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Re: [mythsoc] Owen Barfield

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  • dale nelson
    No, please keep the Barfield discussion ON-list! Dale ________________________________ From: John Rateliff To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
    Message 1 of 38 , May 24, 2011
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      No, please keep the Barfield discussion ON-list!


      From: John Rateliff <sacnoth@...>
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Mon, May 23, 2011 10:29:14 PM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Owen Barfield


      On May 8, 2011, at 7:04 AM, Larry Swain wrote:
       I'd say if anything Barfield borrowed from Tolkien, or at least arrived at his notions independently and the two shared them.   

      Highly unlikely, since Barfield didn't read Tolkien before evolving his thesis, and remained uninterested in his works thereafter.

      But the degree of Barfield's impact on Tolkien may also be overstated -- after all, so far as I am aware there was no sea-change in Tolkien's invented languages circa 1928, corresponding to the time of Lewis's remark, as one wd expect if the impact had been as great as some suggest.

      On May 9, 2011, at 4:11 PM, Ernest Davis wrote:
      This distinction between "figurative" and "metaphoric" is new to me. I 
      think I get the main point here. In the ontology of the Greek mind, 
      spirit, wind, and breath are all the same thing, so the use of the same 
      word "pneuma" for each is a single, literal, meaning of the word. In the 
      ontology of the modern mind, they are three different things, so if the 
      word "breath"  is used by modern speakers to mean wind or spirit, they are 
      speaking metaphorically. Therefore when a modern reader, reading an 
      ancient Greek writer, encounters "pneuma" used to mean "spirit", he tends 
      either to misinterpret this as a metaphor, or to misinterpret it as 
      multiple meanings of the word (the way "bat" can mean either a flying 
      mammal or a wooden club) whereas in fact it was meant literally and was 
      not felt to be a different meaning from "pneuma" used to mean "breath". 
      (The Greeks did use metaphors, of course, but this was not one.)

      Here's how I like to put it: the Romans used the same word for what we think of as three separate things: spirit, inspiration, and respiration. But in this separation something is lost: the old word had meant all these and more, and our modern words can't really recapture that lost semantic unity. Barfield also objected to those positivists who claimed the word had really meant "wind" and the other meanings were just fanciful applications. The history of words, for Barfield, was a record of the history of thought, of the evolution of human consciousness.

      In a v. real sense, Barfield was the anti-Pound. Whereas Ezra Pound revolutionized twentieth century literature by calling (in 1911) for the abandonment of poetic diction, arguing that it had become stale through overuse, Barfield championed it from 1926 onwards, arguing that the more archaic words retained more connotation and meaning than their modern equivalents.

      Sorry to be joining the discussion so late; I was too busy two weeks back to follow the complex posts in such detail as they demanded -- first w. preparing to go to Kalamazoo, then w. being at Kalamazoo, & finally dealing w. the aftermath of Kalamazoo.  Ernest: if it helps, I wrote about a thousand words discussing this v. point (what Tolkien meant by this reference to Barfield) in RETURN TO BAG-END (p. 534-537 & 544-546), & I'm always ready to discuss Barfield & his works -- though by this point folks might prefer if we take it off-list.

      John R.

    • John Rateliff
      Very sorry to hear it. I never met Edward Carlos Plunkett, though I did meet his father (the famous Lord Dunsany s son). Thanks for posting the news, Dale. We
      Message 38 of 38 , May 26, 2011
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        Very sorry to hear it. I never met Edward Carlos Plunkett, though I did meet his father (the famous Lord Dunsany's son). Thanks for posting the news, Dale.
           We can be grateful to this Lord Dunsany for one thing: he allowed the publication of a number of his grandfather's works that had lain neglected in a bank vault for decades -- a novel, a play, a volume of short stories, and various odds & ends. None of them had the stuff of greatness that makes me rank Dunsany as the best fantasy short story writer ever, but it's good to have even the lesser works of a great writer.
           --John R.

        current reading: THE BOOK OF WONDER [1912]

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