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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) Are TBOTNS and UOTNS Christian Texts?
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 09:49:59 

Heh.  The reply I was working on to Ori has been made redundant by
Jonathan Laidlow who summed up what I was trying to say with this: 

> So, the discussion over whether Christianity every existed on Urth is 
> to me, a non-starter. Urth is never presented as a literal 
> continuation of Earth history, but a post-historical, mythological 
> point where Earth's stories retell themselves in exciting ways.

So I'll just add a few minor observations.

On Wed, 28 Apr 1999, Ori Kowarsky wrote:

> Take a look at the works of C.S. Lewis, for example;  on the one hand the
> "Narnia" series is theoretically supposed to be a young person's primer on
> Christian belief;  on the other hand, whenever the Narnia kids get into
> trouble they don't call on Christ but on a *talking lion*.  I guess you can
> call it the Golden Calf Syndrome;  the metaphor is always at risk of being
> mistaken for what it is meant to represent.  This is also called idolotry.
> I think that Gene Wolfe attempted to tackle this thorny theological problem
> in UOTNS.  Tzad, on the seat of judgement, says of his "adventures" with
> Sev:

Lewis, unlike Wolfe, was writing a sort of "literal continuation of Earth
history" with the Narnia and Space Trilogy books.  The books speculate
"What if there were other worlds?  Given what Christians believe, how
might God interact with them?"  Aslan is not a metaphor for Jesus, he IS
the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate as a lion.  He does not die for
Narnia as a sneaky way of retelling the story of Jesus, Aslan dies for
Narnia because Lewis thought that was how God would redeem a world of
talking animals.  (I think Lewis must have realized that this implies a
heretical view of the incarnation because his speculations are more
sophisticated and more orthodox in the Space Trilogy.)

I don't think "metaphor" or "allegory" either one describe very well what
Wolfe is doing.   I think Jonathan's description is much better.

> "[speaking of the Conciliator] Would they not have wished to walk with him,
> if they could?  Stand beside him when he was in danger?  Care for him,
> perhaps, when he was ill?  I have been such an acylote, in a creation now
> vanished.  In that too there was a Conciliator and a New Sun, though we did
> not use those names."

I think this passage is a wink at the reader, Wolfe acknowledging that
Severian plays a role similar to that of Jesus (and perhaps that Tzad
plays a role similar to the angels who ministered to him).  TBOTNS is a
story alluding to the story of Jesus and to other stories.  To try to
place Jesus within TBOTNS is a category mistake. 

> Now, I'm guessing that in a Catholic interpretation of TBOTNS, this
> would serve to distinguish *our* universe -- in which Jesus existed and
> the future will play out according to certain prophesies -- and Sev's
> universe, which, I am disappointed to discover five books into the
> story, is not ours at all.

I hate to break this to you Ori, but not only is TBOTNS not our universe,
I'm pretty sure Wolfe made the whole thing up.

Seriously, Wolfe's playful appendicies where he talks about translating a
manuscript from the future are a kind of parody of the attempt to fit
Wolfe's story into our world's history.  They serve to highlight the fact
that Urth is a fiction, that this is a story about stories.  Again see
Jonathan's post for a better explanation.


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

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