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From: adam louis stephanides <astephan@students.uiuc.edu>
Subject: (urth) Severian's lacunae
Date: Sun, 21 Jun 1998 13:46:41 

There were some very interesting responses on the subject of Severian's
reticence, as I called it.  I like Peter Stephenson's interpretation of
this as Severian pigeonholing people, especially women, and wanting them
to behave according to the categories he's put them into.  This might
connect to his habit of dropping wise-sounding little apothegms into his
narrative (which often contradict each other, especially on the subject of
love and desire).

I can't go along with the idea that the examples I gave were just a
stylistic choice.  In some cases, Severian's delayed revelations can be
explained in this way (e. g. the end of his encounter with Cyriaca;
perhaps the delayed revelation that in the opening fight in the necropolis
Severian killed a man).  But the examples I gave violate the norms of
narration too severely to be just a stylistic variation.  In the case of
the Severian-Thecla relationship, all but the most suspicious reader will
go quite a long time believing that Severian's original portrayal of the
relationship was accurate (the first unambiguous indication that they
were lovers I found was in Claw, ch. 8).  For the examples I gave
regarding Dorcas (the Dorcas-Jolenta relationship and Severian's jealousy
thereof; Dorcas's remark about the Erinyes) it's even worse:
Severian gives us enough information to show that his original portrayal
was misleading, but not enough to let us know what the actual situation

I also disagree with Neal Smith's explanation that Severian only includes
details when they're relevant to the actions of himself or others.
Severian includes a lot of details that are not relevant in that sense; as
Peter Wright has pointed out, he's a very digressive narrator.  And he
discusses his emotions at times even when they don't affect his actions:
e.g. at the start of Shadow, ch. 13.  And of course, his making love to
Thecla is an action, and one that's very important to his story.

Finally, Dan'l Danehy-Oakes's theory that because Severian has a perfect
memory he sometimes gets so absorbed in the past that he simply forgets he
hasn't already told us important information doesn't convince me, although
I'm not clear as to how his perfect memory works, if in fact it exists.
Besides, it's hard to see how as he relives his life he could simply
"forget" to recount such an important event as his first sexual encounter
with Thecla.

Still, I don't think that the final word on Severian's lacunae has been
uttered.  As I suggested in a previous post, my current feeling is that a
closer analysis of Severian's narrative technique would be extremely
helpful in understanding BotNS.


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

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