July 13, 2004

All-Star break

I didn't watch the game tonight -- All Star games, regardless of sport, just don't do it for me. But I decided, in the spirit of the break, to take the night off. Instead of thinking about Qutb and his ideology (about one aspect of the western roots of same, see this excellent post by Thomas Nephew of the equally excellent Newsrack blog), I watched A Fool There Was, the 1915 Fox Feature that gave the world Theda Bara and the term "vamp." It's a silent melodrama, with all the subtltety of a penny dreadful, and yet I found it strangely affecting. Not so much for Bara's performance -- there are only a few, fleeting scenes that give us any idea of her sex appeal; for the most part, she nags, nags, nags, and one can't help wondering at times why the fool left his rather kindly wife for her. No, the affecting performance is that of Edward Jose, the fool, who manages to transform himself from a hearty man of affairs to a wretched, broken shell of a man -- his face seems to gradually collapse as the film goes on.

I've also been accumulating unread books at an alarming rate. I'm currently working my way through Lisa Jardine's Erasmus, Man of Letters: The Construction of Charisma in Print, which is delightful, even if part of Jardine's premise is that Erasmus's reputation rested on a good deal of self-promotion. For what it's worth, I'd never doubted that this was the case -- he certainly used the new medium of print incredibly skillfully. But Jardine's account of how he did it -- down to the letters he wrote about the portraits he sat for -- is nonetheless engaging reading.

Posted by Ideofact at July 13, 2004 11:59 PM

I haven't seen the Jardine book (but am interested). With regards to Erasmus, he might have been good at self-promotion, but his importance in the post-medieval humanist tradition cannot be denied.

I think that one of the most fascinating aspects of his life is his friendship with Thomas More, someone else usually described as in the "humanist" tradition. When I was young, More became close to a hero when I saw "A Man for All Seasons" - I think this was a film that affected me greatly when I first saw it, around 12 years or so.

Recent knowledge has severely dented that early enthusiasm however, specifically relating to his hounding of the great Bible translator William Tyndale. More's very coarse and brutal language against the "heretics" who dared put the Bible into the English language is shocking to read.

Is this Erasmus' friend? Tyndale, although not a friend of Erasmus, was close to him in spirit. Erasmus' translation of the New Testament from the Greek inspired much of what More would rant against.

Posted by: Alastair at July 18, 2004 07:26 PM