Category Archives: Carrie Hintz


September 20, 2013: 4:00 PM at the Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY GRADUATE CENTER

Before Globalization?

This event brings together prominent scholars of colonialism, race, and religion to discuss whether or not it is possible to speak of globalization in the pre-modern era. We anticipate a lively debate that will cross period boundaries and that will address how the expansion of travel, trade, imperialism, and cultural exchange between 1600-1800 contributed to the process of globalization. Panelists: Leela Gandhi, University of Chicago; Suvir Kaul, University of Pennsylvania; Ania Loomba, University of Pennsylvania; and Feisal Mohamed, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Moderated by Kim Hall, Barnard College.



Chapter Five: “Flesh”

Roach’s chapter on “flesh” begins with Westminster Abbey’s wax effigies.  Charisma and stigmata still emanate from the effigy of Charles II, “exuding the most intense of the contradictory qualities that reliably excite the fascination of It: vulnerability in strength, profanity in sanctity, and intimacy in public” (175).  Here “It” is framed into slightly more of a formula than in other sections (“reliably excite…”).  Later in the chapter, in contrast, Roach will invoke various chance elements in the formation of It, folding in the social dynamics and circumstances that combine unexpectedly to make “It” possible.   This chapter circles around the reproducibility of It, seen again through Pepys as a modern figure, a “self-fashioning parvenu,” who emulated his sovereign by having a cast of himself made up (175).     


A book that has been so passionately concerned with mimetic desire turns to “Pygmalionism, the affliction that makes creators fall in love with the images they themselves have forged” (176).  The success of “It” is “charmed exponentially by the number of its copies” (177). Performers and agents are beginning to do in the eighteenth-century what will become commonplace in our time–Roach uses language like “pioneering” or “presaging” modern experience.


(In a fascinating moment, Roach refers to the “wormhole” in Pepys diary that “opens up uncannily in the 1660s and drops the reader off, as Elinor Glyn rightly intuited, at the movies in the 1920s” (176).  I liked and was heartily dazzled by “wormholes” here . . . any thoughts on this?)


But I digress!  The It effect depends on another strong juxtaposition, quite a fleshly one.  The sacred icon is “fashioned from the detritus of the quotidian, the abject, and the profane” (180).  Thus the Pygmalion story possesses a deep-seated ambivalence, very much at work in Cinderella/ Galatea/ Eliza’s ascent from utensil to ornament.   Roach is also careful to stress that “charisma is an expression of shared needs . . . neither always reducible to, not ever separable from, the real or imaginary flesh of the prodigy” (187).   


So how much of the It effect is created by being in the right place at the right time?  As Roach notes, “there must be social as well as individual chemistry here, a volatile mixture of common needs catalyzed by special opportunities” (184).  More than just the It person is in play, especially to create “It-Zones” like Covent Garden, or Hollywood–both the “worshipped and the sacrificed” are necessary.  Roach’s reading of Pygmalion, which which he ends the chapter, is quite wonderful, and sheds much light on the wider meanings of performance: “By turning untutored vitality into refined inutility before our very eyes, the action of Pygmalion recapitulates the transformative act of performance itself.  As synthetic experience, performance furnishes forth the products that imagination wrests from the raw material of inchoate possibility’ (192).  There, in a nutshell, is one of the great concerns of the book. This chapter shows the dual nature of fleshly transformation, the combination of charisma and stigmata that marks the modern attainment of the It effect.


Above all, this chapter impressed me with its remarks about the selective nature of It (“while many are called, few are chosen,” 183).  Roach lauds the efforts of performance historians to look at a wider group of performers and those who made performances possible in a variety of venues, hitherto unnoticed and unsung–but poignantly acknowledges that the It effect tends to dominate even the most historically attuned academic studies of performance.

Free Farquhar in Central Park!

For those that live in and around New York City, this August brings us free performances of George Farquhar’s comedy The Recruiting Officer in Central Park by the New York Classical Theatre! The show runs from Saturday, August 18th to Sunday, August 26th and starts at 7pm, near 103rd and Central Park West. Further details are here.

Thanks to Carrie Hintz for the heads-up!

Four poles of the Christian imagination

The placement of this chapter immediately struck me as curious–we don’t hear about the “perennial Christian tradition” until Ch. 5 (pg. 174). BP offers the following explanation: “With the examples of Butler, Cowley, Pope and Thomson already fleshed out, it will be easier to summarize the conflicts between Augustan and Baroque imagination” (175). It’s interesting to see him go back to the material that the Augustans were responding to, and then to move on to fideism in post-Augustan writers.

BP remarks early in this chapter that the Augustan “is the strand which has formed in different ways the prejudices and habits of thought for the class of enlightened elites which encompasses both capitalists and radical intellectuals” (175). I would propose this remark as something we might discuss further in the comments below. I would have thought, for example, that dissent and fideism were more fruitful philosophical veins for some radical thinkers–or even for capitalism in very traditional accounts of the Protestant work ethic via Weber.

BP presents four modes: the logist (which imagines “a faith perfected by knowledge . . . a faith presenting a distinct object to the intellect”); the analogical (“rather than verbal formulation and equivalence, it seeks in the image of the creature an intelligible or imaginative trace of God”); the mystical (“it attempts a severe discipline to find the unmeditated person of God”) and the fideist (it “exists whenever God is perceived as an absence”).

The delineation of these modes gives scholars of Christian writing a number of effective tools, allowing for precise descriptions of how a Christian author understands and represents God, and how a Christian author might represent or attain knowledge. Like any delineation, however, the boundaries between “modes” might be investigated. In fact, BP allows for some overlap between the modes within individual works, within the Bible as a whole, and within the careers of individual authors. He notes “the special relations of the two symbolic and the two ontological modes” as well. I would have liked to see more commentary on how some authors combine multiple modes and whether these modes can also be held as distinct categories of Christian symbolism and ontology.

For example, Bunyan is placed as a fideist writer on the chart of 194-5. This makes sense, for Bunyan does indeed seem to be alone in a world vacated by God, and often terrified of having been abandoned by God. As well, he works within classic genres of fideism–the confessional biography and the allegorical spiritual journey narratives. I am wondering, however, whether there is an element of the logist in Bunyan’s writing which contradicts the fideist elements. Bunyan, of course, is a very different logist from, say, Eleanor Davies, but he does seem interested in verbal puzzles and in the revealing power of the Book. After all, there is an “Interpreter” figure in The Pilgrim’s Progress–and Scripture and Biblical text seems to take on an extremely active role in Grace Abounding as well. And does not the great writer of allegory see God in the “creature” as well? Is there no capacity in Bunyan for the experience of a “figure-making God?” [Donne’s words, quite by BP].

My final impression of the “four poles” is that each “pole” is a fruitful interpretative tool to approach Christian writers–but that individual Christian writers might have more of a mixture of each mode than BP allows here.

I would be interested in talking about the emphasis in fideist Christian cultures of “fellowship” or even congregational unity. After reading BP’s account of fideism, I wonder if the Lutheran and anabaptist and/or independent emphasis on fellowship is not a direct response to the hollow feeling of an absent God (the second half of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress might exhibit this kind of fellowship, as Christiana is accompanied by a vast company of fellow believers.)

On a separate but related note re. the baroque and shifts of cultural priorities, think of Alex Ross’s remarks in The New Yorker about the resurgence of interest in Handel (of course, some of us never left him). Ross writes: “it’s a bit of a mystery why Handel has become so crucial for early-twenty-first-century listeners. The prior century made a cult of Bach, whose music takes the form of an endless contrapuntal quest. Perhaps, in an age of information overload and ambient fear, we have more need for Handel’s gentler, steadier art.” Of course Ross also adds that Handel grants us not only gentleness and steadiness but also “high-class melodrama and psychological theater.”

Here’s the link:

I enjoyed this chapter a great deal.

belated but joyful posting

Dear all,
I find myself in an overwhelming week of dreadfully packed days and cannot imagine being able to write anything substantial until Friday at the earliest…and maybe even Sunday. I’ll be covering the “four poles of the Christian imagination” chapter, and I will need more time (dinner was pizza at the Q74 bus stop). But I didn’t want any more time to go by without saying what an enriching experience reading The Triumph of Augustan Poetics has been–just the kind of book that you want to press into the hands of anyone interested in poetry or culture. I wish I had read it years ago. For me this is a model of what a critical book should be. The book is, first of all, extremely generous, opening up all kinds of entrance points into the period–letting you explore all kinds of valleys and streams of your own, testing out the arguments against your own pursuits. But Parker also honors & enriches the reader by offering his opinions of texts and giving you a sense of the intellectual work behind this judgement. I like the way he shows his cards, over and over again–there’s a unique combination here of deep thinking and a kind of open-ended joyfully opinionated discerning engagement.

More later. Hours to go before…

Tacit/Explicit Knowledge and the Traditional Society

McKeon’s book is so replete with intriguing examples, and striking readings of visual and written culture that I wish we had a bit more time to absorb and work with the text…but I take comfort in the fact that many of us will continue to discuss the book long after the formal proceedings have ended…here’s to this discussion and to Michael McKeon’s generosity in joining us as we read his book. Thank you to David Mazella for organizing it, and to Carrie Shanafelt as well.

I would like to hear more & talk more about the concept of “embeddedness” and the transition from “tacit” to “explicit” knowledge. Especially after reading David Mazella’s post about McKeon’s concept of modernity and the division of knowledge, I was curious to hear if any specialists on premodern cultures have read the book in manuscript or commented on the published text. Are traditional cultures and knowledges really so lacking in “self-conscious and explicit awareness”? Is it possible for any person who possesses language and the capacity for any self-reflection–or dissent or confusion– to be “embedded” in the tacit practices of a culture? I ask this, I suppose, because I have medieval colleagues who regularly chastise me (however gently & affectionately) for assuming that the epistomelogical/ cultural/ literary changes which congealed into modernity all emerged in the early modern period. I am not offering this as a critique or comment–I’m just curious.

I loved David Mazella’s idea of genres that come into focus and fade away–and the many examples in McKeon’s book of authors who draw on traditional and archaic modes for their own purposes and reinvent them (Burney’s work with the family romance; Matt Bramble’s pastoralism and so on). When I was reading McKeon’s rich and nuanced section on Behn I was thinking of more contemporary instances of the secret history form, even into the twentieth century…like _Primary Colors_ by Anonymous–and the conflation/ separation dynamic at work in the Clinton-Lewinsky affair…(the ways in which Clinton’s public and private roles were separated out, and then conflated, and then separated out again: private marital matters and–unfortunately–his “privates.” Some enterprising person might write something comparing Restoration secret histories and the material produced in those giddy and prurient and politically/privately conflated Clinton years…

Dictionary of Sensibility

Picking up on Carrie Shanafelt’s remark about the term “sentiment”–and all its weight and baggage in the period–I was reminded of the marvellous online resource, “The Dictionary of Sensibility” by Corey Brady, Virginia Cope, Michael Millner, Ana Mitric, Kent Puckett and Danny Siegel.

There are 24 terms listed on the site, and each term is linked to primary and secondary resources. As the authors explain:

“This hypertext offers a new approach to understanding the language of sensibility, one that accounts for the multiple possibilities of meaning. Rather than attempting hard-line definitions, this project offers the tools for recognizing the multivalent connotations of such sensibilious words as ‘virtue,’ ‘sense,’ and ‘benevolence.’ Our hypertext groups excerpts from major words of sensibility according to 24 primary words; we imagine the sensibilious reader exploring these passages to glean a new understanding of the vocabulary and the literature of the period.”

Here’s the link:

The Dictionary could be an intriguing model for class projects and humanities computing projects as well.