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SIDNEY-SPENSER  June 2007

SIDNEY-SPENSER June 2007

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Subject:

A pride of giants

From:

"James C. Nohrnberg" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Sidney-Spenser Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 3 Jun 2007 15:00:41 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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An off-list correspondent wanted to know why Orgoglio had to be freudianized
at all (and thus trivialized--since he represents a "Luciferian pride" and
not a libidinous lust), and, also, why Dante's giants (esp. Antaeus) had to 
be
phallicized or discussed in these terms at all.

Respondeo:

I don't think of Orgoglio as exclusively "phallic pride," quite the
contrary, I regard the phallic giants as a symbol of quite different kinds
of spiritual fault.  Thus Don Quixote (at Pt. 2, ch. 8), in explaining
knight errantry, maintains that "in confronting giants, it is the sin of
pride we slay" (--as well as envidia, ira, gula, lujuria and peroza!) -- 
presumably because pride is puffed up.  The expansion of the list, of 
course, opens the way to the kind of boisterous giant met in Orlando's 
friend Morgante in Pulci and in Gargantua and Pantagruel in Rabelais.

In Dante (to get back to pride in the Inferno) the arrogance of Fillipo 
Argenti, the inveterate caste pride of the contumacious grand seigneur 
Farinata, the injured
vanity of suicidal Piero della Vigna, the rebellious defiance of Capaneus, 
the blasphemous contempt of Vanni Fucci, the senseless grandosity and 
foolish ignorance
of the giants, and Lucifer's original self-exaltedness form a chain of 
desperate
and despairing sinners who are anything but luxurious in their sinning (see
Homer to Brecht, 88-91) -- pride has hardened their hearts, stiffened their
necks, and frozen their fellow feeling.

As for Orgoglio (and especially in relation to Despair in canto ix), "The 
escape from
the joyless House of Pride issues in a vain and shallow optimism, and the
void left by the rejected trappings of external pride is suddenly filled by
an overwhelming interior pride. The hero's 'postmortem' contemplation of his
humiliation by his pride, after its alleviation, is so dismaying that it
leads to Despair: the humiliation of the earlier episode is retroactivated,
as it were, upon the withdrawal of Arthur's support." (AnFQ.  )

And: "Almost before we know it the Philistines are upon him [Redcrosse in FQ
I.vii] (Judges 16:20)  and the knight has disappeared into Orogoglio's
dungeon. In effect Orgoglio replaces Redcrosse, becoming Duessa's new
master. And yet Redcrosse survives at the bottom of the palace, Orgoglio's
'eternall bondslaue' (I.viii.14). Interpreting the allegory, we may say that 
beneath any haughty exeterior there is the fearful victim of a humiliation. 
He is kept by Ignaro, of
course, since we do not usually acknowledge the poor creature's existence."
Thus the same page of AnFQ that quotes Lacan on the phallus also quotes 
Augustine
on the loftiness that debases, and the lowliness that exalts.

If Orgoglio gets or possesses Duessa, and if in this kind of projective
allegory he is an aspect of Redcrosse, then Orgoglio's sudden insurgence and
sudden 'dejection' (as it were), are aspects of Redcrosse too--his body
included. Thus the context for the argument about Orgoglio's phallic 
insurgence and
deflation is Redcrosse's being seduced in a dissolute state, and committing 
idolatry
with Duessa, which is adultery biblically speaking (a form of 
political-relgious promiscuity, according to the OT prophets) under every 
green tree.  --Plus the feeling that Spenser sexualizes Redcrosse's 
experience from the outset, with his nearly wet-dream of Una as lasciviously 
Duessan. The argument also depends on the partial analogy of the events in 
cantos vii-viii of Book I with those in the same cantos of Book IV.  [E.g., 
 "a captive victim (Redcrosse, Amyas), a relentless giant pagan (Orgoglio, 
Corflambo); a faithful companion who sues for Arthur's aid (Una, Placidas); 
a jailor who
is himself in a kind of bondage (Ignaro with 'the keyes of every door'; 
Paeana's captive dwarf with 'the keyes of every prison door' [I.viii.30, 
IV.viii.54]), and the unveiling of Arthur's shield (I.viii.19-21, 
IV.viii.42)."]

Antaeus in Dante -- to explain that giant's particular eligibility re 
damnable pride
  -- is (implicitly) convicted of (a foolish) vanity by his response to the
artfully flattering words -- like those of the seducer Jason -- that Virgil 
uses to
obtain the two pilgrims' conveyance to the bottom of hell.

As for Dante's immobilized giants generally, it is their position in hell's
body that determines their own bodily character. "The giants themselves seem
to sum up a vast range of doby imagery found throughout the Inferno. The
lustful are borne on the winds that are the sighs with which they ventilated
their passions. The gluttons lie under a sudden deluge representing the flow
of matter they guzzled and relased in life. Out of such observations emerges
the image of Hell as a gigantic, shadowy creature suffering the interior
life of the fallen man. It breathes with the lovers; it is nourished with
the gluttons; it is irrigated with the polluted river of tears; it is
steeped in the blood of our violence. It ruminates upon the sinners immersed
in its fluids and canals, and it is half-poisoned on the wastes that clot
its visceral foul pouches. Finally, though locked by an icy waste that is
all impasse, it is voided by a cathartic vision of evil." (Homer to Brecht.)

Similarly, but  la Jules Verne, rather than Dante: "Isaac Azimov's The
Fantastic Voyage is presumably titled after a traditional, Odyssean topos of
allegorical romance, but is concerned with the map-like tracing of a terrain
that is physiological. The story visits the post-Vesalius and post-Harvey
topography--the body within--as presently and routinely explored by probes,
scopes, radiation, and target-specific chemicals. Asimov's narrative of an
endo-somatic mission assigned to a miniaturized, cell-like spaceship,
coursing through the vital passages of a stricken corpus [the comatose
patient has had a stroke], predictably traces those clinical interventions
so frequently instrumental in the modern body's preservation or destruction:
which are co-ordinated--collusively or traitorously--with the body's own
internal activity at critical sites. A loud noise rocks the ship in the
channels of the ear, the arterial sailors run short of oxygen in the lungs,
a [heartless] traitor is discovered on board in the heart, and a clot has to
be dissolved--and the security problem resolved--in the recesses of the
brain. Just before the miniaturization period of the mote-like vessel is due
to end, the ship is flushed through the eye. ... The visit to the inside of
a stroke victim's prostrate anatomy takes us back to traditional initiations
into allegorical underworlds and pilgrimages through figurative landscapes.
And if mutually destructive allelophagy results from the infinite desire of
bodies to consume eath other, it is logical that a ravnous white corpuscle
devour the villain cast off from Asimov's innerspaceship. Moreover, if the
vessel deminiaturizes before it surfaces, each body will annihilate the
other." ("Allegory De-Veiled")

Analogously, the medieval and leviathanic hell is likewise allelophagic, so
at the end of the Inferno the Gospel's Satan that enters Judas becomes the
Dante's Judas who enters Satan. Our explaining of the giants as located in
the groin of hell, and as standing out phallically from the perimeter of
hell's body, and as located near that body's nadir, seems to follow the
logic of identifying them with the genitals of hell, a nadir whose presence
is insisted on by the course Dante shortly takes over Satan's own 
subthoracic
region and across his hairy flanks.  So by leaving behind the reign (Lat. 
regnum)
of hell, Dante also leaves behind the devil's reins (the loins, once the
seat of the passions [from Lat. ren/es, kidney/s]).

-- Jim N.

[log in to unmask]
James Nohrnberg
Dept. of English, Bryan Hall 219
Univ. of Virginia
P.O Box 400121
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4121

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