Saturday, June 27, 2015

Such Love Has Laboured Its Best and Worst

Mary Wollstonecraft and Fuselli
by Robert Browning

O but is it not hard, Dear?
Mine are the nerves to quake at a mouse:
If a spider drops I shrink with fear:
I should die outright in a haunted house;
While for you—did the danger dared bring help—
From a lion's den I could steal his whelp,
With a serpent round me, stand stock-still,
Go sleep in a churchyard,—so would will
Give me the power to dare and do
Valiantly—just for you!

Much amiss in the head, Dear,
I toil at a language, tax my brain
Attempting to draw—the scratches here!
I play, play, practise and all in vain:
But for you—if my triumph brought you pride,
I would grapple with Greek Plays till I died,
Paint a portrait of you—who can tell?
Work my fingers off for your "Pretty well:"
Language and painting and music too,
Easily done—for you!

Strong and fierce in the heart, Dear,
With—more than a will—what seems a power
To pounce on my prey, love outbroke here
In flame devouring and to devour.
Such love has laboured its best and worst
To win me a lover; yet, last as first,
I have not quickened his pulse one beat,
Fixed a moment's fancy, bitter or sweet:
Yet the strong fierce heart's love's labour's due,
Utterly lost, was—you!

As with much of Browning's poetry, there is a detectable quantity of not-entirely-innocent irony. Henry Fuseli was a Swiss painter and writer with whom Wollstonecraft, one of whose weaknesses was falling in love with men who were hardly worth her love, fell in love. He was a misogynist, constantly making disparaging remarks about the intelligence of women, and had, as she herself recognized, a "reptile vanity". She was perfectly willing not to turn it into a sexual relationship, and he strung her along for some time, but when she actually talked to Fuseli's wife about it, Fuseli's wife was not willing to sign on to her being a third, even if Platonic, participant in her relationship with Fuseli, and Fuseli was infuriated that she had done so. Heartbroken, she fled to France, where she fell in love with someone even worse. The interesting thing in reading Wollstonecraft's comments and correspondence with respect to these love affairs is that she knew that they were problematic -- but knowing full well that the man was awful could never quite overcome the feeling that she needed to be with him.

Precept vs. Picture

We should avoid, I think, using the indicative mood for what is really a commandment like the Scout Law ("A Boy Scout is kind to animals" - it means a Boy Scout ought to be kind to animals). For if we hear: "a Christian couple grow in grace and love together" doesn't the question arise "supposing they don't?" It clears the air to substitute the bite of what is clearly a precept for the sweetness of a rosy picture.

Elizabeth Anscombe, Contraception and Chastity (1972).

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sui Juris Churches XXIII: The Macedonian Greek Catholic Church

(on sui juris churches in general)

Liturgical Family: Byzantine

Primary Liturgical Language: Macedonian

Juridical Status: Apostolic Exarchate

Approximate Population (to Nearest 1000): 15,000

Brief History: The Macedonian Greek Catholic Church is a former part of two different sui juris churches. Its roots lie in the formation of an Apostolic Exarchate for Macedonia in 1883; that was part of the Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, because a considerable portion of the Byzantine rite Catholics in Macedonia were of Bulgarian background. After World War I, however, and the formation of Yugoslavia, it made more administrative sense for Macedonia to be folded into the Eparchy of Križevci along with the rest of Yugoslavia. As part of the eparchy it endured the same problems and occasional persecutions that Greek Catholics faced throughout Yugoslavia.

In 2001 the Apostolic Exarchate of Macedonia was re-formed, and since 2008 it has been officially regarded as independent of the Byzantine Church of Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro. The Exarch is also the Latin Rite bishop of Skopje. Its population has grown steadily over the past decade.

Notable Monuments: Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Strumica.

Extent of Official Jurisdiction: The Apostolic Exarchate of Macedonia of the Macedonians

Online Sources and Resources: There is very little online information about this sui juris church.

A Poem Draft


How stagnant standing waters grow, a venom-brew,
how sweet are waters poured through river's wend!
The lion's cave alone is cage in zoo--
on travel does the lion's life depend.
Old friends, though left behind, are yet old friends,
but one who travels far makes friends anew.
At home no honor grows, but slowly ends;
abroad adventures grow for hardy hearts and true.
The golden ore is rock within the mine,
but travel makes it treasured for its shine.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday Virtue: Studiousness

Studiousness, or studiositas, is, according to Aquinas (ST 2-2.166), a potential part (or adjunct virtue) of temperance. As the name of the virtue suggests, its act is study, which Aquinas glosses as "an intense application of the mind to something". It is therefore a virtue concerned with the direction of cognition (cognitio), or knowledge in a very broad sense of the term. The reason the virtue is needed is that we do not merely happen to be acquainted with (cognoscere) things; we have a drive to it. This needs to be moderated, and it is this moderation that associates studiousness with temperance as a potential part.

Studiousness is, further, a subjective part or particular version of the virtue of modestia, the understanding of which Aquinas gets from Cicero. Modestia concerns itself with the way (modus) things are done; different subjective parts of it concern different kinds of inclinations that are expressed in ordinary, everyday life, whether it be our drive toward excellence (humility) or our tendency to play (eutrapelia) or, as in this case, our thirst for things that contribute to knowledge.

Despite the fact that it might not sound like it, studiousness is very much concerned with our use of our bodies. We are not pure minds, so even though we have a natural desire to know things, there is a 'drag' on this desire arising from the bodily desire to avoid the difficult and unpleasant. In order to develop the virtue of studiousness, we must restrain the former so as to study the right things in the right way in the right order, and we must overcome the latter so as to follow through. This is the reason why Aquinas insists on study as the intense or vehement application of mind: it must have the force to overcome the trouble of learning. Thus the two vices opposed to the mean of studiousness are curiositas, which tends to pursue knowledge with a disordered object, and desultoriness or languor in learning.

Studiousness is thus heavily concerned with eliminating attempts to cut corners in the application of mind, attempts to get magical solutions and easy answers that don't involve the intellectual work appropriate to what we are trying to know.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Talent and Virtue

Talent is a gift, the use we put it to depends on ourselves. Now talent of itself affords no guarantee of being well employed, rather it may tempt us to abuse the gift. The heart, on the contrary, inclines us to make a proper use of such talent as we may possess. More valuable therefore are the qualities of the heart, which give a right direction to our actions; virtue, in fact, is the only thing in man deserving of praise, inasmuch as it is his own.

Antonio Rosmini, Letters, Chiefly on Religious Subjects, pp. 599-600 (To Don Paolo Orsi, 27 Jan 1827).

Sui Juris Churches XXII: The Byzantine Church of Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro

(on sui juris churches in general)

Liturgical Family: Byzantine

Primary Liturgical Language: Croatian, although there are others

Juridical Status: Eparchial

Approximate Population: About 60,000

Brief History: The Byzantine Church of Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro, also known as the Croatian Greek Catholic Church and (occasionally) as the Križevci Catholic Church arose in the shadowlands between Christian East and Christian West in the wars between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire; as the latter managed to gain victories over the former, certain areas that had long been Eastern Orthodox came into the jurisdiction of the Catholic Habsburgs. In 1611 the Byzantine Rite was officially recognized in the area, with its primary headquarters at the monastery of Marča, as part of the Latin Catholic diocese of Zagreb. This was an unstable arrangement, as were similar arrangements that grew up all along the Habsburg borders. In the wake of the Ruthenian Unions, Empress Maria Theresa advocated that the Croatian Byzantine Catholics be given an independence along the Ruthenian model. This was granted by Pius VI in 1771 and the Eparchy of Križevci was born.

The eparchy from the beginning suffered complications and problems arising from Yugoslavian politics, ranging from the rises of the Ustaše, with which many Catholics were complicit, and the invasion of the Nazi Germany, to the formation of a Communist dictatorship under Josep Tito. The end of World War I saw the development of Yugoslavia, and in light of practical administrative concerns, the Eparchy of Križevci was expanded to include all Byzantine Catholics in Yugoslavia, making it an extremely ethnically diverse Church. Yugolavia became Communist in 1946, and the Catholic Church, both the populous Latin Rite and the smaller Byzantine Rite, underwent a persecution lasting for decades, although the persecution lessened considerably beginning in 1963. In the 1990s Yugoslavia began to break apart in a series of bloody wars; Croatia and Slovenia, both highly Catholic regions, broke away in 1991. To deal with the complications, things were reorganized. The Eparchy of Križevci continued to cover Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovinia. A new Apostolic Exarchate was created in 2003 for Serbia and Montenegro and another for Macedonia. The Macedonian exarchate was separated on its own, but the other exarchate remains linked to Križevci.

Notable Monuments: The Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Križevci

Extent of Official Jurisdiction: The Eparchy of Križevci and the Apostolic Exarchate of Serbia. (Sphere of influence always extends beyond the official jurisdiction due to members of the church living outside of any official jurisdiction of the church. In 2013, the Byzantine Catholics of Montenegro were, due to further political complications, put under the jurisdiction of a Latin bishop; thus they fall outside the official jurisdiction of the church.)

Online Sources and Resources: Relatively little can be found about this particular church online.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Analects, Books XIII-XV


Book XIII is largely on the subject of government, and, as usual, Master Kong's approach to it is in terms of moral authority; the rulers and ministers acting properly leads to the people acting properly (13.6, 13.10, 13.11, 13.12, 13.13). At 13.3 we get the famous passage about rectification of names, which Master Kong gives as his answer to the question of what the most important thing in administering a government is. Zilu is baffled by this, but Master Kong dismisses his bafflement. Names must be right for what is said to be intelligible; the intelligibility of what is said is required for accomplishing things effectively. One needs to accomplish things effectively in order for rites and music to work as they should (cp. 13.5). Rites and music, of course, are the primary instruments of moral authority in government, since they set examples and teach the skills involved in imitating those examples (cp. 13.4; 13.6). The coercive power of the state to punish is peripheral to the cultivation of rites and music, being used to correct only those whom rites and music have not helped. If rites and music are not working as they should, then, punishments are not being applied as they should be, and the people will suffer for it. This correction of names, however, is not a mere matter of words. (13.15 seems to imply well enough that words alone do not suffice.) It is a matter of viewing and describing things correctly, so that things can be communicated correctly. Government is a matter of communication. Without correct communication, there can be no correct government.

The reason Confucius puts such emphasis on moral authority in government is the same reason Plato does: because the primary activity of government is not force but education and its prerequisites (13.9). Even military power is primarily a matter of education (13.29-30). The great enemy of all good government is people thinking that they can simply decide as a matter of will what things are and whether they count as good or bad; this will mean, among other things that people poorly suited for government will be given the powers of government, that people will not have a clear path to follow, and that rulers and ministers will not take proper advice. All of these are issues that regularly come up in Master Kong's discussion of government. If people treat moral matters as matters of mere will, they cannot have reasonable priorities. We see this in Master Kong's biting remarks about a system of government in which sons are expected to inform on their fathers (13.18) and his contemptuous dismissal of those currently in government (13.20).

Book XIV

In addition to the more abstract method of profiles, a significant feature of Confucian pedagogy is reflection on ancient deeds. Much of Book XIV is concerned with this. At 14.5 we get a discussion of the superiority of moral influence over strength or military skill, in the form of a comparison of great heroes. There is some discussion of matters related to the powerful Duke Huan (e.g., 14.15), particularly of his advisor Guan Zhong (14.9; 14.16; 14.17). Duke Huan was the ruler of Qi at one of its major military high points. Guan Zhong was one of his prime ministers, and is often credited with a considerable portion of the greatness of Qi in his day; one of the things Master Kong is doing is analyzing his success as a statesman.

A particularly interesting analect is 14.19, in which Master Kong argues that even if a ruler does not follow the Tao, his work may be maintained by sufficiently competent ministers. We also get a variety of analects that give us a different picture of Master Kong, including his occasional mistreatment by others (14.25; 14.32, in which he is not addressed respectfully; 14.39) and some rather sharp criticisms of others (14.43; 14.44).

Book XV

Book XV is notable for having a number of especially striking aphoristic sayings by Master Kong. I will just note a few of them.

The Master said: 'Not to talk with people although they can be talked with is to waste people. To talk with people although they can't be talked with is to waste words. A man of understanding does not waste people, but he also does not waste words. (15.8)

The Master said: 'If a man avoids thinking about distant matters he will certainly have worries close at hand.' (15.12)

The Master said: 'I can do nothing at all for someone who does not say "what shall I do about this, what shall I do about this?"' (15.16)

Zigong asked: 'Is there a single word such that one could practice it throughout one's life?' The Master said: 'Reciprocity, perhaps? Do not inflict on others what you yourself would not wish done to you. (15.24)

The Master said: 'If one commits an error and does not reform, this is what is meant by an error.' (15.30)

The Master said: 'In words the purpose is simply to get one's point across.' (15.41)

One of the other analects in this book has had an especially important history; in 15.3, Confucius denies that is the sort of thing that remembers many things that he has studied, saying that instead he strings everything together with "one thing". He does not specify, but there appears to be a long tradition, mentioned by several commentators, of linking this analect with 4.15, which makes the "one thing" the thread of loyalty and reciprocity (and notably both loyalty and reciprocity are clarified in this book).

A number of analects here also have to deal with words and their proper role (15.6; 15.8; 15.11; 15.17; 15.22; 15.23; 15.24; 15.25; 15.27; 15.40; 15.41). This issue of language comes up too often to be plausibly ascribed to coincidence.

to be continued

Saint Noble-Strength

Today is the Feast of St. Etheldreda, whose name was in the original Anglo-Saxon, Aethelthryth, and whose name is also the original for the common name Audrey. She was born into the Wuffing dynasty of East Anglia as one of four daughters of King Onna of East Anglia who became saints. Early on she made a vow of perpetual virginity, but, as princesses often are, she was married off for political reasons to Tondberct of South Gyrwe. He seems to have been a decent man, though, because she convinced him to respect her vow. He died a few years later, and she retired to the Isle of Ely, which her husband had given her as a wedding gift, to build an abbey. (Ely at the time was basically a patch of dry ground in the middle of very marshy fenland.) However, she was married off again, this time to Ecgfrith of Northumbria. She was less than pleased with this state of affairs, and after considerable argument managed to convince Ecgfrith to let her become a nun. According to some stories, Ecgfrith attempted to get St. Wilfrith, the bishop of York, to persuade her to give up her vow, and St. Wilfrith's refusal became a factor in the intense feud that developed between the bishop and the king. Regardless, she retired to the Abbey of Ely again. Aethelthryth's abbey would last for almost two hundred years before it was destroyed in 870 by Danish Vikings.

The Venerable Bede wrote a hymn in her honor.

The English word 'tawdry' comes from St. Etheldreda's name; there was a fair in Ely that sold cloth goods, among which was an inexpensive neck ornament, St. Audrey's lace, shortened eventually to tawdry lace. 'Tawdry', of course, preserves the cheapness of the ornament rather than its saintly origin.

The Defective Concept of the 'Introduction to Philosophy' Course

There is an interesting exercise that I think is valuable for every philosophy professor at some point in his or her career to try: try to pin down exactly what an 'Introduction to Philosophy' course is, using the different standards to which we actually hold such courses. What can easily be found when one does this is that Intro courses are in reality jumbles. If you were to take typical Department-mandated objectives for Intro courses and design a course specifically to meet those objectives, then another standard, like the typical prerequisite structure of a philosophy major, and design a course specifically to contribute in an optimal way to preparing for the courses for which it is a prerequisite, then another standard, like actually introducing people to philosophy, and design a course specifically with that in view -- if, I say, you were to do this through all the different standards to which Introduction to Philosophy courses are held, I think you would quickly find that none of the courses would obviously be the same course.

There are a number of different functions an 'Introduction to Philosophy' course could have. It could be the kind of course that used to be called Philosophical Encyclopedia, which was basically what the title says: it was a tour of philosophy, involving a very brief historical survey, a look at some of the major positions of some of the major philosophical disciplines, and, often, a guide to students as to what might be worth reading on their own. Nothing about the course particularly required that students do philosophy, beyond what was required to follow the basic ideas in very broad outline, but it wasn't intended to do so: it was intended, like a logic course, to give students basic tools (distinctions, classifications, general concepts required for historical comparison), and perhaps also to give them a sense of where they might head next. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to have a course for. There's a perfectly straightforward sense in which, done properly, it would be a solid and useful 'Introduction to Philosophy' course. Intro courses tend not to fulfill this function particularly well, but if you look at a lot of course objectives for them, it's pretty clear that they are, at least in principle, supposed to fulfill it.

Another possible approach might be to treat it as a course in philosophical writing. That there is often a need for something like such a course is usually quite obvious to those who have to grade student papers. Philosophical writing takes certain skills of analysis and organization, and it is really not fair to students to expect that they will already have them or will just pick them up on the fly or will somehow gain them through 'feedback' from the professor, particularly since assignments and feedback are often not particularly well designed for doing this. (I could write another post entirely about peculiarities and defects in how people seem to think of and handle feedback to students, and the difficult problems of doing 'feedback' in a way that could seriously be considered useful for students themselves.) But most Intro courses are not set up with a focus on writing.

A different kind of approach might be to focus on philosophy majors, making the Intro course a gateway to the major. It is quite clear that Intro courses are often treated as fulfilling this function. To fulfill this function properly, however, the course should set students up to succeed in future philosophy courses. This is arguably the function that Intro courses usually fulfill best, but I would argue that they often don't fulfill it very well, either, not so much from lack of trying as from the limits on our ability to anticipate what students would actually find useful in future courses. Philosophy is an immense field; in one way or another it covers everything. And if you start asking specific questions about how these courses set students up for success, you often find that there is no obvious answer to the question. If, for instance, the Intro course is supposed to set up for courses like Ancient Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, and so forth, why don't more Intro courses have extensive discussion of actual Stoic and Neoplatonist figures and ideas? If it is supposed to prepare for courses more focused on analytic-style problems, Philosophy of Mind, for instance, why don't more Intro courses have a significant logic component? There are lots that don't.

Many philosophy professors really want their Intro courses to be introductions to doing philosophy. Ich habe nicht die Absicht die Philosophie zu lehren sondern philosophiren zu lehren. But if you look at course descriptions, course objectives, prerequisite structures, and the like, it's often less than clear how these fit with how teachers often go about trying to get their students to think through philosophical issues in philosophical ways.

The list, of course, could be extended indefinitely, using things like actual methods of evaluating teaching, or departmental policies, or even the practical fact that Intro courses tend to function as 'advertising' by which departments recruit philosophy majors in the first place. The real point here, of course, is that it's difficult for Intro to be a good introduction because there are so many conflicting ways to be an introduction, all of which are on the table and none of which are easy to exclude given all the standard pressures that go into designing and teaching an Intro course in the first place. If you go through all the course objectives, department policies, things that come up in the evaluation process that professors need to show that they do in order to have a proper evaluation portfolio, there is too much expectation put on the table. No matter what anyone does, something is going to be shortchanged. You can get some amusing confirmations of this if you get a bunch of philosophy professors together to talk about Intro courses; they rarely have the same idea of what an Introduction to Philosophy course should be and are often aghast at how other philosophy professors run their Intro courses, despite the fact that those others can virtually always justify their approaches by one of the jillion different standards on the table.

Ideally, I think, there would be an Intro course qua Philosophical Encyclopedia, and an Intro course qua Philosophical Writing, and an Intro course qua teacher and students trying to think through philosophical questions together, and so forth. There's no obvious reason why all of this should be stuffed into the same course; when you try to do it, it's easy for one to crowd out the others. The problem, of course, is how to make something like this practicable given common administrative expectations and the sheer inertia in how faculty tend to handle basic courses in the first place.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fortnightly Book, June 21

As some of you may know, a portion of the Fortnightly Book series consists of reading through the books I inherited from my grandparents; I do read others, as occasion suggests them, but the series was started so that I could read through the inherited books, and about half of them have tended to come from that group. There are a few multi-volume works in the batch, however, that I've not really known how to do in this kind of series. I did do Les Miserables, which was pretty intensive reading. But the most obviously problematic example is Richard Burton's edition of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, three thick volumes totaling somewhere around 4000 pages. I do read a lot, and I read quickly, but I also do many other things, including some rather time-consuming research, and I am also always reading more than one book at a time. I do not think I can manage that much in two weeks, or even in one of the stretched three-week 'fortnights' I take when I am especially busy.

So what I've decided to do is simply break it up. After all it's an endless series of tales, and seems quite suited to being taken partwise. (I also don't think I will go straight through; I will intersperse other books, and I just intend to get all three done by the end of the year.) Thus the next fortnightly book is the first of the three volumes in the Heritage Press edition, which is in its turn the equivalent of a Volumes I and II of the Limited Editions edition of which the Heritage Press edition is essentially the cheaper version. (The full Richard Burton edition was originally published in ten volumes; I don't know how far this Heritage Press volume takes us in the original ten volume series, nor in the later but more widely read sixteen volume edition.) This volume is 1334 pages long and takes us up to the 271st night of Shahrázád's ingenious use of cliffhangers and stories withing stories to prevent her husband from actually going through with his plan of killing her the next morning.

There is no one version of the One Thousand and One Nights; we have the frame story about Shahrázád (more often spelled 'Scheherazade') in quite a few manuscripts, but the actual stories told are not all the same. And, somewhat ironically, the single most famous tale, that of Aladdin and his lamp, is not one of Shahrézéd's tales in any manuscript at all: it first becomes associated with the Nights in the first European edition, because Antoine Galland published his version of the Nights together with several other tales he had discovered. Likewise, the ending is not exactly the same in all of them, although in all of them it is a happy ending. Thus there are lots of different versions of the Nights. Burton's, if I understand correctly, draws from one of the relatively late Egyptian versions (the one sometimes known as the Macnaghten version), which bulked up the tales to guarantee that there would actually be at least 1001 nights; the original title seems to have been a figure of speech, and a lot of the manuscripts have less than three hundred distinct stories.

The Heritage Press volume I will be reading is one of the handsomer books in my possession, with an ivory-colored linen spine stamped in gold leaf and a tangerine cover-papers printed in gold and black. It has a thousand and one drawings by Valenti Angelo.

Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera


Opening Passage:

The Opera ghost really existed. He was not, as was long believed, a creature of the imagination of the artists, the superstition of the managers, or a product of the absurd and impressionable brains of the young ladies of the ballet, their mothers, th box-keepers, the cloak-room attendants or the concierge. Yes, he existed in flesh and blood, although he assumed the complete appearance of a real phantom; that is to say, of a spectral shade.

Summary: The Phantom of the Opera sits squarely in the Mystery genre of stories, but it has a number of twists that together combine to make it unique.

(1) It is set up as a historical mystery. By this I mean more than a mystery taking place in a past time. The narrator is laying out his solution to a mystery that occurred some thirty years before. Thus it requires piecing together in the way a historian pieces together a historical narrative. While there are other historical mystery works -- Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time is probably the most famous, although it's one I haven't read -- this is not a common route to take in mystery writing, I imagine because it is difficult to maintain immediacy.

(2) While there are several murders in the course of the story, none of them is the primary crime to be unraveled. That is the disappearance of Christine Daaé. And even that is a secondary issue; none of the crimes is the central mystery of the work.

(3) The story continually plays up the fantastic and supernatural in its descriptions -- and then undoes them by uncovering entirely natural and often mechanistic explanations of them. While this in itself is not at all uncommon, I don't think there's any other major mystery tale that does it on anything like the scale on which this book does it. There are layers and layers and layers of it. The great danger of this kind of approach is Scooby-Doo-ism, in which the story builds up a heavily fantastic appearance whose discovered explanation is a banal and wholly inadequate non-fantastic explanation, a just-so story that is little more than glib handwaving. Phantom avoids this, I think, by heavily drawing on aspects of the world that we take to be natural but nonetheless still highly suggestive: trapdoors, strange torture machines, underground lakes, secret passages behind mirrors, Orientalism, and the like. And, more important than this, it links them up in such a way that the natural solution often gets you immediately into something even more fantastic-seeming, so you don't really have time to question the adequacy of the explanation, and even if you did, the fact that the natural solutions so often bring more fantastic elements with them underlines the fact that they aren't the complete explanation.

There are occasionally stories that do approach this level of complexity in the interplay between fantastic and natural: the novels of Tim Powers. But Powers's movement is in entirely the other direction, because rather than giving us the apparently fantastic and showing us an elaborate natural explanation, he shows us the apparently natural and gives us an elaborately fantastic explanation. But the level of complexity being similar, I think one could very well say that Phantom's closest cousin is something like Declare.

(4) The story works very hard to paint the Opera Ghost both as a monster and as someone to be pitied, and merges the two surprisingly well.

Leroux's The Mystery of the Yellow Room spawned an entire subgenre of imitators, the locked-room mysteries. But The Phantom of the Opera, while far more famous, has no such imitators, and part of this, I think, is that it is inimitable -- there are so many unique features that are so essential to the story that if you pick them apart you get an entirely different kind of story. The combination of this with lush description and careful characterization certainly puts The Phantom of the Opera in the top tier of the greatest mystery stories ever written.

Favorite Passage:

And turning to his audience M. Mifroid delivered a little lecture on police methods.

"I don't know for a moment whether M. le Comte de Chagny has really carried Christine Daaé off or not... but I want to know and I believe that, at this moment, no one is more anxious to inform us than his brother....And now he is flying in pursuit of him. He is my chief auxiliary! This, gentlemen, is the art of the police, which is believed to be so complicated and which, nevertheless, appears so simple as soon as you see that it consists in getting your work done by people who have nothing to do with the police."

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.