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SIDNEY-SPENSER  June 2007

SIDNEY-SPENSER June 2007

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Subject:

Re: A pride of giants

From:

anne prescott <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sun, 3 Jun 2007 16:43:01 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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I have nothing to add so wide-ranging and erudite a comment, but I'll  
just add, if with some repetition, that I myself find Schroeder's  
essay on Orgoglio as a phallus quite convincing--and his evidence  
about classical and early modern hydraulic theories about earthquakes  
and erections not a little funny, although not as funny as recent  
research showing that hamsters don't get jetlag if fed Viagra. The  
phallicism involved plays with both the Elizabethan pun on sexual  
swelling as "pride" but also on sexual swelling as "will"--which in  
turn recalls the tradition of a rider's horse as his "will" in more  
than one sense (an allegory I'm convinced that Spenser had read  
because it's structured like Book I has a knight who rides a horse  
named "Will"). The theological implications are significant because  
the temptation to horse around with Catholicism and the Mass was also  
sexualized in Protestant polemic--as see Douglas Waters on "Mistress  
Missa" and some unspeakably obscene and sexualized images of the Pope  
and the Mass. To be poured out in looseness on the grassy ground with  
Duessa is one way of indicating a loose and prideful willingness to  
ignore the Gospel. I don't think this is to "freudianize" the giant-- 
or at least not any more than was done at the time. Lust is one  
traditional way to symbolize Luciferian pride. St. Augustine would  
have no trouble in making a connection. As Jim says, sexual lust (not  
the "kindly flame" of natural sexual desire, but a self-indulgent  
"infected will" in the old punning sense) and spiritual pride were  
not then so separate as they might appear now. And I say that as one  
with profound doubts about Freud. Anne Prescott.

On Jun 3, 2007, at 3:00 PM, James C. Nohrnberg wrote:

> 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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