(urth) symbols, motifs, and extra textual relevance vs. onomastic onanism

Marc Aramini marcaramini at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 26 10:32:58 PDT 2013

I was thinking about this little clip at the beginning of 5th Head of Cerberus from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, wondering if the dream in which Number Five and his father are on a ship that isn't going anywhere and the ghostly doomed ship of the poem where related thematically or symbolically, and then I had to take a step back and wonder why approaches like this one by Sean Whalen always strike me as slightly too much into the names, when a simple fad betwen French spellings and naming conventions may have been more prevalent in the soon to be repressed French ruling class:
(this is from an old post found here:)http://www.urth.net/urth/archives/v0015/0057.shtml
"I also believe Borski's theory that Aunt Jeannine is an abo who
replaced the original.  I have some more thoughts that support this
idea.  First, Gene Wolfe (the author) has the first name Eugene
(meaning in Greek, wellborn).  So why isn't the sister of Wolfe in the
story have the name Eugenia?  Many other people associated with the
Wolfes have names ending in -ia (Phaedria, Urania) and these are also
Greek forms (also think about Gene, Nerissa, and (I think) Marydol
which are  Greek).  However, Jeannine is a French form of the name. 
This would show a connection with Ste. Anne.  Even more tellingly, the
name Eugenia would contain the element eu-, which means, in addition
to well, TRUE.  Thus, Jeannine is not the TRUE Eugenia, not the
true-born (genos is born) human, but a "French" fake.

GW in tUotNS also would use this kind of naming, that is one name in
sibling pair has i+vowel in the ending but the other doesn't
(Agia/Agilus, Severian/Severa).  So it's Eugenia/Eugene instead of

So, why is she called Jeannine?  Because she wants to conceal her long
life, and probably changed identities after Maitre killed his
While I feel it is fruitful to explore what names mean, references that are implied externally (for example, the Peter Palmer historical facts actually make real sense of the Changeling in light of the word oaf meaning elf/changeling and Peter Palmer playing the oaf Lil'Abner, makes sense of the action), this kind of approach always struck me as just a step or ten too far.  The symbollic trail of the wolf imagery should be traced, but greek roots and embedded names, to me, seem to lead down a slippery slope of ALL possible meanings.  Is it fruitful to track Celestine Etienne to the lady in pink?  Of course, because she is a plant to get information out of VRT, and this mysterious lady in pink was in Number 5's father's inner sanctum repeatedly during his life.  Is it fruitful to track her to Many Pink Butterflies or the pinkish light of the sun?  A bit more dubious.
Intentional symbols are transpositions and descriptions that occur over and over again: the breach baby Sandwalker's feet continually hit the ground in his descriptions.  At the end, feet are kicked out from whoever dies, and Eastwind is completely devoid of foot imagery.
I think there is a difference between symbolism, motifs, and themes and a gnomic and hermetically sealed palimpsest, and that Wolfe is a symbolist with a thematic goal instead of an artist creating postmodern nightmares devoid of a bottom rung of meaning where all possible meanings are equally valid.
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