“Pleasant to me the sunshine as it glitters on these margins so”
One of Two Things
If I had to select an animating spirit for British history which I had to retrospectively place at its horizon, as a foundation legend, giving it a past, present and future. What sort of being would I choose?
The answer seems easy to my modern mind, a genius.
Instead I find a wild man. To what extent are these subjects entangled with each other? How do such concepts alter over time?
Genius is still deployed however altered from its medieval form as a begetting spirit. It belongs to the same narrative genre of folklore’ the foundation legend’ ,which keeps things real by offering legendary proof that history has a very clear and marked starting point in the past, which will live happily ever after, ever-present in mind, determining what is to come.
It offers a very clear sense of past, present and future. Form of story that gives time a sense of connection and belonging. Socially and culturally powerful as the connection can be marked as the property of a particular social entity.
What Does A Genius Look Like?
It’s relatively simple to spot a wild man. It has basic features, incredible, strength, swiftness and a hairy or feathered appearance.
It is a creature always located in the wilderness and its social position is marginal, a creature of decline. In literary texts you general get the full range. With ethnographic material that can be more problematic due to the way material is gathered. If you are conducting an interview with children on the games they play, or with adults on the games they played as children you can get a full descriptive hit, incredible strength, swiftness, wilderness location, loss of social status.
The missing feature is the physical appearance, when interviewing children and adults about childhood games the question, what did you look like when you became……? Is one not on the check list.
One further distinct feature is the creatures role in foundation legends, it has a marked tendency to lurk at the start of things underpinning its foundation.
It is an extremely old creature that has survived in narrative form for an extreme period. Its survival is I think due to a simple processes, its tendency to look like and then become other things. It can range through time and alter its context with ease yet show a marked tendency to hold its form.
Absence, Difference, Repetition
That makes it rather difficult to deal with historically, it is never quite what it seems and you suspect it may be about to become something entirely different.
A wild man is not a genius in the modern or medieval forms it takes, yet at times it seems to occupy the same environment. Which suggests at these points it may share the same humours and is shaped by the same wider environmental processes.
The next part of my adventures in terrifyingly vast subjects I do not have the time or expertise to deal with fully will be madness and melancholia.
I am particular interested in how the status of melancholia changes over- time particularly in relation to second sight and knowledge of the future.
In order to keep the subject present in mind at the moment I link it with a feature that turns the end back to its beginning. Wild things show a marked tendency to suffer from love- sickness a distinct form of melancholia and what is this form of love but a sexually transmitted illness caught at a glance. Medieval love is a malady with a very distinct relationship that gives it its sense of confined belonging. It requires diagnosis and relationship between doctor and patient. The malady of heros is confined to an elite who can afford such services.
Such things are not the subject of plain sight and universaly open to all members of the population. They require a distinct diagnostic relationship to become clearly identified as a particular thing. Elsewhere, in the margins, it is to be suspect they may become something else.