I was pleased to get to interview Richard Beck for my article on unremittingly cheerful Christian pop music. I’ve always enjoyed his writing (and I have his latest book, Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted, on my shelf to read). One recent post of his I particularly liked is “Edging Toward Enchantment: Recovering a Catholic Imagination” (he’s not Catholic). Here’s an excerpt:
[O]ne of the impulses of Protestantism was to shift the spiritual load onto the laity. Holiness was no longer to be the occupation of “spiritual specialists,” the clergy, monastics and saints. Everyone was expected to be holy. The domain of holiness and saintliness shifted away from monasteries, convents and cathedrals to the town, the realm of work and family life. As we know, there are no saints in Protestantism.
By releasing God into the world the hope was that God would be found everywhere. But the exact opposite happened. By disenchanting people (the saints), space (the cathedral), time (the liturgical calendar) and the Eucharist, Protestantism banished the holy, the sacred and the enchanted.
If you’d like more about saints, try Alexi Sargeant’s essay for First Things on Jägerstätter, a play by Felix Mitterer: “Saintly Defiance on Stage.” Here’s one note on the play’s stage directions that’s well worth reading:
Mitterer bans productions of the play from using Third Reich regalia. In his author’s note, he stipulates no swastika flags, no Nazi paraphernalia, and no Nazi uniforms. Jägerstätter’s non-compliance would seem too natural to us when set off against symbols that have become shorthand for evil. He’s more radical when his tempters (like the bishop who blesses the Catholics fighting for the Reich as “heroes” defending the homeland) aren’t decked out in Nazi apparel, but instead look and sound familiar to us. Mitterer does, however, invite a heavy-handed moralism when he asks that the play end with projected “scenes of recent wars and of cruelty.”
I recently got to see the most famous bear in Shakespeare, and, although I didn’t see this opera, I enjoyed this behind the scenes video about the bear in the Ring Cycle.
And also this quote:
“You can’t really prepare in acting school to be a giant bear, so I just sort of went for it, and that seemed to be what worked the best.”
Creating a bear (that the script presumably calls for) is one thing, but creating a weapon that never existed is another. The Public Medievalist (what a great name!) lays out the case against the military flail.
A military flail is a medieval weapon consisting of a short handle attached to a chain, at the end of which is a metal ball. This is not to be confused with a two-handed variant, often also called a flail, which derives from the threshing implement of the same name. Varieties of the one-handed version have multiple chains or spiked heads. They have appeared in a range of medieval movies and books, and they are held in the collections of museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Only problem is: they never existed.
They’re laboring on a comprehensive Latin dictionary that’s been in progress since 1894. The most recently published volume contained all the words beginning with the letter P. That was back in 2010.
And they’re not as far along as that may lead you to believe. They skipped over N years ago because it has so many long words, and now they’ve had to go back to that one. They’re also working on R at the same time. That should take care of the rest of this decade.
The Thesaurus Linguae Latinae was one of many big, scholarly projects taken on by the German government in the late 19th century.
Through two World Wars and German reunification, generations of Latin scholars have been chipping away at the same goal: documenting every use of every Latin word from the earliest Latin inscriptions in the 6th century BC up until around 200 AD, when it was in decline as a spoken language. Befitting the comprehensive nature of the project, the scholars will also include some words up to the 6th century AD.
If you want more contemporary language adventure, you might like this article on multilingual French Canadian rap. Here’s how it begins.
Recently a Quebec arts foundation required the Francophone rap group Dead Obies to give back an $18,000 grant they’d been awarded to record their newest album. The problem? A word count determined that the group had stirred too much English into their distinctive multilingual lyrics, falling short of the rule that 70 percent of the content be in French. Here’s an example from the first track of their album Gesamtkunswerk:
Dough to get
I got more shows to rip
Dead-O on the road again, c’est mon tour de get
Sous le spotlight, viens donc voir le dopest set
We just gettin’ started et pis t’es captivated
Looking at me now, thinking: «How’d he made it?»
J’suis tellement plus about being felt que famous
Que même moi, j’sais plus what the hell my name is
This is a subject close to my heart, since I like to express outrage by blending French and Yiddish and exclaiming, “Quelle shanda!”
Finally, I saw and was delighted by Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship, and I also particularly liked this exchange in an interview with him about Austen:
What is it about her writing that resonates now beyond that rom-com realm?
I think her perspective is very sane and very healthy and helpful. There are other authors I really admire and enjoy reading their books, but they sort of make you think in bad ways, not constructive ways, like Fitzgerald makes you romantic, and if you’re a romantic, then you get depressed and discouraged. Balzac makes you avaricious; you want to acquire a fortune!
And Tolstoi makes you strange in terms of theological views.
And so Jane Austen not only is it delightfully entertaining and perceptive, but she sort of makes you a better person, I think. She’s a really good character and she transmutes good character. She has a very profound and beautiful regard on the world, and on characters in life. And it’s entertaining and admirable at the same time.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!