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Re: [mythsoc] Two questions

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  • WendellWag@aol.com
    In a message dated 8/4/2002 11:45:39 PM Eastern Daylight Time, ... In a message dated 8/5/2002 6:21:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time, ... not ... If that was meant
    Message 1 of 17 , Aug 11 4:18 PM
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      In a message dated 8/4/2002 11:45:39 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
      WendellWag@... writes:

      > I think that you can't really prove any sort of a connection unless you
      > actually do some statistics.

      In a message dated 8/5/2002 6:21:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
      dbratman@... writes:

      > Human psychology is not a "Push button A, get result B" matter, and it's
      not
      > necessary for every author who experienced war trauma to write fantasy, or
      > every fantasy to be the result of war trauma (these days, in particular,
      > many fantasies are the result of writers aping other writers) for there to
      > be a connection.

      If that was meant as a reply to my statement above, that's a pretty silly
      misinterpretation of what I was saying. Obviously it's not true that every
      writer who experienced war trauma wrote fantasy, or that every writer who
      writes fantasy has experienced war trauma. If I had meant something trivial
      like that, why would I have mentioned using statistics? Categorical
      statements (ones of the form "All X are Y") don't require the use of
      statistics for either a rigorous or a loose proof. All you have to do is
      list all writers (or at least a sufficiently large set of them) and check if
      there are any counterexamples to the statement. If you find any
      counterexamples at all, you've disproved the statement. That's simple
      enumeration, not statistics.

      Look, there are several claims we could make about the relationship of war
      trauma and writing fantasy. Even before you can make any claim, you have to
      specify the set over which you're making the claim. So let's say that the
      set is all twentieth century fiction writers in English. You could make the
      following categorical claims: (a) Any fiction writer (of the twentieth
      century in English) who suffered war trauma wrote fantasy, or (b) Any fiction
      writer (of the twentieth century in English) who wrote fantasy suffered war
      trauma, or (c) A fiction writer (of the twentieth century in English)
      suffered war trauma if and only if he wrote fantasy.

      Disproving one of these categorical statements is pretty easy once we collect
      information about a large set of fiction writers (of the twentieth century in
      English). (Henceforth, you may add the qualification "of the twentieth
      century in English" whenever I speak of fiction writers.) If you find any
      example of a fiction writer who suffered war trauma but didn't write fantasy,
      you've disproved statement (a). If you find any example of a fiction writer
      who wrote fantasy but didn't suffer war trauma, you've disproved statement
      (b). If you find any example of either a fiction writer who suffered war
      trauma but didn't write fantasy or of a fiction writer who wrote fantasy but
      didn't suffer war trauma, you've disproved statement (c). If you've actually
      collected information about every single fiction writer and used that as your
      source of data, then you've rigorously proved the statements if you can't
      find any such counterexamples. If you've only collected information about a
      large set of fiction writers (say, several hundred of them), then you've only
      loosely proved the statements if you can't find any counterexamples.

      But any of the statements (a), (b), or (c) are pretty ridiculous claims, and
      I don't think anyone has ever said something so silly. Anyone of us could
      quickly come up with some obvious counterexamples to all those statements.
      What I was talking about were statistical statements. The following
      statistical claims could be made: (d) Among all fiction writers who suffered
      war trauma, the proportion who wrote fantasy is greater than among those
      fiction writers didn't suffer war trauma, or (e) Among all fiction writers
      who wrote fantasy, the proportion who suffered war trauma is greater than
      among those fiction writers who didn't write fantasy. To prove either
      statement, we would have to count the following groups:

      Set I: Fiction writers who suffered war trauma and wrote fantasy
      Set II: Fiction writers who suffered war trauma and didn't write fantasy
      Set III: Fiction writers who didn't suffer war trauma and wrote fantasy
      Set IV: Fiction writers who didn't suffer war trauma and didn't write fantasy

      Suppose that we found, for instance, that in the sample we did there were 131
      people in set I, 47 people in set II, 207 people in set III, and 752 people
      in set IV, we've proved both statements (d) and (e). The proportion of
      fiction writers in set I divided by the total number of fiction writers who
      suffered war trauma is 131/178, so 73.6% of fiction writers who suffered war
      trauma have written fantasy. The proportion of fiction writers in set III
      divided by the total number of fiction writers who didn't suffer war trauma
      is 207/959, so 21.6% of fiction writers who didn't suffer war trauma have
      written fantasy. So statement (d) is true, since among fiction writers who
      suffered war trauma, the proportion who wrote fantasy is greater than the
      proportion among fiction writers who didn't suffer war trauma.

      Furthermore, statement (e) would also be true if those numbers were true.
      The proportion of people in set I divided by the total number of fiction
      writers who wrote fantasy is 131/338, so 38.8% of fiction writers who wrote
      fantasy suffered war trauma. The proportion of fiction writers in set II
      divided by the total number of non-fantasy writers is 47/799, so 5.9% of
      fiction writers who didn't write fantasy suffered war trauma.

      (I'm going to ignore the matter of statistical significance, since that would
      be even harder to explain. It's not sufficient to show that one proportion
      is larger than another. It's also necessary to show that the set you've
      chosen is large enough that the numbers would hold up if you looked at the
      entire set over which you've chosen to make your claim. If someone ever does
      such a statistical test as I've explained above, be sure you get a
      statistician to check the statistical significance of your numbers.)

      What Shippey did was none of the above. He listed perhaps half a dozen
      writers, each of which he claimed wrote fantasy and suffered war trauma
      (i.e., members of set I). That proves absolutely nothing. I think that all
      of us could, with a few minutes of thought, come up with members of sets I,
      II, III, and IV. The absolute most that does is suggest that maybe something
      might be proved if they did a big survey as I suggest.

      Furthermore, Shippey is vague about both the terms "fantasy" and "war
      trauma." What's fantasy? Unless you have a definition for it precise enough
      that no one can fudge things by moving writers from one category to another,
      how can you split things up into the sets given above? What's war trauma?
      He lists people who were in three different wars (World War I, World War II,
      and the Spanish Civil War), and he's vague about whether it's necessary to be
      in combat. For that matter, wouldn't being a civilian caught up in the
      fighting of a war be "war trauma" just as much as being a soldier in combat?
      No, I think all of this is too vague to be proved, and certainly Shippey
      hasn't proved it.

      Wendell Wagner
    • SusanPal@aol.com
      In a message dated 8/11/2002 4:20:12 PM Pacific Daylight Time, ... As the person who started this thread, allow me to clarify: I never thought Shippey had or
      Message 2 of 17 , Aug 11 4:35 PM
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        In a message dated 8/11/2002 4:20:12 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
        WendellWag@... writes:


        > No, I think all of this is too vague to be proved, and certainly Shippey
        > hasn't proved it.
        >

        As the person who started this thread, allow me to clarify: I never thought
        Shippey had or hadn't proved anything. At most, he pointed out an intriguing
        set of correspondences. *My* interest in pursuing the issue is to examine
        the ways in which fantasy allows people to respond to trauma -- of any sort
        -- in *productive* (rather than "escapist") ways that aren't possible in
        realist narrative.

        Terri Windling's essay "Surviving Childhood" is an excellent example of the
        kind of thing I'm talking about. Because she recognized her own very dire
        childhood circumstances in the fairy tales she was reading, she was able to
        escape -- literally and physically -- from an extremely destructive
        situation. (What's that line in "On Fairy Stories" about how the only people
        who disapprove of escape are jailors?) I'm interested in how writers and
        readers use fantasy as a key to release themselves from various real prisons,
        and in the ways in which fantasy sometimes fits those locks better than
        mimesis would.

        I hope this is clearer than whatever I originally said!

        Susan


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • ckostyn
        On Sun, 11 Aug 2002 19:35:00 EDT, SusanPal@aol.com scribed: *My* interest in pursuing the issue is to examine the ways in which fantasy allows people to
        Message 3 of 17 , Aug 11 9:11 PM
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          On Sun, 11 Aug 2002 19:35:00 EDT, SusanPal@... scribed:
          *My* interest in pursuing the issue is to examine
          \\>the ways in which fantasy allows people to respond to trauma -- of
          any sort
          \\>-- in *productive* (rather than "escapist") ways that aren't
          possible in
          \\>realist narrative.

          This is an interesting topic. I know someone who grew up through
          assorted abusive situations, reform school, prison, etc. She did
          eventually pull her life together but she survived prison (which she
          calls the "belly of the beast") by writing fantasy fiction.

          This does seem to be a common way to deal with assorted traumatic
          events and life circumstances, whether writing or reading fantas
          fiction.


          Catherine K.
        • David S. Bratman
          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
          Message 4 of 17 , Aug 12 1:31 PM
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            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
          • Berni Phillips
            From: ... sort ... Susan, you need to get in contact with Dr. Bruce Leonard, a Colorado mythie. He s a psychiatrist in Columbine. At this
            Message 5 of 17 , Aug 12 5:29 PM
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              From: <SusanPal@...>

              > *My* interest in pursuing the issue is to examine
              > the ways in which fantasy allows people to respond to trauma -- of any
              sort
              > -- in *productive* (rather than "escapist") ways that aren't possible in
              > realist narrative.

              Susan, you need to get in contact with Dr. Bruce Leonard, a Colorado mythie.
              He's a psychiatrist in Columbine. At this most recent Mythcon, Dan Timmons
              showed the video he had been filming last year, which includes interviews
              with various members of the Mythopoeic Society.

              In the video, Bruce said that, in his practice, he found that many of his
              younger patients had read _The Lord of the Rings_. He eventually caught on
              that finding who they identified with was a tremendous indicator of how
              badly damaged they were and the prospect of recovery. (I'm probably
              misrepresenting him terribly, but this is my impression of what was said.)
              He found that patients who identified with Frodo had much, much better
              chances of recovery than those who identified with Gollum. (Me, I never
              even conceived of someone identifying with Gollum.)

              Some years earlier (the first Colorado Mythcon?) he gave a splendid paper on
              Frodo as a sufferer of post-tramatic stress syndrome.

              Berni
            • SusanPal@aol.com
              In a message dated 8/12/2002 5:32:48 PM Pacific Daylight Time, ... Wow. Good heavens! The LotR Personality Quiz: better than the Myer-Briggs . . . . This
              Message 6 of 17 , Aug 12 5:34 PM
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                In a message dated 8/12/2002 5:32:48 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
                bernip@... writes:


                > He found that patients who identified with Frodo had much, much better
                > chances of recovery than those who identified with Gollum. (Me, I never
                > even conceived of someone identifying with Gollum.)
                >

                Wow. Good heavens! The LotR Personality Quiz: better than the Myer-Briggs
                . . . .

                This does sound fascinating (and someone else mentioned his name a while ago;
                I've been really slow about responding to posts because I just got a bear of
                a work project off my back this morning). Thanks for the recommendation!

                Susan


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              • Merlin DeTardo
                I was searching for something else when I stumbled on this interesting old post, but I can t find that there was ever any follow- up on one small point, by
                Message 7 of 17 , Jan 5, 2007
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                  I was searching for something else when I stumbled on this
                  interesting old post, but I can't find that there was ever any follow-
                  up on one small point, by Michael Martinez or anyone else:

                  "...Denethor sports a long white beard..."

                  Was Denethor bearded? I didn't know that, and I can't find a
                  reference to it in The Lord of the Rings. Does anyone have a
                  citation?

                  I know of a website that purports to list the eye and hair colors
                  (including beards) of all the characters in LotR, The Hobbit, The
                  Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales:

                  http://www.lcwsites.org/~lisa/colors.html

                  but even if that site is completely accurate, merely not listing a
                  beard color for Denethor doesn't mean there is no beard, only that
                  its color is not given in the text of those books.

                  Is Denethor described as having a beard elsewhere? In LotR drafts,
                  perhaps?

                  I did read an interesting short essay on Denethor about a year ago
                  that noted that his face is described in more detail than most other
                  characters in LotR:

                  http://www.theonering.net/rumour_mill/rpg/viewer/readingroom/43A9E62C0
                  0023776.html

                  Nothing there about a beard (or lack of one), however.

                  -Merlin DeTardo


                  >>--- Mysthoc message #6263
                  >>--- On Aug 7, 2002 6:17 pm, "michael_martinez2" <michael@...> wrote:
                  >>This whole "bearded Elves" issue has caused a great deal of
                  discussion through the years. Happily, it can all be resolved with a
                  few citations....which I am unable to provide, because I'm about to
                  leave work and don't know when my Internet access at home will be
                  restored. Still, here is what I can recall on my own. Treat it as a
                  rough summation of the facts, subject to correction at a later time.

                  >>The passage in UNFINISHED TALES is found in the chapter on
                  Galadriel and Celeborn and is in one of the appendices. It concerns
                  Prince Imrahil's Elvish ancestry, and Christopher Tolkien paraphrases
                  some late-life essay of his father's. Many readers have taken this
                  as the final word in Elf beards.

                  >>But it's not. A couple of issues back, VINYAR TENGWAR published
                  some additional material for "The Shibboleth of Feanor". In one of
                  the notes associated with this material, JRRT writes that Nerdanel's
                  father was remarkable for having grown a beard in the Second Cycle
                  (of his life).

                  >>The reader is left to infer that all male Elves normally grow
                  beards when they reach their Third Cycle (no clues, yet, as to what
                  defines a cycle of life). Cirdan, by inference (rather than
                  implication, since the note does not mention him), must have long
                  since reached his Third Cycle by the end of the Third Age.

                  >>Since Denethor sports a long white beard, and since the statue of
                  the Gondorian king by the crossroads (where Frodo, Sam, and Gollum
                  watch the army from Minas Morgul pass by) has a beard, it must be
                  accepted that Dunadan men DID grow beards, but perhaps because of
                  their Elvish ancestry (THE PEOPLES OF MIDDLE-EARTH says that the
                  Stewards were "ultimately of royal origin"), some of the Dunedain did
                  not grow beards until THEIR Third Cycle (or some Dunadan/half-elf
                  equivalent of the full Elvish Third Cycle).
                • William Cloud Hicklin
                  ... ago ... other ... In the absence of other evidence, I would apply ejusdem generis here and say he was (probably) beardless. Of course that says nothing
                  Message 8 of 17 , Jan 5, 2007
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                    --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Merlin DeTardo" <emptyD@...>
                    wrote:


                    >
                    > I did read an interesting short essay on Denethor about a year
                    ago
                    > that noted that his face is described in more detail than most
                    other
                    > characters in LotR:

                    In the absence of other evidence, I would apply ejusdem generis
                    here and say he was (probably) beardless. Of course that says
                    nothing about his genetics, just his razor.

                    Take MM with a grain of salt- he does tend to extrapolate
                    "facts" where there are only possibilities. The "true" answer is
                    dormitat Homerus: Tolkien really wasn't paying attention when he
                    stuck beards on Cirdan and the ancient statue. Convincing as
                    Tolkien is, there isn't actually an underlying reality to be
                    plumbed!
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