By L. Parramore
Reading the Sphinx reveals buried conflicts in faith, delusion, and the reminiscence of Egypt within the West, illuminating problems with identification, inheritance, gender, and sexuality via cultural productions starting from Herodotus to Freud.
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Additional resources for Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture
Belzoni describes this event in his Narratives, conjuring a scene straight out of a gothic novel: A vast quantity of dust rises . . 1 could taste that the mummies were rather unpleasant to swallow . 1 sunk altogether among the broken mummies, with a crash of bones, rags, and wooden cases, which raised such a dust as kept me motionless for a quarter of an hour .. 1 could not remove from the place, however, without increasing it, and every step 1 took 1 crushed a mummy in some part or other. ..
Not at all. You, my dear girl, know as well as 1 do what was the cause of th e Egyptomania th at spread like wildfire through the feminine part of th e metrop olitan community. Were ever such robes seen before? Were they not enough to make the soul of wom an sigh itself out with envio us yearn ing? That elegant reptil e the asp came into fashion at once. Gold and jeweled girdles and scarabei were to be seen everywhere. (Lanza 4) 40 READINGTHE SPHINX The same year, the French actress Sarah Bernhardt graced the stage dripping in baubles created by the great glassmaker and jeweler Rene Lalique.
Francis Bacon , Sir Robert Boyle, and Samuel Johnson described mummy medic ine in their writings, and Shakespeare and Sir Thomas Browne knew about it, too. In the fifth chapter of his Urn-Burial, Browne expresses his dismay at living in a time when "Mummy is become Merchandise" and "Pharaoh is sold for Balsoms" (Browne) . Karl H. Dann enfeldt reports that exasperated Egyptian officials tried to prohibit the export of mummies for this purpose. They were horrified by the violation of graves and felt that Christians were not worthy of eating the dead bodies of Egyptians (Dannenfeldt 19).