Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Remembering Eden: The Re-Canonization of Humanity’s Sinful Origins in Late-Antiquity

This paper will demonstrate through the analysis of Jewish and Christian primary sources related to Genesis 1-4 the process by which canonical texts are created and recreated for the purpose of supporting specific identity narratives. Chosen texts will range from the 1st Century CE to the 6th Century CE.

Modern scholars have a talent for parsing timelines, chopping up the past into easily digestible portions bound by some quality deemed important to whatever discursive activity is taking place. Perhaps the most significant division in regards to the study of the whole of the human past is a partitioning of everything before the present into two radically different periods: history and pre-history. The production of texts fundamentally alters the ability to study human thought and culture. Texts, more so than other forms of material culture, present a limiting framework for interpretation and can effectively communicate complex ideas. While the observation of non-textual material culture certainly has a vital place in the study of the human past, the ability to parse a native meaning through written sources is an absolutely invaluable insight into the workings of ancient civilizations. Traditionally speaking, the popular method of interpreting Biblical texts is to pretend that no interpretation is occurring. The majority of scholarship emerging from the Judeo-Christian tradition in Late-Antiquity assumed a fixed authorial intent while also producing widely divergent exegetical conclusions. This would seem to indicate one of two realities: either there is only one viable interpretation amongst many false readings or the far more likely possibility that the meaning of the text is subject to reader manipulation. The canonical texts of the varied Judeo-Christian traditions are treated as cohesive narratives stretching from the dawn of Creation to modernity ignoring “heretical” deviations and dead-ends. The span of time over which Biblical texts were produced defies the finite borders, both in time and space, of any empire or people involved in their production. It is only through the mythology of orthodoxy generated in this two-fold writing tradition of first producing commentary on the body of canon and then canonizing that derivative literature that cultural relevance is maintained. In this way, authors in the Judeo-Christian intellectual tradition are able to simultaneously evidence the validity of all that came before while also validating the social and cultural mores of the community spawning the commentary. The continuous act of reconciliation of a textual tradition to a social reality is both the means by which a canon is preserved and the means by which it is employed. This understanding can help to decode the cultural anxieties of the various communities that emerged from or assimilated into the Judeo-Christian identity narrative. Because of the peculiar nature of religious scholarship, one which relies on the firmly held belief that the text’s value lies in the authorial intent of an ultimate creator, it is possible to read the commentary as a standalone work reflecting a meaning devised almost exclusively by the reader. The belief in the infallibility of the word of God enforces an editorial standard that rejects the recognition of self in religious commentary. The illusion of an unbroken chain of scholarly custody from the creator to the commentator contributes to a pattern Barbara Herrnstein-Smith (2000) describes as the ability of a text to “evolve and survive” (p.148), a notion which points to the transitive nature of textual meaning resulting in inclusion within the literary canon.
Perhaps the most important period of the modern Judeo-Christian tradition, in terms of historicity and ideological formation, is Late Antiquity. The Late Antique world saw the rise of the Christian Church within the Roman Empire, the establishment of Rabbinical Judaism following the destruction of Herod’s Temple and the formation of Islam on the Arabian Peninsula and its subsequent conquest of much of the ancient world. The texts arising during this period can help to illustrate the existential anxieties present at points of fracture and contention within the larger population by illustrating the many faces of perceived orthodoxy. To this end, the first four chapters of Genesis prove to be an excellent starting point for inquiry, providing a symbolically rich and suitably vague account of the origins of humanity and the human condition. The mythological ties of creation bind all subsequent liturgical identities to a shared concept of past and provide the most basic point of inquiry for cross-cultural and cross-temporal comparison.

To properly discuss the exegesis surrounding Genesis, one must first situate the “original” text. Within the tradition, the Pentateuch is credited to the hand of Moses; however, modern scholarship analyzing the language, terminology, conventions and historicity of the Biblical texts indicates a more eclectic origin (Friedman, 2005, p.7). Without a doubt, the Pentateuch was fully formed prior to the Babylonian Exile and is suspected to have achieved its full form, in terms of content, at the hands of the Aaronid priesthood under King Hezekiah in the 8th Century BCE (Friedman, 2005, p.26). Even within the first four chapters of Genesis, no less than three hands can be attested to in its construction and arrangement which is believed to be comprised of two separate narratives brought together by a redactor (Friedman, 2005, p.35). Inconsistencies in the narrative are plainly evident to the casual reader who should quite readily and without any specialized background be able to pick out contradictions regarding the order of creation as detailed in both (Gen. 1) and (Gen. 2). Another notable element is the shifting nature of God in the text of Genesis, alternating between an omniscient and all-powerful cosmic creator being and a limited supernatural entity that is physically imminent within the garden. The latter characterization of God as a physical presence is believed to be the older of the two incorporated narratives, which would place the later conceptualization of God more in line with the understanding known to have survived into the extant branches of the faith (Friedman, 2005, p.35). Though Friedman (2005) highlights the surviving view of God as being both concerned with the infinite and the finite (p.35), the theological development of that view might be more complex than he lets on, as it could be perhaps be more easily derived from later explanations of inconsistency within the text owing to its piecemeal nature than as a reflection of a original belief in a dual-natured God. By Late Antiquity, the omnipotent God was becoming the dominant paradigm across the religious and philosophical spectrum, if one ignores the physical nature of messianic figures like Jesus Christ who came to be equated with the divine through no small effort of philosophical contortion.

At the obvious risk of defining Late Antiquity far too broadly, it is helpful to discuss 1st Century CE and 2nd Century CE writers in the same breath as their later counterparts as the rise of Judeo-Christian faiths inside the Roman world followed a different trajectory than the empire itself. While the term Late Antiquity is inextricably tied to the political state, it is plain to see that monotheism was in a state of ascendancy, primarily through the proselytizing of Christians in the Gentile community. It is therefore appropriate to begin the discussion of Late Antique monotheism at its roots in the 1st Century CE, the period during which Jesus Christ lived and died and Herod’s Temple fell. These two traumatic events, probably the latter to a greater extent, paved the way for a period of spiritual, personal and political identity reformation that shaped not only the coming centuries but also the modern world. While the majority of the texts addressed in this paper reflect Christian sources, during this formative period there is very little meaningful distinction between Jews and Christians and so it is appropriate to relocate later Christian sources in the context of their Jewish origins. Additionally, these early Jewish sources help to establish some of the mechanical aspects of the canonization process.

The 1st Century CE produced the writings of Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenized Jew who attempted to marry Greek philosophical principles and Jewish theology. His work Questions and Answers on Genesis demonstrates a radical willingness to alter the Jewish religious discourse to better reflect what he would view as a wholly rational and modern understanding of the world. Philo perceived no disconnect between his commentary and the text of Genesis, offering it as an explanation of authorial intent rather than a revisionist undertaking. In his arguments he aims to perform the essential two-fold structuralist task of re-canonization: making the past applicable to the present and legitimizing the present by aligning it with a past tradition. Philo’s work reveals the anxieties of upper –class, Hellenized Jews prospering under Roman rule. His attempt to reconcile Jewish theology with Greek philosophy is a multi-faceted argument for the Hellenization of the Jewish people. He simultaneously defends his Hellenization to other Jews while making the case for Judaism as a philosophical tradition compatible with the intellectual standards of the Roman elite. The following passage from Questions and Answers on Genesis demonstrates Philo’s commitment to finding points of intersection between the two intellectual worlds he inhabited.

(17) Why God says, "It is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a help meet for him?" (Gen. 2:18). By these words God intimates that there is to be a communion, not with all men, but with those who are willing to be assisted and in their turn to assist others, even though they may scarcely have any power to do so; since love consists not more in utility than in the harmonious concord of trustworthy and steadfast manners; so that everyone who joins in a communion of love may be entitled to utter the expression of Pythagoras, "A friend is another I. (Philo)
Philo’s commentary tends to expand even minor, even seemingly inconsequential points of the narrative into grand lessons of wisdom. This particular passage was not selected so much for the depth of its philosophical underpinnings, but rather for the bold and direct comparison of the words attributed to Moses and Pythagoras respectively. Here, a direct comparison takes place which has of the effect of validating the wisdom of both texts, regardless of whether the reader is a member of the Jewish community. Philo expands on the wording of the text, extrapolating from the foreshadowed relationship of Adam and Eve a grander sense of communal belonging. His need to expand the scope of God’s intimations to include “all men who are willing to be assisted and in their turn to assist” in the relationship being defined for Adam and Eve allows him to set up a clever intersection between his allegorical reading of Genesis and the words of Pythagoras: that Adam’s companion Eve was a part of him (his rib), just as “a friend is another I”.
Even if Philo’s primary goal was not the marriage of Hellenism and Judaism, even if he just sought to address the angst of Jews who had embraced Hellenism at the expense of their standing within the traditional community, then the measure of his success is difficult to determine. His positioning of Moses as a Greek style philosopher possessing a genius intuition for truth predating the famous Greek thinkers did not resonate within the larger Jewish community and met with resistance (Peters, 2004, p.19). Philo’s attempts at convincing the Jewish population to embrace Hellenism were certainly not successful enough in the short term to prevent the Great Revolt of 66CE resulting in the end of the Second Temple Period and fundamentally altered the Jewish worldview. Nor did his writing resonate in the later 117CE uprising amongst Diaspora communities or the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132CE which quashed aspirations of Jewish statehood in the ancient world.
One might argue, that the destruction of Herod’s Temple not only drove a permanent wedge between the Jews and the Hellenistic Roman world, but also between the Jews and the Christians who were able to supplant the spiritual function of the Temple with their own emerging belief system. Philo’s hybridized discourse appealed to Christian scholars on account of the mixed nature of the community (Peters, 2004, p. 90). In a way, Philo did succeed in bringing one prominent branch of Judaism around to his way of thinking, but it seems unlikely that he could have foreseen the impact that his writing would have as a template for the allegorical analysis of scripture for what, in his life, was a young messianic Jewish cult.
Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian and apologist is notable for his contributions to the understanding of the events of the Great Revolt, offering insight into not only the military events but also providing the account of a cultural insider comfortably existing as a mediator of Jewish culture for the Hellenistic world. His works Antiquities of the Jews and Contra Apion demonstrate his commitment to his heritage and validating that community within the Roman world. Perhaps a bit more so than Philo, Josephus seems eminently concerned with the status of Judaism and approaches his arguments in its favor differently, resorting to a more accessible speech than Philo. Considering that Philo did not live to see the destruction of the Second Temple, it stands to reason that Josephus was undoubtedly impacted by these events in a way that Philo could not have been. In Book I of Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus takes on an almost gentle pedagogical tone when recounting the text of Genesis. He makes very little attempt to intellectualize the material, but rather he simplifies the text and expounds as he feels necessary.

Moreover, Moses, after the seventh day was over begins to talk philosophically; and concerning the formation of man, says thus: That God took dust from the ground, and formed man, and inserted in him a spirit and a soul. This man was called Adam, which in the Hebrew tongue signifies one that is red, because he was formed out of red earth, compounded together; for of that kind is virgin and true earth. […] whereupon Adam knew her when she was brought to him, and acknowledged that she was made out of himself. Now a woman is called in the Hebrew tongue Issa; but the name of this woman was Eve, which signifies the mother of all living.


Here, Moses is again painted in a philosophical light, but Josephus makes no effort to philosophize himself or extrapolate deeper meaning from the text through allegory. His recounting is straight-forward, rarely deviating in terms of content from the source text. Josephus clearly differs from Philo, who seemed to be simultaneously courting the opinion of both Jewish and Hellenistic intellectuals, whereas Josephus is addressing a non-Jewish audience and attempting to explain the fundamentals of Jewish culture without any assumption of familiarity with source material. Having born witness to the catastrophe of the Great Revolt and its immediate aftermath, Josephus is aware of the imbalance of power in his society and assumes a role as a translator of Jewish culture in Roman society. It also perhaps stands to reason that the simple language of his text belies an understanding of higher philosophical concepts because there is little call for reconciliation between Roman high culture and the Jewish religious tradition in the wake of defeat. In Contra Apion Josephus seeks to convince his Roman interlocutor, not only of the validity of Jewish antiquity, but also the uniformity of Jewish belief.
Among us alone will be seen no difference in the conduct of our lives. With us all act alike, all profess the same doctrine about God, one which is in harmony with our Law and affirms that all things are under his eye. (C. Ap. 2.81)
In spite of the sectarian movements within Judaism and the social fractures surrounding the Great Revolt, Josephus presents an unadulterated tradition. It is not clear from the text whether he earnestly believes in a unified Judaism or not; Danial Boyarin (2004) suggests that the answer would depend on how Josephus understood the use of words he employed to describe theological differences in other works (p.53). It seems, given the timing of Josephus’ writing less than 30 years following the destruction of the Temple, that there could be no true uniformity of spiritual response to the destruction. Josephus’ claim would seem to fly in the face of modern scholarship which argues for a wide and wild set of responses to the defeat of Jewish political expectations and the destruction of the Temple (Peters, 2004, p.30). The emergence of a separate Rabbinical Judaism and Christianity as well as the increasing frequency of apocalyptic and messianic expectations would suffice to indicate a disjointed Jewish communal identity. Within the text there is an unbending concern with the orthodoxy and purity of Jewish belief, community and reliance on the Biblical Law; while strict adherence was not new to Judaism, it is telling that in describing the whole of the Jewish people he focuses on that element of common custom which would come to define Rabbinical Judaism. In this sense, Josephus perhaps offers a glimpse into one of the futures of the Jewish communal identity.

Cleaving to a new direction, the young Messianic movement of the Christians split from Judaism in the 1st Century CE. The church arising from the evangelical work of Paul of Tarsus became the standard bearer of the nascent faith. Paul often alluded to the text of Genesis to explain the new doctrine of Christian belief. In many ways, this new approach to theological inquiry is rooted in the same strategy as Paul’s contemporary, Philo. Both writers radically expand on the source text in order to validate a belief system which would appeal to both Jews and Gentiles. Both writers maintain an internal system of logic, but where they differ is that Philo seems concerned primarily with demonstrating the compatibility of the two traditions, whereas Paul seeks to radically redefine the Jewish tradition to appeal to Gentile converts as part of his “New Testament” (Clark, 2004, p.9). Paul’s rhetorical strategy establishes frequent binaries to generate a sense of balance in the faith. Whether this preoccupation with proportion is a result of Hellenistic influence or a product of Jewish dualism is difficult to say given the mixed nature of Paul’s various audiences receiving his letters. In Romans, Paul makes artful use of balance, presenting Adam and sin as a problem for which Jesus is the solution. He establishes Adam as the mortal conduit of sin and Jesus as the mortal conduit of salvation.
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:18-21, NIV2010)
Perhaps most interesting in this passage is the characterization of Jewish Law. Paul recognizes the validity of the Law, in its place and time between Adam and Jesus. He goes so far as to confirm that violation of the Law is sinful. However, his argument establishes the Law not as a necessity of faith, but a stumbling block for the faithful. In essence, he is arguing that even though the Law represents the true desire of God, it is not the ultimate determinant of salvation. Through this reasoning the laws of Moses became secondary to the ideology of salvation, opening the doors of the Judeo-Christian tradition to the Gentiles (Peters, 2004). Peters (2004) attributes the inclusion of Gentiles into the Covenant to be the most likely culprit in the split between Jews and Christians, arguing that internal messianic and apocalyptic expectations relied on the Gentiles as a sort of literary other meant to contrast the Jewish people (p.26).

In his letters, Paul addresses all manner of spiritual concerns, particularly as they relate to the new Christian tradition as it stands in the context of both the Jewish and Roman worlds. The following passage from 1 Corinthians is highlighted by Sarah Ruden’s Paul Among the People (2010) as an example of Paul’s radical social agenda (p. 87), however it is also telling that even as Paul ushers in new standards of social conduct, he relies on a reestablishment of the applicability of the text of Genesis.
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. 7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. (1 Cor. 11:2-12, NIV2010)
Ruden (2010) makes a compelling argument regarding Paul’s intention in this passage as being contrary to the Hellenistic custom of veiling and not a frivolous restriction being placed on the women of the early Christian community (p.88). She points to the custom of married and widowed women being expected to veil themselves in public and to the erotic perception of hair indicated in the writings of Ovid and Apuleius as a means of illustrating the context of a head covering in a prayer setting (p.87). Ruden (2010) contends that in the prayer space Paul meant to confer to women the honorary status of wife regardless of their actual social positions (p.87). This makes sense given Paul’s characterization of the faithful as promised brides to Christ.
2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:2-3, NIV2010)
If Ruden’s interpretation of Paul’s text is to be believed then the story in Genesis was appropriated by the Christian movement to establish not only a new theological structure, but also to address the everyday social issues facing followers. Given Paul’s assignment of Adam and Jesus as mortal conduits of sin and salvation, then the women were being dressed as Eve and being made wives of Christ in the Hellenistic fashion. Paul’s analogy would eventually be construed into the symbolic relationship between ascetics and Christ as evidenced in Evagrius Ponticus’ 4th Century text Advice to a Young Woman (nuns).
Virgin eyes will see the Lord.
And with their ears will virgins hear his words.
Lips of virgins will kiss their bridegroom. (Maas, 2000, p.156)
In this passage, the notion of spiritual betrothal reflected in the writing of Paul has been refined and repurposed to apply only to the most devoted adherents of the faith. Jews of the same period drew on these same ideas of purity, in fact their traditions were virtually identical between the mainstream Jewish communal mores regarding virginity and marriage and the Christian ideal of celibate brides of Christ. The primary difference highlighted by Boyarin (1999) is that Jewish girls, in literature, were preserving their virginity for virtuous mortal marriage, preferably to a Rabbinical scholar, whereas Christian ascetics preserved their virginity for a divine union (p.88). Given the expectation of pre-marital celibacy in both Christian and Jewish communities, literary and ritual celebrations of holy virginity can be seen as synecdochical stand-ins for the overall spiritual fitness of the society within the group narrative; in reality, the fact that unwed women were virginal should not seem shocking or particularly special for the time period. It seems that only in the context of physical virginity standing in for spiritual or ritual purity does the chastity of unwed women become exceptional.

The 1st Century writings of Paul, Philo and Josephus are helpful in understanding the trajectories taken by their faiths in Late Antiquity, pointing to cultural and spiritual developments that would define later movements within the Judeo-Christian faiths. The changes were not instantaneous, and it stands to reason that none of these men ever perceived any contradiction in their own Jewishness, having each in their own way reconciled their Jewish past with their individual present states. Paul in particular paved the way for Late Antique discourse as a spiritual leader. His writing was the foundational canon of the New Testament and his works helped to reconcile the Jewish tradition in a way that was satisfying to the emerging non-Jewish Christian community. He is perhaps the most influential figure in the establishment of the Christian church and doctrine, having affirmed the applicability of the Old Testament to all followers of Christ and having rooted his present into the respectability of the past to create an unbroken chain of divine intention.

In the Late Antique world, scholars readily drew on the story of humanity’s fall from grace to bolster support for their world views. The period is particularly interesting, because it offers a time in which Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism were certainly formed, but not necessarily uniformly codified. This period saw the rise of heresiology within both Christian and Jewish communities, as factions struggled for primacy in the debate over orthodoxy, identity and cultural borders both within the community and the larger population (Boyarin, 2007, p.26). For both groups this struggle, in many ways, emerged from the rise of Christians into political power. Jews were under threat of assimilation and Christian sects wanted to be recognized, as they felt they rightly should be, as the one true tradition fit to be employed throughout the Christian Roman Empire.

The Gnostic texts found at Nag-Hammadi are particularly revealing of the variety of religious belief flowing from the uncertainty of the 1st Century into Late Antiquity. At the time of the formation of the extant gospels, other religious traditions were arising contemporaneously and amongst those, the texts found at Nag Hammadi perhaps represent some of the most radical repurposing of the Biblical text of Genesis; such striking revelations overturn any notion of an early unified Christian church (Pagel, 1989, xxii). Some of these writings recast God of the creation story as the villain and the serpent as the bringer of truth. The following text, from The Testimony of Truth presents the story of the fall of humanity from the point of view of the serpent.
But what sort is this God? First he maliciously refused Adam from eating of the tree of knowledge, and, secondly, he said "Adam, where are you?" God does not have foreknowledge? Would he not know from the beginning? And afterwards, he said, "Let us cast him out of this place, lest he eat of the tree of life and live forever." Surely, he has shown himself to be a malicious grudger! And what kind of God is this? For great is the blindness of those who read, and they did not know him. And he said, "I am the jealous God; I will bring the sins of the fathers upon the children until three and four generations." And he said, "I will make their heart thick, and I will cause their mind to become blind, that they might not know nor comprehend the things that are said." But these things he has said to those who believe in him and serve him!

And in one place, Moses writes, "He made the devil a serpent for those whom he has in his generation." Also, in the book which is called "Exodus," it is written thus: "He contended against the magicians, when the place was full of serpents according to their wickedness; and the rod which was in the hand of Moses became a serpent, (and) it swallowed the serpents of the magicians." (NHC IX3)
The position of serpent is, if the term can be forgiven, devil’s advocate: a questioner of all of the assumptions of the nature of God using seeming inconsistencies of God’s character in the text. While modern scholars, as previously detailed, are able to demonstrate that these inconsistencies are born of the merging of texts a thousand years before the Gnostic literature came into being, these imperfections in the Biblical narrative must have manifested suspiciously to these readers, seeming to contradict the popular Judeo-Christian narrative. The Testimony of Truth is unique amongst the other commentaries thus far discussed, because it invokes the Biblical text with skepticism and critical analysis. While it too relies on authorial intent, it certainly does not recognize the infallibility of God as an apriori fact, quite the contrary since they believe that the intent of the author is to actively deceive the reader. They do still re-affirm the text canonically by the assertion that it contains a hidden truth behind the narrative, thus preserving its value and relevance to the community. Peter Brown (1971) describes the period between 170CE and the ascension of Constantine in 312CE as a period of religious unrest and reformation (p.49). Given the conditions of the age, including an economic and political crisis in the empire during the 3rd Century and Diocletian’s Great Persecution, then it should come as no surprise that religious groups experienced an upwelling of dissatisfaction and inquiry regarding usefulness of certain traditions. Even from the perspective of the persecutors their world was falling apart and the designation of Christians as a scapegoat must have held a certain appeal in that, for some, served to validate the sanctity of their traditions and reinforce bonds in the pagan community. In that regard, the Gnostic movements of the 2nd and 3rd Centuries represent the quintessential projection of religious angst in a world seemingly overrun with evils. Christians were alienated from the broader community and were, in this time of illegitimacy within the empire, largely relegated to local and regional levels of organization. These regionalisms, like genetic bottlenecks, bred the heretical debates that would rock the Christian Roman Empire as these widely dispersed groups came together and realized that each of their one true faiths had manifested with remarkably different understandings of the divine. The Gnostic reading goes further in its recasting of the Biblical roles, specifically addressing this passage from Numbers.
6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. (Num. 21:6-9, NIV2010)
[…]for the one who will gaze upon this bronze serpent, none will destroy him, and the one who will believe in this bronze serpent will be saved." For this is Christ; those who believed in him have received life. Those who did not believe will die. (NHC IX3)
Jesus, in this role, becomes the serpent and the deliverer of truth and knowledge. He becomes the adversary of evil and ignorance, and the guardian of the secret path to enlightenment and salvation.
Gregory of Tours also retroactively inserts Jesus into the Garden of Eden, though not as the serpent. In Gregory’s A History of the Franks Jesus is again associated directly with Adam, drawing on the Paul’s logic introduced in his letters.
In the beginning the Lord shaped the heaven and the earth in his Christ, […] And while he [Adam] slept a rib was taken from him and the woman, Eve, was created. There is no doubt that this first man Adam before he sinned typified the Redeemer. For as the Redeemer slept in the stupor of suffering and caused water and blood to issue from his side, he brought into existence the virgin and unspotted church, redeemed by blood, purified by water, having no spot or wrinkle, that is, washed with water to avoid a spot, stretched on the cross to avoid a wrinkle. These first human beings, who were living happily amid the pleasant scenes of Paradise, were tempted by the craft of the serpent. They transgressed the divine precepts and were cast out from the abode of angels and condemned to the labors of the world. (Gregory of Tours, p.21)
By the time of Gregory, the analogy formed between Jesus and Adam had taken on a whole new life. Paul’s original intention was arguably a radical social reorganization that did away with class and marital distinctions within the place of prayer (Ruden, 2010, p.88), but by the end of the 4th Century the analogy seemed reserved for those engaged in the spiritually elite practices of asceticism. By the 6th Century, in Merovingian France, the western Roman Empire had fallen and competition had arisen between the eastern and western branches of the church, and Gregory writes of the “virgin and unspotted church”, which in this context would seem to have taken prominence over Jesus’ mortal companions. Undoubtedly, Jesus’ mortal brides are folded into Gregory’s understanding of the sprawling body of the church, but it is the institution and not the individuals who matter in this refiguring. The analogy presented here forms a more complex and broader understanding of the parallels between Jesus and Adam established by Paul, in that the role of woman has been co-opted by the institution and as Eve came from Adam and led men into temptation, the Church came from Jesus and will lead men into salvation. The narrative presents a satisfying affirmation of the institution of the church which had grown politically powerful under the Roman Empire and had survived as an institutional vestige of into the relative chaos of Western Europe’s medieval period. This emphasis on the institution over the individual serves to place the church squarely in the role of intermediary between mortals and the divine, eliminating the personal intimacy implied by Paul’s marriage of the women of his congregation to Jesus Christ.

Even dealing with such a small subset of the larger library of Biblical commentary the task of analyzing the permutations of even one Biblical story reveals a diverse mutative tradition with an imposing number of potential sources. While this paper has focused primarily on sources within the Christian tradition, much work can be done to further illustrate the role canonization plays in identity formation and social positioning. Gregory of Tours’ is a satisfying place to end this particular line of inquiry into the evolving role of Genesis 1-4. Offering a changing narrative stretching from the time of its canonization during the First Temple Period as a product of high culture under the auspices of the kings of Judah, to Paul’s analogizing the natures of Adam and Jesus to challenge social mores, to the fixture of that belief within the community of the faithful and finally to have Gregory point to it as a means of justifying and legitimizing a powerful elite institution in a vastly different cultural environment.

The research presented here is by no means comprehensive. Further avenues of address should include a more robust sampling of mainstream Christian primary sources from the 3rd and 4th Centuries, Jewish commentary from the 2nd Century onward as well as Islamic exegesis contemporary with later Christian and Jewish writings. Additionally, expanding the scope of “original” Biblical texts could reveal other relationships and points of comparison important to the understanding of the creation of identity during the formative years of the Judeo-Christian faiths. 
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Herrnstein-Smith, B. (2000). Contingencies of value. In D Richter (Ed.), Falling into theory (pp. 147-152). New York: Bedford/St. Martin.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Would You Like to Fry in Hell With that Shake?

This is a paper I wrote for my Late Antique Monotheism Class, I changed the title for web publication. I wasn't really happy with the way it turned out; I had a LOT more I wanted to say on the issue, but with a looming deadline and other school worries... well, it is what it is...
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It is popular sport to compare modern America to Rome, usually as a warning of impending collapse, an illumination of a seemingly obvious arc that demonstrates the simplest rule of gravity: what goes up must come down. This analogy generally points to a singular, though admittedly broad, cause for Roman collapse: sin. Though the word itself often goes unsaid, it can be recognized by its semi-euphemistic replacements: excess, overindulgence or any number of other words which speak to the widespread vice of the Romans. These terms conjure up a society conquered by the evils of alcohol and promiscuity, one so consumed with Bacchanalian orgies that it forgot to govern itself and could not be bothered to trifle with rampaging barbarian hordes. This historically suspect account of the fall of the Roman Empire circulates in American culture as a matter of convenience, casting a popular modern cultural anxiety as the villain in a sort of post-Christian morality tale. Of course, this is not to suggest that Christians and Jews living under Roman rule viewed their contemporary governments as being free of excess; on the contrary, the criticisms of Church fathers and rabbinical voices of Late Antiquity provide not only the basis for this limited understanding of Rome’s fall, but they also form the ideological foundation for modern anxieties surrounding sin and its effect on social stability. Of course, the anti-Christian Gibbonian response to the patristic narrative is an equally unsatisfying portrayal of Christian influences on Roman civilization as parasitic and culturally foreign. Both of these interpretations, the positivist and the Gibbonian, suggest that Judeo-Christian thinking was ideologically separate from the secular management of the state and its resources. Recent scholarship surrounding Late Antique society and identity have done a great deal to frame these ancient religious scholars within the context of their times. When these critics are viewed as an organic extension of their society they are revealed as objects of comparison in their own right, parallel champions of a question of orthodoxy preserved down through the labyrinthine meanderings of the prototypical Christian heart. By comparing Late Antique ascetic voices with the religious and dietary movements of nineteenth century America I will demonstrate that the spiritual anxieties established during the formative years of Christianity were very much alive and well as spiritual concerns in the early modern American mind, and I will further demonstrate the persistence of these views in modern popular culture. This approach seeks to position these social criticisms, from the Late Antique to the modern, firmly within a continuous genre of text and behavior that is first and foremost an internal cultural production.
The American evangelist and early dietitian Sylvester Graham began his career lecturing on the virtues of temperance in 1829, rising to national prominence through the 1930s; during this period he developed a comprehensive system to explain human physiology, one which asserted a direct correlation between health and the moral implications of food choice and sexuality (Nissenbaum, pg. 33). At the same time, the Shaker movement in America had grown to approximately 4,000 members living in celibate religious communes at its height in the 1830s (Foster, pg. 17). That same decade saw the Mormon founding prophet Joseph Smith Jr. gathering supporters to his ministry, preaching a newly revealed religious testament; he was murdered by an angry mob in 1844. That same year, not far from Joseph Smith’s hometown, hundreds of Millerites gathered in a field to welcome the prodigal son of God, Jesus Christ, back to Earth. He was a no-show, but that did not stop many of the Millerites (henceforth referred to as Adventists, the largest surviving branch of the Millerite movement) from reformulating his return date, and eventually the very definition of what it meant for Christ to return in order to rectify their observations with their messianic expectations. What about this period brought about fresh apocalyptic discourse, new bouts of prophecy, persecution and martyr narratives, and newfound interest in asceticism and the widespread fetishism of dietary regulation? Lawrence Foster and Stephen Nissenbaum, studying sexuality in pre-Civil War religious movements and Sylvester Graham respectively, both seem to point to the emergence of the market economy in Jacksonian America and the uncertainty of the shift from rural subsistence culture to a more dynamic economic system which incorporated wider regional commerce systems and the abandonment of the household as the primary producer as chief cause of spiritual anxiety (Foster, pg. 5; Nissenbaum, pg.5 ). While I do not dispute the impact of economic systems on the daily lives of the common people, I am less inclined to fully ascribe the success of these movements to a Marxist understanding of class dissatisfaction within a community marginalized by its inability to compete in emerging regional agricultural markets (namely, northeastern farmers versus Ohio valley farmers). While this localized depression and fracturing of family units in favor of labor mobility in the emerging industrial society might explain the penchant for communal living amongst these emerging movements as an economic response, they do not necessarily satisfy to explain the extreme religiosity of these groups. I would instead point firstly to the larger instability of the new American nation, not much older than most of the early adherents to these movements, with its rapid expansion and recent history of violence (the War of 1812 undoubtedly serving as a watershed moment in the lives of many of these religious leaders) possibly contributing to a lack of meaningful national identity or fear of state collapse while at the same time opening up the promise of new beginnings and territory in which an ideal polity might arise. Secondly, I would argue that the desire to establish a more perfect society in the religious sense has been a continuous endeavor within Judeo-Christian communities at least from the time of Late Antiquity onward, whereby a religious group seeking to achieve an earthly spiritual perfection separates itself from a larger population to achieve a closer connection to divinity; in that sense, these new movements arose as the ideological heirs of a distinctly (though not uniquely) American colonial ambition which traces its roots back to those first Puritan communities to establish themselves on the Atlantic coastline. That these particular movements also arose at a time of vast reimagining of territorial interrelationships and economic change should not distract from the fact that this issue of cultural purity was an ongoing cyclical pursuit predating the market economy and, for that matter, Marxist analysis of class relationships. Therefore, I think it best to describe these movements as long-standing conventional Judeo-Christian responses necessitated by contemporary existential challenges. This genre would, in fact, fall into a broader category of identity narratives formed in response to external stimulus. So, to explore this in terms of a less specific response I find it helpful to form a weak analogous relationship between Late Antique Christian Rome and 1800s Christian America.
The weakness of the American national identity, though manifest in these nineteenth century religious movements, is perhaps better demonstrated by the growing gulf between the northern and southern states which would eventually lead to the American Civil War. The uncertainty of the political and economic climate at this time in the United States is perhaps comparable to the tenuous position of Rome in Late Antiquity from the Third Century Crisis onward. Further extending, and perhaps straining, this metaphor one could argue that early colonial America most closely resembles the newly Christianized empire following the ascension of Constantine. Both periods are marked by an establishment of religious agency for Christians in the form Constantine’s legitimization of Christianity and the de facto freedom of religion in colonial America which was later codified by the First Amendment clause preventing state sanction or prohibition of religion; this factor coupled with the possibility of governmental collapse in the 1800s as a result of internal struggle or outside invasion perhaps encouraged the people to cleave toward religious identities rather than political ones in spite of secular empowerment. This is a superficial comparison, but one which illustrates comparable conditions under which certain struggles for orthodoxy might arise. It is telling that following Constantine’s rise to power that a Christian church which had been at least nominally united in purpose and common suffering quickly fractured into a wide array of competing Christianities, each trying to gain popular and state support for its brand of faith. The forums for the exchange and legitimization of Christian theology were the ecumenical councils initiated by Constantine in an effort to mandate uniformity throughout the Empire in effort cultivate a valuable cultural resource. Lacking a governmental entity to drive debate the early American churches competed exclusively for public support, which of course carries real political capital in a democracy. In Joseph Smith’s telling of his pre-prophetic struggles with choosing a denomination he describes the spiritual tension present in his community during his adolescent years:
Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester [New York], there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist. For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.[…] In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it? (Smith)

This scene is more than slightly reminiscent of the souring of early Christian communities under Constantine; in both cases, most if not all of the sects perceived common cause in the Christianization of the people, but once the ideological terrain was established the participants found their portions lacking and proceeded to attack rival organizations. Though Smith describes a relatively local spiritual revival, I would argue that these questions of faith arose in the historically puritanical New England as one of many responses throughout the fledgling nation to the larger condition of the state. The conflict itself is more or less comparable to the increasing arena of ideas in Late Antiquity which featured regional disputes played out on an empire-wide stage. These sectarian behaviors would seem to indicate that differences of belief and practice are tolerable until such a point that organizations are forced to compete for limited resources (money, political influence, believers and so forth). While this does invoke a Marxist approach to competition over resources, I think it important to note that these group identities were engaged in complex economies that defy simple class designation incorporating both material and spiritual currencies; each group certainly saw itself as being spiritually rich or elite by virtue of purity, but ultimately the spiritual debates tended to be won by those who engaged it with material means, as demonstrated by the hefty bribes paid by Cyril to officials in Constantinople to ensure the success of his theological position, or the active legal persecution of Mormons as an insurgent group in Missouri (Maas, pg. 123)
Having established a passable analogy through which to illustrate the larger socio-economic factors in the New England religious revivals and Late Antiquity which might have spawned broader questions of identity in these distant Christian communities, I would like to further narrow these responses to the reemergence of uniquely Judeo-Christian narratives. Which is to say that, given the above circumstances, particularly in the light of emerging regional identities evidenced by the eventual secession of the American Confederates, the struggles these Christian groups engaged in were not purely theological in nature. First, I would like to address persecution narratives which, though not purely Christian, occupy a prominent position in the larger Christian narrative. The animosity unleashed in Late Antique councils held by newly liberated Christians from the point of view of a challenged would have seemed nothing short of a persecution. Gregory of Nazianzius, at the time Bishop of Constantinople and a supporter of the ultimately victorious Trinitarian view of God, described the manner in which he was challenged by his opponents in no uncertain terms, “[…]They were like a swarm of wasps suddenly darting up in one’s face and, far from attempting to chasten them, the august assembly of elders actually joined the demonstration.” (Nazianzus, pg. 123). Joseph Smith’s account of local early opposition to his prophetic pronouncements is virtually identical.
[…]though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.

The similarity of established narratives in these two periods indicate a strong continuity of response in Christian communities to questions of orthodoxy, both internal and external to innovative groups. Specifically of interest are the indictment of the “men in high standing” and “the august assembly of elders” who engage in the petty shouting down of righteous men clarifying the will of God. This can be directly correlated to the earliest Christian challenges of entrenched Judaism, with the Pharisee challenges to Jesus and his apostles.
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day."At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.[…]The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them.(Acts 23:1-10)

In this uniquely Christian sense, it is not enough to be challenged by the young and foolish, but to be persecuted by the supposedly wise elders leading the community away from salvation. This urge to position Christianity as a battle against entrenched falsehoods is continuous throughout Christian history even when those narratives pit the larger Christian community against itself; those seeking to innovate or reform assume a Christlike identity in the face of a corrupt Pharisaic body. The adoption of these Christ-like identities is especially important in the ascetic tradition of Late Antiquity, and is further reflected in the practices of 1800s American religious attitudes. Though not unique to Christian practices, these devout religious groups actively participated in the colonization and sanctification of public space through the formation of isolated communities in which members could engage in a form of group spiritual purity. These communities, in both times, establish a space in which all aspects of social commerce were approached from a religious standpoint. On the grander end of the scale there are the recurring attempts to re-colonize Jerusalem in an effort to approximate or realize the Christian apocalyptic notion of the heavenly Jerusalem on Earth. Robert Wilkens’ The Land Called Holy describes this surviving Christian connection to a physical Jerusalem as “[…]an irreplaceable sign of continuity with the first Christian community and with Christ[…]”. In this sense, the reclamation of Zion serves to connect Christian communities with their past and by extension to that original promise of salvation given by Christ to the faithful. In Late Antiquity, this amounted to the transformation of Jerusalem under Constantine into a physical Christian Holy Land complete with Churches marking the locations of milestones in the life and resurrection of Jesus. This desire can be seen further played out in the colonization of desert space outside of Jerusalem by Christian ascetics attempting to sanctify the public and personal aspects of society. In the early modern movements these upstart religious movements certainly formed their own communities in the public space through the foundation of new churches and church hierarchies, publications, whole communities (in the case of the Shakers and Mormons), and in the case of the Mormons the foundation of a full-blown independent theocratic state cast in the mold of Jerusalem and ruled by the Earthly prophet (and successor to the martyred Joseph Smith) Brigham Young in the Utah territory… until the United States Cavalry peacefully asserted United States authority over the region. These are but a few examples of the uniquely Christian narratives to survive into the formative period of modern American culture, but these Biblical expressions also arrived part and parcel with other notions established in Late Antique which have their roots in the Biblical exegesis of the period.
In highlighting specific concerns for purity derived from extra-Biblical narratives in Late Antiquity, I hope to demonstrate that anxieties surrounding personal purity survived into modern times, transmitted through the ages by Christian thinkers, though not necessarily codified by canonical scripture. Thus I am hoping to demonstrate the continuation of a uniquely Christian ascetic narrative both within and separate from the mainstream narrative which resurfaced in the popular thinking of Jacksonian America. The accounts of the lives of saints in early Christian literature there is a recurring theme of temptation or challenge by dark forces frequently taking the form of—though certainly not limited to—the following “vices”: women, food, alcohol and money. All of these concerns can be explained through biblical passages, however, of particular note is the connection that some of these objects have in the Late Antique mind. While many cultures possess a communal knowledge of aphrodisiacs, ranging from oysters to bull testicles to I the aptly named horny goat weed, Late Antique thinkers—perhaps drawing on Hellenestic medicine or Jewish table law or some combination of the two—developed a complicated worldview surrounding the relationship between food and sexuality. In these communities there was, among other things, a link between fasting and virginity, the idea that one’s body could be more chaste through the denial of fleshly concerns. Late antique interest in virgin spiritual language combined with notions of fasting, which in turn are likely partly derived from Greco-Roman medical ideas about healthy dietary habits which linked the perceived properties of food to their likely effects on the physical body (to include sexual effects), led to an inextricable tie between spiritual health and bodily purity governed by stimulation. The direct correlation between gluttony and lust are present throughout Christian ascetic literature; Basil of Ancyra pointedly provides the following warning:
[…]through the sense of touch in tasting—which is always seducing toward gluttony by swallowing—the body, fattened up and titillated by the soft humors bubbling uncontrollably inside, is carried in a frenzy toward the touch of sexual intercourse. (Shaw, pg. 85)

Outside of the Christian community in Late Antiquity a competing dietary tradition existed amongst the Germanic tribes which would one day overtake the Roman west. This excerpt from Einhard’s Life of Charlegmagne can perhaps make the differences between Late Antique Christian attitudes toward diet and early medieval Christian traditions clear:
His meals ordinarily consisted of four courses, not counting the roast, which his huntsmen used to bring in on the spit[…]he was moderate in the use of wine and all sorts of drink that he rarely allowed himself more than three cups in the course of a meal. (Einhard, pg. 59)

Perhaps it’s not fair to apply this meal to the modern conventional division of meals between breakfast, lunch and dinner, but there is a very stark difference between dietary habits of what would become the ruling class in Christendom and the early monastic movements… which isn’t to say that those movements did not persist, but simply that the popular culture carried on with the notion that rich food and vitality were good things. How strange then that more than a thousand years later that a self-appointed doctor and registered minister should be diagnosing all the physical ailments of Jacksonian America as debility brought about by imperious dietary habits that provoked lust in the hearts meat-eaters everywhere creating a physiological imbalance(Nissenbaum, pg. 127). It should come as no surprise then that as Sylvester Graham was championing his purer dietary systems, the feverous religious movements of the same day began to incorporate his teachings into their own. Joseph Smith, as early as 1833, had begun incorporating ideas promoted by Graham into Mormon doctrine.
Use of wine, strong drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks proscribed; Herbs, fruits, flesh, and grain are ordained for the use of man and of animals; Obedience to gospel law, including the Word of Wisdom, brings temporal and spiritual blessings. (Smith, Sect. 89 ln. 1-21) Today, a large number of Adeventists still practice vegetarianism.
It is often easy to distinguish overtly religious responses in our society; however, there are times when these reactions are so deeply coded into the fabric of our culture as to not be readily apparent. I am particularly interested in how these ideas transform over time to adapt to new generations and new, even contradictory, attitudes. Few people would consider eating a hamburger to be a particularly sexual act, and yet our pop-culture has preserved the notional link between gluttony and sexual deviance. What constitutes gluttony has certainly changed, as has what constitutes sexual deviance. In 2009, two movies were released in which female bodies were being remotely controlled in sexual situations by obese men. In one of the movies, Gamer, the man is actively eating a sandwich while forcing a woman to have non-consensual sex with similarly controlled human avatar named “Rick Rape”. Over the years, the food has gotten unhealthier, the sexual deviance has gotten more deviant and the gluttons have gotten more glutted, but the message is the same and not one most Americans would recognize or even correlate to religion. In this sense, we can place the preservation of Late Antique Christian responses in to three basic categories: those which are tied to a need for generic identity, those specifically tied to biblical identity narratives and those which persist as specific ideas. All have carried on in one way or another into modern times, and in all likelihood will continue to carry forward whether we recognize them for what they are or not.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Adam Blue and the Bastard Boys of Fedaliya

This are the first five pages of a chapter in progress. I am nowhere near happy with it yet. So consider that a warning.

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Chapter 11

Night, Day 40: Adam Blue and the Bastard Boys of Fedaliya

The buildings in Fedaliya emerged from the sparse landscape like cracked clay pots; ragged mud walls framed the crumbling family compounds which had been loosely tossed over the landscape by the blind architects of momentary convenience to create a winding community of intermittent, populous and filthy estates. The gaps between these tiny fiefdoms were clotted with refuse, makeshift shacks and stagnant pools of water ranging the entire spectrum of spent automobile fluids, giving the entire impoverished Shiite neighborhood the feel and appearance of an occupied landfill. The passage between Fedaliya and the abutted, and only modestly better to do, community of Kamaliya was a rough and serpentine unfinished thoroughfare sitting atop a large dirt fill, comically referred to amongst Americans as “Dead Cow Road”, a name the locals seemed determine to immortalize by dragging their dead livestock up the steep slopes on either side to rot in the open air. The intended effect was two-fold: to dissuade Americans from entering the neighborhood and to make apparent their disgust with the broken incinerator they had once used to dispose of trash and that same ruined livestock. Their passive-aggressiveness failed to accomplish either of these ends. The soldiers charged with the daily patrols had grown accustomed to the stench and relished the opportunity to ferry unsuspecting officers, those who had grown bold enough to temporarily venture from safety of their swivel chairs on the FOB to test their mettle, through the putrid corridor.
At night, in the absence of an electric grid, the only sources of public lighting were the headlamps of American humvees and the flickering fluorescent bulbs bolted to the side of the Al-Kinani Beverage Market and Husayniya. It was a singular self-sufficient oasis, a one-room, concrete building bisected by a tarp to separate a small and reverent worship area from crowded shelves of dry goods and a single humming refrigerator filled to bursting with cans of juice and soft-drinks. With its steady supply of junk food and illumination, the shop was a popular destination for Fedaliya’s more listless, less well to do inhabitants: which is to say, most of them. The hubbub of activity made for a convenient stopping point for visiting Americans to connect with the locals, quench their pallets and generally jam an obtrusive thumb into what was in all likelihood the asshole of Baghdad.
Adam’s squad and an Iraqi interpreter, Buster, stood like hunched vagrants at the shining cultural nexus of that asshole, leaning against a tattered mural of Mohammad Sadiq Al-Sadr on the east facing side of the beverage market.
“I’ll tell you what, you know, when I went out on patrol with the armor guys last week I saw the weirdest fucking thing.” Jane glistened with sweat in the balmy night; her eyes were dark and plump from lack of sleep as she stepped away from the wall to address her companions.
“So there we are, down in Sumer Al-Ghadier, really nice neighborhood, sort of walled off with Ministry of the Interior roadblocks. Apparently, there’s some Iraqi high up there and he’s got guys in street clothes armed with AKs just standing around and looking tough, and he had a bunch of private bodyguards hanging out, fucking goons, biggest goddamn Iraqis ever. But anyway, we’re there and I see this dude on the other side of the roadblock looking over a fence, and here’s the thing… he doesn’t look Iraqi. You ever see an Asian hanging out on the street? I bet you fucking haven’t. Well, we go over and start trying to talk to this guy, and he doesn’t speak English or Arabic. Why? The motherfucker’s a Chinese national, just chilling out in Baghdad. What the fuck are the Chinese doing here?”
Sergeant Alcott’s spun to face his soldiers. A candy bar fell to the earth, a plume of dust rolled outward from the site of impact. Alcott bobbled quickly toward the group from the semi-circle of trucks providing security for the dismounted soldiers. His massive frame was made even more imposing by his protective vest and the huge assault pack slung across his back.
“Why didn’t you tell me you caught spy, Sergeant? Goddamn inter-fuckin-national espionage, that’s what that was. Anyone say what the interrogators got out of him? Probably some sort of wonton eatin’, commie superspy. Good job, Davenport, nothing gets by my soldiers. Highly trained. Combat ready.”
“We let him go.” Jane shrugged. “He wasn’t doing anything.”
Alcott’s jaw dropped. Cowboy slammed his hat against the horizon and let out a drunken holler. The two were stunned. Cowboy collected his rage first.
“Dagnab, woman! How you gonna go and let the Red Chinese slip outta yer hands! You listenin’ to this horseshit, Adam? What’s she mean he weren’t doin’ nothin’? He was there weren’t he? He was bein’ Chinese plain as day weren’t he? Since when don’t that constitute somethin’ ain’t right? Need him to hand ya a fortune cookie says, ‘Golly, miss, I been up to some no good commie bullshit’n tryin’ to destroy yer way of life’ or somethin’? Hot damn, that gets me riled.”
“What do you mean he wasn’t doing anything? Did you search him, did you search his house?” Alcott spat a brown lump of cud at his feet, it splattered on his toe. “Anything?”
“No, he was just standing there. We asked some of the neighbors and they said he was a fixing satellite service or something. It’s not like I was in charge, they said leave it alone. I did.”
“Satellitin’ yer goddamn location right back to them goddamn Maoist cocksuckers!” Cowboy’s face flushed, thinking about far away pandas and all the evils they embodied.
Alcott drew a hand up to the side of his head, blood pounding in his ears, his mind skirting a terrible realization: the Chinese had turned American Army officers against their own government.
“Davenport, come here. We need to talk offline. Get in the truck.” Alcott grabbed Jane by her sleeve and led her away from the group.
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“You guys been taking dumps off the side of the tower or something?” Lieutenant Brenard called over the push-to-talk radio clipped to Peter’s chest.
Peter grasped at the radio, tugging it from its perch.
“Maybe, why?”
Peter had been put in charge of the squad communications. This all important social distinction primarily came about because Peter had lobbied Brenard personally, pitting the Platoon Leader’s hatred of Alcott against every reasonable objection to having to listen to Peter’s incessant and often distracting diatribe against the social injustices perpetuated by the American military industrial complex.
“You got some kids eyeballing the fuck out of you. Where’s fatty going?”
“He’s all worked the fuck up because Jane let a Chinese super spy get away.”
“What?”
Peter thumbed the transmitter, letting static pour over the connection for a moment to create a sense of the dramatic.
“Word on the street is he’s smuggling the secret location of an all-you-can-eat buffet. Only one man can keep all those pork wontons out of terrorist hands.”
The occasional clever wise-crack at the expense of Alcott and Alcott’s blubbering inexpressible rage at the political content crackling through the device filled Brenard with such a deep satisfaction that he couldn’t help but intercede and buck the tried and true system of giving the coolest shit to the people with the highest rank. By all rights, the radio should have gone to Jane. The only time this system of distribution could be bypassed was when, as in Peter’s case, a soldier had immediate access either through social privilege or by virtue of job position. This common supply loophole explains why soldiers busy prosecuting the war outside the American barbed wire encampments often had to make do with substandard equipment, while soldiers who were in charge of distributing new gear were armed with state of the art implements of war. Often one could determine a soldier’s proximity to the supply chain simply from the accoutrement festooning his or her rifle. Peter was proud of the number of widgets screwed into his gun, not so much because they made him a more efficient killer as for the fact that they clearly illustrated his gilded position within the military social hierarchy. Alcott often glanced from the bareness of his own rifle to the cluster of infrared lasers, high-powered scopes, ergonomic handgrips and personalized slings crowding the actual functioning parts of Peter’s rifle with disgust and wonder. The brand-spanking-new bipod affixed to Peter’s barrel was left ever open and extended for all the world to envy, the firearm equivalent of a shameless public hard on. It was a hard on equivalent that Alcott couldn’t look away from.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Autogenesis: The Terminator and the Art of Self-Conception

I feel like this could still use some tweaking. I was limited to about 4 pages, so I couldn't cover everything I wanted to say. If it seems like I leave a point shy of fully explored, I apologize. If you can think of ways to change it without changing its length, I'm all ears. The last sentence is sort of in place-holder status right now--I haven't fully settled.
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It takes no great act of intellectual gymnastics to draw a reasonable connection between the elements of James Cameron’s 1984 film The Terminator and what can be euphemistically called a woman’s technology of choice. In the film, a machine disguised by a biological human exterior travels into the past in order to “terminate” Sarah Connor’s unborn child, John Connor, who happens to grow up to lead a post-apocalyptic resistance against the robot overlords: a job he can use to pad his resume at Kinkos once the mechanical-ragnarok settles down. Apparently, freedom fighting is a tough to market skill set, but nobody deals with a broken copier like John Connor. Now, an attempt to justify that tangent: John’s mother is the copier, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is the ultra-buff cyborg sent from the future to blast her toner cartridge apart with a shotgun. The Terminator’s globally scaled technophobic nightmare centers on the control of one working class woman’s reproductive equipment, a narrative which on the surface appears to present a heroine breaking away from a life of mediocrity to overcome impossible odds and seize mastery of her genitive processes away from a terrifying embodiment of an oppressive patriarchy. Closer examination of the gendering of the film’s characters reveals a far less liberating subtext, one which puts to question how our culture chooses to frame reproductive technologies and the evolution of gender roles in the modern world.

The unseen driving force behind the Terminator’s hunt for Sarah Connor is the enigmatic Skynet, the artificial intelligence responsible for the future near-extermination of humanity. Skynet itself is a non-gendered entity; its apparatus of interaction in the film is a hulking visually imposing male figure. Of course, the maleness of the Terminator itself can be called into question: is gender defined by appearance or motivation? As a machine, the Terminator does not possess a “male” mind, but rather a gender neutral mind. It seems unlikely that the cyborg’s appearance bears any relation to Skynet’s sense of self; rather, it draws on a cultural understanding of what is intimidating. This could be a formulation on the part of the artificial intelligence, but the decision to mold a cyborg specifically designed to infiltrate the tattered remains of humanity in the shape of a looming six-foot-two bodybuilder appears a bit conspicuous and as such seems to be a somewhat impractical decision for a super computer to make, pointing instead to a preference of human origin: that of the film makers. So, ignoring the aesthetic display of masculinity—a mask really—Skynet and its Terminator ultimately exist as a technology with a singular purpose in the film: to usurp authority over Sarah’s baby-maker and stop it.

If the Terminator is an instrument of abortion and Sarah Connor the film’s everywoman, then one of the implications presented is that abortion is harmful to every woman; a point driven home by the cyborg’s murder of Sarah’s mother and all the Sarah Connors in the phone directory. All these women, by virtue of their alikeness, are essentially unidentified casualties of a conflict surrounding motherhood and reproductive decisions being waged by forces situated beyond the periphery of knowable existence.

Time travel in The Terminator aside from being a practical method of naked transportation between two points, provided those points are separated by time instead of space, also works as a form of what Petchesky describes as womb surveillance. The characters from the future possess special knowledge of Sarah’s unborn child. The importance attached to this knowledge upon delivery, that she must save her own life and secure her role as mother, anchors her to a destiny which she has had no part in devising. The case presented by the male hero, Kyle, mirrors the function, argued by both advocates and opponents of abortion, of a sonogram in that it is meant to bond the woman to her progeny through the anthropomorphizing of the fetus, even going a step further by assigning the unborn child a name and purpose. Kyle is also represented as a human opposite to the machine hunting Sarah down, a rescuer, but his mission is no more liberating than the Terminator’s, both present the same binary option: embrace motherhood or face catastrophe. If Sarah does not have a reasonable opportunity to self-assign gender roles, then with whom does the power actually rest and whose power is threatened by the cyborg? At the start of the film, Sarah is merely another Sarah Connor, one of many on a list, and only through embracing the goals of a traditional patriarchy, a cultural institution built largely on the management of the female genitive process, can she be fully realized in the fictional world of The Terminator. Cameron’s narrative establishes an illustrative, if paradoxical, cycle of womb administration as a reproductive custody passing from father to son to father, the mother first surrendering to the ambitions of the father and then deferring to the son’s wishes. John Connor’s implied manipulation of his own conception breaths vivid life into the sometimes tired and overly-speculative art of diagnosing an oedipal complex.

John and Sarah, when judged in terms of free agency, make for more interesting foils than Kyle and the Terminator, who act only on behalf of another’s will utilizing imperfect knowledge of Sarah’s womb-destiny to steer events. Sarah is by far the least powerful figure in the film, acted upon by agents of entities not yet existent, devoid of special intimate awareness of her body, and forcibly assigned the role of motherhood. John, on the other hand, is the most powerful character in the story, having all but defeated Skynet—the only other entity capable of orchestrating actions based on knowledge of events situated in Sarah’s future—and having self-defined to what should be an impossible degree of specificity. John Connor is his own maker whereas Sarah is made, defined by a family line over which she has no authority.

The Terminator presents itself as a cautionary tale of technology gone awry, claiming free agency for women and trumpeting the defeat of a masculine archetype. Instead, it makes a case for what every woman should want: a benevolent patriarchy which bestows upon her a precious baby boy to maintain the continuity of human existence. John Connor is, through his own paradoxical origins, an immaculately conceived savior with no clear beginnings; when he looks back over his own history he does not see the agency of others but rather the workings of his own hand. He is a sort of modern divinity reasserting the power of men over life and death, invoking a mythical tradition of male parthenogenesis to defeat technologies which threaten patriarchal order. The film recasts gender neutral forces, giving technology a sinister goal and appropriating the feminist understanding of the enemy as a hyper-masculine bogeyman in order to achieve a pseudo-feminization of the womb-management of the classical patriarchy by presenting a female character as being strong in the face of an invented mutual enemy. The Terminator generates an argument against reproductive technologies that it cannot possibly lose, because who sides with killer robots?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Where are the Greek Villains?

Where are the Greek Villains?

Greek mythology introduces a pantheon of heroes, superhuman beings capable of performing impossible deeds, unbound by human limitation. Modern narratives typically dictate a force in opposition to heroism: villainy. Often the Gods and heroes themselves are embodied as agents of both forces. Gods punish wantonly, demanding vengeance, blood, destruction and sacrifice from those who offend them; heroes slaughter entire cities kit and caboodle for the sake of glory and treasure. While morality certainly does exist within the scope of Greek literature, the characters are reflections of an imperfect world capable of good and evil. Perhaps one of the keys to reconciling the context in which a laudable hero can commit acts of treachery and wholesale slaughter is an understanding of the one-world model of Greek mythology. The gods do not inhabit some other plane of existence, but rather make their homes at the peaks of mountains and within the temples of their favored cities and islands. While their domains are rarely accessible, they are present in the lives of mortals. Even the land of the dead can be reached by a particularly bold traveler. The entire spectrum of being existed in this mutually shared space. A world model which does not separate goodness from evil into meaningfully distinct camps precludes the creation of villains as they appear in modern works.

In order to advance this argument, it must be first demonstrated that despite the fact that many of these tales are born of a more distant past, they do actually reflect the world view of the Classical Greek audience. Within the texts of the Epic Cycle there are repeated indications that the events occurring are not contemporaneous with the poet. The opening invocation of the muses indicates a lack of firsthand knowledge in the matters being discussed; after all, why should a poet need to invoke a minor goddess to tell him how to describe an event he bore witness to? (Carpenter, 24) Archaeological findings confirm the separation between the Mycenaean Greek origin of these myths and the Classical Greek cultural prism through which modern readers interact with them. The degree to which Homer, as an Archaic or early Classical Greek, is capable of detailing the warriors’ impedimenta and the architectural style is doubly significant in that he describes them in great specificity and equally great historical inaccuracy. The implication is that he substituted what he knew for those things which he either did not know or did not see value in repeating. (Carpenter, 31) It stands to reason then, if Homer altered the story to reflect details which would be familiar to a Classical Greek audience then he likely emphasized or introduced themes which would also resonate culturally. Though these myths may be the product of another age, the form encountered by modern readers is certainly one which was intended for, and therefore reflective of, Classical Greek audiences. Were the opposite true, then The Lion King and West Side Story might be called accurate portrayals of Shakespearian drama, an assertion unlikely to win praise in any scholarly circles.

Having established that these texts were composed with a Classical or pre-Classical Greek audience in mind, it becomes necessary to turn to the works of Hesiod: Theogony and Works and Days to define the nature of the Greek cosmos. Greek cosmology occurs entirely within the scope of that which is observable; Hesiod describes all of existence, excluding that which is generated exclusively by the yawning nothingness of chaos, as the product of the Earth and the Sky, everything in existence lies between. “In truth at first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth[…]And Earth first bore starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods.”(Hesiod, “Theogony” ln.116-126) The Earth, Gaia, created a domain in which the Gods would dwell, and by extension the creations of the gods. Within the Greek tradition, the Gods take on a decidedly anthropomorphic form, reflecting successive familial lineages stemming from the origin of existence, leading to an ordered cosmos under the rule of Zeus. (Clay, 13) Within this existence the gods create humankind, which takes on varying permutations through the ages as the divine powers apparently attempt to get the formula right. The final incarnations of the human race, the races of heroes and iron, would seem to blend into one another, a progression characterized by a diffusion of the divine stock present in the gene pool. (Clay, 93) This distinction between the mythological races of men is vital to the Classical Greek understanding of Homer’s works, as the mortal characters belong to the race of heroes and the audience to the race of iron. It is additionally useful in illustrating the mixture of good and evil within their world. “For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labor and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils.” (Hesiod, “Works and Days” ln.176-179)

The fact that Homeric characters exist in a world without absolutes helps to explain why Hector, the mightiest Trojan warrior in the Iliad, with his perfect filial loyalty and prowess in battle can also stiffen out of fear at the thought of fighting Achilles. It can also serve to explain how Athena, the goddess of wisdom, can engage in trickery to convince him to fight Achilles by posing as his brother and successfully goading him forward with the prospect of victory through dirty two-on-one tactics, only to disappear, abandoning him at his final moment. Hector’s lapse of courage and brief abandonment of honor do not rob him of his heroic status, nor do Athena’s actions make her monstrous, instead it fixes them within the framework of functioning singular cosmos. In this sense, Greek mythical figures, though exaggerated, are made compelling by their realism, as opposed to exemplifying a purely static and impossible ideological archetype. Ancient Greeks allowed for the possibility that their heroes might, in certain circumstances, behave badly. This is not to say that these characters go without judgment, on the contrary, the gods constantly weigh the virtues of their actions and mete out punishment as they see fit. The gods, being themselves imperfect, often appear heavy or light-handed in their verdicts. The magnified scale of Greek mythical figures often results in an almost absurdist system of crime and punishment. Within a single story one might find both a hero, Odysseus for example, who is guilty of genocide and is sentenced to slowed return home, waylaid by the inconvenience of erotic extramarital episodes with divine beings. In that same tale, one also finds a group of lousy houseguests, at worst guilty of conspiring against the host, who are met with wholesale slaughter. These inequities of justice are reflective of a reality which is not always fair to its participants. It should be noted that, in spite of obvious favoritism in the distribution of justice, proportionality is essential to the Greek concept of virtue versus guilt. In a world without purely manifested ideological extremes, the sum of a character’s actions determines his or her fate. A person who has done more evil than good is subject to divine wrath, whereas a character that is largely virtuous is likely to be reprieved. In the Agamemnon, Clytemnestra can be seen as just for killing her husband out of vengeance for the duel crimes of sacrificing their virgin daughter to Artemis for the sake of sacking Troy and the utter destruction of Troy itself. However, the fact that she is also an adulteress who, along with her lover, profits from the execution by usurping the kingdom dooms her. The righteousness of her actions is outweighed by the evilness of her intent. Had she been otherwise virtuous she might have escaped punishment. Orestes, her son, in killing her, balances the crime of matricide by avenging the murder of his father.

In an ethical system founded on the principle of doing more good than harm, true redemption does not exist. A character cannot achieve spiritual forgiveness, they can merely stave off the wrath of the gods by not pushing so far beyond the bounds of acceptable conduct that divine favor completely abandons them. This is reflected through the competing agendas and judgments of the gods. Odysseus, to his credit, manages to appease most of the gods, but consistently brings down the wrath of Poseidon on himself and those around him. Judeo-Christian monotheism differs in that divine forgiveness is absolute; this is reflected in the clear separation of mortal and divine affairs with the deity existing on another plane of being. Absolute goodness exists in Heaven and absolute evil exists in Hell, the mortal realm exists as a testing ground, but eternal forgiveness or damnation are uncompromising ends to which a mortal can aspire. A polytheistic one-world cosmic model differs from a monotheistic multi-world model because one offers an eventual release from the dictates of knowable existence, while the other anchors the soul to the mortal experience. Monotheism offers two possibilities, complete bliss and complete suffering, whereas the Greek system delivers the dead into a grayish limbo which is, at its finest, reflective of Thesiod’s view of the best possible life—a balance of good and evil.

Aristotle’s work Poetics provides modern scholars with a significant insight into the workings of Greek narratives. In this work, the philosopher considers the nature of the tragic narrative as well as tragic elements of the Epic Cycle. His work helps modern readers to distill the elements of Classical Greek narratives valued by those chronologically proximate to the texts.

Nor, again, should the downfall of the utter villain be exhibited. A plot of this kind would, doubtless, satisfy the moral sense, but it would inspire neither pity nor fear […] There remains, then, the character between these two extremes—that of a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. (Aristotle, “Poetics” ch.xiii)

This Aristotelian view of tragedy conceives it as a narrative detailing the downfall of a person who is neither completely virtuous nor wicked, one who is not brought to ruin through sin but rather through miscalculation, ignorance or inability which leads to a tragic turn of events. At the risk of contradicting earlier assertions regarding the moral balance of characters, it should be noted that Aristotle seems more concerned with the shocking immediacy of a narrative’s turn of events than the justness of the circumstances. (Jones, 14) Central to Aristotle’s argument is the idea that human beings are caught in the snare of fate or circumstance, in which case the morality of the participants is a secondary consideration dictating the action (response), but not necessarily the outcome. This concept can be seen to function in a variety of ways in Classical Greek narratives; the most accessible example is perhaps those warriors of the Iliad who are destined to fall in combat. Patroclus is slain because he ignores Achilles’ warning to not venture too far into battle, his mistake is hardly relevant since Apollo orchestrated his death at the hands of Hector. The role of Patroclus’ actions in this case becomes negligible since it is divine will which decides his fate. Beyond the maneuvering of mortal and divine characters within the text it is clear that Patroclus’ death serves the narrative function of drawing Achilles into battle, turning the tide of war. A direct corollary can be therefore be formed between the divine will present in the text and those things which occur to advance the narrative. Returning to the question of morality in regards to the actions of Athena and Hector, his timidity in the face of danger and her ignoble methods become nearly immaterial byproducts of fate and artistic design. In order to avoid the somewhat conspicuous contradiction between the previous claims made regarding the balance of morality and the endorsement of Aristotle’s view of the dramatic form, it becomes necessary to refine the primary argument being made. The ancient Greek world, while wholly contained within a single sphere of existence is not egalitarian in nature; fate always takes precedence over mortal ambitions. Therefore, the miscalculations of characters which are often presented as poor moral decisions serve to deliver them to their fate. The simple fact that they are destined, in the narrative sense, to make a particular choice does not preclude them from being judged.

It is fitting, having moved from discussion of a one-world cosmic model to Aristotelian dramatics, to briefly address the ontology of 5th century BCE Athenian philosophers. Firstly, the work of Plato is a two-world metaphysical model consisting of physical and metaphysical existence. The actual distinction between these planes of existence does not divide the world in a way which meaningfully damages the properties of the one-world existence previously mentioned. Plato’s two-world model separates perfect from imperfect concepts, and while he would surely argue that all perfect concepts are “better” than their imperfect counterparts, it is doubtful that he would consider them inherently “gooder” since a concept can exist in perfection without existing in a state of goodness. This separation of pure divine concepts from impure mortal concepts advances the argument that the Greek cosmos was hierarchical in nature, even outside the domain of folklore. Aristotle, Plato’s student, returns to a one-world ontological model in his Nichomachean Ethics, thus returning the divine to the immediate human experience. Aristotelian virtue relies on a concept of proportion and moderation, essentially systematizing the traditional Greek worldview to reflect a clearly defined ethical system. Returning to the fallen warriors of the Iliad, Patroclus and Hector, when their cases are applied to the Aristotelian definition courage, their actions can be further explained.

Now the brave man is as dauntless as man may be. Therefore, while he will fear even the things that are not beyond human strength, he will face them as he ought and as the rule directs, for honour's [sic] sake; for this is the end of virtue. […] Of the faults that are committed one consists in fearing what one should not, another in fearing as we should not, another in fearing when we should not, and so on; […] The man, then, who faces and who fears the right things and from the right motive, in the right way and from the right time, and who feels confidence under the corresponding conditions, is brave; […] the man who exceeds in confidence about what really is terrible is rash. […]The rash man, however, is also thought to be boastful and only a pretender to courage; at all events, as the brave man is with regard to what is terrible, so the rash man wishes to appear; and so he imitates him in situations where he can. […] The man who exceeds in fear is a coward; for he fears both what he ought not and as he ought not […] The coward, the rash man, and the brave man, then, are concerned with the same objects but are differently disposed towards them; for the first two exceed and fall short, while the third holds the middle, which is the right, position. (Aristotle, “Nichomachean Ethics” book iii, sec. 7)

Patroclus, in defying Achilles’ warning, demonstrates brashness in the face of danger; he puts on Achilles’ armor and imitates his courage in battle, but ultimately falls short of the Greek virtue of bravery because he chooses not to demonstrate reasonable fear of danger. Hector is not a coward by this Greek definition as the fear he harbors is reasonable given Achilles’ prowess in battle. By choosing to face Achilles he demonstrates moral virtue. It could be argued that his momentary willingness to abandon honorable combat is indicative of cowardice; however, the fact that he stands his ground against his opponent even after Athena abandons her ruse illustrates his true nature. The mere act of considering dishonorable action in the face of certain death does not, by Greek standards, make him a coward.

The ultimate effect of the Classical Greek worldview is the production of works devoid of true villains. At most two mythical figures might find themselves in opposition to one another, each performing virtuously in accordance with their own telos. This absence of ideological extremes is brought about by the formulation of a world view which does not subscribe to the concepts of absolute good and evil, but is more mindful of the orderly procession of a hierarchal existence. This relegates morality, in the sense that it applies to good and evil, to a secondary consideration mediated by circumstance and divine necessity. This worldview is not completely removed from modern audiences, but rather quite close to the reality which we exist. Though modern western thinkers would like to consider themselves virtuous creatures driven by a desire to perpetuate a greater good, the reality is that seemingly moral decisions are rarely absolute. These choices are made on the basis of a limiting ideology centered on the self, the social unit or the political unit. Frequently, people are called on to make decisions which benefit one group over another, and while these actions may not be called evil, they are likewise not wholly good. Ancient Greek narratives embrace this ambiguity of action, accepting that individuals and groups often work in their own interest at the detriment of others. Perhaps the modern constructions of heroism and villainy are manifestations of a deep cultural denial which seek to conceal the failings of absolutist thinking by inventing a world in which a human being can act in an irreproachable and categorically impossible inhuman manner.


Works Cited

Aristotle. (c. 350 BC) Poetics (S.H. Butcher, Trans.). Web.

< http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.mb.txt>

Aristotle. (c. 350 BC) Nichomachean Ethics (W.D. Ross, Trans.). Web.

< http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.mb.txt>

Carpenter, Rhys (1962). Folktale, Fiction and Saga. Los Angeles: University of

California Press

Clay, Jenny Strauss.(2003). Hesiod’s Cosmos. New York: Cambridge University Press

Hesiod. (c. 350 BC) Theogony (Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Trans.). Web.

< http://classics.mit.edu/Hesiod/hes.th.html>

Hesiod. (c. 350 BC) Works and Days (Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Trans.). Web.

< http://classics.mit.edu/Hesiod/hes.wd.html>

Jones, John. (1980). On Aristotle and Greek Tragedy. Palo Alto: Stanford University

Press