July 2009



Margaret the Virgin, also known as Margaret of Antioch , virgin and martyr, is celebrated by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches on July 20. Her historical existence is dubious; she was declared apocryphal by Pope Gelasius I in 494, but devotion to her revived in the West with the Crusades. She was reputed to have promised very powerful indulgences to those who wrote or read her life, or invoked her intercession; these no doubt helped the spread of her cult.

According to the Golden Legend, she was a native of Antioch, daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. She was scorned by her father for her Christian faith, and lived in the country with a foster-mother keeping sheep. Olybrius, the praeses orientis, offered her marriage at the price of her renunciation of Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon’s innards. The Golden Legend, in an atypical moment of scepticism, describes this last incident as “apocryphal and not to be taken seriously” (trans. Ryan, 1.369). She was put to death in A.D. 304.

The Greek church knows Margaret as Marina, and celebrates her festival on July 17. She has been identified with Saint Pelagia – “Marina” being the Latin equivalent of the Greek name “Pelagia” – who, according to a legend, was also called Margarita. We possess no historical documents on St Margaret as distinct from St Pelagia. The Greek Marina came from Antioch, Pisidia, but this distinction was lost in the West.

An attempt has been made, but without success, to prove that the group of legends with which that of Saint Margaret is connected is derived from a transformation of the pagan divinity Aphrodite into a Christian saint. The problem of her identity is a purely literary question.

The cult of Saint Margaret became very widespread in England, where more than 250 churches are dedicated to her. Some consider her a patron saint of pregnancy. In art, she is usually pictured escaping from the dragon.



Jane Mackay_synesthesia-tchaikovsky

the gap between


What do they do,
The singers, tale writers, dancers, painters,
Shapers, makers?

They go there with empty hands, into
The gap between.
They come back with things in their hands.

They go silent and come back with words, with tunes.
They go into confusion and come back with patterns.
They go limping and weeping, ugly and frightened,
And come back with the wings of a red wing hawk,
The eye of a mountain lion.

That is where they live,
Where they get their breath,
There, in the gap between,
The empty place


Ursula le Guin



O glistening sunlight,
O iridescence, O unique shining,
The wedding of the Godhead:
O burning jewel.

The clothes you wear are noble
They fall straight and clear;

Your friendship is with angels:
A citizen of the sacred.

Come, enter into the palace of the King.


Hildegard of Bingen

John Keble (25 April 1792 – 29 March 1866) was an English churchman, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, and gave his name to Keble College, Oxford.


He was born in Fairford, Gloucestershire where his father, the Rev. John Keble, was Vicar of Coln St. Aldwyns. He attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford and, after a brilliant academic performance there, became a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and was for some years a tutor and examiner in the University. While still at Oxford he took Holy Orders in 1815, and became first a curate to his father, and later curate of East Leach.

Meantime, he had been writing ‘The Christian Year’, which appeared in 1827, and met with an almost unparalleled acceptance. Though at first anonymous, its authorship soon became known, with the result that Keble was in 1831 appointed to the Chair of Poetry at Oxford, which he held until 1841. Victorian scholar Michael Wheeler calls The Christian Year simply “the most popular volume of verse in the nineteenth century”. In his essay on “Tractarian Aesthetics and the Romantic Tradition,” Gregory Goodwin claims that The Christian Year is “Keble’s greatest contribution to the Oxford Movement and to English literature.” As evidence of that Goodwin cites E. B. Pusey’s report that ninety-five editions of this devotional text were printed during Keble’s lifetime, and “at the end of the year following his death, the number had arisen to a hundred-and-nine.” By the time the copyright expired in 1873, over 375,000 copies had been sold in Britain and 158 editions had been published. Notwithstanding its widespread appeal among the Victorian readers, the popularity of Keble’s The Christian Year quickly faded in the twentieth century.

In 1833 his famous Assize Sermon on “national apostasy” gave the first impulse to the Oxford Movement, also known as the Tractarian movement. Along with his colleagues, including John Henry Newman and Edward Pusey, he became a leading light in the movement, but did not follow Newman into the Roman Catholic faith.

In 1835 he was appointed Vicar of Hursley, Hampshire, where he settled down to family life and remained for the rest of his life as a parish priest at All Saint’s Church. He was a profound influence on a near neighbour, the author Charlotte Mary Yonge.

In 1846 he published another book of poems, Lyra Innocentium. Other works were a Life of Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man, and an edition of the Works of Hooker. After his death appeared Letters of Spiritual Counsel, and 12 volumes. of Parish Sermons. Of Keble, John Cousins says, in the 1910 A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature:

The literary position of Keble must mainly rest upon The Christian Year, the object of which was, as described by the author, to bring the thoughts and feelings of the reader into unison with those exemplified in the Prayer Book. The poems, while by no means of equal literary merit, are generally characterised by delicate and true poetic feeling, and refined and often extremely felicitous language; and it is a proof of the fidelity to nature with which its themes are treated that the book has become a religious classic with readers far removed from the author’s ecclesiastical standpoint and general school of thought. Keble was one of the most saintly and unselfish men who ever adorned the Church of England, and, though personally shy and retiring, exercised a vast spiritual influence upon his generation. 

Keble’s feast day is kept on 14 July (the anniversary of his Assize Sermon) in the Church of England.


One of my favourite pastimes is looking at paintings. There are two great dangers when looking at paintings. The first danger is that of being too close to the picture. All we see then is the scrubbed brush work, layers of streaky paint, fragments of colour. We need to be at a distance before the painting comes into focus, and reveal its shape, pattern and impression of reality. But more. We need also to find the right angle to view the picture bearing in mind the fall of the light upon and within the painting. More still. For each painters work is different: each painting is different; so each painting calls for a new approach, a different distance and angle of looking. Some pictures need to be seen from a distance of 20, 30 or even 40 feet before the full depth of perspective, shadow and shade can be appreciated.

The second set of dangers follow from impatience. We need to spend time looking. Paintings do not reveal their qualities all at once. The reflections, contrasts, all emerge very slowly. So we need in turn to be very patient, passive, very still and reflective. We must let it work upon us – and let time stop still. But more. We see different things at different times. Our own mood, experience,, our own personality, affect how we see things. When we see a painting for a second time, perhaps after a gap of years, new qualities can emerge. The painting is the same. It is we who have changed. And so unseen riches await us; paintings can never be exhausted.

You can make the connection. What is true of looking at paintings is true too of how we view life, a community of people, the world around us. Our view can be distorted if we are ever two inches from experience. The very real need to be close and involved also calls forth the need to be at a distance. Only then can we see life in some perspective; only then can we see the traces of the pattern, the shape and the meaning that there is to be found in our lives. We miss this if our noses are continually pressed up against the canvass.  

We need perspective.



Born to the Roman nobility. Twin brother of Saint Scholastica.

Studied in Rome, Italy, but was dismayed by the lack of discipline and the lackadasical attitude of his fellow students. Fled to the mountains near Subiaco, living as a hermit in a cave for three years; reported to have been fed by a raven. His virtues caused an abbey to request him to lead them.

Founded the monastery at Monte Cassino, where he wrote the Rule of his order. His discipline was such that an attempt was made on his life; some monks tried by poison him, but he blessed the cup and rendered it harmless. He returned to his cave, but continued to attract followers, and eventually established twelve monasteries. Had the ability to read consciences and the gift of prophesy.

 At one point there were over 40,000 monasteries guided by the Benedictine Rule.

 A summation of the Rule: “Pray and work.”

Prayer ought to be short and pure, unless it be prolonged by the inspiration of Divine grace. – Saint Benedict

Girded with a faith, and the performance of good works, let us follow in Christ’s path by the guidance of the Gospel; then we shall deserve to see him “who has called us into his kingdom.” If we wish to attain a dwelling place in his kingdom, we shall not reach it unless we hasten there by our good deeds. Just as there exists an evil fervor, a bitter spirit, which divides us from God and leads us to hell, so there is a good fervor which sets us apart from evil inclinations and leads us toward God and eternal life. No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another. Let them put Christ before all else; and may he lead us all to everlasting life. – from the Rule of Saint Benedict



FOR EVIDENCE OF ART’S recent love affair with “interactivity” and “connectivity,” one need look no further than the pair of digital art surveys currently playing at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. For less literal proof, this book is captivating and challenging !

As a young critic in the ’90s, Bourriaud offered one of the earliest readings of the emergent metaphors of artistic production engendered by information culture. The name he coined for his ideas–“relational aesthetics”–would become the title of his first book of criticism in 1997 and one of the more frequently heard catchphrases, at least in Europe, when it came to the practices of artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija, Philippe Parreno, Liam Gillick, Pierre Huyghe, Maurizio Cattelan, and Vanessa Beecroft.

Relational aesthetics was formulated at an auspicious moment in the technological arc of ’90s art. Midway between the critical and socially diffuse ethos of institutional critique at the beginning of the decade and art’s full-tilt into entertainment and digital production by decade’s end, it might be said that Bourriaud anticipated the future by looking backward. Hardly a techie, Bourriaud was greatly influenced by critical art’s focus on the sphere of reception, which had newly privileged questions of site and audience, and on the social network of art itself. By the mid-’90s, however, the artists with whom Bourriaud worked most closely tended to locate their practices not in relation to art’s own apparatuses but in the metaphorical (and often literal) spaces colonized by mass media and spectacle culture. In Bourriaud’s framework, artists like Tiravanija and Beecroft had become postpolitical producers of cultural services: get people together, give them some terms, provide an experience. Indeed, against the quintessentially late-’90s backdrop of dot-comism and user empowerment, relational aesthetics seems most a product of its time.

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