Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Vulgarities

Writing full tilt right now. I've pegged January 31st as my 'chapter four full draft - pens down' date, so it's all go like Frodo in here.

Percolating some gross posts; I will be writing my intro chapter soon, which means rereading a lot of the early essays on the Grotesque style. They are all very interesting and entertaining, so I will probably pop up a few choice samples.

Also reading Fran├žois Rabelais, whose passion for toilet humour is refreshing. No doubt many would find his love of turds childish, but, as the man himself comments, one would be remiss to overlook the possibility of deeper meaning amidst the faeces.

"[Y]ou jump at the conclusion that these tombs are filled with mere jests, vulgarities and buffoonery. Alas! you leap at the outward and visible sign; you swallow the title in a spirit of levity and derision without pausing to make further inquiry. How unseemly to consider so frivolously the works of humankind! Is it you who profess that clothes do not make the man nor robes the monk? [...] you should look beyond my title, open my book and seriously weigh its subject matter. The spice secreted within the box is more precious, far, than its exterior promised. In other words, the topics treated are not so foolish as the title suggested at first hand."

(From the Preface to the English translation of The Very Horrendous Life of the Great Gargantua, Father of Pantagruel, first published 1534).

Despite being written in the 16th century, and most likely with his tongue firmly in his cheek (where it seems to jam permanently), this is a brilliant defense of popular culture. It resounds with attitudes that continue to circulate in academia and society more generally regarding 'low culture' texts.

I also like how Rabelais' description of analysis positions the critical reader and/or scholar as a hungry, raging hound:

"Modelling yourself upon the dog, you should be wise to scent, to feel and to prize these fine, flavored volumes. You should be fleet in your pursuit of them, resolute in your attack. Then, by diligent reading and prolonged meditation, you should break the bone of my symbols to suck out the marrow of my meaning."
While this is naturally how I would like to imagine myself, savaging texts left and right, in reality the drama of research is more on a level with the film below. By which I mean it's ungainly but enthusiastic.



Poomaman. He said poo. Heh.

Back to work.

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