Re: [mythsoc] Types, Stereotypes and Archetypes.
I am going to use your thoughtful comments as a springboard for some
musings that may or may not relate to what you are saying. That
disclaimer aside ...
Stereotypes, simplifications, types, tropes (when worn by overuse into
cliches), and others I have not named because they do not occur to me at
the moment, are species of the genus "Generalizations". Archetypes,
ideals, and metaphors are not, although they are related.
Generalization is a powerful tool for effective thinking. An inability
to generalize appropriately is at the root of many linguistic,
psychological, and social problems. When information can be assigned to
categories, then appropriate responses are possible which require less
effort -- and less need for more information -- than otherwise.
My formal education is a B.A. in Psychology. Ironically, I was
diagnosed, in my late 40s, with Attention Deficit Disorder. A great deal
of this limitation centers on not being able to properly categorize, and
so often ignore, incoming information. The result is that *everything*
has to be attended to, and investigated, until something breaks through
and grabs focus; then nothing unrelated to that focus gets any
attention, until the next thing breaks in. Autism is similar in some
Generalization has utility. When interacting with this group, I assume
that its members are above average in intelligence, consider reading an
important part of life, and have a baseline of knowledge about the
writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. That these
assumptions may be inaccurate in a specific case is clear, but mostly
Stereotypes, specifically, have utility or they would not exist. That is
true in both literature and life. If that is a defense, it is an
incomplete one, but the utility is real. We create, and use, stereotypes
because doing so *works* for us.
Some will react negatively to that last paragraph because it questions
an institutionalized belief. Most of us are impacted by the subculture
which rejects all generalizations about people as ipso facto "evil",
especially when it involves race, religion, or ethnicity. Recent
additions to that anathematized list include physical or mental
handicaps, gender, and sexual orientation. To suggest that some
categories based on these forbidden characteristics might be both useful
and appropriate, is not seen as an invitation to discussion, but as the
promulgation of heresy.
Aragorn is, in my opinion, an ideal. He is not merely a somewhat
differentiated member of a group with a limited number of simple
characteristics. Tolkien presents him as a man to admire and emulate.
The son of Arathorn is also a member of a number of groups, and clearly
sees group cohesion as valuable in its own right. He is a Dunadan, with
all that entails. He is a member of the Fellowship. He is Elf-friend,
royal by inheritance through carefully recorded ancestry, and a fearsome
Whether one calls him Strider, or Elessar, he is also an implacable foe
of Orcs, Sauron, and those who align with them. He wants to know of any
he encounters, "Are you with us or against us?" Nuanced reasons do not
interest him if the answer is "against", and he never loses sight of who
"us" is. He is the antithesis of that vocal elite who insist that people
must never be seen primarily as members of a group -- except by their
choice, when they think it convenient -- but only as individuals (an
exception is permitted for male traditional Christians of northern
Aragorn may question his own role, or doubt his eventual success, but he
never wonders which side he is on.
If his qualities seem shallow, or outdated in the early 21st Century,
then his presentation as an ideal will be jarring. If one does not like
this sort of thing, then Aragorn is most certainly the sort of character
one will not like. But he is no stereotype.
- I just got an email from Kent State Press saying they'd shipped mine! :) It's been backordered for ... a while now.--Margaret DeanOn Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:13 AM, Doug Kane <dougkane@...> wrote:All,It has come to my attention that Verlyn Flieger's new book, Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien is now available for purchase, both directly from the publisher, Kent State University Press, and from Amazon and other retailers. This book was originally due to be published last August, but was delayed by the publisher. It doesn't seem to have been well publicized that the book is now available, so I thought I would spread the word. I obviously don't need to emphasize how perceptive Verlyn's observations about Tolkien are. Most of you are well aware of that fact!Doug