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Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia against Pullman

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  • David Bratman
    So ... when Jesus said, Love your neighbor as yourself, Pullman thinks he means, Practice eros with your neighbor ? Wouldn t that be a violation of a
    Message 1 of 18 , Dec 2, 2005
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      So ... when Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," Pullman thinks he means, "Practice eros with your neighbor"? Wouldn't that be a violation of a Commandment or two? What does Pullman think "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" means?

      This seems an insane interpretation of Pullman, and yet ... for any broader meaning of the word "love" it's equally insane to say that there's no trace of it in Narnia. To take it to absolute rock bottom, Edmund loves Turkish Delight, for ghu's sake.

      DB

      --alexeik@... wrote:

      >>"The highest virtue, we have on the authority of the New Testament
      >>itself," the avowedly atheistic Pullman said in a recent interview
      >>about the movie, "is love, and yet you find not a trace of that in
      >>the books.">>
      >
      >As you point out, Pullman makes no distinction between the different
      >ways love manifests itself (Lewis's "Four Loves"), and it seems to be
      >that he takes "love" to always mean "Eros", or to always potentially
      >mean that.
    • alexeik@aol.com
      ... From: David Bratman To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 11:07:34 -0800 (GMT-08:00) Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of
      Message 2 of 18 , Dec 7, 2005
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        -----Original Message-----
        From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 11:07:34 -0800 (GMT-08:00)
        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia against Pullman


        <<So ... when Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," Pullman thinks he
        means, "Practice eros with your neighbor"? Wouldn't that be a violation of a
        Commandment or two? What does Pullman think "Love the Lord your God with all
        your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" means?

        This seems an insane interpretation of Pullman, and yet ... for any broader
        meaning of the word "love" it's equally insane to say that there's no trace of
        it in Narnia. To take it to absolute rock bottom, Edmund loves Turkish Delight,
        for ghu's sake.>>
        Nowhere in _His Dark Materials_ (or in any of his criticism of Lewis that I've read) does Pullman refer in any way to Christian scripture, or indeed engage in any kind of meaningful argument with Christian belief or doctrine. "The Church" is presented as a rigid and oppressive hierarchy, but bereft of any consistent belief system, other than unquestioning submission to "the Authority". Jesus never appears.
        In general, Pullman seems to equate Christianity with the denial of pleasure and little else. In specific relation to Lewis, my impression is that his main concern is the fate of Susan, which he sees as the main scandal of Narnia. He attributes Lewis's disapproval of Susan not to her having become shallow and vain in her adolescence (as Lewis describes), but to her having undergone sexual awakening. The whole message of Narnia, then, becomes one of denial of sensual pleasure, and thus "life-denying".
        While "Turkish Delight" in LWW does have a connotation of sensual pleasure, the fact that it plays a negative role would only exarcebate Pullman's disapproval. In _The Amber Spyglass_ he creates a counter to it, when his ex-nun character loses her faith after eating marzipan -- rediscovering sensual pleasure, which directly reconnects her to Eros.
        I do think, on the evidence, that this is how Pullman's interpretation of Narnia leads to his charge that it has no "love".
        Alexei


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      • David Bratman
        ... I no longer have the original article, but I recall that the Pullman statement I was responding to cited the New Testament as saying the highest value was
        Message 3 of 18 , Dec 7, 2005
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          At 01:57 PM 12/7/2005 -0500, alexeik@... wrote:

          >Nowhere in _His Dark Materials_ (or in any of his criticism of Lewis that
          >I've read) does Pullman refer in any way to Christian scripture, or indeed
          >engage in any kind of meaningful argument with Christian belief or doctrine.

          I no longer have the original article, but I recall that the Pullman
          statement I was responding to cited the New Testament as saying the highest
          value was love and declared that love was totally absent from Narnia.
          Thus, Pullman referring to Christian scripture in the course of his
          criticism of Lewis.


          >In specific relation to Lewis, my impression is that his
          >main concern is the fate of Susan, which he sees as the main scandal of
          >Narnia. He attributes Lewis's disapproval of Susan not to her having become
          >shallow and vain in her adolescence (as Lewis describes), but to her having
          >undergone sexual awakening.

          Which proves that he hasn't read the books, since 1) all of the Pevensies
          are post-pubescent by the time of the "Susan is no longer a friend of
          Narnia" conversation; 2) Susan, and the others, had undergone sexual
          awakening to the extent of courtship in the final chapter of LWW.


          >While "Turkish Delight" in LWW does have a connotation of sensual pleasure,
          >the fact that it plays a negative role would only exarcebate Pullman's
          >disapproval.

          Sure, but that's only the worst example. All the good characters love
          Aslan. Does Pullman think that a) that's sexual; b) if not sexual, bad; c)
          that non-sexual love is not a justified use of the word "love"? If A or B,
          he's a sick little puppy; if C, he's flying in the face of every English
          translation of Jesus that I've ever heard of. That's the question I'm
          trying to ask: is it A, B, or C, and if none of the above, what am I missing?

          DB
        • Stolzi
          David, George Orwell once complained that fascism as a word had reached the status of meaning anything we don t like. It is possible that love now
          Message 4 of 18 , Dec 7, 2005
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            David,

            George Orwell once complained that "fascism" as a word had reached the
            status of meaning "anything we don't like." It is possible that "love"
            now means "anything we like" and since Pullman doesn't like Narnia, Narnia
            cannot possibly in his view contain "love."

            I find this critique particularly ironic coming from Pullman, when a recent
            article (while intemperate in its attacks upon Pullman) reminded me of the
            horrific scenes of torture, death and decay which he blithely puts into his
            text for "children" readers, and not least of the fact that he puts his
            young lovers together briefly only to tear them apart in the end.

            Some Love.

            Diamond Proudbrook
          • alexeik@aol.com
            ... From: David Bratman To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 11:31:55 -0800 Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia
            Message 5 of 18 , Dec 8, 2005
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              -----Original Message-----
              From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
              To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 11:31:55 -0800
              Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Narnia against Pullman


              <<I no longer have the original article, but I recall that the Pullman
              statement I was responding to cited the New Testament as saying the highest
              value was love and declared that love was totally absent from Narnia.
              Thus, Pullman referring to Christian scripture in the course of his
              criticism of Lewis.>>

              Well, but this is only referring to scripture in the most general way. An average non-Christian who has never read the Bible could easily have that same broad impression of the contents of the New Testament. It doesn't necessitate a detailed knowledge of the text or any engagement with it.

              << All the good characters love
              Aslan. Does Pullman think that a) that's sexual; b) if not sexual, bad; c)
              that non-sexual love is not a justified use of the word "love"? If A or B,
              he's a sick little puppy; if C, he's flying in the face of every English
              translation of Jesus that I've ever heard of. That's the question I'm
              trying to ask: is it A, B, or C, and if none of the above, what am I missing?>>

              As you say, I don't think he's read the books carefully. It looks like he dislikes them too much to have retained any detailed knowledge of them. I also suspect that he interprets the exclusion of Susan as a lack of "love" [in this case, meaning kindness or charity rather than Eros alonet "lack of love" is still fundamentally tied to rejection of Eros] on the part
              part of Lewis himself, and on that basis sees the whole work as fundamentally lacking in "love". Of course, he seems to believe that Susan is damned, which Lewis explicitly denied.


              The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
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            • David Bratman
              ... Indeed, but he did refer to Christian scripture. ... Quite likely. I ve theorized that this explains a lot of the bizarre criticisms made of Tolkien as
              Message 6 of 18 , Dec 8, 2005
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                At 01:54 PM 12/8/2005 -0500, alexeik@... wrote:

                >Well, but this is only referring to scripture in the most general way. An
                >average non-Christian who has never read the Bible could easily have that
                >same broad impression of the contents of the New Testament. It doesn't
                >necessitate a detailed knowledge of the text or any engagement with it.

                Indeed, but he did refer to Christian scripture.


                >As you say, I don't think he's read the books carefully. It looks like he
                >dislikes them too much to have retained any detailed knowledge of them.

                Quite likely. I've theorized that this explains a lot of the bizarre
                criticisms made of Tolkien as well. Edmund Wilson claimed to have read the
                whole of LOTR aloud but forgot most of the plot and how to spell the
                characters' names. Michael Moorcock has been offering detailed critiques
                of LOTR for years, but only recently have I found him admitting that he
                finds the book "nearly unreadable," which to my mind should disqualify him
                from any critique save for saying what he finds unreadable about it, an
                approach he's never taken.


                >I also suspect that he interprets the exclusion of Susan as a lack of "love"
                >[in this case, meaning kindness or charity rather than Eros alonet "lack of
                >love" is still fundamentally tied to rejection of Eros] on the part
                >part of Lewis himself, and on that basis sees the whole work as
                >fundamentally lacking in "love".

                That would be an understandable critique: to weigh the love vs. not-love
                and find the books balancing out the wrong way. One would disagree, but
                one could understand how he felt that way. But that's not what he said.
                He said there's not a trace of love in them. That's what doesn't make any
                sense.

                David Bratman
              • Carl F. Hostetter
                I think you re both giving Pullman WAY too much credit for any sort of thoughtfulness behind his words at all. I read his statement as a slam at Lewis because
                Message 7 of 18 , Dec 9, 2005
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                  I think you're both giving Pullman WAY too much credit for any sort
                  of thoughtfulness behind his words at all. I read his statement as a
                  slam at Lewis because Lewis was what would these days be always
                  called a "CONSERVATIVE Christian" (pronounced with a marked lip-curl
                  as a shibboleth for all other right-thinking people) for whom there
                  actually are universal and timeless moral standards of right and
                  wrong, and for whom facing judgement based on ones alignment and
                  comportment in accord with those standards is a certainty.

                  Pullman of course will have none of that for _his_ Jesus (at least,
                  not when it is convenient for him to have any kind of Jesus at all)
                  and so attributes to the Jesus of the New Testament the "liberal"
                  least-common-denominator sort of "love" that he finds least
                  objectionable: the hallmarks of which are unquestioning acceptance of
                  all other behaviors and beliefs, and valuing "niceness" above all
                  other virtues. His is a Jesus that knows nothing of Hell (or of
                  Heaven, really), and who came to win us salvation only from the
                  "oppression" of other men, and only so that we can all just be our
                  mellow selves in our own groovy way, where everything is cool, and
                  nothing harshes our buzz.

                  In other words: by "love" Pullman means "non-judgment" (or again, is
                  his world, "non-Church"), which is what he would have the New
                  Testament to be all about. In other words still: "It's a groovy kinda
                  love..."
                • Jay Hershberger
                  CF: His is a Jesus that knows nothing of Hell (or of Heaven, really), and who came to win us salvation only from the oppression of other men, and only so
                  Message 8 of 18 , Dec 9, 2005
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                    CF: His is a Jesus that knows nothing of Hell (or of
                    Heaven, really), and who came to win us salvation only from the
                    "oppression" of other men, and only so that we can all just be our
                    mellow selves in our own groovy way, where everything is cool, and
                    nothing harshes our buzz.

                    JH: Yes. Can you imagine the Ante-Nicene Christians giving themselves
                    (and their children) over to the Romans to be consumed by wild animals,
                    burned alive, or torn into pieces for the sake of faith in Pullman's
                    version of Jesus?

                    Cheers,

                    Jay Hershberger
                    Moorhead, MN


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                  • John D Rateliff
                    ... Not quite. The four children grow up, but there s no hint of sexual awakening at all (aside from a simple statement that lords came from far and wide to
                    Message 9 of 18 , Dec 11, 2005
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                      On Dec 7, 2005, at 11:31 AM, David Bratman wrote:
                      >> In specific relation to Lewis, my impression is that his
                      >> main concern is the fate of Susan, which he sees as the main
                      >> scandal of
                      >> Narnia. He attributes Lewis's disapproval of Susan not to her
                      >> having become
                      >> shallow and vain in her adolescence (as Lewis describes), but to
                      >> her having
                      >> undergone sexual awakening.
                      >
                      > Which proves that he hasn't read the books, since 1) all of the
                      > Pevensies
                      > are post-pubescent by the time of the "Susan is no longer a friend of
                      > Narnia" conversation; 2) Susan, and the others, had undergone sexual
                      > awakening to the extent of courtship in the final chapter of LWW.

                      Not quite. The four children grow up, but there's no hint of sexual
                      awakening at all (aside from a simple statement that lords came from
                      far and wide to court Queen Susan the Gentle, with no indication
                      their attentions met with much success or indeed any response on her
                      part) in LWW. I think you're importing this back into the first book
                      from HHB, where Susan is, so far as I recall, portrayed as much more
                      shallow and rather pleased by the villain prince's suit. And then of
                      course there's the notorious passage from the last book, the wording
                      of which implies that the grown-up world of dating interests her more
                      now than her childhood adventures in Narnia. Poor Susan: condemned to
                      the outer darkness by an author who wants to make a Point.
                      It is a little creepy, though, to think of all four of them
                      having to go through puberty, revert to childhood, and then do it all
                      over again in another world.

                      > Does Pullman think that a) that's sexual; b) if not sexual, bad; c)
                      > that non-sexual love is not a justified use of the word "love"? If
                      > A or B,
                      > he's a sick little puppy; if C, he's flying in the face of every
                      > English
                      > translation of Jesus that I've ever heard of. That's the question I'm
                      > trying to ask: is it A, B, or C, and if none of the above, what am
                      > I missing?

                      None of the above, I'd say. I think it's hard for anyone to be fair
                      when talking about a book he or she personally despises, and that
                      Pullman has fallen into hyperbole.
                      Besides, I think the linkage of love w. sensuality in this thread
                      is pretty much beside the point. I'd say Pullman's main criticism in
                      the article cited, that Narnia celebrates a culture of death (I
                      forget the exact phrasing), ties directly into the major themes of
                      HIS DARK MATERIAL: that any religion which focuses attention away
                      from this life, the here and now where we actually live, in favor of
                      some promised afterlife, is a cheat. The great revelation of the
                      third volume, that the promised afterlife is a prison for souls meant
                      to freely discorporate back into the stuff of which they were made,
                      reminds me so much of Le Guin's revisionary final Earthsea book, THE
                      OTHER WIND, that I think she must have found in Pullman an
                      inspiration of how to recast her own myth.* CSL's shabby treatment of
                      Susan, while offering ready-made ammunition to people who think him a
                      misogynist, is really beside the main point. The "happy ending" to
                      HOUSE OF THE OCTOPUS or THE LAST BATTLE (good news! everybody dies
                      horribly! horray!) is anathema to Pullman's point of view.

                      All in all, I still don't think the fact that Pullman dislikes
                      Narnia with some intensity (just as JRRT did) is of any great
                      significance, any more than Austen's disapproval of Robert Burns,
                      Emerson's snootiness about Edgar Poe, or Shaw's dislike of Shakespeare.

                      --JDR

                      *Mind you, I think she greatly weakens the whole Earthsea series
                      by her revisionism, but that's a different argument.


                      --just finished: THE POWER OF THE RING by Stratford Caldecott;
                      RINGERS (dvd documentary on Tolkien fandom); THE BOOK OF DRAGONS by
                      Ciruelo.
                      --new arrivals: GOD'S SECRETARIES: THE MAKING OF THE KING JAMES
                      BIBLE; TOLKIEN'S MYTHOLOGY FOR ENGLAND: A MIDDLE-EARTH COMPANION by
                      Edmund Wainwright; Lawlor's C.S.LEWIS: MEMORIES AND REFLECTIONS
                      (audiobook).


                      P.S.: The newest Blackstone Audio catalogue, just out, lists as new
                      releases CSL's REFLECTIONS ON THE PSALMS along with THE WORLD
                      ACCORDING TO NARNIA by Jonathan Rogers, about which I know nothing --
                      the huge publicity push for the Narnia film seems to be causing the
                      release of some material that I suspect we wouldn't otherwise get,
                      like these audiobooks of CSL's minor works. I wish they'd record and
                      release some of his scholarly work, like THE DISCARDED IMAGE, rather
                      than just the fiction and apologetics.
                    • Stolzi
                      ... From: John D Rateliff ... Well, Charlotte Bronte hated =Austen=, so there :) Diamond Proudbrook
                      Message 10 of 18 , Dec 11, 2005
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                        ----- Original Message -----
                        From: "John D Rateliff" <sacnoth@...>

                        > All in all, I still don't think the fact that Pullman dislikes
                        > Narnia with some intensity (just as JRRT did) is of any great
                        > significance, any more than Austen's disapproval of Robert Burns,
                        > Emerson's snootiness about Edgar Poe, or Shaw's dislike of Shakespeare.

                        Well, Charlotte Bronte hated =Austen=, so there :)

                        Diamond Proudbrook
                      • John D Rateliff
                        ... Yes, so did Mark Twain. Their loss. Similarly, neither CSL nor Dunsany could stand, or understand, T. S. Eliot s poetry. Such knocks reflect badly on the
                        Message 11 of 18 , Dec 11, 2005
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                          > Well, Charlotte Bronte hated =Austen=, so there

                          Yes, so did Mark Twain. Their loss. Similarly, neither CSL nor
                          Dunsany could stand, or understand, T. S. Eliot's poetry. Such knocks
                          reflect badly on the folks making them but do no real harm to their
                          target.

                          Speaking of nasty swipes at authors, the best part of the RINGERS
                          documentary was a little animated skit done in Monty-Pythonesque
                          (Terry Gilliam) style, where cardboard figures of Edmund Wilson,
                          Philip Toynbee, and Harold Bloom ran down LotR (and those who admired
                          it), with the voiceovers using actual quotes from their essays, only
                          to have the three smug critics discomforted and reduced to quivering
                          silence by winged cut-outs of CSL and WH Auden arriving on the scene
                          with (laudatory) quotes of their own. That, and the scene with David
                          Carradine where he talked about having tried to get a role in the
                          LotR film back in the 70s then, upon learning to his horror that they
                          were planning to make an animated film, trying to talk Bakshi out of
                          the idea.

                          Finally, here's a Narnian reference I couldn't make head or tails of.
                          It's from the Sept. 16th issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, page 88, a
                          review of the new cd "Takk" by the group Sigur Ros: "At times Takk
                          almost rocks--as much as tiny ice-crystal elves from the magical land
                          of Narnia can rock." Huh? Does that actually mean anything at all, or
                          is the reviewer just being "clever"?

                          --JDR



                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • Jonathan Michael Reiter
                          Atomtetsuwan2002 here. That reference sounds like the reviewer is trying and failing to sound terrribly clever. I doubt said reviewer even read the books...
                          Message 12 of 18 , Dec 12, 2005
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                            Atomtetsuwan2002 here. That reference sounds like the reviewer is trying and failing to sound terrribly clever.
                            I doubt said reviewer even read the books...
                            Atomtetsuwan2002
                            at2k2
                            ----- Original Message -----
                            From: John D Rateliff
                            To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                            Sent: Sunday, December 11, 2005 11:25 PM
                            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Defense of Pullman against Narnians


                            > Well, Charlotte Bronte hated =Austen=, so there

                            Yes, so did Mark Twain. Their loss. Similarly, neither CSL nor
                            Dunsany could stand, or understand, T. S. Eliot's poetry. Such knocks
                            reflect badly on the folks making them but do no real harm to their
                            target.

                            Speaking of nasty swipes at authors, the best part of the RINGERS
                            documentary was a little animated skit done in Monty-Pythonesque
                            (Terry Gilliam) style, where cardboard figures of Edmund Wilson,
                            Philip Toynbee, and Harold Bloom ran down LotR (and those who admired
                            it), with the voiceovers using actual quotes from their essays, only
                            to have the three smug critics discomforted and reduced to quivering
                            silence by winged cut-outs of CSL and WH Auden arriving on the scene
                            with (laudatory) quotes of their own. That, and the scene with David
                            Carradine where he talked about having tried to get a role in the
                            LotR film back in the 70s then, upon learning to his horror that they
                            were planning to make an animated film, trying to talk Bakshi out of
                            the idea.

                            Finally, here's a Narnian reference I couldn't make head or tails of.
                            It's from the Sept. 16th issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, page 88, a
                            review of the new cd "Takk" by the group Sigur Ros: "At times Takk
                            almost rocks--as much as tiny ice-crystal elves from the magical land
                            of Narnia can rock." Huh? Does that actually mean anything at all, or
                            is the reviewer just being "clever"?

                            --JDR



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