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From: "Alice Turner" <al@interport.net>
Subject: (urth) Jaynes and Wolfe
Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 19:46:36 

I think Mothman is really onto something here. Jaynes's book was published
in 1979 in the US and caused the most tremendous furor--it was a real
whoop-de-do. -Soldier of the Mist- was published in 1986. It seems to me
absolutely impossible that Wolfe, in researching these books, should not
have read it. And I do think that he borrowed what was useful to him from
Jaynes's thesis, not only for the Soldier books but for the relationship
between "gods" and men in BOTLS too--almost directly for the former. BOTLS
(which I admire more structurally with each contemplation--especially since
I don't think Wolfe was strong with structure up to that point) could be
read as Wolfe's attempt to integrate Jaynes with his (Wolfe's) new knowledge
of computers.

BTW, I don't posit that Wolfe actually *bought* the Jaynes thesis, which has
been pretty thoroughly scientifically pooh-poohed, but that it was awfully
useful to him as a novelist. Similarly, Martin Bernays's -Black Athena-,
which sent historians and archaeologists into fits of sarcasm and frothing
at the mouth, might be very useful to a writer like Crowley in his Aegypt

Here, picked almost randomly, are a couple of paragraphs from Jaynes:

"The characters of the Iliad do not sit down and think out what to do. they
have no conscious minds such as we say we have, and certainly no
introspections. It is impossible for us with our subjectivity to appreciate
what it was like. When Agamemnon, king of men, robs Achilles of his
mistress, it is a god that grabs Achilles by his yellow hair  and warns him
not to strike Agamemnon. It is a god who then rises out of the gray sea and
consoles him in his tears of wrath on the beach by his black ships, a god
who whispers low to Helen to sweep her heart with homesick longing, a god
who hides Paris in a mist in front of the attacking Menelaus, a god who
tells Glaucus to take bronze for gold, a god who leads he armies into
battle, who speaks to each soldier at the turning points, who debates and
tells Hector what he must do, who urges the soldiers on by casting them in
spells or drawing mists over their visual fields. It is the gods who start
quarrels among men that really cause the wars and then plan its
strategy...In fact the gods take the place of consciousness."

"Who were these gods that pushed men about like robots and sang epics
through their lips? They were voices whose speech and directions could be
heard as directly by the Iliadic heroes as voices are heard by certain
epileptic and schizophrenic patients, or just as Joan of Arc heard her
voices. The gods were organizations of the central nervous system and can be
regarded as personae in the sense of poignant consistencies through time,
amalgams of parental or admonitory images...The gods are what we now call
hallucinations. Usually they are only seen and heard by the particular
heroes they are speaking to...."

Etc. There's much more to it, on how crowds behave, for instance. Hey, kidz,
there's an academic thesis for one of you in this! Note that Jaynsean
material is entirely absent in everything Wolfe wrote prior to the Soldier
books, and informs everything he has written since.

Interesting, for instance, Silk's blind faith in his Outsider, Mint's bowing
to the will of the god. Contrast with Hamlet's caution re the authenticity
of the Ghost--which he actually saw. Hamlet is a modern man, Silk and Mint
and Latro are archaic. (In my opinion, Wolfe is much, much better with the
archaic than when he attempts to be modern, but that, O Best Beloved, is
another story.) And Latro's and Auk's head wounds.

Thanks, Mothman, this was fun.


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

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