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Ch 3c: pp 29-34

For the Medieval Dinosaur in all of us.

Ch 3c: pp 29-34

Postby Stanley Anderson » 08 May 2007, 20:52

(Eight paragraphs comprising the 'Lucan' section beginning with "Lucan lived from..." and ending with "...in our dreams.")

The enchanting comments about Amyclas (of which I know nothing about firsthand - Lewis' references here are my only knowledge), remind me, oddly, of Puddleglum and his humble abode when the children first visit him (and indeed, his whole "casual" acceptance of his assignment to "ferry" the children in their task).

Certain aspects of St Annes' have this quality too. I'm thinking specifically of Ransom's reaction to Merlin's arrival. And I suppose the Hrossa's bringing of Ransom into their own society has a similar flavour of Amyclas’ poverty (well, "poverty" is perhaps not emphasized, except maybe in relative importance of the guest being recieved) This quality can be found in several places in Narnia and the Space Trilogy -- The Beavers and Tumnus taking the children in (even though Tumnus’s appearance was false to begin with), etc.

The next portion of this section talks about how the medieval approach to texts saw them as both allegorical or symbolic even if they were straight narration of historical events, and contrariwise, accepted them as "scientific" or authoritative even if they were meant in a poetic way. The main point, I think is that they didn't distinguish - or at least didn't distinguish as much as they might have been able to - between different types of texts and literature, but saw them all as a whole.

Although I'm not anxious to get into a discussion about Scriptural interpretation and literalism, I suppose a modern would see this medieval influence in the attempt, say, to make Genesis into a scientific textbook, or to take mythological or poetic sections in a literal way inconsistent with what is seen as the "true" tone of the text. Just for the record, I tend to take a more literalist - with extreme reservations about how that very word “literalist” itself is interpreted - view than most "modern" views of Scripture. But again, I'd rather not get into that sort of discussion here. That is a better topic for another thread in another forum. Suffice it (for my part anyway) to say that one could recognize the medieval influence in a literalist view of Scripture. That is certainly consistent with one part of what Lewis says of the medieval approach.

But what of the other side? Is there a likewise medieval influence in Scriptural interpretation that sees allegory even in what seem like straight historical narrative parts of Scripture? I think so - in fact the NT writers seem quite willing to do that very thing, obviously a practice that occurred long before the medieval period. Perhaps this was the initial influence on the medieval tendency? Just guessing.

In Lewis’ other works, this aspect might be reflected slightly in the revelation to Ransom in Perelandra that "it was not for nothing that you are named Ransom". Ransom thinks that he knows how the name came about as a contraction “Randolf's son”, but even such mundane "physical" explanations still have a metaphorical significance in the context of the story.

Lucan’s reference to the border of the orbit of the moon and its relation to medieval cosmology will be addressed in greater detail later in the book, so obvious connections to the Space Trilogy, particularly THS are probably better discussed then.

Lewis’ mention of his own theory that the three ghosts “laughed at the littleness of all those things that had seemed so important before they died; as we laugh, on waking, at the trifles or absurdities that loomed so large in our dreams”, is very much reflected in the ending of The Screwtape Letters when the patient dies and sees the true state of things from the “other side”.

--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 liriodendron » 12 May 2007, 00:44

The enchanting comments about Amyclas (of which I know nothing about firsthand - Lewis' references here are my only knowledge), remind me, oddly, of Puddleglum and his humble abode when the children first visit him (and indeed, his whole "casual" acceptance of his assignment to "ferry" the children in their task).


That's a good comparison, but in general their praise of the poor seems like the more modern concept of the Nobel Savage, and one of those things where the cultural man is willing to speak admiringly but would not actually want to be poor or live without civilization.

Ransom, I think, is unimpressed by Merlin not because he is poor but because he has more experience and a higher status than Merlin.



Thinking about allegories, I feel like I remember that medieval writers loved them and also did rather crazy allegories of Bible stories.

In general I wonder how they saw their allegories. Was Dante thinking, "This romance makes me think of how life progresses for a woman" (which I think would not at all be inappropiate) or did he actually believe that Lucan intended his story to have that meaning? Did he think that the story had a dual meaning or only the allegorical one?

The Biblical example that comes to mind is when Peter compares the flood and the ark to baptism and salvation. Did Peter concider the flood a piece of history that conveniently and incidently illustrated a spiritual concept or did he belive that the flood was engineered by God to reflect the spiritual reality?



I am finding it interesting that the late Romans and the Medievals had a better developed concept of what the afterlife looks like that we do. We really don't have much literature about what people do after they die.
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 14 May 2007, 14:52

liriodendron wrote:Ransom, I think, is unimpressed by Merlin not because he is poor but because he has more experience and a higher status than Merlin.


Perhaps, but it is true that Merlin is unimpressed and later mystified by Ransom's seeming poverty, dressed, as Merlin thinks, as a slave. Could it be more possibly related to the notion of those poor in appearance more easily recognize those things that are truly important and are not impressed with outward appearances?

Thinking about allegories, I feel like I remember that medieval writers loved them


Lewis certainly reaffirms this in TDI and in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature

In general I wonder how they saw their allegories.


I suspect they "separated" them from the more literal meaning much less than we would tend to do, though they would tend to use them more deliberately and more pervasively than we too.

And since Lewis considered himself to be a kind of Medieaval dinosaur with that mindset, that is perhaps why we find nearly all his writings to be so infused with deeper meaning and richness and symbolism even if it is in some cases less "accessible" as in, say, Till We Have Faces than in the Narnia books. It is almost as if that way of thinking is part of his very being and nothing he writes can escape from it.

I am finding it interesting that the late Romans and the Medievals had a better developed concept of what the afterlife looks like that we do. We really don't have much literature about what people do after they die.


And with that observation, isn't it interesting that Lewis, who, as the Medieval dinosaur mentioned above, shows us precisely that sort of thing in several of his works, most notably at the end of The Last Battle, and The Great Divorce, but also in The Screwtape Letters to some degree, a bit in The Silver Chair, and Perelandra (if only the darker side of Weston's "rind"), and perhaps to some degree (though more in visions) in Till We Have Faces

--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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