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1tarpfarmer
Août 1, 2006, 12:05pm

Ha ha...found you!!

2jcwords Premier message
Août 1, 2006, 12:16pm

It wasn't until I was in college that I discovered CS Lewis- a girl in my Freshman Comp class loaned me The Chronicles of Narnia, and I sat in the student commons until it closed, devouring them, one by one. I'd loved JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy forever-- it's truly great. As an adult, I've come to appreciate more of Lewis's writings-- his apologetics, the Perelandra trilogy, and even his letters and scholarly musings on medieval literature.

The book that brought other Inklings to my attention, as well as those they influenced, and those that were influenced by them, was Christian Mythmakers by Rolland Hein. It's a fascinating look at the art of telling truth through myth, and an introduction to other mythmakers, including Madeleine L'Engle and others. I look forward to reading more by and about authors who write in this tradition.

3jcwords
Août 1, 2006, 12:18pm

I knew you'd be here sooner or later-- so where are your Inklings books? Post 'em!

4Aquila
Août 1, 2006, 8:15pm

Who is this Tolkein of whom everyone speaks? Is it possible to get it changed to Tolkien in the group description?

5kukkurovaca
Août 1, 2006, 10:54pm

It took my mother years of bugging to get me to read Tolkien (something she still nags me about), and I also read CS Lewis comparatively late, which made me less fond of the Narnia books than I might otherwise have been -- not that I didn't enjoy them. I also liked Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra quite a lot, although something befell my copy of That Hideous Strength before I could actually read it. I was particularly interested in the way Lewis depicted the difficulties involved in two untrained men trying to kill each other with their bare hands.

Someone also had to nudge me hard to read The Man Who Was Thursday, which I regard as an absolute revelation. (In more ways than one. :)

Out of curiosity, how do folks feel about Philip Pullman, in particular the way he appropriated Judeo-Christian mythology in the later His Dark Materials books, and his attack on Lewis in the press?

FWIW, I'm nowhere near being a Christian, but I thought there was something really unappealing in Pullman's take on both issues.

6quartzite
Août 2, 2006, 3:56pm

I also started to read the Narnia books only in college and got disgusted half through number two and never picked them up again. Just read the His Dark Materials trilogy and I didn't really like them either, so for me a pox on both houses.

I do really like 'Til we Have Faces and some Lewis's apologetics, though.

7quartzite
Août 2, 2006, 3:58pm

I also started to read the Narnia books only in college and got disgusted half through number two and never picked them up again. Just read the His Dark Materials trilogy and I didn't really like them either, so for me a pox on both houses.

I do really like 'Til we Have Faces and some Lewis's apologetics, though.

The Inkling I really like is Charles Williams, with the The Place of the Lion being my favorite.
(also Dorothy Sayers

8jcwords
Août 2, 2006, 5:24pm

Oh yes-- I'm sorry. That, along with " rather than ', is my single most-commited typing crime. You're quite right! I'll see if I can switch it in the group description.

9jcwords
Août 2, 2006, 5:27pm

I've not read Pullman, nor did I see what he said about Lewis. I'll take a look, though, as I keep hearing about Pullman. People that I've talked with seem simultaneously attracted and repulsed by his works, no matter what their ideology.

10oakes
Août 3, 2006, 2:37am

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11BoPeep
Août 5, 2006, 1:40pm

Hrrmmm. Admittedly I've dealt with him in a professional capacity (and he's very nice personally) but I don't get 'big jerk' from him or his interviews. He's opinionated, but so are many others. I think he's just hit more than a few raw nerves and taken a bit more flak than he might otherwise.

12oakes
Août 6, 2006, 3:07am

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13Eurydice
Août 6, 2006, 3:08am

And I'm afraid I would have to agree.

14BoPeep
Août 6, 2006, 6:31am

But to a complete atheist (which he is), one who really detests the church in all its guises, heavy promotion of Christianity in the guise of a children's adventure is pretty insidious and poisonous. It's quite creepy if you view it with a particularly cynical eye, isn't it?

Nauseating drivel - well, it might be a classic but it's also pretty twee in places. And sexist.

15Eurydice
Août 6, 2006, 7:03am

...heavy promotion of Christianity in the guise of a children's adventure is pretty insidious and poisonous. It's quite creepy if you view it with a particularly cynical eye, isn't it?

So his own works might be, viewed from the other side.

- I'll agree to a bit of drivel for you, though. :)

16BoPeep
Août 6, 2006, 8:06am

Agreed, Eurydice, and from the other side there are plenty of accusations already being flung (a quick search of "Christian parenting" sites provided some choice titbits), some of them at the man rather than the work. As it happens, the same accusation was aimed at Lewis's work too, by fellow Christians. So it's not just atheism vs. Christianity here. What are the ethics of promoting strong allegory without being honest about it?

The Narnia books used to be sold in our church bookshop and given away as Sunday School prizes, puzzling those of us too young to have read beyond The Magician's Nephew (which is where our library started the sequence). The logic behind the decision didn't become obvious until some way into the series, by which time we were hooked - successful 'pushing' isn't something I expected the Church of England to be involved with! They were removed, with great fuss and uproar, when our new Rector arrived and became quite upset at what he considered gross deceit. I still like the books. I dislike some of the attitudes expressed within. I am capable of critically analysing books I adore, never mind books I am uneasy with. None of my dislike or unease has any bearing on my view of Lewis himself. If I call him a jerk at any point in my life it will be related to his personal life (which I have some minor issues with, but that's another story).

I don't see that Pullman's expressing an honest personal opinion of a particular piece of writing - not the author, the writing - makes him a 'big jerk'. If he were writing interesting fiction while simultaneously murdering kittens I'd agree that the art might well be better than the artist - but it's opinion. One good or patronising review doesn't require an equal one in return, and a writer who compromised long-held beliefs in order to appear to reciprocate a compliment wouldn't be worth much respect. If you have a significant problem with his views in real life, why are they 'art' when expressed in fiction?

PS although it may not sound like it, I'm not all that big a fan of Pullman. Really.

17gabriel
Août 6, 2006, 5:27pm

...heavy promotion of Christianity in the guise of a children's adventure is pretty insidious and poisonous. It's quite creepy if you view it with a particularly cynical eye, isn't it?

Only if there were some falsehood involved. But as Lewis was entirely straightforward about the Christian meaning, the complaint is without foundation.

But Pullman's work is straightforwardly offensive, casting Christianity and God as villainous.

who really detests the church in all its guises

Yes, I imagine he does. And frankly, I find it hard to see him otherwise than as a hater.

18oakes
Août 6, 2006, 6:35pm

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19kukkurovaca
Août 6, 2006, 6:58pm

BoPeep wrote,

"But to a complete atheist (which he is), one who really detests the church in all its guises, heavy promotion of Christianity in the guise of a children's adventure is pretty insidious and poisonous. It's quite creepy if you view it with a particularly cynical eye, isn't it?"

I have to wonder at someone who is so opposed to Christianity, and yet draws so heavily on Jewish and Christian mythology for his books. If I were going to take a professional stance as an atheist writer of children's literature, I'd like to think that I wouldn't need to appropriate my themes from Milton and the pseudepigrapha. It's perfectly possible to write children's lit, even children's fantasy lit, outside that context entirely (look at Susan Cooper or even J.K. Rowling). It just seems sort of hinky to me.

20BoPeep
Août 6, 2006, 7:06pm

Oakes - I have read your reply through once but am having a hard time concentrating on it because of the bizarre thing that seems to have happened to the author touchstones. (That and the fact that it's past midnight.) I'll come back to it tomorrow and hope it proves easier to re-read. :-)

21Freder1ck
Août 6, 2006, 10:28pm

BoPeep - regarding sexism in Lewis's Chronicles, Paul F. Ford in my edition of the Companion to Narnia offers a 5-page entry on Sexism. He notes that it "is more complex than might first be supposed" (368). He notes that the depiction of girls and women is not static, but changes through the Chronicles.

A secondary issue is that of gender. Lewis recognized gender in nature and not merely socially-constructed gender. This interest in grammar appears throughout Lewis's fiction and non-fiction. Perhaps the clearest expression of this is in Perelandra.

I wonder why nobody ever seems to complain of Lewis's anti-vegetarianism which is quite emphatic.

22oakes
Août 6, 2006, 10:51pm

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23quartzite
Août 7, 2006, 2:40pm

To me an allegory is retelling of a well known story or events in different time and place, with new characters standing in for the well known ones, and the purpose is to reinforce the universal message or themes of that story by showing that they apply despite these changes, and perhaps to make the story fresh by stripping away the well-known elements that loom so large as to perhaps the obscure some of that underlying message. So yes a stroy can have a Christian Theme or references without being allegorical. A story that simply illustrates or raises those themes but does not retell the story is not for me an allegory. Well done it is heightened art, that is if one can make story ring powerful and true in all aspects. Not so well done it will seem stiff and artificial as it clings to the given story line in a way that fails to be true to the new setting and characters. I have read both, and I think Lewis has done both. SOme Inklings stories are allegories, some are not. The authors statements should be given weight. If Tolkien say the Lord of the Rings was not an allegory for WWII, I think we should believe him; after all tales of battle between good and evil are common and need not be referring to either real world events or other battles or tales.

24oakes
Modifié : Août 9, 2006, 6:55am

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25skholiast
Août 9, 2006, 2:23pm

I got here late, so please pardon me if I venture a quick aside on the Pullman books. I read them all and on balance, quite loved the feeling they gave me of "living in a book" for a bit. The daimon-conceit is a brilliant, simple and elegant device. His "theology" is skewed, quite badly, essentially recycling Ye Olde Gnostique story again, and yes, I'd say it's pernicious, but not in a "lock up your children," sort of way. Kids (remember?) are *smart.* However, my main problem with the Dark Materials was that it was written extremely unevenly. There were passages of great beauty, prose that evoked (quite consciously, I rather suspect) Homer or Virgil; and there were bits, sometimes just transitions and sometimes long stretches, that were flat as can be-- where it felt like Pullman was just hurrying on to get to the next part he found interesting. It's been a while since I've read Narnia, but I don't think this is the case there. CSL *was* a lover of words and stories for their own sake. I'm quite prepared to believe the same of Pullman but he nods a bit more often than Homer, or CSL, in my book.

26kukkurovaca
Août 9, 2006, 3:50pm

Well said, skholiast, although I don't think Pullman ultimately does any better by Gnosticism (or the pseudepigrapha, which he also draws on, and which is diverse in terms of origin sect) than by the version of Christianity that has survived today. In contrast with Philip Dick's Valis, which actually does an okay job of re-interpreting the gnostic mythos.

And while I would be reluctant to recommend the books to my younger sister, that's not because of their theological content (she could hardly be made more athiest than she already is, nor would I particularly want to change her stance on that issue) per se, but because of how that reflects on the intellectual quality of the books and on the ethics of writing.

27Freder1ck
Août 9, 2006, 5:01pm

A classic definition of allegory is that characters are named after virtues and vices; or that virtues and vices are embodied by specific characters. Allegory also includes fictionalizations of real events, like supposedly, The Devil Wears Prada. It's close to fable, in which animal characters form stock characters (foxes are always sly, geese are always silly, etc). Allegory and fable both are used to teach truisms. I see a certain continuum between the formulaic (fables, allegory, even epic) and the realistic. Thus, Edmund Spenser's Fairie Queene and even Shakespeare's plays include allegorical elements - as do the Chronicles of Narnia.

One issue is that of allegorical reading- in which a person takes a rich, detailed, complex work and turns it into a chessboard of abstractions. In the Letters of JRR Tolkien, however, Tolkien does say that one can make certain applications of the story to the world. He characterized the US quest to build the bomb an attempt similiar to that of using the One Ring to try to defeat Sauron.

I know that Tolkien was very critical of the writings of Charles Williams, which drew on the neoplatonic idea of a world of archetypes that are embodied on earth in an imperfect manner.

28gabriel
Modifié : Août 10, 2006, 11:10am

I don't agree with Freder1ck's definition, insofar as I think the characters of an allegory need represent virtues and vices. They may represent all sorts of things.

In my view, an allegory proper must have characters who are representative (of other people, of movements, of virtues and vices, of countries, etc) and whose interactions on the represtative level provide additional meaning to that of the literal level. Furthermore, an allegory presents a cohesive secondary meaning on the representative level- it is not merely occasionally allusive.

To my mind, mere fictionalizations are not allegory. Was Primary Colors an allegory? I wouldn't think so.

I'd agree with Freder1ck that literary works can have allegorical elements without being full-blown allegories.

29Freder1ck
Août 9, 2006, 10:40pm

That's an improvement, Gabriel. I think the cohesiveness of an allegory is a critical point: that it is an extended metaphor. In Spenser, I recall, there's a castle that represents a mouth and the guards represent teeth. There's a certain level of abstraction to allegories, which often appear in editorial cartoons. For example, this one which shows Bush as a Crusader: http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/cartoons/2002/07/23/bell2307...

In this case, Bush and Cheney are not depicted as individuals, but as symbolic figures. Tolkien's primary interest in his characters was less their symbolic value than it was their having specific histories, making certain human decisions, and taking action.

30waiting4morning
Oct 7, 2006, 3:53pm

There's a new YA book coming out by James Owen called "Here, There be Dragons" that will feature "Jack", "Charles" and "John" as heros (that is, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and J.R.R. Tolkien). Supposedly will be one of a seven book series.

31MrsLee
Nov 24, 2006, 2:33pm

Hello, I seem to be coming late to all the parties, however, great dialog on allegory and the whole "what constitutes a jerk" :) Waiting4morning, let us know about those books, they sound interesting.

I suppose when I read any book, whether written by Athiest or Christian or someone in between, I look for elements of eternal truths, which I believe exist, and if I find them, I am satisfied.

Was Sayers a member of the Inklings, or another group? I had the impression the Inklings were several old men gathered 'round a fire with their pints reading their works to each other, but maybe that is a different group. I have only read bits and pieces about this, so forgive my ignorance.

32MrsLee
Nov 29, 2006, 2:25am

Well, since I seem to be talking to myself here...not an unknown phenomena, I found out that Dorothy Sayers, though aquainted with members of the Inklings, was not a member, nor did she attend any meetings. They were full of crusty old men who liked crusty old men's company and I think a woman present would have cramped their style. Found that out in the Lord Peter group on another site.

33DeusExLibris
Déc 2, 2006, 2:52pm

I've read Chronicles of Narnia numerous times since I was a little kid. I still have the box set I was given when I was a little kid, and the copy of Prince Caspian has been read so many times that it has actually split into thirds! I could never really get into the Lord of the Rings, alhtough I've tried numerous times, however I love the newest movie adaptations and and am a fan of the Hobbit.

34oakes
Déc 14, 2006, 3:05am

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35MyopicBookworm
Jan 5, 2007, 11:56am

"But which Inklings books really ARE allegories?"

Other than Pilgrim's Regress, I'd say the clearest use of allegorical technique (despite the author's supposed hatred of allegory) is Leaf by Niggle.

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