Moved from AT

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Re: Moved from AT

Postby mjhurst on 05 Apr 2012, 16:22

Hi, Debra,

After reading your post, I'm tempted to quote the philosopher Pee Wee Herman -- there seems to be a projection problem. It is true that Tarot history is not a subject that appeals to most Tarot enthusiasts. Many of them love the fictional "history", also known as folklore or pseudo-history, but for many of them the real history of Tarot contradicts their religious beliefs.

debra wrote:I'm sorry to see that people raced over for a bit of destructive fun on the AT tarot history and iconography forum. ...

The sudden and temporary influx of anti-history posters to the Historical Research forum is a recurring phenomenon. It is an open question which posters are the invaders, which are the defenders, and who is intent on destroying the values that make historical discussions possible.

debra wrote:Members whose views I found most interesting and informative have been discouraged from posting. The tarot history topics pursued here seem narrowly defined....

Those who want to make sure that Tarot's real history continues to be largely unknown are anti-historians. Anti-historians support "interesting" and provocative (which you might mistake for "informative") discussions which are outside the narrow boundaries of history. If history is the point of the forum then anti-historians, like you, should be actively discouraged.

History, done right, tends to be boring.

So naturally, the most interesting posters tend to be full of shit.

debra wrote:I don't see that the forum has developed a consensus on tarot history among people with superior methods and expertise. I see some people basically ignored, and others intimidated and battered by relentless personal attacks in a macho game of dominance. This has nothing to do with academic rigor or scholarly discourse.

In part, this reflects the lack of any consensus among online Tarot enthusiasts. Few people know or care much about it. Of those who do know a bit of Tarot history, many are captivated by a pet theory or two. The consensus itself, to the extent that it exists, is about the facts rather than theories. This is the reason why history per se is such a tedious, pain-in-the-ass subject -- remember high school?

As for people being ignored or badgered, it is not a "macho game of dominance". Some things are not being appropriate for historical discussions. For example, in Robert Swiryn's huge thread last year, Mary attempted to gently guide him elsewhere WITHIN 24 HOURS! She attempted to explain to him that his idea might not be an historical theory; it might just be a fun story. He initially rejected this possibility. Over time he seemed to agree, even as he continued to present the material as Tarot history.

People like that can be ignored, they can be asked to shape up, then can be told to at least attempt to make sense and offer evidence and arguments, and they can be verbally abused to shut up. Some of these idiots will not ever shut the hell up, so threads are closed. It's not macho dominance, it's just good housekeeping -- a feminine virtue, if we are going to indulge sexist slurs. When the feather duster won't suffice, sometimes you have to clean crap off with a scraper.

On the other hand, consider Huck and myself on the question of his 5x14 Theory. I think that he's completely mistaken, addressing questions that are answered much better without his speculations. He thinks that I'm a blind follower of an old regime, out of date and out of touch with supposed new findings. He's much more knowledgeable than I am about many areas of Tarot history, but IMO he doesn't understand them clearly. We are not going to agree on the 5x14 Theory. So when he posted another round of ramblings about Chess, and Ross thought it worth commenting on, I had to laugh and point too -- it is silly on the face of it.

Still we co-exist, and have done so on Aeclectic, LTarot, and here. This is partly because neither of us is promoting Tarot from Atlantis, or even from Albigensians. His theory is an historical one. That is, he defends it with historical facts. Also, our co-existence is partly because Huck and I both believe strongly in freedom of expression. If I say something rude, then people are free to judge me based on my comments and to consider, on my behalf, whether they may be as factually accurate as they are rude. (Some people value truth more than manners.)

Beyond that, we try to not take it personally. Naturally, it may be impossible for many Tarot enthusiasts to "not take it personally" when someone mocks their origin myths, and I admit that when Huck denigrates playing-card historians with lines like, “there is virtually nothing really opposing [acceptance of the 5x14 Theory] beside not being good enough informed, not looking precisely enough and personally motivated dreams”, I sometimes take offense on their behalf. (There are few defenders of the playing-card historians, so I take their part from time to time, defending them against Huck's charges of ignorance, sloppiness, and bias.) But if, someday, Huck discovers a manuscript describing the Ur Tarot (the way Marziano's text described a newly invented game), and if it turns out that he was correct all along, it won't impact any personal spiritual beliefs of mine. For me, Tarot is not part of some "greater truth" about the world, so I can accept what the evidence tells us.

debra wrote:As for the future of this forum: I see a naive and limited view of disciplinary research.

You seem to be looking in the mirror again.

debra wrote:First, tarot history is of no particular interest to historians for good reason. And it interests us for our own individual reasons. Dummett got into it as a distraction from what he thought was really important. Some people come from an interest in divination or an occult (or occult-ish) motivation. Others don't.

Your point being that you have an excuse for hating Tarot history and being blinded by bias, whereas people like Dummett are ideal, disinterested researchers who can approach the subject objectively?

debra wrote:Second, in the history and the humanities, identifying logical fallacies in someone's work is not how you get to the truth. Much of what is presented as historical evidence here is not impressive. Often what is presented here as rigorous logic, airtight argumentation, and examination of meaningful evidence does not exemplify objectivity and good judgment.

Identifying both logical and factual errors in other people's papers is a huge part of academic publication. If an author so much as fails to acknowledge their assumptions, someone else will publish a paper doing so for them. Close reading, fact-checking, and tearing apart chains of logic are pretty fundamental in academic scholarship.

Again, you seem to be looking into the mirror. In YOUR world, where Tarot is part of people's religion, truth is of a different nature -- objectivity be damned.

debra wrote:Third, tarot history should be interdisciplinary and here it is not. Almost no one demonstrates expertise or training in art history. The people who consider themselves real historians tend to give the actual images and physical printed cards only superficial treatment. So claims to know the most important parts of the tarot history story are incomplete at best.

So... you and yours are held to no standard whatsoever, but we "historians" must have training and expertise?

This seems oddly elitist -- LOL -- demanding credentials?

However, I do like your point. The idea that art history, an interdisciplinary approach (as promoted by Warburg and his "school", people like Panofsky, Gombrich, Wind, Seznec, Saxl, Katzenellenbogen, et al.), attention to the details of the cards and comparison of those images with related images from the entire world of pre-Modern European art... I agree that the iconographic approach is a valuable piece of Tarot history. In terms of published authors, Gertrude Moakley is the pre-eminent example. Let's see... who in the world of online Tarot enthusiasts has promoted THAT point of view? I'm pretty sure it wasn't you, Debra, nor anyone you find "interesting".

debra wrote:Fourth, some participants on the forum have a peculiar and distorted vision of academic exchange. If someone is exploring a line of thinking you don't believe, and you've asked relevant questions, given good reasons for thinking they are mistaken, and have no interest in helping develop that perspective--that's where scholars and intellectuals stop. To persist, to ridicule, to get angry or frustrated that one person doesn't take your point--this has nothing to do with knowledge or truth or learning.

Clearly you don't know much about scholarly exchanges outside of journals. It is a cliche that the more petty the squabble the more vitriolic the exchanges can become.

debra wrote:I'm sorry to see intensified efforts to establish the "agree or shut up" approach. Do you all really want to abandon the original promise that "The forum encourages freedom and independence of view, together with tolerance and care of others"? I hope not.

Values routinely conflict.

You and the other anti-history enforcers, folks who prefer to discuss how Cathars taught Kabbalah using Tarot cards in the temple of Kneph, want everyone to "feel welcome". That's a value, and it's a great value for a social club. To me, introducing those fantasy topics in a history forum is no different than introducing Mayan prophecies or ancient astronauts into the discussion, or introducing a turd into the punch bowl. I think that these "interesting" folks are the ones being rude. There are endless places for banal chit-chat about the pop-culture fantasy du jour, with or without Tarot as a conversation piece.

Best regards,

(Edited a bit for clarity... LOL -- hey! It was worth a try.)
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Re: Moved from AT

Postby SteveM on 05 Apr 2012, 16:22

- crossposted, delete -
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Re: Moved from AT

Postby Ross G. R. Caldwell on 05 Apr 2012, 17:27

mjhurst wrote:History, done right, tends to be boring.

I want to qualify that a bit - it "tends to be boring, unless you are so infatuated with it that a customs list in an account book refreshes you like a splash of ice-water after a marathon."

That said, the sentiment is generally correct. The dry facts are wrapped up in a narrative, often equally dry, about another place and time, usually with extraneous details that demand yet more footnotes and contextualization, and a lot of names of people and events you don't know, so you have to look them up too, and .... yawn.

For historians though, the facts, along with really great insights, lodged in however dense and awkward a narrative, are like air to a drowning man. Ripping yarns are the things that make us tear our hair out, or just yawn. Of course, sometimes there is balance, the perfect historian, who so skillfully weaves the facts and interpretations into such a gripping narrative, that tyro to specialist alike can be watered at the same well. They don't come around very often. I don't think Tarot history has ever had one. Moakley came the closest.

No, most historians, when coming to write history in their area of specialization, can't tell a story, or a joke, to save their lives. I myself feel a kinship with the "antiquarian, linguist, and historian" Louis Dufour de Longuerue (1652-1733), who said that he preferred books about Homer to Homer himself, and of whom it was said that, at his death, in his library "not a volume of poetry was to be found."

Isaac D'Israeli, Curiosities of Literature, vol. II (1834), p. 196. ... ol&f=false

NB - "Contes à dormir debout" = "tall tales".

This bit about Longuerue, btw, is not just some erudite shit I pulled out of my ass to show off - he has his place in Tarot history, which is why I know this passage.

In the Longueruana - his recorded conversations or table-talk - mentioned in the quoted passage, he mentions having seen what we now call the Charles VI Tarot in the collection of Roger de Gaignières, and he also mentions in this context that he had read of Menestrier's comment about the account of Charles Poupart, an account-keeper of king Charles VI, where he reports on Jacquemin Gringonneur's manufacture of 3 packs of cards for the King, in 1396.

Thierry Depualis thinks this passage might have been the beginning of the legend which associated Poupart's account with the cards.

Longueruana, ou recueil de pensées de discours et de conversations de feu M. Louis du Four de Longuerue, Paris: Desmarets, 1754; vol. I, pp. 107-108.

He also correctly notes that these cards "had their birth in Italy".

"J'ai vu chez M. de Ganières un jeu de cartes (je ne sçai s'il étoit complet) telles qu'elles étoient dans leur origine. Il y avoit un pape, des empereurs, les quatres monarchies, qui combattoient les uns contre les autres: ce qui a donné naissance à nos quatre couleurs. Elles étoient longues de 7 à 8 pouces. C'est en Italie que cette belle invention a pris naissance dans le XIVe siècle. J'ai vu quelque part dans un petit livre du P. Menestrier, Jésuite, la citation de je ne sçais quelle somme passé à la Chambre des Comptes pour un jeu de cartes acheté en 1391 pour divertir le Roi Charles Vi qui étoit alors en démence."

(At Mr. Gaignières' home I saw a pack of cards (I don't know if it were complete), such as they originally were. There was a Pope, Emperors, the four Monarchies, who fought against each other; this is what gave birth to our four suits. They were 7 or 8 inches long. It was in Italy that this beautiful invention was born, in the 14th century. I saw somewhere in a little book by the Jesuit, Father Menestrier, the citation of a sum of, I don't know how much, passed in the Treasury for a deck of cards bought in 1391 for king Charles VI, who was then mad.")
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Re: Moved from AT

Postby mjhurst on 05 Apr 2012, 18:38

Hi, Ross,

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
mjhurst wrote:History, done right, tends to be boring.

I want to qualify that a bit - it "tends to be boring, unless you are so infatuated with it that a customs list in an account book refreshes you like a splash of ice-water after a marathon."

Right. It is boring for those not focused on precisely that aspect of the world. The quote about Longuerue is great. We all have our interests, and some of us are rather narrowly focused. That Philistine sensibility of wanting the good stuff, the most arid elements of Homer rather than the poetry, is something I identify with.

There is a parallel in Dummett's appraisal of some cultural and iconographic evidence which he treated rather summarily. He found little information about the game in these otherwise fascinating artifacts, and the game was his primary interest. It is not that other aspects are meaningless, but they were not his main concern.

There is a fantastic passage from Ann Astell's Political Allegory in Late-Medieval England. (Thanks again for pointing her book out to me.) She quoted C.S. Lewis on his approach to Spenser's Fairie Queene. Lewis acknowledged his own limitations of both expertise and interest, and his view of art as being focused on the timeless and universal aspects of life, while explaining his lack of interest in the political allegory of Spenser.

C.S. Lewis wrote:In considering The Faerie Queene as a consciously allegorical poem I shall neglect entirely its political allegory. My qualifications as an historian are not such as would enable me to unravel it; and my critical principles hardly encourage me even to make the attempt. By his political allegory Spenser doubtless intended to give to his poem a certain topical attraction. Time never forgives such concessions to 'the glistering of this present', and what acted as a bait to unpoetic readers for some decades has become a stumbling-block to poetic readers ever since. The contemporary allusions in The Faerie Queene are now of interest to the critic chiefly in so far as they explain how some bad passages came to be bad; but since this does not make them good - since to explain by causes is not to justify by reasons - we shall not lose very much by ignoring the matter. My concern is with the moral or philosophical allegory.

This is Astell's introduction to her Introduction, her jumping-off point. As the title indicates, her book takes the opposite viewpoint. Rather than Lewis' forceful dismissal of political allegory as a crime against poetry, she sees it as fascinating and valuable in its own right, regardless whether or not it leads to bad art. Both are focusing on a partial view.

Yet another such divergence of interests is seen in the field of iconography versus art history. Iconography was an intentional emphasis on the content of works of art, the author's message. Prior to the development of that field, the subject matter of art was largely dismissed as an irrelevance. Subsequently, misguided writers have criticized iconography for thinking itself the whole of art history. It was, of course, always and obviously a sub-discipline.

That aspect, that iconography is but a subset of art history, is really the point in each of these cases: the dry recitations from Homer are but one aspect of his writings, and so on. In each case, the narrow interest is as legitimate as it is partial.

Best regards,

(Edited to include a bit more of Lewis' excellent quote than Astell reproduced.)
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