polutrope: (Default)
Blood for a Borgia is quite awful. This awfulness resides mainly in the prose, since the plot, although it starts a little more than halfway through the book, is quite good, and there are no egregious mistakes in characterization. (Although Giovanni Sforza goes from limp-wristed to killing Giovanni Borgia pretty quickly.) So yeah, quotes:

“The heavy dews of passion drowned all else in her as she thrilled to him.” From, what else, a sex scene. A sex scene that starts the book and in which Giovanni Borgia tells his lover all about contemporary politics.

“That’s the trouble with Italy. There’s no national army.” Man, that is possibly the most anachronistic sentence I have ever read. It’s like “And then Caesar disposed of the assassins with his laser gun.”

“He was fabulously wealthy, ambitious, well-connected, powerful…and now he was dead.” Because really. That sentence happened.

“You daren’t trust yourself. You live the life of a zombi.” Did they even know about zombies in renaissance Italy? Or does zombi mean something else that Google and I know nothing of?

“There’s enough circumstantial evidence against him.” Evidently renaissance Italian justice systems worked exactly the same as 20th century American ones.

"Amazed, he confronted her, surprise in every feature of his face."

Also, pet peeve alert! Italian thrown in to "make it more authentic" or something. As in "Diavolo! I must now say some stilted exposition!"

And Iago Lanuto is referred to as Giovanni Borgia's "evil genius" more times than you can shake a lamb's tail at. Further "ugh": Iago Lanuto is not a historical character. Real subtle there, Mr. Gaunt.

I also disapprove of Lucrezia showing up very briefly and being characterized as a silly child. Of course. Because I like Lucrezia as a schemer, because it's cool.
polutrope: (moar academia)
Over the last couple of days I read Hamlet's Mill, which Wikipedia says has "tenuous arguments based on incorrect or outdated linguistic information." This is an understatement. The entire thing is an exercise in jumping to conclusions. I'm not even going to go into the argument, which is something along the lines of "myth was primitive science" or the fact that most of the books had nothing to do with the argument, but rather with finding equivalents throughout world mythology. No, I'm just going to reprint my new favorite paragraph in anything ever¹ ²:

...where he meets Siduri, the divine barmaid, "who dwells by the edge of the sea".
Under the eyes of severe philologists, slaves to exact "truth," one dare not make light of this supposedly "geographical" item with its faint surrealistic tang. Here is a perfectly divine barmaid by the edge of the sea, called by many names in many languages. Her bar should be as long as the famed one in Shanghai, for she has along her shelves not only beer and wine but more outlandish and antiquated drinks from many cultures, drinks such as honeymead, soma, sura (a kind of brandy), kawa, pulque, peyote-cocktail, decoctions of ginseng. In short, from everywhere she has the ritual intoxicating beverages which comfort the dreary souls who are denied the drink of immortality. One might call these drinks Lethe, after all.

So the whole book is like that. The whole book. In writing style and in ridiculous arguments. There is something on literally every page to make to make me stop and look at the authors funny.

Although I am kind of worried. There seems to be a disease infecting everyone who knows lots of different folklores - because these people know their stuff, clearly, it's just their conclusions that are lacking - that makes them want to connect everything, or just leap to really odd conclusions. Like, Atlantis was in Finland! All of Indo-European society was divided in three parts! Absolutely everyone really has the same mythology! Hamlet is Väinämöinen! And I mean, I know a lot of folklore. Am I next?

--
¹ And mention the fact that he manages to associate the death of Pan with the king of the cats
²Admittedly I have a new favorite X all the time.
polutrope: (moar academia)
This is pretty much my new favorite sentence: "The name is Väinämöinen, due to vowel harmonization, but we had pity on the type-setter."

(it's from a book that argue, among other things, that Hamlet is equivalent to Lucius Junius Brutus, who killed Tarquinius; that Hamlet had a mill, like the Sampo, that ground out salt and is now on the bottom of the ocean; and that Samson is also a parallel figure. Among other things, including, as far as I can tell, that ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING is related to their thesis. On the bright side, it's led me to wikipedia Väinämöinen, giving me this picture and has a black-and-white version of this 16th century map. Check out the monsters! they're adorable!)
polutrope: (moar academia)
The deadline for declaring one's major draws on apace, and I am seriously considering forsaking classics and joining the ranks of the tools in politics. What, in all honesty, can I offer to a field that has been going over the same texts since - well, really, since they were written, but I was going to say, since the first century AD? And I can contribute my writing skills to politics, a field in dire need thereof. Seriously.

My comparative politics book is...distractingly written. By which I mean that every so often I have to put it down and giggle. Actual quote: "Little did he [Gorbachev] know the pivotal role that Yeltsin would play in bringing about the final demise of the Soviet Union." There are two things it that sentence that read like a sophomore trying to pad word-count at 4am. (also they seriously used "to X's dismay...") Further: "he initiated a thaw in political and cultural life, an approach that planted the seeds that ultimately undermined the Stalinist system." And finally, the phrase "ushered in a sea-change." For one thing, "sea-change" should have been avoided. For another, the mixed metaphor police will be at their door.

But! I am also reading a book on Thucydides, and it's just as bad. My favorite: "Like so many colonies of bacteria, these proto-Greek groups follow the unseen, unconscious drive to expand." and "In most cases he is able to do so without muddying the waters with too many specifics." Another contender for favorite status: "...forged in the crucible of historical experience." Basically because it makes me think of Xena Warrior Princess: "a powerful princess, forged in the heat of battle." Also because you really can't use "forged in X" without sounding ridiculous. And lastly, because overextending metaphors is just as bad as mixing them: "The human psyche is the wellspring of national character and the stream which bears all national behavior along in its powerful current."

So in either field you can get published without a mental censor for things that make no sense or just sound silly! This is clearly a good thing.
polutrope: (moar academia)
OMG "Clash of the Gods" is not a good TV show for me to watch at 4:30 in the morning, as it makes me laugh much too hard. In any case, reactions as I go along. Silly and serious.
This is very long. )
polutrope: (Default)
Oh wow, this site is sheer brilliance. It's like someone read von Daniken and then was too chicken to go all the way for the aliens.

"It is quite possible that dragons were comets."
"If there had been an advanced civilization at that time (Atlantis perhaps), it would have fallen apart as its people were reduced to a hand to mouth existence."
"There are literally thousands of animal fossil species that have been found but there has not been a single dragon fossil ever found!"

It's seriously adorable. I mean, I just want to pinch his little cheeks and pat him on the head.
polutrope: (academia)
I had a thoroughly enjoyable day shopping with my chère [livejournal.com profile] dolique - short on getting practical things like shirts, which I need, long on awesome jewelery, cheap CDs, and love - which now draws to a not so enjoyable close with German journal when I get around to it, and my painful GEO 210 prelab, for which I pulled a miraculous memory of the basics of geometry from out of nowhere. (Ghost of Euclid helping me for knowing his language? I dunno.)

But really, the point of this is to mock the book I read on the train back to Princeton. "Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture." Now, with things like that you always risk overanalysis due to paucity of evidence, but not so much as this lady does. But that's sort of generally expected when you read books about female goddesses, and it's boring - you know, paleolithic matriarchal utopia ruined by the big bad patriarchal Indo-Europeans. Aside from the fact that she wants the folklore of Russia to reflect both the paleolithic goddess-worship and the Indo-European comparative mythology, there's nothing interesting there. (Although it was annoying of her to keep referring to Demeter as "horse-headed" - where is she getting that from? There's weird things about Demeter, sure, like the Themisphora - why should an agricultural goddess be concerned with lawgiving? Maybe there is something to Rousseau's "...wheat civilized mankind and ruined humanity" - with the advent of fields and the cultivation of wheat (which Demeter taught to men), laws were needed.)

Gee that was a long tangent. In any case, the point at which I stopped and stared at the page was when she makes Eugene Onegin a reflection of the struggle between the western, male invader and the earth of Mother Russia, embodied in Tatiana. Her name is "a synonym for Mother Earth in peasant lore and related to Shakespeare's queen of the fairies." Aside from the question of what Titania has to do with anything - I could not have picked two characters farther apart - Tatiana is an amazingly common name. Perhaps Olga is really a reference to the Olga who founded Pskov.

Onegin is "a freak" who "reverses the natural order. He is Hades kidnapping Kore." And then "Lenskii enters to save the girl..." which was totally not what happened, as Mme. Hubbs would know if she had read the poem. Lenskii is also "a sacrificed Son-Consort, the Adonis who dies for the love of his perfidious and changeable mistress." This, of course, gives Olga far too much credit. Pushkin doesn't dislike her, and she's a symbol of the moral of the story - which, I believe, is "God gives habit from heaven in place of happiness." But she's not a goddess-figure. (For one thing, the Goddess actually cares about her consort. Part of the point of that part of the story is that Olga forgets Lenskii.)

"She[Tatiana, of course] is Russia, and she is the eternal feminine debased by the tsars and their court; she is the goddess of love and life..." and later, "she sits there enthroned like a sorrowful Kore...Eugene is...destroyed and petrified by this female ruler of the underworld who (in sorrow) takes her revenge on those who did not respect her benign and life-affirming attributes." Those quotations pretty much stand for themselves. Basically, they have nothing to do with the text at all.

And so this rant on how she got Tatiana's refusal totally wrong is clearly not necessary, but since it gets on my nerves at least as much as the rest of it, she basically could not be more wrong about anything. Tatiana's refusal has absolutely nothing to do with revenge, even sorrowful revenge; she's not thinking of Onegin at that point. She's thinking of Prince Gremin, to whom she is now contentedly married. She forsakes youthful, burning passion for the responsibility of mature love; she makes the decision that will harm the fewest people. It has nothing at all to do with being a goddess and Onegin being Hades. Because that's silly.
polutrope: (moar academia)
So it is probably amazingly clear that I am a giant nerd. I don't know if it's also clear that I like to read terribly researched (or even well-researched but totally insane) books purporting to find the Real Historical Truth of things. So. A while back, [livejournal.com profile] dolique texted me asking about "Finding Merlin," so of course I ran to Firestone and checked it out.

Yeah, it's hilarious.

This book is either better or worse than I expected )
polutrope: (moar academia)
This paper is now about Väinamöinen. Once upon a time there was a man named Väinamöinen who lived in Finland. He really didn’t have all that much to do with Vergil except that their names start with the same letter and also a crazy Italian man said that the Homeric epics really took place in Finland. Väinamöinen is kind of like Odysseus in a way because they’re both smart but Väinamöinen didn’t do well with women like that time when he married a girl and then she jumped into the North Sea and then he tried to make a wife out of gold and it didn’t work. They are also very different because at the end Väinamöinen represents the old gods and that does not happen with Odysseus, because there was no Christianity in archaic Greece. Also Odysseus didn’t have an illegitimate son who he then abandoned and then had some issues involving marrying his sister by mistake and then she killed herself and then he killed himself too. But that didn’t happen in Homer because he was not Balkan.

[The paper is really about the motivation of Athena in the Odyssey and Venus in the Aeneid. Thesis: the motivations of the goddesses reflect the overall goal of their epics: Athena likes Odysseus personally, while Aeneas, although he is Venus' son, is more important to her as the founder of the empire than as a person. Unfortunately I am having some (that is, a lot) trouble coming up with a good beginning]

(other option for starting this paper: “on a bright day in semi-historic semi-Greece…”)
polutrope: (moar academia)
For my Odyssey class I am writing "about Helen." Since that means that I'm going to be working off about a hundred lines, I went to the library to find some secondary sources, and for some reason there's not much about her! Through use of the subject heading search in the catalog, I found The Meaning of Helen by Robert Meagher.

About 80 pages in, I thought "Wow, I cannot quote this book ever." This was triggered by his talking about how before the Indo-Europeans came, the Neolithic peoples lived in matriarchal Peace and Harmony.
Abandon all organization, all ye who enter here )
polutrope: (moar academia)
The traces of the ancient doctrine of Homer's infallibility linger on in contemporary criticism. If something in Homer is not absolutely correct, it must be justified, and cannot by any means be ascribed to poetic license or a slip of the poet's tongue. Felice Vinci takes this idea to its farthest ends in The Baltic Origins of Homer's Epic Tales.

A Long Review )

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