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Tag: 18th century
Erotic Japanese prints at The British Museum
Last week I had the chance to visit the British Museum’s exhibition of shunga, which translates as the rather euphemistic “Spring paintings”: Japanese erotic prints and books from the medieval period up to the turn of the twentieth century. So it’s Spring as in sap rising, if you know what I mean.
Given the enduring popularity at this blog of James Joyce’s bum letters and the number of people who come here trying to find out (in English) what the octopus is saying in Hokusai’s Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, I thought some of you
perverts scholars may be interested to hear a bit about the exhibition. It’s worth a visit if you can get to London and you’re into Japanese culture and/or smutty pictures; therein lies one of the unintentionally funny things about it. Yes, every single day at the…
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The standard story is that the carnivorous Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) plant’s name refers to the Roman goddess of love, without going into too much detail. Muscipula actually means mousetrap, not flytrap, but that’s not important right now (to quote Airplane! for no apparent reason).
Dionaea means “daughter of Dione”, i.e. Aphrodite, Venus’ Greek counterpart. This fixation on love goddesses gives some clue as to the real reason for the name; the filthy minds and sniggering schoolboy humour of 18th century naturalists. To them it was equally salient that it trapped and digested unsuspecting visitors (hence, flytrap) and that it had two touch sensitive, reddish lobes surrounded by hair… i.e. it reminded them of female genitalia. That link isn’t at all obscene, by the way, it just gives some more background information on the perpetrators of this Linnean lewdness.
I admit that I’m no gynaecologist, but I…
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Edo horror stories
The hyaku-monogatari (“one hundred stories”) were told in Edo-era Japan when people came together to exchange kaidan, stories of ghosts, monsters, mysterious (fushigi) happenings, and frightening (osoroshiki) characters. This gatherings, hyaku-monogatari kaidan kai, can be conceived of as a kind of market for exchanging stories. These might be real (or claimed) personal experiences, stories people knew from elsewhere, or a story of their own devising. There may not always have been exactly one hundred stories; as in English, saying there are “a hundred” or “hundreds” of something can be deliberate hyperbole, just a way of saying there are more than you can easily count. Stories of mysterious and frightening things (mononoke) were and are indeed endless in number.
Wakan kaidan hyōrin, 1718:
“First light one hundred wicks with blue paper around them, and hide all weapons. Now, for…
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