Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Image Quote Comment

“So fully was the possibility of such an occurrence accepted in Caria, that one of that country was actually brought to trial under the following circumstances. The priest of Zeus Hoplosmios had been murdered; but as yet it had not been ascertained who was the assassin; when certain persons asserted that they had heard the murdered man’s head, which had been severed from the body, repeat several times the words, ‘Cercidas slew man on man.’ . . . But it is impossible that any one should utter a word when the windpipe is severed and no motion any longer derived from the lung. Moreover, among the Barbarians, where heads are chopped off with great rapidity, nothing of the kind has ever yet occurred” (Aristotle, De partibus animalium, trans. William Ogle, vol. 5 of The Works of Aristotle, eds. J.A. Smith and W.D. Ross [Oxford: Clarendon, 1912], 3.10). Aristotle’s reasoning situates the motif in a conflict between empirical possibility and desire for inaccessible knowledge. It silences the severed talking head by drowning the testimony of those who claim to hear it in the silence of those who sever heads.


valter said...

I just saw Gustave Moreau's The Apparition (Salome Dancing Before Herod) at the Musée Gustave Moreau in Paris. Great stuff!

Are you familiar with Huysman's description?

Nicola Masciandaro said...

Thanks very much for that link Valter. I really like these phrases

"the horrible ascension of the head"

"The horrible head blazes, bleeding constantly"

and the way the movement of the head and its burning aura and its bleeding seem to flow into each other. This seems to get at something I am tying to understand, the halo of decapitation itself . . . the presence-producing, deeply factical aesthetics of beheading, the strong sense in which seeing the severed head is seeing THAT someone is beheaded, a that which occupies a special phenomenal durability or ontic aura through the intimate identification between person and head, as if the severed head itself emanates the psychic immanence of the beheaded person.