Qui Scribat de super hominem? Part XII
November 30, 2007
Continuing in my quest to steal forms from other cultures and make them my own, I present this column to you, O Cornelius Nepos, may my arts and rhetoric skill last through the end of the Cumaean song down through the time of Pollio, again to my own generation!
Often this question has been considered. Many are the great and powerful men who have turned their pens to such a subject. Many of that now ignoble race of the Graeci, dared to ask such a question in the face of a meaningless and often perilous existence. Who can disregard the novel, yet now classic treatise of Plato, who thought that only a philosopher-king could write such a tale? Who can place aside that tattered and worn treatise of the Macedonian, who thinks himself to be superman? One may quail at his diction and his attempts at Atticism, but one is hard pressed to challenge his logic. Even our own, somewhat ignoble and coarser poets have turned their wax tablets to such a consideration, as they mock the concept, each sees in himself a certain worthiness that is categoric of being able to write this unending legend of our day. Often, I too have thought this over, weighing the merits of a Vergilian Superman, or perhaps a Livian. Indeed, for a great deal of time, I thought that only a Cornelius Gallus could do it justice. That is, until I learned Aramaic and grew acquainted with a small yet antique band from the hinterlands of the empire, the Iudaeoi. Who should write the next Superman? The stammaim of the Babylonian Talmud.
1) Anonymity- because no one can identify the stammaim, no one will be able to gain undue credit from the writing. Indeed, the problem with allowing someone to write Superman is that it creates an undue amount of prestige for the writer and expectation from the viewers (for an analogous situation see William Harris, War and Imperialism in Republican Rome, and his discussion concerning the annexation of Egypt).
2) The chain of tradition- Superman is indeed one of the enduring works of our century and composition of a work with such a long prehistory should not be given to one writer in one particular time and place. Rather, let it be written by a group of educated elitists, well versed in the myths from which Superman arose, who can refine, rework, and redact the story over countless generations to produce the next Superman.
3) In some manner, this final particular trait of the stammaim defies an easy categorization. What the stammaim where able to accomplish in the Talmud was to redact old myths, ideas, and law into some of the most potent ideas which have moved Jewish thought ever since. What was done for Yavneh can be done for Superman. Furthermore, the stammaim will find a way to iron out all of the potential difficulties created by the extraordinary length of the comics publication and there will be countless mutations of the central tripartite cast. With the legend renewed in this manner, in a mere 2-3 centuries, it will easily support a further 5 or 6 centuries with various midrashim, commentaries, historical reconstructions, philosophical texts, and foolish scholarship. In this manner, Superman will enjoy an unending popularity and undergo all sorts of textual mutations, surviving far longer than the son of Octavia.