PRINT Summer 1989


THE “MARVELOUS” SPARKS DESIRE, but the notion of the “marvelous” itself precedes the desire it kindles. Whether it be a person, thing, image, or fact of nature, the “marvelous” object, we like to think, does not depend on being looked at. It needs no justification. It exists, period. But the etymological history of the word “marvelous” tells us a different story. It comes from “marvel,” and “marvel” from mirabilia, mirabilis—that which allows itself to be looked at, that which captures the attention. “Marvel” is related to “admiration"; they too spring from the same etymological root, mirari. The Latin mirari meant simply “to look,” an active act of the first degree, the second degree of which is “to see.” But “to look” implied a contemplation aligned with the seemingly passive act of “exhibition.” Time, sloth, and oblivion, however, have obscured these bonds, stripping them of some of

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