Tuesday, April 6, 2010

First Chapters of Turks and Memoirs

1219 / 3000 words. 41% done!

The word meter of shame betrays today's minimal progress. In words. In images, things are good: I have chosen six images to discuss, which is more than enough for a 20 minute talk. And once the images have been chosen I'm not going to say the talk writes itself (I would never say the talk writes itself), but the structure (and maybe even the logic) are there.

Just a few cool points form today's forays: I've done a good deal of reading about Leo X's declaration of a crusade in January 1517 (that's when pardons were declared - once you've got your pardon in, you can have a crusade), and of course lots about François Ier being the only big king to join up (with lots of flourish and being associated with Constantine etc.). What I haven't seen, but discovered today, is that the Ottoman Turks, under Yavuz Sultan Selim, captured Jerusalem and the surrounding Palestine in 1517. They would rule it until 1917. The reason this is important is that I was starting to worry about the broadness of the term "Islam" in discussions of François's Orientalism. When I was saying "Islam" wouldn't I have to start distinguishing between the Islamic culture of the Ottoman Empire (based in Istanbul, Turkey) and that of the Holy Land (centered around Jerusalem)? Well, because of what I learned today, I can argue that that distinction collapses (not to be forgotten, but, as the image above indicates, to be collapsed) with the Ottoman invasion of Jerusalem in 1517. The image is fantastic - many layers - but the one I just want to mention is that it depicts Christian Crusaders, led by the king of France, facing off against the Turks in Jerusalem. The Turks are conveniently labeled, and we can see the topography of Jerusalem in the background, complete with history-collapsing cross in the background. This is exactly the kind of fantasy I want to explore - Leo X's crusade never happened, and by all accounts, François had neither the resources nor really the intent to go all the way to Jerusalem to confront the Turks. Why bother when, since the Turks were in Hungary (which was their fief!) and making big plans for Vienna and the rest of Eastern/Central Europe. But again, the key is that texts are being translated (the image is from a 1517 French edition of a 1483 pilgrimage to the Holy Land by one Bernhard Breydenbach of Mainz, Germany), images are being created (of François Ier facing off against the Turks with the dramatic background of Jerusalem). The more fantasy the better - the more aggressive the militarism, the more interesting.

All of which makes François's alliance with Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1525 that much more puzzling. This is the big challenge now. I'm holding the images too accountable to the history - don't shirk, my historian friends! What I mean by that is that I find myself looking for things in the images that would help me explain François's dramatic turn-around. In fact, it's all a complex chess game against the Habsburg Empire in which François uses his Turkish alliance to gain power over Charles V (who himself (unsuccessfully) appealed to the Persians at one point!). And so I won't be myself fantasizing that François deeply appreciated or understood Suleiman (although the gifts they exchanged were pretty swell: François received a seven-headed dragon made of crocodile skins; Antonio Rincon (François's primary diplomat to the Ottoman court) gave a courtier a world map, with a user's book!) - François kept calling Suleiman an "infidel" even during their alliance. There's a distinguishing term I keep seeing, a term that consistently underscores the difference between François and Suleiman, and that is "tyranny." It figures prominently in the Triumph of Fortitude and this could prove to be a very interesting exploration.

OK - so if I formalize what I wrote above and edit it heavily, that's probably another paragraph of the paper right there!

Last thing: I only have about 100 pages to go in the Triumphe de Prudence (284 pages of moral allegory and didactic treatise - the most fun you can have!) and was stunned to read, in a section on the history of architecture that:
  • comment les anciens peres demouroient en tabernacles, desquelz a present sont imitateurs les Arabes, Tartares, Yrlandoys saulvages, plusieurs Indiens et Ethiopiens
It's the "Yrlandoys saulvages" (the wild Irish) that get me - wow! Really? Ever since Gerald of Wales, there has been a description of wild men in the upper reaches of the British Isles, but this still surprised me, especially in a grouping with Arabs, Tartars, Indians and Ethiopians. The latter four are closely associated in medieval maps, and the medieval imagination of the Other (they are alarmingly inter-changeable) - but the wild Irish are an entirely new addition here. Wow!

Iris spent the day at home because of an ear infection (ow! ow! ow!) - two hours at the doctor's office (where I read a bunch of the Triumphe de Prudence) and then a day of salt water and rest and children's Motrin until we could start the antibiotic. She's always such a trooper about these things - and loves the doctor's office (dang! I still need to post about our wonderful experiences with the French medical system - a.k.a. my love affair with French pharmacies). She perked up about 4 p.m. and wrote her memoirs (her word). She had caught the title of many of the books at the Castle on Sunday and a great many were memoirs - once she found out what a memoir was, she was hooked on the idea of writing hers. So, without further ado, the Memoirs of 6 year old Iris:

  • Chapter 1: Baby. When I was born, I came out by myself and cried only a little.
  • Chapter 2: Life. My first sentence was "I do it" and I puked (spelled "pyokt") up my milk and I was bald.
That's all she has so far, but it is unerringly accurate: I didn't push once at her birth, she hardly cried (plus, we were all so amazed and laughing ourselves), her first words (at age 2) were indeed "I do it," she did indeed spit up milk until she 9 months old (lots of it), and she was as bald as could be until those incredible curls started coming in the spring of her second year. So what's interesting about this to me is that she's writing down the stuff of her own legend. None of those are things that she remembers, of course - they're all tales about her that we've told her... and that she now sees as part of her tiny (and to me fragile and poignant and oh so dear) history.

P.S. (later) Mac and I just finished Le Combat des Trentes board game - 4 nights of bludgeoning and romping! In the end the Montfortistes (English alliance - me) won with 117 points against the Blésistes (French alliance - Mac) with 115 points. Not the way it happened in history, but with the role of a die and a few well-timed cards, things can be rearranged! This is a really smart game and we consistently loved the luck-strategy tension (the best-laid plans and all that), and how very much like a battle things like force and arms were used. Not that we know anything about battles really. Just read about them in bookish things. :-) Anybody coming to visit us better brush up on their War of Breton Succession, for this game is sure to enter into play!

1 comment:

  1. Wow the memoirs of Iris sound wonderful! Right up my research alley of course--self/life-writing etc...I am once again going to try and read and comment more-I am almost done with Albion FOR GOOD, having decided to forgo the terminal year and instead take a "sabbatical" funded by the "Bill Konrad Foundation for hapless academics named Cathie Grimm" which, I have to say I am really looking forward to! Bring on the joys of domesticity and more time for reading, thinking and -eventually- writing again!! I am fairly confident I'll find another position somewhere, or maybe even "just-a-job" but I do want to keep one foot in the research pool regardless of what else happens. Take care and all the best! C.