Tag Archives: Inquisition

Individuality in the Age of Heresy

The question of individuality is an important one. What makes us individuals may not be similar in fundamental terms to what makes us people, but it is an essential component of personhood. Being different, being unique – these are facts to treasure, and there is something redeeming in being able to notice such things in others and in oneself. This uniqueness ought to extend beyond the intimately personal and into other areas of life; the right to act individually, without coercion of compulsion, is a vital one. And the ability to go about one’s business uninterrupted and unmolested is a fundamental aspect of living in a free society. The same can be said for the ability to think individually, to harbour different thoughts, some of which will be entirely unique. Even if they are incorrect or offensive to the current orthodoxy, the right to do so must be protected; and it follows that the same rights should be extended to speech. Continue reading

Heroes of the Story: Individuality in History and Literature

In the novel Saturday, Ian McEwan rests an assessment of the state of the British nation upon a single man. During the course of one day, the reader bears witness to the story of Henry Perowne, a successful surgeon, a good man, whose experience becomes suddenly less secure and less detached through a deceptively minor incident on the road. Private dramas intermingle with national ones, and the whole book is shot through with a dramatic sense of place and time, beginning with what is perhaps the most visceral symbol of the fragility of the post-9/11 world order: a flaming aeroplane. (As is later elaborated, ‘everyone agrees, airliners look different in the skies’; they seem either ‘predatory or doomed’.) And unlike many novels of the same theme, which fictionalise events and float within a vaguely contemporary setting, McEwan’s effort is entirely rooted, nailed to the ground; it takes place explicitly on Saturday, February 15, 2003 – and its entire edifice is supported and contained within the context of the anti-war protests which took place on that day, as well as the prospect of war which animated them. Continue reading

Montaillou: Time, Space and Individuality in Medieval France

The ghosts of the past continue to entrance. While the topic of Montaillou – the thoroughly individual history of the village of the same name by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie – and memory is a particular enthralling one, it can also serve as an ultimately ineffable subject, something which could prove completely out of the grasp of those who no longer occupy the same space and time as those whose lives they study. The historian is well suited, however, to studying the concepts of time, space and individualism in Middle Ages Foix; and they are no less fascinating. Continue reading