Southern Horrors

Author: Gilbert Bonifas
Editor: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
ISBN: 1443864390
File Size: 43,10 MB
Format: PDF
Read: 1838

Rather than focus on the attraction exerted by the Mediterranean South on Northerners in search of health, pleasure, leisure and culture, the contributors to this book choose to bring out its less enticing aspects and the repugnance these induced in northern Europeans over four centuries, through a series of sixteen essays covering a geographical area stretching from Portugal to Turkey and Lebanon, from the Balkans to Egypt, and embracing several cultures, two religious faiths and very diverse populations. Most of them were read at an international conference held in Nice in April 2012, and were substantially revised for publication in this volume. All contributions centre around the manner in which British, German (and American) travellers, tourists, writers, thinkers, all members of Protestant modernizing nations rapidly rising in political and economic power reacted to their physical, or merely intellectual, encounter with a Mediterranean world whose pure light, warm sunshine and marvellous scenery could not make them overlook the fact that the glories of the classical past were now “set in the midst of a sordid present” (George Eliot in Middlemarch) and that the successors, possibly the descendants, of the Romans in the countries of the South were sunk in poverty, religious superstition and racial degeneracy. What emerges from these studies that draw on a variety of primary sources is nothing but cruelty, decrepitude, ignorance and obscurantism. With its dark side exposed, the Mediterranean bears little resemblance to the “exquisite lake,” the fons et origo of form and harmony, to which E. M. Forster compared it in A Passage to India. Beyond the portrayal of horrors, however, all essays attempt to unravel the historical conditions and the nexus of mentalités that determined or inspired the perception, imagination or representation of a dark Mediterranean and Near-Eastern world. Not only do they make a useful contribution to the elaboration of the Mediterranean as an intellectual construct, but their original angle of vision offers a valuable addition to the intellectual and cultural history of the North, telling more, perhaps, about the values, prejudices and certainties of northern Europeans than about the true nature of the Mediterranean South.