Early Modern Times – traditions in question

Early Modern Times - traditions in question

Dear readers,

This week saw our neighbours to the south (or in the case of those in Windsor, ON, their neighbours to the north) celebrate Thanksgiving–a turkey-gobbling holiday which may strike Canadians as unreasonably close to turkey at Christmas, but at least has the virtue of delaying Christmas promotions, decorations, carols, for a little longer. Of course, like any other festivity, the truth behind the ‘first Thanksgiving’ is much more complicated than the 1621 harvest-festival gathering of pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts, reports the NY Times. We are certain, however, that November 1621 must have featured the first ‘Black Friday’ sales especially on electronic goods and appliances. How else to explain the prevalence of excellent skin-bronzing facilities throughout the colony at Plymouth, as indicated by the fact that these Protestant dissenters had pure-tans?

And speaking of purity, the Académie française, founded in 1635 to be the arbiter of the French language, has decreed that ‘inclusive writing’–adjustments to grammatical gender for the sake of non-sexist writing–‘constituted a “mortal danger” for the language’, to quote a recent BBC article. I suspect that the founding figure of the Académie française, Cardinal Richelieu, would be in agreement. So influential was this architect of French power in the early seventeenth century that he was even providing court testimony in 1970s London (go to 4 min. 45 sec.), according to Dr. Montgomery Python of the Flying Circus research institute. Now, the Cardinal’s title might be occasion for some refined toilet humour concerning ‘rich-loos’, but this blog’s regard for the decency of the French and English languages prevents me from doing so.

In our classes this coming week: In EMSP 2000, Laura Penny and her students continue their dark explorations of the soul of that despicable gambler and fraudster, Blaise Pascal, and his notorious Pensée-schemes–in which readers are tricked into investing their thoughts and passions in fruitless meditations which eventually dissolve into a pool of self-incrimination. Guest lecturer Jannette Vusich will continue the character assassinations with her talk on the poor-traits of early modern men and women. No less immoral will be the EMSP 2420 students’ descent into deeper vices of commercial society, as they enter the Artificial Paradises of a nineteenth-century French poet’s bawdy-lair.

Dr. Vusich’s pupils in EMSP 2215 will gaze in wonder at Spain’s ‘golden age’, when Elvis Presley sat for a Baroque portrait by Spain’s greatest painter in the longest-running show in Madrid, ¡Viva-Velázquez! EMSP 3280 looks at obsessive collecting in the Italian Renaissance along with the peculiar early modern art of determining the proximity of Italian to Greek cheeses: the feta-ishization of objects.

In EMSP 3000, Kathryn Morris completes discussion of Descartes’s unsuccessful portmanteau recipe for a new amusement park treat combining cotton candy and chewy caramel, Principles of Floss-offee. Her students in EMSP 3250 will see how philosopher Baron d’Holbach ‘holds-back’ nothing in his atheism, while the vampire class will ponder Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, a far more successful novel than the diatribe of her zealously pious relative–Religious Awakening of the Vampire, by Uncle Ben ‘Converted’ Rice.

My students in EMSP 4000 will learn why John Locke continued to insist that forests should be extracted and processed into beverages for middle-class English politicians in his Second Tree-Teas of Government, and those in Asia & the West will discuss modern Chinese and Japanese thinkers coming to grips with western culture–including why the ‘May Fourth’ movement in China had nothing to do with the Star Wars-inspired pseudo-holiday, ‘May the Fourth be with you’.

Till next week,

Simon Kow

Director, Early Modern Studies Program

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