[Milton-L] "the only great Christian writer this nation has
Dr. Larry Gorman
larry at eastwest.edu
Thu Jan 21 15:02:47 EST 2010
My own evaluation would differ. I don't consider Tolkien or Lewis or
Bunyan great imaginative writers, and I find Tolkien most interesting
when explore the heroic rather than the Christian ethos. I'm not a big
fan of Brecht, nor am I a communist, but I would think his orthodoxy as
a writer is suspect. I'm not at all sure that Eliot's writing profited
from his orthodoxy, although perhaps orthodoxy made Ash Wednesday and
The Four Quartets possible.
If orthodoxy doesn't impede or help the creative writer, it is
irrelevant to the text, and discussing it is a form of refined gossip.
When I think of a writer's orthodoxy, I think of the story, not the
stated belief. What I state seems the shell of my beliefs.
My assumption is that orthodoxy by its very nature moves one from the
imaginative to the doctrinaire. Religion can be more than an ideology,
but it can and does easily degenerate. Orthodoxy is the degenerate
tendency of religion. Religions require it: It allows them to define
themselves. (Definitions are limiting and structuring.) Someone like
Flannery O'Connor obviously found orthodoxy important in her own life,
although she did have a taste for Teilhard de Chardin. But Wise Blood
or The Violent Bear It Away-they are the products of an imagination
obsessed with Christian images. I believe the writer when she tells me
that she tried to structure them in an orthodox way. I don't know that
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of James Rovira
Sent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 1:15 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] "the only great Christian writer this nation has
The assumption below seems to be functioning like an ideology,
expressing an expectation that runs contrary to all observed evidence
(J.R.R. Tolkein, O'Connor, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Bunyan, the author of
the Shepherd's Play, those who painted icons, etc.) and to the expressed
opinion of authors such as O'Connor (in Mystery and Manners). Since the
elements of every story, novel, or poem do not necessarily involve the
elements of orthodoxy, there's no reason that orthodoxy should either
impede or help the creative writer. The opinion expressed below seems
to proceed from an assumption that a truly orthodox writer will only
write about the subject of his or her orthodoxy strictly within confines
defined by that orthodoxy. Yes, that would be a doctrinaire fiction
indeed, and probably quite dull, but even that can be creative.
Creativity involves a mode of expression, not the content of expression.
The assumption gets even more absurd when we apply it beyond Christian
orthodoxies. Surely Brecht was a poor dramatist because he was an
orthodox communist, and we know of no examples of brilliantly creative
works by orthodox Jews...
On Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 2:06 PM, Dr. Larry Gorman <larry at eastwest.edu>
I agree with Hannibal about the relation between greatness and
orthodoxy. It seems to me that an orthodox imaginative can explore
creation, sin, atonement, and grace. The trinity seems the kind of
point best left to theologians. I would think that orthodoxy is a
structuring and limiting principle for the imagination, which the
imagination stretches and subverts. A really orthodox writer would be
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