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From: Peter Stephenson <pws@ifh.de>
Subject: (urth) Severian/Faust
Date: Fri, 13 Mar 1998 10:14:50 +0100

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

m.driussi@genie.geis.com wrote:
> Re: Severian as Faustian when tempted by the undine who quotes
> Marlow.  Please say more--which temptation are you thinking of?  The
> dream scene?  The sandbar scene?

The latter.  I was a bit glib, so I've looked it up, in chapter XXVIII
of Claw, `The Odalisque of Abaia'.  The undine tempts Severian to join
her under the water for largely unnamed delights, and he is about to
step in --- his motivation is not really clear to me: `I wanted to
believe her, to go with her, as a drowning man wants to gasp air' ---
when Dorcas wakes up and the undine disappears.

A couple of pages later, during the ensuing conversation, Severian
flicks through the brown book and finds "Hell has no limits, nor is
circumscribed; for where we are is Hell, and where Hell is, there must
we ever be."  This is almost verbatim from Mephistopheles' remark to
Faustus in Marlowe's Dr Faustus (actually, I remember "Hell hath no
limits, nor is circumscribed in one self place..."): Faustus has asked
him, if you're all confined in Hell, how come you're here? and this is
part of the response.  Faustus evidently hasn't really got the point
since his own reply largely adds up to `oh, that's not so bad, then.'

Given whose name is on the cover of Claw, this presumably has some
significance at this point.  Is Severian being tempted into a Faustian
pact (which takes different forms in different tellings of the Faust
legend)?  Is the undine Mephistopheles?  Is she, perhaps more likely,
Helen, as conjured up in Marlowe's version up to tempt Faustus (``was
this the face that launched a thousand ships'', etc.)?

With Wolfe you seem to need some analogue of the `Seven Principles of
Governance' from Shadow, say Principles of Association, in which case
the Faustus quotation would be of the first kind, `Direct association
with the body of the text', and the relationship with the undine of a
higher kind, `Association conceived of as including but not limited to
a reference to some or all of the immediately preceeding or following
occurrences'.  This second kind is rather more typical.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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