Monday, August 27, 2012

taking responsibilities seriously

I'm reading Gordon Leff's Heresy in the Later Middle Ages.  The phenomena described are terrifyingly familiar - the malaise which affects so many academics, so many writers, seems to arise from very similar developments. It is as if one were a Franciscan, drawn to a life of poverty and prayer, and put suddenly in charge of the inquisition...

In 1227 cardinal Ugolino, protector of the Franciscan order, became pope Gregory IX and within five years he had entrusted the Dominicans and Franciscans with the working of the papal inquisition. These responsibilities, and sheer numbers, transformed the mendicants from wandering bands of preachers into highly organized orders extending over Christendom: mendicant poverty gave way to property and buildings, libraries, study, and the paraphernalia of government. It was their revulsion at the change which led the Franciscan Spirituals to demand a return to the simple apostolic precepts of their founder; but, as we shall see, in vain.  To have done so would have been to dismantle what had become an indispensable part of the church. Here we come upon one of the constant factors in the tension between the demands of Christian first principles and institutional responsibility. It was not that the Franciscans and Dominicans, any more than the church as a whole, became morally degenerate in abandoning their early rigours. They had taken on a new role. They had now to fulfil an office and no longer merely to observe their own practice. The majority continued to preach and when necessary to beg; but they did so by the second half of the thirteenth century as some activities among many rather than as a way of life. (16)
...

It was the gradual constitution of the two mendicant orders into regular full-time inquisitors which marked the full-fledged emergence of the papal inquisition. (!!!!!) (43)
Judaism has the institution of the bar or bat mitzvah, which marks the passage to adulthood, often accompanied by a party and lots of presents. If some such ritual were the norm for all children around the age of 13, I would want every person leaving childhood to be given a copy of Leff, a copy of Patterson's Slavery and Social Death, and a copy of Goffman's Asylums. 

6 comments:

Steve said...

"Quand M. Bilbon Sacquet, de Cul-de-Sac, annonça qu'il donnerait à l'occasion de son undécante-unième anniversaire une réception d'une magnificence particulière, une grande excitation régna dans Hobbitebourg, et toute la ville en parla."

The three volumes of the French edition sit mostly unread on my shelf—I had high intentions once of doing what you suggested with Proust, but instead with Tolkien. I got bogged down on the way to Rivendell.

Shamefully, the linguistic appendices are omitted, at least in this edition.

Steve said...

(Commented on wrong article. Sigh.)

Helen DeWitt said...

This seems very odd. The French are often rather partial to the Englishness of England - the Englishness of the Shire is completely lost if one translates all the names. (If they have translated "the Shire" I don't think I want to know.)

whitelinesblankmagic said...

The sheer professionalism of the inquisition was pretty astounding. I just learned about this in Ginzburg's Cheese and the Worms. The court stenographers committed everything to the record. Also, the accused were entitled to free representation and the inquisitors had to achieve a pretty onerous standard of proof (of crimes explicitly defined).

leoboiko said...

Helen have you seen Tolkien’s Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings? Quote:

> Names that are given in modern English therefore represent names in the Common Speech, often but not always being translations of older names in other languages, especially Sindarin (Grey-elven). The language of translation now replaces English as the equivalent of the Common Speech; the names in English form should therefore be translated into the other language according to their meaning (as closely as possible).

But I entirely agree about the Englishness. “The Shire” in Brazil was rendered as o Condado (the County). The Baggins became the Bolseiro and Strider Passolargo. I can’t help but despise it.

Helen DeWitt said...

Leo. Hm. I think the problem is, the translated names seem to concentrate on sense rather than connotation. I'm sure both French and Brazilian Portuguese have names that capture, what, the charm of stolid provincial decency, pragmatism, more that I can't put my finger on. So good equivalents could probably have been found. But that wasn't what was looked for. If looking was too much trouble, I think it would have been better to stick with the English names.