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Showing posts from February 15, 2009

world class felix culpa

Gabriel Foigny was an underground man of the classical age – a drunk, a lech, an ex-priest. He fled from a monastery in France, where the bonds of chastity were evidently too tight for him, to the Protestant freedom of Geneva, in the 1660s. There he found a job as a teacher – his attempt to go on preaching under the new dispensation was discouraged when he appeared in church drunk – and married a low class slut who proceeded to cheat on him. Being an educated man, he turned his hand to the market for reading matter. First, he created playing cards of a kind, on which there were prayers – or perhaps Tarot signs. Then, in 1676, he published a manuscript he had been ‘given”, La Terre Ausrale. Later on, he admitted that he wrote it himself – by this time he was on the hop again, leaving behind a pregnant maidservant and a set of angry Genevan ministers. The TA is an account of a colonial Sinbad the sailor who ends up, after various adventures in Africa and Portugal, cast up on the Austral

the property I have in my johnson

We have tried to show that the dismissal of Adario as a figment of Lahontan’s imagination, or as the noble savage which romantically stands in the way of the modern admiration of itself – that moment of vulgarity, of the ultimately base, the truly modern – is an intellectually shaky stance. In its movement, it does conceal a truth that it doesn’t recognize – that there is no reason to suppose that all cultures match, as it were, the cultures of Europe. Match as agreeing with, or antithetical too. The possibility that two cultures can miss each other entirely is the possibility of counter-generality, unlimited. Although we like to think that the Gods play on a game board extensive enough that every pawn can find a footing. The myth of the myth of the noble savage is based, as we have said, on the myth of the civilized European, the features of which (belief in science, for instance) took in a very, very small minority of Europeans. On the other hand, as Bruce Trigger has said, the Eur

Lahontan

“Just look at P…, he continued, when she plays Daphne, and, chased by Apollo, turns to look at him – her soul sits in the turmoil of the small of her back; she bends, as though she wanted to break, as a naiad out of the school of Bernini. Look at the young F., then, when he, as Paris, stands among the three Goddesses and hands the apple to Venus. His entire soul sits (it is a shock to see it) in his elbow. Such mistakes, he added, disconnectedly, are unavoidable, since we ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Paradise is still locked up and the Cherub is behind us; we must make a trip around the world, and see whether perhaps it isn’t still open somewhere in the back.” – Kleist, On the Marionette Theater. I have danced in these threads so far without, astonishingly enough, mentioning Paradise. But now is the time. Daphne crouches, Paris extends the apple. Once upon a time, when Eve was not coy, the animals could talk, and an island floated up to the people, trailing a cloud above it, on

More on the myth of the myth of the noble savage

It is hard to cut through the scrim. While the Jesuits were trying to impress the Hurons with the latest discoveries in natural philosophy, in 1677, the police in Paris were arresting Magdelaine de la Grange and charging her, at that moment, with murder and forging a marriage certificate between herself and the lawyer she was living with. This was the beginning, it turned out, of the "Affair of Poisons", in which the highly civilized nobility of Louis XIV's court were found to be frequenters of fortune tellers, back ally witches, and implorers, upon the right occasion, of the devil. The affair was investigated by men who assembled in a room in which all the walls were shrouded with black cloth, and the testimonies were elicited by torture. It is the latter culture that historians call the civilized one, as opposed to the savages of New France. Why? Historians are like shopkeepers in a Mafia dominated section of Queens – they are overly impressed with guns. Civilization