Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Three Remarkable Things... and then some

There were three remarkable things about today, and none of them has anything to do with the images. The first half of the double fish counter at the local Carrefour, though, is pretty remarkable all on its own. This side is the everything-but-fish side (mmmm)...

... and this side is the all-fish-all-the-time side. I bought some lovely "Julienne" fish for dinner tonight, as we were having one of our friends from the house on the island over! (that's the top remarkable thing of the day). The kids were wild with joy, which sounds cute, but was actually really loud. Why can't they express their excitement with witty banter and whimsical anecdotes instead of goofy noises and bad jokes? Oh yes, because they're tiny kids.

Once they had a little food in their bellies (fish!), Oliver did calm down enough to talk about his house and its village (which I had snapped a picture of when I had gone with Iris to her "Visite Médicale" - second remarkable thing of the day). So, as he pointed out, "all of the houses are about the same, but you can design your own yard." So he put himself in a rounded yard, overlooking the river; and indeed, there is a bridge (starting in brown the lower right-hand corner of the page), and then a black part of the bridge - this is said to resemble the bridge set-up of the house on the island, and our guest agreed!

Here is a more panoramic view of the village - lots of trim yards! And there's Oliver's little semi-oval of a garden at the top left. It must have been so cool to have all of the kids painting and designing at the same time - he carved out a pretty nice spot for himself. :-) Today was nice and tomorrow promises to be nice, too, so all of this greenery isn't just a fantasy!

Fantasy (of the Middle East, of Jerusalem, of a Golden Age, of an Empire, of a united world, and more) was the subject of my reading today. I plowed through several articles on the intersection of medievalism and postcolonialism (since medievals never feared anachronisms, neither do medievalists). I've long asked myself: "Do I really need Homi Bhabha to talk about "hybridity" and "ambivalence"?" (both are abundant in medieval images and culture). The logical answer is "no," but the more interesting answer is "yes," because it will allow me to discuss Louise de Savoie and François Ier's manuscripts within the specific hybridity that colonialism breeds: one dealing with territories (the 1517 call to crusade, to repossess the lands of Jerusalem) and the other with subjectivities (Thenaud (who went to Jerusalem on François's behalf at Louise's request in 1512) portrays himself as a lost dreamer in the Triomphe des Forces texts - only Dame Prudence can guide him - and you'll recall what a hybrid (old man, young woman) Prudence is!). Increasingly, I see the potential to rethink Robinet Testard's Heroïdes window scenes in terms of ambivalent spaces of violent desires (think, Medea, who writes one of those letters) (and now think Medea, and that violence, in connection with the desire and violence for a Crusade). One of my research questions is "How was François Ier educated about the Middle East?" The picture that is starting to emerge is not, no surprise, one of rational fact-gathering about Jerusalem etc., but rather a series of fantasies, of dream-narrative, and elaborate allegories. The question is worth asking, I believe, because we still need to ask after Western education of the Middle East - especially this generation of students I am about to start teaching, who were 10 years old when the current war started. As soon as I get a good image of a Triomphe landscape, I'll post it here and hopefully the connection with the Heroïdes will make more sense. One thing that is absolutely lacking is any discussion between postcolonialism and medieval art history - just last week, the very first group to try to take this on inaugurated their web site, "Postcolonizing the Medieval Image" - they're based at Leeds, and that's the conference I'll be presenting my paper to in July! Some really good things are coming together, and I'd be thrilled if I could make some kind of contribution/inroads to an emerging discussion intersecting medieval images and postcolonial theory (with an emphasis on medieval image, not just theory!).

Wow - that was remarkably long is what that was (3rd remarkable thing). I have no pictures from Iris's "Visite Médicale" by a nurse, but some lasting impressions: Iris was asked if she slept in a bed alone or with someone else - the nurse heartily approved of she and her sister sharing a bed ("Young siblings should sleep together," she said - wow, who knew?); she was asked if she had any strange dreams (I wondered if a Freudian analysis might be next!); turns out she is not colorblind (yea!); also, her vision is 20/20 (yea!); but her hearing fell a little short (hmmm). The whole time, Iris was asking eagerly for when she would start to see some medical instruments "you know, to make sure my heart is beating and my eyes are in my head the right way" (vivid kid!). She had to trace things, and walk certain ways and so on. So this is a service the state provides: twice-yearly check-ups at school, and each kid has a "Carnet de Santé" ("Health Notebook") and each time you see a doctor, he or she adds a line or two - and you keep that Carnet your entire life - it can become a whole life story!

I should have taken pictures of the gorgeous wines our friend brought over, or the meal, or the cheeses, or the dessert - but we were too busy talking and the kids were too "excited" (i.e. nuts). I settled them into a movie, and so the grown-ups had an hour and a half cheese and wine course - heaven! (Thank you, Finding Nemo). For me there's always such a gladness and excitement to discover that one has interests in common with someone - makes you feel like the friendship is meant to be if you both think Henry IV is cool and that colonialism is a tale that still needs telling in France (actually, by all accounts, that should make me best friends with about 90% of French people, but there you have it - I am thrilled with this friendship!). I did learn one really interesting thing about the regional elections that I want to pass on (oh! and there are two great posts by my astute students to yesterday's "coverage" of the regional elections that you can actually learn from!) - regional "conseils" (councils) take care of very specific things: enterprise/entrepreneurship; education; transportation. Add to that that these councils are new, that the whole idea of "regions" are new (after years and years of thinking of "départements") and the low voter turn-out starts to make sense. Well, next week-end is round 2 - the Socialist Party and the Greens have joined forces in almost all regions except Brittany, where they will have a three-way run-off with the UMP instead.

So - to remarkable things and realizations and people. And to you a good night!


  1. Sigh...love it...so happy for you, my dear...a good day and good night indeed!

  2. Excited to write about our first day of spring here today! Looks like spring is in the air at your place. Those photos of your most lovely daughter are fantastic!