Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Inner Classic, the Book of Hours, the Treatise and the Gospel

TLS February 6 2009

from Michael Stanley-Baker's review of A Dictionary of the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen:

The roots of Chinese medicine lie in the rich textual tradition that began with the Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor, or Huang Di Nei Jing, compiled over 2,000 years ago. The first organized canon of medical theory, the Inner Classic describes a range of ideas about the structure and patterns of the universe and the human body, from five-phase correlative cosmology, to yin and yang, qi and blood, acupuncture meridians and the relationship between the inner organs. 

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"Heaven" and "breath," for example, form the term "weather". Thus "breath" not only animates the human body, but also storms, rainbows and hazy summer days. Small wonder then that Chinese doctors use terms for weather patterns when diagnosing the human body as well. 

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from Ronald Blythe's review of Katherine Swift's The Morville Hours:

A book of hours was an aid to personal devotions in which the Church's year and the seasons went round together like a clock. Prayer and the growing years were intertwined on its pages. Prayer was textual, nature pictorial--the latter often magnificently so. The result was one of the best loved kinds of illuminated manuscript.

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from James A. Harris's review of Paul Russell's The Riddle of Hume's Treatise:

Until the beginning of the twentieth century Hume was known as a purely negative philosopher, an irresponsible vandal who delighted in demonstrating the incapacity of reason to show that it is more likely that the sun will rise tomorrow than that it won't, and who had gone on to prove the baselessness of belief in both the ordinary world of enduring physical objects and a self that persists through time. This way of reading Hume was resisted by some, notably by T. H. Huxley in a now neglected book of 1881, but only began to be seriously questioned when Norman Kemp Smith drew attention in 1905 to what he termed as Hume's "naturalism." There was a positive, constructive, scientific dimension to the Treatise, Kemp Smith urged, in the form of a new theory of belief: that is, a new theory as to what belief is and what its origins are. Hume's main concern was to show that belief is not the act of an autonomous faculty of reasons, but rather a particular kind of sentiment, or feeling, generated by more or less mechanistic operations of the imagination. 

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TLS February 13, 2009

from Brian Stanley's review of Robert Eric Frykenberg's Christianity in India:

Foreign missionaries emerge from Frykenberg's pages as too few in number, fallible in capacity, and potentially disruptive in their political impact to play the role cast for them by much Western historiography and contemporary Hindu vituperation. They were at best leaky conduits of information, imperfectly transmitting knowledge in both directions between India and Europe. . . . When Christianity did take deep root in a particular location through movements of group conversion, it did so because of local agency. Sometimes the agents of the gospel were high-born men or women of learning, such as the great Tamil poet, Nellaiyan Vedenayakan Sastriar, or, later in the nineteenth century, Ramabai Sastri Dongre, a brilliant woman who before her conversion was awarded the honorific title of "Pandita" on account of her unrivalled mastery of classical Sanskrit learning. Perhaps more frequently, they were people of humble, even polluting, birth, unlettered and often unremembered apostles who spread the word of the gospel, using a down-to-earth vocabulary of salvation, which spoke of freedom in Christ from fear of demons, from the terrors of sickness and the grave, and from oppression by caste Hindus. But in almost every case, where the Church saw growth, it did so, not because of external imposition but through local appropriation and indigenization of the Christian message. 

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from Katharine Craik's review of David Schalkwyk's Shakespeare, Love and Service:

Schalkwyk regards the interactions of service (between master and servant, husband and wife, lover and beloved) as central to early modern identity and especially to experiences of love. . . . Shakespeare's intense expressions of love in the Sonnets reveal a longing for the reciprocal trust enjoyed not only between close friends but also through relationships of service. The sonnets addressed to the young man articulate the poet's painful awareness of his own social inferiority while noisily seeking the rewards of mutual affection.

If service necessitated a sacrifice of selfhood . . . then the player is the servant incarnate. The names of the players' companies accordingly declared their subordinate status: the Lord Admiral's Men, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, the Queen's Men and the King's Men. Schalkwyk makes clear the complex self-reflexivity involved in putting servants onto the early modern stage. If Caliban personifies contested service, the devoted steward Flavius in Timon of Athens shows that service could be ennobling if undertaken freely and voluntarily. Indeed, the Protestant idea of willing obedience, where bondage becomes freedom by the effort of imagining it as such, works only when service is understood as love.


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