Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Castalian Spring at Delphi

“You say these Naiads are the offspring of a god.  That makes them some kind of spirits, right?  Just another loony Greek myth.”
            “A very old myth,” Dan said.  “Much older than the Greeks.  Springs have always had their resident divinities.”
            This was certainly understandable, I thought.  Cold, thirst-quenching, life-giving water sprouting like a miracle from the dry, rocky earth—what god-fearing goatherd wouldn’t see that as divine?
            Somewhere an owl softly hooted.
            With her arms propped at the water’s edge, Phoebe lowered her face toward the surface of the spring.  She took a short drink, noisily sucking the water.  Then she raised her dripping face and for a long moment stared unblinking at the pond.
            I stopped what I was doing.  Dan remained silent.  Had she seen something there, hidden in the spring, or was she caught by her own reflection?  We watched her and waited, and neither of us spoke.  There was something magical about her, kneeling by this primeval pool in the dark.  Her pale arms and face, ghostly in the starlight, reflected on the undulating mirror of the pond.  An aura of stillness surrounded her.  Along with the unceasing trickle of the spring, we could hear the sporadic flutter of wings echo off the rocky walls above us.  The place was suffused with an atmosphere of timelessness, with Phoebe the beating heart of it, as if she were some living token of its past.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

It's Alive!

Poster for 1931 movie of "Frankenstein"
with Boris Karloff as the monster
Paul Cantor explains how Mary Shelley's monster  tramples over the supposed line between high culture and pop culture: 
"I am not trying to lower our opinion of Frankenstein but to raise our opinion of popular culture. Or rather, I want to question the simplistic distinction between high culture and low. Just because a work grows out of or is in some way related to the commercial world does not mean that it is inferior in artistic quality. The great example of this truth is William Shakespeare. He was the most popular playwright in the commercial theater of his day, but of course he was at the same time the greatest dramatic artist.
Engraving by Lynd Ward
for a 1934 edition of "Frankenstein"
"[...] Culture is not neatly divided into different and unrelated media or separated into spheres of high and low, hermetically sealed off from one another. Rather, in a real culture (and not an academic abstract mapping of it), the high and the low inter-penetrate, giving life to each other, and the various media interact in complex patterns.
"Accordingly, one may find great art in the oddest of places, even in the ghoulish story of a misshapen creature turned loose upon the world. High art can grow out of elements of popular culture, and can in turn inspire popular culture to new forms of creativity. Culture is chaotic. It results in artistic order, but not always in an orderly fashion. And that makes culture fundamentally unpredictable."