Gurevich om den nordiska individualiteten

Aaron Gurevich beskriver i det första kapitlet av The Origins of European Individualism (1995) hur de senaste årtiondenas strukturalistiska och social- och mentalitetshistoriska forskning fått den av Haskins och Nordström lancerade tesen om ”1100-talsrenässansen” med dess koncentration på enstaka, föga representativa individualistiska ”hjältar” att framstå som mindre plausibel, även om han uppenbarligen menar att på åtskilliga områden – och rimligen andra än just individualitetens och personlighetens – många av dess sanningar förvisso kvarstår. [Op. cit. 4-7, 9 f.; se om denna bok också min recensionsartikel i Humanitas, 10:2 (1997).] Med instämmande sammanfattar han Caroline Walker Bynums slutsatser exempelvis i frågan om

”’ecclesiastical and monastic communities, in which interest in ’Homo interior’ was cultivated…men and women of that period were discovering within themselves their human nature, their ”self” (seipsum, anima, ego) as something that was the same for all human beings – an imago Dei: this was the kind of individual that was being discovered at the end of the Middle Ages, rather than anything any closer to the modern understanding of that word’. It would be wrong to confuse interest in ’the inner landscape of the human being’ with the ’discovery of the individual’…writers of the time…felt a deep need to classify, to define various ’estates’ and ’vocations’ (ordo, vocatio). They write of individuals as types or models…’Likeness’ was a fundamental theological category in the twelfth century, and the self-modification of the individual took place in a context defined by models – Christ, the Apostles, the Patriarchs, the Saints and the Church…it would be wrong to place the isolated individual with his or her inner motivation and emotions in the centre of religious life in the twelfth century, to single out the idea that every individual is unique and therefore seeks a way of expressing individuality: that idea is a contemporary one and alien to the Middle Ages.” [Ibid. 7 f. (Caroline Walker Bynum, ’Did the Twelfth Century Discover the Individual?’, i The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 31 (1980), och Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (1982)).]

Gurevich efterlyser därför en forskning som i större utsträckning än Colin Morris (som fulländar tesen om 1100-talsrenässansen i den monumentala The Discovery of the Individual: 1050-1200 (1972)) söker finna individen och individualitetens manifestationer i beaktande av samspelet med de olika grupper som även de individualistiska ”hjältarna” – en Johannes av Salisbury eller en Bernard av Ventadour – visar sig tillhöra. [Ibid. 6, 10 f.] Han finner inte personligheten och individualiteten under medeltiden i den mening förespråkarna av 1100-talsrenässansen menar sig göra. Det är en av dagens främsta medeltidshistoriker som vill slå fast att i den senmedeltida konsten ”the custom of emphasizing the General at the expense of the Individual predominated”, [Ibid. 2.] att begränsningen inom den rigida ram som band författare till ”stock topics, literary clichés and constraints of tradition, from which genreralized models were taken”, gör att ”we are always bedevilled by the sense that we cannot grasp the individual personality. The medieval philosophers’ formula ’Individuum est ineffabile’ immediately comes to mind…”: [Ibid. 2, 18, 155.] ”The unique nature of their personalities and features that distinguished each one of them from other people were viewed as sinful and abnormal, deserving of repentance, even if deep down the author concerned might be proud of such characteristics.” [Ibid. 155.]

Gurevich kan slutligen endast konstatera att

”fact is fact: the most profound penetration of the secret recesses of a person’s own soul is that provided by the Confessions of St Augustine. The high point of the development on the individual is to be found at the very threshold of the Middle Ages, not, as might well have been expected, at its end. In the course of a thousand years, there is no other revelation of a person’s inner self that is so candid. Petrarch, St Augustine’s disciple, drew lessons from him in what by then was a radically changed world: while St Augustine’s personality is revealed as he draws nearer to God and seeks spiritual union with Him, Petrarch’s attention, on the other hand, is concentrated on his own significant self, as he carefully and prudently moulds his own biography and personality”. [Ibid. 250.]

Den kristendomen som genom selektiv filosofisk påverkan kommit att bli ensidigt generalistisk framfödde en reaktion som förvisso kunde ta sig rent profanhumanistiska uttryck, men som lika ofta, vid slutet av den kristna medeltiden, ville värna samma kärna av det personliga andliga livet som Augustinus, som vid början av samma utveckling ännu inte uppfattade något hot mot densamma i Kyrkan. Gurevich visar hur den medeltida människan inom sin grupp definierade sig genom sina generella förebilder, att hon spelade teater, identifierade sig med en roll, bar en mask. Den medeltida människan hade blivit den rollbärare som termen person i begynnelsen betecknade – ja, hon hade i viss mån tvingats identifiera sig med masken. Gurevich illustrerar ”[the] common knowledge that the Middle Ages were a time that brought forth an abundance of impostors”. Och anmärker, att ”I would see the problem of the impostor as a psychological problem.” [Ibid. 249.]

Det kunde alltså synas som om Gurevich finner föga av ”the origins of European individualism” i medeltiden. Men det är likafullt individen och personligheten han är på spaning efter. Den gamle under Sovjettiden motarbetade anti-marxisten skriver: ”Historians have devoted a great deal of time and effort to fruitful study of society from the economic, social and political angles. Yet the human being, the ’atom’ of the social structure, is something about which we know little: it has, as it were, been engulfed by structures.” [Ibid. 2.]

Dock finner Gurevich i sinom tid ursprunget till de individualistiska värdena – och Augustinus var ju också på sitt sätt en ”individualist”. Titeln The Origins of European Individualism är anmärkningsvärd eftersom boken endast behandlar medeltiden. Den tyder på att Gurevich inte i någon högre grad vill finna individualismens ursprung i vad vi här beskrivit som personbegreppets förterminologiska utvecklingshistoria i den klassisk-antika idealistiska och humanistiska kulturen. Men det mest överraskande med Gurevichs bok är ändå inte detta, utan det faktum att han faktiskt trots allt finner ett av de väsentligaste källflödena till individualismen just under medeltiden – men i en kultursfär som vi här hittills inte behandlat. Bokens titel legitimeras huvudsakligen av detta: ljuset kommer från Norden!

Jag kan här inte närmare gå in på Gurevichs ibland entusiastiska utläggningar om ”the rich and colourful ancient literature from Scandinavia…the poems of the Edda, the poetry of the skalds or sagas”. [Ibid. 19.] Grundlinjerna i argumentationen måste dock verkligen återges, tills vidare kanske bäst med endast ett antal citat (jag får gå tillbaka och bearbeta den här texten, liksom alla de andra, senare). Gurevich upptäcker, att ”The vision of the world and the presentation of character found there are such that the individual – and by no means only figures occupying a prominent place in society, but also ordinary Icelanders of Norwegians – is widely represented in the writing of the period under discussion and to an exceptional degree!” [Ibid.] De germanska folkens fria handel och fria odalbönder representerade en genuin individualism redan under den tidiga medeltiden, och det är ”a most serious delusion” när medeltidshistoriker förbiser ”barbarernas” betydelse för frågan om individen och individualismen. [Ibid. 16 ff.] De individuella dragen hos den norröna diktnings karaktärer ”were not all of a strictly northern variety – although these in themselves are of considerable interest – but also reflected principles that applied to the Middle Ages as a whole”; [Ibid. 20.] ”The individual in the society of pagan Europe was very definitely not swallowed up within the group – there was fairly wide scope for self-discovery and self-assertion”: [Ibid. 16.]

”What we have before us is the taut dialectic of two principles that are to be found within the personality of the German or the Scandinavian – the group principle and that of the individual. The unquestioning adherence to values of the family or clan does not in any way rule out the development of personal initiative and a keen awareness of the individual. It is possible…to suggest that the pre-Christian pagan ethos offered the German somewhat more scope for the discovery of the inner self that the teachings of the Church that demanded humility and the suppression of pride. The importance of Ancient Scandinavian sources lies, in particular, in the fact that study of these reveals to us an earlier stage in the history of the individual in comparison to that to be found in continental Europe.” [Ibid.87 f.]

Och:

”Different aspects of the individual personality are recorded in these writings – the incorporation of the individual into the group, whose moral demands would be satisfied without question, and, at the same time, people’s awareness of their own worth and a certain degree of separateness. Christian rigour, forcing individuals to hold themselves in check and submit to their Creator, so that their own identities might be lost in that of the Lord, had not yet taken hold of the inner world of the Germanic people of the north. This makes it possible for the writings that have come down to us from northern Europe to lift part of the curtain, which conceals the deeper layers of the individual’s self-awareness, that must have existed further south as well, but that ’went underground’ as Christianity spread.” [Ibid. 251.]

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