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Ch 1b: pp 5-10

For the Medieval Dinosaur in all of us.

Ch 1b: pp 5-10

Postby Stanley Anderson » 05 Feb 2007, 16:29

(six paragraphs beginning with “What both examples illustrate…” and ending with “…Matthew Arnold possibly overvalued)”

I'm going to repost my comments on this section from the original study in 2003 along with (in a follow-up post) the replies back then by Monica and me to each other (leaving some of the unimportant side-tracking comments off). As a point of context for one of Monica's comments below, she had previously, in other threads, expressed the view that That Hideous Strength seemed to be a disorganized conglomeration of Lewis' pet theories and ideas haphazardly thrown together along with the story (I hope that is close enough to her thoughts, though I may be exaggerating and simplifying them too much). And of course my "church" comments back then would refer to our then membership in a traditional Anglican church.

Stanley wrote:I realize that the first paragraph of this section really ought to have gone with the last section since it is making a conclusion about the previous section’s two examples. But of course that will be true about all sections within a chapter and all chapters within the book, so I can’t be too “organized” about it. Which ironically, is one of the Medieval characteristics that Lewis brings out later. But the “bookish” quality of the medieval mind is certainly one of the things Lewis was “good” at if reports of his ability to recall things from his vast store of readings are true.

The comments about the personality and outlook that a language gives to a culture were interesting to me. It’s something I’ve read about, but not being bi-lingual (unless mathematics and quantum physics discussions can be considered a foreign language:-), I don’t know this first hand, and the idea fascinates me. Lewis seemed to get something of this across in Out of the Silent Planet at least, I think, with the few instances of the Hross language with its pervasive initial aspirates. It’s “breathiness” perhaps is meant to convey a certain kind of deep connection with nature and life?


--Stanley
(edited a couple typos)
Last edited by Stanley Anderson on 05 Mar 2007, 16:52, edited 3 times in total.
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 05 Feb 2007, 16:38

(As mentioned above, here are the replies Monica and I exchanged in the original 2003 study of TDI. I hope it is not too confusing to follow):

Monica wrote:
Stanley wrote:I can't be too "organized" about it.


Why, that's exactly what C.S. Lewis said when he wrote 'That Hideous Strength.' :-)

Actually, in 'The Discarded Image' Lewis admits that the Medieval attempt at synthesis didn't always work perfectly. Sometimes there was just such a bulk of disparate material that it didn't always fit together as tidily as it might have -- or that it fit very tidily if you conveniently forgot a thing or two.

The comments about the personality and outlook that a language gives to a culture were interesting to me.


Me too. I watched a commercial about a native-Indian tourist spot called Gnadjtewanki and listened to the native speaker saying that word. I marvelled at how just the sound of the word, which rolled so naturally off the native-speaker's tongue, conjured up visions of unspoiled wilderness, of strength and of meaningfulness. A lot of native Indian words are like that -- long and full of meaning. They sound like they're telling deep secrets.

I wonder how far-reaching the implications for world-view and soul-feel are simply by the variances in language. At Babel, God may not only have made a dozen or a hundred different languages, but a dozen or a hundred different subtleties in seeing or perceiving. What's the difference, I wonder, between saying 'I see you' in English with it's subject-verb-object construction, and saying 'I see you' in French ('I you see'), with its subject-object-verb construction. Or what about German or Latin with their formality of subject-verb agreement and their optional word order -- putting the verb last, for example? Instead of the English 'I went to the store,' a German would say, 'I did to the store go.'

Ahhhh, (to quote Homer Simpson) sweet speculation.


Stanley wrote:
Monica wrote:What's the difference, I wonder, between saying 'I see you' in English with it's subject-verb-object construction, and saying 'I see you' in French ('I you see'), with its subject-object-verb construction [etc]


This reminds me of a sort of side-track item. During the offering in our church service, one of the things we occasionally sing has what seems to me some of the most convoluted and inverted syntax possible in an English sentence. Every time we sing it, I want to rewrite it to say the point in a standard subject-verb-object format. Here it is (it is primarily the last two lines that drive me nuts, and you have to imagine the words going by slowly while being sung, as opposed to reading quickly through them here on the page):

All things are thine, no gifts have we
Lord of all gifts, to offer thee.
And hence with grateful hearts today
Thine own before thy feet we lay.

Is that what learning French would do to me?:-)



Monica wrote:as Churchill said..."that is something up with which I shall not put."


Stanley wrote:
Monica wrote:
A lot of native Indian words are like that -- long and full of meaning. They sound like they're telling deep secrets.


Maybe they are related to the Ents -- I wonder if those Indians might know what happened to the entwives?:-)

Monica wrote:I wonder how far-reaching the implications for world-view and soul-feel are simply by the variances in language. At Babel, God may not only have made a dozen or a hundred different languages, but a dozen or a hundred different subtleties in seeing or perceiving.


Well, this is off the subject of The Discarded Image of course (ie, I'm in normal Wardrobe mode), but that makes me wonder longingly what that original language might have been like, for surely it would have incoporated or blended into a seamless whole all the different subtleties that the Babelization sifted out into separate languages (sort of like a linguistic prism?). And with that "wholeness", I would bet it would definitely be a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

Something along that line (I'm wandering even further afield now:-) is what our priest mentions often as one of the very sad aspects of the Church being split into so many parts as it is today. All the charismatics want to be with other charismatics, and all the liturgical purists want to be with other liturgical purists, and so on and so on, when all those different kinds and parts would better be all together in one church. All those body parts working together would be far greater than the sum of the collections of body parts in separate groups -- a box of fingers over here, a container of spleens over there, a load of noses off in the distance, etc.

Back to TDI, I suspect Lewis might say that this was one of the good things about the Medieval model -- that they tried to fit everything into a sort of wholeness. Of course such machinations can and did go astray in their model, but probably the primary thing they attempted to do which is distinctly different from modern science was to try to see how various phenomena reflected the glory of God. They might study, say, the moon as something displaying an aspect of God's character, whereas modern science attempts to study the moon for its own sake as an "independent" object.


--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Postby Rosie Cotton » 08 Feb 2007, 05:19

Lewis wrote:
Popular iconography... wishing to summon up the idea of the Medieval, draws a knight errant with castles, distressed damsels, and dragons quant. suff. in the background.

What does quant. suff. stand for? Is it Latin for 'huffing and puffing'? :tongue:

Stanley wrote:
Well, this is off the subject of The Discarded Image of course (ie, I'm in normal Wardrobe mode), but that makes me wonder longingly what that original language might have been like, for surely it would have incoporated or blended into a seamless whole all the different subtleties that the Babelization sifted out into separate languages (sort of like a linguistic prism?). And with that "wholeness", I would bet it would definitely be a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

I am fascinated, too, by what the original language might have sounded like. And I wonder, will we be speaking that in heaven? I bet Lewis had that in mind when he put Old Solar in the Space Trilogy!
... and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.
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Postby sehoy » 08 Feb 2007, 08:48

If you read a language from right to left, do you speak it from right to left, as well? I think that you might. I suspect you might also view the world from right to left too.

Most of us read from left to right. That means that we notice things on the left first. So you tend to put significant things to the left, and things on the left might catch your attention first. Advertisers seem to think this is true and use it to attract our attention.

If I'm always looking for things on the left first, there is a good chance I miss things on the right, or place less importance on them.

Just from personal observation, I notice that Germans, from children to adults, usually speak in full sentences and paragraphs, expressing full thoughts, without a lot of the hemming, and "ums," "you knows," and "like", that many Americans use.

I have always suspected that had to do with the fact that they can remember to speak paragraph-long sentences and remember to put all the necessary verbs needed at the end of the sentence. You also need to listen to a complete German sentence, and it can be paragraph length, and you have to wait for all the verbs to come, before you can understand what the person is trying to say.

So I'm thinking, they have to remember a lot more than I do, when I speak American English. And that seems to be the case, because they are also very good at complicated Kopfrechnung [=doing math problems in their head].

Having worked as a photographer, I'm usually trying to find the point of view that others haven't seen before.

I wonder. How would you do that from spoken or written point of view? Is it even possible?
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Postby Sven » 08 Feb 2007, 22:04

Rosie Cotton wrote:What does quant. suff. stand for? Is it Latin for 'huffing and puffing'? :tongue:


It's a chemistry term meaning 'quantity sufficient for desired outcome'. Odd thing for Lewis to use, perhaps, but Alfred Bester uses the term in his novel, The Stars My Destination (1956), which is just the kind of science fiction Lewis liked to read.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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