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It is widely recognised that the epics of Homer are closely related to the earlier mythology and literature of the Ancient Near East, above all the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. But how should this influence our response to the meaning and message of either poem? This book responds to this question through an experiment in intertextual reading. It begins by exploring Gilgamesh as a work of literature in its own right, and uses this interpretation as the springboard for a new reading of the Homeric epic, emphasising the movement within the poem - beginning from a world of heroic action and external violence, but shifting inwards to the thoughts and feelings of Achilles as he responds to the certainty that his own death will follow that of his best friend. The book will be of interest both to specialists and to those coming to ancient literature for the first time.
Heather Clark reveals the powerful impact of Plath biographers. Splicing the words pathology, biography, and Plath’s name, she coins the term P(l)athographers. Clark helps us to understand their cumulative practice of distortedly mythologizing Plath and misdirecting readers’ interpretations of her writing. For Clark, Plath’s English Tripos exam at Cambridge offers us more understanding of Plath’s poetics than her relationship with her dead father ever could.
The common culture of medieval Europe was derived from two main sources: the shared inheritance of the Roman classical past and the international character of the Western Church. Law was a major element in both these forces shaping European culture. This included civil law, the law of the ancient Roman Empire. It survived the Empire’s political collapse in the West through its codification in the Empire’s remaining eastern half under Emperor Justinian in the early sixth century. Only parts of this codification were known in the early medieval West, but it was rediscovered there in its entirety by the twelfth century. It became a subject of study in the emerging universities of medieval Europe, and this stimulated its growing international influence. It was an increasingly important source of ideas and rules for other medieval legal systems, notably canon law, the law of the Western Church. Canon law also had a long tradition going back to late antiquity, and the twelfth century was likewise decisive to its international reach and impact. No single collection of canon law enjoyed universal recognition comparable to Justinian’s codification till the appearance of Gratian’s Decretum in c. 1140. This canonical collection was rapidly adopted as the standard textbook for teaching canon law, which emerged as a subject of study alongside civil law in Western universities from the mid-twelfth century. Canon and civil law would remain the only law studied in medieval universities, but their pan-European significance was not limited to the classroom. From the twelfth century the Western Church developed an international system of courts to settle disputes and prosecute crimes under its jurisdiction in accordance with canon law. Civil law also influenced legal practice in these courts since from the late twelfth century it provided the basis for the so-called ‘Romano-canonical’ procedure followed in them. Canon and civil law thus touched people’s lives across later medieval Europe, not least since church courts exercised jurisdiction over major aspects of daily life, notably marriage.
Two signal events occurred in 2014 – one in Canada and one in the United States – that bring home why it is worth attempting to determine whether the crime known today as genocide occurred in North America over the course of its colonization. On the face of it, they have little in common: one is the opening of a new museum north of the Canada–U.S. border, the other is an anniversary to the south. Yet they both speak eloquently not only to the role of power in shaping how history is told and how it acquires the status of knowledge, but also to how memory, and the vigilant refusal to forget, can challenge – and resist – this process. As a recent book exploring the phenomenon of hidden genocides observes “[t]he blood of the victims whose deaths do not matter to the living is just blood in the sand … The blood of those who matter to the living will be remembered.”
Before examining the Beothuk and Powhatan cases, we outline those parts of the Conventional account of genocide that can most usefully be applied to such historical cases. The treaty details the crime of genocide, and, with the exception of state liability for genocide, the cases construing the treaty are criminal. However, we do not propose to establish criminality with respect to centuries-old conduct; nor need we. We do this to illustrate how the conventional concept of genocide applies to the historical cases of the Beothuk Nation and the Powhatan Tsenacommacah and neighboring nations.
[S]ettler colonialism cannot be relegated to the past as something with only residual effects; rather, we need to understand it as an ongoing structure of oppression in which settlers actively maintain their rights to occupy indigenous territories in the present. … [T]his oppressive relationship, as with other forms of colonialism, becomes justified via racialization …
It may well be that the inadequacies riddling the Conventional account of genocide prove insurmountable – including the failure to prohibit stand-alone cultural genocide which, we have argued in the preceding chapter, so profoundly undermines the treaty’s purpose and object of protecting human group viability. Our own view is that while we must rely upon the Conventional account of genocide for some of the things it is able to do, such as to hold génocidaires, at least in some instances, criminally responsible for the atrocities they enact, and to chip away at certain genocide denials in other cases, this cannot help but fall markedly short of what is required if we are to effectively address and prevent human rights violations of this magnitude. This would be true even if the expansive interpretation of the Conventional account were to entrench itself more deeply and ultimately displace the restrictive interpretation of genocide. The reason is that the Conventional account of genocide is a legal tool, designed for specific legal ends which were themselves constrained by the politics of power that prevailed among the post-war community of states charged with the Convention’s drafting.
To this point, we have used the Conventional account of genocide to establish that Indigenous Nations did experience genocides during the British settler colonial conquest of North America, and that as a general matter this fact should no longer be up for debate, and certainly not the denial that (as Chapter 1 attests) has prevailed for far too long with respect to Indigenous Nations. The number, duration, and extent of these genocides is, of course, another issue; we have attempted to provide a workable and accessible methodology to aid in making such determinations effective and convincing. That methodology draws upon the definition of genocide formulated within the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (UNGC or Genocide Convention) and subsequently enhanced by diverse international legal fora, including the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and for the Former Yugoslavia, the various hybrid tribunals, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court as well as evolving customary international law. Despite the procedural elaborations afforded by its application in these diverse venues, this account of genocide (which we have referred to as the Conventional account) is widely regarded (especially by historians and sociologists, as well as genocide studies and Indigenous studies scholars) as narrow, restrictive, conservative or formalistic. However, since it already has secured broad international currency and support, it can help us sidestep the confusing welter of inconsistent definitions in which genocide scholarship outside of legal contexts often finds itself mired.
The fate of the Beothuk Nation provides a paradigm case of the devastation of a people as the result of colonization of their lands and resources by a settler population heavily engaged in the establishment and success of commercial markets. The story begins in apparent amity between small numbers of newcomers and the Indigenous residents of Newfoundland. It proceeds through mounting tensions as the former increased in number, moving from a subsistence fishing, hunting, and trapping economy to one driven by commercial market forces, where the settlers increasingly compromised and eroded Beothuk conditions of life. Settlers forced them to abandon traditional food sources, subjected them to repeated and intensifying violence, and confined them to smaller, less desirable portions of their homelands. Inadequate shelter, lack of proper nutrition, starvation, and mounting physical and mental stresses combined to weaken their resistance to disease and ability to reproduce. Those in Great Britain who were ultimately responsible for colonial policy and settler oversight knew of these developments but failed to act until it was too late. The story ends, it would seem, in the demise of the Beothuk as a distinct cultural and physical entity. But is it also a story of genocide?
James I granted the Virginia Company of London its first Royal Charter (of April 1606) for a colony south of the Potomac. It operated with the consent of Parliament, under both royal and private control, although the King (under this initial Charter) “possessed ultimate supervisory control.” He appointed the members of the King’s Council of Virginia who directed the corporation’s and who were in turn charged with nominating each colony’s governing council. James I declared that he intended, in creating this entity, to convert and civilize the Indigenous inhabitants of North America. Several months later, he enjoined prospective settlers to “use all good meanes to draw the salvages and heathen people … to the true service and knowledge of God” and to use “all just, kind and charitable courses” in encouraging Indians to “conforme themselves to … sociable traffique whereby they may the sooner be drawne to the true knowledge of God and the obedience of us.” The Virginia Company was, nevertheless, also a profit-oriented enterprise – a joint-stock company which sold shares and was organized to bring profit to its shareholders. It has been described as “an instrument for the accomplishment of national purposes” and a “national corporation for Christian imperialism and mercantile benefits.” As one historian observes, “Mammon and God could be served simultaneously without qualms of incompatibility” during the seventeenth century. Indeed, service to God was thought to be rewarded by gifts from Mammon. Samuel Purchase, whose extensive contributions to popular travel stories of the time spurred colonization, wrote: “All the rich endowments of Virginia are wages for all this worke: God in wisedome having enriched the Savage Countries, that those riches might be attractives for Christian suters, which there may sowe spirituals and reape temporals.”
When, how and why might the term genocide appropriately be ascribed to the experience of North American Indigenous Nations? This chapter examines the propriety of using the modern concept of genocide to evaluate centuries-old conduct. There are those who argue that moral or legal concepts cannot properly apply to an earlier era, that we cannot evaluate the actions of an earlier time by reference to moral or legal principles not then accepted or even in existence. This latter notion is deployed not simply to undermine any moral judgment of the past; it suggests that we now reside on a formally level playing field and that modern society cannot (or should not) redress past wrongs. Furthermore, there are those, mentioned in Chapter 1, who argue that what happened to Indigenous Nations in North America, was not genocide. Such arguments often proceed from a variety of mistaken notions about genocide. Some have argued that genocide must be limited to the Holocaust or Holocaust-like events. Others deny that the mental element of genocidal intent can be met. Still others argue that genocide cannot occur unless there is a specific governmental policy behind the atrocities, while others blame germs, or other factors for the demographic collapse of Indigenous North Americans. We argue throughout this book that these claims are false; if we are to move toward justice in the present and future, judgments about past wrongs can and must be made.