(urth) Ascians' Thematic Purppose (was ATTENDING DAEDALUS)
danldo at gmail.com
Mon Jan 30 14:09:00 PST 2006
Okay, Chris, you're right (and I should have remembered
the bit from Wounded Galaxies); certainly there's nothing
preventing the Ascians' speech from _also_ being a nod
to _Nineteen Eighty-Four_ (Orwell's actual title: _1984_ is
a collection of letters by Samuel R. Delany, he said with
pedantic irony, fully intending to continue calling Orwell's
book by the shorter title...). I suppose my point here is
that most of these things have a primary point of reference,
and I think Marxist-Maoist dialectical "thought" is Wolfe's
primary point of reference for the Ascians' Correct Thought.
Remember that when the _Book_ was written, Marxism was
still fashionable among American intellectuals...
On 1/30/06, Chris <rasputin_ at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Well, let me be more clear about something. If Wolfe is calling anything
> mind here with Correct Thought, it is unlikely to be *just* the phrases
> the little red book or *just* something from 1984. That is not the way
> works, especially in this particular series; the entire structure of BotNS
> relies on layers of overlapping allusions (which, incidentally, is
> that I think Wright brings out fairly well). So we can expect a fusion of
> references, meant to recall all of them at once. When I made the original
> comment I took this to be obvious, so I was a little taken aback with
> Dan'l's objection: the connection to Mao's book does absolutely nothing to
> indicate that there is not also a nod to 1984, and furthermore the
> connection to Mao's book also does very little (by itself) to explain the
> particular features of the passage that are pertinent here.
> But just to set something straight, someone directed me to an interview
> Wolfe in which he addresses some of the points Dan'l makes (and looking at
> the archives, has been making for several years). The interview appears in
> "Across the Wounded Galaxies" - Amazon's search feature does work on this
> p. 251 "What I didn't anticipate was that nine-tenths of the readers and
> reviewers would look at the word 'Ascian' and say 'Oh, these guys are
> More importantly, on p. 241 (the bottom half of the page) Wolfe goes into
> detail making pretty much exactly the point that people attribute to him
> when they compare the Ascians to 1984; the only thing Wolfe does not do in
> that passage is mention the Ascians directly. But to paraphrase Hume, if
> man wish to hold that (a) Wolfe has a view of language and control that he
> deliberately contrasts with Orwell, and that (b) that this view of
> and control is presented in just this way in the BotNS, but yet still
> that (c) the passage in BotNS has nothing to do with Orwell - then I must
> confess that I can reason with him no further.
> Now with regard to the points about how the Ascian language works with
> regard to differences with Newspeak, I think that this is probably
> the issue a little too closely, mainly because if you attend to the
> mechanism of the Ascian language I am pretty sure that a linguist would
> you that the language wouldn't work at all. If you attend to the salient
> features as they pertain to the story, however, you do find that the
> attempt to eliminate incorrect thought by editing the vocabulary of an
> existing language - it's just that the 'existing language' is only taught
> children, which they are supposed to discard later in life.
> As a side note this is an interesting little additional detail that may or
> may not be deliberate, but that I have rarely seen commented on... If you
> follow one modern line of thought, children have brain structures that
> themselves naturally to the learning of natural language. 'Ascian' is not
> all a natural language, as is pretty clear from what Dan'l already said.
> the strange detail of how Ascians learn their language - sort of in two
> stages - may also be a nod to Chomsky.
> >On 1/30/06, James Wynn <thewynns at earthlink.net> wrote:
> > >
> > > Even if Wolfe *did* intend the Ascians political structure and
> > > be a reference to Maoism and Buck Rogers (and the connection, it must
> > > admitted, is only inferable -- I am not aware of any other references
> > > TBOTNS to Ming or Buck Rogers), yet that does not make the make the
> > > analogy
> > > to Newspeak invalid. Calling the Ascian language "a sort of Newspeak"
> > > not even imply that Wolfe intended a narrative connection to "1984".
> >h'mmm. I guess the point, for me, is that Newspeak is
> >both more and less radical than Correct Thought. More
> >radical in that it attempts to limit the vocabulary (and to
> >a lesser extent the grammar) of an existing language,
> >so as to limit what the speakers can say and, by logical
> >extension via the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, think.
> >Correct Thought is more radical, however, in that it
> >attempts to remove "language" in the usual sense from
> >the plate entirely. If Correct Thought were implemented
> >at the deep psychological level it would require to succeed
> >(and we see from Loyal to the Group of Seventeen's
> >utterances that it has _not_ succeeded), it would be
> >no more a language than the hootings of chimps; it
> >would cease to have any generative capacity at all.
> >In Loyal to the Group of Seventeen, however, Wolfe
> >demonstrates the cleverness and flexibility of the
> >human language-organ in generating new meaning
> >from what would seem a fixed set of possible
> >utterances. It becomes necessary to create a new
> >level of grammar where, rather than fitting words together
> >to form sentences, preset sentences are fitted together
> >to form ... I don't know what you'd call them, because
> >the significance of each sentence is allowed to vary
> >hugely with its context, in two senses: the circumstances
> >of utterance and the preceding/following sentences.
> >What Wolfe has done, albeit sketchily, is proposed a
> >working language where no signifier has a well-defined
> >signified. Really astonishing stuff.
> >I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him.
> > -- St Teresa of Avila
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I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him.
-- St Teresa of Avila
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