On blogging pre-history

11 10 2010

I just had to repost this:

Montaigne’s essays can be meandering, yes, and often only tangentially related to their supposed themes. He filled them with anecdotes and examples collected from classical literature but also stories he got from friends and the peasants on his estate. In this and other qualities, he probably had more influence on the free-form English essay than on the lofty, abstraction-prone style of Académie française-sanctioned French. And even back in the day, people complained that he shared too much trivial detail, such as his preference for white wine over red; “Who the hell wants to know what he liked?” one crabby scholar retorted. In the 19th century, Montaigne’s candid discussion of carnal matters led concerned editors to produce a bowdlerized version of his works, more suitable for the tender minds of young ladies.

In short, Montaigne was accused of every sin attributed to today’s memoirists and bloggers, whose literary great-grandfather he is. Nevertheless, you will find “Essays” in every one of those collections of great books you used to be able to buy by the set, bound in “full genuine leather,” with gold lettering. This suggests that the line between trash and literature may be less firmly drawn than some would have us believe, a notion that would probably please Montaigne himself. Or perhaps the real lesson here is that it doesn’t really matter what you write about, provided that you do it well.

I suppose I have lately tried to be too “high-brow” to the point of being pretentious. Maybe I should start posting pictures of my cats, reflections on my favorite T.V. shows, and AG’s recipes for gumbo and red beans and rice. Or maybe not. But perhaps I will be more understanding of people who do that style of blogging.





From Iamblichus

11 10 2010

But I am of the opinion that the obscene language that then takes place [at the erection of phalli], affords an indication of the privation of good about matter, and of the deformitiy which is in material subjects, prior to their being adorned. For these being indigent of ornament, by so much the more aspire after it, as they in a greater degree despise their own deformity. Again, therefore, they pursue the causes of forms, and of what is beautiful and good, recognizing baseness from base language. And thus, indeed, the thing itself, viz. turpitude, is averted, but the knowledge of it is rendered manifest through words, and those that employ them transfer their desire to that which is contrary to baseness…

The powers of the human passions that are in us, when they are entirely restrained, become more vehement; but when they are called forth into energy, gradually and commensurately, they rejoice in being moderately gratified, are satsified; and from hence, becoming purified, they are rendered tractable, and are vanquished without violence. On this account, in comedy and tragedy, by surveying the passions of others, we stop our own passions, cause them to be more moderate, and are purified from them. In sacred ceremonies, likewise, by certain spectacles and auditions of things base, we become liberated from the injury which happened from the works affected by them.

-De Mysteriis