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Ch 3d: pp 34-40

For the Medieval Dinosaur in all of us.

Ch 3d: pp 34-40

Postby Stanley Anderson » 18 May 2007, 14:28

(All of section C “Statius, Claudian, and the Lady “Natura” -- Nine paragraphs beginning with "Statius, whose Thebaid..." and ending with "...underwent an apotheosis.")

This section talks primarily about the personification of Nature in Medieval literature and its curious importance in relation to the sparseness of classical references. I like Lewis’ analysis of this situation which is not unlike his condemnation of the degradation of the word Christian to mean a fine person who tries hard instead of the specific criteria that defines a Christian.. It becomes essentially a useless word under these conditions. And this is what he says about the “all-inclusive” pantheistic idea of Nature – what can you say about it? Or as he so nicely puts it, “for everything is not a subject about which anything of much interest can be said”.

But when Nature becomes a subordinate creature, all sorts of interesting personifications and personalities can arise. Lewis himself does so to some degree and very interestingly in at least a couple places. We see something of this in the “pagan gods” section of Prince Caspian where he emphasizes the subordination part by having Susan (was it?) say that she would not feel quite safe if Aslan were not around. There is also the woman in Jane’s room at St. Annes who, while not exactly “nature” is still a sort of wild manifestation of the idea, I think. And again, it is the divorce from Maleldil’s will that causes the frightening wildness and chaos of the creature.

The last paragraph of the section is short and somewhat unconnected to the earlier part (and indeed Lewis suggests that the uninterested merely skip past it). But I do have one thought, applicable or not, that runs through my head upon reading the last sentence,” This is perhaps the only time a scribal blunder underwent an apotheosis.” I can’t help but associate the whole of Till We Have Faces with this idea. It doesn’t quite fit, and yet, there is something about Orual’s “blunder” in forcing Psyche to do what she was not suppose to do that resulted in a sort of double apotheosis with Orual and Psyche in their dreamlike “blending” near the end. I almost feel like this could have been on Lewis’ mind when he wrote TWHF.

--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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3d

Postby liriodendron » 19 May 2007, 02:36

I had a hard time with Lewis' discussion about nature as ‘all’ and ‘part’. I think it would help if I had read some of the Medieval examples he listed and also could visualize better how the classic Romans saw nature. I suppose Lewis' whole argument is to show why 'Nature' was so much more interesting to the Medievals than to the Romans since the Medievals saw nature as a creation and not a aspect of God.

Or as he so nicely puts it, “for everything is not a subject about which anything of much interest can be said”.
The irreverent thing that did occur to me as I read this paragraph was that the struggle between good and evil is more interesting than a God who is in total control of everything through predestination. Regardless of which is true or more comforting, the first is more engaging. It's sort of like how some authors make Satan more interesting than God.


There is also the woman in Jane’s room at St. Annes who, while not exactly “nature” is still a sort of wild manifestation of the idea, I think. And again, it is the divorce from Maleldil’s will that causes the frightening wildness and chaos of the creature.
I still don't understand this scene in THS. I guess she is the earth's Aphrodite who has been gradually corrupting since the devil's fall. (I say gradually because of Ransom's comments that in Merlin's day there might still have been things that had not polarized to good or evil.) But Hera is nature, not Aphrodite.
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3d

Postby liriodendron » 19 May 2007, 02:36

Accidental double post.
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Re: 3d

Postby Stanley Anderson » 21 May 2007, 14:50

liriodendron wrote:
Or as he so nicely puts it, “for everything is not a subject about which anything of much interest can be said”.
The irreverent thing that did occur to me as I read this paragraph was that the struggle between good and evil is more interesting than a God who is in total control of everything through predestination.


Though the mere idea of a "struggle" sort of implies a story teller sitting "above", or in control of the struggle in order to see it as such.

Regardless of which is true or more comforting, the first is more engaging. It's sort of like how some authors make Satan more interesting than God


Or perhaps more to the point, we notice that in the Old Testament God can only refer to himself as "I am" as a sort of "what more can I say about my all-encompassing self than that?" as Lewis points out in the quote above. But then notice how much Scripture and our whole subsequent history and literature have to say about the second person of the Trinity who has the more "limited" (I use this term cautiously of course) Man-nature to have things be "about" him.

There is also the woman in Jane’s room at St. Annes who, while not exactly “nature” is still a sort of wild manifestation of the idea, I think. And again, it is the divorce from Maleldil’s will that causes the frightening wildness and chaos of the creature.
I still don't understand this scene in THS. I guess she is the earth's Aphrodite who has been gradually corrupting since the devil's fall. (I say gradually because of Ransom's comments that in Merlin's day there might still have been things that had not polarized to good or evil.) But Hera is nature, not Aphrodite.


As Ransom (I think -- or it may have been one of the company at St. Annes during a discussion there) describes, it is a sort of earthly emanation or reflection of Perelandra (Venus) -- he says that all the gods or Oyeresu have similar "reflections" and that the Greek and Roman gods of mythology are similar manifestations. One might almost think of them as sort of like incomplete holograms (though of course holograms didn't exist in Lewis' day.)

--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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