Roundtable

The Rest Is History

Henry VIII is too hot to handle, boredom serves a purpose, and 1900s bachelorettes rate their dates.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, December 02, 2016

Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, by Hans Holbein the Younger and an unknown artist, c. 1536.

• The racism of historic “environmentalist” movements: “The wild had to be kept as free of people as possible—until the right kind of white man needed to go hunting. That principle did not apply to all with fair skin, however: excluded were gun-happy Italian immigrants, whom prominent conservationist William Temple Hornaday called ‘human mongooses’ for their reputed fondness for killing every living thing in sight.” (Pacific Standard)

• The Vatican has banned the BBC from including a Henry VIII letter in their upcoming special on the monarch’s six wives because it’s too sexy. (The Telegraph)

• Grasping the works of a challenging poet: “Anne Carson lives for the breaking up, the separation. She’s trafficked in fragmentation for a long time: Her career as a scholar of ancient works, which are often fragmentary or have no definite author, required becoming intimate with the incomplete, the impossibility of completion. Likewise, Float revels in its splintered state more than any of her previous titles. The unordered booklets (or ‘chapbooks’) evince internal derangement, too. One poem, ‘By Chance the Cycladic People,’ is apparently deconstructed and reassembled out of order—perhaps by the aforementioned randomizer—with numerical clues left that point to a more intellectually logical progression.” (The New Republic)

• In the early twentieth century, “chap records” helped bachelorettes keep track of—and judge—their dates. (Atlas Obscura)

• Last week, the New York Times published a thrilling tale of a successful Cesarean section performed in the Middle Ages. This week, a medical historian refutes it. (How Did We Get into This Mess?)

• The cultural necessity of boredom: “Pain is not the only unpleasant experience that humans are subject to. What about boredom? Might it serve some useful purpose, too? It certainly has no shortage of philosophical defenders. Bertrand Russell and the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips both spoke of the importance of being able to endure it. Russell asserted that the capacity to weather boredom is ‘essential to a happy life’, whereas Phillips speculated on its developmental significance for children. Friedrich Nietzsche commented on the creative power of boredom and found value in its relationship to art. So did Susan Sontag, who in a brief diary entry suggested that the most interesting art of her time was boring: ‘Jasper Johns is boring. Beckett is boring, Robbe-Grillet is boring. Etc. Etc. […] Maybe art has to be boring, now.’” (Aeon)