Primarily a writing exercise, this dream journal-inspired blog is a quiet introspective sojourn into the process that we traverse in going from private dream to public art. I see our dreaming as an internalized mythmaking. As I philosophize and expressively exhibit dreams, both private and public, I encourage and delight in creative language as a way to practice experiential metaphors through a “public dreaming." Writing Theory: Creative Dream Fiction

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Anaïs Nin and the Secret Self: From Blindness to the Mountaintop

Henry Miller

In the last few years one sees quite a few either writings about you or quotations from you about dreams and the dream life and I feel that they haven't really understood what you mean about this. I don't think you want people to be living in a dream state while conscious, do you?

Anaïs Nin



But you mean that dream has its uses, its effectiveness in life afterwards.


No, I meant something else, I meant that what we could arrive at a state where what we dream at night would be the blueprint for what we wish to fulfill, or to reach, and if we understand the dream then we know what the secret self is and then this secret self we can fulfill.

Anaïs Nin, whose literary renown is most prolifically exampled in her posthumously published diary writing, is also respected and admired for her role in encouraging and stimulating the work of Henry Miller. Her opening preface to the Tropic of Cancer, Miller's first book, is one of the most incisively written dedications to the literary spirit that I have ever read. Her quotations on dream, are poignant in their truth and magical in their realism, vibrant in their imagination and open in their accessibility. 

Similarly as with Carl Jung, both Nin and Miller drew liberally from interpretations between Western psychoanalysis and the traditional religious learning, thought and practice of Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist cultures. As highly creative minds, who lived richly balanced in heart and mind, stood for a conscientious human being, who through developing thorough self-awareness comes naturally to be a part of compassionate change in the creative universe. 

“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living,” said Nin, in a comment that affirms the dream psychology of Jung, who considered the dream life, or the life of the imagination, of the mind and of creativity as more real, meaning a more direct form, or manifestation, of experience, than the life lived through the senses. Thus, Nin determines, “Dreams are necessary to life.” 

Indeed, Nin would press ever on into conceiving the dream life as integral to meaning, to holism and self-truth. She asserts, “Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.” Further, one might add that when woven together, the dreamer, as artist-visionary-thinker-writer, becomes the seer, as in the mystic of unmediated experience, of eternal unity in the present, of enlightenment in non-being. 

Eventually, dreams are life, as life is certainly made of dream, and that we are the substance of dream, as the subtle nature of perception, meaning, truth and self-knowing. In reaching the transformation of necessity to becoming, in the paradigm shift of dream action fulfilled in daily living, is for Nin, a miraculous occurrence, likened to the rare and precious goal of enlightenment. She reminds, “The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle.”
Night in the forest, like soot and anger, under a flattening sky. I fell from Paradise into History in the moment of a sting, the lunging insect-antennae, electric, lunged into my paranoid flesh. Hooked under the stark and opaque canopy, obscuring starlight into the bitter and directionless flood of need, anxiety and hope. I sprang from the petrified mud to the swaying vegetable maw of a blind quake, a wild charge.

Georges Lacombe, La forêt au sol rouge
Extinction moved in the sad, ghastly wave of moonlight over frostbitten leaves. Bone-white spears upended my eyes, as I dodged a full-grown bull. Adrenaline-shocked, I sped, scanning the immobile trunks, weighing the Earth down with inhuman strength. And the soil broke in a jarring flash of bestial rage, as another bull, of sturdy, muscular build, spun me around, my heart waning of life.

Bull's head, painting by Johann Heinrich Baumann
I tore through the endless nothing. Then, one bull split my body from the waist up the gut. Marching on my hands, stomping and cracking bone with its merciless strength, adrenaline rushed and spilled out into the open air as I climbed back to my feet, nearly wasted by the crushing jeer. Countless bulls encircled, as I fled, bleeding, the pain yet to reach my brain, grabbing for low-hanging anything, my stomach burning, my feet turning to knee-splitting daggers and brain-flushing mush.

Animals in a Landscape (aka Painting with Bulls) by Franz Marc
Pit against an escalating fever and white with near-mortalizing blood loss, I fainted under the powerless impression of my death, only steps from the forest edge, still besieged under the sightless underground forest of the human Earth. A single house stood at the edge of a rock face, and I was carried to its door. From a window fogged with subzero condensation, I could make out the moonlit peak, and with every second that my mind ascended, my body shrank with fear, and I gasped for each breath as my last.

Mountain Peak with Drifting Clouds by Caspar David Friedrich
Staring at the summit, and then was enshrouded by cloud-cover, my eyes closed, I stole beyond the body, and time, beyond death and need, beyond blood and truth, beyond the waves of human flesh that rode on this belligerent tidal sway of hope and tragedy, to summit the Everest flight of dream, and survive through this tyrannical flood of mortal reality.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Create You: Fearless Artistry and Creative Identity

"I began to dream heavily, violently, every night, and then I learned how to wake up…" 

"Consciously or unconsciously, all writers employ the dream, even when they’re not surrealists. The waking mind, you see, is the least serviceable in the arts. In the process of writing one is struggling to bring out what is unknown to himself. To put down merely what one is conscious of means nothing, really, gets one nowhere." 

Creation is life. More, the incipience of creation is the life of the creator. The life of the artist is bound to their creation, in the same way that a mammal survives on each breath of fresh air. As long as the air is fresh, the artist will continue to create, and as long as the authentic substance of heart issues from the core of the artist's own vision, the arist-seer will align and harmonize with all of creation. 

To forego a path without heart is acceptable. The great mystical physicist of our age, Fritjof Capra, began his famed text, The Tao of Physics, with that realization. Yet, on the path of heart, a different narrative runs its course. To remain true to oneself is to hold fast to the consciousness of one's life source as not merely the beginning precepts of one's physical subsistence, but of the visionary path onto which one is led through to the heights of meaning and becoming. 

The proud artists will realize their vision in the instant of a moment, at simply being the processional experience of creation, the ever-beating heart of co-unity with individuality and universality on Earth. To not over-think is the key to strengthen the creative momentum, reminds Henry Miller, the American author with a self-professed Chinese ascetic's nature. 

So, in holding fast, the artist and author of self-creation, is near-shattered, sensitized by the flood of the fleeting that files down the materialism and consumerism of an all-pervasive cultural fear, to belittle the uncultivated mind to ignorant non-being and blind negativity. In this way, the inner sanctum from where the creativity of an artist is strengthened by the water-like ability to be vulnerable, naked, raw and emotive in a full and unbridled formless truth. 

To all artists, and to the Self, I call on you to be strong, and to claim the ideas and visions and dreams in your mind and heart and being as you would claim your rightful place on Earth. For that creativity, and the perfect imagination of its fruition in your life, is your truth, your heart, your mind, your being, your soul, your foundation, your meaning, and all your own, it is you, your nature, your life, all yours, be it and be proud. 

Everyone, as with one mind and one heart, is capable of becoming sensitive to the expression of your truth as an unheard knowledge that only you possess and that is invaluable, necessary in its tragedy, absolute in its humour, refined in its judgment, authoritative in its experience, wild in its reason, cautious in its aspiring, and pure in its love. Create you. 
Around this circle danced the flame of eternity. In the green spark licked the tongue of heaven. Spring in the Jungle bloomed with effervescent majesty among the ruined foundations of another remote, human wasteland paradise. The veils of fame and belonging passed like a soothing tide, recoiling in the abyss of oceanic depth. We smoked the herb of forgetfulness, harmony and love. 

Ernst Haeckel's 1905 Wanderbilder (Travel Pictures)
The smoke coiled around our lazing necks, floundering amid the slow-moving river, her brown body motioned like a heavy emotion. One among us, an artist of metal and flowers spoke up as paper and marijuana stung our eyes, blinded by the greedy moment, a fleeting light. "Native community leaders announced their wish to use our space. They will hold facilitations, meetings and workshops on the militarization of the Indian people; their War." 

Coolies on the Road near Kalicut, Malabar by Edward Lear
A shade lifted and a heaviness shrank as our hearts wept and our minds faltered along the brink. She, the speaker, high as the azure, fled to the banks, to swim and cleanse in thoughtful reflection. She swung on a low-hanging vine, falling into the naked river, dressed still in paltry coverings, now a resident of the Amazon for well over a decade. Her eyes spoke of what her tongue could not shake. 

Young hunter by Ferdinand Keller
They arrived, and we vacated the area, as a show of respect. And one day, on the top floor, whereon we store our arts, with wood canvases lain and strewn, I saw her. She was not Native. She was a woman of the Old Country. Her heart was cold as a perennial shadow. Her moonlit face eyed me with an inhuman glare, and her blood then boiled, raising her hair, intoning a voice as harsh and ghastly as the screaming bite of a bullet ant. 

14 abril by Yolanda Palomo del Castillo
I ran. And then falling with desperation in the rushing river, we were swept along. In the instant of our near-death, she lunged towards my angular body, stretched out above the surface, in full display of my superior experience on these riverine lands. I watched as the infamous cult leader, impostor of the Cocama ethnic struggle was buried in the open jaw of the current, as her bones cracked in the turbulent stream. Awash, I lay at the edge of reason. 

Giant tree in Brazil's tropical forest by Johann Moritz Rugendas
Then, I saw the body. The tattooed flesh, gouged and lacerated. Two arrows pierced the man's underside, widening a deep, mortal wound. With bowels distended, his blood having since let almost completely of his sunken frame, I cried, lowered to the wet jungle floor, bleary-eyed. Not only had his own turned on him, but the man also suffered bullets. Scarred and mutilated, his body is the story of his people, dead to the world, brutalized and beaten down by the perpetrators of human trust, by invaders and blood alike. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Rebuilding the Unconscious: National Reconciliation and Personal Poverty

"What was in the unconscious, by talking about it, was brought into the conscious mind, and since the conscious mind, Dr. King's already won, the behaviour changes. Wait a minute, what's that mean? Wait a minute, what's that mean? That means that we may be closer to Dr. King's dream than we fear, but we got to keep talking. We've got to keep talking, even when it's uncomfortable." 

"Today, the American Dream is under threat. Our veterans are coming home to few jobs and little hope on the home front. Our young people are graduating off a cliff, burdened by heavy debt, into the worst job market in half a century. The big banks that American taxpayers bailed out won’t cut homeowners a break. Our firefighters, nurses, cops, and teachers – America’s everyday heroes – are being thrown out onto the street." From the Rebuild the Dream Contract 

Van Jones

Usually, this space features original writing, mostly essays, articles, and creative pieces published across the globe, a repository of works featured online. Such original writing usually comes after referencing relevant quotes from the luminaries of the age, those who spoke and clarified humanist dream-thinking beyond conceptual idealism to the pragmatism of imaginative vision and achievable action. Yet, in light of the exceptional words of Van Jones, noted public intellectual on green economics and social justice, a project on the American Dream, and the War on Poverty, a non-fiction work entitled, The American Nightmare: Deconstructing the War on Poverty that I had been working on for on average 6-10 hours daily over a span of three weeks has been suspended due to negligent correspondence. 

The suspension of the work has led me to seriously question my place in the Struggle. I have reflected earnestly and steadfastly into the bitter and stubborn recesses of my young mind, to uncover and explore the history that has led me to my current state, profession, and living circumstances. Not only has the suspension irked me personally, it has led to a seemingly irreparable disintegration of my professional development, as I have been led to question the very foundation of my primary income-earning as a freelance writer. Simply, I accepted a job to write a major work on poverty, which truthfully, paid so little, and asked so much of my time, that it may as well have led me into poverty. 

Added to the initial fact, while I did the work out of curiosity and an impetus to serve a greater work ethic in the name of fulfilling a position asked of me, the suspended correspondence between myself and the publishing agency has caused unmentionable anxiety. The topic on poverty in the United States, and government programming intended to reduce and eradicate poverty had led me to very interesting conclusions on the nature of governance and civil progress in the American context. The freelance job that I had taken to produce 215 pages of carefully written and closely studied work on the subject was truly an exhilarating and inspiring process. 

However, the process as a whole, and the empty-handed result thus far, has left me with an enduring impression with regard to the nature of work, one that, honestly, compels me to complete exasperation. Was it vain pride at the chance of writing a book, and being paid for such work? Or, the overall scheme of my life that has led to this point of personal and professional denigration in the name of accomplishment, work and independence? 

The work of SoJourn(al), this space, is essentially one where the process of a young life, and its manifestation of dreams, come to fruit through perennial dedication to the passions of independence (i.e. self-employment) and creativity (i.e. resourcefulness). After completing the original sound-art works relative to the Sketches of Style collection, I intend to break from uploading more original content here, to recollect and compile all of the works that support the overall intent, create a master publication (i.e. in the form of self-published collected original materials, such as dream fiction and essays on the narrative subconscious), and begin a new page on a new project.     

For now, more music reviews from BeatRoute are forthcoming… 
There was a sheen of golden sand on the top of the butte, where I sat, immersed in the Valley of the Gods. And as I opened my eyes, the sand sparked, as an invisible flame rose to greet the monumental sun. Tears cracked the thirsting rock as I held in my arms the newborn drum. Taut calf-skinned and maple-encircled instrument of spirit, it moved, as inside me, with a petrified grace. 

Mount Desert Island, Maine, by Jervis McEntee
Not alone, yet from the clouds above, heavy with a sad rain, pregnant with the forecast of solitude, I remained silent, a silhouette of the drunk Earth, whose lines disappear and merge with the clear and lucid landscape horizon. Then, there were others behind me. With hands held at their sides, solemn. We awaited the grace of the Royal Native footstep, a rush of patient anxiety, the air true and sound of our hearts' own unhindered regularity.

"Prayer in the Desert" by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Then, as with the march of an oncoming storm, they strode in dancing. Their flat footwear dusting the tops of the sky, elegant with strength. Their movements sure and ancient, greeting the naked stone with the trust of an artist's hand, as the land's own song cried and intoned the sacred. And all then overcame the one great Fear of Death, displaced by the Beauty of Truth. Their songs spoke of Love, Peace and Unity. Then a rain flattened our wild hair, and we cried in unison for the end of a loud and gross age.

"Early in Day in Desert Quiet" by Mary Agnes Yerkes
I began to beat my skin, summoning the gravel and the hail, I floated on a subtle ecstasy, my own song, for them, for here, for us. The drum cracked and moaned, and my heart opened with a newfound longing. The rhythms of the Earth called forth the Witness. Of sight and mind, I broke fast on the holy mount, within the inner sanctum of my own restrained and haunted psyche. Liberated, I stood, bowed with respect to the territorial spirits in whose name I intoned the first breath of song. 

Lions in the Desert by Henry Ossawa Tanner
We left the butte alone, as it had been for aeons. The Valley of the Gods lay silent and waiting behind our upraised eyes, sharing in the unsayable fate of humankind. 
Thelonious Monk, the great American composer...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Ecological Storytelling: Dream, Hallucination and Vision

"I think it's easier than to formulate high ideals, but a few things are more difficult, and to discover the means whereby those ideals may be implemented one has to dream but one has to dream in a pragmatic way" Aldous Huxley, in Hoffman's Potion

Do I hear a tinge of surf rock here and a splash of psychedelic vocals there? And all wrapped up in a damn fine beat! The new Ketamines 7” So Hot! opens with its killer two-and-a-half minute title track. Resistance vibes ebb and flow as they bray and stomp through lyrics held down by the kind of upbeat clutch that makes this Toronto group well worth a listen, if not a full-fledged tracking down.

Released this October, the band’s three-track album buzzes under the genres of punk, garage and power-pop. Spacey breakdowns mood out these catchy and tight musical explorations with extra-hot reverberating guitar riffs smoothed out over ambient and effectively eerie vocals. “New Skull Tattoo,” the second cut on the album, begins with a daze of light-hearted, fifties-era doo-wop rhythms fused together into punk lyricisms.

The Ketamines provide a riot of trickster stylings, as the lyrics carry us through into a stupendous poetic irony. Final track, “Summer Mothers,” sounds off a dream-pop show with the power of good feelings, impressing the listener with a kind of end-of-concert bittersweet rush that takes no prisoners. It reminds us that when the summer or the year ends and all is lost, we should just hold fast to the driving beat and we’ll all be okay.

All in all, each and every song on this new 7” is good listening. Even multiple listens later the songs groove pulse more and more in the veins. Straight to the head, this one’s a gem.

This piece of interpretive writing was published with BeatRoute magazine on November 3, and conceived under the influence of soundscapes by Canadian psychedelic music band, KETAMINES
The Union Street Y faces the Puerto Rican cafe where I used to sit over a microwaved chocolate chip muffin and hot chocolate, eyeing the clock, readying myself for Hebrew school. The elaborate turnstile reminiscences of the red-bricked Y invited with the flushing scent of chlorinated memory and the erased lunch-hour sweat of youth. There, a mere two jaunt to the fish-gut factory ocean, I spoke to children. Fascinated by the swung heart of musical storytelling, the night awaited patiently, as the fat bosom of American daytime on the human Earth struggled to a peaceful end. 

Lesser Ury: Café Bauer
A story of Massasoit and the unvanquished heads of Massachusetts flesh, spell out the old paradigm loosed from vocal chords, taut with knife-edge reason on a silent beach. Their indiscriminate wisdom emerges from white-skinned pride, to destroy the vainglorious ruse of ego and fate. Mortality ensued in the fading light, as speech lightened the animate Earth with a name, and its meaning. The soil spoke with a tongue of roots, with teeth of stone and and words of food. Saying: where the story is told is equally or more important to the telling. 

A Northern Lake by Unknown
Flown beyond the wellspring of distant knowledge, exotic in its geography, sacred in its ecology, and born of a feverish need in its cartographic attemptation, a single mountain rose as a breach of faith on the plain horizon. Monumental airs shifted and sprang from the glowering mass of insurmountable ice. Formed as from a frozen volcanic fire, the ice lifted with evaporating death, as the cold grip of lifelessness in nonbeing. The frozen hell still beckoned forward the unanswered mystery of longing, as the natural light waned atop its insuperable caracas, a skull of monastic belonging. 

Mer de Glace, in the Valley of Chamouni, Switzerland by J.M.W. Turner
I stepped forward, onto the slippery fall of the sky's over-hastened drop to Earth, as the violated inherent reason of nature, unearthed. The pool fragranced wisps of spiritual air, the will of the unmoving background to all life on Earth, revealed in the deadening cold. As the stone ascended to its paternal source above, each step closer frustrated the nervous system with defeat, failure, and the fatal swoon of all human belonging. The release of the spirit, awake. 

Harlem Valley, Winter by Ernest Lawson
Captured under the fault of a boot, I risked a greeting at the hand of death's blizzard smoke, the craving and seductive flaw of its embrace. Unable to get back afoot, I peered through the ice to see the reigning female of human law. The Queen shone glinting the fixing light, fleeting, yet absorbed needfully. With a hand mobilized by the insane truths of modern life, I sunk below the ice, to finger the freezing metal, and to possess its deathless strength. Ascendance moved to transcendence. The impossible summit slunk beneath my loins, hidden in hoarding pockets and disguised on lusting hands. 

Queen of Coins (Diamonds) from the Visconti tarot deck by Bonifacio Bembo
The line at the cinema began to move. I paid, and saw the unseen. I paid, and mounted the insurmountable. I paid, and lived the unliveable. I paid, and knew the unknown. I paid, and heard the unheard. I paid, and paid the unpaid. And I paid, and paid to pay for the priceless. I paid to pay for the invaluable. I called home the unreachable. I vanished in the light. I stole out on the intractable ice. I rose my shoulders above the limits of atmospheric pressure. I called out above the thinnest trace of oxygenated air the name of the unnameable: I.  

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Giotto and the Ageless Fashion: An Essay on Medieval Aesthetics

Dream of the Palace by Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)
Take pleasure in your dreams; relish your principles and drape your purest feelings on the heart of a precious lover 

I. Introduction: A Summary of Historical Research on the 14th Century  

         The 1300s were a particularly gloomy time in Europe. As the Black Death began in the mid-14th century (1358), so, for the next hundred years, European culture would be defined by an aesthetic of tragedy. Christianity was at its most dogmatic. Deeply obstinate religious values had become embedded in daily life, where the robes of the monk and the scepters of the high clergy were a regular sight. Consequently, clothing represented degrees of piety, as well as social belonging. During a time when contagion spread with an unparalleled mortal wrath, belonging, most often signified by faith, become a paramount concern. In this way, the manner in which people dressed was not only a sign of religious and class loyalty, but of basic hygiene. Dress, in the 14th century was, as it continues to be today, representative of the wearer’s health, and thus, within the social environments of the Black Death, of their survival.

“The ninety years from 1340 to 1430 share with the tenth and twentieth centuries the dubious honor of being one of the most violent periods in the history of Europe,” writes Fossier in The Cambridge Illustrated History of The Middle Ages (52). In such an age as the 14th century, with its inception marred by plague and injustice, practicality was nowhere more evident in the daily life of the vast majority of people, who suffered the greatest brunt of such a cruel epoch.  Despite the widespread brutality, which largely defined the 14th century of Europe, as the social impacts of the plague began to fade in the latter half of the following century, and with it’s demise came scenes of bucolic jubilee. “One of the most notable effects of the impact of the Plague was to have highlighted the inequitable distribution of the population between the towns as places of refuge…” Fossier notes, regarding the plight of so many people who, if they escaped the plague, were devastated by the onslaught of war, crime and a rise in belligerent lasciviousness (56).

II. 14th Century Life and Fashion: Social, Economic, Religious, and Political Influences

As depicted from scenes of 14th century village life, among country laborers, there continued a strong tradition of accessory fashion in the hat. “There were several forms of the hat, ranging from the pointed ‘Phrygian cap’ to something resembling a beret, and to hats with wide brims which were worn over the hood when travelling,” writes James Laver in the revised, expanded and updated 1995 edition of Costume and Fashion. “Indoors, men sometimes wore the coif of plain linen covering the ears and tied under the chin” (60). With footwear relatively unchanged, the peasant wore a strapped, soft boot-like slip that extended at the knee, and an undergarment of tights following upwards from the toe to the neck when needed in cold climates during outdoor work. A one piece-jacket overall extended also to the knee, where it was held in at the waist by a belt of open-holed fasteners, to attach tools and the like. The peasant would add neck warmers and thick gloves to his workaday garb, at times adding a second layer of tunic (see image 1).

Outside of the classes represented by the clergy and the peasantry, who, with their superstitious and unhygienic customs were generally overrun by the Black Death, there lived the class of soldiers. One 14th century tomb plaque from the Flemish region of Belgium depicts a captain, also titled as magistrate, wearing the typical warrior’s attire. With sword in hand, engraved in the holy script of Latin, the metallic plaque is befitting for the nature of the warrior’s dress of the time, which may have weighed with leather, bronze, iron or steel. The captain holds in his other hand a heart-shaped shield below his waste. The man is protected from the pointed tips of his footwear to the plated sheath, V-neck collar. A smooth, and finely interwoven chainmail protects his neck and forearms, his hands and face uncovered, to reveal the photographic nature of this identifying, death certificate-like representation (see image 2).

Often, soldiers were armed with multiple types of armor in combination, the highest grade being that of steel. Not only was the soldier distinct in the class order of 14th century Europe by virtue of skill and prestige, their very clothing signified a level of economic attainment in a time where the everyday trade was compromised. As Fossier writes, “…things which could, when necessary, be manufactured in the villages – wooden or iron objects, clothes, tools – were steadily getting more expensive, and though this was a slow process, it was still faster than the rise in wages…” (102). Clothing, a fundamental trade good of villagers throughout Europe was especially impacted by such ruthless class divisions. Furthermore, the soldier was more and more seen as the very cause of the people’s plight as the high costs and seething injustices of war mounted steadily across the land. “Italian textiles are a case in point; profits there fell from 15 to 6 per cent in 1375,” Fossier elaborates. “These circumstances created an atmosphere of class conflict…” (102).

Despite the apparent impenetrable quality of the soldier class, with its hard-beaten, metallic exteriors, the 14th century proved an dubious time for the warrior class, whose role was often interchanged with the militant outrage of the oppressed. In The Cambridge Illustrated History of The Middle Ages, Fossier emphasizes this temperamental time in European history when, “…those social classes which had every reason to complain of their lot could not go on being aroused without something changing…the common people of the towns of Europe were spontaneously and simultaneously aroused, albeit for different reasons” (106-107). France, for example, had witnessed the violent assassination of the provost of the merchants in 1358. The act, although, political motivated, represents the larger social upheaval in a time when the merchants took up arms, enacting a brief displacement of the warrior’s prestige.

An illustration of the provost of the merchants, Étienne Marcel, depicts the high-class man with a large top hat, in a long, flowing robe reaching to his feet. This upper echelon man, shown in his last moments of life under the swing of an assassin’s halberd, wears exceptionally tight pants, which rudely emphasize the shape of his crotch. He wears a decorative undershirt, revealed between his robe, open, without stitch or button. The angry merchants surrounding him with deathblows wear either more lightly pigmented top hats or cover their heads in a single piece of braided white cloth. The ruffled shirt jacket hangs just above the knee, belted at the waist. The merchantmen wear black tights and slip shoes, if any footwear at all. Soldiers are distinguished by shining helmets, their tightly buttoned tops belted and hanging high just below the waist. The soldiers’ arms are clothed in a heavier fabric, puffed at the shoulders (see image 3).

Outside of informal justice, such as led by militant class rivalry, institutional law was meted with equal, if not more intensive, forms of cruelty. 13th century condemnation employed the gallows, where criminals would be committed to torture before a shaming crowd of onlookers, prior to execution. The lawman, typically clothed in a tight-fitting suit, buttoned twice up the torso, however, hanging close to the waist, would also carry a baton to strike the condemned. Wealthy onlookers wore capes, walking along with cane in hand. Most arrived in plain fitting shirts, ruffled, and hanging at the thigh. All, except the lawman, wore caps of varying sorts, others in full, monastic garb, were also hooded. The entire procession carried a religious air, as people showed their support for the lofty ideals of righting sin through judgment. The condemned, nude except for tattered underwear, walked barefoot to their doom (see image 4).

Also a symbol of reprieve, the executioner’s noose can be seen worn by those seeking special pardon directly from the pope. Such has been depicted in the life of the antipope Nicholas V, who arrived in such a fashion to beg at the feet of Pope John XXII in Avignon, France. Draped in a luxurious, armless gown that extended well beyond the feet, especially visually dramatic when kneeling, the robe was collared by a stiffer fabric against the back, all buttoned at the front of the neck by a studded brocade. The papal cap is featured as a conically tipped and striped adornment, tassels flowing against the ears. The pope, dressed equally as the antipope, was distinguished only in the fanciful shape of his brocade. Aside to the pope, an assistant clergymen wore a similarly fashioned robe, differentiated in social standing by a flat-topped hat under which a shawl stretched along the sides of the face and below the back of the neck (see image 5).

III. Fashion and Art in the 14th Century: Lines, Proportions, Color and Shape

The artist Simone Martini, who lived his entire professional life in the 14th century, is renowned for his famous work, The Church militant and triumphant, which to this day sits in the Spanish Chapel in Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Therein, Martini depicts the High Church dignitaries, to every last fabric of their richly decadent clothing. The pope, distinct by the opulence and shape of his headdress, stands with a scepter in hand, its tip curled with aesthetic elaboration. His robe, a picture of the cross, drapes carefully over his forearms, covered in a tight undergarment. Next, a cardinal, bishop and an abbot converse with a school of monks. The cardinal is depicted standing in a robe delicately embroidered with a tasteful pattern of circles against dark fabric, his head topped with a twin-pointed cap held up in a darkly colored headband.

The bishop sits aside the pope, with a flat-topped, wide-brimmed hat, set over a hooded shawl that drapes over his shoulders below his sides. The bishop’s undergarment is a plain, white fabric. Beside the bishop sits the abbot, who grips a tall, cross-pointed cane, his decorated headwear, shaped as two flat triangles accents the form of his beard with likeness. The abbot is caped, and belted at the shoulders by a plain sash, the seams a lighter color than the base fabric, and below the cape he wears fabrics similarly conceived. The monks’ and nuns’ attire vary in shades, between off-white to jet black, while each of their robes remain the same exact shape, their hood’s cloth wrapped about the lower neck, above the flowing robe that conceals the feet. Nuns are dressed similarly, as while their hoods extend to the feet. Select monks wear skullcaps and cross-shaped or floral brocades (see image 6).

The artist and architect Giotto di Bondone, who lived from 1266-1337, exemplifies the 13th century aesthetic with unparalleled gravity. He represented the first generation of artists in the Italian Renaissance, whose “monumental feel for composition and for the plasticity of the body, were not forgotten and emerged again…” was duly noted The Cambridge Illustrated History of The Middle Ages (Fossier, 183). As well as demonstrating physical plasticity, Giotto’s work also became known for its mythical, and decidedly irreverent content. As a result, his clever artistry not only enlightened holy and laypeople alike, it inspired a fellowship of artists. As Stella Mary Newton writes in Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince, “Giotto’s representation of Stultitia which, being among the Vices, can perhaps be interpreted as ‘light-mindedness’, has some slight justification; a similar attitude must have inspired the artists…” (see image 7).

Giotto was also exceptionally keen on portraying not simply the fashion of the day, but of dress in transition. For example, Giotto depicted women’s dress as set within the changing times, but amongst varied surroundings, i.e. religious versus domestic. Therefore, Giotto portrayed not only women, and their clothing, but also the way in which women were shaped by their surroundings, and how that was expressed through their dress. “Already in the fourteenth century Italians were showing a taste for fashions in dress which exemplified the classicism…” writes Newton, “By that time, in most Italian states, dress had lost almost completely the ‘folk’ quality, which Giotto had noticed and recorded in his Arena Chapel frescoes…” (86).  As Newton examined in an endnote to Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince, Giotto was insightfully aware of the influence of “fashionable occasions” where, for example, the marriage of the Virgin would represent a style of dress worlds apart from the Annunciation (see image 8).

One piece, aesthetically related to the diverse women’s fashions of the 13th century represented in Giotto’s Arena Chapel frescoes, is the Statue of St. Lucy. Her special folk-style ethnic dress, and manner, is especially understood in the neckwear; a peculiarly ornamented, thickly set metal piece. The woman holds a long-stem leaf in one hand, and in the other a mysterious black disk. Her belt is extraordinarily inlaid with sophisticated patterns, stitched and woven, with an elongated end hanging down from the waist to just below the knee. St. Lucy here wears a plain white dress, with an embroidered seam at the feet. Finally her headwear is an enigmatically upward-pointing fold of fabric, also seen in women depicted in religious settings. Overall, the Statue of St. Lucy embodies the local, ethnic style of Italian women’s fashion. Newton’s study relates Giotto’s work to the transitional period of women’s fashion and ethnic representation in art, which, she writes, “…correspond to the embroideries which Giotto included as the dress of some carefully chosen characters in his Arena chapel frescoes which has a similar ethnic look and which, as has been pointed out, disappeared from dress in sophisticated Italian painting soon after his time” (see image 9).

Giotto’s portrayal of Saint Anne in the Scrovegni Chapel is deftly attentive to the woman, and the woman’s clothing, as it extends into her surrounding aesthetic environment. The scene presents Saint Anne as a new mother in a relatively generic tone amid the austere simplicity and unadorned nature of the woman’s private sphere as visually bared, however retaining a certain feminine aesthetic. The woman’s plain dress, belted below the chest, opens at tightly around the neck. The wrists are enclosed tightly as the wide arm lengths narrow. The dress covers her entire body, even below the feet as she stands behind a narrow entranceway, giving over a skein of fabric to those caring for her newborn in the next room. Her hair unveiled, while a cloth head-wrap rests on her shoulder, she looks outward from her situation longingly. Immobile in a tight frame underneath the stairway, her clothing matches the architectural aesthetic, where the women’s space is domestically and privately reserved in the extreme (see image 10).

Similarly, Simone Martini’s The Blessed Agostino Novello, a polyptych painted between 1328-1330, depicts the women’s sphere with an utmost aesthetic reservation. The two women in the bedroom scene wear clothing so plain that it seems only to exist to shelter their bodies in the most basic way. Still, that shelter is apparently precarious as the newborn’s makeshift crib is shown as a source of deep anxiety for the older woman present. Unlike the younger woman, the elder’s hair is covered, her dress a darker shade, and held to her upper torso by a thin belt. The younger woman, dressed as in a nightgown, prays at the doorway, as to the spirits to allow her exit (see image 11).

In the exhaustive study, A History of Private Life, art historians Georges Duby, Dominique Barthélemy, and Charles de la Ronciére determine where broad human emotion is revealed through visual art in the European tradition. “For the first time in Italian history, we have religious paintings, frescoes, composed of episodes in which various figures, who constitute a sort of Holy Family, give vent to their deepest feelings,” the book states in its second volume, Revelations of the Medieval World. “Not all painters were equally successful in capturing these emotions, so let us concentrate on Giotto, the undisputed master of the fourteenth century, considered such and universally admired at the time.” Saint Anne is again depicted at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua within the famed, Saint Joachim and Saint Anne at the Golden Gate, painted from 1304-1306.

Saint Joachim reunites in a love embrace with his long lost wife, Saint Anne at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem. In the immediate detail of the scene, the two holy lovers are cloaked in the most simple of robes. Saint Joachim wears a shawled robe about his chest, down to his bare feet. At the seam of his robe, light, silky embroidery speaks of his munificence, while juxtaposed with his unique humility. His undergarment is a rustic-toned, and broad-cuffed shirt that rests humbly about his neck without a collar. Similarly, Saint Anne’s dress begins to ruffle and flow from her lower chest. Her hair is reservedly well kept within a headscarf tightly folded above her brow. Saint Joachim is without a head covering (see image 12).

Meanwhile, a farmer, who strolls alongside carrying a wicker basket and small shovel, and two women, represents the people around Saint Joachim and Saint Anne in an image imbued with emotional meaning. The farmer wears a belted tunic, ruffled below the knee, his head hooded and feet covered with strapped, thick fabric. Another woman nearby wears an all-black shawl, as if she were in mourning, concealing half of her face from view, while an accompanying woman stands beside, with white, checkered shawl in hand, wearing a similar, although lighter garb as Saint Anne. Following the first woman are others, in even more colorful fashion, their hair decorated with an encircling braids and fanciful short hats, dressed in vibrant colors red and green. The scene, depicting a public show of affection amid the dramatic and historic cityscape, offers a renewing look at both the male and female in the context of public aesthetics, where a younger woman offers the company of youth and light through clothing and community to her darkened friend, and a young man passing by represents the Earth’s fertility (see image 13).

In Giotto’s works, such deep and complex human emotion comingles with the divine glory and beauty of reunion, as in such depictions as Lamentations over the Body of Christ, painted in 1304-1305, also at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Here, the woman is depicted in mourning, while her black garb is roughly painted with traces of light. Her face, infinitely burdened at embracing her tortured son’s death, is further dramatized by the hooded figure looking away, as to express an emotion too dark for the light of human understanding. In contrast, the face of Christ, reunited with the Father, is one of divine harmony, his naked body clean and unfolded, and thus prominently brighter than the hooded figures downcast at his side. In this respect, Giotto portrays 13th century fashion as inherently obscuring the revelations of human emotional expression (see image 14).

IV. 14th Century Accessories Exposed: Underwear and Textiles of the Period

        The 14th century offers a wide spectrum of diverse cuts and types of textiles, shown in the broad selection of clothing and accessories in both men’s and women’s fashion. The clothing of the era is often catalogued in costume design. For example, Sarah Thursfield catalogues the diverse fashions of the era in her book, The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant. Body linens (also known as undergarments or underwear) were typified by everything from long-legged braies, short braies, the man’s shirt and woman’s smock (see image 15). Main garments of the 14th century, the second layer worn over the linens were a finer cote or a basic kirtle for the women, while the men wore a basic doublet or basic cote (see image 16). “Both men and women wore a cote of some kind from well before 1200 until abut the mid 14th century…About 1340 men started wearing the doublet…about 1370 women were wearing the kirtle…” writes Thursfield (16). Other garments included the hose, either separated or joined, along with such outer garments worn by both men and women as surcotes, sleeved or sleeveless, open or closed (see image 17). Other outer garments include cotehardies, adorning both men and women, as well as buttoned, fashionable, flared or fitted gowns for women and pleated or short gowns for men (see image 18).

Headwear included hats, caps and hoods for men, ranging from such textiles as felt, fur, and straw, either knitted or as coifs, while women wrapped or knotted kerchiefs, as well as hooded themselves (see image 19). Lastly, accessories were either with the headwear, such as plaits, hairnets, barbette and fillets, frilled veils, templers, separate horns, and padded rolls, or elsewhere on the person, such as the man’s belt with purse and knife, the woman’s drawstring purse, the split mitten, the woman’s apron, and finally, the basket (see image 20). “Wool and linen were the mainstay of most people’s wardrobes, with silk becoming commoner in the late middle ages,” Thursfield writes in her exhaustive manual on costume design and medieval fashion. “During the 14th century Italian silk weaving continued to progress…” (63-64).

Within the paintings of Giotto are reflected common themes in the role of men and women in the 13th century. As clothing announces form, so women are meaningfully situated in the frame of a painting opposite to their male counterparts. Giotto’s, Death of the Knight of Celano, located in the Upper Church of the Convent of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy, glorifies the role of woman as mourner, whose dress suits her role as domestic partner unto death. In this painting, even though the death of Celano is sudden, the women are draped in long, heavy shawls, which hang over their necks and backs, their dresses both lightly and darkly pigmented. The woman’s loose-fitting adornment emphasizes their role as comforter, mourner, caretaker and wife, while the often tightly fitting forearms enable her to continue her handiwork. Meanwhile, the knight Celano, is himself wealthily clothed in a fine, one-piece robe from neck to feet, belted at the waist by a piece specially conceived within the aesthetic unity of his garb. A thickly embroidered cape sits along his neck, covering his arms. The design matches his multicolored headband, vibrantly proclaiming his social prestige, as the many onlookers, women and accompanying monks alike gather to mourn in respect (see image 21).

One of the most iconic illuminations from the Luttrel Psalter, a manuscript from the 14th century, painted circa 1335-1340 demonstrates the elaborate clothing style not only of the knight, but also of his lady. The full color illustration impresses the majority of plainclothes onlookers with its cerulean majesty, avian designs, amid a watery aesthetic. Therein, the lady offers up her hand to the mounted knight, her hair braided in pearls, and her long, flowing dress a decadence of gold-hued and verdant-striped wonder. Many accessorial fabrics run down her chest to her legs, draping her with a sign of loyalty from her cobalt-enwrapped master. At her chest, a textured embroidery of circular aesthetic opens at her arms, which are covered in matching-colored tights (see image 22).

“Only women cried at funerals, but these ritual tears were intended to communicate the family’s pain to the public at large. Not to shed them was an insult to the honor of the deceased,” reads volume two of A History of Private Life, in a section on the important portraiture that emerged on the eve of the Renaissance. “But such tears were of necessity extravagant, a travesty of true feelings which did nothing to enhance family intimacy” (Duby, et al. 278) Thus, it was especially perceptive and profound for such as the artistry of Giotto to paint of the private life of women, where in their solace, they practiced authentic rituals of prayer and devotion, wherein their domestic sphere they had an outlet to express their deepest and most sincere emotion. The truth of human emotion, after all, is the final subject of such master artists, whose works propelled Western civilization into one of its more beloved creative eras.

In Giotto’s Saint Anne Receives a Visit from an Angel, painted from 1304-1306 in the Scorvegni Chapel of Padua, Italy, the bedroom of the woman is truthfully represented as her sole refuge of consolation, where she expresses her heart’s devotion genuinely and privately. The painting must have had great meaning for women who gazed into its shades, as many who returned to their bedrooms nightly wished for an angelic communion. Saint Anne here is lightly adorned with a transparent fabric overlain atop her hair, and falling below her neck. Her one-piece nightgown fabric is beautifully arranged with delicate lacework along the seam of her collar and upper arm, as well as at her cuff, and down the middle of her chest. The deep ruffles curl under her as she kneels before an angel’s visitation, who wears much the same attire, only of a much lighter shade (see image 23). As written in A History of Private Life, “Among women true private devotion led to estrangement from the world” (Duby, et al. 308). Hence, women’s dress represents her life as a fixed pattern of activity in accordance with the greater, patriarchal society, although her dress varies, she remains consigned to an order of female repression.

Finally, the 14th century offered a unique insight on the span of trends in clothing, dress and style across Europe, where everyone from the peasant farmer to the lady of a wealthy knight exhibited an impressive array. Even as the pragmatism of survival crept into daily life with blinding resolve, there still arose an uncanny inventiveness among the peoples of Europe, who it seems, ascribed unprecedented importance to the role of dress, thus producing the 14th century’s inimitably distinctive fashion sense. “It was in the second half of the fourteenth century that clothes both for men and for women took on new forms, and something emerges which we can already call ‘fashion’,” reads James Laver’s invaluable work, Costume and Fashion in his section on Early Europe (62).    

As, in such a time as the 14th century, when the society has been split open through the incessant travails of extreme strife, when, for example, husbands were regularly absent from their homes during wartime, certain oddities occur that transcend normative gender roles. Rarely is a 14th century woman depicted as women are depicted today as a constant source of physical and sexual desire. What Owen refers to in Noble Lovers as the “crude picture of female subservience and deprivation” opposite to the dominant male roles in society, was still not without certain deviations. Owen continues, “…even the earlier centuries provide outstanding instances of women who, by force of character or intelligence, left their mark on history” (12).

For example, French medieval society practiced multiple wedding ceremonies, where in many instances, three women would be married at once. Such women, plainly adorned in flat, monochrome outfits that fitted tightly around the lower neck, and hung in a modestly ruffled mass around the feet, were starkly contrasted with the men who bore witness to such events. The male onlookers of the church were outfitted in full regalia, crowned and robed with the majestic opulence of his extravagant lengths of fabric that he held in bunches around his oversized sleeve, so as not to dirty the lower seams. Bridegrooms, however, were not exceptionally overdressed, and were featured behind the women in one miniature painting from 14th century France. The young men were almost unseen, so as to emphasize the real value of the wedding ceremony as the attainment of the virgin bride (see image 24).
Nonetheless, in anomalous circumstances, men, even monks, were seen publicly vying for female affection. In one 14th century miniature, a black-robed monk, with typically bald-shaved, ring-style haircut, his penitence beads dangling at his side, holds a ring up to the eye of a desired woman. The lady, dressed in fabrics that flow with dramatic elegance, waves to him, as she motions her acceptance or rejection. She is dressed informally, with her blouse revealed, as her dress is slack, hanging at her waist, as she carries its trail with one hand, the finer, transparent linens touching the ground ever so lightly (see image 25).  

V. Summary: The Fashion Legacy of the 14th Century

         Contemporary fashion continues to draw from the unique legacy of the 14th century, through such artists as Fra Angelico. The idea that an Italian monk who painted seven hundred years ago could inspire two young courtiers, Kate and Laura Mulleavy from Los Angeles, U.S.A., caught the eyes of both L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), among the entire global fashion community (see image 26). In 2011 LACMA exhibited the Rodarte clothing and accessory line featuring inspirations from Fra Angelico. “Suspended from the ceiling like pale angels, the ten Rodarte gowns in the middle of LACMA's Italian Renaissance gallery are the prettiest imposters you've ever seen,” wrote Caroline Ryder, fashion blogger for L.A. Weekly. “They decided to base their entire collection on the art of a pious 14th century brother.”

Leading up to the 14th century, cultural advancements flourished in an era of romance, poetry and art. In the preceding centuries prior to the Renaissance, as love outside of wedlock began to foment in the minds of traditional, medieval Europe, there arose the equalizing power of love. Such a force, as it gained momentum throughout the 14th century, continues to break down gender barriers and burn bridges so firmly maintained by multigenerational traditions of family honor, religious sectarianism and cultural belonging. In one 14th century Italian fresco presenting a scene from the well-admired narrative, The Chatelaine de Vergy, three different circumstances are shown of the two principal lovers. The young woman, plainly adorned with a delicate, white fabric over her darker undershirt and outstretched arm, reaches for her lover, a knight, decked in full armor. In the middle, the young, unarmored knight, in plain white shirt, on his horse, looks upon his love as she awaits him in a high castle tower. Gazing from above, her hair is pulled back tightly, her collar a formal display of dress in the domestic sphere of the court. While, in the last variance, the lady has escaped the court, and the two lovers meet in a grove, where this time the knight is more cordially dressed, raising his hand as in honor of her and in a show of his devotion (see image 27).

Chatelaine de Vergy is a story that dramatizes the role of men and women with special insight, not only into their individual roles, but also through its impact on the greater society as a popular tale of the time. Anonymously written, often in the case in such as the oral traditions of medieval Europe, Chatelaine de Vergy is from an era where folklore, mythology and improvised storytelling lent itself to a characterful and ever-alive culture of tale spinning. The narration opens with the line, “…the greater the love, the more grieved are true lovers when one of them thinks the other has told what he should conceal.” In which case, it seems that not only was the 14th century riddled with the paramount importance of basic survival, but also, at the same time, as the rules of lovers’ courtship changed towards a more personable and private experience, so one’s clothing, how one dressed and presented oneself, became an ever more important show of secrecy and loyalty among lovers. In this way, the 1300s invented fashion. As the story continues, “And often such damage comes of it that their love has to end in deep sorrow and shame, as happened in Burgundy to a bold, worthy knight and the lady of Vergy” (103).


Ariès, Phillipe and Duby, Georges, Eds. A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World. Vol. II. Cambridge, U.S.A.: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Fossier, Robert, Ed. Trans. by Tenison, Sarah Hanbury. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages: 1250-1520. Vol. III. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Laver, James. Costume and Fashion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1995

Lawner, Lynne. Lives of the Courtesans: Portraits of the Renaissance. New York, U.S.A.: Rizzoli, 1987

Owen, D.D.R. Noble Lovers. London, UK: Phaidon Press Limited, 1975

Newton, Mary Stella. Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the years 1340-1365. Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press, 1980

Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. United Kingdom: Harper Collins, 1965.

Prevenier, Walter and Blockmans, Wim. The Burgundian Netherlands. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1986

Ribeiro, Aileen and Cummings, Valerie. The Visual History of Costume. London: Batsford,1989

Russell, Douglas, A. Costume History and Style, New Jersey, U.S.A.:Prentice Hall, 1983

Thursfield, Sarah. The Medieval Tailor's Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500. California, U.S.A.: Costume and Fashion Press, 2001

Ryder, Caroline. “Rodarte's Fra Angelico Collection at LACMA: How a Monk Inspired Fashion's Famous Duo”. L.A. Weekly. Dec. 16 2011. Retrieved from:

Appendix A: Images


Laver, James. Costume and Fashion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1995. Pages 60-61


Fossier, Robert, Ed. Trans. by Tenison, Sarah Hanbury. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages: 1250-1520. Vol. III. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Page 103


Fossier, Robert, Ed. Trans. by Tenison, Sarah Hanbury. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages: 1250-1520. Vol. III. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Page 106


Fossier, Robert, Ed. Trans. by Tenison, Sarah Hanbury. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages: 1250-1520. Vol. III. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Page 114


Fossier, Robert, Ed. Trans. by Tenison, Sarah Hanbury. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages: 1250-1520. Vol. III. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Page 126


Fossier, Robert, Ed. Trans. by Tenison, Sarah Hanbury. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages: 1250-1520. Vol. III. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Page 135


Newton, Mary Stella. Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the years 1340-1365. Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press, 1980. Page 83



Newton, Mary Stella. Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the years 1340-1365. Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press, 1980. Page 91



Ariès, Phillipe and Duby, Georges, Eds. A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World. Vol. II. Cambridge, U.S.A.: Harvard University Press, 1988. Page 185


Ariès, Phillipe and Duby, Georges, Eds. A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World. Vol. II. Cambridge, U.S.A.: Harvard University Press, 1988. Page 273



Ariès, Phillipe and Duby, Georges, Eds. A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World. Vol. II. Cambridge, U.S.A.: Harvard University Press, 1988. Page 274


Thursfield, Sarah. The Medieval Tailor's Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500. California, U.S.A.: Costume and Fashion Press, 2001. Page 15.


Thursfield, Sarah. The Medieval Tailor's Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500. California, U.S.A.: Costume and Fashion Press, 2001. Page 16.


Thursfield, Sarah. The Medieval Tailor's Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500. California, U.S.A.: Costume and Fashion Press, 2001. Page 17.


Thursfield, Sarah. The Medieval Tailor's Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500. California, U.S.A.: Costume and Fashion Press, 2001. Page 18.


Thursfield, Sarah. The Medieval Tailor's Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500. California, U.S.A.: Costume and Fashion Press, 2001. Page 20.


Thursfield, Sarah. The Medieval Tailor's Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500. California, U.S.A.: Costume and Fashion Press, 2001. Page 21.


Ariès, Phillipe and Duby, Georges, Eds. A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World. Vol. II. Cambridge, U.S.A.: Harvard University Press, 1988. Page 277


Laver, James. Costume and Fashion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1995. Page 61


Ariès, Phillipe and Duby, Georges, Eds. A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World. Vol. II. Cambridge, U.S.A.: Harvard University Press, 1988. Page 308


Owen, D.D.R. Noble Lovers. London, UK: Phaidon Press Limited, 1975. Page 10


Owen, D.D.R. Noble Lovers. London, UK: Phaidon Press Limited, 1975. Page 12



Owen, D.D.R. Noble Lovers. London, UK: Phaidon Press Limited, 1975. Page 104

This paper was prepared as part of an international cross-cultural exploration between independent Israeli and Canadian scholars

Monday, 18 November 2013

Novel Liberation: The Humble Postcolonial Wisdom of E.M. Forster

"If I have had any influence, I would be very glad if it induced people to enjoy this wonderful world into which we're born, and of course to help others to enjoy it too."

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

“They too entered the world of dreams- that world in which a third of each man's life is spent, and which is thought by some pessimists to be a premonition of eternity.”

E.M. Forster (the last quote is from A Passage to India)

The British Raj and the Indian Independence movement of the 1920s provide the setting for a poignant story between two principal characters in E.M. Forster’s 1924 novel, A Passage to India. The lives of Aziz, a Muslim doctor and Mrs. Moore, an older Englishwoman, represent themes of social constraint, in contrast with personal relationship. Constrained by title and culture, these characters manage to relate under unique circumstances. Aziz learns to respect Mrs. Moore unlike any Englishwoman he has ever known, while Mrs. Moore is, at first, captivated with the pride of knowing an endearing local closely.

Mrs. Moore, as with Miss Quested, is captivated by Aziz because he represents something of the “real India”, to use the words of Miss Quested. “Try seeing Indians” was the reply of the schoolmaster at the Government College, when Miss Quested asked how one might see their colony in its native authenticity. There is always room for remiss under the social umbrella of Indian-English relations; whether in the surprising first encounter between Mrs. Moore and Dr. Aziz in the mosque, or the arranged party at the tennis lawns, the tea gathering at Fielding’s or the excursion to the Marabar Caves, which, finally, proved more disastrous than any one had expected.

“May I know your name?” Aziz asks to Mrs. Moore, cautiously, in the mosque. His demeanor is one of near-desperation, as someone both protecting his native sphere, as well as struggling to see British humanity. “She was now in the shadow of the gateway, so that he could not see her face, but she saw his, and she said with a change of voice, ‘Mrs. Moore.’” This very revealing sentence emphasizes the obscurity of English presence from local, Indian eyes. In that moment, Mrs. Moore felt safe enough to share her name, the most important object of her title and superiority. Aziz remembers her generosity, as her fitful capacity to speak the truth becomes the apex of her story, truly a minor character in A Passage to India.

When after Dr. Aziz stands on trial for the assault of Miss Quested in the Marabar Caves, Mrs. Moore is decidedly frank in her stance on Aziz’s innocence. “Of course he is innocent,” says Mrs. Moore as Miss Quested begins to question her disillusioned experience on the excursion, all the while Mrs. Moore is quite fed up with India entirely. “She was by no means the dear old lady outsiders supposed, and India had brought her into the open…” writes Forster, who depicts her as a typical elder, uninhibited by the dramas of youth, and quick to speak the truth, even if it is unwanted. At this point, Mrs. Moore is on her way out of India, and the novel, where she soon dies in transit.

Regardless, Mrs. Moore is immortalized by the groundswell of Indian support for Aziz, who soon finds reprieve, as legends of “Esmiss Esmoor” soon manifest in the appearance of folk shrines in dedication to Mrs. Moore’s role in saving Aziz’s life. It is important to add that throughout the entire novel, Aziz is addressed by his first name only, while Mrs. Moore solely by her surname. Mrs. Moore’s name transforms when said by Indian voices. “It was revolting to hear his mother travestied into Esmiss Esmoor, a Hindu goddess,” thought Ronny, Mrs. Moore’s son, whose experience of India remained superficial, or, more accurately, guarded, throughout

Aziz and Mrs. Moore fail to truly connect in person, because English colonial formalities (and informalities) were too firmly laid beneath the foundations of imperial culture. During a scene of characteristic tension between the colonial masters and their subjects, Forster writes, “Aziz flamboyant, was patronizing Mrs. Moore.” The direct interactions between Aziz and Mrs. Moore are brief and sparse, as they are interceded by English formalities, typically mediation by a male authority – Mr. Fielding in this example. The scene, where Aziz and Mrs. Moore meet in more conventional circumstances, for a tea gathering at Mr. Fielding’s, reveals Aziz’s character (and Forster’s impeccable prose) as someone unable to speak on behalf of India. The scene also reveals the seemingly adventurous minds of Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore, on their search for the “real India” as a mere surface-level novelty.

Mrs. Moore, although agreeing to accompany Miss Quested on her excursion into the “real India” is soon overcome with the fundamental truth of her presence in the faraway land. As the excursion comes to a bitter close, it is said of Mrs. Moore, “…since her faintness in the cave she was sunk in apathy and cynicism. The wonderful India of her opening weeks, with its cool nights and acceptable hints of infinity, had vanished." While, from Aziz’s perspective, “…he agreed that all Englishwomen are haughty and venal.” Mrs. Moore is the stereotypical colonial British woman, whose curiosities for the rare and exotic life of India prove ineffectual to satisfy her experience of authentic India.

Their relationship reveals the meaning of liberation in colonial India, where Aziz’s fate becomes Mrs. Moore’s very undoing from India. For Aziz, he would come to know “…that an Englishwoman's word would always outweigh his own.” Generally, both characters speak well of each other, even if their personal, physical interactions are constrained. Conclusively, such is the larger relationship between the colonial British with India; ideal and positive on paper and second-hand experience, yet up close, absolutely ruinous.

This essay, entitled, "The Relative Liberation of India", was written for an acquaintance as part of his school curriculum. Consequently, I was reintroduced into the magnificent literary treasure troves of E.M. Forster's richly imaginative prose. 
An expanse over the marshland floodplain. The drifting current sways gently through sap-lined pine trunks and decomposed maple leaves. Ahead, the riverbanks motion with unspeakable gratitude, bittersweet, enjoined to the drunk swell of an upraised wetlands. 

Sunset over wetlands by Julian Falat
He speaks, a guide of the ancient St. Lawrence river basin, to reinvigorate the ground with the renewing tides of Mother Earth. She beckons the swallowing of a forgotten landscape. The land is to be reclaimed. Indigenous nationhood reinstated over the American-Canadian divide. 
Featuring a lyrical evocation from the collection, Sketches of Style and chapbook, Muse for the Wounded, Guise of the Beloved expresses thematic tides of visceral belonging amid landscapes both supernatural and inhuman in an age when the human body is more and more experienced only in its violent rending apart.

Yet, musical undertones, both electronic as acoustic, ring clear throughout, simultaneously presenting the source of human life, as our fate. In the commotion of bewildering psychic momentum, there the muse stands patient and waiting to receive the wounded, who with eyes of intoxication and skin of vulnerability, senses a way beyond and through the immense and spectacular Fear of Being.

The six poem chapbook, Muse for the Wounded, is comprised of selections from the larger collection, Sketches of Style. Here, the archetype of the wounded healer is redefined, wherein the muse becomes the healer in the mind of the poet-seer. The one poem, Guise of the Beloved is also featured as a sounding the artful designs of a musical elaboration on the Sketches of Style album