Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Comic Grotesquery of Fecundity

I had to type that phrase down before it slipped away. It's one of those that'd fit so well into an academic essay, but I don't know if I'll be able to fit it into a zombie novel. Oh, what the hell! Why not?!

It came to me as I was half-awake this morning. I had been having a dream that I was showing my students slides of ancient Greco-Roman religion, and we had come to the famous slide of Artemis of the Ephesians (Acts 19:28) pictured here. And in the dream and in real life, I once again giggled, because the thing is just so darned funny. I know I'm supposed to take a detached perspective and analyze it, but come on - it's always looked to me like some mutant Michelin Man, covered in bumps, lumps, and rolls. No, wait - the grape Fruit of the Loom guy - that's what she looks like!! (Thanks, Matt!) People went into a religious frenzy over THAT?! And they call me weird.
So, still half asleep, I tried to analyze it, and I thought maybe it's just that the statue was carved by men, and we just don't quite "get" female fecundity, so when we try to visually represent it, it comes out all weird and funny. But then I thought of Flannery O'Connor's short story "Greenleaf," in which the title character is pretty funny, too, and is clearly meant as some symbol of out-of-control, ecstatic fertility - an Earth Mother, if you will - rolling in the dirt and wailing, ending up face down, butt up, hugging the earth like she's mating with it or giving birth to it. (The scene cracks me up every time, and I'd give anything to be able to hear Flannery read it, as she's supposed to have gone into fits of laughter when reading her own stories.) So maybe it's not just us guys. Maybe there's just something simultaneously funny and ugly about life, and the giving and producing of life. I'm pretty sure there is, now that I think about it.
That's the kind of thing I think when half-awake.


Blogger Allen's Brain said...

Taking the humor up (or down, perhaps) another notch, envision trying to develop a bra for a woman so endowed!

But is the Ephesian Artemis any weirder than, say, the Venus of Willendorf, as a symbol of--as you put it--fecundity?

10:11 AM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

No, big-breasts-and-big-belly seems the norm in representing fertility, doesn't it? Especially as you go further back to stone age times. That's why more normally proportioned female statues in more graceful poses are considered such great finds:

whereas with the Artemis, it's not the size that's weird (if they even are breasts, since they're neither shaped like them nor have nipples) but the number. It takes her down to the animal level, it would seem, since animals often have more than two; cf. Romulus and Remus -

Now, of course, Animal-gods are common in some cultures, but the Greeks and Romans weren't generally into them, I don't think.

It just gets more complicated.

10:34 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home


Triumph of The Walking Dead