In a time of chaos and misrule, Mardi Gras' subversive message is virtually meaningless

Historically amongst the revelers at Venice’s celebrated Mardi Gras Carnival, are those costumed in the distinctive beaked mask of the Medico della Peste—the plague doctor. Wearing black robes and white gloves, those celebrants who deck the uniform of the Renaissance plague doctors are most recognizable by the long avian proboscis of the mask, with its inert eyes and its curved permanent frown. The eerie mask is historically accurate, long before it became just another bit of flash for Venice’s Mardi Gras celebration, it was used by physicians in the seventeenth-century who, believing that the plague was spread by fetid miasma in the air, would stuff the bird-like beak of the mask with dried herbs and flowers in a desperate attempt to stave off the swollen black buboes of the disease.

Keep reading... Show less

Literary critic George Steiner, whose views on anti-semitism drew controversy, dies at 90

In 2019 the community of literary scholars marked the passing of the pugilistic and controversial critic Harold Bloom; now only two months into the new decade and we’ve lost the no-less ambitious critic George Steiner at the age of 90. While both men were prone flights of metaphysical abandon and strong opinion, it was Bloom who was more widely known among the general public, whereas at times even literary theorists and critics seemed unaware of Steiner. It was their loss, for the polymathic Steiner was arguably the most brilliant, engaging, and creative of the twentieth-century’s English-language critics.

Keep reading... Show less

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.