International Society for Intellectual History

International Society for Intellectual History

“The ISIH was created in 1994 to promote the study and teaching of intellectual history in all its forms and to foster communication and interaction among the global community of scholars in the field.”

Among other projects, it is developing a database of twentieth-century authors whose work has shaped the development of intellectual history.

It also has a page on Facebook.

James A.T. Lancaster published a plug for my book back in 2014, and I had thought I’d posted an acknowledgement and thanks here, but either I’m wrong about that or it’s disappeared (I had some technical trouble a while back and a few posts may have been deleted).

So here it is again – a thank you from me, and a reciprocal plug for IHIS!

TIDE (Travel, Transculturality and Identity in England, c. 1500-1700)

Travel, Transculturality and Identity in England is a project funded by the ERC (European Research Council), exploring issues relating to strangers, travellers, migrants and so on. The website is an open-access resource consisting (at present) of some 40 essays contributed by Nandini Das, João Vicente Melo, Haig Smith, and Lauren Working based on keywords, such as “alien”, “citizen”, “foreigner” and “spy”.

I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Das at a couple of conferences in England a few years back, and it is a pleasure to see the fruits of her labours in this new project. Her introduction, explaining the project, can be found here.

The hurt(ful) body

The hurt(ful) body
Performing and beholding pain, 1600–1800
Edited by Dr Tomas Macsotay, Cornelis van der Haven and Karel Vanhaesebrouck
Manchester University Press, July 2017

I know! It has been too long – far too long – since I updated this blog! Nothing could illustrate that more clearly than the fact that this book came out a year ago and I am only now commenting on it, despite the fact that chapter 5, “Masochism and the female gaze”, was written by me!

This last year a lot of things have happened. Most notably, I retired from full-time teaching at Sophia University, Tokyo, in March. The whole build-up to, and immediate aftermath of, retirement was, for various reasons, quite a hectic time for me, and I just had to put some parts of my life on hold, including this blog.

But I’m back now, committed to posting regularly (once a week on average) and determined to catch up on lost ground.

So. The book. According to the blurb:

This book offers a cross-disciplinary approach to pain and suffering in the early modern period, based on research in the fields of literary studies, art history, theatre studies, cultural history and the study of emotions. The volume’s two-fold approach to the hurt body, defining ‘hurt’ from the perspectives of both victim and beholder – as well as their combined creation of a gaze – is unique. It establishes a double perspective about the riddle of ‘cruel’ viewing by tracking the shifting cultural meanings of victims’ bodies, and confronting them to the values of audiences, religious and popular institutional settings and practices of punishment. It encompasses both the victim’s presence as an image or performed event of pain and the conundrum of the look – the transmitted ‘pain’ experienced by the watching audience.

Or, if you prefer:

This book offers a cross-disciplinary approach to pain and suffering in the early modern period, based on research in the fields of literary studies, art history, theatre studies, cultural history and the study of emotions. It has a sustained focus on visual sources, textual material and documents about actual events rather than well-known thinkers or ‘masterpieces’ of art history, and a preference for cases and historical contexts over systematic theory-building. The hurt(ful) body brings under discussion visual and performative representations of embodied pain, using an insistently dialectical approach that takes into account the perspective of the hurt body itself, the power and afflictions of its beholder and, finally, the routinising and redeeming of hurt within institutional contexts. The volume’s two-fold approach of the hurt body, defining ‘hurt’ both from the perspective of the victim and the beholder (as well as their combined creation of a gaze), is unique. It establishes a double perspective about the riddle of ‘cruel’ viewing by tracking the shifting cultural meanings of victims’ bodies, and confronting them to the values of audiences, religious and popular institutional settings, and practices of punishment. It encompasses both the victim’s presence as an image or performed event of pain and the conundrum of the look – the transmitted ‘pain’ experienced by the watching audience. This will be done through three rubrics: the early modern performing body, beholder or audience responses, and the operations of institutional power. Because of its interdisciplinary approach of the history of pain and the hurt(ful) body, the book will be of interest for Lecturers and students from different fields, like the history of ideas, the history of the body, urban history, theatre studies, literary studies, art history, emotion studies and performance studies.

You can preview it on Google Books, and if you are interested in my chapter on masochism and the female gaze, here is a link to the final proof before publication. If you just want the gist, here’s the chapter abstract:

Masochism depends on fantasy, whether acted out or merely imagined, and the fantasy depends on an Other, who witnesses – either as an observer or as a participant – the suffering, real or imagined, of the fantasist, who in turn feels gratified. This particular concatenation of circumstances, though not recognized as a psychological predisposition until the nineteenth century, is generally considered to have emerged, in discourse and (probably) in practice, in the early modern period.[1] While there are potential dangers in reading the analyses of modern psychology back into earlier periods, there are also occasions when the insights of modern psychology can help to cast light on certain motifs and vignettes in early modern literature.

In this chapter, Yamamoto-Wilson examines the role of the Other’s gaze in early modern proto-masochistic fantasy, drawing on the poetry of (among others) William Browne, Aston Cokain, Michael Drayton, William Habington and Philip Sidney, the prose romance of John Crowne, the satire of Robert Greene and Thomas Nashe, a novella by Matteo Bandello, and the writings of Aphra Behn and Mary Wroth. By focusing on the function of the captivating female gaze, this chapter approaches the subversion of the chivalric tradition through the transgressive woman and the foolish man, and highlights the male anxiety generated by the female Other.

[1] Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Vol. 3: Analysis of the Sexual Impulse; Love and Pain; The Sexual Impulse in Women (2nd edn, Philadelphia, 1920), p. 132, identifies Pico della Mirandola, Disputationes … Aduersus Astrologi. Diuinatricem [Arguments against astrological divination] (Bologna, 1496; repr. [Lyons, 1498?]), sig. h5r, as ‘the earliest distinct reference to a masochistic flagellant’ and Johann Heinrich Meibom, De flagrorum usu in re veneria [On the use of whips in sexual circumstances] (Leyden, 1639), as the first treatise on the subject. Roy F. Baumeister, Social Psychology and Human Sexuality: Essential Readings (Philadelphia, 2001), p. 308, says ‘The abundant evidence of masochistic activity beginning in the eighteenth century contrasts sharply with the lack of any record of such activities prior to the Renaissance’, and Gordon Williams, A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature, vol. 1 (London, 1994), pp. 513–6, notes the emergence from late Elizabethan times on of an early modern sexual identity which came, in the later part of the seventeenth century, to be known as a ‘flogging cully’ (a man who could only be sexually aroused by being whipped).

The book mainly focuses on the gaze in visual art. I think mine is the only chapter that doesn’t have any pictures! But the poems and other texts I examine conjure up plenty of images. For example:

Oh, cruel Nymph! why do’st thou thus delight

To torture me? why thus my suff’rings slight?

My mournfull Songs neglected are by thee,

Thou art regardless of my Verse, and me.

Thou canst behold, with an unpittying Eye,

My sorrows, and art pleas’d to see me dye.

(Jane Barker, ‘A Pastoral, in Imitation of Virgil’s Second Euclogue’. In Poetical Recreations , 1688, p. 211.

Death in Medieval Europe

deathinmedievalenglandDeath in Medieval Europe

I haven’t been keeping up with posts over the last few months – too many other things going on! I’ll try to remedy that and catch up on interesting developments in the field (suppose I should make that my New Year’s resolution!).

Anyway, here’s a new publication that may be of interest. I haven’t read it myself yet, but if you click on the link there’s a free preview of the book.

“Jesus wept: and no wonder by Christ!”

“Jesus wept” – the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35) and the subject of a short piece on by Thomas Dixon on Umberto Eco and John Donne in the History of Emotions blog.

jesusweptThe post makes the point that “Donne is one of a very few sermon writers to discuss Christ’s tears”, though I suppose it depends what one means by “very few”. It is mentioned in the sermons of William Burton, Daniel Price, Thomas Jackson, William Ford, Samuel Smith, Gilbert Primrose and James Mabbe’s translation of Fonseca’s sermons – all published in Donne’s lifetime – and by  Samuel Otes, Thomas Adams, Daniel Featley, Peter Hausted, Anthony Faringdon and William Haughton and maybe a few others, all published prior to 1650. And there are other works – treatises, etc. – that discourse on the theme.

Still, it is, as Dixon says, a text one might have expected to have invited more exegesis, given the propensity of the age for emphasizing the less cheerful aspects of life, as evinced, for example, by the following:

As for laughter , it may be vsed: otherwise God would neuer haue giuen that power and faculty vnto man: but the vse of it must be both moderate and seldome, as sorrowe for our sinnes is to be plentifull and often. This we may learne in Christs example, of whome wee reade that hee wept three times, at the destruction of Ierusalem, at the raising of Lazarus, and in his agonie: but we neuer read that he laughed . And specially remember the saying of Chry∣sostome. Si risus in Ecclesia diaboli opus est, that is, to mooue laughter in the Church, is the worke of the deuill. (William Perkins, A golden chaine, 728-9)

Mercifully for their sanity, though, it seems the early moderns not only didn’t get overly bothered about Jesus weeping. but even, on occasion, rejected Chrysostom’s take on the whole thing:

Chrysostome indeede (for I will conceale nothing that may seeme ought to this purpose) speaking in generall tearmes saith, that Play or game is not of God but of the Deuill: and that we reade that Christwept oft, but neuer that he laughed, or so much as once smiled: yea that none of the Saints in Scripture are reported euer to haue laughed,saueSara onely,who is presently thereupon also checked for it. Which yet, saith that reuerend Father, I speake not to abandon laughter, but to bannish loosenesse.

Thus Chrysostome: which yet is not all out sound or true neither: For did not Abraham laugh too as well as Sara? and yet is he not taxed nor rebuked for so doing; nor indeed was Sara simply rebuked for laughing, but for doubting, yea if I may say so, for mocking: Abrahams laughter, as the Auncients haue well obserued, proceeded from ioy, Saraes sa∣uoured of distrust. (Thomas Gataker, Of the nature and vse of lots a treatise historicall and theologicall, 1619, pp. 215-6).

Of course, this is Umberto Eco territory, and he builds his tale on the spiritual legitimacy of laughter and question of whether, in fact, Christ did ever laugh. Dixon’s got a few other points to make; Jesus may have wept, but God is not on record as having done so, and in general tears were (and to some extent still are) perceived as “womanish”. All in all, a very good post on the early modern history of the emotions!

Blog round-up

First off, I should say I was in the middle of writing a blog post on a lecture on ecstasy (the emotion, rather than the drug, though the latter did get a couple of mentions!) that I’d been to in London when there was a bereavement in the family and everything got put on hold for a couple of months.

Then my server went and did some weird things and I lost the blog entirely for several weeks. I finally got it back, minus the draft of that post on ecstasy, which appears to be irretrievably lost in cyberspace. I’ll try to recreate it sometime, but before I get back to writing my own blog posts, I’ll start off by giving some links to one or two blogs (well, three actually!) I’ve come across that might be of interest.

First off, there’s some gruesome stuff by Caitlin Green on humiliation and death by camel. You need to scroll down to about the middle of the article to get all the sordid details:

we will take Andronicus, and we will strip him stark naked, and we will bind him to the camel’s back in such fashion that his face shall be against its rump, and we will lead him from one end of the city even unto the other. Thus will all they, both men and women, whom he hath wronged, be able to avenge themselves right well.

As Dr. Green Tells us, this is “the last recorded instance” of this punishment, which was inflicted on “the deposed emperor Andronicus I Comnenus in AD 1185″. The above is the contemporary account of Robert of Clari.

For the sake of early modernists, who will be heartened by the news, I’ll just add that the story was kept alive for Elizabethan readers by Richard Knolles, who describes it with no less detail than disapprobation in his Turkish History (1687-1700):

…having one of his Eyes put out, he was set upon a foul lean Camel, with his Face towards the tail thereof, and so (as it were in Triumph) led through the Market place, his bald Head all bare, as if it had been a dead mans Skull taken out of a Charnel House, in a short old Coat; so miserable a Spectacle, as might have expressed a fountain of tears out of the Eyes of a right hard hearted man. But the Bedlam and most insolent Citizens, especially they of the baser sort, as Cooks, Coblers, Curriers, and such like, flocking about him like Bees (without regard that he had but the other day worn upon his Head the Imperial Crown, then honoured by them as a God, and extolled unto the Heavens; that they had not long before solemnly sworn him Obedience and Loyalty) ran now as men out of their Wits, omitting no kind of Villany they could devise to do unto him; some thrust nails into his Head, some cast dirt in his Face, some the dung both of Men and Beasts, some prickt him in the Sides with spits, some cast Stones at him as at a mad Dog, and other some opprobrious and despiteful words, no less grievous unto him than the rest; amongst others, an impudent Drab coming out of the Kitchen, cast a pot of scalding water in his Face; and in brief, their outrage so exceeded, as if they had striven among themselves, who should do him the greatest Villany. Having thus shamefully, as in a ridiculous triumph brought him into the Theater, they there betwixt two Pillars hanged him up by the Heels… (p. 38 →Read on EEBO TCP)

The second link is to Susan Abernethy’s post on Titus Oates, fabricator of the so-called “Popish Plot”. She gives an account of his checkered career, which culminated in him being “stripped, tied to a cart and whipped from Aldgate to Newgate. The whippings continued the next day.”

I’ve always been fascinated by the plot, and have a page on it here. What strikes me most is the fact that that the 1689 Bill of Rights, which includes the prohibition of “cruel and unusual” punishment, was in part a protest against Oates’s beating (which left him with the skin hanging off his back), with scant regard for the Catholics who died or lost their homes as a result of his lies.

As a footnote to Dr. Abernethy’s post, there’s an anonymous broadside of 1681 that gives an idea of what the scandalous conduct that got him kicked out of the Jesuit college at St. Omer might have consisted of. It accuses him of whipping ‘porkers’ to arouse his ‘Beastly Concupiscence’, whereupon he ‘Tilts at ’em with his Nasty Clyster-Pipe’ (The Character of an Ignoramus Doctor, London, 1681, p. 2). Gordon Williams (A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature, vol. 1, London, 1994, p. 514), says ‘porkers probably means fat youths’ and the reference is presumably homosexual.

titus-oates-whip-zz

OK, that’s enough of the sleazy, sordid and downright nasty side of early modern life! My final link for today’s post is to Laura Sangha’s entry in the many-headed monster blog to her jointly-edited (with Jonathan Willis) publication on Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources, which I have not yet perused, but which looks set to be a must for students and scholars embarking into the field in this digital age.

And now, my wife tells me, it’s time to get offline and have some curry. I’ve acquiesced, on condition it comes with a beer!

Masochism and Anachronism

What does it mean to talk of “masochism” prior to the publication, in 1870, of Sacher-Masoch’s Venus im Pelz [Venus in furs], or of Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s adoption of Masoch’s name to describe the condition of deriving pleasure from pain in Psychopathia Sexualis: eine Klinisch-Forensische Studie [Sexual psychopathy: a clinical / forensic study]? Rob Boddice’s Pain: A very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2016) talks of “the distinctly modern pursuit of pain for pleasure, from the charitable beneficence of the Victorian lady bountiful, luxuriating in pity (according to Herbert Spencer), to the erotic cultures of Sadism and Masochism” and Alison M. Moore appears slightly uncomfortable with what she calls my “use of terms like ‘perversion’ in … discussion of practices that were not conceived as such in their own time” (Sexual Myths of Modernity: Sadism, Masochism, and Historical Teleology, Lexington, 2016, p. 80, footnote).

Is it simply an anachronism, then, to talk of masochism (or, indeed, other sexual identities) prior to the nineteenth-century taxonomy of sexuality? Krafft-Ebing cites (among others) Maria Magdalena de Pazzi (1566-1607) as an example of “the significance of flagellation as a sexual excitant” and clearly saw masochism as a convenient label to hang on something that went back considerably earlier than the publication of Sacher-Masoch’s novel. Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. 3: Analysis of the Sexual Impulse; Love and Pain; The Sexual Impulse in Women (2nd edn, Philadelphia, 1921), p. 132, notes that the first distinct reference to sexual flagellation occurs in the writings of Pico della Mirandola, who, in Disputationes … Aduersus Astrologiã Diuinatricem [Arguments against astrological divination] (Bologna, 1496), writes about “a man, known to me, with a prodigious and unheard-of sexual appetite, for he can never be sexually aroused unless he is beaten” (edition used, [Lyons, 1498?]), sig. h5r; my translation). As I write in a forthcoming publication:

If Krafft-Ebing had chosen to name the phenomenon of sexual arousal through pain after the first person to describe it, rather than after the first to write an extended narrative about it, we might be talking today of “mirandolism”, rather than masochism, and scholars might deem it quite normal to trace its development from the end of the fifteenth century, rather than the middle of the nineteenth or, at most, the early eighteenth.

As to whether or not early modernists regarded such practices as perversions, I argue quite forcefully that they did. Mirandola was quite possibly describing himself here, and the work in which the passage occurs was not published until after his death, a sensible precaution, given that he was fully aware that what he has written “is a harsh thing for liberal ears” (i.e., likely to give offence).

Other early modern accounts confirm that there was little tolerance for such proclivities. Johann Heinrich Meibom, author of the earliest known treatise on sexual flagellation, calls such practices “scelera ista perversæ Veneris, & puerorum contumeliæ” [crimes of perverse lust and assaults to our children] and rejoices that no such depravation is to be found in his native Germany or, if evidence of it should come to light, that the culprit would be burned (De Flagrorum Usu in Re Veneria [On the use of whips in sexual circumstances], Leyden, 1639; edition used, Leyden, 1643, p. 16; my translation; no online text available).

Early modern sexual identities tended to be couched in terms of actions and behaviour, rather than in terms of proclivities and tendencies, and during the seventeenth century in England there emerged the “flogging cully“, who could not be sexually aroused except through flogging. Several lampoons of such sexual flagellants were written, all expressing condemnation and disgust (the earliest of these, by John Davies,  was published c. 1599). So my take on all this is that one can legitimately speak of a kind of masochism avant la lettre during the early modern period, and one can assume that such practices were viewed as perverse or aberrant by people at that time.

The idea that the early moderns would not have regarded such practices as perversions seems to stem largely from an uncritical acceptance of Michel Foucault’s dictum that “At the beginning of the seventeenth century there was still … a certain frankness. [Sexual] practices were hardly kept secret … people had a certain tolerant
familiarity with the illicit” (Histoire de la Sexualité 1: La Volonté de Savoir [History of sexuality 1: the wish to know], Paris, 1976, p. 9; my translation). One needs to bear in mind that Foucault is less concerned here with saying anything valid about the seventeenth century than with using Victorian values as a stick with which to beat the bourgeoisie of his own period. Certainly, there is little or nothing in the literature of the seventeenth century to substantiate his claim, at least as far as sexual flagellation is concerned.

The idea that suffering for pleasure – particularly sexual pleasure – is a comparatively recent phenomenon is harder to dismiss. Roy F. Baumeister is typical among historians of human psychology in his observation that “most sexual practices have been known and enjoyed throughout history, but masochism is a rare exception … which spread through Western society during the early modern period” (‘Masochism as Escape from Self ’). The Victorian and early twentieth-century taxonomists of sexuality (Charcot, Lombroso, Breuer, Freud, Krafft-Ebing, Lacan, etc.) tended to see masochism as being closely related to ascetic religious suffering, particularly self-flagellation, but Baumeister (rightly, I think), argues that “sex and religion provide radically different contexts, and it seems unwarranted to assume that activities have the same meaning in religious ritual as they have in sexual play” (ibid.), a position which echoes Georges Bataille, L’Érotisme (Paris, 1957), pp. 275–6, translated as Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo by Mary Dalwood (New York, 1962), pp. 252–3.

However, Baumeister leaves an important problem unresolved.  “The prevailing theoretical position since Freud”, he writes, “has been that masochism is derived from sadism”. However, he cites “abundant evidence” indicating, not only that masochism is apparently “far more common than sadism”, but that “behavioral evidence suggests that masochism comes first, and sadistic or dominant role-taking comes only later if at all”, concluding that “it is implausible to argue that masochism is derived from sadism. Rather, sadism must be the secondary, derivative pattern”. At the same time, he supposes that “sadism is historically older than masochism” (ibid.).

Clearly, this just doesn’t add up, or at least to make it add up a bit of juggling is required. One approach (the one I mainly suggest in PPP), is that masochism was hiding in plain sight:

masochism is not discussed prior to the early modern period, not because it is nowhere, but because it is everywhere. One’s life is not one’s own, but held in trust; sexual congress is an act of naked, defenceless self-exposure; those who ‘take the sword’ are merely preparing to ‘perish with the sword’, and man’s only hope is to place himself abjectly under the heel of his God and cast himself at his mercy. (p. 12)

But there is another possible explanation. The sources Baumeister is citing are all analyses of sexual behaviour and the sex trade, and he equates “sadism” with the so-called “dominant” position in the sadomasochistic dynamic. However, true sadism – taking pleasure in strangling victims to death, crushing their bones and whatnot – doesn’t really form part of the sexual play that is the subject of the studies he cites. One is reminded of the old joke:

Masochist: Hit me.

Sadist: No.

Katherine Fowkes puts it a bit more eloquently:

The sadist would glean no pleasure from inflicting pain on someone who enjoys it… Likewise, the masochist does not take pleasure in being tortured by a sadist. On the contrary, although it is critical that the masochist’s suffering appear to stem from another, the pain is actually self-inflicted. To this end, the masochist needs to convince another to inflict the pain that he wishes heaped upon him. Thus in the sadistic scenario the tortured is by definition not a masochist and in the masochistic heterocosm, the torturer is likewise by definition not a sadist. (Katherine A. Fowkes, Giving up the Ghost: Spirits, Ghosts, and Angels in Mainstream Comedy Films, Detroit, MI, 1998, p. 35.)

In other words, the paradigm of sadism – sexual cruelty – being something with a long history, while masochism is a relative newcomer to the scene, can perhaps be maintained by arguing that those who inflict pain in sadomasochistic scenarios are not actually sadists.

Either way, the accepted wisdom is that overt accounts of sexual masochism do not date back any earlier than the early modern period. While there may be tales of cruelty, often with a sexual component, going back to classical antiquity, the victims generally do their best to avoid their fate and there is little suggestion of them colluding in their own suffering or inveigling others into inflicting suffering on them.

Phyllis and AristotlePhyllis and Aristotle
For an account of Phyllis's apocryphal role as a dominatrix over Aristotle, click here.

At the same time, there are signs – faint as yet – that a paradigm shift may be on the way, and the roots of sexual masochism may be pushed back very much further. See, for example, Rachel A. Branch, Propertian Sado-Masochism in Augustan Rome and Today: Salvaging Power, a presentation given at a meeting of The Classical Association of the Middle West and South in 2010. Clearly, the relationship between Krafft-Ebing (or Sacher-Masoch) and masochism is not equivalent to that between, say, Edison and the light bulb (they are not bringing something into existence but rather creating the language with which to conceptualize something that already exists), but it is still very unclear just how far back into human history the concept of masochism can be traced.

Reviews of PPP

1. Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen, Renaissance Quarterly, 67.1 (Spring 2014), pp. 306-307. Dr. van Dijkhuizen is a lecturer and post-doctoral researcher at Leiden University. He is the author of Pain and Compassion in Early Modern English Literature and Culture (D. S. Brewer, 2012).

Soundbite: a thoroughly researched and highly original addition to the growing scholarly conversation on conceptions of suffering, embodiment, and sensory experience in early modern culture

2. Catherine E. Thomas, Sixteenth Century Journal, 45.3 (Autumn 2014), p. 733. Dr. Thomas is associate professor of English at the College of Charleston. She and Jennifer Feather are the co-editors of Violent Masculinities: Male Aggression in Early Modern Texts and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), which I’ve written a short commentary on here. Soundbite:

a compelling piece of scholarship that ambitiously analyzes multiple discourses around pain, pleasure, and power. At times the argument feels more suggestive than conclusive

3. Sarah Toulalan, Theology and Sexuality, 20.3 (September, 2014), pp. 257-9. Dr. Toulalan is a senior lecturer at the University of Exeter. She is the author of Imagining Sex: Pornography and Bodies in Seventeenth-Century England (OUP, 2007), which I have written a short commentary on here. Soundbite:

a work of outstanding scholarship in which the author teases out differences between southern / Catholic / Latin and northern / Protestant / vernacular thinking about and attitudes towards both the infliction of physical pain and suffering on others and the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering on oneself.

4. Leah S. Marcus, ‘Recent Studies in the English Renaissance’, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 54.1, (Winter 2014), pp. 193-242; 193-4. Leah Marcus, Edward Mims Professor of English at Vanderbilt University, is the author of a number of works on the early modern period, including The Politics of Mirth (University of Chicago Press, 1986) and Unediting the Renaissance (Psychology Press, 1996). Soundbite:

I somewhat distrust the author’s generalizations because several of them appear to come from typing keywords into the Early English Books Online searchable database … But Yamamoto-Wilson does have some fascinating tidbits

I’ve written a few comments in response to Professor Marcus’s review here.

5. Thomas Palmer, Journal of Theological Studies, 66.1 (April 2015), pp. 494-6.  Palmer is apparently associated with St. Cross College, Oxford, but other than that I can find no information about him. Soundbite:

The author … chooses rather to assume than to prove his major interpretative principle, that the ascetic value ascribed to suffering in Christian thought and practice may be understood as the expression of masochistic or sadistic tendencies

I’ve written a few comments in response to Palmer’s review here.

What’s wrong with Pain, Pleasure and Perversity?

To say I wrote it in 9 months flat, not much. Two years after publication I’ve had enough feedback and enough time to think about it to be able to reflect on it and, while one or two flaws have been pointed out to me, nothing particularly damaging to my basic argument has come to light.

Apart from a few typos, the most egregious factual error that has been brought to my attention so far is the misidentification of the religious affiliation of two individuals. Andrew Sall is wrongly listed as a Catholic writer on page 51 (he converted to the Church of England in 1674), and – somewhat more seriously – on page 153 I write about Stillingfleet attacking a ‘fellow Protestant’ by the name of John Sergeant. Despite his anti-Jesuit stance and his dealings with the Privy Council, Sergeant was, of course, not only a Catholic but a priest. I am indebted to Thomas Palmer for pointing out these oversights.

But so far it seems no one but myself has noticed the biggest gaffe of all, right there, to my humiliation, on the very first page of the introduction, which begins:

During the earlier part of the seventeenth century, religious flagellation still survived, even in Protestant England. John Gee (a Church of England clergyman who went through a period of dalliance with Catholicism) recounts how, during the reign of James I, Catholic flagellants marched in procession to Tyburn, and – despite his renewed commitment to the Protestant cause – partly endorses the practice, declaring himself ‘no enemy vnto austerity of life, and taming or chastening our bodily sinfull members’ … (To read the complete introduction, click here.)

The reference is to John Gee, The Foot out of the Snare (London, 1624), pp. 80-83 and, indeed, if you have an EEBO TCP log-in you can readily confirm that this is precisely what Gee says. To quote from his account:

Yesterday being Good-friday, this present yeere 1624. they made some of you [i.e., Catholics] in the Morning, before day, goe in Procession to Tiburne, in penitentiall manner; the forme of which is, for a man to walke naked from the girdle vp ward, and scourge himself with a whip. The same day twelue-month last past, at a place of your solemne meeting in London, you made one whip himself so long, till he swouned, and was thought to bee past hope of recouery, so that hot water was instantly fetched to reuiue him.(Page 81)

This, I felt, was a striking enough illustration of the persistence of Catholic practices of mortification in Protestant illustration to make a fitting opening to my magnum opus, and I would probably never have known that there was anything more to it than that had I not chanced to take a look at  a later edition of Gee’s book (also published in 1624), in which Gee has significantly emended what he wrote:

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 14.49.06
Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 14.50.20 Pages 86-7 of the fourth edition (1624) of Gee's work

Here Gee corrects what he wrote in the first edition. In these times of ‘persecution’ the practice of ‘Whipping-cheere‘ is, he says, ‘not yet growne into that publike ostentation among vs, as to bee acted in the streets and high-wayes’.

In other words, Gee got it wrong! On hearing that there had been a penitential procession, he either assumed it had been ‘duly observed’ by scourging as the penitents made their way to Tyburn or had been assured it was so at second hand. As if to make up for this slip he adds further detail to the description of the Catholics making a man ‘whip himself so long, till he swouned’, saying, ‘This my selfe did then see, together with two or three hundred more spectators present at that meeting’ (p. 87).

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 15.06.30
In the revised edition, Gee inserts a sentence between his description of the whipping in London and the woman whipping herself to death in Brussels (both of which are in the original text), demonstrating that, while he slipped up in his description of the procession to Tyburn, he is not merely peddling gossip and hearsay.

So Gee got it wrong – and I, following Gee, got it wrong too.

This was at, or near, the top of the list of things making me nervous when I went for the viva for my PhD. As it turned out, though, all my worries were groundless; either the examiners hadn’t registered the mistakes in my work or they didn’t consider them worth making a fuss over!

Ironically, rather than detracting from my overall thesis, Gee’s emendation of his original account emphasizes the extent to which Protestant norms had grown apart from Catholic practices; the only time one would see a Catholic whipped in the streets of Jacobean England would be at the behest of a magistrate, not of a priest.

(Gee’s mistaken account of Catholics whipping themselves in the streets of Jacobean London is also cited on pages 72 and 91. If anyone should chance to notice any further inaccuracies in the work, please be so good as to let me know!)

The OED and EEBO TCP

Last Christmas, a friend who happens to be an antiquarian bookseller posted on Facebook an image of what he took to be the first recorded instance of the expression “merry Christmas” in print. The book in question was An Itinerary VVritten by Fynes Moryson Gent (1617).

blogmerrychristmasfbA basic search on the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership database shows that there were several occurrences of this expression prior to 1617, the first being Nicolas Breton, A Floorish vpon Fancie (1577).

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 13.19.35

My friend protested that he was going by the Oxford English Dictionary, which does indeed give the 1617 work as the first occurrence of the expression with modern spelling:

Merry Christmas OED

But, clearly, OED has got it wrong!

I recently used this example to kick start a workshop on EEBO, and followed it with another example, this time one provided by Kenji Go, one of the attendees of the workshop. He did some work on the origin of the cosmic sense of space, published in Notes and Queries, showing that the earliest use of the word “space” to denote the place where the heavenly bodies are located  predates the first usage cited in the OED (which at that time was given as Milton, 1667) by some 85 years. In response, OED has updated its entry:

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 16.12.01

While reading through Professor Go’s work, and checking through the OED entry, I couldn’t help but notice the close link between “space” as “cosmos” (sense 8 in OED) and space as physical extent or area (sense 7), especially Shakespeare’s usage in Hamlet:

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 16.10.21

Once again, a check on EEBO TCP shows that OED has missed a number of earlier references to “infinite space”, the earliest being A Sermon of Saint Chrysostome (1542). The usage that particularly interested me was in Sermons of Master Iohn Caluin, vpon the Booke of Iob (1574), “behold the heauen is of infinite space in cōparison, & yet we see it is borne vp by the only power of God” (p. 494). It seemed to me that the concept of space as physical extent or area was morphing here into the concept of space as cosmos; “heaven”, as used here, is not  an abstraction, an idealized world unknowable while we are in this world, but  something we can “behold” and “see”, that is, the place where the sun and the moon and the stars are.

A search on the Swiss database of early modern texts shows that the translation follows Calvin’s French exactly: “Or voila le ciel qvi a vne espace infinie”.

Calvin infinite space French

The page on the Swiss database is located here. In the French, as in the English, heaven is described as being of an infinite space, rather than as being, in itself, an infinite space, but it does begin to look as if the English concept of space as cosmos either owes something to French usage or developed in tandem with it.

Either way, the basic point is that this whole subject of the earliest usage of particular words and phrases is not something I have made a particular study of. My research interests are quite different, and these examples – “merry Christmas”, the cosmic sense of space and the expression “infinite space” – are just random examples that happen to have crossed my radar by chance. Doubtless, there are many more examples out there, and substantial revision of the OED is going to be needed in the light of the EEBO TCP database.

UPDATE:

OK, so the friend who put up the merry Christmas Facebook post now tells me he’s pushed “merry Christmas” back to 1534, in a letter from John Fisher to Thomas Cromwell.

fishermerry christmas

I note though that here “merry” only has one “r”. Still, with the growth of online databases we are more and more being forced to acknowledge that whatever we think we know about the early modern period is provisional. I guess we’ll have to wait until early modern manuscript material goes text-searchable to get the real dope!

Call to action!

Related posts:

Damned if we do! Using the EEBO TCP database

Using the Early English Books Online and Text Creation Partnership Databases

Digital humanities and resources; a selection of useful links

Early modern discourse communities: Catholics and Protestants

A discourse community can be defined as having six clear characteristics :

1. “A discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common public goals.”

2. “A discourse community has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members.”

3. “A discourse community uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback.”

4. “A discourse community utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims.”

5. “In addition to owning genres, a discourse community has acquired a specific lexis.”

6. “A discourse community has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise”

(John Swales,  “The Concept of Discourse Community,” in Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs, eds., Writing About Writing: A College Reader, Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011)

Catholics and Protestants meet the above criteria in the following ways: Both groups seek to promote their brand of Christianity (#1). They congregate in churches and publish books and pamphlets both for the benefit of the members of their community and to inform and attract others (#2). Members are kept in touch with the teachings of the community through church attendance and reading the relevant literature (#3). The core values are transmitted via ritual, sermons, communal prayer, works of devotion, etc. (#4). Practices and beliefs are identified through precise terms, some of which are adapted from language in more general use, some of which are common to both groups, and some of which are specific to one or other group (#5). Both communities have trained individuals (priests, vicars, theologians, etc.) who have specialist understanding of the issues and are vested with a certain authority to resolve disputes about the core values of the community (#6).

That’s it. That’s all we’re concerned with here. I understand that this may seem pretty reductive (where is God here, or the soul, or the purpose of life?), and I’m aware that the expression “brand of Christianity” may seem cynical or mocking. It is not intended to be. I’m not attempting to deny the spiritual or confessional values that Catholics and Protestants espouse. It’s simply that they are outside the parameters of this discussion.  For present purposes, these six features are the ones I am interested in.

The early modern Catholic and Protestant discourse communities have two other basic features in common; they share the same origins and they are mutually hostile.

One of the striking features of Protestant adaptations of Catholic literature in early modern England is just how much did not need to be changed in order for a Catholic work to be acceptable for a Protestant readership. Whole chapters – and sometimes entire works – were often publishable with only very minor changes.

One of the most extreme examples is The Profit of Believing (London: Roger Daniel, 1651), a translation of Augustine of Hippo, De utilitate credendi ad Honoratum. Clancy (English Catholic Books, 1641–1700: A Bibliography, Ashgate, 1996) classifies this as a Catholic work, and indeed it probably was, but it was published with a preface which cites Calvin, William Fulke (1538–1589) and other Protestant writers as valid authorities (sig. A2r-v).

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 00.58.09This 1651 edition of The Profit of Believing is an apparently Catholic text with a clearly Protestant preface.

The title page is – perhaps deliberately – ambiguous and, in addition to being published on its own, it was published bound together with four other works as Five Treatises, of which at least three (including this one) have clear Catholic overtones (one of the others supports the doctrine of Mary as the “Mother of God” and the other had been published secretly as a Catholic work in 1623).

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 00.55.58Despite references to Catholicism in the text, the preface cites Protestant sources with approval.

The Protestant references in the preface to this work would appear to be a veneer, disguising the Catholic nature of the text, but the printer, Roger Daniel, could also have protested that the word “Catholic” in the text was intended to designate, not the Roman, but “‘the Antient Catholick Apostolick Faith, held forth in the Church of England” (John Goodman, A Serious and Compassionate Inquiry into the Causes of the Present Neglect and Contempt of the Protestant Religion and Church of England [London: Robert White for Richard Royston, 1674], p. 6), that is, the faith of the early Christians, before the Church had been corrupted (as the Protestants saw it) by Romish doctrines. (See “An Annotated Catalogue of Protestant Editions in English of Works by and Relating to Saint Augustine of Hippo, 1529-1700” for further details of this work.)

Another work which is illuminating in this context is Edmund Bunny’s adaptation of the Jesuit Robert Persons’s The First Booke of the Christian Exercise Appertayning to Resolution (1582). Despite the accusations of piracy and worse levelled against Bunny, he made only the minimum changes necessary for the work to be openly publishable under English law, and “did not take hundreds of other opportunities to add phrases … that would have given the work a more obviously Protestant tone” (Brad Gregory, “The ‘True and Zealouse Service of God’: Robert Parsons, Edmund Bunny, and The First Booke of the Christian Exercise“, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 45, no. 2, 1994, pp. 238–68; p. 243). (See “Robert Persons’s Resolution (1582) and the issue of textual piracy in Protestant editions of Catholic devotional literature” for a discussion of the ins and outs of textual “piracy”.)

This of course begs the question of what a “Protestant tone” would have meant at that time. Obviously words relating to points of doctrine would define a text as Protestant or Catholic, but it goes further than that, particularly – and this is a subject I will deal with more fully in a later post – when it comes to the language of suffering:

As Toby Matthew notes, what we might call the common-sense values of the Old Testament – “Riches, Plenty, Posterity, and the like” – were “degraded” by the life and example of Christ and replaced by “their contraryes, [such] as Paine, Poverty, Persecution, Chastity, and Humility” (in Vicenzo Puccini, Life of the Holy and Venerable Mother Suor Maria Maddalena de Patsi, Saint Omer, 1619, preface, sig. ***3v). These, for Matthew, are the true Christian virtues, and from his perspective the Protestant world-view signals a rejection of the message of Christ and a return to Old Testament values.  Matthew merely picks out a few representative terms here; many others – ‘suffering’, ‘humiliation’, ‘mortification’, ‘contempt’, ‘flagellation’ and so forth – could be added. Taken in their totality, these words represent the monastic values of a millennium of Christian tradition on which Protestants effectively turned their backs, claiming it to be a perversion of the teachings of Christ. This rejection of monastic values leads, in turn, to a stigmatization of the language associated with these values. (Pain, Pleasure and Perversity, p. 74, adapted.)

When Simon Patrick came across Augustine Baker’s retelling of a tale from Walter Hilton’s Scala Perfectionis (in Serenus Cressy’s Sancta Sophia; or Directions for the Prayer of Contemplation &c. vol. 1, pp. 45-55, Douai: John Patté and Thomas Fievet, 1657), he was able to adapt it to his own purposes with very little deviation from the sense of the Catholic original.  The story is of a pilgrim on the way to Jerusalem faced with various different paths all purporting to be the one true path. Baker specifies just what that true path is with the words, “Before thou set the first step into the high way that leades thither, thou must be firmly grounded in the true Catholicke faith”.

bakerparable
Augustine Baker’s The Parable of a Pilgrim, a retelling of a tale from Walter Hilton, was published for a Catholic readership in 1657.

Patrick acknowledges the Catholic source of his text in the preface to  The Parable of the Pilgrim (London: Robert White for Francis Tyson, 1665), but he  does not refer explicitly either to Catholicism or Protestantism either here or in the body of the text. In a sense, then, his text bears comparison with that of Roger Daniel’s edition of The Profit of Believing; there are very few discursive features which identify the text as either Catholic or Protestant and the reader is left to infer which is the true f

aith.

Although Patrick’s text (which is over 500 pages long, compared with the ten pages or so of Baker’s text) does not contain any explicit references to Catholicism, it nevertheless reproduces much of the lexis of Baker’s text. The key phrase, “I am nought and I have nought and I desire nought but Jesus and Jerusalem”, repeated several times in Patrick’s text in slightly different forms, is based on Baker, who also repeats it with slight variations. Most of the concepts that Baker touches on – faith, sin, conscience, humility, charity, suffering and so on – are taken up and developed by Patrick. This is not to say that there aren’t significant differences (I’ll come back to some of these in a later post), but there is a considerable amount of overlap.

Patrickparable

 Simon Patrick’s The Parable of the Pilgrim (1665) is a Protestant adaptation of Baker’s work.

Part of the reason Patrick is able to draw so closely on Baker’s work is that Catholic and Protestant discourse developed at this time partly in tandem, that is to say, Catholics frequently wrote taking Protestant views into account and vice versa. For example, Baker shows a clear awareness of the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith rather than by works when he writes “though thou hast done to thy seeming neuer so many good deeds both outvvard & invvard, yet in truth thou hast nothing at all, for nothing vvill abide in thy soule & fill it, but the loue of Iesus” (p. 488). Of course, this has its roots in John 15.5 and in Augustine, and is equally a part of Catholic as of Protestant doctrine, but Baker’s emphasis on it appears to be by way of making the point that Protestants do not have the monopoly on justification by faith.

I’ll finish this post by turning again to Edmund Bunny. Bunny’s adaptation of Persons’s work is so frequently dismissed as a “piracy” that the accompanying Treatise Tending towards Pacification has generally been overlooked. For anyone interested in Protestants and Catholics as discourse communities it is well worth studying in some detail, as it is (I think) the first attempt at a detailed analysis of Catholic and Protestant discourse. Bunny approaches the question from the point of view of translations of the Bible, the central issue for him being whether or not “how much soeuer we praetend to haue the word of God to direct us in al our doings, yet, by the means of wrong translations, we haue nothing at al indeed” (p. 63). He aims to clarify “what they [Catholics] or we [Protestants] haue gained or lost by our translations, in the pith or substance of translation”, and makes a distinction between “some faults that concern the words alone [i.e., semantic issues]: and some that concern the matter too [i.e., substantive issues]” (p. 66). He argues that as long as Catholics were refusing to translate the Bible at all there was a substantial issue at stake, but now that Catholics were themselves translating the Bible into English (the Douay translation of the New Testament had come out just a few years earlier, in 1582) “there is little else against us but quarrel of words” (p. 72).

The blog of the book, Pain, Pleasure and Perversity: Discourses of Suffering in Seventeenth-Century England