Sociable Spirit

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely…

What’s in his ROMANCE kiss?

[Happy New Year — 2020 — to you all! I decided to launch a series of posts under the category of Footnote Fodder containing tidbits from my readings that I find curious and genuinely interesting but have, as of yet, no way to incorporate in any of my publishing projects. They seem too good/bizarre not to share. Enjoy! ;)]

If your brain is anything like mine then you are sometimes plagued with random songs like I am. In my case, the songs materialize triggered by semantic knowledge (i.e. encounter with words reminiscent of the lyrics) and stay lodged in my brain’s auditory cortex. So, I have Thomas Heywood to blame for “The Shoop Shoop Song” running in loop on my brain. And it runs like an ironical commentary in Cher’s voice:

If you want to know if he loves you so
It’s in his kiss
That’s where it is
Whoa oh it’s in his kiss
That’s where it is.

Why ironical? Because reading Thomas Heywood’s Gynaikeion: or, Nine books of various history concerning women inscribed by ye names of ye nine Muses (London: Printed by Adam Islip, 1624), in “The Third Book of Women, inscribed Thalia” one comes upon the alleged origin of kisses:

… the use of Wine was not knowne amongst them [the Roman matrons and virgins]; for that woman was taxed with immodestie, whose breath was knowne to smell of grape. Pliny in his natural historie, saith, That Cato was of opinion, That the vse of kissing first began betwixt kinsman and kinswoman, howsoeuer neere allide or farra off, onelie by that to know whether their wiues, daughters, or neeces, had tasted any wine: to this Iuuenall seems to allude in these verses:

Paucae adeo cereris vittas contingere Digna
Quarum non time at pater oscula. (p. 118)*

Well, if this does not throw a nasty wrench into the romantic notion about kisses. Sorry Jules, nothing personal.

Of course, Heywood is quick to dismiss the above as a custom of bygone days (and places) acknowledging that “kissing and drinking both are now growne (it seems) to a greater custome amongst vs that in those days with the Romans: nor am I so austeare to forbid the vse of either…” (ibid).

But it certainly puts the following two verses from the Song of Songs into a different perspective:

How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! And the smell of thine ointments than all spices! Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue… (4:10-11)

Also, are we talking about a French or a Roman kiss? Comment if you know. Until you come up with a veritable source, I am opting for Romance Kiss — as in Romance languages, nothing romantic really 😉

*There are so few worthy to touch the fillets of Ceres,
Whose kisses a father would not fear.
(Transl. by Martin Madan. In A New and Literal Translation of Juvenal and Persius, vol. 1. London, 1789, p. 231)

A feminist adaptation of Paradise Lost

Hell is but a state of mind, they say, and I certainly feel like in Hell for not being able to attend in August the Stratford Festival’s modern Paradise Lost, a theatrical adaptation of Milton’s epic directed by Jackie Maxwell and written by Erin Shields. It’s heralded as a “witty, modern, feminist retelling of” Paradise Lost. So I do fervently hope that this retelling will go beyond the casting choice for Satan who is to be played by Lucy Peacock, although, I must admit she looks quite intriguing on the play’s poster image dressed in full snakeskin outfit (PETA be damned, its probably fake anyway ;)).

Lucy Peacock as Satan

Lucy Peacock as Satan in Stratford Festival’s modern Paradise Lost. Photography by Clay Stang – The Garden.

Van der Goes, The Fall

The Fall by Hugo van der Goes (1467-68). Oil on oak. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Not that I doubt Peacock’s ability to be a deviously witty tempter. I am cautious in my anticipation because of the long literary and visual art’s tradition of associating sin with Eve, and consequently with women, which has already produced paintings in which the distinction between Satan (the tempter) and its erstwhile target (Eve) has been blurred rendering the Tempter and its manipulated subject (the snake) into a single female snake character; a fit representation from the perspective of the patriarchal discourse that puts the whole blame of the-Fall-debacle on women. But this gender bending is hardly enough in and of itself from a feminist point of view that would ultimately challenge this resilient patriarchal assumption (i.e. that women are to be blamed for all the bad things befalling mankind). All in all, I am curious in what way is this retelling going to be a feminist one.

Also, I am positively intrigued by the authors’ decision to work with a small cast and, hence, have actors play two polar opposite characters in different parts of the play (e.g. Jessica B. Hill playing both the character of Beelzebub and Gabriel). Very early modern indeed.

I am looking forward to the play’s reviews but just in case G. S. is reading this and thinking about founding a scholar of modest means from East-Central Europe, I would be delighted to attend in person and watch it myself. Just in case.




NEPTUN: “And found no end, in wandering mazes lost”

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary the word Neptun originates from “late 14c., ‘god of the sea,’ from Latin Neptunus, son of Saturn, brother of Jupiter, the Roman god of the sea (later identified with Greek Poseidon), probably from PIE root *nebh- ‘cloud’ (source of Latin nebula ‘fog, mist, cloud’ ).” I don’t know whether the developers of the Neptun Student Information System (sic!) were consciously or unwittingly choosing its name, but there certainly is more fog, mist and cloud-shrouded uncertainty surrounding it, than clear direction and information. We also learn from the OE Dictionary, that “[u]ntill the indentificatin of Pluto in 1930, it was the most distant planet known” — hm, again, one wonders if the developers knew ahead how far removed their system will be from the actual, known needs of Hungarian uni populations. Also, how can one expect anything good from a system that is introduced with the following sentence by the University (BME) it was developed for:

“This can be a blessing or a curse, but a real means, a surface to manage your student self throughout your studies at our institution.”

There is not much solace in knowing that our University (SZTE) was the last to give in and shift to the government enforced system. So, if at the start of this semester you feel like finding no end, in wandering mazes lost, you are entitled to some despair. I too, whenever daring the nebulous entrails of Neptun, encounter–to quote Milton again–

But cloud in stead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the chearful wayes of men
Cut off, and for the Book of knowledg fair
Presented with a Universal blanc
Of Nature’s works to mee expung’d and ras’d,
And wisdome at one entrance quite shut out. (PL 3.45-50)

Space may produce new Worlds

Welcome to my corner of the web. It’s presently under construction but hopefully it will soon become more than a mere playground for my budding web-making-skills.

Illustration from The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine Pisan

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