Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Welcome, Baseball Fans

This post is really just a way of putting something up other than turgid medieval prose. I think the Mets will have some troubles fending off the Braves, but I like their chances.

I think Barry Bonds is bad for the game. I think the steroid probe is likely to make me feel about baseball the way I feel about bike racing.

Oh, and it will be interesting to see if the Yankees dump Giambi if he's implicated in this latest mess. They surely want to dump his contract, but if the team is beginning to heat up, will they be willing to lose his bat as they start to climb out of this hole?

Finally -- this Yankee team still doesn't have me convinced. There just aren't enough players I feel like you can really count on in the big spot. Their bats will win them games, sure, but it will be kind of like the baseball equivalent of the Atlanta Falcons. If they get going, maybe they have a chance to make the playoffs, but it's more likely that they'll be in the wildcard hunt than beat the Sox.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

King's Two Bodies

To my regular readers.. (twif and Keif) -- this is part of a long discussion with Geoff about The King's Two Bodies. If anybody for some reason has the urge to catch up/join in, you can check out his blog Geoff's Musings. Sorry this is so tedious -- its just that working out ideas is often kind of ugly along the way.

What exactly is the problem in The King's Two Bodies? It is partly a question of origins, or at least of precedents: how did the notion of a single person containing "a Body natural, and a Body politic" come about? It is also a question of effects: what were the consequences of the different manifestations of this doctrine and its antecedents?

I think following up Plowden with Shakespeare addresses the second of these questions as well as the first. It's not simply a question of legal doctrine, it's an examination of the interchange between legal doctrine and a wider culture. Lawyers as well as playwrights must wrestle with problems of kingship – it's a question of royal (yet underaged) gift of the Duchy of Lancaster, and also a question of the way the dual king/King is understood, and (through the brilliance of Shakespeare) understands himself.

So far, the implications of the doctrine include law, self-image of the monarch, and the notion of sovereignty. I'm just going to go through a few more that seemed suggestive to me.


Kantorowicz also sees issues of theology; (p. 17)

…It is of great interest to note how in sixteenth-century England, by the efforts of jurists to define effectively and accurately the King's Two Bodies, all the Christological problems of the early Church concerning the Two Natures once more were actualized and resuscitated in the early absolute monarchy.

I've mentioned a few times now that a classic way of generating political power is by coupling a hierarchical relationship to existing ideas of the cosmos or the body. It's a tricky move, however, for it also means a kind of surrender to the expertise of those thought to know about the cosmos or the body. I'm not sure what level to take Kantorowicz here – is he simply creating his own metaphor, with Aryanism and Nestorianism convenient literary tropes for describing what he wishes to communicate? Or does he think that Trinitarian logic/debate helped figure the depictions of the king?
Here's E.K. (pp. 18-19) :

The implication is not that the lawyers consciously borrowed from the acts of the early Councils, but that the fiction of the King's Two Bodies produced interpretations and definitions which perforce would resemble those produced in view of the Two Natures of the God-man.

He goes on to say that this similarity is "unsurprising." I do wonder, however, whether the English Civil War and its discourse of the King's Two Bodies wasn't closely related to its questioning of the theological edifice on which this duality rested (or at least, which allowed the duality to make sense).

One other note about the Plowden chapter: to what extent is the dual nature of the king really a "fiction"? It isn't clear to me what Kantorowicz means by the terms. He shows that it’s a rather compelling and long lived fiction? I guess it's not clear to me how this concept might be more or less of a fiction than, say, habeas corpus, or private property, or anything else.


The bit of the Shakespeare chapter that particularly raised my eyebrows was on pp. 36-37. Richard II is King and king. The King will continue in a new king, but only a King can effect such a separation. So Richard as King must preside over the abdication – and none other has the power to do so.

According to Kantorowicz (p. 36) "Bit by bit he deprives himself of the symbols of his dignity," but some of Shakespeare's lines seem anything but symbolic (unless the medieval term "symbol" carries some reality I do not understand). It's true Richard gives up crown and scepter, but also "The pride of kingly sway from out my heart/with mine own tears I wash away my balm."

I think that Kantorowicz returns to a reading of the burial of a monarch. That must also be a ritually tricky moment, because one is burying king but not King. What else might fall in the same category? It's this kind of situation I was referring to when I spoke of "kinks" earlier in the conversation.

Also on the subject of ritual – why is the Christ-centered king "liturgical"? I understand the division between a model or Christ and a model of Justice -- but I don’t get the division
liturgical/juristical (for example, page 93).


This is such a quick thought it hardly merits a subsection, but I found the argument about "demise" on page 40 (in which the word "convey" is particularly significant) rather compelling.

At any rate, Kantorowicz's "problem strikes me as a far-reaching one indeed. All I really have to add to what you've said about the "Christ-Centered Kingship" is that the valences of the problem remain multiple in each section. Each example is of law, and of much else. That's one reason the word "secular" bugs me (I've mentioned this before). It seems to cut off certain kinds of associations that strike me as significant

Curious what you made of the argument about the persona mixta on pp. 43-44. You spoke of the commonplace of dual personality in law, and this seems to be another example. There are an awful lot (see the "dual majesties" on p. 20 and the functional duality of man and office on p. 59. And of course the dual natures of Christ I mentioned above). We read that "a certain spiritual capacity was attributed to [the king] as an effluence of his consecration and unction" – again, a power of ritual. But this differs, argues E.K., from the King's Two Bodies—except in certain cases like the Norman Anonymous? or is E.K. doubling back on his own argument, and I just haven't followed the rhetoric?

I don't understand what gemina persona means. But I do get the idea of the dual capacities of the Christlike king, and its expression in..

The haloed Byzantine emperors, and the frontispiece of the Aachen gospels.

So those I think are the spheres we are working with (though surely there are others as well. I guess that's what interests me so much about law (and about this book) – the way its language, symbols, structures, etc. bleed into other areas of life. It seems to me this must be a real problem for lawyers (well, maybe just for judges). The injunction to follow the word of the law seems to me kind of impossible, for the law is everywhere, and it doesn't always make sense.

For that matter, I don't either, and if you have it in you to push me to clarify any of that (especially the last part), let me know.