June 26th, 2005

Fat Monks

According to Pip Patrick (article in Current Archaeology 198) the stereotype of the fat, jolly monk has some basis in fact.

Pip did a study of skeletons from a number of medieval cemetries in London and found that monks "were five times as likely to develop some form of obesity-related joint disease as their secular counterparts."

Nice to find science (for once) confirming rather that debunking myth.

The Color Purple

We were talking about The Color Purple (the book not the film.) How it begins in realism and ends in fairytale. All Celie's dreams come true.

Alice Walker believes that people can be redeemed- even out-and-out bastards. This is heartwarming, but is it likely? One woman in the group said she found Mr- so hateful that she wasn't interested in him becoming a pipe-smoking, trouser-sewing old sweetheart. It offended her.

It strikes me, having just read Bleak House, that Celie is a Dickens heroine. She's brutalised and downtrodden but remains unscarred. She's Esther Summerson, she's Little Dorrit. Like them she works out her salvation with needlework.

I was re-reading the Preface. Walker says the book is theology. Pagan theology.
Oddly enough, I'd entirely forgotten that aspect- which suggests to me that it's less essential than Walker thinks and more grafted on. For me The Color Purple is a humanist text. It's about people saving one another and themselves. For it to be truly theological God would have to be an actor in it- and She's not.