Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What does Subcreator Mean?

1) Can a Christian Author be indebted to an Anti-Christian one? , 2) What does Subcreator Mean?, 3) Was God's Motive Ethic or Aesthetic When Creating?

I wonder how much heat Tolkien and Lewis have taken simply because of the term "subcreation" and "subcreator" about act of inventing or man who invents a tale of fiction.

I totally subscribe to this:

7. No creature can as principal or secondary-instrumental cause, from or by its own power, create anything from nothing or bring new beings into existence that transcend their own nature.

By Paula Haigh

Now, if you paint, if you make scenery for a theatre, or if you write a story, you do not create from nothing. You create from something, even if that something is, in the case of writing a story, just words and ideas, originally never your own.

This is why, in very conscious polemics to a modern fad of calling writers and artists "creators", Tolkien and Lewis preferred the word "SUB-creators". When universities give classes in "Creative Writing" we know these two were not creating the university course, or it would have been called "SUB-creative Writing".

Now, certain people, totally unaware of context, but too much aware of their own associations, have wrongly concluded that T and L were claiming to, from or by their own power, as secondary instrumental causes, create from nothing or bring new being into existance.


They are claiming to be secondary instrumental causes of a beauty which ultimately God creates, but only insofar as this beauty is what they create out of something, and only insofar as what is given it is, rather than being, which only God can confer, the artistic illusion of being, which art can confer.

The term "secondary worlds" has causes confusion here, though it was meant to be perfectly clear as to meaning "worlds which, unlike the primary world, exist only in art". And whether or not they thought it through like that, this is true of any novelist. Not just those whose scenery is unlikely to be realistically identified with such or such a portion of the space and the time of the world God put us in.

Tolkien is subcreative and Middle Earth is a secondary world, because it contains a country or larger region of countries called Eriador. And because the parallel of Rome (where Minas Tirith is set) is not yet set on a peninsula in a Mediterranean sea. But then again Hergé is subcreative and the world of Tintin is secondary, because it contains Syldavia and Borduria and because a pre-Stalin or very early Stalin Soviet Russia comes only a few years (Tintin is hardly aging even a decade) before Doctor Tournesol is kidnapped in a Cold War like setting and the flight to Sydney gets him in touch with aliens of a distinctly seventies taste. Of course, each album reflected the world in which Hergé wrote, but Tintin and Haddock did not age in time with Hergé. And the Sherlock Holmes stories are in a secondary world in which Austro-Hungarian regions are as unlikely to appear on real maps from Austria or Hungary (the Empire and the Kingdom, not just the two states that are left of them now) as Ruritania of the Prisoner of Zenda.

Was Tolkien elevating himself to the role of Creator, a role belonging to God alone, but "creating" (he would have insisted "subcreating") Eriador and its Elves speaking Sindarin and knowing Quenya? Well, in that case, so was Anthony Hope when he wrote The Prisoner of Zenda (a difference is that this work involves a love triangle, which is sth Tolkien avoided in his Legendarium, just as Hergé did avoid it in his Tintin). And Zamenhof was doing so by inventing Esperanto, even if the purpose was different, practical and idealistic rather than artistic. And even if Zamenhof's borrowings from "real languages" (as in languages spoken by real speach communities having it as mother tongue, there is a speach community of neo-Quenya, in the same sense as there is an esperanto community) are more open and more plentyful than those studied by Tolkien linguists.

C. S. Lewis was posing himself the question "if God the Son had created another world and redeemed another world, what would that have looked like" or rather what COULD that have looked like? And in that sense he was acting as subcreator for a secondary world really distinct as world (if it had been there) from the one we live in. Only part of that world in common with our world : the Heaven of both worlds is the same.

And, even if God in fact did not create that other world, He could have. Fiction studies the possible in combinations that authors hope to show their readers as probable. It does not study the real as real. And it is de fide (Tempier, laetare Sunday 1276, now dated 1277, since New Years are on Jan 1 rather than March 25, Paris diocese, conf. condemned proposition 34) that God can create worlds other than our own, not that He did, but that He can.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Vigil of Sts Simon and Jude

PS, by JRRT and CSL "taking heat", I do not mean them personally, since this misunderstanding of what they meant very clearly seems to date from after their deaths or, if earlier, from behind their backs. If they had been confronted with it and thought it prevalent, they would have given the correction during their lifetime./HGL

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