fundamentalist Christians.

(I post this here because of a longtime interest in medieval noise and its continued resonance. Looks like we won't be recovering those long sought after sound effects from Chaucer after all).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Edward Said on untimely art

As part of a piece I'm working on right now, I've been thinking quite a bit about what might be called temporal interpenetration, a kind of "thickness" of time that seems to adhere to certain objects and works of art, complexly enfolding history, the present, and the promise of futurity. This quote from Edward Said, taken from an essay that seems to have Nietzsche's Untimely Meditations in its unconscious, strikes me as an especially eloquent articulation of how something can be historical and yet multitemporal:

Beethoven's late works, according to Solomon, exude a new sense of private striving and instability that is quite different from earlier works such as the "Eroica" Symphony and the five piano concertos that address the world with self-confident gregariousness. The masterpieces of Beethoven's final decade are late to the extent that they are beyond their own time, ahead of it in terms of daring and startling newness, later than it in that they describe a return or homecoming to realms forgotten or left behind by the relentless forward march of history.

Edward Said, "Untimely Meditations" (review of Maynard Solomon, Late Beethoven)