Rose: An Interpretation of a Universal Language.Review (Géczi János Rózsa-monográfiái) | Narrative | Knowledge

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  Rose: an interpretation of a universal language Review A rózsa kultúrtörténete. Az antik Mediterráneum. (Cultural History of the Rose. The Antique Mediterranean) By János Géczi, Gondolat, Budapest, 2006, 340 pages ISBN 963 961 081 A rózsa kultúrtörténete. Keresztény középkor. (Cultural History of the Rose. The Christian Middle Ages) By János Géczi, Gondolat, Budapest, 2007, 286 pages ISBN 978 963 961 099 6 A rózsa kultúrtörténete. Reneszánsz. (Cultural History of the Rose. Rennaisance) By János
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  Rose: an interpretation of a universal languageReview  A rózsa kultúrtörténete. Az antik Mediterráneum. (Cultural History of the Rose. The AntiqueMediterranean) By János Géczi, Gondolat, Budapest, 2006, 340 pagesISBN 963 961 081  A rózsa kultúrtörténete. Keresztény középkor. (Cultural History of the Rose. The ChristianMiddle Ages) By János Géczi, Gondolat, Budapest, 2007, 286 pagesISBN 978 963 961 099 6  A rózsa kultúrtörténete. Reneszánsz. (Cultural History of the Rose. Rennaisance) By JánosGéczi, Gondolat, Budapest, 2008, 350 pagesISBN 978 963 693 066 0Lajos Somogyvári Introduction There’s an old idea in the western civilization about a language – a perfect anduniversal one, in other words: about the Adamic language. It contains a lot of symbols andstories – one of them is the history of the image of the Rose. János Géczi’s monographiesreview this topic from the Antique Mediterranean through the Christian Middle Ages to theRennaisance – publishing so far. This paper try to give approaches to the readers: how can we(or how should we) read the language of the Rose?Direct and indirect assumptions help us to orientate our investigation – I think the aimsand scopes of the sciences and the opportunities of history-narration points to the books’theoretical background. The stories of history are construated by us, since Hayden White it’san obvious sentence. The author realized the fact that his narrative is one of the possiblevariations to describe our cultural grounds, and it’s supposed not to explain, but even more tounderstand the past decades. So, which questions lead Géczi’s researching? His examinationstarts to collect a plant’s (the Rose, of course) occurences, locuses in different texts, then toexplicate its’ meanings and functions in human interactions. It’s a botanical and symbolical journey through the epochs of the history of culture, meanwhile we can observe thedisassociation of sciences and arts, and the organization the previous ones. One of the mostinteresting conclusion when we read the monographies together to see how started thedesacralisation and demagification of the western european world by the time of Rennaisance.1  Géczi creates connections amongst words, texts and images, develops in this way thediversíty of cultural patterns. This multidisciplinary method inherents advantages anddisadvantages too. One gain is to see common cultural phenomenas in different lights, toexplore how the european semantics and mentality constituted by such elements, as the Rose.Differing fields of knowledge conjugate into each other – the exact, descriptive scientificresearch, like Botany and the History of Art, grounded by interpretation and generation of meanings (some may say: semiosis). At first sight there is a discrepancy between sciences andarts, but this contradiction made only by the Modernity. Before that – perhaps by the time of the Enlightenment – these two spheres frame together the knowledge about the world andwithin the world: the human. It means that we should see together things like everyday practical activities and theory, visuality and verbality, the holy and the profane.In the age of professionalization and specialisation this attitude easily can be blamed by dilettantism. The question emerges: Which rules and formulas give the limits to theinterpretation and rendering meanings? We can produce infinite narratives from the samecorpus – who can judge the validity of the legitimations and justifications of these stories?Plenty of resources, allusions and references dissolve our possible prosecutions aboutnarrativism, but the author feel the problem too – Géczi suggests to read the differentdiscourses and amalgamate our own narrative. It’s a difficult question if there’s a real problemor we should only accept the limits of these cognitive constructions and mentalrepresentations? Iconology and iconography  The title of the books ( Cultural History of the Rose ) refers to the hypothesis, thatideas, imaginations and symbols of our culture are objectivated in texts and images, and theyhave temporaly constant and changing forms. We can research these mental representations,cultural patterns, let them call semantics, by variable new methods of history andhistoriography, like oral history, microhistory, or iconography and iconology. Géczi’smonographies try to use mainly iconography and iconology in his researches.The Rose is a universal and complex symbol of human culture and society, implicatedits botanical, historical, literary etc. aspects. The process to analyze images consists of severalmechanisms or steps. It begins by recognizing if the image has anthropological affinities. Inother words: subject of iconographical and iconological research can only be human bodies2  and their surroundings – that restricts the possible corpus of the sources. Researchers alwayshave to attend to dissociate elements of the image. Some ones refer to the specific humanfigure, and other ones point to the maker of image, and to the view of world, which dominatesthe given epoch of history. Further scopes to study: spaces, interactions, characters andattitudes, symbols etc. on the picture. Géczi researches numerous fields of knowledge:literature, arts, botany, medicine, history of sciences - the images of the Rose unite theseelements. It seems that there are two conceptions about the Rose in the cultural history: theholy Rose, and the natural Rose. These theories lived side by side in the Antiquity, the firstone (the holy) dominated the Middle Ages, the second one (the profane) started to dominatein the Rennaisance. It’s a rude separation but it has the explanation power to simplify thecomplexity of the human culture. The holy Rose Every periods of time have different methods to collect and share informations aboutthe world and the human – generating and producing knowledge before Modernity was verydivergent from nowadays. According to the sacred worldview the created beings areevidences to an eternal cosmic order made by God(s): so people could only discover  again theknowledge which compose the essence of the things. However latter decades organises thisorder in the chaotic world from an outside point of view: people acted new knowledge, rivalinterpretations about human world.If we want to understand how an everyday person in the Medieval (by way of example) looked at the image of the Rose we should reconsider our ideas about the pictureand the correspondence amidst text and image. Our european culture has two main principles:the jewish-christian tradition assign definitive importance to the Book which contains therevelation of God, which idea should contrast to the connection of Microcosm withMacrocosm and the Metaphysics of Aristotle in the Greek thought. I think these twomentalities are analogous to each other in some ways. There is a harmony and order behindthe world of senses and mortality - every image and text evoke this divine world, within the primary meanings of beings.Image of the Rose incorporate various senses – sight, taste, smell and touch. When weface a picture about a rose, it should be not only a visual experience – people of old times sawtogether these fields of senses. Another distinction: we simplify pictures too much when we3  appreciate them „only” as illustrations or artworks. The image is part of a narrative, causalityof causes and effects and every reception should consider this. The ideal reader of the picturereproduce these meanings, find out the attributes of Holy Mary, Jesus Christ, the martyrs or the inside, invisible and substantive world, which correlates the surface. The image proves theubiquity of God, the cosmic order, but in the decade of Rennaisance a definitive alterationoccured. The natural Rose  The Rose as a symbol and a concrete plant domesticated and „came into” thecivilisation in the Antique Mediterranean – use it in the medicine and hygiene, in ritual andsacral occasions or as an edible plant. This practical usage partially disappeared in theChristian Middle Ages, the decade’s thinking ruled by the symbolic sphere. After that, thesacralic approach revaluated and transformated in the Rennaisance.The sign of the Rose began to refer not only to the spiritual beauty, but to secular  pleasures, like a beauty of a human body, love, or a decorative garden. The procedure of thedesacralisation attached with the images’ individualisation and the standardisation,specialisation, formalisation of the sciences, for example the botany. New kind of sourcesemerges here: medicinal books (Herbariums), descriptions of gardens, scientific writings,catalogues etc – some of these existed in the Antique, just renewed them in the Rennaisance.Géczi’s researching always adapt to the circumstances and the mentality of the given epoch,that’s the key to the changing topics (symbol story, cultural history, botany, aesthetics,medicine, agronomy, sociology – I’m not sure if every of the practised methods I recite here)of the monographies.An important notice about the changing times: represantations of the Rose began todiverge from the traditional (symbolical and ethical) approach. Two different manners of speech formated about the Rose: the allegoric-symbolic one and the other is the scientific-illustrative. It’s an another interesting development how turned the idea of hortus conclususinto a decorative park – gardeners of the Rennaisance deprived the Rose from its’ primary,emblematic function and meaning. The Rose was used (again) in the pharmacology, humoral pathology and medicine – as in the Antiquity. Story of the Rose hitherto finished in the thirdmonography with the Rose-symbols of the Carpathian Basin.4
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