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6291Re: [mythsoc] Two questions

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  • David S. Bratman
    Aug 12, 2002
      Wendell, as the disproving of your proposed statements a, b, and c is the
      essence of what I was saying in 3 sentences, I'm not sure why you devoted
      (by my e-mail program's count) 10 KB to tell me the same thing.

      I've gone back and re-read your original post, and I still think my comment
      was worth making, and not "a pretty silly misinterpretation." In
      particular, I think your proposed statistical survey would not prove
      anything. There are too few writers of genius in any place and time to
      demonstrate that any trend is statistically significant. More importantly,
      they differ entirely in temperament and reaction to influences.

      If Shippey is correct, and Tolkien, Lewis, White, et al., wrote as they did
      at least partly in response to war trauma, it still does not at all
      necessarily follow that any other writers (let alone a statistically
      significant number) must have done the same thing. In other words, a
      statistical survey with a negative result would not disprove Shippey's
      hypothesis.

      And if a statistically significant number of writers did do as Shippey
      suggests, that does not prove that any given one of them did so for the
      reasons he suggests. If (let us suggest) the Jackson film appealed to
      audiences because it's an action film, that does not prove that I went to
      see it twice because I like action films (I don't).

      How then can Shippey's hypothesis be proved? By a counter-example
      scientific procedure, as you propose, it can't. Which is surely why
      Shippey did not claim to have proven anything, as Janet noted. It can only
      be judged probable on a case-by-case test: Here's a bunch of writers who
      all experienced this, and who all wrote this way, and here's the evidence
      (concrete resemblance between their fiction and the reality they
      experienced; comments they made about their fiction and why they wrote)
      that there's a connection. This is how evidentiary technique in literary
      criticism usually works. Shippey's arguments in this mode seemed
      satisfactory to me. Statistics about writers as a whole would add nothing
      to this.

      David Bratman
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