Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Botherhood* (for Brotherhood*)

Words like brotherhood and mankind were universally accepted at one time for the goodwill, compassion, and inclusiveness they implied, but it seems that we are fast becoming intolerant of such traditional usage. (Perhaps there will soon be a "sin tax" on such syntax.) While we still hear familiar formulations along the lines of "brotherly love" and "sisterhood is powerful" (though the former is often meant generically and the latter specifically), the younger generation might be somewhat more inclined to use the word cis than sis and, frankly, may see "brother" as too much of a bother. One of my favorite boy bands of yore was the so-called Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which comprised seven male artists (painters and poets, for the most part) in 19th-century Britain. These were William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti; later they were joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens, and Thomas Wollner. This heterodox fraternity courted quite a bit of controversy and on one notable occasion was chastised by none other than Charles Dickens, who apparently thought that the painting Christ in the House of His Parents made the Holy Family look like a bunch of "medieval" alcoholics and slum dwellers. Amazingly, he went so far as to slut-shame Millais' Mary for being so hideous-looking that she would stand out "as a Monster, in the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest gin-shop in England." Other critics hastily jumped on the bandwagon, decrying the notion of the young Jesus as a "red-headed Jew boy." Boys will be boys, it would seem, but fortunately, the Pre-Raphaelites eventually grew more accepting of women, giving rise to painters like Marie Spartali Stillman and Elizabeth Siddal; the poet Christina Rossetti; the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron; and many others. There was just one case of our bothersome typo to be found in OhioLINK this morning, along with 34 in WorldCat.

(Christ in the House of His Parents, or The Carpenter's Shop, by John Millais, circa 1850, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

No comments: