C. L. R. James, author of The Black Jacobins and Beyond a Boundary (which happens to be the best book on cricket ever written); born in Trinidad, 4 January 1901; died in London, 31 May 1989.
Archive for May, 2004
Not that the Virtual Stoa’s got a one-track mind, or anything, but Martin raised a good point in the comments to the post below: why hadn’t I linked to the now-legendary page on Antebellum Parasexuality? Well, there it is, and VS-readers who are keen to learn about farmyard sex in the pre-Civil War South can now follow the link to the 1998 discussion and enlighten themselves in the company of some of the leading students of American Studies.
The last six years have been kind to the perpetrators of Antebellum Parasexuality and both continue to go from strength to strength: Martin has recently been elected a Junior Research Fellow in Philosophy at St John’s College, Cambridge and knows a great deal about the deep metaphysical structure of contemporary theories of egalitarian justice; Dominic has recently had his first book, Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism, published by Random House, and has some alarmingly good literary representation.
But they’re still both Very Naughty Boys.
The Virtual Stoa is unusual among websites in not being chiefly a repository for images of animal porn. But things are now going to change, bringing this page into line with the rest of the worldwide internetweb.
This discussion below got onto the subject of Gerald of Wales’s History and Topography of Ireland (composed around 1185), and this provides me with ample excuse to reproduce two of the classic mediaeval illustrations that accompany ï¿½56, on “A goat that had intercourse with a woman”, and ï¿½57, on “A lion that loved a woman”.
Here’s Gerald on the Irish goat:
“How unworthy and unspeakable! How reason succumbs so outrageously to sensuality! That the lord of the brutes, losing the privileges of his high estate should descend to the level of the brutes, when the rational submits itself to such shameful commerce with a brute animal!”
Gerald then sagely observes that
“Although the matter was detestable on both sides and abominable, yet it was less so by far on the side of the brute who is subject to rational beings in all things, and because he was a brute and prepared to obey by very nature. He was, nevertheless, created not for abuse but for proper use…”
And here’s Gerald on the French lion:
“Sometimes when he escaped from his cage and was in such fierce anger that no one would dare to go near him, they would send for Johanna who would calm his anger and great rage immediately. Soothing him with a woman’s tricks, she led him wherever she wanted and changed all his fury immediately into love.”O Beasts! Both! Worthy of a shameful death! But such crimes have been attempted not only in modern times but also in antiquity, which is praised for its greater innocence and simplicity. The ancients also were stained with such unspeakable deeds. And so it is written in Leviticus: “If a woman approaches any beast to have intercourse with him, ye shall kill the woman, and let the beast die the death”. The beast is ordered to be killed, not for the guilt, from which he is excused as being a beast, but to make the remembrance of the act a deterrent, calling to mind the terrible deed.”
Is this sound reasoning from our Gerald? Six hundred years later, this argument was apparently still being made, calling forth Jeremy Bentham’s dissent in his classic essay (and longstanding Virtual Stoa favourite) “Of Offences Against One’s Self“. There he considered the problem of human-animal sex (“Accidents of this sort will sometimes happen; for distress will force a man upon strange expedients”), but expressed the thought that laws against this kind of things were probably a bad idea. He then wrote this:
“Some persons have been for burning the poor animal with great ceremony under the notion of burning the remembrance of the affair. (See Puffendorf, Bks. 2, Ch. 3, 5. 3. Bacon’s Abridg. Title Sodomy. J.B.) A more simple and as it should seem a more effectual course to take would be not to meddle or make smoke about the matter.”
Bentham then turned his attention to the “most incontestably pernicious” of “all irregularities of the venereal appetite”, which was masturbation, though while he judged that this was Very Bad Indeed, he didn’t really think it should be banned, either, for “no punishment could ever have any effect” as “it can always be committed without any danger or at least without any apparent danger of a discovery”. So there we are. (Which reminds me that I haven’t yet read Thomas Lacqueur’s Solitary Sex, though I’m looking forward to very much indeed. No time, no time.)[Gerald of Wales snippets from the Penguin ed., translated by John O'Meara, pp.75-6.]
Erich Honecker, German Communist, builder of the Berlin Wall, and first secretary of the East German Party, 1971-1989. Born 25 August 1912 in the Saar; died in Santiago 29 May 1994, ten years ago today.
Not much missed, though.
Many thanks to all those who marked the third birthday of the Virtual Stoa (see below), and thanks in particular to Norm and Matthew Turner, who offered presents in the form of a joke and a Melanism respectively. Marc offers an historian’s perspective on the early years of the Stoa, and thanks are also due to Sarah, Jason, Michael, Simon and Chris for helping to mark the occasion in style…
UPDATE [29.5.2004]: And Backword Dave, too!
A reader writes…
Talking of Arlette [ = Arlette Laguiller, aka "Arlette the starlet", as we had been -- Ed.] , you may (judging from your postings to the Virtual Stoa) be interested to hear that Arlette has now indicated that she is in favour of gay marriage (though is apparently not so keen on adoption by gay couples).Debate has recently resurfaced on this issue in France, after Dominique Strauss-Kahn (one of your, ahem, favourite French politician Laurent Fabius’ main rivals for the PS nomination for presidential candidate in 2007), last week attempted to make a bold policy move to jostle for position among his rival ‘elephants’ by pronouncing in favour of gay marriage. Noï¿½l Mamï¿½re, who you may recall was the Green candidate for president in 2002, has also declared that he is going to carry out such a ceremony in the town of Begles (near Bordeaux), of which he is mayor, on – I think – June 6.
There is, therefore, a cartoon on the front of the current issue of Le Canard Enchainï¿½ (which I bought yesterday in the departure lounge of one of the terminals of Charles de Gaulle airport which has not yet collapsed) which has Arlette saying (instead of her standard opening line ‘Travailleuses, Travailleurs’), ‘Travailleurs, Travailleurs, Travailleuses, Travailleuses, mariez-vous’.
The reference to Fabius is a reference to the fact that many years ago, and for odd reasons, I once found myself sat next to him at some function or other. And “elephant” is still one of my favourite political jargon words.
It’s a good week for blogprose: yesterday we had Norm on the Lawnmowers of the Future [see below], and today we have what may very well be the finest tribute ever penned (or typed) to the Shepherd’s Pie over at the increasingly indispensible Fafblog.