4.1304 Dissimulatio; Gender (2/59)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 30 Apr 91 23:23:32 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1304. Tuesday, 30 Apr 1991.

(1) Date: 30 Apr 91 00:15:20 EST (17 lines)
Subject: 4.1299 Words: Dissimulatio in Simmacus; Envelope

(2) Date: Tue, 30 Apr 91 10:04:15 -0500 (42 lines)
From: Dennis Baron <baron@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: metaphorical gender

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 30 Apr 91 00:15:20 EST
Subject: 4.1299 Words: Dissimulatio in Simmacus; Envelope (2/30)

The passage in question is Symm. rel. 3.3, si exemplum non facit religio
veterum, faciat dissimulatio proximorum. In pleading for imperial
support of certain `pagan' rites, Symmachus suggests that Christian
emperors preceding the one to whom he is appealing had `tolerated' these
rites; but a correct translation of dissimulatio would take into account
the history of that word in Latin, where one of its clear meanings is
`deliberate [and not entirely disingenous] ignorance'. Symmachus' point
is that the earlier Christian emperors looked the other way, so why
should not the emperor to whom he appeals? Finding `toleration' in the
text is a good example (of which the history of the study of *that*
particular text abounds) of reading modern prejudices into ancient
texts, especially when we think we sympathize with the author of those

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------53----
Date: Tue, 30 Apr 91 10:04:15 -0500
From: Dennis Baron <baron@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: metaphorical gender

The grammarian James Harris in _Hermes_ ([1751] 1765) presents one of
the most frequently quoted explanations of the assignment of gender
to inanimates:

We may conceive such Substantives to have been considered, as Masculine,
which were `conspicuous for the Attributes of imparting or communi-
cating; or which were by nature active, strong, and efficacious,
and that indiscriminately whether to good or to ill; which had claim
to Eminence, either laudable or otherwise.' (44)

The Feminine on the contrary were `such, as were conspicuous for the
Attributes either of receiving, or containing, or of producing and
bringing forth; or which had more of the passive in their nature,
than of the active; or which were peculiarly beautiful or amiable; or
which had respect to such Excesses, as were rather Feminine than
Masculine.' (45)

James Beattie challenged this view (1788), though many grammarians
at the time felt that English was superior to other languages because
the metaphorical assignment of gender to nouns enhanced the poetic
capacity of the language.

My question is this: in the Harris cites, in all printed versions,
there are single quotes. I have not been able to trace any source
for these in any treatment of gender ancient or modern, humanistic
or scientific. Can anyone help? Or do the single quote simply set
off the phrase enclosed as a definition, as I have been forced to
conclude in the absence of a clear source?

debaron@uiuc.edu (\ 217-333-2392
\'\ fax: 217-333-4321
Dennis Baron \'\ __________
Department of English / '| ()_________)
Univ. of Illinois \ '/ \ ~~~~~~~~ \
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