Saturday, March 06, 2010

My jocular character's gonna get me in trouble . . .

Creation of Eve (ca. 1310-1330)
Marble Relief by Lorenzo Maitani
(Image from Wikipedia)

On the Milton List yesterday, one of the scholars asked for advice because a student was upset with John Milton's depiction of Eve's creation in Paradise Lost 8.465-466:
I have a student very distressed about Eve's being created from Adam's left rib.
A number of scholars weighed in, some wondering if the student was female, so I attempted a lighthearted suggestion:
I assume a woman in distress (maybe a bad-hair day?).

Could she be comforted to realize that the heart is on the left and that in a prelapsarian state, there would surely be nothing sinister about a left rib.

You could also always quip that since God chose the left rib, then it was actually the right one, whereas the right one was in fact left. But I know from experience that my 'humor' doesn't always have the desired effect . . .
That last remark was prescient of me, for another scholar found my comment offensive:
Perhaps we could refrain from blatant misogyny on this list. Nuanced, implied and "humourous" comments notwithstanding, a certain level of civility would enhance our professional discourse.
I wasn't sure how to respond to that, but not wishing to cause anyone further distress, I posted to the list:
I'm sorry that my pun on tresses gave the impression that I hate women.
I had briefly considered responding with an explicit reference to what Milton calls Eve's "wanton" tresses and a query about pre- and postlapsarian connotations of words in Paradise Lost, but I suspected that such a 'wanton' point might get me into further hot water. At any rate, I did receive a posted reply from the scholar:
Please do not mistake my post as personal nor implying "hatred." The discussion and comment in context, conveyed, to me, some degree of condescension and trivialization sufficient to devalue the inquiry. That's all.
I had to wonder what the scholar meant by "misogyny" if not "hatred of women," but I decided to merely respond -- lest my point be inadvertently obfuscated by linguistic equivocacy -- with the following clarification:
Humor aside, my more serious point was to question the assumption that "left" necessarily means sinister. In prelapsarian Eden, would a left rib -- near the left-positioned heart -- be anything but good?
Unfortunately, we live in a postlapsarian world, so my words resound like ambiguous scoffing and my humor is fallen flat.

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10 Comments:

At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The unidentified person's comments regarding my dear nephew's blogspot, had the phrase, "...some degree of condecension and trivialization..." in his remarks.

Obviously, this person is new to Jeffery's blogspot. Otherwise that person would know that "some" is too mild a term.
Being often the target of his "High degree of condecension and and trivialization," this person has my sympathy.

In "Mr. Blogperson's" closing remarks he spoke of "ambigious scoffing." In his attacks on myself, it was pretty clear to me.

And, on occasion, also to friend JK, as he sometimes joins in with his own "ambigious" comments.

Cran

 
At 10:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thank you, Uncle Cranford, for your kin-dly support in this scholarly debate.

I will now never ever attain tenure. Previously, my chances were "never," but they are now "never ever."

For this infinitude of infinitudes, I owe to my own flesh and blood . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Jeff said...

Eh, I thought it was funny, but some of your interlocutors help explain why many humanities scholars are often seen by outsiders as unfunny-duddies.

 
At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My comments were an example of my own warped sense of humor.
I considered your blogspot as being actually funny.
In reply to Jeff, I would place nephew Jeffery a little higher....in fact I consider him quite a funny-duddy.

Cran

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jeff, I think that the critique was very 1970s, for I've not recently otherwise encountered that sort of feminist criticism.

I did get an off-list email of support from another scholar, a woman who found my remark harmless . . . and humorous.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:08 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, at least, I'm a duddy rather than a dud.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:41 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

I think you're the funniest smart (like legitimized smart:) person I know. I'm also pretty sure you're not a blatant misogynist.

My appreciation of a good pun is so strong, though, that it often takes precedence over my other tendencies and inclinations. The only times I think it's OK to be a bit inappropriate is if there's a good word play to be found somewhere. :)

Also, I agree with what @Jeff said about unfunny duddies...

Cheers from Daejeon.

 
At 4:52 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, I agree. My misogyny is always well hidden . . .

Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Malcolm Pollack said...

Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: THAT'S NOT FUNNY!

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You certainly lightened things up with that electrifying humor, Malcolm.

But I have to report you, for the joke was personal, and the personal is political, and the political is . . . well, liable, I guess.

Jeffery Hodges

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