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From: "Alice K. Turner" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Generic Considerations
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2003 09:47:09 -0400

From: "Tami Whitehead" 

> > That's the point.  Wolfe puts puzzles in to show
> > that _the meaning
> > is in the text_.  He believes very strongly in the
> > truth of a text.
> > The Truth.  The Text.  If the truth-value of every
> > text is radically
> > indeterminate, why believe?
> >
> >  >--Blattid
> >
> I rarely poke my head out, but have to agree with
> Blattid, that Wolfe does indeed use puzzles and other
> 'tricks' to illustrate this deeply held conviction of
> the Truth of the Text.
> In the discussion of other authors, I didn't see
> Robert Graves addressed, but his viewpoint was
> similar, and to an extent broader, in that in included
> Truth in Texts not only of his novels and poetry, but
> how he read other works, particularly those dealing
> with ancient history or classical mythology. His take
> on myth and history was contested largely by those who
> take the 'social construction' theory--what the group
> agrees upon as the interpretation is more valid than
> what the writer was intending to convey, or worse,
> that what the writer was trying to convey is
> meaningless until and unless we as a society give it
> meaning, or worth. Any interpretation is suspect until
> ratified by a formless, shifting gerrymander type
> group. Bleh!
> Paricularly in the Soldier books, Graves' influence on
> Wolfe's work is 'in your face.' Arcane practices are
> given a practical interpretation, names and words are
> misused in the way they were misused *at the time*
> illustrating just how misconceptions arose, and
> outright manipulation of the facts and propanganda
> machines of the Spartans and Persians take care of the
> rest. Wolfe clearly has seen past the 'psychological
> manifest' of the contemporary interpratation of myth
> and history, making it not the dry study of Xenophon
> and his horsemanship, nor a couch trip of social
> psycho-analysis, but a living and breathing Life that
> was Lived by Real People, complete with gods and
> goddesses and wights and all manner of beasties that,
> not as a type of zeitgeist, but as real entities with
> their own agendas, lived in the world with men.
> So. An exercise in critical thought? A longing for the
> return of impassioned scholarship? I have no way of
> knowing why Wolfe feels this strongly and demostrates
> this feeling in his works, but there it is. And I am
> tickled to death that he does so, that his worlds are
> complete and intact and completely open to us, if we
> only look. Bless his pea-pickin' heart.
> razorkittee

This is from the FAQ of alt.mythology. I wrote it. Don't subscribe to
alt.mythology; it has been hijacked by thugs. I could not be sorrier to say
so; it was once an enchanting newsgroup.


Robert Graves (1895 - 1985)Graves, a considerable poet, essayist and
novelist, wrote two books that have had a great influence on the modern
study of mythology. The first is The Greek Myths, published sometimes in two
volumes, also, more usefully, in one. This is probably the handiest
reference guide to any mythology ever compiled.* (It is not the one to get
if you just "want the story.") Graves, also a learned classicist, in effect
invented a form of hypertext for the printed page many decades before html
was ever dreamed of. The brief chapters are first divided into alphabetized
paragraphs which tell all or part of a myth (subsequent chapters continue
it). Each paragraph is end-noted to its source(s) from Greece or Rome (Roman
authors are sourced, but only Greek mythology is considered). Following
that, brief numbered paragraphs give Graves's explanations and
interpretations of the text. At the end of the book is an index of names,
giving pronunciation, translation of meaning (when applicable) and all
citations. Hebrew Myths, written with Raphael Patai, uses the same
wonderfully flexible format, but can't be said to be so influential,
possibly because the Bible, for many people, is inadmissible as mythology.
Graves's other big book, The White Goddess, may be the most eccentric
non-fictional work ever written by a classicist. Its influence on the
popular perception of mythology, both Greek and Northern European, has been
enormous, not necessarily a good thing, but certainly an interesting one.
The book has been hard-wired into 20th-century cultural history despite
being almost entirely romantic (or poetic) personal theory. Its theories
underwrite modern neo-paganism, and, even more, have promoted or anointed
the concept of the Triple Goddess to a point past common sense--and
scholarly protest. Otherwise hardheaded people, with a nose for hokum, can
love The White Goddess--its charms are many--without necessarily embracing
it, or is that her? Beware, she's dangerous.

A number of Graves's novels may be of interest to alt.mythology readers:
Hercules, My Shipmate; Homer's Daughter; King Jesus; his translation of
Apuleis's Latin novel The Golden Ass; and the two non-mythological novels
about the Emperor Claudius that are the basis for TV's great mini-series,
"I, Claudius."

* If you know how to read it, that is. It is important, but easy, to learn
how to read Graves as a solid reference tool. Take all the alphabetized
material, the footnotes and the index as gospel -- he's completely reliable
there. Take the numbered material (the interpretations) with a great big
pinch of salt (remembering, however, that he was a learned, cultured and
well-traveled man, also that he respected the reader enough to keep his
opinions separate from the facts). Keep in mind that the poetic mind does
not work quite as other minds do. If you doubt that, read The White Goddess.


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