Friday, August 31, 2007

Paradise Lost: "Danger in Good Sex"

Paradise (c. 1620)
"Behold that great, astonished prude,
the lion proud with little pride..."
(Image from Wikipedia)

Despite being a 'Puritan', Milton was hardly what one might call 'puritanical' -- although he did praise above "all Temples th' upright heart and pure" (PL 1.18) -- and I promised yesterday some evidence today on how explicit and titillating Milton can get.

I had broken off yesterday's entry almost immediately after noting James Grantham Turner's remark about Milton despising the "open flaunting of illicit sexuality" (Turner 153), so one might imagine Milton as one of those puritanical prigs who patch over every explicit thing with fig leaves. Milton does not describe everything in explicit detail, of course, for he's better than that. What he does is cover just enough to let the sensuous rhythms of his words and the amorous workings of our own imaginations do the rest:
Milton is no prude, and he expresses Adam and Eve's sexual intercourse and climax in a veiled manner that intimately yet unexpectedly involves the reader in their private erotic play, which implies Eve's:
Subjection, but requir'd with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best receivd,
Yielded with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet reluctant amorous delay. (PL 4.308-11)
That "sweet reluctant amorous delay" takes us to the very brink of their climax, which is then again delayed for us as Milton conceals from us those "mysterious parts" (4.312) that were only for Adam and Eve unconcealed.
Yet, paradise does pose its challenges to the happy couple in their "mutable perfection" (PL 5.524), for:
Hidden from that first pair was the fact that Eve's game of amorous delay, both prior to and during lovemaking, left Adam vulnerable to an unfortunate consequence:
Because sweet reluctant amorous delay will provide a daily reaffirmation of "the conscience of her worth," Adam will inevitably be vulnerable to the opposite of object-debasement. The game that preserves Eve's value from the fate of debasement works all too well, and the consequence is a tendency in the first husband to abase himself before the idol of his mate. It is no surprise when he falls "Fondly overcome with female charm" (9.999). The sexual fantasy Milton embedded at the origins of human love simply has to, by its very meaning, buck against the ordained hierarchy that sets the man over the woman. It makes the Fall explicable. (Kerrigan and Braden 45)
As Kerrigan and Braden go on to note, "Courtly love was charged early on with idolatry, and Adam's Fall is in this sense a medieval one," in the sense that Milton places himself, if ironically, within the Medieval Romance tradition (William Kerrigan and Gordon Braden. "Milton's Coy Eve: Paradise Lost and Renaissance Love Poetry," English Literary History. Volume 53, Number 1 (Spring, 1986), page 48).
On the other hand, my faithful commentor who goes by the pen name "Eshuneutics" has pointed out Milton's more positive debt to the tradition of courtly love, so I will need to work a bit more nuance into this paper.

And some say that blogging is a distraction from serious scholarly work! Not that my own work is very serious...

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eve's "sweet reluctant amorous delay"

You were Expecting an Evening of Delight?
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm still deep into working on my Milton article, and with only five free days more until the semester's onset, I'm too busy to blog on anything but my article's progress.

Here's a sample that comes directly after the riff from Don Quixote that I did not segue into yesterday:
Scholars do not know if Milton read Don Quixote, though it was available by 1620 in an English translation by Thomas Shelton (cf. online facsimile), and Milton's own nephew John Phillips later translated it for publication in 1687 (cf. online facsimile), after Milton's death (cf. John T. Shawcross, The Arms of the Family, 110-1), but he would have concurred with the traveler's critique of courtly love as falling into heathenism through its idolatrous worship of the unattainable lady. Milton prefers the attainable lady, albeit not the improperly attainable one. Rather, he prefers the purely properly attainable sort found in paradise:
Here Love his golden shafts imploies, here lights
His constant Lamp, and waves his purple wings,
Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile
Of Harlots, loveless, joyless, unindeard,
Casual fruition, nor in Court Amours
Mixt Dance, or wanton Mask, or Midnight Bal,
Or Serenate, which the starv'd Lover sings
To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain. (PL 4.763-70)
Quite a full-frontal attack on not just illicit sexual congress but also the tradition of courtly love and its conventions! James Grantham Turner suggests that Milton's dismissal of "Court Amours" stems from the view that this tradition of courtly love had led to "the open flaunting of illicit sexuality by the privileged classes" in his own time (Turner, Libertines and Radicals in Early Modern London, 19), which Milton further links to the fallen angel "Belial in the epic catalogue of fallen angels" (Turner 153; cf. PL 1.490-505).
But Milton is no prude, and tomorrow, I'll demonstrate how explicit and titillating Milton can get.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Milton: Eve's Female Charm

Courtly Lovers
Under the Tree of Knowledge
Albrecht Dürer, "Adam and Eve" (1507)
(Image from Wikipedia)

As readers will already know, I've been floundering around like a fish out of water, flipping from one place to another in my search for a topic that I can turn into an article on Milton before the semester begins, and I think that I've finally found a topic that I can do quickly.

I've been discussing some variations on the interpretation of the Fall as Adam's heroic act of noble self-sacrifice, and I've noted that I read Milton as critiquing this view. I had intended to look either for Milton's sources or at his influence, but given my limited time, I'm going to focus almost solely upon the argument internal to Paradise Lost, albeit with some discussion of the courtly love tradition.

My basic idea is that Milton presents Adam's fall in terms of a courtly lover's experience, which begins by lovingly overpraising the lady's beauty but ends in basely lusting for the lady's body, a transition from the spiritual to the carnal that the Romance tradition knew so well (and sometimes even celebrated).

I've only just begun, so here's what I've written thus far:
In his discourse with Raphael, Adam admits to a weakness that he has felt since discovering Eve:
. . . here passion first I felt,
Commotion strange, in all enjoyments else
Superiour and unmov'd, here onely weake
Against the charm of Beauties powerful glance. (PL 8.530-3)
From the context, PL 8.508-33, Adam reveals that precisely his reason, his mind itself, is subjected to beauty's charming capacity to engender passion.

Adam quickly emphasizes that he 'understands' that he himself, made directly in God's image, is superior in the mind (8.541ff):
. . . yet when I approach
Her loveliness, so absolute she seems
And in her self compleat, so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say,
Seems wisest, vertuousest, discreetest, best;
All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded, Wisdom in discourse with her
Looses discount'nanc't, and like folly shewes;
Authority and Reason on her waite,
As one intended first, not after made
Occasionally; and to consummate all,
Greatness of mind and nobleness thir seat
Build in her loveliest, and create an awe
About her, as a guard Angelic plac't. (PL 8.546-59)
Adam praises Eve in language that recalls that of courtly love, for he places Eve above himself in subjecting his "Authority and Reason" (8.554) to her. Moreover, he confesses that Eve's own "Greatness of mind and nobleness" (8.557) serve to "create an awe / About her" (8.558-9) that inverts male hierarchy and confirms him as her overawed servant, and he openly wonders if "Nature faild" to leave him strong enough to resist the lovely charm of the woman.

Adam is in love. And he both idealizes and idolizes his beloved. Raphael is less than pleased, and "with contracted brow" (8.560), he begins to warn Adam:
Accuse not Nature, she hath don her part;
Do thou but thine, and be not diffident
Of Wisdom, she deserts thee not, if thou
Dismiss not her, when most thou needst her nigh,
By attributing overmuch to things
Less excellent, as thou thy self perceav'st.
For what admir'st thou, what transports thee so,
An outside? fair no doubt, and worthy well
Thy cherishing, thy honouring, and thy love,
Not thy subjection: (PL 8.561-70)
Raphael's words constitute a critique of the courtly love tradition, which has often elsewhere been criticized for its tendency to idolize the beloved lady.
I then segue into a riff from Don Quixote that some readers would instantly recognize but that I'd prefer to leave out for now. This is enough for today.

Now, I'm off to prepare breakfast for my own dear lady, the toast of Seoul...

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Anecdote of the Jarred Interpretation"

'Supernatural' Halo
(Image from Wikipedia)

Looking around the internet for more Christian sources portraying Adam as accepting the forbidden fruit from Eve in an act of heroic self-sacrifice, I came upon these words in an online transcription of a sermon by William Marrion Branham (1909-1965) titled "Polygamy":
Adam was a type of Christ. But whereas Adam's self-sacrifice brought DEATH upon all creation, Christ's sacrifice brought LIFE.

Adam did NOT sin. 'He that is born of God cannot sin' (I John 3:9). Taking Eve unto himself, he took her responsibility and caused the whole world to come under sin's curse -- death when he crossed the time-line and the Life-line to redeem his wife. How could Adam fall when he was in God's image?

Eve sinned when she broke God's covenant of works by UNBELIEF in His Word. Adam did NOT sin (or disbelieve the Word) and broke the Covenant by faith. He knew He was a Son of God and could no more be lost than God could be lost, and therefore God MUST redeem Him. If he joined Eve in time, God would redeem her with him. By the marriage union, the two were one flesh. However Adam took the 'permissive', and not the perfect will of God.
Interesting. It appears that Adam "took dominion everywhere," even in the "slovenly wilderness" outside Eden! Now, I'm not in any way suggesting that this version of the Fall is anywhere close to orthodox Christian interpretation. In fact, William Branham seems rather far even from mainstream pentecostalism, of which his 'church' is a branch. From my cursory reading on this website and others, Branham seems to have claimed to be the Prophet Elijah returning at the end times. He also rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, arguing for a sort of Modalism. Nevertheless, he seems to have been well-known in pentecostal circles in the 1940s and 1950s, especially for his role in the faith-healing movement.

Strictly speaking, the excerpt above is taken from what is said to be one of the "Teaching Sermons based on the Expositions of William Branham," so I don't know that it's an exact transcription of Branham's actual words, but from my cruising around the Branham sea of discourse, the message looks roughly consistent with things said by him elsewhere. I notice that the text of the sermon doesn't mention "love" as Adam's motivation, but in other transcriptions of Branham's words, Adam's love for Eve is given as the motive:
[W]hen Adam saw Eve had sinned and had done wrong, Adam walked right out not deceived but with both eyes open. But he so loved Eve that he took her place in death with her and walked out with her. ("God Making His Promise," Paragraph E-64 (December 9, 1956))
Similarly, in another sermon, Branham states that "Adam so loved Eve that he went out with her" from God's presence ("God's Servant Job," Paragraph E-69 (February 23, 1955)).

I'm not sure that this line of research is taking me close to anything that might become an article on Milton and his influence, but there may be subterranean connections to a stream that fed Milton's thinking despite the fact that Milton insisted that Adam's love in choosing Eve was a form of idolatry, for in Milton's reading, Adam put love of Eve above love of God.

From a Miltonian perspective, Branham's understanding is as limited as Adam's and falls into the same idolatry.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

More on Eve's "Femal charm"

Legends of the Fall
Entrance to Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
The Tree of Knowledge: A Serial Fondler?
(Image from Wikipedia)

In a blog entry of about one week ago, "But fondly overcome with Femal charm...", I commented upon a sermon that I'd heard in which Adam was portrayed as making a heroic decision to sacrifice himself out of love for Eve.

Incidentally, that sermon can be listened to online at the SIBC website's list of sermons by Pastor Jack Peters, where it appears under the title "Adam and the Reign of Death" (August 19, 2007). Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a transcript, which would be far more convenient ... for me, anyway, though not for anyone who might be 'volunteered' to transcribe it.

Anyway, in that sermon -- unlike in the Milton quote that I used for the blog's header, which portrays Adam as foolish, i.e., "fondly overcome" ("fondly" at that time meaning "foolishly") -- Adam's love was portrayed as a pure, Christlike sort. As you may recall, I thought the pastor's reading of the text to be based on a misunderstanding of Romans 5:14.

But that's not my point this morning. Rather, I merely want to direct interested readers to other hermeneutics on the Genesis story of Adam's fall that I've come across in my search for an essay topic on Milton. One interesting interpretation, by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, appears indebted to Milton -- or at least readings that present Adam as motivated by love -- but reinterprets the text to show woman's intellectual superiority to man:
A man and a woman were placed in a beautiful garden. Every thing was about them that could contribute to their enjoyment. Trees and shrubs, fruits and flowers, and gently murmuring streams made glad their hearts. Zephyrs freighted with delicious odours fanned their brows and the serene stars looked down upon them with eyes of love.

The Evil One saw their happiness and it troubled him. He set his wits to work to know how he should destroy it. He thought that man could be easily conquered through his affection for the woman. But the woman would require more management. She could be reached only through her intellectual nature. So he promised her the knowledge of good and evil. He told her the sphere of her reason should be enlarged, he promised to gratify the desire she felt for intellectual improvement, so he prevailed and she did eat. Did the Evil One judge rightly in regard to man? Eve took an apple went to Adam and said "Dear Adam taste this apple if you love me eat." Adam stopped not so much as to ask if the apple was sweet or sour. He knew he was doing wrong, but his love for Eve prevailed and he did eat. Which I ask you was the "creature of the affections"? ("Address by Elizabeth Cady Stanton on Woman's Rights, September 1848," The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Paper Project)
Stanton apparently accepts Milton's view that Adam was "fondly overcome with Femal charm" (PL 9.999), but she overturns Milton's understanding of the relative intellectual power of the sexes by elevating Eve above Adam -- Eve as the more intellectual, Adam as swayed by emotions.

Interestingly, the scholar Jean M. Higgins notes a similar interpretation in the Irenaeus fragment XIV, which is appended to the standard editions of Irenaeus by way of an excerpt from Anastasius Sinaita's Anagogicarum Contemplationum in Hexaemeron Libri XII (PG 89.851-1078). The citation occurs in Book 10 (PG 89.1013-1014) and reads as follows:
Why did the serpent not attack the man, rather than the woman? You say he went after her because she was the weaker of the two. On the contrary. In the transgression of the commandment, she showed herself to be the stronger, truly the man's "assistance" (boethos).

For she alone stood up to the serpent. She ate from the tree, but with resistance and dissent, and after being dealt with perfidiously. But Adam partook of the fruit given by the woman, without even beginning to make a fight, without a word of contradiction -- a perfect demonstration of consummate weakness and a cowardly soul.

The woman, moreover, can be excused; she wrestled with a demon and was thrown. But Adam will not be able to find excuse in having been defeated by a woman. He had himself personally received the commandment from God.

The woman, finally, even when she did hear the command from Adam, must have felt she was being made little of; either because she had not been judged worthy to converse with God herself; or because she suspected there was an even chance that Adam had given her the command on his own. (Jean M. Higgins, "Anastasius Sinaita and the Superiority of the Woman," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 97, No. 2 (Jun., 1978), p. 254)
As Higgins acknowledges, patristic scholars strongly doubt that this late 7th-century passage excerpted from Anastasius Sinaita truly stems from Irenaeus. I also doubt it, for the interpretation sounds more typical of Gnostics than more orthodox Christian writers. Perhaps Anastasius Sinaita had some garbled text containing a Gnostic passage that Irenaeus was critiquing.

Be that as it may, there it stands, in all its fascinating detail, for your contemplation.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Christian Jihad?

"Reaching the world for Christ"
...and breaching it, too?
(Image from Wikipedia)

Over at Ambivablog, Annie -- who calls herself Amba (but she's ambivalent about that) -- has posted an blog entry on imprecatory prayer.

That means praying God's curses down upon someone.

This has become a political issue because Rev. Wiley Drake, who pastors the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, California and was formerly the vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, supports Arkansawyer Mike Huckabee for president and has called for "the children of God" to call down God's curse upon "the enemies of God." Here's how he puts it:
In light of the recent attack from the enemies of God I ask the children of God to go into action with Imprecatory Prayer. Especially against Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I made an attempt to go to them via Matt 18:15 but they refused to talk to me. Specifically target Joe Conn or Jeremy Learing. They are those who lead the attack. ("Pastor Wiley Drake Calls for Imprecatory Prayer against So-Called Religious Liberty Watchdog Group," Christian News Wire, August 14, 2007)
I wonder if Pastor Drake conceives of ever taking this beyond mere prayer to direct action. I'm just asking, mind you, not accusing, and I'm asking because I had thought that -- at the very least -- the "New Covenant" espoused by Christians forbade imprecatory prayer and that Christians held that imprecatory prayers belonged to the "Old Covenant."

Apparently, Drake doesn't think this way, for he states, "Imprecatory prayer, is now our duty," and he does some prooftexting:
Now that all efforts have been exhausted, we must begin our Imprecatory Prayer, at the key points of the parliamentary role in the earth where we live.

John Calvin gave the church its marching orders from Scripture. The righteous have dominion, but only through imprecatory prayer against the ungodly.

David as our Old Testament shepherd gives us many Imprecatory prayers, and can be found to be in best focus in Psalm 109. Also chapters 55, 58, 68, 69, and 83

Pray these back to God and He will answer.

Jesus in Matthew 23: 13, 15, 16, 23, 24, 27, and 29 gave us our New Testament marching orders as well.

Let us join Paul and declare anathema upon anyone" who loves not the Lord Jesus." I Cor 16:22

Church father Martin Luther, led us by saying . . . "If any of the enemies of God's people belong to God's election, the church's prayer against them giveth way to their conversion, and seeketh no more than that the judgment should follow them, only until they acknowledge their sin, turn, and seek God." ("Pastor Wiley Drake Calls for Imprecatory Prayer")
That last part, from Martin Luther, is a right strawy quote! "If any of the enemies of God's people belong to God's election..."? A bit obscure, no? Well, I think that Drake quotes this to balance his Calvin quote about the dominion of the righteous over the ungodly. The Luther citation is intended to soften the effect a bit by emphasizing that imprecatory prayer is yet another way of winning souls for Christ because it will bring conviction to the hearts of those enemies of God whom God has already selected for salvation but hasn't yet followed through on by converting them. Cursing them will bring that about ... apparently.

I'm guessing that Reverend Drake believes in predestination, not freely accepted grace.

Anyway, noted above, I had thought that Christians were forbidden from uttering imprecatory prayers, which I understood had been excluded by such New Testament verses as those calling upon Christians to "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) and to "bless and not curse" (Romans 12:14). However, I've discovered that the issue, unfortunately, is not quite so clear. Here are some lines from the opening of a dissertation devoted to the issue:
I will seek to establish that the sentiment expressed in the Imprecatory Psalms is consistent with the ethics both of the Old and New Testaments, while at the same time recognizing that the New Testament evidences a certain progress in the outworking of that essentially equivalent ethic. This I will do by plausibly demonstrating that the Imprecatory Psalms root their theology of cursing and crying out for God's vengeance in the Torah -- principally the Song of Moses (Deut 32), the lex talionis (e.g., Deut 19), and the covenant of God with his people (e.g., Gen 12) -- and that this theology is carried essentially unchanged through the expanse of the canon to the end of the New Testament (e.g., Rev 15:2-4; 18:20). (John N. Day, "The Imprecatory Pslams and Christian Ethics," PhD Thesis, Department of Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary)
I've not read this thesis and probably won't have time, but the mere fact of the document's existence provides evidence of a problem that I had thought behind us. I'm not shooting the messenger here. John Day may be right -- for all I know -- in his reading of the Bible on this issue.

For the record, I should note that Mike Huckabee would perhaps disagree with this sort of interpretation, for the Huckabee campaign has disavowed Reverend Wiley Drake's views as "evil comments." A campaign, however, is one thing, and biblical hermeneutics is another. I've not yet heard if the Southern Baptist Convention has distanced itself from Drake's hermeneutic.

And this is troubling, for if imprecatory prayer is legitimate, would martial cherem itself also legitimate? Can Christians also declare jihad? And who decides?

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ozark Wordlist

Hillbilly Hot Dawgs?
Well, hit's right distink...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Okay, here's the long-promised post offering the Ozark hillbilly wordlist that has had all of you on the edge of your seats. That's "seats" as in "chairs," not "bottoms," for bottoms don't seem to have edges. Not that I'm an expert in the shape of bottoms...

But let's drop the human anatomy angle on impossibly axe-sharp asses, and move to the more humane etymology of possibly Anglo-Saxon asp-sharp sass expressed in Vance Randolph's imagined hillbilly monologue as an implicit retort to H.L. Mencken's claim that the American language has no dialects:
Lee Yancey allus was a right work-brickel feller, clever an' biddable as all git-out, but he aint got nary smidgin' o' mother-wit, an' he aint nothin' on'y a tie-whackin' sheer-crapper noways. I seed him an' his least chaps a-bustin' out middles down in ol' man Price's bottom t'other ev'nin', a-whoopin' an' a-blaggardin' an' a-spewin' ambeer all over each an' ever', whilst thet 'ar pore susy hippoed woman o' hisn was a-pickin' boogers out'n her yeller tags, an' a-scrunchin' cheenches on th' punch'on 'ith a antiganglin' noodle-hook. D'reckly Lee he come a-junin' in all narvish-like an' tetchous, an rid th' pore ol' trollop a bug-huntin' -- jes' plum bodacious hipped an' ruinated her. They never did have nothin' on'y jes' a heap o' poke sallat an' a passel o' these hyar hog-mollies, but he must a got hisse'f a bait o' vittles some'ers, 'cause come can'le-light he geared up his ol' piedy cribber an' lit a shuck fer Gotham Holler. The danged ol' durgen -- he should orter be bored fer th' simples! (Vance Randolph, "Is There an Ozark Dialect?" American Speech, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Feb., 1929), pp. 203-204)
What are we to make of this? As I admitted a couple of days ago, it goes beyond even my hillbilly ken in many of its particulars. However, Randolph has exaggerated a bit for effect by thickening the monologue with obscure expressions, making the Ozark 'dialect' appear even more distinct from standard American English than it probably was. But is it even a distinct dialect? Randolph doesn't define dialect in his article (not that I recall, but please correct me if I've misremembered), and I do wonder if Ozark hillbilly speech was different enough from the more general speech patterns of the American South to be distinctly Ozarkian. At the very least, this Ozark way of speaking would be a form of English shared with the Appalachian way of speaking.

Anyway, here's the wordlist, which I've made as complete as I could in the interest of perfect clarity. Some of these, even I couldn't find or recall, but a few readers might know. Other words will seem utterly obvious, and you might wonder why I bothered to include them, but keep in mind that I have an international readership (or like to pretend that I do):

a-blaggardin' = blaggarding: present participle, "misbehaving(?)" (cf."blackguard"?)

a-bustin' out = busting out: present participle, "hurrying"

aint = ain't: negative verbal contraction: "am not, is not, are not"

a-junin' = juning: present participle, "(?)"

allus: adverb, "always"

ambeer: noun, "Saliva colored by tobacco chewed or held in the mouth; tobacco juice"

an': conjunction, "and"

antiganglin': present participle, cf. antigoddle (antigoggle): verb, "to pursue a zigzag course" (Randolph, "A Fourth Ozark Word List," American Speech, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Feb., 1933), p. 47)

'ar: adverb, "there"

as all git-out: adverb "utterly, entirely"

a-spewin' = spewing: present participle, "spitting forcefully"

a-whoopin' = whooping: present participle, "crying out in loud whoops" (whoop = "a loud cry of exultation or excitement")

bait: noun, "plentiful amount"

biddable: adjective, "following directions or obeying commands; docile."

bodacious: adverb, "outright, unmistakably"

boogers: noun, "pests as chiggers and ticks, fleas, bedbugs, and lice" (Jeffrey K. Barnes, "Arkansas Arthropods in History and Folklore," University of Arkansas Arthropod Museum)

bored: past participle, "insulted or imposed upon" (Randolph and Patti Sankee, "Dialectical Survivals in the Ozarks: III. Archaic Vocabulary," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 5, (Jun., 1930), 424-430)

bottom: noun, "bottom land"

can'le-light" noun, "candlelight = evening"

cheenches: noun, "bedbugs" (Jeffrey K. Barnes, "Arkansas Arthropods in History and Folklore," University of Arkansas Arthropod Museum)

clever: adjective, "generous or accommodating" (Randolph and Patti Sankee, "Dialectical Survivals in the Ozarks: III. Archaic Vocabulary," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 5, (Jun., 1930), 424-430)

cribber: noun, "a horse that has the habit of cribbing" (i.e., "a vicious habit of a horse; crib-biting. The horse lays hold of the crib or manger with his teeth and draws air into the stomach with a grunting sound")

danged: past participle, "euphemism for damned"

d'reckly: adverb, "directly, i.e., immediately (or soon thereafter)"

durgen: adjective, "countrified or old-fashioned" (Randolph and Nancy Clemens, "A Fifth Ozark Word List," American Speech, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Dec., 1936), pp. 315)

each an' ever': pronoun, "each other"

feller: noun, "fellow"

fer: preposition, "for"

geared up: past participle, "readied, prepared"

hipped: past participle, "(?)" [UPDATE: An anonymous reader has informed me of the following: "hipped" means exasperated, "put out", discountenanced. eg: "Brother, you look hipped -- is something amiss?" I notice Patrick O'Brian's characters used this word in the 18th century diction of the Aubrey-Maturin novels set in the era of the Napoleonic wars."]

hippoed: past participle, "hypocondriacally ill" (Randolph and Patti Sankee, "Dialectical Survivals in the Ozarks: III. Archaic Vocabulary," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 5, (Jun., 1930), 424-430)

hisn: possessive pronoun, "his" (from "his one"?)

hisse'f: reflexive pronoun, "himself"

hog-mollies: noun, "mostly North American freshwater fishes with a thick-lipped mouth for feeding by suction; related to carps"

hyar: adverb, "here"

'ith: preposition, "with"

jes': adverb, "just"

lit a shuck, fr. light a shuck: verb phrase, "to depart in haste" (Randolph, "A Third Ozark Word List," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Oct., 1929), p. 19)

middles: adverb(?), "in the middle of(?)"

mother-wit: noun, "common sense"

nary: adverb, "not any"

narvish-like: adjective, "nervous-like"

noodle-hook: noun, "fish hook(?)"

noways: adverb, "anyway"

o': preposition, "of"

ol': adjective, "old"

orter: modal verb, "ought to"

out'n: prepositional expression, "out of"

passel: noun, "A large quantity or group"

piedy = pied(?): adjective, "patchy in color; splotched or piebald"

plum: adverb, "completely"

poke = pokeweed: noun, "a tall North American plant (Phytolacca americana) having small white flowers, blackish-red berries clustered on long drooping racemes, and a poisonous root"

pore: adjective, "poor"

punch'on = puncheon: noun, "a type of wooden floor made from split logs" (Andrew Kuntz, The Fiddler's Companion (cf. "Everybody to the Puncheon"))

right: adverb, "completely, entirely"

sallat: noun, "salad"

scrunchin': present participle, "crushing"

seed: preterite, "saw"

sheer-crapper: noun, "sharecropper"

simples: noun(?), "stupidity(?)"

smidgin': noun, "a very small amount"

some'ers: adverb, "somewhere"

susy: adjective, "hopelessly inferior, and at the same time ludicrously complacent or conceited" (Vance Randolph, "A Possible Source of Some Ozark Neologisms," American Speech, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Dec., 1928), pp. 116-117)

tags: noun, "ears(?)"

tetchous: adjective, " easily irritated or made angry; short-tempered; peevish, irritable; testy: tetchy"

thet: demonstrative adjective, "that"

th': definite article, "the"

tie-whackin': present participle, "cutting railroad ties as one's job(?)"

trollop: noun, "a restless woman, a gad- about" (Randolph and Patti Sankee, "Dialectical Survivals in the Ozarks: III. Archaic Vocabulary," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 5, (Jun., 1930), 424-430)

vittles: noun, "victuals = food"

work-brickel: adjective, "industrious"

yeller: adjective, "yellow"

Well, there they are, as promised -- and a lot more work it was than I'd expected, so I hope that my Herculean labors were not in vain.

Test next Tuesday...

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Friday, August 24, 2007

If I were also faster than light...

Focused on Photons...
"C'mon, baby, jes' a li'l bit fas'er..."
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'd have this done already!

I'm back on Friday, as foretold, but without that wordlist quite ready yet ... also as not unexpected.

I'll have that tomorrow, but meanwhile, a bit of news. Old news, I'm afraid, but it ought to be even older. The Big Ho and Randy McRoberts have already reported on it:
"Scientists 'break speed of light'"
My retort: "Well, if those scientists have really succeeded, then why didn't we hear about this before it happened?"

Yeah, I know, I made this same joke at the other two blogs as well ... but nobody laughed, so I thought that I might as well try them over here with a friendlier crowd.

(chirp ... chirp ... chirp)

Uh ... okay, I'll have that Ozark wordlist ready by tomorrow.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Is There an Ozark Dialect?"

Vance Randolph
Folklorist of the Ozarks

In the February 1929 issue of American Speech (Volume 4, Number 3, page 203-204), Vance Randolph poses a question that is -- for me -- very interesting: "Is There an Ozark Dialect?"

He asks because he has noted that H.L. Mencken, in his influential book The American Language (New York, 1921), in chapter 5 on "The General Character of American English," had claimed:
There may be slight differences in pronunciation and intonation -- a Southern softness, a Yankee drawl, a Western burr -- but in the words they use and the way they use them all Americans, even the least tutored, follow the same line. One observes, of course, a polite speech and a common speech. But the common speech is everywhere the same, and its uniform vagaries take the place of the dialectic variations of other lands. A Boston street-car conductor could go to work in Chicago or San Francisco without running the slightest risk of misunderstanding his new fares. Once he had picked up half a dozen localisms, he would be, to all linguistic intents and purposes, fully naturalized.
Randolph's choice of Mencken was not simply due to Mencken's prominence as an expert on the 'American' language. Mencken was also an outspoken critic of American boobies and leveled his satiric wit at the 'fundamentalists' populating places like the Ozarks. Randolph, although not from the Ozarks, had married into an Ozark family, fallen in love with the region, and taken it upon himself to defend the 'uniqueness' of its inhabitants.

In 1929, therefore, having spent some years crisscrossing the region, seeking out its more isolated locales, he published his article, merely two pages, asking "Is There an Ozark Dialect?" As a way of answering his own question, he composed the following monologue of what an old 'residenter' of "the more isolated parts of the Ozark highlands" might say:
Lee Yancey allus was a right work-brickel feller, clever an' biddable as all git-out, but he aint got nary smidgin' o' mother-wit, an' he aint nothin' on'y a tie-whackin' sheer-crapper noways. I seed him an' his least chaps a-bustin' out middles down in ol' man Price's bottom t'other ev'nin', a-whoopin' an' a-blaggardin' an' a-spewin' ambeer all over each an' ever', whilst thet 'ar pore susy hippoed woman o' hisn was a-pickin' boogers out'n her yeller tags, an' a-scrunchin' cheenches on th' punch'on 'ith a antiganglin' noodle-hook. D'reckly Lee he come a-junin' in all narvish-like an' tetchous, an rid th' pore ol' trollop a bug-huntin' -- jes' plum bodacious hipped an' ruinated her. They never did have nothin' on'y jes' a heap o' poke sallat an' a passel o' these hyar hog-mollies, but he must a got hisse'f a bait o' vittles some'ers, 'cause come can'le-light he geared up his ol' piedy cribber an' lit a shuck fer Gotham Holler. The danged ol' durgen -- he should orter be bored fer th' simples!
Now, I gotta admit that this 'dialect' is beyond my 'ken' in some of its details (and Randolph has exaggerated a bit for didactic purposes), but in the general tenor, I can follow it, for my Granma Hodges and 'Granpa' Archie -- the man that she married after losing my Granpa Hodges to a tree-felling accident -- both spoke something like this.

Actually, I recall a point that Randolph doesn't thematize. Both Nora Hodges Dillinger and Archie Dillinger, who came from isolated parts of Fulton County and lived together on a farm at the end of a dirt road, used the inflected form "ye" for "you" in much of their speech. For example, they might say something like:
If I'd knowed y'as a-gon' ter do thet, I'd a-tol' ye not ter do it.
Translation (if required for some):
"If I'd known you were going to do that, I'd have told you not to do it."
Granma Hodges was born in 1895, and Archie in 1899 -- if I rightly recall. My kinfolk might correct me if they happen across this post, but I'm reasonably sure that those two could have spoken this sentence.

As for the long monologue from Randolph, a little glossary might help, so I'll attempt to supply one tomorrow if I have time. I might not be able to that soon, for I'm off on a two-day retreat with the other Kyung Hee University faculty and won't return until tomorrow evening (i.e., Friday evening, August 24th, 2007, Seoul time).

Meanwhile, amuse yourselves identifying (or guessing at) word meanings...

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Solomonic Wisdom...

Solomon reigning in his wisdom...
...and me, reining in mine.
(Image from Wikipedia)

On Tuesday, my two kids were arguing loudly enough in Korean about a tokki that the noise was getting on even my nerves. Now, tokki is the word for "rabbit," and we don't have a rabbit although my 8-year-old son, En-Uk, has been petitioning for one, even calling my wife at her university office to plead his case. So, I wondered why a rabbit that we don't have was causing strife between my kids.

As En-Uk began to scream in nearly uncontrolled anger at Sa-Rah, who -- at a more mature 10 years of age -- sat calmly observing him, I intervened.

"Quiet!" I ordered, then inquired, "Now, what's the problem?"

"I wanted a rabbit, so Sa-Rah gave me one in my mind," explained En-Uk, slightly calmer, but still visibly upset.

"But," Sa-Rah interjected, "En-Uk wouldn't clean up the mess he made in my room!"

"And," En-Uk quickly added, "she took my rabbit away!"

"Because I gave it to you," Sa-Rah reasoned, "I can take it back!"

In some cultures, this might be true -- the gift-giver retaining proprietary rights -- but I'm trying to raise my kids to fit in with Americans, so I told Sa-Rah, "Hey, if you gave the rabbit to him, then it's his. You can't just take it back."

"But he didn't clean up his mess!" she complained.

"Fine, but that doesn't change the fact that you gave him the rabbit," I pointed out. "It's his rabbit now."

At which point, I wondered, Am I crazy, too? It's an imaginary rabbit!

"Look," I pointed out as I returned to the realm of adult sanity, "the rabbit is imaginary. Maybe Sa-Rah could give you an imaginary rabbit, En-Uk, but once it's in your mind, how can she possibly take it away? It's still in your mind, isn't it?"

En-Uk considered this perspective for a bit longer than truly necessary, perhaps reflecting that there might be a downside if he agreed, but he finally accepted my reasoning and kept the imaginary rabbit that Sa-Rah had put into in his mind.

"Just be sure," I added, "not to let it out, or the cats might get it."


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A little rewriting...

In the image of the Ozarks
My process of estrangement...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Poetry may be -- as Wordsworth and Coleridge put it in their "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads (1800) -- "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings . . . from emotion recollected in tranquility" (though it ain't), but prose requires a lot of rewriting.

Consequently, I've already been rewriting my "Lost in Translation" paper. In my musings on archaic words used in the Ozarks, I draw upon my first encounter with the word "antigogglin," which I heard when I was working as a chainman with a surveying crew that took me into some pretty isolated mountainous areas:
One tough place was on an isolated part of the Spring River valley, where we were looking for a corner marker to set up the surveying instrument and where I learned a new old Ozark word. Trying to get our bearings, we asked an old hillbilly -- in his 70s, I reckon -- if he knew where the marker, a metal spike driven into the ground, was located.

"Yeah," he replied, his face wrinkling with concentration, "but you got to go antigogglin over that hill to get there."

Anti-what!? I thought. But it was pretty clear what the word meant -- the way wasn't straight, which was what we had figured all along.
Some readers may recognize this passage, for I've lifted it from a blog entry of about one year ago. As you've also probably noted, I've been cannibalizing my blog for this 'translation' paper, so the passage quoted above appears in my paper as well. I follow this passage with an explanation of "antigogglin" that segues into a reflection on how my 'misuse' of words in a university environment led me to some glimmers of insight into "Semantic Drift" (also the title of a slightly off-color poem that I've written):
According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume 1, "antigoglin" -- which has various spellings (annigoglin, antegogglin' and antigogglin(g)) -- is used as either adjective or adverb, with the meaning "askew, out of plumb" and "Slantwise, diagonal(ly)," and comes from "anti-" (against, counter) and "goggling" (from goggle, to shake, tremble). That sounds about how the old hillbilly was using this extraordinary old word. We Ozarkers also used ordinary words in unusual, archaic ways, for example, "stout" in the older sense of "strong" rather than its contemporary American meaning of "fat," a difference that occasioned a number of embarrassing linguistic missteps for me when I left the Ozarks for university, for in the campus gym where I exercised and played basketball, I happened to call some rather powerfully built bodybuilders "stout," which they took to mean that I was calling them "obese." Some of the female athletes whom I occasionally played basketball with also took none too kindly to the term. Eventually, I learned from these inadvertently otstranennyye(n) exercises in estrangement (cf. Selden et al., 33f).
This passage above presents an example of the rewriting that my prose requires on its way toward clarity, for I've already posted it on this blog, albeit in less expanded form. The expansion that you see takes my anecdotal experiences and moves them toward scholarship (the etymological information from Frederic G. Cassidy's Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume 1 (Cambridge, Mass., and London, England: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985)) and toward literary theory (the Russian Formalism allusion from Raman Selden, Peter Widdowson, and Peter Brooker, A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (London: Prentice Hall, 1997)). Both moves are intended to make my paper conform more appropriately to the conference theme: translation.

But that might not be quite so evident from this blog entry...

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Monday, August 20, 2007

"But fondly overcome with Femal charm..."

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles
"και αδαμ ουκ ηπατηθη..."
(Image from Wikipedia)

When I was about 12 years old, I heard our pastor at First Baptist Church of Salem, Arkansas, David Keyes, give a sermon on 1 Timothy 2:13-14:
13. αδαμ γαρ πρωτος επλασθη ειτα ευα 14. και αδαμ ουκ ηπατηθη η δε γυνη απατηθεισα εν παραβασει γεγονεν (Textus Receptus 1550/1894)

15. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (King James Version)
Pastor Keyes presented his view that Adam, not being deceived, had chosen to eat the fruit of knowledge because he loved Eve and did not wish to be separated from her. At the time, I found this interpretation surprising, but as a mere 12-year-old kid, I didn't know what to make of it.

Yesterday, I heard Pastor Jack Peters, of Seoul International Baptist Church, present a similar message, but he started with Romans 5:12-14:
12. δια τουτο ωσπερ δι ενος ανθρωπου η αμαρτια εις τον κοσμον εισηλθεν και δια της αμαρτιας ο θανατος και ουτως εις παντας ανθρωπους ο θανατος διηλθεν εφ ω παντες ημαρτον 13. αχρι γαρ νομου αμαρτια ην εν κοσμω αμαρτια δε ουκ ελλογειται μη οντος νομου 14. αλλ εβασιλευσεν ο θανατος απο αδαμ μεχρι μωσεως και επι τους μη αμαρτησαντας επι τω ομοιωματι της παραβασεως αδαμ ος εστιν τυπος του μελλοντος (Textus Receptus 1550/1894)

12. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (King James Version)
Peters noted that the term in Greek for word "figure" in verse 14 is τυπος, or "type," meaning that Adam was an antetype of Christ (i.e., "him that was to come"). So far, so good. He then argued that in the clause "them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression," Paul refers to all human beings after Adam, for Adam was innocent until he sinned, whereas all others are born flawed by original sin already prior to their first sinful decision.

I'll return to this point later, but let me finish the minister's argument.

Peters then turned to 1 Timothy 2:13-14 and presented a reading similar to the one that I had heard from David Keyes back in Arkansas when I was about 12. But he took the argument a bit further. Adam was a "type" of Christ because prior to his fall, he was pure in body, soul, and mind, and he chose to 'sacrifice' himself out of a pure love for Eve because he could not bear being separated from her and believed that God would ultimately redeem Eve (and humanity).

Peters said that he has come to this interpretation because he was trying to determine the way in which Paul meant that Adam was a type of Christ, and he concluded that Paul meant that Adam's choice to join Eve in her fallenness was made with his perfect, unfallen thinking, for as the text states, "Adam was not deceived."

Variants upon this interpretation seem to have a history in Protestant exegesis (and possibly Catholic as well?), for John Milton presents a similar reading in Paradise Lost 9.888-1015 but with an important distinction, as is made clear in lines 990-999, when Eve hears Adam's decision to accept the fruit of knowledge:
So saying, she embrac'd him, and for joy [990]
Tenderly wept, much won that he his Love
Had so enobl'd, as of choice to incurr
Divine displeasure for her sake, or Death.
In recompence (for such compliance bad
Such recompence best merits) from the bough [995]
She gave him of that fair enticing Fruit
With liberal hand: he scrupl'd not to eat
Against his better knowledge, not deceav'd,
But fondly overcome with Femal charm. (
PL 9.990-999)
Both Adam and Eve imagine that Adam chooses to accept the fruit of knowledge as a sort of self-sacrifice (as the larger context would make clear), but Milton tells us that Adam is "fondly overcome with Femal charm," and in Milton's day, "fondly" meant "foolishly."

Milton thus seems aware of an interpretation that reads Adam's choice as a sort of noble self-sacrifice, but he rejects that reading in favor of a Medieval one whereby Adam is 'seduced' by Eve's feminine charms.

I wonder if the interpretation that has Adam choosing to sacrifice himself for Eve out of a sense of nobility owes something to the Medieval Romance tradition in which the knight boldly faces death in the willingness to give up his life for his lady. That would be an interesting twist on a Hegelian cunning of reason! That the Romance tradition, which Milton rejects, might have influenced some Protestant readings of 1 Timothy 2:13-14!

At any rate, I find Milton's reading more psychologically nuanced than the fascinating sermon that I heard yesterday, for if Adam were choosing to join Eve in her mortal condition out of purely noble motives, then we're confronted with the difficulty of explaining how a still-perfect, undeceived Adam could have made such an astoundingly bad decision as to disobey a divine command given him directly by God.

Milton sees the problem and shows Adam reaching his decision by degrees, each step taking him further along in ever more fallacious reasoning toward his fall. Remaining undeceived in his better knowledge, Adam nevertheless foolishly allows his judgement to be overwhelmed by Eve's charms.

Peters began his sermon by searching for the analogy mentioned in Romans 5:14 between Adam and Christ, but his understanding of the analogy breaks down if Adam and Christ make their choices in dissimilar ways, and the clearest difference is that whereas Christ is presented as accepting death as God's will for him, Adam can only be understood as choosing 'death' against God's will, for he breaks an explicit, divine command.

Moreover, I think that Peters has misread Romans 5:12-14. Let's look again:
12. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
A careful, contextual reading of the clause "even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" would have it refer not to all people everywhere and every time but to the biblical period between Adam and Moses, the point being that even for those who did not sin in the same way that Adam had sinned, death still reigned. They did not sin in the same way that Adam did because unlike Adam, they had no law forbidding specific sins, whereas Adam had one overidding 'law': do not eat the fruit of knowledge. After Moses, human beings once again had God's law and thus sinned consciously, as Adam had done -- or so I take Paul to mean.

But now, I'm really curious where this Protestant exegesis that I heard yesterday comes from.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lost and Found: Excerpts from my Article...

English at times looks so foreign...
(Image from Wikipedia)

I have finished writing my article, just a short one of seven pages because I'm presenting it at a conference and have only about 20 minutes for reading it.

For the sake of any readers who might possibly be interested, I'll post some excerpts, which will pretty quickly reveal the middling level of this anecdotal essay. Here's introduction to my article, which I've titled "Finging Myself Lost in Translation":
As the title that I have chosen implies, I often find myself lost in translation. I am not especially good at foreign languages, so I have had to struggle a great deal to learn them well enough even for basic translation purposes, which is somewhat ironic since my scholarly career has required me to translate passages from such various languages as Hebrew, Greek, Coptic, French, German, and that exotic language, Old English. Lately, I have even spent some time trying to make sense of the obscure Middle English text Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Even the Early Modern English of John Milton's Paradise Lost can pose problems for my limited linguistic abilities. This paper maps out the rather circuitous route that some of my linguistic wanderings have taken me.
One Ozark friend of mine who's read through the entire paper as one of my proofreaders suggests that I "might be overdoing the self-deprecation" a bit here in my opening remarks, but as I told him, what I've said happens to be true.

I blame my tiny left Heschl's gyrus.

Anyway, along that circuitous path adumbrated in my introduction, I note an instance of my experience as a sociolinguistic misfit in the greater American society:
We Ozarkers also used ordinary words in unusual, archaic ways, for example, "stout" in the older sense of "strong" rather than its contemporary American meaning of "fat," a difference that occasioned a number of embarrassing linguistic missteps for me when I left the Ozarks for university, for in the campus gym where I exercised and played basketball, I happened to call some rather powerfully built bodybuilders "stout," which they took to mean that I was calling them "obese." Some of the female athletes whom I occasionally played basketball with also took none too kindly to the term. Eventually, I learned.
To be precise, I learned to change my way of speaking, to standardize my English, and I don't consider this a 'bad' thing, for a writer needs to develop a broad range of voices, but I often thought that my dialect had set me back at the onset of my university years. Perhaps it did, at the beginning, but I've come to see that my connection to archaic meanings of English words, and some archaic words themselves -- such as those noted in yesterday's post -- can serve to remind me of how people used (and use) their language, integrating rather than separating meanings, as I observed in an even earlier post, "Do ye ken it?". Which brings me directly to my conclusion:
Now, this may seem like a minor point, but it is nonetheless an important matter for interpretation, and also for translation. If I am working with some obscure Middle English text, for example, and encounter, say, the word "ken," then I ought to recall what the old hillbilly said and thus consider that this word may combine two or more of its meanings rather than express merely one of them. More generally, I should keep in mind that dialects of English often preserve archaic meanings, and even old forms that can, as with the word "pennywinkle," help us make scholarly judgements about puzzles even so distant as in Old English. And personally, I find rather satisfying the discovery that my own dialect of English, which had posed some stout difficulties for me when I first entered university, should currently prove so useful at this later, more scholarly stage of my learning, for I have come to realize that although I may have started off lost in translation, in this latter day translation, I have surely found myself.
And you now understand the logic behind the wording of my paper's title...

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Finding Myself Lost in Translation...

(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm in the middle of writing another paper, rushing to finish it before the semester's onset some two weeks from now. Perhaps a few readers interested in archaic English words will find the following two paragraphs worth their time:
While I was still in high school, my grandmother once showed me an article in the Arkansas Gazette claiming that some hillbilly folks in the isolated Boston Mountain region of the Ozarks still spoke Elizabethan English. I imagined them speaking like characters in a Shakespearean play or even like the Lord himself in the King James Bible. That did not seem too improbable to me, for on Sundays, I heard unlettered hillbillies pray spontaneously in the sacred tongue of King James, and get it grammatically correct! I have come to doubt, however, that anybody in the Ozarks was speaking Elizabethan English and using "thee" and "thou" in their day-to-day lives. Probably, the Boston Mountain folks were simply using a somewhat more archaic Ozark dialect than the rest of us hillbillies. The Gazette was likely doing what many newspapers do with their reports of scholarly findings. They were getting it somewhat wrong. But they were right that much of the vocabulary was archaic, for the well-known folklorist Vance Randolph had been publishing on this phenomenon since the 1920s. In the article "Dialectical Survivals in the Ozarks: III. Archaic Vocabulary," published in the journal American Speech in 1930, Randolph and Patti Sankee noted a large number of words used by Ozark hillbillies in archaic senses. They tell us that:
Only the other day one of our neighbors remarked that he admired a flood which had ruined his crops -- meaning simply that it astonished or surprised him. (Randolph and Sankee, American Speech, Volume 5, Number 5, June 1930, p. 424)
Randolph and Sankee go on to note that tourists would smile at such expressions but that "Milton and his contemporaries used the word in exactly the same sense," and they cite Paradise Lost 2.678ff, the passage wherein Satan, confronted by his equal in power, Death, shows no fear but does show surprise: "Th' undaunted Fiend what this might be admir'd, / Admir'd, not fear'd." I never noticed this archaic sense of "admire" in my dealings with Ozark kith and kin, nor did I ever hear "bore" used in the sense of "to insult," and I had (oddly enough) forgotten hearing "disremember" for "to forget" until reminded by this article (Randolph and Sankee, 425), but I do recall hearing "argufy" for "argue" (Randolph and Sankee, 424) and "ruinate" for "ruin" (Randolph and Sankee, 428), and many a time, I have heard "puny" in the sense of "sickly" (Randolph and Sankee, 426-427), and I have also heard "pinnywinkle" but had no idea what it was until reading Randolph and Sankee's article, which informs me that it refers to a freshwater snail and that the word goes back to the Old English word "pine-winkle" (Randolph and Sankee, 427), this very old word having somehow survived attraction from the far more commonly used "periwinkle" to this very day. The Oxford English Dictionary tends to confirm this, noting that the dialect form "pennywinkle" perhaps stems from the Old English "pinewincle" (OED Compact Edition, Volume 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 2136).

In fact, the OED does rather more than this, albeit rather obliquely. It uses the dialect form "pennywinkle" to infer the probable form of the original Old English word. Here is the OED entry for periwinkle:
Known in this form only from 16th c.; but OE had in the same sense a word variously read (in pl.) pinewinclan and winewinclan (owing to confusion of the letters p and p = w). The MSS. favor the latter, which may however be a scribal error, as pinewincle would explain the 16th c. literary, and mod. dial. forms. (OED Compact Edition, Volume 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 2136)
Allow me to clarify this point. The standard form for this word meaning "fresh-water snail" is periwinkle. This has been the form since the 16th century, when the word with this meaning first appears in manuscripts. Of course the other word periwinkle, meaning the flower of the genus Vinca, goes back to about 1000 but has a different etymology and is irrelevant for our present investigation, aside from the possibility that the word for the flower influenced the spelling of the word for the snail (OED Compact Edition, Volume 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 2136). Be that as it may, the word pennywinkle is extant in the Ozark dialect of English even today, and its continued existence in dialects of English is used to infer that pinewinclan was perhaps the original Old English form despite the somewhat stronger Old English manuscript evidence for winewinclan.
These two paragraphs are from the middle of a paper that I'm trying to keep short because it's intended for use as a presentation this fall at a Medieval and Early Modern English conference on translation, which also explains the obsession with archaic words.

Now, back to writing this paper...

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Back to René Girard: Two Types of Sacrifice

(Image from Touchstone Magazine)

Still surfing the internet waves for information on René Girard, I managed to find an interview, "Violence & the Lamb Slain," by Brian McDonald for FSJ's Touchstone Magazine that explicates Girard's view of Christianity as a 'sacrificial' religion, a topic that I was wondering about a couple of blog entries ago.

As a preface to the interview, McDonald provides an illuminating illustration summarizing Girard's theory of the scapegoat:
Picture two young children playing happily on their porch, a pile of toys beside them. The older child pulls a G.I. Joe from the pile and immediately, his younger brother cries out, "No, my toy!", pushes him out of the way, and grabs it. The older child, who was not very interested in the toy when he picked it up, now conceives a passionate need for it and attempts to wrest it back. Soon a full fight ensues, with the toy forgotten and the two boys busy pummeling each other.

As the fight intensifies, the overweight child next door wanders into their yard and comes up to them, looking for someone to play with. At that point, one of the two rivals looks up and says, "Oh, there's old fat butt!" "Yeah," says his brother. "Big fat butt!" The two, having forgotten the toy, now forget their fight and run the child back home. Harmony has been restored between the two brothers, though the neighbor is now indoors crying.

It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that Girard builds his whole theory of human nature and human culture through a close analysis of the dynamics operating in this story. Most human desires are not "original" or spontaneous, he argues, but are created by imitating another whom he calls the "model." When the model claims an object, that tells another that it is desirable -- and that he must have it instead of him. Girard calls this "mimetic" (or imitative) desire. In the subsequent rivalry, the two parties will come to forget the object and will come to desire the conflict for itself. Harmony will only be restored if the conflicting parties can vent their anger on a common enemy or "scapegoat."
This is precisely the sort of illustrative story that good teachers use to explain some thinker's system, and it pulls together and tightens a lot of loose ends in my understanding of Girard's views.

As for Christianity and sacrifice, which is one of the things that I went internet-surfing for, McDonald had a question similar to my own:
McDonald: You have advocated what is seen as a "non-sacrificial" reading of the death of Christ that is significantly at odds with the usual understanding of that death as a "hilasterion" [i.e., "propitiation"] that satisfies the wrath and justice of God. Could you describe that view and how your study of the formation and maintenance of human cultures has led you to it?
This is more or less what I was wondering about in my piecemeal readings of Girard, and his answer involves a distinction between two concepts of sacrifice:
Girard: Oh, this is a question that will require a long answer! It is not quite true that I take what you have called a "non-sacrificial reading of the death of Christ." We must establish first of all that there are two kinds of sacrifice.

Both forms are shown together (and I am not sure anywhere else) in the story of Solomon's judgment in the third chapter of 1 Kings. Two prostitutes bring a baby. They are doubles engaging in a rivalry over what is apparently a surviving child. When Solomon offers to split the child, the one woman says "yes," because she wishes to triumph over her rival. The other woman then says, "No, she may have the child," because she seeks only its life. On the basis of this love, the king declares that "she is the mother."

Note that it does not matter who is the biological mother. The one who was willing to sacrifice herself for the child's life is in fact the mother. The first woman is willing to sacrifice a child to the needs of rivalry. Sacrifice is the solution to mimetic rivalry and the foundation of it. The second woman is willing to sacrifice everything she wants for the sake of the child's life. This is sacrifice in the sense of the gospel. It is in this sense that Christ is a sacrifice since he gave himself "for the life of the world."

What I have called "bad sacrifice" is the kind of sacrificial religion that prevailed before Christ. It originates because mimetic rivalry threatens the very survival of a community. But through a spontaneous process that also involves mimesis, the community unites against a victim in an act of spontaneous killing. This act unites rivals and restores peace and leaves a powerful impression that results in the establishment of sacrificial religion.

But in this kind of religion, the community is regarded as innocent and the victim is guilty. Even after the victim has been "deified," he is still a criminal in the eyes of the community (note the criminal nature of the gods in pagan mythology).

But something happens that begins in the Old Testament. There are many stories that reverse this scapegoat process. In the story of Cain and Abel, the story of Joseph, the book of Job, and many of the psalms, the persecuting community is pictured as guilty and the victim is innocent. But Christ, the son of God, is the ultimate "scapegoat" -- precisely because he is the son of God, and since he is innocent, he exposes all the myths of scapegoating and shows that the victims were innocent and the communities guilty.
In his prefactory remarks to this interview, McDonald makes an astute observation:
Girard's belief about the death of Christ may be no less controversial among Christians than his allegiance to Christ is scandalous to the secular world. Against the view of Christ's death that would see him as a propitiatory sacrifice offered to the Father, Girard would argue that Christ's death was intended to overthrow in its entirety the religion of propitiatory sacrifice, since he sees that religion as of the very essence of fallen man.
Girard's view is thus rather problematic for orthodox Christianity, for his reading of the crucifixion would turn the orthodox interpretation on its head, transforming Christianity from the religion of sacrificial atonement par excellence into the religion of anti-sacrificial atonement par excellence. The sense in which Christianity remains sacrificial seems to reside solely in the gesture whereby Jesus relinquishes vengeance against his tormentors through his willingness to sacrifice even that very understandable desire for the sake of their lives, a synecdochal image of Christ giving himself for the life of the world, in Girard's understanding anyway.

Christ's death is therefore not the actual sacrifice but, rather, Jesus's renunciation of revenge, the death itself thus being at most a sort of noble death, similar to the death of Socrates at this hands of his enemies but taking things one step further by the explicit forgiveness of the enemies.

Interesting views, but probably unacceptable for most Christians.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rosenstock-Huessy doing my thinking for me...

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy
(Image from Argo Books)

For the purpose of lurking intelligently at an online discussion, I'm currently reading Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man, by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, and I thought that the following passage might interest some readers:
From 1880 onward a class existed in Russian society which had cut itself off from all loyalties toward the existing order. The Nihilists went on a subterranean crusade. Everywhere abroad groups of them studied. At Bern alone, in Switzerland, six hundred Russian students registered, all utterly devoid of means, but all more or less the type created by this emigration; a type which may be described as student, intellectual, conspirator and politician rolled into one, but first of all a man who says "no" to the existing order. These men did not wish to miss their calling in the history of the world. They forgot their individual conditions, wealth, family, creed, and identified themsleves with the people. Very often they acted as handman and executioner to their own material interests. Their own families, their own futures, their own intellectual treasures and needs, counted for nothing. Before murdering the Czar of the Grand Duke, they committed moral suicide and became emancipated from all earthly interests. The code radiating from people like Lenin or Savinkov was the code of those who died to themselves ten times over because they clung to their mission. More fanatical than the Spanish Inquisition, they were not interested in their own salvation. They wished -- and it seems to have been their only genuine desire -- to be ahead of the West. Once, at least, this damned West would not be the pioneer; Russians would be the leaders of future society! While Europe counted confidently on a permanence of the century of progress, they knew, once for all, the secret of her total revolution. That is why the loss of civilization was no longer a bugaboo to them. Civilization was bourgeois. Liberty was bourgeois, because civilization and liberty already existed. Conscience, Honour, Faith? Nihil! (page 59)
Rosenstock is trying to compose a portrait of those 'Nihilists' whose mindset led to the triumph of Bolshevism in Russia through their own management of savagery in the post-WWI period. He thus construes the Nihilist movement rather broadly, but so be it.

I post this passage for the purpose of focusing my thoughts on a certain revolutionary type that may also find its counterpart in today's Islamist movement. Several of the qualities that Rosenstock specifies are also evident among Islamists -- the fanaticism, the moral suicide, and the desire to outdo the West -- but I see a couple of major differences.

First, unlike with the Nihilists and their 'Nihilism', Islamism emerges from a vast population of believers whose own values are not so easily differentiated from those of the Islamists themselves. Hence the large-scale support that Islamism finds among Muslims.

Second, unlike the atheistic Nihilists, Islamists are centrally concerned about their own salvation. Hunger for paradise drives them as much as their resentment toward the West and their hatred of all things 'nonislamic'.

I don't know how useful this sort of comparison-contrast exercise might be, but worth noting is that the Bolsheviks successfully captured an empire despite being a small minority lacking in popular support.

Who's to say that Islamists couldn't pull off a similar feat, and with far more popular support...

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Further on René Girard and Violent Sacrifice in Islam

René Girard Speaks Out

My pursuit of René Girard's views on Islam and violent sacrifice have led me to the website for the Italian paper Chiesa, which offers an article first posted on June 23, 2003: "The Innocent Victim Has a Defender. And He Is in Jerusalem."

This Chiesa post provides an English translation of the original article, "Il Dio dell'apocalisse" ("The God of the Apocalypse"), an interview with Girard conducted by Attilio Scarpellini for L'Espresso (No. 25, June 12, 2003) in which Scarpellini raises the issue of Islam and violence:
Scarpellini: And Islam?

Girard: "Islam has problems with violence. But we must avoid confusion. Islam cannot be classified as a primitive religion: it is a monotheistic religion that belongs to the religious family of Abraham, and it has been profoundly influenced by both Judaism and Christianity. Islam, too, contains the seed of a critical stance toward violence. Human sacrifice is not part of the Muslim tradition, and no orthodox or authoritative religious current of Islam justifies it. Islam is not sacrificial."

Scarpellini: But there are the suicide bombers.

Girard: "That's true. Fundamentalist terrorism is sacrificial. But it is a contradiction that plays upon the ambiguity of our relationship with religion and the sacred."

Scarpellini: The philosopher Jean Baudrillard says that the behavior of the suicide bombers is an assertion of moral superiority, in that they are capable of sacrificing themselves and others, a symbolic challenge that westerners are no longer able to accept.

Girard: "I haven't read much by Baudrillard lately. But in this case I would be tempted to agree with him. We are not capable of accepting the terrorist's challenge to sacrifice because the logic of suicide-homicide is unacceptable in a moral context permeated by Christianity; because we do not believe that the mechanism of the sacrificial victim has any value. The act of the suicide bomber who immolates himself and his enemy on the same altar may draw our attention -- as does in fact happen -- but it doesn't convince us. But to think that the refusal of this sacrifice weakens the West is merely a way of reviving Nietzsche's criticisms of Christianity."
I wonder who the "we" is in Girard's words that "we do not believe that the mechanism of the sacrificial victim has any value." Many Westerners still speak unselfconsciously -- though in a thoroughly secular sense -- of soldiers who die in battle as "sacrificing" themselves for their country. Or do only American Westerners think this way? Now, if Girard means specifically the suicide-homicide sort of 'sacrifice', then I'd agree that Westerners today generally reject any sacrificial understanding of a terrorist's mass homicide, even if the terrorist 'sacrifices' himself -- though I suspect that some Americans in WWII may have employed a secularized use of the term 'sacrifice' to describe the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (but I'm just guessing).

More to the point, I cannot quite see how in a "moral context permeated by Christianity ... we do not believe that the mechanism of the sacrificial victim has any value." Is this a general principle that also applies to religious concepts of forgiveness? Do Girard's words imply that sacrifice is an ineffective mechanism for the forgiveness of sins in Christian soteriology? I don't quite understand this. Perhaps "Islam is not sacrificial," but Christianity certainly is. Christian soteriology puts the self-sacrifice of Christ at its center and claims that the entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament points toward this self-sacrifice. Moreover, it understands Christ's self-sacrifice not only as effective in enabling the forgiveness of sins but even as necessary and sufficient for the final purification from all sins. Perhaps this is Girard's point, that Christ's sacrifice makes any further sacrifices otiose?

Be that as it may, Girard's main point about Islam is that "Human sacrifice is not part of the Muslim tradition, and no orthodox or authoritative religious current of Islam justifies it." In short, "Islam is not sacrificial." If Girard is correct, then the Islamist exaltation of the suicide bomber is an Islamic heresy. Some Muslim scholars have, in fact, argued this, but a lot of others have defended the human sacrifice that they call "martyrdom operations."

Concerning this issue of human sacrifice in Islam, one might wish to read a couple of my earlier posts on the shahid as Islamic redeemer.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Harry Bother and a Goblet of Beer...

Herwhiney Granger
The real thing...
(Image from Wikipedia)

The other night, I was putting eight-year-old En-Uk to bed, and rather than tell stories to each other -- which we usually do -- we made up new names for a few of the Harry Potter characters.

I started off with "Harry Butter" -- which, I admit, is rather lame, but if you dwell on it long enough, it becomes disgusting, which always proves terribly entertaining for little boys.

We decided, however, on "Harry Bother" instead.

Next came "Herwhiney Granger." Then "Runt Queasily." After that, "Allbutt Bumbledork" (a favorite of mine).

And En-Uk's brilliant contribution: "Draco Mouthboy!"

To which, I retorted, "Lord Oldwart." I also suggested "Lord Worrywort," but En-Uk panned that one. I don't know why...

And let's not forget the minor character "Prissy Weasley." I suppose that this one should actually be "Prissy Queasily."

Please add more, to be judged accordingly ... but keep them G-Rated so that I can entertain En-Uk with your contributions.

And while we wait for those entries ... let's have a beer, courtesy of John Dubya von EBeerSnob.Com, who has responded both to my recent promotion of his website on my blog and to my email notifying him about my generous plugging of his worthy endeavor (along with my 'services rendered' bill for the unsolicited advertisement) by posting the following remarks in this week's email, The Official Size & Weight EBeer ENews Email, Number 16, under a subheading sporting an entirely anomalous question mark, "International Recognition?":
Sixteen weeks into our project, and we’ve made it around to the other side of the planet. This week I received an email from South Korea. Professor Jeff has a blog, and in the same, featured my adventures at St. Andrews in NY. Check this out. In his email he writes:
I'm a childhood friend of Bruce Cochran, who clued me in to your email service promoting good beers.

I live in a part of the world -- let's call it " South Korea " -- where one doesn't come by good beers cheaply, but I do enjoy the virtual beers that you have on tap. Your descriptions are so precise and compelling that I can virtually quench my thirst, a thirst that the precisely described beers themselves tend to stimulate.

Your St. Andrews visits inspired me to post a blog entry, and I block quote rather extensively from your email (and hope that you don't mind):

Another good thing from Arkansas...

Anyway, I raise, in your honor, a glass ... but just a Budweiser, unfortunately -- the American one, I mean -- because I can't get the good beers in the local supermarkets, and the Korean beers are even more dismal ... sigh.

But I can dream, and your weekly emails provide the sustenance of my dreams...
I also note that Professor Jeff uncovered one of the hidden mysteries of our project. I do hope he got a big laugh out of it. Hang in there Dr. Jeff, may there be good beers on the horizon.
That horizen is so very far away ... but I can hope! Meanwhile, I'll reach for another Bud. You should too. After all, it makes you smart. You doubt? Oh, ye skeptic of little faith and even less spirit! That eponymous beer made Bud Wiser! Keep drinking the vile but potent stuff, and you will find yourself intellectually empowered to puzzle out "one of the hidden mysteries" of the sacred EBeer project...

Oops, nearly forgot. John Dubya, please send your check for 'services rendered' to my university address. And no whining, or you'll end up like Hermione...

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