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Subject: Ursula LeGuin's comments on the upcoming Earthsea series

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  • Katie Glick
    Wow, I can t believe that guy actually said something like that. Especially because LeGuin hasn t been shy in the past about speaking up to criticize things
    Message 1 of 10 , Nov 24, 2004
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      Wow, I can't believe that guy actually said something like that.
      Especially because LeGuin hasn't been shy in the past about speaking
      up to criticize things she doesn't like. That's practically inviting
      an attack. This is something that has always been a pet peeve of mine,
      even in literature classes I took in school: when people presume to
      know what the author of a book intended just by reading the book
      itself.

      I'm sorry, but unless you show me a piece of writing written by the
      author of the book stating that a particular thing in the book meant a
      certain thing, then that is just your interpretation of it, not the
      written-in-stone truth of what it "means". I used to get into endless
      arguments with a high school english teacher who would teach books by
      going through chapter by chapter and telling us what everything
      "meant," instead of letting us all discuss and offer different
      interpretations.

      She would go something like this: "This part where he slips on the
      peanuts symbolizes the dangers of the outside would. This character is
      a metaphor for Jesus. The turtle symbolizes starvation. Here, the
      character falls to the ground with his arms outstretched. This echoes
      the crucifixion, so this character is a metaphor for Jesus. ..."
      (Every book we read had a character that represented Jesus). If you
      ever tried to disagree and offer a different interpretation, she would
      basically say that you were wrong because she had a college education
      and we were only in high school and not educated yet. There was a girl
      who professed dislike in Emily Dickinson's poems one time and the
      teacher actually said "Well, that just shows how ignorant you are,
      because any person who is properly educated will like Emily
      Dickinson?" Excuse me? I happen to love Dickinson, but that doesn't
      mean I presume to think everybody else does, and if they don't, it's
      because they are uneducated.

      Literature is not just something to be dissected for technical merit
      and then weighed and classified accordingly. It's something that
      people also enjoy on an emotional and spiritual level. Even someone
      who had never been to school and was illiterate could have a piece of
      literature read to them and have thoughts and feelings about it that
      are valid, even though they come from a different place than someone
      with a Ph.D in literature. And between both of them, neither of them
      can presume to know what was in the author's head because they are not
      the author.

      The part where I would get most frustrated was that this teacher was
      so sure she knew exactly what everything in every book "meant." And I
      would ask, "How do you know? Did the author tell you? Is there an
      essay he/she wrote on this? Why are you so sure this is the one exact
      meaning that the author intended?" She could never answer
      satisfactorily but I suspect the answer was that she "knew" because a
      college professor had told her, or that she had read it in another
      person's literary criticism of the book. I am all for interpreting
      books in interesting ways, and drawing symbolism, metaphor,
      characterization, and themes and universal messages from the book. But
      unless the author has told you or has written about those subjects for
      the book themselves, you can't presume to know that's what they meant
      and you can't close yourself off to differing interpretations and
      other insights. The most you can say is "most leading scholars feel
      that this represents ..." or "I believe this means X because ..."

      Anyway, I think it's hugely presumptuous when discussing the film you
      are making of a book by a living author whom you never consulted when
      making the film to say "well, she's trying to say this with the book."
      Especially when this guy sounds so ... well, dumb. "spirituality vs.
      paganism?" How completely insulting ... since when are spirituality
      and paganism two different things? I'm not a pagan, but I would be
      pretty insulted if I were to hear something like that.

      Anyway--wow--this guy deserved the tongue-lashing he got in my
      opinion. And this turned into a rant that had not much to do with the
      original subject, but it's something that bothers me that I don't
      often find the forum to discuss it in.

      -kt
    • Stolzi
      ... From: Katie Glick ... I had such an awful teacher like that... Plus, she was so =flat=. An instance I have never forgotten: she had
      Message 2 of 10 , Nov 24, 2004
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Katie Glick" <ktglick@...>

        > I used to get into endless
        > arguments with a high school english teacher who would teach books by
        > going through chapter by chapter and telling us what everything
        > "meant," instead of letting us all discuss and offer different
        > interpretations.
        >

        I had such an awful teacher like that... Plus, she was so =flat=. An
        instance I have never forgotten: she had us read Housman's brief lyric
        "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now.."

        Oh heck, I'll give ya the whole thing:


        LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
        Is hung with bloom along the bough,
        And stands about the woodland ride
        Wearing white for Eastertide.

        Now, of my threescore years and ten,
        Twenty will not come again,
        And take from seventy springs a score,
        It only leaves me fifty more.

        And since to look at things in bloom
        Fifty springs are little room,
        About the woodlands I will go
        To see the cherry hung with snow.

        This "means," Miss O. explained: "Don't wait to get a job until you're
        forty."


        Diamond Proudbrook
      • David Bratman
        Katie, my high-school literature teachers were not quite as virulent as yours, but they were bad enough that I wrote a paper consisting of a protest against
        Message 3 of 10 , Nov 24, 2004
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          Katie, my high-school literature teachers were not quite as virulent as
          yours, but they were bad enough that I wrote a paper consisting of a
          protest against treating literature as a giant "Search for the Hidden
          Meanings" game. My teacher did not like having her assumptions challenged,
          and retorted by giving me an F. I left the class and have never taken
          another class from an English Department, high school or college, since.
          (Yes, my college had a freshman comp requirement, but there were other ways
          to handle that.)

          A more wily instructor than yours could have responded to your question,
          "But how do you know the author intended that?", by claiming that the
          author's conscious intentions are irrelevant to the True Hidden Meanings,
          which are planted by the subconscious in accordance with the terms of
          Freudian or Jungian or whatever form of psychology is in at the moment.

          David Bratman
        • alexeik@aol.com
          In a message dated 11/25/4 3:05:25 AM, Diamond wrote:
          Message 4 of 10 , Nov 25, 2004
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            In a message dated 11/25/4 3:05:25 AM, Diamond wrote:

            << An

            instance I have never forgotten: she had us read Housman's brief lyric

            "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now.."


            Oh heck, I'll give ya the whole thing:>>

            By the way, for those who haven't read John Crowley's _The Translator_, his
            poet-protagonist is made to give a truly beautiful interpretation of that very
            poem in the context of a poetry class.
            Alexei
          • Lisa Deutsch Harrigan
            My Shakespeare teacher in high school said Question Authority and meant it. We discussed and questioned and argued and joked about every aspect of the
            Message 5 of 10 , Nov 29, 2004
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              My Shakespeare teacher in high school said "Question Authority" and
              meant it. We discussed and questioned and argued and joked about every
              aspect of the Shakespeare plays we read.

              He told us to bring in our own copies of the plays, so that we could
              make notes all over the plays themselves rather than on separate sheets
              of paper. When I brought in the All-in-one Collection from my mother's
              college days, with her notes already inside, he proclaimed "If you find
              anything interesting or contradictory, let me know." Occassionally, he'd
              look over to me and specifically ask "What did your mother's teacher say
              about that?"

              If we took a different interpretation on a bit of play, and he liked it
              he would give us a penny, technically for helping him with his job, but
              it was really for thinking outside the box. I once earned a whole nickel
              for a particularly good bit!

              He called Richard the Second, "Snooky Two", because his brother Richard
              was nicknamed Snooky. It went sideways from there.

              And the puns flew with great regularity. This was a man who loved his
              subject and wasn't afraid to test or expand his knowledge, even from
              high school kids.

              I still love Shakespeare as a result.

              Mythically yours,
              Lisa
            • Lisa Deutsch Harrigan
              Astrid Anderson was in a college lit class, and the professor was blathering about the deep meaning of a Science Fiction short story (I believe by Robert
              Message 6 of 10 , Nov 29, 2004
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                Astrid Anderson was in a college lit class, and the professor was
                blathering about the deep meaning of a Science Fiction short story (I
                believe by Robert Silverberg). Astrid came in the next day telling the
                teacher he was wrong, that Bob had dashed off the story because he
                needed rent money and had not given much deep thought at all into
                writing it. The teacher stared down at here and asked her what made her
                the authority and she answered "Well, he was over for dinner last night
                and I asked him." The teacher finally realized Astrid was related to
                Poul. (Astrid told me the story years ago, so full details are now
                fuzzy, but the story is true.)

                And the Rocky Raccoon Story. Steve Wozniak (founder of Apple), decided
                to go back to school and get the BS he didn't complete because work at
                Apple had gotten too hectic. He did this under the name of RR since he
                would be taking computer classes and he didn't want to intimidate the
                teachers. He had to take an Economics course and the Teacher blathered
                on about how the Guys who Founded Apple had done great market studies
                and much planning before they came out with the first Apple. Woz really
                ducked hard during the lecture. After he finished the course, he then
                went to the teacher, advised the teacher who he really was, and informed
                him that they hadn't planned ANYTHING. They just built the computer they
                wanted to buy. They were still winging it, building what they want to
                buy, but they made it look more professional.

                *sigh*

                Mythically yours,
                Lisa
              • David Bratman
                ... Yes, that sounds delightful. I had a high-school history teacher who was that good, and a good English comp teacher, but not in literature. I learned to
                Message 7 of 10 , Nov 30, 2004
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                  At 07:22 PM 11/29/2004 -0800, Lisa Deutsch Harrigan wrote:
                  >
                  >My Shakespeare teacher in high school said "Question Authority" and
                  >meant it. We discussed and questioned and argued and joked about every
                  >aspect of the Shakespeare plays we read.

                  Yes, that sounds delightful. I had a high-school history teacher who was
                  that good, and a good English comp teacher, but not in literature.

                  I learned to love Shakespeare by reading a lot of English history and going
                  to performances of the plays.
                • David Bratman
                  ... I can confirm hearing this story also. I recall, however, that she was in grade school at the time. On the other hand, Isaac Asimov recounted telling a
                  Message 8 of 10 , Nov 30, 2004
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                    At 07:38 PM 11/29/2004 -0800, Lisa Deutsch Harrigan wrote:

                    >Astrid Anderson was in a college lit class,

                    I can confirm hearing this story also. I recall, however, that she was in
                    grade school at the time.

                    On the other hand, Isaac Asimov recounted telling a professor that nothing
                    of what the prof. had said about an Asimov story was in the author's mind
                    at the time he wrote it. And the prof replied, "Just because you wrote the
                    story, what makes you think you know anything about it?"

                    To which the answer should be, that he knows what the author intended, and
                    that ain't peanuts.

                    There is more to any good story than what the author consciously put in,
                    but that doesn't mean that anything that one finds in a story is
                    necessarily "there" in any meaningful sense. One's thought about a fat
                    novel could be, "This'll make a great doorstop," and it may even be true,
                    but surely that doesn't say anything meaningful about the contents except
                    "it's long" which you knew already.
                  • jamcconney@aol.com
                    I learned to love Shakespeare by reading a lot of English history and going to performances of the plays. Yes, there s nothing like seeing a good
                    Message 9 of 10 , Nov 30, 2004
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                      I learned to love Shakespeare by reading a lot of English history and going
                      to performances of the plays.



                      Yes, there's nothing like seeing a good performance. I'm an English major
                      and of course I'd read Hamlet many times--but the reall eye-opener for me was
                      seeing Branaugh's full 4-hour version on television.

                      I thought I OUGHT to see it, didn't think I could spare four hours (and I'm
                      not really a big fan of Branaugh either) so I thought I would dip in for a few
                      minutes "just to see how they're going to handle the setting."

                      Well, needless to say, for four hours I sat there absolutely mesmerized.
                      Never second guess the Bard! The story moved faster than any cut-down version
                      I've ever seen and the plot was crystal clear. Even the Player-King's speech (so
                      dull on the page) functioned just as it did in Shgakespeare's day--as an
                      oration designed to give an aging player (Charlton Heston in this case) a chance
                      to chew a little scenery.

                      Of course part of the fun was spotting the celebrity cameos too....

                      Anne


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • dianejoy@earthlink.net
                      I ve also had great teachers: one in history (college) and one in English (high school)who took us to see the film of *Romeo and Juliet* (Leonard Whiting and
                      Message 10 of 10 , Dec 1, 2004
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                        I've also had great teachers: one in history (college) and one in English
                        (high school)who took us to see the film of *Romeo and Juliet* (Leonard
                        Whiting and Olivia Hussey), and some very good ones. For the most part,
                        most teachers have been fine, but you either recall the really rotten ones,
                        or the very good ones.

                        Shakespeare must be *seen* to be appreciated fully. ---djb

                        Original Message:
                        -----------------
                        From: David Bratman dbratman@...
                        Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 07:36:56 -0800
                        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                        Subject: [mythsoc] Re: I was Lucky !



                        At 07:22 PM 11/29/2004 -0800, Lisa Deutsch Harrigan wrote:
                        >
                        >My Shakespeare teacher in high school said "Question Authority" and
                        >meant it. We discussed and questioned and argued and joked about every
                        >aspect of the Shakespeare plays we read.

                        Yes, that sounds delightful. I had a high-school history teacher who was
                        that good, and a good English comp teacher, but not in literature.

                        I learned to love Shakespeare by reading a lot of English history and going
                        to performances of the plays.





                        The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
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