July 19, 2013

"The Naked and the Nude."

I was just talking about the naked/nude distinction, a propos of some blather on NPR. The NPR position, which I called "so NPR" was: "In fine art, the female body is a nude. In not-so-fine art, she's naked."

A reader emailed:
From my high school days, I recall a line from a poem contrasting naked and nude. Through the magic of the Internet, I am able to retrieve the entire poem. Note that the poet, Robert Graves no less, takes the exact opposite view of the article you cited in your most recent post.
Robert Graves has been in his grave for almost 30 years, and he was born nearly 120 years ago, and yet copyright law is such that I feel I shouldn't copy the whole poem. Counteracting that feeling — and isn't law a feeling? — is the fact that the poem can be found all over the place on the internet, including — I see now — in the comments at the NPR story. So, with all due respect to Sonny Bono and with near certainty that I'm doing the heirs of Robert Graves a favor, let's read the poem. Remember, the question on the floor is whether Graves takes "the exact opposite view" from NPR.
The Naked and the Nude
For me, the naked and the nude
(By lexicographers construed
As synonyms that should express
The same deficiency of dress
Or shelter) stand as wide apart
As love from lies, or truth from art.

Lovers without reproach will gaze
On bodies naked and ablaze;
The Hippocratic eye will see
In nakedness, anatomy;
And naked shines the Goddess when
She mounts her lion among men.

The nude are bold, the nude are sly
To hold each treasonable eye.
While draping by a showman's trick
Their dishabille in rhetoric,
They grin a mock-religious grin
Of scorn at those of naked skin.

The naked, therefore, who compete
Against the nude may know defeat;
Yet when they both together tread
The briary pastures of the dead,
By Gorgons with long whips pursued,
How naked go the sometime nude!

72 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

I'm going to experiment with allowing comments on this post, and just this post for now. I'm doing this here because:

1. It's early in the morning, a time when I believe people have the greatest capacity to rise.

2. This post presents a very specific and challenging question, and the experiment asks you, if you decide to post, to address that question.

3. I find the question hard to answer even as I love the question and I feel the poem is rich material that will repay study.

4. I'd love to have this conversation.

5. I'm going to watch the thread unwind, and I have ideas about how to help it go well, and I want to learn from this experiment.

Ann Althouse said...

Okay, it is now possible to comment on this thread.

Wen said...

And so the alternate title to Graves poem might be "The Naked and the Damned".

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Here's a possible technique to help determine the difference:

How do men react to the painting? My hypothesis is that the greater the difference in a male versus female reaction, the more the painting tends towards being 'naked'.

Ann Althouse said...

I thought of "The Naked and the Dead/Damned" too, and in that context was focusing on the fact that "nude" works as a noun in a way that "naked" doesn't.

You can say, "Hey, there's a nude," but not "Hey, there's a naked."

When you say "The Naked," you make the adjective into a noun in a way that you can make any adjective into a noun -- "The Damned and the Saved."

I've always thought it was funny to refer to "a nude," because it sounds as though "a nude" is a type of being, when, in fact, as the poem talks about, these nudes are only temporarily unclothed, for the purpose of posing.

When you have a mythical being who never wears clothes, we don't talk about this entity, perhaps a goddess, being nude. We would say naked.

The poem helps us think about why.

Ann Althouse said...

@SomeoneHasToSayIt

Naked seems more powerful, even as it is more sexual (which is what distracts NPR into thinking naked is lower and nude is higher).

Deirdre Mundy said...

Maybe it has to do with approachability? Notice the Goddess is Naked when she rides AMONG men.

The nudes are stony, marble, draped and untouchable. So a nude is remote, while a naked woman is ready for interaction--she's human.

1. Which would make this the typical poet's lament about unattainable women.

2. This makes me wonder about nudist colonies...

Meade said...

email from WS:

Your posts on the naked/nude distinction reminds me of the classic observation by Lewis Grizzard (Georgia's finest humorist) regarding the subtle differences conveyed in the pronunciation of the word "naked". If a person pronounces it "naked" with the long A sound they are describing someone who had no clothes on. If a person pronounces "nekkid" with the soft e sound, they are describing someone who has no clothes on and is up to something. RIP to Lewis!

Cog said...

There is no other kind of truth but the naked truth. High art always cloaked in meanings, its nudes bold and sly.

harrogate said...

The Graves poem makes "nude" seem more carnal, even lascivious somehow. His treatment of "naked" is as though it were an expression of light.

Graves seems to be channeling William Blake's "Heaven and Hell" marriage/conflict here?

"If a person pronounces 'nekkid' with the soft e sound, they are describing someone who has no clothes on and is up to something."

I just have to say to that, OMG. Where I come from, Western North Carolina--that is exactly true.

Jimmy said...

"Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display.... The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress." - John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 1972

pduggie said...

When you say "the naked" you bring in associations of charity

"We rich people should make sure the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed"

harrogate said...

We don't want to forget Duchamp's famous
Nude Descending a Staircase (1912). What would he have painted if it were "Naked Descending a Staircase"?

pduggie said...

I'm not sure the naked is mounting "among men"

She is mounting a Lion-among-men. That is, the one she mounts is a amazing man, greater than everyone else.

(oddly, actual lions never use female-superior mounting method)

Jimmy said...

Nude can be a noun or an adjective, but naked is only an adjective!

Thus "nudists" and never "nakedists".

JohnJEnright said...

Graves and NPR are not quite opposite, if we take seriously his rhetorical parallel of naked/nude standing as far apart as truth/art, where we align naked-truth and nude-art. But it strikes me this a preparatory move for him.

phx said...

Reminds me of the Leonard Cohen line, Everybody knows your naked man and woman are just a shining artifact of the past. . .

Meade said...

email from JB:

The contrast between naked and nude in the stories and Ann's discussions is not nuanced enough. In the paintings under discussion, it appears while the women are naked in that they don't have any clothes [on], the artist has depicted them in what Southerners call 'nekkid'.

Ann Althouse said...

Reminds me of the Bob Dylan line: "Even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked."

Ann Althouse said...

I'm having a flashback to my teenage years when we thought the word "nude" was funny, and we would insult each other by saying "You nude!"

Saint Croix said...

Naked seems more powerful, even as it is more sexual (which is what distracts NPR into thinking naked is lower and nude is higher).

Naked does suggest pornography. I like to look at naked people.

But it also suggest vulnerability. You're naked! You can't hide!

Nude suggests art. Art elevates us. I'm painting a nude.

The nude are bold, the nude are sly
To hold each treasonable eye.
While draping by a showman's trick
Their dishabille in rhetoric,
They grin a mock-religious grin
Of scorn at those of naked skin.


Graves is noting the nudists feel superior to the naked.

It's the Sneetches all over again!

And he is exposing the nudists with his last line.

How naked go the sometime nude!

phx said...

Even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand nude.

SGT Ted said...

It appears in the poem that Nude is more provocative and alluring than Naked, which is how primitive societies of the day were sometimes described.

Nude is a pose, while Naked is a natural state in the poem. This reflects the language of his time.

NPR is using modernized terms. Nude is still associated with art, but its not as provocative these days. "Not so fine art" is porn, replete with naked ladies and is provocative in a way that Nude art used to be.

Amichel said...

I think it's interesting to note their origins. From the OED-

Nude
Etymology: < classical Latin nūdus open, simple, plain, naked, bare, unclothed, (in legal use, of a promise) not attended by any formalities or pledges. Compare Anglo-Norman and Middle French nu, nud(early 12th cent.; French nu), Italian nudo(a1294; a1472 in sense ‘painting of a naked human figure’)

Naked
Etymology: Cognate with Old Frisian nakad , naked , naket , Middle Dutch naect , nāket (Dutch naakt ), Middle Low German nacket , nackt , nāket , nākt , Old High German nackot , nackut (Middle High German nacket , German nackt ), Old Icelandic nøkviðr , nøkkviðr , Old Swedish nakudher , naqvidher , Gothic naqaþs , a participial derivative of the Indo-European base which is also represented by Sanskrit nagna.

Seems to me it's another example of the English divide between Norman French derived words (in this case Nude)and Germanic derived words (naked). I wonder if there is some kind of class distinction under the surface; with the uppercrust being nude, while the poor are naked. Similar to how the poor raise cows(Germanic), but the rich eat beef(French).

Ann Althouse said...

"Graves is noting the nudists feel superior to the naked."

I would distinguish "nudes" and "nudists."

"Nudists" are choosing the no-clothes lifestyle and avoid gazing at each other either in lofty admiration or lust.

"Nudes" appear in artwork and in life, they are posing in the artists studio. They are serving the artist and the whole point is to be gazed at and studied.

Jimmy said...

The opposite of the NPR position would be that "in fine art, the female body is naked. In not-so-fine art she's nude."

Whatever Graves is saying, he's not saying that.

So the answer to the question on the floor is clearly "no".

More specifically, none of Graves' references to nakedness have to do with art, fine or otherwise. We have lovers, we have medicine, we have religious imagery (the reference to the Goddess is an allusion to the Hindu goddess Durga.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm having a flashback to high-school jokes where we replaced the word "new" with "nude."

What's nude?

Meade said...

Naked Public Radio.

Meade said...

Nina Totennude

FleetUSA said...

This whole discussion reminds me of my favorite John Keats classic poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn". So I looked it up and, despite all the allusions to sex, neither naked nor nude is used.

FleetUSA said...

This whole discussion reminds me of my favorite John Keats classic poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn". So I looked it up and, despite all the allusions to sex, neither naked nor nude is used.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Meade said...

Nina Totennude


Terry Gross

Ameryx said...

For, the rhyming of "nude" and "lewd" has made the word "lewd" more titillating (a word with its own built-in prurience).

I read Graves' poem to suggest a degree of honesty, vulnerability, almost innocence, to "naked", where "nude" is more... self-conscious, deliberate, provocative, and thus less appropriate. Behave that way, and the Gorgons will expose your true vulnerability beneath your sinful nudity.

edutcher said...

Naked is often used in the same context as bald-faced, something that can't be disguised.

Ameryx said...

Meade said...

Naked Public Radio


Natural Pubic Radio

Pettifogger said...

I haven't given the nude-naked distinction any thought before, but had someone asked me, I would probably have given an answer along the lines of NPR. It seems likely the explanation for the different takes of NPR and Graves is the passage of time. The words still have the same basic meaning, but the subtle nuance may have reversed itself over the years.

Mitch H. said...

Nakedness carries the connotation of shame. Nude is one of those furrin words which can be either emotionally neutral - the Professor's just-an-artistic-prop sense - or proud and prelapsarian. They were nude in the Garden, but driven out naked into the world.

(Hmm, like I thought, "nude" is latinate, "naked" is anglo-saxon.)

KLDAVIS said...

"The naked and the nude...stand as wide apart as love from lies, or truth from art."

So, not very far apart at all, then.

It seems both Graves and NPR stake the difference squarely in the eye of the beholder.

Ann Althouse said...

On the radio, everyone is naked.

Wen said...

NPR has posited the truth of the modern (maybe not so modern) social construct. Most would probably agree with the distinction without giving it much thought. Graves has grasped the the more complete truth. The naked are real. The nude are yet cloaked by pretense.

traditionalguy said...

Naked has nothing to hide, while nude is a seductive pose.

So both appropriate are at their proper time. The nude pose is useful to seduce and woo onlookers. The naked natural is useful in marriage to honor one another by hiding nothing from that one.

You might say it is all about using your "body language" at the proper time and place.

And that reminds me of wise advice to never throw ones pearls before swine.

Fritz said...

It's quite possible the intimations of naked and nude have subtly shifted and reversed since Graves wrote the poem.

Balfegor said...

I think Amichel has it -- "nude" is latinate, so it is both more sophisticated and more lascivious. "Naked" is Anglo-Saxon so it's forthright and a little coarse.

Wen said...

NPR has posited the truth of the modern (maybe not so modern) social construct. Most would probably agree with the distinction without giving it much thought. Graves has grasped the the more complete truth. The naked are real. The nude are yet cloaked by pretense.

Andrew Koenig said...

A related, recent incident: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/07/10/nyack-artist-returning-to-times-square-to-paint-nude-models/

Andrew Koenig said...

The reason the incident is relevant is because this particular artist is trying to separate the concept of unclothedness from that of sexuality. To that end, part of his strategy is to cover his--models? canvases?--with paint as quickly as possible after the clothes come off, starting (in the case of females) with the nipples.

If you like, the effect is a rapid transformation from naked to nude.

Hazy Dave said...

Well, there are a lot of reasons why I'd ... I'd drag a girl such as yourself back to this ... plastic hotel room and ... rip you off for spare change to run a ... to run a vibrating machine attached to this queen-size, bulk-purchase, kapok-infested, do-not-remove-tag-under-penalty-of-law type bed and ... and make you take off all your little clothes ... until you are nearly STARK RAVING NUDE! (Save for your chrome-with-heavy-duty-leather-thong Peace Medallion, heh ... ) And make you assume a series of marginally erotic poses involving ... a plastic chair and ... an old guitar strap while I ... did a wee-wee in your hair and ... beat you with a pair of tennis shoes ... I got from Jeff Beck!

http://www.luvtop.com/watch.php?ID=3fRimhxa0bE

(From Frank Zappa's 200 Motels. At the link, "Magic Fingers" with introduction by Ringo Starr disguised as FZ. "Find a Date with the same taste in Music!" Ha!!!)

Ann Althouse said...

"They were nude in the Garden, but driven out naked into the world."

Adam and Eve saw that they were naked. They didn't see that they were nude.

Yet the paintings of them show them as nudes... especially before they realize they are naked.

tmitsss said...

Now at Myrtle Beach it's the sadly legalistic Unlawful Public Exposure of Specified Anatomical Parts. Parts, how cold is that?

http://www.carolinalive.com/news/story.aspx?id=922978&gotocomments=1&fb_comment_id=fbc_400343426741986_2222592_400516246724704#.UelWzcu9KSM

Mike said...

This reminds me of a routine from Lewis Grizzard circa 1980 on the difference between Naked and "Nekkid" (as said by Southerners). Grizzard said naked (or nude in NPR's parlance) means you don't have any clothes on. "Nekkid" means you don't have any clothes on and you're up to something.

harrogate said...

These threads have the lovely side benefit of getting everyone to think more about both words, "nude" and "naked." Even if we are confused about how exactly to track the differences between them over time, they are two of the best words we have, and merit frequent dwelling-upon.

Said dwelling-upon done while nekked, is probably the best approach.

deborah said...

harrogate:
"We don't want to forget Duchamp's famous
Nude Descending a Staircase (1912). What would he have painted if it were "Naked Descending a Staircase"?"

Possibly the same thing, but he'd have needed to insert a comma after naked.

deborah said...

traditional guy:
"Naked has nothing to hide, while nude is a seductive pose.

So both appropriate are at their proper time. The nude pose is useful to seduce and woo onlookers. The naked natural is useful in marriage to honor one another by hiding nothing from that one."

Your thought on naked as conveying nothing to hide, as in, 'she stood naked before him,' is beautiful.

But I disagree on nude necessarily conveying seduction. Consider Freud's work:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=930&bih=590&q=lucien+freud&oq=lucien+freud&gs_l=img.3...3330.10510.0.11056.18.14.1.2.0.0.154.1700.1j13.14.0....0.0..1ac.1.20.img.v2ghABvpAyc#hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=lucien+freud+art&oq=lucien+freud+art&gs_l=img.3..0i10l2j0i10i24.38025.40065.0.40480.4.4.0.0.0.0.141.484.0j4.4.0....0.0..1c.1.20.img.EvNpQXexBFU&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.49478099%2Cd.dmg%2Cpv.xjs.s.en_US.c75bKy5EQ0A.O&fp=f05bff7430f42bef&biw=930&bih=590

Are they nude, nudes, or naked?

mccullough said...

For some reason, this naked and nude connotative difference has led me to ask: what's the difference between autumn and fall?

Would Keats poem be not as famous if he it was an ode to fall?

Robert Frost seems to prefer fall to autumn.

Ann Althouse said...

Deborah, thanks for that link. The Freud stuff challenges the meaning of nude, but next time make a regular hot link (especially when it's long like that).

Amichel said...

Adam and Eve saw that they were naked, because they became so at the moment of their transgression against God. Before that, they were nude in their blissfull ignorance; they then are stripped of their native innocence, naked in their sin.

harrogate said...

Deborah,

If Althouse were a DJ, I'd ask her to riff off of the Duchamp painting the next time she takes on this subject!

Ann Althouse said...

Notice how you can buy pantyhose in the color called "nude," but there's no color called "naked." So there could be "nude" clothing, but not "naked" clothing (unless -- and this has probably already happened -- some fashion designer wanted to be edgy by playing with the word naked).

traditionalguy said...

A sensitive lady that I know is shy of being seen without make up on. So I tell her I like her look without make up...it's natural and beautiful. She doubts me.

After she applies make up and adds stylish clothes in the right colors with accessories...she becomes fancy and beautiful.

The natural look seems sort of naked and the fancy look seems sort of nude.

But it's her voice and her wit that really attracts me.

Meade said...

It seems to me she lived her life like a naked candle in the winds of nudeness.

Ann Althouse said...

Reading the poem again, out loud and talking with Meade about it, I don't think this poem is actually about nakedness and nudity so much as love and honesty on the one hand and trickery and exploitation on the other.

In verse 2, the "naked" verse, we've got the lovers (who are uncritical of each other's bodies), the doctor (with the scientific task), and the goddess (who's out there doing the goddess routine). These are 3 ways to be unclothed and honest.

In verse 3, we've got the nudes, with their tricks and rhetoric.

Verse 4 says the nudes can win out over the naked before death, but after death, the nudes will be punished, and at that point, their tricks will be worthless, they'll be finally naked, a kind of naked that wasn't listed in verse 2, but the bad kind of honest naked -- it's not for love or science or divinity. It's just exposure.

Mitch H. said...

For some reason, this naked and nude connotative difference has led me to ask: what's the difference between autumn and fall?

Nostalgia? Autumn is graceful, elgaic, maybe a little melancholic. Fall is fading, declining, decay and the year dying away. Fall is November, even when the calendar still reads August.

Autumn is an endearment offered to the season by those that love it, Fall a curse thrown by the thin-blooded at the lowering clouds and chill.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for all the comments so far. Morning, the time of rising, is almost past (here in the central time zone).

I'm going to start moderation for this post, so you can still post comments, but they'll have to wait for moderation). They'll go up later.

I'm happy so far with the experiment, and I think I'm learning some things about how selective commenting can work.

Ameryx said...

Ann Althouse said...
Notice how you can buy pantyhose in the color called "nude," but there's no color called "naked."


Just so. The idea is to allure, seduce, those who see the legs clad in the panty hose. It doesn't matter what shade the stockings are. The term "nude" is intended to convey a sense of "risqué". Remember, sex sells.

pduggie said...

Though Adam and Eve were 'naked and unashamed' in Genesis 2:25 there is a interetsing rhyme in the hebrew for naked and the hebrew for 'crafty' said of the Serpent a verse after in Genesis 3:1 (the chapter break, added later is probably not very fortuitous in this case)

`arowm = naked
`aruwm = crafty/subtle/wise

So one translator brought that out by A&E were "nude" and the serpent was more "shrewd"

FWIW. Just an interesting free comment brought by a common tater :)

erikarndt said...

Naked truth, naked ambition, naked greed. Naked seems to me to be pretense stripped away, showing truth ugly or beautiful. Nude is naked with the pretense of respectability. Sorry to oversimplify.

Paddy O said...

Interestingly, in the Hebrew there's two different forms of the word arom used in Genesis 3, עֵרֹם and עֵירֹם, with the suggestion being that the second is being distinguished with negative connotations.

Nude and naked, arom and erom.

Matthew Sablan said...

I think Graves just did it the way he did because naked scans differently than nude. Poets are poets first.

Matthew Sablan said...

"It's early in the morning, a time when I believe people have the greatest capacity to rise."

So many references and jokes to make, so little time.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

This topic calls to mind a favorite blog post of mine, Out of Town Nudes in Harvard Square, in which I crafted my own solution to the copyright dilemma.

deborah said...

Sorry about the botched link, and thank you for introducing me to Lucien Freud.

(harrogate, a sportscaster might be more exciting :)

Carl said...

NPR and Graves are not opposite insofar as the question read narrowly goes: in both cases to be naked is to lower one's effort to control perception by others, while to be nude is to increase it. To be naked is to be frank, to be nude is to be subtle.

Where they differ is that, being NPR and a poet respectively, they are not in the habit of cleanly separating the nature of things with their ethical dimension. So NPR attaches the connotation that the control of perception is art -- something delightful, conveying a higher truth than mere grubby facts -- a glimpse of a Platonian ideal. Graves by contrast attaches the connotation of advertising, propaganda, deception -- conveying "revolutionary" instead of "bourgeois" truth, the dark reverse of which art is the obverse.

What is perhaps quite remarkable here is that such opposite ends of an axis of communication may arise from the very same physical reality, id est, no clothes. It's remarkable that that should be possible.

But this kind of figure-ground reversal is actually fairly common in human communications: it is possible to shout with silence or express rage with exaggerated calm. Our communication channels are not just streams of fact, but rather simultaneous streams of fact and expectation and response to the conveyed fact, and by manipulating the "metafactual" stream, we can influence porfoundly what the "factual" stream conveys. Indeed, we can easily make the same fact -- I am not wearing any clothes -- convey very different messages, either that I am concealing nothing or that I am concealing everything.