Keeping It Real (When The Pure Products Go Crazy)

Medieval

Vision and second sight result from trauma and a sudden and dramatic change of environment.

Early Modern

Vision and second sight are lost due to trauma and a sudden and dramatic change of environment.

Both are not a general rule, they come from very specific examples. They share some similar features, both are subject to dispute and debate. The writer has good reason to attempt to display clear expertise and to shape the narrative to present an un- disputed reality.

Clearly a dramatic shift of thought regarding the environmental factors that result in such vision.

The question to ask of the late 17th century source is why does it become important to suggested that second sight is associated with a well-ordered mind and a settled and stable environment?

Distinct move to place the subject as far from the disorder and unsettled gut of melancholia as possible.

I am hoping a comparative glance at genius may help here. The cold damp climate of Northern Europe produces a melancholic mind, dry humour requires a more hospitable environment (medical theory here originates in the warm and dry climate of the classical world).

One obvious move would be to re-order the theory and allow the cold and wet mind a road it can travel from melancholia to genius. In the case of second sight that is clearly not the case in this example.

While it is altering and modifying tradition, it also appears conservative and cautious in its over-all approach to the subject. Maintaining a continuity with the past and it’ s ways of knowing appear to be of some importance to it.

One aspect that does interest me is the social in regard to melancholia and madness in its medieval form and its early modern manifestations. The medieval  visionary discussed above, is a member of the social elite. In early modern investigation the practitioners of second sight are non-elite members of society.

Differences here suggest the potential for social distinction and cultural difference as playing a potential role in the re-shaping of description here. The Madness of the lower orders may be a very different thing from the melancholia of the elite.

If I was to speculate and hazard a guess as to what may be a possible rule of the game here, it would be social immobility.

Poor bodies are often presented as unmovable and static. The poor body may have no escape from its disordered vision. For the socially mobile, melancholia may just be one moment in a more varied life cycle. It has a greater chance to refine and alter life experience and expectation. The poor body trapped within an expansive and corrupt shell of vile fats is unmoving.

The madness of the medieval wild man is a distinct individual with an internal and unique emotional landscape, which allows for movement on the part of the actor. Presenting melancholia as collective condition associated with a particular social class or ethnic group limits that scope for individual action and potential escape.

What may be the determining  factor in difference here is an alteration in scale as melancholia moves from the individual to the collective. The difference in scale in turn an indicator of differing social position.

Social expectations may be a driving factor for our late 17th century avoidance strategy in regard to second sight and melancholia.

The distinguishing feature and the issues our late 17th century researcher may be dealing with and responding to, maybe in themsleves an entrenched form of social conservatism.

 

 

 

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