Jenifer Sutherland
November 7
Mini Reports



November 7

Pasolini's "The Creation of Eve"

Donna Castanheiro

Class Announcements:
November 14: Translation test of two stanzas from Troilus and Criseyde, Bk. III
November 21: Regular class on Bk IV – ‘no stress’
November 28: Quiz from Troilus and Criseyde, Bk. V
December 5: Term test

Important Middle English words from this week’s reading (Troilus and Criseyde Bk. 11):
jape = to mock – can have a harsh side as well as a fun side
fere = (y) together, regularly
wot/woot = to know
sely = (often use regarding Troilus); our word ‘silly’ is derived from it, but ‘sely’ means innocent. It is quite complex and can be innocent as ‘blessed by fortune’ or as ‘picked on by fortune’
nice = foolish

Use of a "tag" phrase, e.g. soothe to seyne. A tag is a residue of oral poetry. If composing orally you do so using a grab bag of ready-made phrases that allow you to rhyme easily and fill sentences. Old English poetry was alliterative – did not rhyme. Rhymes were based on stress phrases easily used in the oral presentations.
Clarification of Chaucer as the father of English Literature – lots of literature had been written in English prior to Chaucer, but Chaucer’s works were more self-consciously presented.
The oral and textual co-existed very much in Chaucer’s time. Dr. Sutherland has a picture showing Chaucer standing at a podium performing Troilus and Criseyde for a courtly audience that she will pass around. Then, people had to be very wealthy to own a book as books were individually prepared by scribes. The printing press came after Chaucer’s death. Some residue of the oral tradition can be found in Chaucer’s consciousness of the process shown in his writing.

(l. 1) This is a conventional motif - the weather is getting better. Note the use of apostrophe. "travaylle = labor, whether difficulty or child birth. (l.6-7) The despair that Troilus was in but now he is better. (l.8) The muses are the daughters of Zeus with Mnemosyne goddess of Memory. The association of the muses with dance and song show how much literature was associated with performance, including sacred performance.
(l.10 -) Chaucer continues his theme of modesty insisting that this is just history and he is only translating. It is unusual to have an author writing of the history of English. This is one of the reasons he is considered the father of English Literature.

Chaucer continues his interaction with his audience (l.30) "And forthi if it happe in any wyse, / That here be any lovere in this place." He knows that they would all have experienced some form of love. (l.36) All roads go to Rome but not always on the same path. Chaucer goes from cultural relativity to individual differences. Dr. Sutherland explained that this could be read as very radical. At the time, the Roman Catholic Church was claiming authoritative power through the "universal" Latin language. The Church banned the translation of the Bible into the vernacular after Chaucer’s death but the movement had begun during Chaucer’s time.

Once again we looked at Chaucer’s narrator and compared Pandarus as a character. Pandarus is also lovesick. We are reminded that for all his easy speech Pandarus has also felt love’s shot.

At this point Dr. S. broke for Raji’s presentation on Procne and Philomena.

Chaucer’s audience would have known the story of Tereus, Procne, and Philomena (or Philomela) and would have understood the reference suggestion - which adds a dark tone. The behavior between Pandarus and Criseyde is somewhat flirtatious. Is there a parallel between Pandarus getting Criseyde for Troilus and Tereus getting Philomena for Procne?

(l78) Pandarus seeks out Criseyde. She is very seldom alone which is typical of mediaeval nobility. They are listening to the story of Thebes, which is the story of Oedipus. (l.89-) In this scene Pandarus makes an important distinction between saint’s love and ‘kynde’ love as he attempts to draw Criseyde out of her widow’s behavior.

Dr. Sutherland focussed on Pandarus’ strategy for getting Criseyde involved with his plans for Troilus and how this differed from his bedside strategy with Troilus. He works first on her curiosity. By the time he finally gets to the point she is shaking. Now he works on her vanity and her sense of responsibility at the same time. Troilus is so much in love with you he will die, and so will I, he claims.
Pandarus sets out the requirements of beauty and virtue and deals with the problem of gossip. (l.379) He reassures her that everyone is her friend. (l.394-) He points out that she is getting older and that no one will want her when she is old. A woman’s asset was her beauty, and "daunger" – the conventional female aloofness--is just the beginning, not how she should stay.
We had the image of Pandarus as the romance writer. Now he is doing it again, imposing a pattern. Pandarus claims to have "shryven" = confessed his heart. As Criseyde’s confides in Pandarus we get a picture of how she falls in love. The process is far more complex than Troilus’ single moment of conversion in the temple. We looked at the stages of Criseyde’s falling and the role of chance. Chance enters when Troilus returns from battle. All the servants hurry to let him in and are all pressing around him. He is all armed and is a great sight, with his helmet is all crushed. Criseyde watches and blushes. Her blushing is not just from seeing him but from her own feelings and knowing that she has control of his heart. Chaucer gives us a lot of complexity to Criseyde’s personality. We see her debate on her situation and the advantages and disadvantages of becoming involved with Troilus.

Dr. Sutherland again drew attention to (l.680) Chaucer’s addresses to the audience in keeping with the oral tradition.

(l.706-) Criseyde goes through intervals of hot and cold. She is concerned about her "estat". Sometimes she is confident, sometimes she is fearful. (l.775-) Chaucer shows society’s attitude towards women. Love is harder for women than men. Men have work to do but the women (783) "wepe and sitte and thinke". People gossip and it’s the girl that gets the bad mouthing. (l.820) Antigone sings her praise of love – it’s like a religion. You have to love to be a full human being. Antigone’s song reflects Criseyde’s fear. (l.890) It is like heaven and hell. The nightingale story is a part of the textuality. The nightingale is a sign of redemption. It sings the praise of Christ until its chest burst. Similarly, the violence in the dream of the eagle is associated with the heart – the reason you fall in love. It deals with the psychological complexity of the mix of two people as they exchange hearts.

Pandarus’ role continues to be central to the two lovers as he advises Troilus to write Criseyde a letter. Chaucer uses Pandarus as a composer. (l.1065) It is a good letter reflecting the teachings of the time. Troilus puts himself of little worth. This shows a Modesty Topos [Troilus] within a Modesty Topos [Narrator].
Pandarus continues his romance writing by setting up the second ride-pass by Troilus. He accuses Criseyde of playing the "tyrant" for too long and urges her to soften up to Troilus.

Dr. Sutherland points out the use of proverbs such as (l.1076) "iren hoot" which is similar to the ‘wetstone’ proverb used at the beginning. This too goes back to the oral tradition. Proverbial wisdom was used to put things simply so the audience would be able to understand.

Dr. Sutherland explained the layout of the typical house of the time. The fronts of the houses were usually on the street with the garden at the back. The paved parlour would be part of the inside of the house. The bedrooms would be on the second floor, to give some privacy, although they were often interconnected.

The first test essays and last week’s quiz were handed out to the class. Amy took over for the last 45 minutes of class in order to work with students on specific difficulties they were having with the text.


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November 14

Translation Exercise : lines 392-406

When the papers were collected Dr. Sutherland went through the passage as a problem of argumentation—Troilus using the scholastic "distinction" as a way of assuring Pandarus that he is not a common baud but a friend. A class discussion ensued about the problem of this characterization and the issue of what Pandarus might be getting as "profit." Dr. Sutherland said that we would focus on problems of logic and fallacious argumentation in order to try to get a sense of Chaucer’s point of view on the happy love story.

After more discussion on Pandarus’ character and his relationship with Criseyde, we analyzed Pandarus’ presence throughout the book, adding to his role as writer of romance his role as reader of romance, and audience. We addressed the problem of lack of privacy and wondered to what degree a medieval audience would feel differently about Pandarus’ presence in the lovers’ bedroom. We went through Criseyde’s response to Pandarus the "morning after" and noted the peculiar behaviour of Pandarus, and Criseyde’s seeming acceptance of it.
We also looked carefully at the proem to Venus and discussed the Boethian structures that continue throughout the love scene, into the Canticus Troili, to the end. How do these structures of public, common love bond sit with the secrecy of the fyn amour conventions and the aubade, and Pandarus’s role of manipulator and deceiver? Dr Sutherland said that as we thought about the book and enjoyed its wonderful love scene (where is the moment of consummation? Is there one?) that we need to keep in mind these fractures.

The fractures are evident again in Pandarus’ refusal to allow Criseyde a moment to plan (with reference back to the Geoffrey of Vinseuf passage at the end of Book One) how to respond to Troilus’ sudden fit of jealousy, and his shifting of the complex "ducarnoun" into a simple problem with an obvious solution. Compare this with Criseyde’s careful distinctions on jealousy and love in her gentle chastisement of Troilus.

Another way our attention is drawn to trouble in paradise is through the figurative allusions throughout to heaven and hell. Look, for example, at the oaths Pandarus uses to swear to Criseyde that Troilus is out of town. We looked at bird imagery as well (Raj pointed out the reference to Zeus and Leda in the proem).
Dr. Sutherland then took us through Book Three again to pick out the narrator’s interjections, which she characterized as retrained and tentative. We talked about Fortune as perhaps the place where the fractures of the love story are most clearly in evidence, between Boethian cosmic love and the erotic religion of fyn amour. Finally Dr Sutherland asked, how can Criseyde play the sovereign lady of courtly love if she is in constant fear of her real social status?

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November 21

It must be immense, this silence, in which sounds and movements have room, and if one thinks that along with all this the presence of the distant sea also resounds, perhaps as the innermost note in this prehistoric harmony, then one can only wish that you are trustingly and patiently letting the magnificent solitude work upon you, this solitude which can no longer be erased from your life; which, in everything that is in store for you to experience and to do, will act as an anonymous influence, continuously and gently decisive, rather as the blood of our ancestors incessantly moves in us and combines with our own to form the unique, unrepeatable being that we are at every turning of our life.

Art too is just a way of living, and however one lives, one can, without knowing, prepare for it; in everything real one is closer to it, more its neighbor, than in the unreal half-artistic professions, which, while they pretend to be close to art, in practice deny and attack the existence of all art - as, for example, all of journalism does and almost all criticism and three quarters of what is called (and wants to be called) literature. I am glad, in a word, that you have overcome the danger of landing in one of those professions, and are solitary and courageous, somewhere in a rugged reality. May the coming year support and strengthen you in that.

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November 28

Think, dear Sir, of the world that you carry inside you, and call this thinking whatever you want to: a remembering of your own childhood or a yearning toward a future of your own - only be attentive to what is arising within you, and place that above everything you perceive around you. What is happening in your innermost self is worthy of your entire love; somehow you must find a way to work at it, and not lose too much time or too much courage in clarifying your attitude toward people. Who says that you have any attitude at all? l know, your profession is hard and full of things that contradict you, and I foresaw your lament and knew that it would come. Now that it has come, there is nothing I can say to reassure you, I can only suggest that perhaps all professions are like that, filled with demands, filled with hostility toward the individual, saturated as it were with the hatred of those who find themselves mute and sullen in an insipid duty. The situation you must live in now is not more heavily burdened with conventions, prejudices, and false ideas than all the other situations, and if there are some that pretend to offer a greater freedom, there is nevertheless none that is, in itself, vast and spacious and connected to the important Things that the truest kind of life consists of. Only the individual who is solitary is placed under the deepest laws like a Thing, and when he walks out into the rising dawn or looks out into the event-filled evening and when he feels what is happening there, all situations drop from him as if from a dead man, though he stands in the midst of pure life. What you, dear Mr. Kappus, now have to experience as an officer, you would have felt in just the same way in any of the established professions; yes, even if, outside any position, you had simply tried to find some easy and independent contact with society, this feeling of being hemmed in would not have been spared you. It is like this everywhere; but that is no cause for anxiety or sadness; if there is nothing you can share with other people, try to be close to Things; they will not abandon you; and the nights are still there, and the winds that move through the trees and across many lands; everything in the world of Things and animals is still filled with happening, which you can take part in; and children are still the way you were as a child, sad and happy in just the same way and if you think of your childhood, you once again live among them, among the solitary children, and the grownups are nothing, and their dignity has no value.

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