Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket! The summer holidays are here, the fresh-baked students are out in force in their white caps, and once in a while, even the weather remembers to be summery.
So, the big news of the week is that I have gotten myself an honest-to-goodness, proper job. Starting in September, I will be teaching Latin propaedeutics (a fancy word for language for beginners) at Aarhus University. This is, of course, very exciting; I have taught Latin in the gymnasium, but now I will have more mature students, who are actually taking the course of their own free will and thus presumably are prepared to work for it.
It has been a while since last I taught, so I will be using the next couple of months to get my brain into gear; funnily enough, even before I knew about this vacancy, I was turned onto Pliny, Catullus, and Seneca, for various reasons.
More on that, no doubt.
The Apple of the Week
This week, I have a story for you about the nature of humans – it is from Plato, appears in the philosophical dialogue Symposion, and it is a fictional myth told by the writer of comedy, Aristophanes. A symposion was, in the Athens of the 5th century BCE, a drinking party for men; at this particular (fictional) event, however, the participants agree to give talks instead of drinking, talks on the subject of Eros. This is the fourth speech in the sequence.
By ‘fictional myth’ I mean a story in the form of a myth, but not a part of ancient Greek mythology: this story was invented by Plato and put into the mouth of Aristophanes. The supernatural elements of myth occur, such as gods and other strange beings.
Consider, if you will, the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen as opposed to the fairy tales collected and recorded by the brothers Grimm: the latter are a part of European folklore from ancient times, presenting old and deep conflicts, warnings, and hopes, and passed down in the oral tradition from generation to generation; while the former were consciously composed and written in the style of fairy tales, by a single author with something specific on his mind.
This fictional myth, then, as allegedly told by Aristophanes, plays its very own part in the grander scheme – Plato’s scheme – of the Symposion and the truths that he wants to impart through that whole text. But that is another story for another day; let’s see what the comedian has to say
On Human Nature
In the beginning, humans were not as we know us now: they were round, like spheres, with four legs and four arms and two faces on the head, so that they were able to look in all directions at once. They were strong, these spherical humans, and happy: they rolled about on their many limbs, doing whatever they pleased and taking no heed of the gods. In fact, they even tried once to oust the king of the gods, Zeus himself, from his throne, because they didn’t want to pay obeisance to him or bring offerings to the gods.
This would not do – after all, what are humans good for if they don’t bring offerings? And daring to threaten Zeus himself! The gods struck back: Zeus teamed up with Apollo, the god of surgery, and cut the spherical humans in half. Just like that. Apollo drew the edges of the skin together over the cut and sewed them up right at the middle (that’s where the navel comes from), and he turned their faces around so that the halved humans now had a front and a backside. There they stood, cut in half and trying to find their balance on only two legs.
And Zeus uttered a warning to them: if they did not learn to behave after this, to show the gods the respect they deserved, they would be cut in half once more. Then they would be quite flat, hopping around on one leg.
Zeus was happy with his plan: now the humans would be properly weakened and chastised, and they would bring offerings to the gods as they ought to.
Now, Zeus soon realised that the offerings weren’t really happening as they should; so he went to find out what had gone wrong. He discovered that the halved humans were unhappy: they wanted to be whole again, so they spent all their time wobbling about on their two legs, desperately searching for their other half – not necessarily their better half, but the other one, the one that had been cut away. And when they happened to find this other half, they clung to each other with all of their four arms and wouldn’t let go; they forgot to not only go to the temples to bring offerings, which was bad enough, but to work and to eat, and in the end they lay down to die, still clinging to their other half.
That, of course, would not do. Zeus put Apollo to work again; this time, the divine surgeon moved the sexual organs of the halved humans round onto their new front (before, they had been on the side, the front not having been there at all). And so, the halved humans were able to come together with their other halves and become one flesh for a little while – and afterwards in good cheer go back to their work, not forgetting to eat and, most important of all, go to the temples to bring offerings to the gods.
So, this is how humans became humans in search of love. And this is also why some seek a man and some seek a woman: the spherical humans had three genders, male, female, and mixed; when they were divided, the male spheres became two men, the female spheres became two women, and the mixed gender spheres became a man and a woman – all searching for the one person who can make them whole again.
I have started a new project. Again.
Hi, my name is Dorthe, and I am a compulsive on-caster.
This time, though, it is actually an old project, pulled out of hibernation and re-invented. At some point last year, I made a cable-and-lace edging for a top, intending to pick up stitches and work up from there; but I never really got round to it. So now, I am re-using the name and the project page – and even the yarn from another project: my Flirt tee, a Rowan pattern and for once made in the called-for yarn – which is almost unheard of for me.
I bought the yarn for it, Rowan 4-ply cotton, in Edinburgh, which means it must have been in 2006, on sale because the colour was discontinued, and made the top. Very cute, I liked it and wore it quite a bit; and then I shed a lot of weight, and the top was too big. It has been sitting around for quite a while without any purpose – and now it is frogged.
And the yarn is going into another tee, the Rondeur by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, from Knitty. There is not much to photograph yet, so the pics will have to wait till next week.
On the other hand, I have finished something, as well: some of the secret stuff that I can’t tell you about yet. Sorry about that; you will just have to wait until the gifts are given, and then all will be revealed.
Finally, there are visible developments on the V neckjumper for Victor: the body is done, and with it the black stripes in the rib. Similar stripes are underway on the neck edging; and soon, I can start the sleeves. I will only be able to finish them, though, in about two weeks’ time, as Victor and Thomas are going camping with my parents in a couple of days and will be gone for ten days – and I want to try the jumper on the boy before doing the cuffs.
The ‘denim’ skirt is just creeping along, becoming slowly longer. It still hasn’t reached even mini skirt length, so there is a ways to go yet. I’m not sure whether I’m bored with it, or it’s merely that it has been pushed aside for other things and thus seems to be going nowhere. I will have to give it some attention and see how it goes.
After having struggled with the CraftLit app to listen to the ongoing subscriber audio for The Great Gatsby (Just The Benefits), The Canterbury Tales, and Bleak House, I finally became so frustrated with it that I went to find the two older texts on Librivox.
I am not sure whether it is the app or my unstable wifi that is the trouble; all I know is that I get to listen to a minute or two once in a while, and then the thing shuts down on me. Grrr.
For Bleak House, I found the version that Heather is using, read by Mil Nicholson; that one I’m saving for later.
The complete version of The Canterbury Tales, the D. Laing Purves (1838-1873)edition with preface, biography and notes, is performed by several readers of varying skill. Such is the world of Librivox.
One of the readers is ‘our’ very own Chip, well known to listeners of CraftLit & Just The Books. I have to say, though, much as I enjoy Chip’s voice and diction, that he absolutely murders the Latin quotations. Shudder. But he is much better than, say, the girl (I use this term consciously) who reads the Wife of Bath, hesitating at words and not having edited out throat-clearings and tappings of the microphone. And the woman reading the Merchant’s Tale ... well, you get what you pay for. It just reminds you how much editing must go into professional recordings – and how much volunteer work goes into the good Librivox recordings, too.
The life of Geoffrey Chaucer himself is interesting: his primary occupation for quite a few years was as a customs officer, though he managed to travel extensively in the European mainland and possibly met Dante and Petrarca. Eventually, he was paid for his writing, as well, though he was never free of the need to earn a living by working; his wife, Philippa, was a lady-in-waiting to the queen of the same name.
Chaucer began the Canterbury Tales when about forty years of age, planning a huge work: 32 pilgrims meet up on their way to Canterbury to pay homage to St. Thomas, the murdered archbishop, and it is decided that they each tell two stories on their way to Canterbury and two stories on the way home. That is 128 stories, plus the setup and presentation of them all, the events at Canterbury, and the home-coming including the dinner awarded the best story teller. As it turned out, Chaucer left behind an unfinished work when he died of unknown causes at fifty-seven; only 23 of the pilgrims get to even tell their first story.
The English language owes a huge debt to Chaucer: a lot of words are first attested in his work, as he wrote in Medieval English as opposed to Latin or French. To a modern reader, the text may look odd, with strange spellings and unusual words; it becomes a lot easier if you read it out loud in an everyday diction – and, additionally, knowing Danish and/or German helps a lot with the old Saxon words that have gone out of use in English since Chaucer’s day.
A few examples: hent = fetch, brenn = burn, barm = bosom; there are many more, of course.
The stories themselves deal with the eternal themes: sex and/or love, relationships, jealousy, adultery, &c. Some are in high style, dramatic and with a pious morale, others are fun and ribald.
For a little light reading, Hermione Granger-style, I have picked up The Latin Language by L. R. Palmer; a thorough walk-through of the history and peculiarities of Latin – in preparation, of course, for teaching. Not that first-year students will be much concerned with either the influence of Oscan or the subtleties in Caesar’s choice of vocabulary; but it is nice to get my brain into that train of thought again. And it is quite interesting to discover how much more I get out of the book now than I did when I actually took the course twenty years ago.
On a lighter note, I have gobbled up Politi by Jo Nesbø, the tenth instalment in the Harry Hole-series; this will be coming out as Police in September, I think. It came out in Danish simultaneously with the Norwegian release.
Well, everybody – or nearly everybody – thought that book 9 was the final in the series; but it turns out there is another one. Which is rumoured to be the final one.
I’ll try to comment without giving any spoilers: a murderer is at large in Oslo, and the team of familiar police officers try to catch him. There are numerous suspects, and several members of the team at some point find themselves alone with someone who may be a psychopathic serial killer.
Hmm, that went well, don’t you think?
Nesbø seems to have a fondness for psychological and psychiatric peculiarities, not to say disorders, in his characters; I am all for that, but he is a bit heavy-handed with it, in my opinion, having characters quote doctors and evaluations instead of just showing us their behaviour and reactions.
One example – no spoiler, if you have read any of the books you know this already – is Beate Lønn, the female police officer who recognises every face she has ever seen: Nesbø apparently wants her to have Asperger’s and doesn’t content himself with letting others refer to her as ‘Rain Man’ or as ‘coming from Mars’; he has her running, slipping on wet grass, and reflecting that one symptom of Asperger’s is clumsiness.
Well, yes, it often is – but not every Aspie is clumsy, and not every Aspie has spectacularly extraordinary powers.
And who thinks like a list of symptoms? Oh alright, come to think of it, someone on the autism spectrum might actually do that; so, ok, I’ll let him get away with that one.
On the other hand, slipping when running on wet grass is not unusually clumsy, is it?
The story itself is a fast-paced, page-turning thriller, no problem there – only that my hours of sleep were somewhat curtailed for a few nights.
Well, that is it for this week. Thank you for stopping by; I hope you have a wonderful week, be it working or holidaying – and I will be back.