Daily Archives: December 19, 2009

Saturday Night at the Movies: “Modern Times”


Continuing with Frye’s “The Great Charlie” (original post here).

Frye’s reading of Modern Times is compelling enough to cite it in its entirety:

Since Mark Twain, no anarchist of the full nineteenth-century size has emerged since Charlie Chaplin… For all its plethora of revolutionary symbols, Modern Times is not a socialist picture but an anarchist one: an allegory of the impartial destructiveness of humour. Put into the perfectly synchronizing machinery of a factory, a jail, a restaurant, this forlorn and willing Charlie wrecks all three, not by trying to but by trying not to. He very nearly accepts the highbrow’s compromise with society by singing a song no one understands and dares not admit ignorance of, but even this does not work. He gets, however, an insight into love, courage, and sacrifice with the foremen who bully him and the cops who beat him up no more understand the nature of than a bedbug understands the nature of a bed. We are left with a feeling that the man who is really part of his social group is only half a man, and we are taken back to the primitive belief, far older than Isaiah or Plato but accepted by both, that the lunatic is especially favored by God. (Northrop Frye on Modern Culture, 100-1)

The first part of the movie appears above.  The rest of it after the jump.

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Religious Knowledge, Lecture 11


The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

[Ed’s Note: Sorry that we’ve lagged behind in continuing to post the Religious Knowledge lectures.  Having my computer crash a couple of weeks ago without being sure what I’d lost and what I hadn’t double footed me for a bit.  We are now back on track.  M.H.]

Lecture 11. December 16, 1947

After the Babylonian Captivity, prophecy is modulated to the themes of the invisible king, since the Jews could no longer have a visible symbol for a spiritual reality.  The ideal king may be eternal or an ideal to be re-established in the future. Two directions appear here.  The distinction is already present in the exilic prophets and is finally expressed in the conflict of Judaism, which stopped at the exilic age, and Christianity.

With the destruction of Jerusalem, Judaism had to become a permanent exile, completing the idea of the coming Messiah as established in the Captivity.  They rebuilt Jerusalem and staggered on, accepting the future Messiah bound up in time.  The second exile under the Romans completed the pattern of the coming Messiah.

The breakaway started as early as Jeremiah, the first of the exilic prophets, and is carried on in the prophets.  There is ambiguity in Isaiah II and in Ezekiel: they are read by both Christian and Jew.  The prophets speak of a deliverer who is to vanish and return, which could be interpreted as an eternally present fact or one in time.  The Jew and Christian both see it in the future, but it is the difference between resurrection and revival.  The Jews speak of a rebuilt Jerusalem, which the prophets did speak about, and perhaps that is all they thought they were talking about.  However, the conception of hope and confidence is connected with something that is symbolized in the future.

The pattern of exilic prophecy emphasizes that the city and the king have disappeared and must come again, symbolized by the future.  It is important to remember that the Hebrew language has no future tense.  It can differentiate between a complete and a progressive action, but not between the past, present and future. It is an admirable language for expressing a God in an eternally present existence; everything is complete in God’s mind at once,

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