A Catholic priest and writer, François Fénelon (1651–1715) was enlisted by the church to preach to French Protestants (Huguenots) in order to bring them back to orthodox belief. His bestseller work, The Adventures of Telemachus, adds to the story of the Odyssey (Document 4.1) by describing the travels of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Guiding Telemachus is his tutor, simply called Mentor (but later revealed as Diana, goddess of wisdom), who explains the tenets of a truly good society—one that abolished government, upheld the brotherhood of citizens, and looked back to ancient Greece as a model. Thus, Telemachus served as a fierce criticism of the rule of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France (1638–1715).
From François Fénelon, The Adventures of Telemachus. Trans Dr. Hawkesworth. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1872, pp. 450–8.
The Bhagavad Gita comprises the sixth book, and is the central component, of the Mahabharata. Because it centers on the struggles between kings and princes, the Mahabharata can be read as a reflection of the ideological components of rulership in ancient India. At its center is a power struggle between the descendants of two brothers, culminating in a comprehensive war that ends in the victory of one branch of the family over the other. Elements of philosophy, religion, and moral behavior appear throughout the poem, and the concepts of dharma (natural law, correct behavior) and chaos are introduced by Krishna, the wise sage who appears at critical moments to explain the wider implications of what seems a simple battle narrative. The speakers in the following excerpt are Dhritarâshtra, a blind king in the midst of a succession crisis; Sañgaya, the visionary narrator of the battle; and Arjuna, one of the five sons of Pandu, the Pandava.
The Bhagavadgita, with the Sanatsugatiya and the Anugita, trans. Kashinath Trimbak Telang (Oxford: Clarendon, 1882), 37, 39–41, 42, 73–75, 87–88, and 91.
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) was born in the Austro-Hungarian empire and lived in Vienna nearly all his life. (He fled to London in 1938, when Nazi Germany invaded Austria.) As a young man, Freud began a medical career specializing in neurology and nervous disorders. He became interested in the problems of hysterics, individuals suffering from debilitating symptoms or behaviors for which there was no obvious physiological cause. Trying first hypnosis and then the “talking cure,” Freud developed his theories that traumatic events repressed from conscious memory nevertheless profoundly affected an individual’s emotions and daily behaviors. The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901) introduced his ideas about the powers of the unconscious mind. Dreams, jokes, slips of the tongue, habits, characteristic emotional responses—almost any aspect of a patient’s behavior could be used by a skilled interpreter to uncover the past events that caused present suffering.
Freud’s first and most controversial explanation for the childhood traumas that affected adult personality involved the sexual drive—a generalized eroticism or urge for pleasure that he detected even in the very young. The various ways that families controlled such drives accounted for the neuroses so common to adults. But Freud’s ideas changed over the decades, partly from work with patients, partly from controversies with such students as Alfred Adler and Carl Jung, and partly from his observations of the disasters overtaking Europe after 1914. As the selection here reveals, by the 1920s he had come to believe that men harbored an instinct for destruction, a “death wish,” as much as one for pleasure and love.
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. XXI (1927–1931), trans. and ed. James Strachey, 111–15, 122. Copyright © 1961 Hogarth Press.
Sometimes described as the Shakespeare of India, Kālidāsa mastered various literary genres in his lifetime and continued to thrive, even in Western translations, into modern times. He composed three plays, two epic poems, and a series of shorter poems. Among these is the Meghadūta, or The Cloud Messenger, in which a man asks a passing cloud to carry a message to his beloved wife, who is awaiting him in the Himalayas. Translated from the Sanskrit into English in the early nineteenth century, The Cloud Messenger served as the inspiration for composer Gustav Holsts 19091910 choral work The Cloud Messenger.
The Code of Manu deals with many different features of Hindu life, such as the proper behavior of different castes and methods for ritual purification. The “Manu” referred to in the title is the legendary “first man” of Hindu culture, also recognized as the first lawgiver. Thus, the Code of Manu is thought of within Hinduism as a text based on human traditions (smriti), but it is also believed to be consistent with the values included in texts that are divinely revealed (shruti), such as the “Purusha Hymn.” As a result, it restates and reaffirms traditional values and structures, but it does so on the basis of religious authority.
The responsibilities described for women in the Code of Manu need to be understood within the context of Hinduism. A central component of Hinduism is the concept of dharma (“that which is firm”). Hindus believe that by living up to the religious and social responsibilities attached to one’s social position (caste and gender), one sustains the proper order of the universe and gains good karma, moving up the scale of reincarnation toward unity with the brahman, or World Soul. Composed following a period of unrest, the Code of Manu represents a vigorous attempt to reestablish order within the Hindu world.
The Law of Manu, in The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 25, trans. G. Bühler (Oxford: Clarendon, 1886), 194–197, 328–330, 332, 335, 344–345.
Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner
Two wives of British colonial agents in India compiled their experiences in this practical guide for new “memsahibs” (Indian term of respect for married, upper-class white women) in British-controlled India. Flora Annie Steel (1847–1929) and Grace Gardiner share advice that is often humorous or outrageous as well as sophisticated. The work, called the “Mrs. Beeton of British India” (Document 18.4), attempts to maintain “British standards” in a country of unfamiliar food products, extreme heat, and different cultural expectations. This selection guides a wife through what may seem like shocking changes—occasionally revealing a rather haughty tinge of colonialist superiority.
From Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner, Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 6, 11–5, 55–62.
A Latin scholar, poet, and biographer, Boccaccio (1313–1375) is most famous today as the author of the Decameron. This compilation of 100 tales, by turns serious, bawdy, and irreverent, purports to be a rendition of the stories told over the course of 10 days by 10 young men and women who had fled Florence to escape the Black Death. Many of the tales are based on older legends, and they frequently reflect the humor of the common people of the era, often at the expense of their spiritual and social betters. Religious authorities were frequent targets of this sort of satire, reflecting their ubiquitous presence in the lives of medieval Europeans, as well as, perhaps, a deep undercurrent of resentment regarding their privileges.
Giovanni Boccaccio, “Putting the Devil Back in Hell” (3.10), from The Decameron: Selected Tales / Decameron: Novelle scelte, trans. Stanley Appelbaum (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2000), 87–93.
Olympe de Gouges
Women were not included among the new officeholders of Revolutionary France, nor were they members of the National Assembly, which supposedly represented all members of the country’s Third Estate. An immediate question arose concerning the extent to which the benefits of the Revolution should be extended to females (as well as to slaves throughout France’s global empire). Some men did advocate the extension of these rights and privileges, but women also took action in their own cause. Among these was the “Cercle Social” (Social Circle), a group of female activists who coordinated their publishing activities on behalf of women and their own goals in the developing Revolution.
One of the leaders of this group was Marie Gouze (1748–1793), who, under her pen name “Olympe de Gouges,” attacked both the institution of slavery and the oppression of women in 1791. A playwright, pamphleteer, and political activist, de Gouges published this thoughtful meditation on what the National Assembly should declare concerning “the rights of woman” (as opposed merely to “the rights of man”). Other members of the Social Circle were arrested as the Revolution entered its radical phase, but Olympe de Gouges was executed by guillotine in November 1793.
Lynn Hunt, ed. and trans., The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History (Boston: Bedford St. Martin–s, 1996), 124–126.
The British activist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797), mother of author Mary Shelley and the bearer of a tainted reputation, wrote a letter called “Vindication of the Rights of Man” (1790) to Edmund Burke criticizing his Reflections on the Revolution in France (Document 16.1) for its support of the aristocracy. Two years later, she altered the title for a feminist letter that argues for education and respect for women as valuable and contributing members of society. Now considered a founder of feminism, Wollstonecraft advocated on behalf of her fellow women in her dedication to a fellow pamphleteer, the enigmatic diplomat Talleyrand (1754–1838). Here, she outlines her main quest for education and provides a glimpse into her charm and energy.
From Mary Wollenstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women. London: J. Johnson, 1792.
Daniel Lord Smail
In On Deep History and the Brain, historian Daniel Lord Smail postulates that “it is the similarities [between civilizations] that are the most startling,” more so than the differences. In this excerpt, he also draws our attention to the continuities between the Paleolithic era and the agricultural civilizations. To this end, he uses the term “Postlithic” to refer to this latter period, rather than the traditional term “Neolithic” which would imply a more explicit break between the two. Although Smail acknowledges the fundamental changes brought by agriculture, he does so by emphasizing the patterns of conceptual and material interconnectivity between the Paleo- and Postlithic worlds.
“Agriculture and Emerging Societies,” Daniel Lord Smail, On Deep History and the Brain (University of California Press, 2008, pp. 197-200)
British novelist and critic Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) was also known as a writer on history, travel, and many other subjects, as well as a sometime poet. He attended Oxford University where he received a degree in literature. Unable to pursue his two first choices of profession—scientist or Air Force pilot—because of poor eyesight, he turned instead to writing. He spent most of the 1920s and 1930s living in Italy and France, where he wrote his best-known novel Brave New World (1932), before moving in 1937 to America. Huxley was a lifelong pacifist, but in the 1930s he was a particularly active one. His book Ends and Means (1937) explored the causes of war, its consequences, and how although humanity agrees on what it wants, it has failed to agree on how to get there. His Encyclopaedia of Pacifism extended his interest in the subject, looking critically at all historical, social, biological, and psychological aspects of conflict.
From Aldous Huxley, ed., An Encyclopaedia of Pacifism. London: Chatto & Windus, 1937, pp. 7–9, 27–8, 72–5, 104–6, 122.
Before Caroline Norton wrote the activist letters in Document 18.1 with the aim of improving the legal status of women in Britain, she wrote a detailed account of her own losses in her English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century. She tells her side of the mental and physical abuses she endured during her life with Mr. George Norton, a lawyer she married at the age of nineteen in 1827. Consider how revelations from her private experience may have affected a Victorian audience as well as fueling Norton’s political quests.
From C. Norton, English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century. Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, Inc., 1981, pp. 22–, 31–3, 49–50, 54–7, 147–8, 150, 154, 158–9, 175.
Born in Belgium in 1930, feminist, philosopher and psychoanalyst, Luce Irigaray earned Ph.D.’s in philosophy and linguistics, as well as studying psychology at the university of Paris. She trained as a psychoanalyst under well-known theorist and analyst Jacques Lacan. In the 1960s she began to work at the Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifiques, where she became director. Irigaray played a significant role in the women’s movement (MLF) in the 1970s, being a leading figure in “Third Wave” feminism. The central theme of her work is the struggle to create an authentic understanding of femaleness. Ideas of gender, she says, are socially constructed around a system of binary relations, and these revolve around a male “norm” which is based in “gendered” languagew. An Ethics of Sexual Difference puts forward the idea that all thought and language is gendered, there being no purely neutral thought.
From Luce Irigaray, An Ethics of Sexual Difference. Trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993, pp. 111–5.
Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary, was born in 1537, the same year as Edward VI, the only surviving son of the king who had sought a male heir so desperately. Jane, who like Edward was raised in the Protestant religion Henry had introduced to England, proved a diligent and intellectually gifted teenager. In spite of her youth and gender, Jane corresponded with Protestant authorities on the Continent, but fast-moving events in England precluded further study. When Edward died without an heir in 1553, the throne passed, by prearranged agreement, to his fiercely Catholic half-sister Mary.
However, in order to forestall a Catholic successor—and the dramatic rollback of the Protestant reforms instituted by Henry’s and Edward’s Church of England—Jane’s relatives proclaimed her queen. Her rule lasted a mere nine days. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Mary, who was then forced to consider whether Jane’s execution was warranted. Shortly before Jane’s death, at age 16, Queen Mary sent her own chaplain, Master Feckenham (sometimes rendered as “Fecknam”) to try to reconcile Jane to the Catholic faith. The results of this attempt were triumphantly recorded in John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, published after the Protestant Queen Elizabeth had triumphed over Mary and the Catholics. Although the conversation recorded here is not a trial transcript—and is a highly partisan account—it does distill some of the central issues that divided Catholics and Protestants in an extremely chaotic and violent period.
“The Examination of Lady Jane Grey (1554),” from Denis R. Janz, ed., A Reformation Reader: Primary Texts with Introductions, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2008), 360– 362, taken from The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe (London: Seeleys, 1859), 415–417.
Over 300 poems of various lengths were anthologized and transmitted by Confucius in the early fifth century BCE. Philosophers of the Confucian school cherished the Odes and cited them frequently, and they have continued to entrance readers with their naturalistic imagery and personal voices. Only two samples are given here, but this rich tradition of poetry should be sampled at length.
The Book of Songs, transl. Arthur Waley, edited with additional translations by Joseph R. Allen (New York: Grove, 1996), 27 and 65.
In the catastrophe brought on by the assaults on all their borders, some European midieval Christians were forced to devise new means of self-protection. Into this vacuum of governmental authority came new “feudal” relationships between lords and vassals. Over time, these contractual relationships became increasingly regularized. The terms of these relationships can be reconstructed through documents describing the ceremonial and formulaic aspects of feudal obligations.
James Harvey Robinson, Readings in European History, vol. 1 (Boston: Ginn & Company, 1904), 178–180.
A vision of the “American Century” is powerfully conveyed by this 1930 road map produced by the Gulf Oil Company. The map spins an idealized vision of America just before the Great Depression. Leisure opportunities,—boating, golf, and badminton, an d for both men and women—are all easily accessible by miles of paved roads. There is nowhere an automobile can’t go.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
John Foxe (1517–1587) authored this martyrology that especially focuses on the martyrdoms of 16th-century Protestants at the hands of Catholic inquisitors. This selection recounts the trial against Anne Askew, an Englishwoman who became actively involved in propagating Protestant beliefs—even being rejected by her husband as a result of her zeal. As in medieval inquisitions, the questions asked to Anne are aimed at clarifying where the error arises; here, she rejects the doctrine of transubstantiation and challenges the authority of “improper” priests. Her answers are logical and coherent as she unwittingly condemns herself. Anne was tortured in the Tower of London and burned at the stake in 1546 at the age of twenty-five.
“Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: Select Narratives,” ed. John N. King (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). Pp. 22–35.
The wife of a publisher, Isabella Beeton (1836–1865) translated her cooking talent into printed how-to guides for the women of London. Her grand guide, Mrs. Beetons’ Book of Household Management, provides nearly a thousand recipes as well as helpful tips for running a proper Victorian household. Mrs. Beeton was only twenty-one years old when she began compiling the project, which sold over fifty thousand copies its first year. Consider the wide scope of skills Mrs. Beeton thinks a proper mistress should possess.
From Isabella Beeton, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Ed. Nicola Humble. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 7, 11–2, 18–9, 21–4, 27, 29, 569–70.
The Chinese had to deal with nomadic neighbors on their northwestern frontier from an early date, and many of the patterns of that relationship were established, or at least explored, under the Han dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE). The Xiongnu was the Chinese name of the peoples, more or less politically united at different times, who were the dominant nomadic power on the frontier during Han rule. In addition to Chinese agricultural goods and metallurgy, the Xiongnu had developed a taste for Chinese silk, which became the principal luxury item used by nomadic leaders to build their political coalitions on the steppes: the more silk a leader could give away, the larger a following he could create.
As with all government business under the Han and subsequent Chinese dynasties, voluminous records were kept of (1) court deliberations over policy with regard to the frontier and (2) of diplomatic correspondence with the Xiongnu, whose leader had the title Shen-yu. Official court historians used these records extensively when writing their histories. The following selections are from the Hanshu, a Chinese history concerning the history of the Chinese empire from 206 BCE to 25 CE. It gives much detail about Chinese attitudes toward the “barbarians” who caused them so much trouble, as well as opening a few windows into the attitudes of the nomads themselves. Although colored by Chinese assumptions, the descriptions are generally accurate, receiving confirmation from other written sources and from archaeology. The selections describe an early period in Han relations with the Xiongnu, before 140 BCE, that can be described as conciliatory, being characterized by the payment of tribute by the Chinese to the Xiongnu (though the Chinese sources tend to call the goods “gifts”), use of diplomatic marriages, and other techniques designed to acculturate the “barbarians” to Chinese ways.
Excerpted from the Hanshu, trans. A. Wylie, Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 3 (1874): 401–50.