Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Paper Memory: A Selective Reading Journal, July 26-August 1

«Mi sono detto: Yambo, hai una memoria di carta. Non di neuroni, di pagine.»

[I said to myself: Yambo, you have a memory made of paper. Not of neurons, but of pages.]

--Umberto Eco, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

"We need to be less relentlessly bleak about the fate of Augustinian tolerance in the later Middle Ages. It is in this period of what we are told is its twilight that we find the greatest evidence for a widely distributed clerical ritual which in good Augustinian fashion used the Jews to reenact the triumphant place of Christianity in sacred history, while at the same time circumscribing for and assigning to the Jews a place in Christian society. But just as rumors of the Augustinian ideal's death have been exaggerated, so too with accounts of its life. We should pause for breath in our panegyrics when we realize that one of the most ancient, most popular, and clearest articulations of the Augustinian paradigm in the Middle Ages turns out to be predicated on an act of violence. It is this double register of rituals like the Holy Week stoning of Jews that gives them their greatest value in explaining both convivencia and cataclysm. The violence contained within them made possible both stasis and explosive historical change."

--David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages

"The act of transmission--and, by extension, authorship--is the self-perceived duty of the kabbalistic master; he is bound by the imperative to serve faithfully as a link in the chain of tradition. Having been entrusted with sacred reception from authoritative kabbalists (אמת אנשי) and further viewing that reception as the compassionate gift of God, Isaac considers it to be his responsibility to aid others in their comprehension of esoteric matters. As a process of education, the pupil matures into a teacher, viewing the role as a vocation (or a calling) bestowed on him by divine destiny."

--Eitan Fishbane, As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist

"Campbell was also known for orchestrating two ambitious exhibitions of tapestries, the first that the museum had presented in decades. 'Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence,' which opened in 2002, gathered forty-five works that had been woven, at great expense, for the rulers of Europe, and which depicted mythological, historical, or Biblical scenes, often specifically chosen to aggrandize their owners. The visual effect in the Met's darkened galleries of the ornate tapestries, many of which hadn't travelled for more than two hundreds years, was overwhelming."

--Rebecca Mead, "Renaissance Man: The Met's New Director," The New Yorker (July 27, 2009)

"Tears streamed from his eyes as he turned his head and stood looking at them. He saw doors left open and gates unlocked, empty pegs without fur tunics or cloaks, perches without falcons or moulted hawks. The Cid sighed, for he was weighed down with heavy cares. Then he said, with dignity and restraint: 'I give Thee thanks, O God, our Father in Heaven. My wicked enemies have contrived this plot against me.'"

--"Song of the Cid," trans. by Rita Hamilton, in Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, ed. by Olivia Remie Constable

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