Friday, December 30, 2016

Doctor Faustus

I discovered an interesting fact this morning, concerning the original Dr. Johann Faustus of legend. Reputedly, he began his career as a schoolmaster in Kreuznach in 1507. Not long after, he was forced to flee on being accused of pederasty. Settling for a time in Nuremberg, Faustus became notorious as a "a great sodomite" and necromancer. 

The connection between homosexuality and the occult arts resurfaces from time to time, as with the Rev. C. W. Leadbeater, a major figure in Blavatsky's Theosophy. A young friend of mine reports that an older man is trying to seduce him by offering readings of his indigo aura.

Following the English-language version of the German chapbook, Christopher Marlowe includes several same-sex asides.  Goethe handled the matter differently, transferring the homosexuality to Mephisto, who towards the end of Part II falls into a lustful reverie about sexy boys - foolishly disregarding the actions of the good angels, who rescue Faust's soul.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Epic poetry not a cultural universal

We normally think of the monuments of epic poetry - such as Gilgamesh, the Iliad, Beowulf, the Niebelungenlied, and the Mahabharata - as foundational to every civilization. Yet some preeminent cultures, such as those of ancient Egypt and pre-imperial China, have no primordial epic. Why is this so?

With a few learned exceptions, such as Vergil's Aeneid, the written phase of epics is normally the distillation of the remains of a massive groundswell of oral poetry. Most of this oral creativity has not been recorded as such, but we have good evidence of it worldwide. So the key question is the presence or absence of the epic effulgence, if you will, not how many manuscripts we might now have of some particular specimen, As far as i can tell, this ecology of creativity, abundant elsewhere, did not exist in ancient Egypt and ancient China.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bogus news

The problem of bogus news is not new. Twenty years ago the comedian Norm MacDonald used the expression "fake news" on SNL. Over the years the approach has proliferated in the late night TV comedy presentations (think John Stewart) much appreciated by young liberals. As a rule I do not watch these shows. because the mix does not appeal to me. But one should remember that this witch's brew has many sources.

Just now Hillary Clinton has been complaining about these fabrications, some of which are indeed egregious.  But perhaps she should look at her own history, which had her voting to support the invasion of Iraq, based on bogus claims of weapons of vast destruction - which did not exist.