J.L. Gerome, A Roman Slave Market

 

Gerome was one of the famous Academic painters in nineteenth century France. He painted slave markets, ancient and modern, more than a few times, but this is the only one that, by its unusual choices, captures something insightful and morally inquisitive. This painting is an education on the meaning of love of beauty, psychologically, artistically, and politically.

Let’s start thinking through the painting with what’s obvious. The title tells us, this is a Roman slave market. There are two slaves on a platform, whom the slave trader is trying to sell to the crowd. In all, some two dozen people make up the scene. This is utterly ordinary for Rome, just as it would have been shocking in turn of the century France, or nowadays. The painter’s choices, his use of perspective and detail, try to put together what’s shocking and what’s ordinary to educate us about important things for human beings.

The terrible predicament of love of beauty

We are the audience of this painting and the scene that attracts our attention has an audience of its own. We are shown the back of a denuded slave girl, as well as her discarded robe, whereas they are shown the frontal view. This may seem like a crazy suggestion, but we need each other to make a whole of our two partial perspectives. The painter, like any of us, knows we have a power in our soul to make wholes of the fleeting, partial things we see. We know what girls look like and this image-making power of the soul would supply what is missing, that we may recognize from an inevitably partial perspective the whole that is a being. That power is our first inner critic, so to speak, letting us know what we see when we look around, and whether the painter has given us an adequate image of that which we know within ourselves.

We look at paintings primarily because we want to see beautiful images of things. Our inner critic is tickled pink to recognize images as what they are, as well as the things or people of which they are images. In this way, painters try to educate us: The beautiful bears in our souls and in our cities the responsibility for recognizing the beings. We first seize by the eye, at a glance, and that is our sense of the wholeness of each being, as a part of the world, but apart from all the other parts.

What this painter has done in this case, however, is to show us that our love of beauty, which moves us, among other things, to look at paintings, also moves people just like us to attempt to enslave. By the eye alone, the painter sells his illusions—by the eye alone, the slave seller sells his. We are not innocent when our eyes are open. Our souls are open to desires that endanger our humanity. There are obvious differences between people and their images; to say nothing else, common sense tells us we can talk to girls, but not to the images of them. Still, it were foolish to dismiss the connection between the girl and her image. We are, whatever logic might require, perfectly capable of being aroused erotically by movies, or paintings, or even poetry.

The painter has therefore generously spared us the transfixed focus we see on the faces of the eager audience of the humiliation of the slave-girl. We know, don’t we?, what all the fuss is about, but we needn’t experience quite all of it. We may see ourselves in that audience. Look at their faces, their searching eyes, the hands raised—reaching out is all about ownership in this case, so that by paying a sum of money a man is relieved of his fever—there is even a man who’s merely pointing to the spectacle and talking about it with another. In retaining our wits, we are required to examine the scene. This partial perspective is one that’s denied to the audience we see depicted. We will have to say frankly, we are made to look at the world from the slave’s perspective, not that of the master. We could say, at least in a preliminary manner, that the reason the men want to enslave the woman is because they have first been enslaved by their desires.

The poetic education of desire

We, too, notice the beautiful body of the slave girl–her health, her youth, her natural grace. Painting promises to educate our love of beauty. It is unnecessary to argue why this should be necessary when we are presented with the spectacle of slavery. Both audiences share in beholding. The men in the other audience, however, want to move from distant beholding to up close holding, possessing beauty. Possessing a beautiful image is in a sense educational, because it is less feverish, but let us not deny that both desire are constitutive to our eroticism! But people are perfectly capable of denying the dignity of a painting, not merely of a girl. Poetic education is hard to come by because we are dismissive of the powers of things and images to speak to us. This education seems to consist in offering a kind of relief from the fever that attends on eros, by returning us to a perspective where we are not deaf to the requirements of morality and justice even as we are not blind to the promises of beauty.

The function of the painter is essentially conservative, inasmuch as he wants to protect a decent society, including from the kinds of dangers to morality and justice painting itself creates or encourages. But to do that work, the painter needs to understand both the things we would readily confess about ourselves and the the things revealed when we are unaware of ourselves. The audience in the painting, in being focused on a naked body, is careless of what it itself may be revealing. We are becoming aware of ourselves as an audience. The two most beloved images of the work of painting are the window and the mirror. The more we see ourselves mirrored in the other audience, I have tried to show, the more we begin to see through the painting as through a window into the world of human things, which are our natural and proper concern, but which require a guided study. We have to see ourselves in others and others in ourselves.

Shame and insight are the two additions to beautiful imitation that poetic education relies on. Our sense of shame is in deep ways tied to our eroticism. The slave girl, who cannot hide either her breasts or her sex, nevertheless can and does hide her face. In refusing to see the world that stares at her shamelessly, she reenacts the original gestures of shame, the attempt to become hidden which spells out the intuition that something in us is properly understood as a mystery, is private rather than public, and should not be forced into the light to be examined. Look at the boy next her: could you tell whether he is next to be humiliated or has just returned from the ordeal? Look at his naked hand—he is not trying to defend himself, but his robe. Look at the stripped robe on the platform, now powerless to do what it is meant to do. One slave hides her face, the other everything else. This is because of our sense of shame is tied up with our individuality, our being who each of us is. That we see in our faces—comparatively, the body is anonymous. But the social condition of this psychological fact is clothing. That is our sense of shame enacted to protect our insecure grasp on ourselves. We are, after all, each of us, a mystery not only to others, but to ourselves as well.

The painter, in forcing us to have recourse not to our eyes, but to our minds to complete the image of the girl, faces us with this question: Do you know who she is? No, we do not. We have knowledge of generalities; we understand what such a being is that we call a girl. But to know this particular one would require an experience we cannot have. And after all, an image is not a person. There is no image of a person, is there? The only experience that can adequately remind us of that problem is searching to find out something that will not allow us to find it out. One part of the girl is available neither to us nor to the fictional audience in the painting: her face. She remains mysterious, as she should be. The shamelessness of the audience is visible in the invisible thing we now know to look for: A blush.

Gerome painted this Roman slave market in 1884, or thereabouts. By that time, his way of painting was already being replaced by the new Impressionism. By the early 20th century, when he died, oblivion was forthcoming, inevitable. The story of progress in the art of painting and the unfolding waves of modernism do not have the place or time for painters like him. He was not a master, but a competent painter who occasionally hit on scenes that please and startle at the same time. I hope you see in my essay some of the education we have lost because of our modernism. It’s high time we got it back.

Published in Culture
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Members have made 134 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  1. Profile photo of Painter Jean Member

    Wonderful essay – thank you!

    My only disagreement comes in your last paragraph, where you say that Jean-Leon Gerome was not a master. He was, emphatically so. The third-rate poseurs that followed couldn’t match his skill, despite their lionization by the art elite.

    • #1
    • April 8, 2017 at 6:42 pm
    • Like7 likes
  2. Profile photo of MLH Member
    MLH

    It is a lovely painting.

    • #2
    • April 8, 2017 at 6:59 pm
    • Like0 likes
  3. Profile photo of MLH Member
    MLH

    Did you plan this with @remodernamerica?

    • #3
    • April 8, 2017 at 7:05 pm
    • Like0 likes
  4. Profile photo of Publius Thatcher

    Let the record show that @titustechera is now a Ricochet contributor. Well done!

    • #4
    • April 8, 2017 at 7:07 pm
    • Like6 likes
  5. Profile photo of Ansonia Member

    Re #1

    Perhaps they also couldn’t match this Gerome’s moral wisdom.

    Re: This post

    I’m also thinking it’s by its beauty that the painting holds our attention long enough to startle us with what it tells us about ourselves.

    Titus Techera, this sentence is especially insightful: “We could say, at least in a preliminary manner, that the reason the men want to enslave the woman is because they have first been enslaved by their desires.”

    Outstanding post.

    • #5
    • April 8, 2017 at 7:23 pm
    • Like9 likes
  6. Profile photo of Matt Bartle Member

    OK, I’m just a dumb guy who never studied art.

    I read this kind of thing and half way through I start thinking, really? Is all this stuff really there is or is it just the kind of thing that people who talk about art say when they’re talking to each other about art? I find it hard to take it seriously, because I have no idea, if someone else came up with a completely different theory about it, how one would tell if either one was right, or neither.

    I don’t mean any disrespect, and maybe I’m just a philistine. But what if he just liked painting naked girls and was looking for an excuse to do it again in a different setting?

    Every so often my wife drags me to an art museum when there’s a special display going on. One time, I think it was Picasso, and they had one painting with a smudge on the upper right side. The narration about it said that some people think the smudge is part of the painting, and some think he was just clearing his brush! And at that point I just don’t care any more – if the people who know about this can’t tell a deliberate shape from a smudge, why should I listen to them?

    Sorry, I just prefer math and science and computers and things I can figure out!

    • #6
    • April 8, 2017 at 7:26 pm
    • Like16 likes
  7. Profile photo of MLH Member
    MLH

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):
    OK, I’m just a dumb guy who never studied art.

    I read this kind of thing and half way through I start thinking, really? Is all this stuff really there is or is it just the kind of thing that people who talk about art say when they’re talking to each other about art? I find it hard to take it seriously, because I have no idea, if someone else came up with a completely different theory about it, how one would tell if either one was right, or neither.

    I never studied art either but I did in enjoy Camille Paglia’s Glittering Images.

    • #7
    • April 8, 2017 at 7:37 pm
    • Like2 likes
  8. Profile photo of Ansonia Member

    Re # 6

    I guess you’d first ask yourself which theory better matches what you saw and felt, before you heard either theory, while you were studying the different figures and objects in the painting and the way they are related to each other. You’d have other questions. But that would be the first one.

    • #8
    • April 8, 2017 at 7:46 pm
    • Like1 like
  9. Profile photo of Trink Reagan

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):
    OK, I’m just a dumb guy who never studied art. . . . .

    And Matt, your confessional comment is as entertaining in its look at human nature as is Titus’ penetrating assessment of what must be acknowledged by our responses to this scene.

    It made me smile.

    • #9
    • April 8, 2017 at 8:06 pm
    • Like4 likes
  10. Profile photo of Judge Mental Member

    Titus, I’m surprised you didn’t address the expression on the face of the one woman in the crowd. As another Philistine, I’m not sure what she’s thinking, but she’s definitely thinking something.

    • #10
    • April 8, 2017 at 11:25 pm
    • Like1 like
  11. Profile photo of Hoyacon Member

    I am not impressed by the painting, and, no, that’s not an attack on its technique. I find it to be exploitative and, worse, fraudulent. It even makes me sound like a liberal.

    • #11
    • April 8, 2017 at 11:34 pm
    • Like2 likes
  12. Profile photo of Judge Mental Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I am not impressed by the painting, and, no, that’s not an attack on its technique. I find it to be exploitative and, worse, fraudulent. It even makes me sound like a liberal.

    Turns out men like pictures of naked women. Go figure.

    • #12
    • April 8, 2017 at 11:38 pm
    • Like4 likes
  13. Profile photo of Hoyacon Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I am not impressed by the painting, and, no, that’s not an attack on its technique. I find it to be exploitative and, worse, fraudulent. It even makes me sound like a liberal.

    Turns out men like pictures of naked women. Go figure.

    Agreed. And I’d prefer we pigeonholed it thusly. Of course, if that’s not sufficiently titillating, we can always throw in the “slave” aspect.

    If a nicely-drawn posterior made great art, Alberto Vargas would be in the Louvre.

    • #13
    • April 8, 2017 at 11:46 pm
    • Like1 like
  14. Profile photo of Judge Mental Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I am not impressed by the painting, and, no, that’s not an attack on its technique. I find it to be exploitative and, worse, fraudulent. It even makes me sound like a liberal.

    Turns out men like pictures of naked women. Go figure.

    Agreed. And I’d prefer we pigeonholed it thusly. Of course, if that’s not sufficiently titillating, we can always throw in the “slave” aspect.

    If a nicely-drawn posterior made great art, Alberto Vargas would be in the Louvre.

    If he had painted 200 years ago, he would be.

    • #14
    • April 8, 2017 at 11:57 pm
    • Like2 likes
  15. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):
    OK, I’m just a dumb guy who never studied art.

    I read this kind of thing and half way through I start thinking, really? Is all this stuff really there is or is it just the kind of thing that people who talk about art say when they’re talking to each other about art? I find it hard to take it seriously, because I have no idea, if someone else came up with a completely different theory about it, how one would tell if either one was right, or neither.

    I don’t mean any disrespect, and maybe I’m just a philistine. But what if he just liked painting naked girls and was looking for an excuse to do it again in a different setting?

    Every so often my wife drags me to an art museum when there’s a special display going on. One time, I think it was Picasso, and they had one painting with a smudge on the upper right side. The narration about it said that some people think the smudge is part of the painting, and some think he was just clearing his brush! And at that point I just don’t care any more – if the people who know about this can’t tell a deliberate shape from a smudge, why should I listen to them?

    Sorry, I just prefer math and science and computers and things I can figure out!

    I know what you mean, & I’m with you most of the way. But I think you can also see in your answer–which strikes me as honest & fair-minded–a number of reasons to learn about art. First, to be less of a burden to, & to be less bored by, your wife’s pursuits! I cannot sell you enthusiasm that will make every couple across the fruited plains sing euphoniously to the same artistic delights. But there’s a world of arts out there, & The Sex tends to be more interested in it than men. Truth to tell, there is a deep, but obvious psychological connection–a concern with adornment, on one hand, a predilection for indirection over indiscretion on the other. Men must be taught that, as they must be taught tact…

    Another reason has to do with the too great power science has over our souls. I think to a large extent we live out an opinion in our habits–the opinion, to speak briefly, that knowledge, the real stuff, the stuff that’s reliable, comes through science. This is a new opinion & it is now dominant–the air we breathe–the things we teach small kids who can’t even read yet–it’s everywhere, going far beyond the uses & the claims of science. Indeed, we often dismiss the reality of things that science doesn’t dwell on: It’s not just the presence, but the absence of science is also a reason to disbelieve, so to speak…

    But previously, people used to think that poets, painters, &c. know a lot of things most people don’t know & you can learn if you think through what they’re saying. I think people even today might admit that Shakespeare or Leonardo knew more about human things than most people do. But they like to say, well, it was the genius–there is the difference! Not quite: Who puts enough care into human things–as much care as most people put into their jobs, for example, or their family–will discover many things most people won’t…

    The difference between our age & the previous is to do with modes of knowledge. Science tends to be direct, straightforward, wishing to tell the truth to everyone, let’s say. Whereas poetry is indirect, replete with irony, suggestion, hinting, double meanings, & any number of devices that show you that the poet only wants to tell the truth to whoever is willing & able to look for it. Poetry is all about painting the same scene twice, from two opposite perspectives, to startle the audience, or delight them.

    That difference goes together with another: Science is demonstrative or tends in that direction; poetry does not–its subject matter won’t allow it, because human things are inherently disputable, & the masters of the art do not wish it, because it would mean saying that every Tom, Dick, & Harry is their equal, which is a lie.

    To get a sense of things, think of what it would have been like to live through any of the great quarrels in science, when partisans form on either side of a question without being able to form a consensus around what’s really the case & what’s just angry human recalcitrance to unpleasant truths–so also with politics, when great upheavals start, only then do most people have any sense of what questions stir up in the brain of a Socrates or a Lincoln–most of the time, people just go with what’s normal, & that’s the practical & reasonable thing to do. But people who are aware that normal isn’t so normal, or that it’s fragile, they start looking for answers, without necessarily wanting to make everybody just like them.

    Paintings like this speak one way to people who like a pretty picture, but in another to those who bother to look at the different formal choices the painter makes–this is not even the only Roman slave market painting Gerome did, much less the only slave market painting!, so thinking about the different thoughts in the painter’s mind is aided just by comparing the thoughts he worked out, over years, in different paintings! You cannot read his mind all the time, but at least those times he painted what was on his mind! Clearly, slave-selling was something that interested him to depict & it had to do with the female nude–he returns to this theme, again & again, over several decades of his incredibly long, distinguished, lucrative career.

    I’ve tried to show you the beginning of working through this particular insight in this particular slave-selling scene, because it’s so unlike the others. Also, this is an educated, successful man painting in his old age. That he’d just execute this really technically challenging picture thoughtlessly is not a reasonable assumption prior to investigation, even for the man who’s not looked at tens of his paintings with great care…

    • #15
    • April 9, 2017 at 12:16 am
    • Like5 likes
  16. Profile photo of Mike LaRoche Thatcher

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I am not impressed by the painting, and, no, that’s not an attack on its technique. I find it to be exploitative and, worse, fraudulent. It even makes me sound like a liberal.

    Turns out men like pictures of naked women. Go figure.

    Imagine that.

    • #16
    • April 9, 2017 at 12:31 am
    • Like2 likes
  17. Profile photo of I Walton Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I know what you mean,

    Your follow up comment is as good as the original article. Two books, neither about art I’d recommend for Matt. “The Fatal Conceit”, and “Grand Strategies” and my question of you. What writer or artist is capturing the current period and tells us something insightful about where we are and where we’re heading.

    • #17
    • April 9, 2017 at 4:53 am
    • Like4 likes
  18. Profile photo of Ansonia Member

    Re # 16

    In a way, the artist exploits the way we’re drawn to look at pictures of beautiful female bodies to show us more than a beautiful female body.

    • #18
    • April 9, 2017 at 5:02 am
    • Like3 likes
  19. Profile photo of Jim Beck Member

    Morning Titus,

    If we were attracted to the old, misshapen, diseased or infirm, life would have a different character. We are attracted to women who have not ceased to be after the manner of women Gen 18:11. Whether it is a peacocks feathers or an elks antlers, it is a guys and dolls thing, so beauty is to direst our appetites toward mates which would produce healthy offspring. Beauty has purpose in a practical sense. Does modern life add guard rails to our appetites or does it remove the guard rails and allow our appetites to more completely rule us, I think the latter.

    • #19
    • April 9, 2017 at 5:29 am
    • Like2 likes
  20. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    I Walton (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I know what you mean,

    Your follow up comment is as good as the original article. Two books, neither about art I’d recommend for Matt. “The Fatal Conceit”, and “Grand Strategies” and my question of you. What writer or artist is capturing the current period and tells us something insightful about where we are and where we’re heading.

    Thanks for the kind words. I think whoever wants to guess at our democratic ways would do well to study his Aristophanes, the first comedian. He is little read, less talked about, in our times, but knew & could display democracy very well, with good & bad, with fair & vulgar… It’s where I learned that democracy especially has need of comedy to survive.

    • #20
    • April 9, 2017 at 5:46 am
    • Like1 like
  21. Profile photo of MLH Member
    MLH

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    democracy especially has need of comedy to survive.

    and we well know what has happened that aspect of the Arts.

    • #21
    • April 9, 2017 at 5:50 am
    • Like1 like
  22. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Jim Beck (View Comment):
    Morning Titus,

    If we were attracted to the old, misshapen, diseased or infirm, life would have a different character. We are attracted to women who have not ceased to be after the manner of women Gen 18:11. Whether it is a peacocks feathers or an elks antlers, it is a guys and dolls thing, so beauty is to direst our appetites toward mates which would produce healthy offspring. Beauty has purpose in a practical sense. Does modern life add guard rails to our appetites or does it remove the guard rails and allow our appetites to more completely rule us, I think the latter.

    Hello!

    Yes, I do think we’ve become so possessive about beauty as to think it can be conquered, or enslaved. We’re not the better for it–we’re more impatient, less willing to be educated…

    I think the reflection on modern & ancient love of beauty implicit in the painting–in a painter who loved to paint big, important events, whether the death of Caesar or Napoleon in Egypt…–suggests that we face twin temptations: First, to enslave others so that we can be ourselves free–which has a kind of correlative in the political ambition to conquer, to be first! Secondly, to lose our sense of shame, so that nothing holds us back.

    I think we have to a large extent repealed legally & morally the first temptation; we are in strange ways ever more vulnerable to the second, however. We do not have the kinds of crimes typical of conquerors or even the erotic tragedies of the previous age. But our world is rife with sins less fit for drama.

    • #22
    • April 9, 2017 at 5:53 am
    • Like1 like
  23. Profile photo of MLH Member
    MLH

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But our world is rife with sins less fit for drama.

    Would you not say that social media allows us to make the small, pitiful sins largely dramatic and keeps us from seeing/thinking about those less fit sins?

    • #23
    • April 9, 2017 at 6:00 am
    • Like0 likes
  24. Profile photo of Ansonia Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    I Walton (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    I think whoever wants to guess at our democratic ways would do well to study his Aristophanes, the first comedian. He is little read, less talked about, in our times, but knew & could display democracy very well, with good & bad, with fair & vulgar… It’s where I learned that democracy especially has need of comedy to survive.

    What by Aristophanes would you most recommend?

    Re # 17

    Grand Strategies, by Charles Hill, sounds fascinating.

    I Walton, one answer to your question: Anthony Esolen.

    • #24
    • April 9, 2017 at 6:01 am
    • Like1 like
  25. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    Re # 16

    In a way, the artist exploits the way we’re drawn to look at pictures of beautiful female bodies to show us more than a beautiful female body.

    Indeed, that is a necessary interior to the art. If we were to leave beauty at the lie by which nature compels individuals to do the work of reproduction, we could neither explain our own souls nor the emergence of the various kinds of poetry, who work in the element of the beautiful.

    The power beautiful images have over people should be especially obvious in our age, when so many people have come to turn away from human beings & instead live in the fantastic world of mere images. The common opinion that people would would prefer the real thing to its image is daily baffled in our times. The strange, ancient opinion that poets are the rulers of mankind is in some ways vindicated again.

    The various kinds of poets, who make imitations of whatever kind, reveal to us our souls. It is, in an age when the rich or powerful no longer protect & tyrannize the poets, the only promise the poets can hold out to mankind.

    • #25
    • April 9, 2017 at 6:03 am
    • Like2 likes
  26. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    MLH (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But our world is rife with sins less fit for drama.

    Would you not say that social media allows us to make the small, pitiful sins largely dramatic and keeps us from seeing/thinking about those less fit sins?

    I’m not sure I understand the question, could you say bit more about what’s on your mind? I sense that you’re on to something, but I’ve not yet grasped it!

    • #26
    • April 9, 2017 at 6:05 am
    • Like0 likes
  27. Profile photo of I Walton Member

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    I Walton, one answer to your question: Anthony Esolen.

    Out of the Ashes? Thanks I’ve ordered it. I’m also wondering who, like the writers Charles Hill discusses, are contemporary to major shifts and capture them in their art in ways social, political writers and the rest of us don’t yet see.

    • #27
    • April 9, 2017 at 6:15 am
    • Like2 likes
  28. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment): I think whoever wants to guess at our democratic ways would do well to study his Aristophanes, the first comedian. He is little read, less talked about, in our times, but knew & could display democracy very well, with good & bad, with fair & vulgar… It’s where I learned that democracy especially has need of comedy to survive.

    What by Aristophanes would you most recommend?

    Re # 17: Grand Strategies, by Charles Hill, sounds fascinating.

    I Walton, one answer to your question: Anthony Esolen.

    I second the recommendation of Mr. Esolen, as well as Mr. Hill. Thoughtful writers whose books also please.

    As for Aristophanes, I tend to recommend the plays in relation to the reader. Aristophanes aims to shock by coming up with crazy conceits to solve massive political problems, so I try to help him out in his intention.

    The political idealists–say, libertarians…–should read The birds, about a fellow who’s sick of democracy & goes out to found a city of his own, which would be perfect.

    The radicals & moderates of equality should read The gathering of the women, the first treatment of communism of property & sex!

    Those who would like to learn some things about democracy, demagogy, & Mr. Trump should read The knights.

    Those who are worried about the dark sophistication of movies & online shows these days, which get ever more immoral, should read The frogs, where the god Dionysus, patron of tragedy, goes to Hades…

    Those who want to understand the political anger noticeable in the old should read The wasps, which deals with the men of the Athenian juries–who were also judges, & who were hanging judges…

    & of course, those who would like to reflect more on the relationship between science & politics should read the comedy about Socrates, The clouds!

    • #28
    • April 9, 2017 at 6:15 am
    • Like0 likes
  29. Profile photo of MLH Member
    MLH

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    MLH (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But our world is rife with sins less fit for drama.

    Would you not say that social media allows us to make the small, pitiful sins largely dramatic and keeps us from seeing/thinking about those less fit sins?

    I’m not sure I understand the question, could you say bit more about what’s on your mind? I sense that you’re on to something, but I’ve not yet grasped it!

    We sensationalize the trivial and close our eyes to the horrible.

    • #29
    • April 9, 2017 at 6:18 am
    • Like2 likes
  30. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    I Walton (View Comment):

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    I Walton, one answer to your question: Anthony Esolen.

    Out of the Ashes? Thanks I’ve ordered it. I’m also wondering who, like the writers Charles Hill discusses, are contemporary to major shifts and capture them in their art in ways social, political writers and the rest of us don’t yet see.

    The last book of Allan Bloom, more or less dictated from his deathbed, Love & friendship, has very good discussions of the Romantic novelists–Rousseau, Austen, Stendhal, Flaubert, Tolstoy… He also talks some about Shakespeare. All his essays on Shakespeare are really good, but two are especially close, I think, to what you’re thinking about here: His essay on The merchant of Venice, dealing with whether a commercial republic is really such a tolerant place; & his essay on Richard II, dealing with the collapse of chivalry & the divine right of kings… (i think these are both in his other book, Giants & Dwarfs, where you can also find his essay on Swift’s view of ancients & moderns at the birth of modern natural & political science…)

    I’d like to recommend someone on Cervantes, the other great poet of the death of chivalry & the coming of the age of commerce, but I’m not sure who’s a good writer on it!

    • #30
    • April 9, 2017 at 6:20 am
    • Like0 likes
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5