(urth) Urth Digest, Vol 53, Issue 59

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Tue Feb 3 16:11:27 PST 2009


"Guardian of the Sacred Texts" is childish and insulting.

But I should lay my cards open on the table: I am, like Wolfe, an adult
convert to Roman Catholicism.

*Independently of this,* I believe that the Catholic episteme offers
perspectives on Wolfe's work that point, if not to his achievement, at
least to his intent.

For example, there are a _lot_ of scenes in the Briah cycle that parallel,
parody, or otherwise reflect upon the Eucharist. Reading these scenes
with a knowledge of the Eucharist imbues them with a narrative energy
that is simply not present without that knowledge.

That doesn't mean that a specifically-Catholic reading of Wolfe is "right" or
even "better than others."

But it _does_ make a reading that's aware of Catholic practice and
imagery a whole lot more interesting -- at least, to me.

The text is the text and, finally, any reading in good faith is a good
reading. (But we are always already in bad faith with this or any
text...) A reading that completely ignores the generically Christian
and specifically Catholic imagery and ideas can be valid.

Such a reading, however, strikes me as like a reading of "Ulysses"
by someone without (or who doesn't show) the slightest knowledge
of  the Odyssey. I've read such readings, and they can be interesting
enough, but they lack a dimension.

> This is where we disagree: "As a result, it is legitimate to say that
> Severian is "Christ-like," but
> not to say that he is "a Christ." "

I overspoke my case by saying "legitimate." I would say however that
a reading that made Severian "a Christ" would be (a) contrary to the
author's intent, for what that may matter to you, and (b) less interesting
than one where Severian is "Christ-like."

Why less interesting? Well: for one thing, "a Christ" is too far removed
from the merely-human for me to find much application to my daily
life. (This is a problem for me in my own religious life, you betcha.)
A Christ-like person, with the sinfulness and failings that beset all
humans but One, is far more interesting to me.

(And, as a side note, Severian is clearly a sinful human himself in
need of redemption, not a perfect Redeemer.)

For another, making Severian "a Christ" forces a schema on the book
that I think just doesn't fit. Some of Severian's adventures clearly
reflect, refract, distort some of the episodes of the Gospels - probably
most obvious, his encounter with Typhon, as a reflection of Christ's
temptation in the desert; but there are quite a number of others.

But to make Severian "a Christ" seems to me to require us to seek
these parallels everywhere in the text, even where they simply
don't exist.

But then ... you seem to mean something different by "a Christ" than
what I would mean. It may be that, if we could decode each other
properly, "a Christ" in your language might mean something more like
what "a Christlike person" does in mine.

Or not?

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes

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