23 August, 2008

Sarvas on Roth

Steven Augustine, the bête noire's bête noire, draws my attention to some kind and thoughtful comments on my work, offered by Mark Sarvas, a famous blogger and published novelist, in a piece entitled 'Thinking about Roth' from his fine blog The Elegant Variation:
Thinking about Roth's familiar touches, motifs repeated, things like that, I thought that an instructive comparison might be made to Picasso. Besides a lifelong fascination with sex (with a dose of terrified mortality thrown in near the end), the symbols of Picasso's art were always personal, almost narcissistic: His lovers, his family, his personal iconography—bulls, harlequins, matadors—put a personal stamp on his body of work that bears some resemblance to Roth's own concerns.
A putative artistic kinship with Picasso had never occurred to me, but I think this is a perceptive observation. Sex and death, certainly, are recurrent motifs in my own blogging oeuvre, and, like Picasso, my symbols are always personal: though perhaps 'narcissistic' is a shade too far. (My readers will disagree.)

I was particularly haunted, in this instance, by the (unstated, or half-stated) suggestion that my own development as an artist might have mirrored or echoed that of Picasso. For example, I could easily believe that early Roth posts—say, from March through September 2006, when I dealt frequently with poverty and blindness, often allegorically—will come to be understood as the flowering of my own Blue and Rose Periods. Likewise, the metaphorical bulls and harlequins of Roth's 2007 pieces participate in a collective unconscious inherited (as I now see) from Picasso and the Spanish heritage. And if I have my own Démoiselles, inaugurating an epoch of daring perspectival distortions, it is surely my already-classic 'Unknown Object' trilogy from November 2006.


Some sceptics, or as I would prefer to call them cynics, may question the value of comparing creative artists as different as Picasso and myself. They may suggest that such a comparison requires a level of generality so great as to leave lifeless both Picasso and Roth. But I cannot agree with such facile, knee-jerk reactions. As Sarvas points out, quite aptly, Guernica (like my own 'For the Birds') 'is a resolutely personal work'—'something, incidentally, Picasso', like Roth, 'has been criticized for'. Such a similarity cannot be easily brushed off. Perhaps Picasso, as the twentieth-century paragon of the artist (as Einstein was of the scientist) has set the template for all subsequent creative endeavours.

19 August, 2008

Luding Bridge

Home after work, eightish, as the grey at the horizon glisters that bit brighter than the grey overhead, and the gasometers are giving out; the blackberried professionals pour off the first carriage onto Hornsey platform, and struggle up the stairs in a flat throng. I drop eaves on a young woman:
He was also, he also had a marionette of death with him. I mean, well—who would bring that to a christening?
I am in every mood to appreciate the macabre. The AHRC has withheld its fecund nipple for a second time, pooh-poohing my scholarship application and denying me my rightful forty grand. I am consoled only by the thought that doctoral theses on John Lennon, Prada handbags and poofter Shakespeare are being well rewarded. Not that I'm bitter or anything. An elder colleague, no friend to the AHRC, wisely counsels me 'not to capitulate to their imaginary'. But now they have hacked away the planks once and for all, and the Luding Bridge will be just that much harder to cross. Still, onwards to victory, comrades:

To fight with Heaven is infinite pleasure!
To fight with earth is infinite pleasure!
To fight with men is infinite pleasure!


At Metafilter, someone called Nasreddin, whose identity I can only suspect, links here with generous words. The context is a "Which important books haven't you read?" discussion, where the assembled stooges try to impress each other with greater and greater lacunae. Naturally, the idea behind these admissions is: I have come this far without [Ulysses / Hamlet / War and Peace, etc.]—and I'm no worse off for it. The bigger the book you scorn, the bigger you are. Philosophy comes in for a bit of one-upmanship too, including gems like:
I think a lot of philosophy is actually best ingested via secondary sources. Especially works in translation, where you'll be missing out on possible linguistic nuances anyway. You can certainly get the "meat" of Plato in 100 pages of well-written exposition.
And later:
I've read quite a bit of Plato, I like Plato. But, honestly, if you're going to read philosophy as a matter of cultural literacy you would do better to read the early moderns: Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, with a dash of Hobbes, Pascal, and Malebranche for good measure. (I would add Kant, but he is all but impenetrable.)
(Myself, I advise against expectations of increased 'cultural literacy' from any study of Malebranche.) But the bloke who really annoys me goes by the soubriquet of 'Yoink'. At the request that he illuminate the Greatness of the Great Books, he snorts:
Well, the request is a bit absurd (if you want to know why, see Cliff's Notes), but, with regard to the authors I mentioned above (Austen, Melville, Flaubert and Tolstoy), here you go:
"Oh, alright—if you really must have a display of my superiority." The subsequent display is 'favourited' by no fewer than five fellow readers, including—gasp!—Nasreddin himself. Do these epigoni take him at his word? Here's what Yoink thinks of Melville:
Melville: delerious prose-poetry of the most intoxicating kind. Melville puts the whole of Western Lit in a blender and sends you out sailing on a turbulent sea of allusions, puns, half-caught echoes. To read Melville is to find yourself remapping the literary and philosophical world.
What disturbs me about this assessment is the casualness of its sublimity. Sublimity must never be made casual: then it becomes bathos. It ruins Melville, or more accurately Moby Dick, for which 'Melville' is here blatant synecdoche, to call him 'prose-poetry', and it ruins him to use the expression 'of the most intoxicating kind', which a trip to Google will soon expose as crass gush. Melville does not put the 'whole of Western Lit'—a tasteless abbreviation—'in a blender' and to read him is not to find oneself 'remapping' any sort of world. What Yoink has done is reiterate a slew of clichés, on the very level of the Cliff's Notes he disparages, dressed up in the prose style of a Coldwater Creek catalogue. Yoink might as well not have read Moby Dick if all he could glean from it was a hackneyed encyclopaedism. And in that case, he'd have done better to keep his views to himself, lest his respondent think reading books is merely about checking 'Greatness' boxes off a list.

Let's see what he says about Flaubert:
Flaubert: where to begin? Madame Bovary is the obvious example, although I prefer "L'education sentimentale." For a start it's simply a privilege to be exposed to such a whip-smart mind and a prose style that combines an extraordinarily labile grace with sinews of steel.
Here is another species of false humility. This species is signalled, as so often, by the use of the word privilege—a word that should be razed from dictionaries, as a punishment for its services to the obsequious. Were I Ayatollah, I'd law it that anyone claiming such a thing as this to be privilege should have that privilege immediately rescinded.

The snivelling begins in the first words. Notice the rhythm of ideas: Where to begin? It is all too much; the genius of Flaubert escapes all mortal summary. But then, with a tip of the beret to the 'obvious example', a little jab in the ribs: I acknowledge the preference of the many, but I am capable of subtler appreciations. But it gets yet more vain. Flaubert's prose 'combines an extraordinarily labile grace with sinews of steel'. Labile means 'unstable, prone to lapse', and so it is not surprising that Google has hardly heard of 'labile grace'. Is it really the word Yoink wanted? Did he perhaps mean 'agile grace'? Or is he, rather, attempting a bit of theology? And what could it really mean to say that Flaubert's prose has 'sinews of steel'? No passage I adduce from the novel could possibly confirm or disprove the statement.

Worst of all is the contention, superficially unremarkable, that Flaubert has a 'whip-smart mind'. I have just googled the phrase. Who else possesses a whip-smart mind? The teenage protagonist of a young adult novel; a hypothetical physics-major freshman; someone's 13 year old niece; the Frances McDormand character in Fargo; and the soft-rocker Craig Finn. What these minds have in common is that they are smart, yes, but possibly not quite as smart as the speaker, or else, so smart as to be deficient in other, more important qualities present in the speaker: 'whip-smart' has the quiet soupçon of condescension. Mrs. Roth, not given the context, confirms my intuition. In the circumstances, calling Flaubert 'whip-smart' frankly lacks taste.


And what is so damned wrong with lacking taste? Why should I castigate some irrelevant schlub on Metafilter for failing to meet my standards of delicacy? Doesn't that lack taste? Possibly. It is my suspicion—soupçon—that being a good writer, a good thinker, is essentially about possessing or acquiring good taste. By taste I do not mean politeness. Taste is judgement in the realm of the unquantifiable. It is the aesthete's equivalent of phronesis, practical know-how: it is aesthetic know-how. To have taste is to know not only the dictionary definition of a word, but its precise colour and nuance—knowledge that cannot be transmitted succinctly or mechanically. To have taste is to know that, if we would communicate the greatness of a Melville, we must not rely on stereotype. It is to be alive to possibility, and above all to the rare possibility of bouleversement. It is to know, likewise, when to be outrageous. Flaubert and Melville had perfect taste. Both could be outrageous: Melville with his bloody mess of a book—hardly a 'fabulous quest-narrative which is gripping at the level of narrative'—and Flaubert with his St. Anthony and his Dictionary of Received Ideas, into which would now have to go the mental contents of a Yoink.

He says that the main reason to read these works 'is that they're just fucking amazingly enjoyable to read', as if that proposition could genuinely answer the question, put to him initially: 'For what reasons, besides blunt-force insistence, are they considered required reading?' Yoink lacks taste because, with his literary nose retroussé up Flaubert's arse, he has not allowed himself to hear this question: he has not entered into dialogue. Words are labile things, and require mastery: to deal with words is to deal with people—to hear, to communicate.

14 August, 2008


One scholarly excursion among others: a tiny tangle of errors.

This week I was reading the 1522 Geniales dies of Alessandro Alessandri, a real olla podrida of anecdotes, erudition and lore, very typical of the period. Here is what he writes about the celebrated Mount Parnassus:
Parnassus was a mountain of Phocis in Boeotia, divided into two hills [colles], Thitorea and Hyampeum, of which the one was sacred to Liber [ie. Dionysos], the other to Apollo, but Helicon to the Muses.
Now, Phocis was not in Boeotia. But perhaps we should forgive this oversight, as the scholars of the sixteenth century seem not to have been too clear on the difference. Thus in the Elucidarius of Hermann Torrentinus, completed in 1518, we read that Delphi is a 'town [oppidum] in Phocis', but in Charles Estienne's 1596 revision of this work, we discover that actually Delphi is a 'city [civitas] in Boeotia, next to Parnassus'. For what it's worth, both Parnassus and Delphi were indeed in Phocis, which was adjacent to Boeotia. Delphi itself was by the border.

I was more interested in these two hills of Parnassus. They are proverbial in classical literature, where the mountain is often called biceps, 'two-headed'. In fact the two points are not twin summits but low local peaks sitting above Delphi; today they have the names Rhodini, rosy, and Phleboukos, fiery, and together they are known as the Phaedriades, shining ones. But where was Alessandro getting his names, and where was he getting the notion that one was sacred to Apollo, the other to Dionysos?

My first stop was to check the commentary on Geniales dies composed by the French humanist Andreas Tiraquellus—a friend of Rabelais's—and published alongside the text in 1586. Tiraquellus claims Thitorea and Hyampeum are the names given to the peaks by Herodotus, and further points the reader to two commentaries from late antiquity: Servius on the Aeneid, and Lactantius Placidus on the Thebaid of Statius. So what does Herodotus say? Well, in his Histories 8.32 he mentions 'that summit of Parnassus. . . the name of it being Tithorea'. The word 'summit' is κορυφη, and in Lorenzo Valla's Latin version it is cacumen, although vertex is also used—the latter word defined in Valla's own Elegantiae, just so there is no confusion, as 'the highest point on a mountain'. Meanwhile, in Histories 8.39 we find an offhand reference to Hyampeia, also called a κορυφη (and vertex). So if you were a humanist carefully reading Herodotus in 1522, you might very naturally put the two together; Alessandro's orthography is a bit odd, but otherwise the names work.

The Greek writer Strabo, Geographica 9.3.15, also mentions, but does not identify, 'Hyampeia on Parnassus'. Plutarch, in his little essay On the Delays of Divine Justice, mentions Hyampeia as a 'rock' (πετρα) from which Aesop was thrown by the Delphians, and notes that, since this provoked Apollo's wrath, their place of execution was later transferred to nearby Naupleia. Pausanias, who composed his Description of Greece a hundred years later, cites Herodotus on Tithorea (10.32.8), but by his own time the name Tithorea applied to the nearby town, which Herodotus calls 'Neon'. Pliny, likewise, mentions the town of Tithorea, and it still a municipality today. Otherwise the names seem to have disappeared from the two peaks, neither of which, let us remember, is a summit.


The sixteenth-century physician Girolamo Cardano, whose Latin is so bad that Kristian Jensen once wrote an article about its awfulness, seems to have followed Alessandro on the matter of Parnassus, though it is also possible he filched straight from Herodotus. He tells us that 'Mount Parnassus was in Phocis, in Boeotia, exalting itself with two peaks [cacumina], Thitorea and Hyampeum: on one peak [fastigium] of which was Nysa, sacred to Bacchus, on the other Delphi, sacred to Apollo.' Again we find one peak assigned to Dionysos, the other to Apollo. Whence this?

Lucan, Pharsalia 5.72-73, describes Parnassus as 'a mountain sacred to Phoebus [Apollo] and Bromius [Dionysos]', without distinguishing its peaks. Macrobius, a cultured pagan nobleman writing in the late fourth century, writes that 'the Boeotians, although they speak of Mount Parnassus as sacred to Apollo, nevertheless pay honour there both to the Delphic oracle and to the caves of Bacchus as dedicated to a single god, so that both Apollo and Liber Pater are worshipped one the same mountain. . . Apollo and Liber are one and the same god.' Servius, a contemporary of Macrobius, says the same in a comment to Aeneid 6.78; meanwhile, in his note on Aeneid 10.163, he writes that
Parnassus is a mountain of Thessaly next to Boeotia. . . which is split into two peaks [iuga], Cithaeron belonging to Liber, and Helicon to Apollo and the Muses.
Servius is really confused. Not only is Parnassus not in Thessaly, but Cithaeron and Helicon are two entirely different (though adjacent) mountains in Boeotia; iuga can mean 'range, ridge' as well as 'peak', and perhaps Servius took Parnassus as the whole morass of mountains in Central Greece. Cithaeron was indeed sacred to Dionysos, and Helicon to Apollo and the Muses. At any rate, the attribution of Apollo and Dionysos to separate peaks seems to stem from Servius' confusion between Cithaeron/Helicon and the biceps Parnassus.

A century and a half later, Lactantius Placidus, in his note on Thebaid 1.62-64, follows Servius in describing Cithaeron and Helicon as two iuga of Parnassus. Isidore of Seville, whose Origines (mid-seventh century) was the single most important source of classical information in the Middle Ages, agrees with Servius and Lactantius: although he first assigns Parnassus to Apollo (14.4.12), he later (14.8.11) says that Apollo and Liber were worshipped on separate peaks, which were named after Cithaeron and Helicon.

This is how mix-ups get transmitted as the standard line to the Middle Ages. And it doesn't stop there; Boccaccio picks the story up and runs with it, noting in the short entry on Parnassus from his De montibus: 'one peak [vertex] is sacred to Apollo; the other to Bacchus'. So it was from this river that Alessandro fished out his lore about Parnassus, only like a good one-upman humanist he had the ingenuity to trick it up with names he fadged together from Herodotus.

In the eighteenth century scholars were still getting it wrong, though a bit less wrong. Richard Jackson, in his Literatura Graeca (1769), writes that Phocis 'is famed for three mountains, Parnassus sacred to Apollo. . . [and] Helicon and Cythaeron, both consecrated to the Muses.' According to Edward Dodwell, in his 1819 Classical and Topographical Tour Through Greece:
The two celebrated rocks, the Phaedriades, rise almost perpendicularly above the fountain, dividing into the two points of Naupleia and Hyampeia, which were sacred to Bacchus and to Apollo.
Dodwell has taken Plutarch's Naupleia—not localised by the Greek—as the other of the two Phaedriades. It is the latest in a long line of fudges and confusions.


All this will no doubt be seen as a pointlessly long discussion of a dull subject: the name and nature of two hills of Parnassus. But it reveals a serious problem inherent in historical geography. Our approach to the identification of objects and places is now fundamentally archaeological: we go to see what we can find on the site itself, and measure the classical sources accordingly. But for Latin-speaking scholars from the Renaissance through to the nineteenth century, all information came through a network of late, obscure and often fragmentary literary sources, badly preserved in crabbed-handed manuscripts, and then in clumsily-edited fifteenth-century editions. Trying to decipher just where and what were Parnassus and its hills, peaks, ridges, summits (colles, iuga, vertices, fastigia, cacumina) was no simple matter.

09 August, 2008

The Weeping Philosopher

Scholars do like to spout off. The subject of the Delphic oracle is no exception: it has attracted the usual charivari of feminists and postpostposts. What else would you expect? The oracle is given by the Pythia—a woman—who is 'played like an instrument' or else sexually violated by Apollo, whose words she is made to speak, from a dark cave, in a state of hysterical frenzy—can you conceive any image more inevitably bound for the chair and drill of the derridista?

Giulia Sissa, in a 1987 book on Greek Virginity, tells us in her preface that by the end of the work she will have 'woven around [the Pythia], mysterious in the middle of the world, a web of analogies, similes, and suggestions'. Is this all we want from a scholarly tome? Is it enough? Such a line as this is typical:
Given that the concepts of enthusiasm and inspiration are indispensable for thinking about divination, the unique sense of Pythian utterance needs to be looked at with alertness to what was always unspoken, and perhaps indecent, in the image of a woman who opened her mouth to speak the truth while her body was penetrated by currents and vapors.
Similarly, Page duBois, a singularly pious and irritating writer, whose footnotes consist largely of references to her own books, writes in 1991:
The Apollonian truth, pure and uncontaminated, after passing through the material body of earth and woman, takes on a distorting residue of corporeality that separates and distances the divine word from the mortal seeker.
Again: 'These images of interiority [oracle, temple, etc.] are associated in ancient culture with female space, with the containment and potentiality of the female body.' The reasoning is that because we, with our hyper-associative modernist mentality, can make the analogy between cunt and cave, so the two objects (titivated up, of course, in hackneyed spatial metaphors) must have been 'associated'—whatever that might mean—by the ancient Greeks. It is sort of a magical realism, the most flaccid of modern literary modes, that has pervaded the academy: a sickly obsession with analogies and similarities.


And if scholars love the oracle, so they love Heraclitus on the oracle even more. Heraclitus, quoted in Plutarch, writes, 'cο αναξ, cου το μαντειον εστι το εν Δελφοις, ουτε λεγει ουτε κρυπτει αλλα σημαινει' (H93). The lord whose oracle is in Delphi neither legei nor kryptei, but semainei. You see I have not translated the key words. Legei is usually 'speaks', kryptei 'conceals', and semainei 'indicates' or 'gives a sign'. Philemon Holland in 1603 had 'doth neither speake, nor conceale, but signifie onely and give signe'. Frank Babbitt's Loeb has 'neither tells nor conceals, but indicates'. G. S. Kirk, in the standard English guide to the pre-Socratic philosophers (1957), explains the line:
The method adopted by Apollo in his Delphic pronouncements is praised, because a sign may accord better than a misleadingly explicit statement with the nature of the underlying truth, that of the Logos.
Similarly, Charles Kahn in 1979: 'There is no doubt that Heraclitus is referring to the Delphic practice of giving advice in indirect form, by imagery, riddle, and ambiguity, so that it was obvious to a man of sense than an oracle required an interpretation. . . The Delphic mode of utterance presents a plurality or complexity of meaning, so that reflection is required, and unusual insight, if the proper interpretation is to be discovered.'

For Kirk, 'Probably Heraclitus intended by this kind of parallel to justify his own oracular and obscure style.' For Kahn, 'This parallel between Heraclitus' style and the obscurity of the nature of things, between the difficulty of understanding him and the difficulty in human perception, is not arbitrary: to speak plainly about such a subject would be to falsify it in the telling, for no genuine understanding would be communicated. The only hope of 'getting through' to the audience is to puzzle and provoke them into reflection. Hence the only appropriate mode of explanation is allusive and indirect: Heraclitus is consciously and unavoidably 'obscure'.' For Jonathan Barnes, in the same year, 'Heraclitus the Obscure, the Riddler, the oracular prophet, stands dark and majestic in the early history of philosophy. He set out to imitate 'the king whose is the oracle at Delphi', who, in Heraclitus' own words, 'neither states nor conceals, but gives signs'.'

Robert Lamberton, generally an excellent scholar, gets a little over-excited by this charming maxim; in his 2001 Plutarch he gushes, 'It is no exaggeration to say that semiotics, in the tradition of European thought, starts here, with this notorious, sententious claim'. But it is an exaggeration.

Still, this maxim on meaning and interpretation was clearly ripe for the greedy fingers of the Continentals, and, sure enough, we find the wrangling begins with Heidegger. In his 1939 essay on the concept of physis (nature) in Aristotle, he observes that legei is best translated by contrast to kryptei, 'conceals'—he opts for 'reveals' or even 'unconceals'. Thus:
The oracle does not directly unconceal nor does it simply conceal, but it points out. This means: it unconceals while it conceals, and it conceals while it unconceals.
As my new friend would be quick to remind me, the notion of 'unconcealment' is central to Heidegger's reading of the pre-Socratics—and, indeed, to his entire philosophical project—for as he delights to observe, the Greek word for truth, aletheia, means 'not-hidden'. Legein, 'to speak', is given etymologically as 'to gather', identical to Latin legere, which also means 'to read, choose', whence select and lecture. Legein is thus to gather together and make manifest, a Heideggerian description of the function of language. As some guy called Brian Bard has put it,
This making manifest is the unconcealing of physis which for humans occurs in discourse and language; legein comes to mean 'to say' because language provides the collected space in which beings arise and become manifest.
There is no little joy to be had in playing these etymological games with Greek. No doubt Heidegger also noticed associations between phōnē (voice), phanai (to speak), on the one hand, and phōs (light), phainein (to reveal, appear, bring to light), on the other. The connection is a distinguished one: it is found, just to give three examples, in August Schlegel's 1820 Indische Bibliothek, John Donaldson's 1839 New Cratylus, and Georg Curtius' 1858 Grundzüge. Watkins, on the other hand, lists two distinct but identical roots.

It is hardly surprising that Heidegger, with his own notoriously oracular style, should be fascinated by the oracular Heraclitus, just as Heraclitus praised the oracle itself. (Between Heraclitus and Heidegger stretches a long line of great oracular philosophers whose names begin with 'H'—Hamann, Humboldt, Hegel and Husserl, not to mention Hierkegaard himself.) Hence the pronounced tone of mystical nostalgia for the oral, pre-Socratic mind:
If the Greeks conceive of saying as legein, then this implies an interpretation of the essence of word and of saying so unique that no later 'philosophy of language' can ever begin to imagine its as yet unplumbed depths. Only when language has been debased to a means of commerce and organization, as is the case with us, does thought rooted in language appear to be a mere 'philosophy of words,' no longer adequate to the 'pressing realities of life'.
Paradoxically, Heidegger's friend and interlocutor, Eugen Fink, insists in their published conversation that 'In his fragments, Heraclitus does not speak in any veiled manner like the god in Delphi'. Nonetheless, the weeping philosopher has always attracted, since Heidegger, scholars with a penchant for the oracular style; one of the most recent examples being the gorgeous and monumental Sunbowl or Symbol (1998) by G. L. J. Schönbeck. More well-known and more influential, on the other hand, is a book by Jean Bollack and his student Heinz Wismann, Héraclite ou la séparation (1972), based on Bollack's lectures of the late 60s. Unlike Heidegger, Kirk, Kahn or Barnes, Bollack sees no consistent philosophy, cosmology or metaphysics in Heraclitus, all that being the product of the Stoics or Platonists (such as Plutarch) who transmitted his fragments. A priori the thesis attracts me, but alas, its exposition is pure turgid bullshit in the French style. Here is a sample of their two pages on H93:
Applying to the oracle's ambiguity the categories of their own discourse, men would interpret it as true (speaking) or false (concealing), so that it accords or not with the outcome which they await or have experienced. The equivocal oracular word seems here to remain a determinate affirmation, whether truthful or mendacious. In fact, it transcends the opposition and escapes the dilemma. Divine discourse neither speaks nor conceals because it speaks-and-conceals, indicating by what it says that which it does not say.
Bollack has clearly inherited Heidegger's taste for concluding a paragraph of over-inflated and jargonistic waffle with an over-compressed koan—as if hoping to compensate Scylla with Charybdis. He succeeds in sounding profound without actually making any contribution to the fragment's interpretation.

And what of the feminists?
Sissa: the god does not speak; he does not press his seal into a totally impressionable and malleable substance. Nor does the god conceal, as if he wished to deceive in the manner of a distorting mirror. Rather, using the soul as an instrument, Apollo reveals his truth in a "mixed," confused, pallid form. The Pythia's psyche, though not false to the truth, inevitably diminishes its brilliance.

And duBois: The word semainei demands our attention here because it is sometimes used synonymously with sphragizo, 'to stamp with a sign or mark, to seal'. This metaphor for the relationship between the god, the medium, and the consultant of the oracle bears echoes of the earlier discussion of inscription on the body as a marker of truth, of the contents, the nature of the thing marked. Here the body of the woman is stamped, sealed, with the god's truth: the body itself becomes a sign, with its acoustic rendition of the ineffable divine truth.
So the one says the Pythia is stamped and sealed, the other says she isn't. One describes the soul (psyche), the other the body. Both are equally meaningless: 'not even wrong'. Of the two, duBois is the worse simply because she is the more hackneyed. Her pathological but wholly typical obsession with the body is just not warranted by the material, nor is the fact that a given word can be used in other senses. Sissa's reading, while inarticulate, is at least rooted in Plutarch's text, which continues, '[Apollo] makes known and reveals his own thoughts, but he makes them known through the associated medium of a mortal body and a soul that is unable to keep quiet'. Lamberton, likewise, writes that 'if Heraclitus pointed to a tertium quid for the pair 'speak—conceal', he must have meant this projection of meaning down the hierarchy, with the attendant necessary distortion introduced by the medium'. Is that a pun on 'medium'?

We seem to have wound up with a very pretty modern allegory for the mouth betraying the brain, or else for the différance of the sign. Heraclitus weeps.