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From: "Alex David Groce" <adgroce@eos.ncsu.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) Are TBOTNS and UOTNS Christian Texts?
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 11:12:03 

On Apr 29,  9:49am, Michael Straight wrote:
> Subject: Re: (urth) Are TBOTNS and UOTNS Christian Texts?
> 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.
> -Rostrum

	Partial agreement on my part, but very partial if you mean what you
seem to mean; sure, Wolfe is a modernist, and almost all of his major works
are, to some extent, metafictional commentaries on the stories that shape
fiction.  However, Wolfe's metafictions strongly imply that to a great extent
our lives, in "reality," are shaped by stories--this is certainly his stance in
his nonfiction.  So, to say that Wolfe is a modernist does not imply that
reading metaphysical and religious implications into his works is off-base.
After all, T. S. Eliot is rather THE modernist, but to suggest that because
they are (A) reworkings of numerous themes from other sources and (B)
commentaries on the art of poetry doesn't mean that THE WASTE LAND and FOUR
QUARTETS have no religious or metaphysical implications. 
	I would argue that any commentary on the nature of "story" or "art" is,
by necessity, a commentary on the nature of the real world as well.  Wolfe
clearly worked hard to build a consistent and plausible world for Severian and
his attendant texts to move in.  It's hardly futile to argue about the meanings
or the science-fictional details of that well-built world.
"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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