Sunday, August 9, 2015

de Montaigne and Witchery and Me

My far too peaceful garden.

Here are an opinion and a 'factoid' I picked up lately on the Web:

Opinion) That there are too many personal essays on the web (in society, in media, in general.)

Fact) That young people are driving less, preferring to stay home and 'surf' - supposedly.

How do these two opinions come together, here, in my own off-the-cuff personal essay?

Well, I've just been listening to a university lecture, a French one, on Life Writing: de la Montaigne, Proust and Baudelaire.

In that lecture, if I understood correctly, the prof claimed that 'peronal writing' has been attacked from the beginning, from two sides.

Some critics claimed 'personal' writing had nothing to offer 'the whole' of society.. being too narcissistic.

And some other critics said that writing, period, cannot possible capture LIFE.

Pure Literature is artifice, I guess. Artifice with a purpose, to instruct, entertain whatever. (Mimesis? It's been so long since I took courses like this one.)

Then the prof explained that with La Revolution, the individual became more important. And also average individuals got more freedom, they got out of the house, so they actually had something to write about.

Young people aren't hitting the road as much these days. This sign points to Cochrane Ontario, where Norman Nichoson, of Richmond Quebec, worked in 1910. The Nicholson Family Letters are from this period. Letter writing is one form of Life Writing, as are Diaries.

So, as I've written before here, 1910's, 20's and beyond, the automobile offered people, especially women and teens, unprecedented freedom.

But, today, we're eschewing automobile rides for Internet surfing. All our experiences come from the transmedia world from what we read and watch or play with.

Hey, we hardly go outside, anymore.

Flora Nicholson Second Right. The auto gave unmarried women unpredented freedom in the 


Yesterday, as per usual, my husband and I sat outside at 5 pm to eat supper.

 We have families living on every side but all was totally quiet, except for the occasional slamming of a car door and for dogs barking.

No one goes outside anymore, even in the beautiful burbs on a beautiful summer day!

I don't know where this essay is going. It is 'stream of consciousness'  -  something the prof said was the logical end-result of all these centuries of personal writing, ideas just flowing from inside your head onto the pen, or keyboard.

(I do so like Virginia Woolf.)

In the old days, when I published essays in newspapers, this would have been my very first draft. I would need to tinker a lot and sleep on it for at least a night.

As it happens, I've also been listening to audio versions of de la Montaigne's essays. (I'm getting my French education, these days, thanks to the Net. Better late than never, I say.)

De Montaigne is a bit of a windbag:) but I can see (hear) how his writing flows back and forth from anecdote to quote to proouncement, even if I can't understand it all that well.

I'm focusing on his essays about women, which are amusing or enraging like Donald Trump's ideas - and he's no de  Montaigne.

I'll write another essay later on this topic.

 I'll compare de la Montaigne's essays to the Hammer of Witches, that very-reasonable-sounding discourse that, in the late Middle Ages,  led to 100 years of horrific bloodshed.

De la Montaigne likes to quote the Classical authors, Cicero etc. So does the author of The Hammer of Witches.

I think I'm gonna blame the Muslims for bringing misogyny into the West..Why?

Because they preseved the Greek and Roman Classics for us...providing all kinds of substantiation for our misogynist author-influencers like de la Montaigne.

Is that unpolitically correct to say? Must ask Donald Trump