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From: "Alex David Groce" <adgroce@eos.ncsu.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) Wolfe's textual Catholicism
Date: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 12:15:16 

On Apr 25,  7:29am, Nicholas Gevers wrote:
> Subject: (urth) Wolfe's textual Catholicism
> In response to Ori Kowarsky's interesting and emphatic recent posting,
> denying any necessary religious reading of Wolfe's work:
> Certainly many different interpretations of Wolfe, religious or
> secular, are sustainable; but some difficulties arise with an
> insistently secular approach:
> 1) Wolfe's known Catholicism is ignored: the major flaw in Peter
> Wright's Wolfe articles.
> 2) The logic I've cited previously is ignored: as a Catholic writer,
> Wolfe feels free to be very catholic in his deployment of literary and
> symbolic materials. As Catholic missionaries have done over centuries
> - incorporating "foreign" rituals, beliefs, and philosophies into the
> Christian mix as additional masks that God may wear - so Wolfe adopts
> Darwinian, Hindu, and other components into his texts, as conveniences
> of garb, serving the still Christian purposes of God and author. In
> the process, the "foreign" elements serve Christianity, and so are
> deprived of their original, non-Christian force. This is the essence
> of parody, the literary technique at which Wolfe excels: the borrowing
> of cultural forms in order to use them in capacities utterly opposed
> to their customary ones.
> 3) The secular emphasis ignores the PROCESSES of religious belief: in
> particular, Faith. Expanding a point made in my posting of a couple of
> days ago: I recently remarked to Peter Cash that Wolfe's texts are, in
> a lit-crit sense, analogues of Faith: that is, they show us a world of
> apparent darkness, of countless clashing signs, but a subtle divine
> pattern is there to be discerned if we are willing (and able); this is
> how one comes to Faith. This is not easy: one can spend many years
> teasing out Wolfe's meanings; and Wolfe, a deeply perverse writer,
> presents us with apparent paradoxes, such as a creator God who is
> willing to remake the world (Urth) by exterminating its people, whom
> He made in the first place. But Catholicism has always been capable of
> perversity, and of reflecting the cruelties of the Christian concept
> (martyrs, the Inquisition, etc.)

	Or to put it differently, Wolfe reflects the paradoxes of the God of
the Cross.  It's not that it's impossible to interpret BOTNS in a purely
materialistic light, as a commentary on colonialism or what-not, but it's
surely ignoring the form and patterns of many of the events.  When an avowedly
Catholic writer writes a book that contains what are clearly versions of events
portrayed in the Gospels, and even titles the first chapter "Death and
Resurrection," surely the burden of proof in offering convincing
interpretations is in the lap of purely secular readings.  It is a case, in
part, of "separating what you want to see from what is actually there."  But if
there's a strong indication the author wanted it to be there too, that does
tend to create "more privileged" readings.  Joyce's ULYSSES could be read
without examining the parody of the Odyssey, but it probably isn't the
preferred way of looking at it.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." - John 8:32
Alex David Groce (adgroce@eos.ncsu.edu)
Senior (Computer Science/Multidisciplinary Studies in Technology & Fiction)
'98-99 NCSU AITP Student Chapter President
608 Charleston Road, Apt. 1E (919)-233-7366

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

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