The Judgment of Paris Forum

Go Back   The Judgment of Paris Forum > 2005-2012 > 2005: July - December
User Name
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 27th November 2005   #1
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default ''The Dionysian spirit in life''

Among the better Web logs that we have encountered in our Internet sojourns is one titled "The Bacchante Files," which is penned by our sometime forum contributor, Kirsten.

In her log, Kirsten celebrates "the Dionysian spirit in life"--and no topic could be more fitting for a self-styled Bacchante, since Bacchus is the Roman name of the Greek god, Dionysus, from whom the term "Dionysian" is derived.

But Kirsten's particular brand of the Dionysian is a very agreeable sort, comprising (in her own words) "the essentials in life: food, folklore, fashion, and a bit of fun."

Two recent posts on her log give a good sense of the site's treasures. One is a well-researched piece about German cuisine, with numerous links. This subject ties in neatly with our own recent post about Dresden's Originalist reconstruction of its Frauenkirche. Many of us in North America possess only a vague knowledge of our cultural inheritance, so what could be a better way to reacquaint oneself with one's heritage, over the holidays, than to prepare some traditional dishes for friends and family?

Instead of spending your time cobbling together meagre rations of calorie-free, taste-free fare in an effort to starve away your beauty, why not devote your time to crafting artful, flavourful, delectable Old World repasts--which also connect you to your ancestry?

In another recent entry, Kirsten links to a marvellous Web site showcasing 19th-century postcards of scenes from Wagner's operas. As anyone who has attended opera in recent years knows, productions that are faithful to a composer's actual intentions are virtually nonexistent. Opera today is almost exclusively dominated by arrogant directors who create hyper-political productions explicitly designed to distort the themes of the original works. But these postcards authentically evoke the aesthetic sensibilities of the 1800s, and reveal what Wagner's operas were meant to look like.

And naturally, the heroines of Wagner's operas were all originally conceived to be youthful, attractive, and visibly full-figured, resembling Kelsey Olson, or Charlotte Coyle, or Christina Schmidt as a blonde.

Here, for example, is a postcard showcasing the fair Isolde, from Tristan und Isolde:

As noted in a recent post about the forthcoming film of the same name, Sophia Myles fits the role of Isolde in terms of her lovely facial features, but not in figure type.

Here are two postcards depicting Tannhäuser, in the eponymous opera, while the Minnesänger is in thrall to the goddess Venus.

Venus and her maidens are, of course, depicted with sensually Rubenesque proportions.

Kriemhild (or Brünnhilde), from the Ring cycle, is distinguished by her peaches-and-cream complexion, full facial features, and the flush of generous indulgence:

And here is Elsa von Brabant, in a scene from Lohengrin, with her round face and fair tresses bathed in the moonlight.

How sad that it is almost impossible--except perhaps at the Met--to see operatic productions that are faithful to the aesthetic sensibilities in which the works were conceived. And even Met productions, fine as they are, fail to capture the folkloric qualities of Wagner's music dramas, such as one sees in these postcards.

But perhaps the most interesting of the many postcards archived at this Wagner site is the following, which depicts the meeting in the cathedral from Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

Yes, this postcard is indeed an advertisement, promoting some sort of comestible product ("Liebig").

Isn't it extraordinary that, in another time, commercial advertisements such as this not only served commercial ends, but also helped to popularize High Culture with the general public? How sad that this is no longer the case.

Just think how marvellous it would be if some of the billions of dollars' worth of advertising with which we are all inundated on a daily basis were devoted to campaigns that promoted cultural edification, as well as the selling of commercial products. The two goals are not mutually exclusive, as the above postcard demonstrates.

How fortunate that this Wagner postcard site, and Web logs like Kirsten's "Bacchante Files," are helping to keep the "Dionysian spirit" of Western culture alive, in the present day.

Christina Schmidt modelling for Torrid. The attire may be modern, but the beauty is timeless . . .

- Click here to view the above image in full

Last edited by HSG : 4th December 2005 at 05:17.
HSG is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th November 2005   #2
Join Date: August 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 61
Default Re: ''The Dionysian spirit in life''

Thank you for this gracious review of my web log! I had collected the cuisine links because I got tired of bland frozen dinners and felt it's time to start creating more nutritious and interesting fare.

The idea to honor the Dionysian spirit came to me while I doing some "fall cleaning" last week around my home. I came across notes for a mythology class and read back through the lively discussions we had about the legacy of Greco-Roman mythology, in particular the tension between the gods Dionysius (pleasure, ecstasy, generosity, feeling) and Apollo (order, intellect, logic, linear thinking).

Western society in the 20th century has been Apollonion in its drive for production and perfection and the Dionysian spirit was driven underground. I hope the 21st century will see a balance between the two philosophies and a greater appreciation for the sensual joys in life.
kirsten is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 4th December 2005   #3
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default Re: ''The Dionysian spirit in life''

The well-known opposition between the Apollonian and Dionysian was framed by Friedrich Nietzsche in his early work, The Birth of Tragedy (which is essentially a paean to Wagnerian opera). It is worth noting how the concept of the Dionysian applies to the topic of our own Web project.

Nietzsche describes the Dionysian aspect of art and life as an "enchantment," a "dream world of intoxication," one that "wants to convince us of the eternal delight in existence." He sees it as essentially linked to the teeming abundance of nature--the full-blown rose, and the bountiful harvest--in contrast to the Apollonian restrictions imposed by society.

"The ecstasy of the Dionysian state," Nietzsche writes, makes possible the "destruction of the customary manacles and boundaries of existence." Nietzsche adds,

And now let us imagine how into this world, built on mere appearance and moderation and artificially dammed up, there penetrated, in tones ever more bewitching and alluring, the ecstatic sound of the Dionysian festival; how in such celebrations the entire excess of nature sang out loudly in joy.

And later in his career, in Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche describes the Dionysian individual as someone "for whom there is no longer anything that is forbidden."

Thus, a "voluptuous vixen" becomes a full-blown goddess precisely when she transgresses, when she abandons herself to her desires, when she exceeds the stifling limits of "moderation" that the modern world seeks to impose on her, when she no longer considers any pleasures forbidden, and allows herself the very indulgences that society proscribes. (Even a decadent dessert.)

The modern media continually seeks to impose restrictions on full-figured women--restrictions on their choice of clothing; restrictions on the kinds and quantities of delicacies they "should" eat; restrictions even on the life choices that are available to them (i.e., the relentless modern push into the workforce).

But when a young lady disdains those restrictions, when she transgresses societally-imposed boundaries--when she wears whatever she wishes, eats whatever she likes, and chooses whatever path in life she prefers--she truly becomes a goddess.

To use Nietzsche's terms, the goddess takes "delight in existence." She rejects "manacles and boundaries" on her desires. She disdains the tedium of "moderation," and herself becomes an embodiment of the glorious "excess of nature."

The Dionysian spirit enables a goddess to reject societal pressures to submit to wage slavery, and instead to secure a comfortable life for herself--one that allows her to relish "la dolce vita," to experience the finer things, and to enjoy her own femininity to the fullest.

Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of a Woman with Curly Blonde Hair, c.1620, from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, in Dresden:

(Her peaches-and-cream complexion and exquisitely soft facial features have made her the great beauty of Dresden since time immemorial.)

Last edited by HSG : 4th December 2005 at 05:19.
HSG is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Forum Jump

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 19:56.

Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.