Tuesday, July 24, 2007

If there was any doubt about my being a Ravenclaw...

Yesterday I plunged right in and finished Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. In all I've heard about this book, "completed in 1136," nobody ever mentioned that Geoffrey matter-of-factly states that two of the historical kings were gay. I can't find the earlier reference, due to my under-caffeinated state, but I have the second one handy.

Of course, it being the 12th century, part of his fact is that King Malgo was "hateful to God" because of the "vice of homosexuality." But that's prefaced with "unfortunately," and at least in the translation, the negative judgment comes across as more of an obligation than anything else, like, "It's too bad we're supposed to believe God hated him," because Geoffrey is clearly a fan of Malgo, "brave in battle, more generous than his predecessors and greatly renowned for his courage." (p. 263) In other words, a lot more noble than most, especially considering the messes guys like Utherpendragon made over women.

It's also amusing to note that Malgo "was the most handsome of almost all the leaders of Britan." So of course he was gay. Some stereotypes are centuries in the making!

Then I started reading The Gothic Revival and American Church Architecture: An Episode in Taste, 1840-1856, which picked up on a whim. According to author Phoebe B. Stanton, a core group of about three guys promoted a particular offshoot of Gothic Revivalism in the mid-1800s, based on the idea that "art had been at its best in the fourteenth century because the Church, as an institution, was immature before that date and decadent after it." (p. 18). I know a lot of modern-day music snobs who are prone to similar logic!

Because they were very contentious with other architects and largely considered cranks, the British group worked hard to spread its ideas to "the Colonies," where a lot of (mostly Episcopalian) churches began to be built in the popular styles for medieval country parish churches. One of the ideas was to make churches out of stone rather than brick, and some of the illustrations look much like the very distinctive church around the corner from the house where I grew up. Here's a link to a picture, but mind your volume. It's got some really loud, reedy music under it that gave me a start. (www.motherflash.com/sthelens)

And that church is, of course, Episcopalian. So it's all connected. Growing up in an architecturally-deprived environment, it always really stood out for being so different from everything else. That alone made is seem...fanciful, I guess. Imaginative. And a long circuitous path from a few long-ago oddballs whose love for their own distant past may have been spurred by "distaste for the immediate past." (p. xix) Only to land up right by me, stuck with the aesthetics of the late 60s and the early 70s. If you want to talk about distaste...

But it can't be all scholarly all the time around here, so I stayed up late watching Sleepaway Camp. Some of the acting is laugh-out-loud funny, and the whole thing is so absurd, it almost makes me curious about the sequels (which star Bruce Springsteen's sister Pamela). Almost.

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