March 30, 2011

The different cultures of periods with a warm vs. cold climate

In the post below on playful, amorous females in Disney movies of the late 20th C., I noted that you could have found similar characters in Chaucer or Boccaccio. However, you would be more hard-pressed to find them in the two other great periods of originality and boldness, the Elizabethan-Jacobean and the Romantic-Gothic ages.

They certainly showed females who were openly erotic creatures, a feature of every period of rising violence levels (for reasons I've detailed before). Still, the shadow of the Sublime always looms over their appearances -- the rendezvous between Bel-Imperia and Horatio in The Spanish Tragedy, Faustus' encounter with Helen of Troy, La Belle Dame sans Merci, and the various exotic beauties in Vathek and the Episodes of Vathek.

In contrast to this darker and more tempestuous eroticism, that of the 14th-century and late 20th-century explosions of creativity was much more carefree. Interactions between hormonal boys and girls were more of a roll-in-the-hay, hippie love-in, '80s porno orgy variety. (Stripes will give you a better picture of this in recent times than those Disney movies.)

What's going on?

The 14th C was right at the tail-end of the Medieval Warm Period, when average annual temperatures in Europe were higher than earlier and just after. Then in the later 20th C there was another round of sustained warmer temperatures. The periods of 1580-1630 and 1780-1830, however, were characterized by the much colder temperatures of the Little Ice Age.

So, even though the rising violence levels of all four time periods resulted in a rise in sexually adventurous girls (and in cultural portrayals of them), the emotional quality was quite different. Perhaps it's no surprise that those belonging to periods of warmer weather feel more like a Maypole/Summer of Love festival, while those from colder times feel more like a thrilling-yet-unsettling masquerade ball held during Carnival.


  1. A statistically insignificant sample.

  2. You don't understand statistics. The unit of analysis is a work of art -- so, hundreds of works are covered here, namely all those falling in the various periods.


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