29 November 2007

James Elkins

[from James Elkins's The Object Stares Back, 1996]

The abstract machine of faciality is rooted in the body, and parts of it are repeated, strewn across the body's surface. The anus, the urethra, and the vagina were once called the "other face": an appropriate name for mock eyes, noses, and mouths. The armpits are blind, failed faces, and the navel is a partial face.

The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing

18 November 2007

Henry Noel

[Henry Noel, 16th century poet]

Gaze Not on Swans

Gaze not on swans in whose soft breast
A full hatcht beauty seems to rest,
Nor snow which falling from the sky
Hovers in its virginity.

Gaze not on roses though new blown
Grac'd with a fresh complexion,
Nor lilly which no subtle bee
Hath rob'd by kissing chemistry.

Gaze not on that pure milky way
Where night vies splendour with the day,
Nor pearls whose silver walls confine
The riches of an Indian mine:

For if my emperesse appears
Swans moultring dy, snow melts to tears,
Roses do blush and hang their heads
Pale lillyes shrink into their beds;

The milky way rides past to shrowd
Its baffled glory in a clowd,
And pearls do climb unto her eare
To hang themselves for envy there.

So have I seene stars big with light,
Proud lanthorns to the moone-ey'd night,
Which when Sol's rays were once display'd
Sunk in their sockets and decay'd.

14 November 2007

08 November 2007

17th century view on rape

[from Kent R. Lehnhof's essay, “‘Impregn’d with Reason’: Eve’s Aural Conception in Paradise Lost.” Milton Studies 41 (2002)]

Relying upon such classical authorities as Galen and Aristotle, the early moderns asserted the existence of a female seed analogous to the male semen. Although the female seed was believed to be weaker and less pure than the male seed, it was nevertheless considered vital for conception. Conception, it was thought, could only occur if both the male and the female seeds were discharged during the sexual encounter. Because they believed that a female only emits her seed upon attaining orgasm, the early moderns insisted that conception could only come about if a woman enjoyed the sexual act. Thus, conception came to constitute concrete proof that a woman acted as a desiring, consenting participant in any given episode of intercourse. This putative connection is codified in Renaissance rape laws. As Sir Henry Finch professes in the enormously influential Law or a discourse thereof (1627): "Rape is the carnal abusing of a woman against her will. But if she conceives upon any carnal abusing of her, that is no rape, for she cannot conceive unless she consent." Richard Burns reiterates the idea in his guide for English magistrates, citing classical authorities to establish that "a woman can not conceive unless she doth consent." According to Thomas Laqueur, the belief that pregnancy proves complicity was so entrenched in English society that its physiological basis was not even questioned until the second half of the eighteenth or the first half of the nineteenth century.

06 November 2007

Ray McManus

The Fall 2007 issue of The South Carolina Review includes my review of Ray McManus's fine book of poetry, Driving through the Country before You Are Born.


[from Campbell, Mary Baine. “Busy Bees: Utopia, Dystopia, and the Very Small.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 36:3 (2006) 619-642]

Thomas Muffet (whose daughter Patience famously sat on a tuffet), as translated from his Theatrum Insectorum in Topsell’s Historie of Four-Footed Beasts:

To conclude this Section you see that Bees (creatures without reason) have not only providence and foresight, joined with art and industrie, perfect order and discipline in their government, being naturally loyal, valiant, and magnanimous, and abhorring as well rebellion and treason, as cowardice and sloth, all which plainly shew that nature in Bees laying down such a pattern should not only be imitated but surpassed by men, lest they be reproved by these unreasonable creatures.

03 November 2007

Fernando Pessoa

[from Poems of Fernando Pessoa translated by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown]


The poet is a faker. He
Fakes it so completely,
He even fakes he's suffering
The pain he's really feeling.

And they who read his writing
Fully feel while reading
Not that pain of his that's double,
But theirs, completely fictional.

So on its tracks goes round and round,
To entertain the reason,
That wound-up little train
We call the heart of man.