Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 3: Myth, Image and Language


Prof. Dr. Maria de Lurdes Rosa gave the lecture, ‘Alfoso Henriques, First King of Portugal – the Creation of a Myth’. The main focus was a thorough bibliographical account, during which Afonso Henriques’ identity as a warrior was the main focus. Particularly interesting was the account of how the history of the king’s rise to power has been emphasized and mythologized from the 14th century until today. There has been a frantic struggle to determine the ‘true’ birthplace of the king, and the opening of the monarch’s supposed greave in 2006 gave rise to so much controversy that the project was suspended indeterminately due to the potential national ramifications of the archaeological investigation.


Prof. Dr. Franz-Josef Klein then gave the lecture, ‘Las apologías de la lengua española en el Siglo de Oro’. This was a wonderful lecture indeed, however somewhat marred by the unfortunate and excluding decision to give it in Spanish, subsequently alienating the majority of the audience.

The first text that was discussed was the following epístola;

Scribo & supplico rogando te Francia
des & respondeas tales
probationes, tractando de tua
eloquentia, loquela & excellentia;
quales scribo de Hispania

(Garcilasco, Epistola latina & hispanica)

This is a text that is highly illustrative of the interest in comparisons between the characteristics of different languages; competitions were held on the level of the royal courts, during which linguists were expected to present and prove the values of their maternal language. An apología, or an elogio was a text that discussed languages in an evaluative manner, such as an introduction to grammar, or a comparative study of linguistic structures. 15th century Spain did not have a common language, not even after the Moor expulsion. There were no linguistic norms, certainly no written rules, and the only language that was actually taught and promoted as an intellectual and superior language, was Latin. Antonio de Nebrija wrote the first Spanish grammar in 1492, which was very early, considering the years of publication of the first French and Portuguese grammar books; 1530 and 1538. Prof. Dr. Klein also discussed the connection between the endurance of political power and the growth and stability of language, and used Spain and the Castilian language as an example, mapping the spread of the Spanish language and the expanding political power of the Spanish nation.

Ending on yet another insistent note of multilingualist admonishment, Prof. Dr. Klein cited the following text:

Si Charles Quint revenoit au monde, il ne trouveroit pas bon que vous missiez le François au dessus du Castillan, luy qui disoit que s'il vouloit parler aux Dames, il parleroit Italien; que s'il vouloit parler aux hommes, il parleroit François; que s'il vouloit parler á son cheval, il parleroit Allemand; mais que s'il vouloit parler á Dieu, il parleroit Espagnol.

(Dominique Bouhours, Les entretiens d'Ariste et d´Eugène, 1671)


Jörg Schneller gave the lecture, ’A Myth with Muscle: Arnold Schwarzenegger as Living Sculpture’ after introducing himself as a “perverted, post-modernist art historian”, which of course amused the audience to no end. Due to the nature and subject matter of the lecture, and because of the multitude of ideas and concepts that were discussed, it is difficult to do the presentation justice in such a brief analysis; instead, I will settle for an overview. The Andy Warhol connection was emphasized, particularly in terms of contradictory natures, as well as the ‘anything goes’ mentality, the popularity among subcultural groups, the concept of ‘camp’ and the Susan Sontag connection, body building as the evil (ironic/campy) twin of performance art using Marina Abramovićs Rhythm 0 as an example, the aesthetic Zeitgeist of the 1960s and 1970s and how this Zeitgeist can be captured without borders being crossed, Californian postmodernism, the body as a communication piece, politics on the symbolic level, or post-political politics, the myth of the need for political progress, the postmodern body craze and the importance for politicians to manifest their bodies, Colin Crouch and his post-democratic theories, how body builders use sport to turn themselves into art, turning body building into something other than a sport and, finally, Baudrillard and his simulacrum, or 'detached model without origin'.

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