Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Et in Arcadia ego

Here is a quote from Jonathan Bate's review of Paul Holberton's A History of Arcadia in Art and Literature in the TLS: “Panofsky’s essay was called ‘Et in Arcadia ego.” It proposed that the tomb of Daphnis in Virgil’s fifth eclogue was the source for the inscription on the plinth holding a skull in Guercino’s baroque painting of two Acrcadian shepherds confronted by the knowledge there is mortality even in the most pleasant place.” Panofsky was the father of iconography and Bate is a knighted academic and novelist who teaches at Arizona State University, no less. But it’s a mouthful by any standards. “Say no more!” as Monty Python used to warn. The subject of Arcadia is actually an interesting piece of iconography and the above sentences are swimming in the kind of erudition in which some readers may actually drown, a la Narcissus who was smitten by his own reflection. Epistemology is a fragile discipline. An educated person can be like an overexcited child always raising their hand in class—unable to hold off disgorging all they know. It’s notoriously hard for intellectuals to keep a secret. Arcadia is generally thought to be a place of simple repose and beauty, something that was apotheosized by the pre-Raphaelites. It’s ironic that so many long sentences, no matter how interesting they turn out to be, are needed to convey the point. I am in Arcadia. While reading Bate's piece was heady, the experience could hardly be called Arcadian.

read "Why Big German Words Like Vergangenbangenheit Carry Weight" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "What a Wonderful World"by Sam Cooke

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