(11/4/00 5:42:47 pm)
That's funny--the program added those @#$*! onto my "Cinder..." message about, but I guess you can all fill in the blank. Not a dirty word to me when it comes to folklore, but ah well.
Modern culture simply does not appreciate the lovely bawdiness of this literature, does it! Does not even recognize it at all.
(11/25/00 12:13:02 am)
Kate, I see that the excellent essay (Ice, Snow, Glass) A.S. Byatt wrote for your anthology has been reprinted in her new collection of essays, On History and Stories, along with an essay on fairy tales, folk tales, and myths in contemporary literature: Old Tales, New Forms. The later is erudite and very interesting (as one expects from Byatt), concentrating on European writers - Roberto Calasso, Italo Calvino, Isak Dinesen, Gesualdo Bufalino, Cees Nooteboom. Angela Carter is mentioned only briefly (and Terry Prattchet, of all people), and one gets no sense of the extraordinary flowering of "old tales, new forms" we've seen in English language literature (in which I include genre and children's literature) in the last 2 decades. But a meaty essay nonetheless. I adored Vees Nooteboom's strange little book "The Following Story," and I'm pleased to see it get some critical attention here.
(11/27/00 1:49:14 pm)
|glass and the virgin|
Sorry if anyone else said this... I'm trying to catch up, skimming everything.
Glass was a common medieval symbol of the Virgin, because the Immaculate Conception was likened to light passing through a pane of glass. The light passes through, but the glass remains intact. There was a popular poem in Middle English on this subject.
The slipper which is too small for everyone but Cinderellla has been seen as a symbol of virginity by a lot of people, most notably Bettleheim. I'd like to point out some related motifs: the mother's wedding ring or dress, which will only fit her daughter, in Allerleirauh-type tales. What's important seems to be smallness, which doesn't fit, in my mind, with the idea that the slipper represents sexual readiness. (Unless all virgins are by definition sexually ready.) Bettleheim points out that the prince placing the slipper on Cinderella's foot is symbolic intercourse.
The slipper is more commonly made of gold; I'm not sure what the symbolism of a golden slipper might be.
Re: furry slippers. The original word would have been "vair", which is squirrel fur, used in roughly the same ways ermine was used. In other words, it was a swanky material, not particularly earthy. But I think most researchers today are tending towards the idea that the slippers were originally glass, not fur. In any case, Perrault talks at some length about other fashion elements - the type of busks the girls have on their dresses - so it may be a mistake to read too much into the choices he makes.
(11/27/00 2:37:00 pm)
Just a small point about your description of the medieval use of glass to reflect the Virgin and the immaculate conception. The immaculate conception refers to the Virgin Mary's birth, not the conception of Christ. It is about Mary having been born without the stain of original sin (as Wordsworth wrote of her "our tainted nature's solitary boast") which enabled her to recognize without limitations the fullness of the invitation (both the joy and the sorrow) of saying yes in the annuciation.
I think you want a different expression here other than immaculate conception, more like virgin birth.
I apologize if this seems nitpicky.
(11/27/00 3:24:58 pm)
Yes, I'm aware of the usage of Immaculate Conception. From what
I've been told, the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary
was made official in 1960-something. (I would want to look it up
before making authoritative statements.) But I believe the phrase
was used before that, and is still used, to refer to the way in
which Christ was conceived; at least, the Catholics I know use it
that way. Maybe I just hang out with a lot of really ignorant Catholics
In any case - glass is still a medieval symbol of the Virgin.
(11/27/00 8:36:50 pm)
A lot of Catholics make that mistake. Alas we are (in)famous for our weak catechesis. But it is one of the Marian Dogmas that has a long and interesting tradition in papal decrees--moving from a "pious doctrine" in 1439 to a dogma in 1854 under Pius IX. The dogma of the Assumption occured in the fifties, and in 1964 Pope Paul VI called her "the Mother of the Church" (resolving another long debated issue.)
But I am more curious then, thinking about Maria Warner's work, "Alone of All her Sex" about Mariology, of all the symbols that attend on this female figure--at once very pregnant (with all sorts of possibilities) and very chaste, the avenging mother (her heel on the head of the snake in Revelations and her transformation into an eagle) and the Virgin bride. There are so many images: pomegranates, the color blue and red in her mantle, the book that appears in the paintings, the moon circled by stars--but can you be specific about how glass is used as a symbol? What form does it take? I am trying to think of glass objects, or images that I might have seen but I am drawing a blank...
(11/28/00 8:25:58 am)
|ah, found it.|
I've been screwing up my brain to connect the image of glass to the virgin and went back to my fundamentals of catholic dogma (by Ludwig Ott). It was interesting because that reference of the sun penetrating through a pane of glass is one of many analogues used by early theologians to describe the mystery of Christ--its included along with "the emergence of Christ through a sealed tomb, his going through closed doors, the birth of the Logos through the bosom of the Father, the going out of human thought from the human spirit." So while the Medieval audience would embrace the image of the sun through glass as part of the mystery of Mary's continuing virginity (before, during and especially after the birth), it is also an image that points to the special nature of Christ himself--that going through the material world, breaking material, physical boundaries in a way no one else can. It is part of the divine mystery of Christ that he can pass through the body of his mother leaving her intact. So its a double symbol, not just proclaiming Mary's virginity, but Christ's unusual presence, and I suspect that the latter interpretation held the stronger sway...only because there are so many other symbols directed specifically to the joint mystery of Mary's virignity and simultaneous fertility.
(11/28/00 12:00:29 pm)
"...the special nature of Christ himself--that going through the material world, breaking material, physical boundaries in a way no one else can."
As an unrepentent heathen in your midst, I find your description of Christ's powers to run pretty close to an awful lot of mythic, Campbellian heroes and even, for that matter, comic book heroes. I wonder on what subliminal level we are invariably knitting these things together.
I've no doubt there's an entire discipline called something like "Christ Semiotics."
(11/28/00 12:40:00 pm)
|working with what we got|
Oh yes, there is a whole field of theological studies that looks at those aesthetics and iconic imagery. And its really rich and full of remarkable insights--not just as a narrative to legitimate the catholic perspective, but the relationship between art and the articulation of the mystical. In faith, we can not speak directly of something that is beyond our knowing--so we must use the language we have to approximate its emotional impact on our lives. So why not use the language of the fantastic that is familiar, readily available, robust and capable of holding together impossible contradictions? Yes the overlap is sure to be there. But there comes a point, if we are say a Catholic reading both a narrative of Christ and Beowulf at the same time, where one tale serves to reproduce a moment of faith and the other a great story. I can read the two narratives with equal pleasure, and even similiar critical approaches...but internally my repsonse is different. Flannery O'Connor has some brilliant letters on this topic but I need some time to hunt them down.
And of course, if a story has lasted two thousand years it's worth duplicating in some post-modern version in the popular culture of comic books--it's been selling pretty good this long hasn't it?
(12/4/00 3:54:37 pm)
|Thank you, al of you!|
I just want to say thanks again, for all of the wonderful insight posted on the symbolism, properties, mythology, religious implications, folklore, etc of glass. Who would have thought something shiny and see-through would have such deep and full meanings! The intro to my book of poems is written and at Kinkos, titled *Twisting the Glass*- now I just have to figure out how much my coworkers will want to pay for it! EEEEK! Again, many thanks!
(12/5/00 11:47:36 pm)
|Re: Thank you, al of you!|
Kerrie, let us know when your book of poems is available, and how we can purchase copies.
(12/10/00 1:12:40 pm)
Just a quick stop in on the road of life!
I think my chapbook will best be available after the new year begins-
this way I can get a tax ID # (I plan on setting up more chapbooks
and such with my own writing and my friends). It will be $5 (tiny
bit more than printing costs) plus whatever shipping costs. If you
email me with the quantity and address, I'll let you know when they're
ready and how much it will cost for your area. (If the shipping
quote I give sounds too high, please feel free to let me know of
a better deal!) I'm still very new to this, so any and all advice
is most welcome! Thanks for your interest!
(12/10/00 1:18:06 pm)
Oooops, forgot the email address:
(hopefully changing it soon)