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Tony Grist

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Hypnerotomachia [Dec. 21st, 2004|11:20 am]
Tony Grist
I thought I'd explain my name.

Poliphilo is the narrator of the trippy Italian "novel" Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, first published in 1499. He goes through the Dantean dark wood experience and comes out in a Greco-Roman Wonderland, surrounded by fabulous architecture and beset by nymphs. He wanders around (describing everything in mind-cudgeling detail) looking for his girlfriend Polia.

I started the book 18 months ago and have just about reached the halfway mark. I can only take a page or two at a time. Any more and the circuits over-load.

It's clotted, it's encrusted, it's infuriatingly slow and repetitive, and it's the happiest book I know. It encapsulates one of the great turning points of Western civilization. We've stepped out of the Middle Ages (the author, Francesco Colonna, was a Dominican friar) into the brightness and width and far-distances of the Renaissance.

The Past was being kept from us and we've only just found out how wonderful it was and now anything, but anything, seems possible.

From: aint2nuts
2004-12-21 12:46 pm (UTC)
Are you reading it in Italian?

Very impressed that you are even reading a book written that long ago. LOL...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-21 12:55 pm (UTC)
Oh gosh, no. This is a translation.

The original is in a weird language- all of its own- which is basically Italian, but with lots of words that have been made over specially for the purpose from Greek and Latin. I gather that a modern Italian would find it a good deal harder than a modern English reader finds Shakespeare or even Chaucer.
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From: aint2nuts
2004-12-21 12:57 pm (UTC)
Translations are good. I can't read Shakespeare in its original form. LOL.. and I speak the language... albiet very American English
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-21 01:02 pm (UTC)
There's a theory (this is wandering a bit off topic-but why not?) that American pronunciation is a lot closer than modern English pronunciation to the pronunciation of Shakespeare's day. If so, all those Shakespearian actors who think they have to sound like John Gielgud have got it completely wrong.
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From: aint2nuts
2004-12-21 01:05 pm (UTC)
That would be interesting... to be on the wall of a theater in Shakespere's day and listen in.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-21 01:14 pm (UTC)
It would.

Shakespeare was a country boy and probably spoke with a strong burr.

I've heard a recording of one of the sonnets spoken in what some scholar guessed was Shakespeare's own pronunciation- long vowel sounds and rolled "r"s. It was very attractive.
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[User Picture]From: butterscotch711
2004-12-21 02:35 pm (UTC)
I think received pronunciation is about the furthest thing from the way Shakespeare's plays were written to be performed.

In my Shakespeare module this year I think we discussed the American accent idea - I think it was like a north-eastern accent that is very similar, like New England or something.

We also talked about the current English accent which is supposed to be the most like the way the actors in Shakespeare's day spoke - I can't remember which area the accent belongs to, but our teacher did it for us and it was nasally and working class ... I don't know, my knowledge of British accents isn't all that good. :p

But of course Shakespeare's actors most probably would have emulated a whole range of the accents of their day, which is why doing a *whole* play in RP is so dumb.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-21 04:45 pm (UTC)
Well the American North East was settled by Shakespearian-era English people, so it makes perfect sense.

Shakespeare himself was from the Midlands. The modern Midlands (or Brummie) accent is flat and nasal and people from other English regions regard it as inherently comic.
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[User Picture]From: four_thorns
2004-12-21 03:41 pm (UTC)
i heard something along those lines-- that the boston accent in particular is theorized to be closer than modern english to the english pronunciation of the colonial period.

last may when i graduated college, my parents gave me this novel written by two princeton students called "the rule of four". it is about two students who try to "unravel the mysteries of the hypnerotomachia poliphili". i saw that and thought, ah! so that is where the LJ name comes from.

the novel, however, is somewhat terrible.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-21 04:58 pm (UTC)
I've just been to the Rule of Four website.

Apparently the puzzle of the Hypnerotomachia "has shattered careers, friendships and families.... at least one person has been killed for knowing too much."

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