Rebecca G. Agee
Dr. Shannon Mattern
Understanding Media Studies, Section 6762
25 October 2008
O’ Neil, Edward N. “Cynthia and the Moon.” Classical Philology 53.1 (1958): 1-8.
O’Neil’s article is an analysis of the conflict concerning the use of the name “Cynthia” within the elegies of Augustinian poet Propertius—and its subsequent parallel equation with the image of the moon. O’Neil contends that Propertius associates the name with the form of Diana the lunar huntress/goddess, as well as with the alternate moon goddesses Hecate and Luna.
In order to solidify his thesis, O’Neil uses close content analysis of the elegies while directly comparing/contrasting the poetry with works by other poets—including contemporaries of Propertius. The tradition of an association of the name Cynthia with other lunar personifications is found within the works of other Roman poets, such as Lucan, Seneca and Ovid. Propertius’ usage of “Cynthia” as moon figure is directly related to his real mistress—and is, therefore, more personal than it is for his contemporary poets. O’ Neil cites lines from the elegies that exemplify a strong linkage between Cynthia and the moon. O’Neil proposes strong arguments for the (re) interpretation of the significance of the image of the moon throughout the poetries and mythologies of (especially) the Augustinian Roman culture. He also includes extensive alternative and often-contradictory criticism and interpretation concerning Propertius’ words—such as that offered by Houseman, Barber and Butler, Enk, K.F. Smith. Finally, O’Neil’s weakness lies in the assumption that his readers are well versed in both Augustinian poetry and classical mythology.
Slaughter, J.W. “The Moon in Childhood and Folklore.” The American Journal of Psychology 13.2 (1902): 294-318.
In his article Slaughter discusses the origin, meaning and significance of the lunar image of childhood from three perspectives: the cultural/folklore, psychological and that of ‘natural’ science. He uses both the qualitative and quantitative research methods—including context analysis and hermeneutics—to validate his thesis.
Slaughter explains how genetic factors and stages of social development (by “civilized and uncivilized races”) contribute to identical, similar and different perceptions regarding the image of the moon. He also describes the findings of a field study that utilized children’s notions of the moon’s substance, distance (from earth), and moral significance as well as their emotional reactions to the lunar presence. Other areas Slaughter explores include the moon’s link with weather changes, the concept of the moon as “place” –of the “dearly departed,” Hades—or one of “paradise” such as the Greek idea of Elysium or the “beautiful garden” concept prevalent throughout the Pacific Islands. Slaughter further expounds on the seemingly universal perceptions of a “man in the moon”—and the “thief” (of sticks, sheep or cabbages) banished eternally from the earth to the moon common to Hebrew, Aryan and Icelandic lore. Slaughter’s contributions to both the fields of psychology and communications include thorough interpretations of source material from a wide variety of cultures, mythologies, superstitions, parables and folklore. His uses of both the quantitative and qualitative research methods add essential weight to his argument. Further, Slaughter’s inclusion of ideas and quotes from the children of the study adds both color and substance to his ideas. A strong Western cultural bias emanates as a result of the age of the article; and the aforementioned natural science perspective—although richly detailed and quite broad—suffers from dated (early 20th century) lunar science sources.
Montgomery, Scott L. The Moon and the Western Imagination (1999): 1-265.
In his book Montgomery investigates the literal and figurative symbol of the moon as it was portrayed and interpreted throughout the broad scope of Western history (from approximately 800 BC through the present). He describes the early significance of the lunar image as antiquated mythic symbol, poetic inspiration/device and the personification of femininity (the huntress and bastion of light and moisture).
Key revelations include the moon’s depiction in art, such as that of da Vinci and the important early realism of Jan Van Eyck, as well as the scientific questions/explorations of Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy’s Hellenistic analysis. Montgomery relates the mathematical lunar concepts suggested by Greek astronomers as well as the personification of the moon as exemplified by the satires of Lucian. He also reveals the traditions of early Western poets—who describe the moon as a broad, flat disc—while the moon as “destination” or “place” is evoked by the literary “voyages” of Johnson and Godwin.
Montgomery relates critical moments of the metamorphic pattern of Western lunar concepts—such as how Galileo’s ideas regarding the true ‘picture’ of the moon’s surface did not so much revolutionize–as much as they galvanized–contemporary scientific thinking as well as that of such luminaries as Plutarch, Kepler and the important British contributions of Gilbert and Harriot; when and why the moon changed gender—from female goddess to “man in the moon” and the oldest lunar metaphor-the “face in the moon” as presented by Plutarch.
The book features analysis of early Christian iconography: the “connections” between the moon and the Virgin Mary and the use of the dual symbols of the sun and the moon in early paintings of the crucifixion of Christ. Montgomery also notes the importance of not only
Muslim philosophical thought—but the role Muslims played as “keepers” of original Greek ideas. Classical Greek philosophical thought came down to the Western world after being kept, studied, re-written and reviewed by great Muslim thinkers.
Another area of study Montgomery examines is lunar mapping. He relates how the British were first to map the moon’s surface—and by doing so attempted to “conquer” the moon just as they had much of the world by the 16th century. Britain pushed all forms of exploration under a belief in a sort of “British manifest destiny.”
Montgomery uses qualitative analysis—a combination of ‘special’ hermeneutics, textual analysis, ethnography and historical research—to support his thesis. Further, he offers solid evidence from prime sources, i.e. illustrations, sketches, manuscripts and other artifacts.
One weakness of Montgomery’s book is the lack of the moon as mythic symbol and source of allegory. Also not present in the book is the moon’s impression on modern media—such as film and television—as well as an in-depth analysis of the impact, repercussions or consequences that humankind’s lunar landing had on the Western world. Further, Montgomery assumes his readership has a ready knowledge of Western philosophical thought, art and religious histories.
The contributions of Montgomery’s book include an extremely thorough survey of scientific knowledge regarding not only the composition, representation and significance of the moon, but of the universe in general from a variety of philosophies, cultures, time periods, individual and collective perspectives representing the Western imagination. A passion for his subject as well as a scrupulous commitment to using quality source materials — make Montgomery’s book a critical contribution for scholarly research into the Western concept of the moon.
Excellent abstracts! I’ve written very few comments as these are strong as they stand. You have captured the ‘voice’ of the abstract. Well done.