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"that this divine art should have been invented by a woman!"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by 皮皮鲁, Feb 21, 2009.

  1. 皮皮鲁 Junior Member

    chinese
    Hi there:) guys I'v been nagged trying to figure out the meaning of the sentence,here goes the context:

    According to some, the first painter was a younger sister of the Emperor Shun, named Lei, who was known in consequence as Picture Lei."Alas," cried a disgusted critic of later ages,"that this divine art should have been invented by a woman!"


    my question: did the disgusted critic mean this divine art should "not" have been invented by a woman? if so,what is this grammatical phenomenon? waiting for your kind replies;)
     
  2. cycloneviv

    cycloneviv Senior Member

    Perth, Western Australia
    English - Australia
    Have you tried looking up "alas" in the Word Reference dictionary? It is equivalent to "unfortunately" or "regrettably". The critic is, in effect, saying "What a pity that this divine art was created by a woman", seemingly implying that the fact that the artist was a lowly woman reflects negatively on the artwork, no matter how divine.
     
  3. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    The disgusted critic is expressing the idea that it is unfortunate or disgraceful that the divine art of painting was in fact invented by a woman.

    Notice that this use of "should" does not always express unhappiness, but it does express an idea that the thing described is surprising or unlikely, or otherwise deserving of comment.

    Here is the construction again, with the first example expressing unhappiness, and the second expressing wonder.

    That any member of my own family should do such a thing is terrible, but that it should be my favorite son who disappointed me so much makes this even harder to bear.

    How amazing it was that this tournament should have been won by such a young and inexperienced competitor!
     
  4. Embonpoint Senior Member

    Boston
    English--American
    This text is very bad English and is likely not written by a native.

    I believe he means to say that he likes her art so much he wishes that it had been created by a man, not a mere woman.

    If I understand it correctly, Lei invented the art of painting. I believe the speaker is upset that this discovery was not made by a man.
     
  5. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    Why do you say that? I don't see anything in the text that could be called "bad English". Old fashioned, yes - but bad? No.
     
  6. 皮皮鲁 Junior Member

    chinese
    Thanks alot for the explanation:),just the other half of my doubt:why has subjunctive been used here? or has it? I mean why didn't he just say"Alas that this divine art was invented by a woman" much alike the sentence you used in your post
     
  7. 皮皮鲁 Junior Member

    chinese
    I think It's clearer to me now as to the use of should have to express "amaze":should I wish to demonstrate my wonder over the thing in question,I could use should have instead of normal past tense right? Thanks alot all you people
     
  8. Embonpoint Senior Member

    Boston
    English--American
    Well, first the phrase "named Lei" grammatically modifies the Emperor, suggesting that he was named Lei. And "of later ages," sounds foreign to me. It could simply be old, but I don't remember ever seeing it in an anglophone text. "In consequence" is very awkward to me, but I suspect it is British.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2009
  9. Embonpoint Senior Member

    Boston
    English--American
    Not in AE. Perhaps a Brit can say if it could fly over there.
     
  10. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    Here is a discussion of the use of "should" to express amazement, as GWB describes in post #3:
    That thread discusses a sentence by Jane Austin. Participants in the thread agree with Embonpoint that it is unlikely to be used in modern AmE, and would sound strange if it were.
     
  11. Embonpoint Senior Member

    Boston
    English--American
    Okay so is this subjunctive???? I would actually use past conditional in French to express amazement in this case. <<Not English and irrelevant>>

    Anyway, would you use this formulation in Britain today?
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2009
  12. 皮皮鲁 Junior Member

    chinese
    Then what would you folks in the states say to express that tone,if you were that critic
     
  13. Embonpoint Senior Member

    Boston
    English--American
    Starting with 'alas' phrase is old-fashioned so it kind of calls out for the old-fashioned sounding "should."

    In modern informal English, someone might say, "I can't believe that this divine art was invented by a woman." Or "I wish a man had invented this divine art."
     
  14. Starfrown

    Starfrown Senior Member

    Columbia, SC
    English - US
    I certainly agree insofar as modern spoken--and casual written--AE is concerned. However, I still see this use of "should" occasionally in literary writing.

    There are probably many to whom it would sound very odd, but I think that it would be quite familiar to virtually anyone well-read.
     
  15. Embonpoint Senior Member

    Boston
    English--American
    "Thou shalt not make onto thee any graven image" is also familiar to anyone who is well read, however, imagine our surprise if a Japanese person arrives and says such a phrase in heavily accented English.
     
  16. 皮皮鲁 Junior Member

    chinese
    Cagey,I'v checked out that thread out there,seems I'm not alone getting confused by this,well while I'm trying to follow all the clues provided here,I'd better refrain from using this pattern since it even sounds odd to some of you native speakers but I'll take it as valid and assume it means to indicate some kind of tone,thanks again pals:)
     
  17. Starfrown

    Starfrown Senior Member

    Columbia, SC
    English - US
    I definitely am not advocating this particular use of "should" in speech in AE--it would only alienate the speaker. I was simply pointing out that it is still occasionally used in literature.
     
  18. Embonpoint Senior Member

    Boston
    English--American
    I'm still curious if this can be used in Britain today but the Brits are all asleep so we won't find out until the morning.
     
  19. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The use of should in the sample sentence sounds fine to my American ear, especially in reference to imperial times. Could and would might also be used with slightly different meanings.

    To me, "that this divine art was invented by a woman" seems to have "the fact" in front. The phrase with should seems to have something more like "the (very) idea" in front:

    That this divine art was invented by a woman = "The fact that this divine art was invented by a woman".

    That this divine art should have been invented by a woman = "The idea that this divine art was invented by a woman" or "the very idea that this divine art may have been invented by a woman".

    Using should here does remind me of the use of subjunctive in Spanish.
     
  20. 皮皮鲁 Junior Member

    chinese
    Thanks a lot for sharing your interpretation Forero,I feel I am on my way approaching the real mood this formulation should have meant to impart.Now I figure it could be paraphrased as:Alas, why should have this divine art been invented by a woman? or Alas,should have this divine art been invented by a woman? How about it....
     
  21. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Sorry, but it doesn't work without the that.
     

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