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Could you tell me who she is?
December 7, 2013 9:08 AM   Subscribe

"Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels." This is the full epigraph for caprichio No 43., "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" by Goya. Who is she? Who is the mother of the arts? If she means "fantasy",who unites with her? I'm confused with this English sentence.
posted by mizukko to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Try this gloss: "Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with reason, fantasy is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels."

FWIW, I would have expected a semicolon where the colon sits.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:12 AM on December 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


In this sentence, fantasy is the mother of the arts when she is united with reason. Fantasy produces impossible monsters when abandoned by reason.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:13 AM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I would have expected a semicolon where the colon sits.

Back in the day colons were used as a pause with a length between that of a semicolon and a period.
posted by bfootdav at 9:16 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't think it helps but FWIW the Spanish is;

fantasía abandonada de la razón produce monstruos imposibles: unida con ella es madre de las artes y origen de las maravillas.

posted by Segundus at 9:32 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


To expand only slightly upon Emperor SnooKloze's explanation: feminine pronouns are being applied to both "fantasy" and "reason"; specifically, the "her" is reason and the "she" is fantasy. (Possibly the author treats these concepts as feminine at least because generative power is being attributed to them here.)
posted by yz at 9:40 AM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


If Segundus's quotation is the original then the English translation actually introduces the "she" for fantasy (but which is referred to as "mother" anyway). But of course it only now occurs to me that the femininity of the ideas could instead have been determined simply by the words' gender in Spanish.
posted by yz at 9:45 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


To put it in simple english: Fantasy without rational thought leads to insanity. With rational thinking, it's the origin of all great art.
posted by empath at 10:02 AM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


In the context of 18th-century aesthetic thought, "fantasía" would have been translated as "Fancy", and it's referring to the creative imagination in a somewhat broader way than the word "fantasy" as defined today. The relationship of Fancy and Reason is a common subject for discussion, as is personification of abstractions; compare Samuel Johnson, writing to Boswell in 1774:

"We may take Fancy for a companion, but must follow Reason as our guide. We may allow Fancy to suggest certain ideas in certain places; but Reason must always be heard, when she tells us, that those ideas and those places have no natural or necessary relation."
posted by holgate at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read it as "Fantasy abandoned by Reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels", imagining Fantasy to be a goddess-like Muse being, wild and chaotic and more than a bit dangerous, wearing tie-die and wild beaded hair and surrounded by clouds of explosions and strange lights, hints of nightmare and delirium flowing around her like a bad acid trip, monsters of shadow and madness-- and Reason to be a similar creature/Goddess, but stern and logical, clothed in strict pinstripes, her hair in a tight bun, and probably librarian-glasses--- and the two of them together perform a sweeping dance, with Reason gently 'leading' her partner's wild spins and leaps to the beat of patterns and drawing coherence out of madness, while Fantasy's exuberant efforts constantly pull Reason out into new positions, forcing her her adapt in her own turn, and the trail they leave behind them, of Fantasy's wild colors and shapes, arranged in patterns complex but coherent by Reason's thin lines of structure, like beads on a string, form shapes of arts and marvels of science and innovation.

But then, I tend to anthropomorphize a bit.
posted by The otter lady at 12:17 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Possibly the author treats these concepts as feminine at least because generative power is being attributed to them here.)

This is a possibility; another possibility is that both "la fantasía" and "la razón," as their articles indicate, are feminine words, and the translator is being literal.

Emperor SnooKloze got it in one.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:48 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Parenthetically:
This is a possibility; another possibility is that both "la fantasía" and "la razón," as their articles indicate, are feminine words, and the translator is being literal.
Yes; I did belatedly recognize that in my second comment above. (The choice also wouldn't be due to the translator; the Spanish text above contains "ella", which is a feminine pronoun.)

posted by yz at 2:08 PM on December 7, 2013


> But of course it only now occurs to me that the femininity of the ideas could instead have been determined simply by the words' gender in Spanish.

Not to pile on, but this is definitely the reason; generative power is neither here nor there.
posted by languagehat at 2:35 PM on December 7, 2013


generative power is neither here nor there.

But it's not simply linguistic, because it's grounded in a long history of personification: Athena, Lady Philosophy, Dame Raison, right up to La Déesse de la Raison in revolutionary Paris. This isn't the hyperliteralism of "English As She Is Spoke" or even the conventional gendering of seafaring vessels. Goya's invoking concepts with pre-existing bodies, just as the concept of Liberty today maps to a woman with a crown and torch (or one with a loose blouse).
posted by holgate at 3:40 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Athena, Lady Philosophy, Dame Raison, right up to La Déesse de la Raison in revolutionary Paris. ... the concept of Liberty today maps to a woman with a crown and torch (or one with a loose blouse).

That's because Athena, philosophia, raison, and libertas are all feminine nouns. Death is a man in Germany, a woman in France. This isn't all that complicated.
posted by languagehat at 9:43 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


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