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From: Jim Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) The Castle & Wolfe's Christianity
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 1997 00:43:04 

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

At 12:33 PM 6/24/97 -0500, you wrote:
>I guess my reaction was partly driven by the fact that people seem to be
>too quick to find Christian associations for symbols in Wolfe's work,
>just because they know he's Catholic. I do think that a _lot_ of the
>symbols have their source in Wolfe's Catholic education (as well as his
>catholic one), but that doesn't make them Christian. In fact, they often
>occur in a setting that suggests a conflation of Christianity and
>paganism. For example, if the Castle has the aspects of a Church, then
>this is more than a little troubling, for it also has overpoweringly
>pagan attributes. Is Wolfe saying that Christianity is only one of many
>ways to perceive the truth? If so, then he's deviated from Catholic
>doctrine (as well as anything that can be called mainstream Christian
>It might be profitable to contrast Wolfe with C. S. Lewis. Lewis wrote
>what I would call Christian fantasy--his stories take place in a world
>where the Christian beliefs are demonstrably true, or--in the case of
>his Narnia books--where Christianity is presented allegorically. Wolfe
>does neither; I would say that Wolfe does not write about Christianity
>at all, he writes about Paganism. (There's one exception I can think of
>to this--"The Detective of Dreams". That's Christian writing.) Wolfe's
>Christianity manifests itself indirectly, in that he often shows the
>Pagan world in a dim light. 
>Ah, I write in haste. Perhaps I can make this clearer at some other
>time. (First, I'll have to make it clearer to myself.)

	I think you are largely right. Wolfe tends to write horror stories, and
thus writes critically of things he regards as destructive to human life. I
think the way to take the conflation of Christianity and paganism in some
of his writings is fairly simple: He is attacking idolatry. Idolatry is
both false and partial. As false, is offers a simplistic and destructive
hope. As partial, it has part of the truth and may open a door to more of
it. Christianity, in his view, absorbs the good parts of paganism. Thus,
from this kind of perspective, I don't have a problem with a mixed image
such as one seems to find in Castleview.

	Maybe that helps.


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