Monday, January 4, 2016

Fable and Allegory

1) Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Fable and Allegory, 2) Correspondence of Hans Georg Lundahl : With Dwight on Definition of Fundies, 3) Dwight Longenecker Not Knowing What Computers Are, and Not Answering a Challenge On It, 4) With Dwight on Fundies, Again, 5) One item on Dwight, related to Teen Marriages, 6) Was Dwight Ever Outright Heretic? If So, it is Here I Blamed him, 7) Φιλολoγικά/Philologica (again) : Dwight Longenecker and Bildungsroman

Dixit Dwight:

When Tolkien vociferously denies that LOTR is an “allegory,” he seems to be denying that it is a fable: that is, he is reacting against stupid people who were inclined to say, “The ring is the atomic bomb. The Shire is England. Minas Tirith is the United States. Mordor is Nazi Germany. Isengard is Fascist Italy. Wormtongue is Neville Chamberlain. Eowyn is Vera Lynn.”

But if you really knew the fables of La Fontaine and of Aesop, they are very much less allegorical than that.

Of course Animal Farm is BOTH a fable (as in a story with an Esop where animals talk) and an allegory (as in a story where Russian Revolution and its subversion by Stalin is presented by another story).

Bunyan has an allegory where Popery as a toothless old giant stands for Catholicism which had become harmless in England due to Reformation (which is horribly unfair to Catholicism, but indeed Bunyan's intent, and probably more charitable than Titus Oates, at least). And everything else in it is an allegory. A City called Destruction is allegory of "state of sin" combined with "community of sinners"/"civitas diabolis". Not totally clearly - in Bunyan, as opposed to St Augustine - distinguished from "civitas terrena".

C. S. Lewis made one book which really is an allegory - Pilgrim's Regress (some reference to Bunyan not quite out of place, but not a Puritan work). In it red and black dwarfs obeying the same King Barbarian are allegorical of Commies and diverse Fascists (including Nazis) to same spirit of ruffians leading to totalitarian revolutions (a trace of this is found in the atheist Red Dwarf Trumpkin in Prince Caspian and the occultist Black Dwarf Nikabrik in same book).

In a fable, the story as a whole conveys a specific moral - called an Esop.

In an allegory every detail corresponds to some detail of the main allegorical plan. Like Romance of the Rose corresponds to a plan of making inner feelings of the beloved + her circumstances persons whom the main character encounters when trying to "pluck a rose". Or like in Animal Farm everything corresponds to a main plan in which "man" = oppressors and "animal" = proletariat. Including a pig (animal, therefore proletarian) ending up walking on two legs (like a man, therefore like an oppressor). By the way, the sheep in Animal Farm who asks "aren't all animals equal" and gets a reply "yes, but some are more equal than others" also has an echo in a Narnia book, namely The Last Battle. And the horse slaughtered in Animal Farm corresponds - as literary reference, not as allegory - to talking horses driven off to the Tisroc in Last Battle.

Unlike Romance of the Rose, Voyage of the Dawn Treader is not an allegory. Unlike Pilgrim's Regress and Animal Farm, Prince Caspian and Last Battle are not allegories.

So, an allegory is like a fable with a lot of fables in it. And a fable is a story built around an Esop.

Each parable of Our Lord may be a fable or an allegory. But one could take The Prodigal Son into two kinds of extensions. One of them would add the kind of detail which was needed to make it a realistic novel. One other would add the kind of detail which would include further niches of fable-Esops or other correspondences with what one considers the story is about (as in conversion to God, as in conversion of Gentiles while Older Son walks sadly and Pharisaically away etc.) into the details, just as the main story has an Esop.

C.S. Lewis also denied that his Narnia stories were allegorical, but did not deny his intent for the stories to bear a theological reading. He used the word “analogy” to explain how the Narnia stories reflected an underlying theological system.

Did he really use the words "the stories reflect an underlying theological system"?

I doubt it. They presuppose it. And the system is ambiguous, insofar as author could state that Aslan is a parallel incarnation of God the Son (highly problematic as a theological concept), while this fan fic writer has preferred the idea that God the Son, incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, seated at the Right of the Father is present under the species of a lion's body in the world of Narnia, just as He is present under the species of bread and of wine on the altar. That might break down on some of the stories (The Horse and His Boy), but at least makes Bethlehem the place "where Aslan was a lion cub" and therefore keeps uniqueness of Incarnation. As His sacrifice is present on the altar, so also on the Stone Table, with the difference that the altar shows His sacrifice performed by a priest like Him according to the Order of Melchisedec, the Stone Table shows how Satan plotted for the Crucifixion. I do not know if C. S. Lewis would have approved this reinterpretation of inherent theology in the stories, and I have some difficulty in accepting as orthodox the one he had in view.

So, there is - somewhat ambiguously, perhaps - a theological system presupposed in Narnia Chronicles. This does not mean the stories are there only to reflect it.

So, Calvary and Empty Tomb are shown at the Stone Table - but the four thrones and the children who had grown up as adult kings and queens returning as children and doing so at the chase of a stag, what does that refer to in terms of theology? Nothing. The reason why Narnia stories are NOT allegories is precisely this, there is SO much which cannot be explained in them by the real or supposed theological meaning. Or, if it is a beaver who is telling the four children of their tasks - what has a talking beaver to do with the Theology of Christian Easter?

These things are there for the story and not for a theological meaning.

Can the same kind of analogy to truth be detected in the Indiana Jones films? Let me give it a try.

I will spare you the details of his try. But the kind of spiritual progress traced in a story in a somewhat allegorical way he has in mind works a thousand times better for The Tower of Geburah than for Indiana Jones. The chapter "wishes don't wash" means that regretting your sins doesn't clean you, as long as you don't turn to "Gaal", which VERY transparably is Christ, as seen by Evangelicals.

Not meaning the idea he gives about Indiana Jones cannot have been a kind of inspirational backbone shared between writers - who would surely have talked to each other - but they only give a kind of "character arc" for Dr. Jones, they have nothing to do with the "story arc" of the stories, apart from that.

With such obtuseness about matters of literature, I am not quite surprised he can be unduly impressed by people claiming Genesis 1 to 11 have a kind of literary genre which is incompatible with story being meant to be taken as literally true.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre University Library
Octave of Holy Innocents

I nearly forgot to link to his work:

The Imaginative Conservative : The Theological Theory of Indiana Jones
by Dwight Longenecker, Published: Jan 3, 2016

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