Is Animal Farm Greater than 1984? C.S. Lewis’ Thoughts about George Orwell’s Work

george-orwells-1984-bbcOn Dec 12th, 1954 there was a live BBC TV adaption of George Orwell’s chilling dystopia, 1984. Although it was voted one of the top 100 British TV events, it is doubtful that C.S. Lewis took the time to watch it. He did use the publicity of the event to write a thoughtful essay on George Orwell’s work. He compared 1984–almost immediately a hit–withAnimal Farm–which was slow to catch on. He argued that Animal Farm, despite being the underdog and despite being cast in a parable or children’s tale–or, worse, an allegory–is truly the greater book. Here is a substantial portion from Lewis’ essay, first published in Time & Tide. You can now find it in Of This and Other Worlds.

Some of Lewis’ ideas are intriguing. Most of Lewis’ reasons for linking Animal Farm best are precisely what others would think would merit 1984. And, intriguingly, Lewis critiques the anti-sexual nature of the 1984 totalitarianism, and the sexual freedom the rebels find. He does not critique it because it is sexual, but because it seems inauthentic. Perhaps. Yet Lewis has the exact same parallel in his That Hideous Strength, where bodiness and sexuality are problematic and true sexuality is fulfilled in the rebels in the ultimate scene. Still, Lewis may have a point about authenticity. He certainly lands home (for me) in other ways.

What do you think? Did history agree with Lewis?


animal_farm russian styleHere we have two books by the same author which deal, at bottom, with the same subject. Both are very bitter, honest and honourable recantations. They express the disillusionment of one who had been a revolutionary of the familiar, entre guerre pattern and had later come to see that all totalitarian rulers, however their shirts may be coloured, are equally the enemies of Man. Since the subject concerns us all and the disillusionment has been widely shared, it is not surprising that either book, or both, should find plenty of readers, and both are obviously the works of a very considerable writer. What puzzles me is the marked preference of the public for 1984. For it seems to me (apart from its magnificent, and fortunately detachable, Appendix on ‘Newspeak’) to be merely a flawed, interesting book; but the Farm is a work of genius which may well outlive the particular and (let us hope) temporary conditions that provoked it.

To begin with, it is very much the shorter of the two. This in itself would not, of course, show it to be the better. I am the last person to think so. Callimachus, to be sure, thought a great book a great evil, but then I think Callimachus a great prig. My appetite is hearty and when I sit down to read I like a square meal. But in this instance the shorter book seems to do all that the longer one does; and more. The longer book does not justify its greater length. There is dead wood in it. And I think we can all see where the dead wood
comes.

poster_1984_lrgIn the nightmare State of 1984 the rulers devote a great deal of time – which means that the author and readers also have to devote a great deal of time – to a curious kind of anti-sexual propaganda. Indeed the amours of the hero and heroine seem to be at least as
much a gesture of protest against that propaganda as a natural outcome of affection or appetite.

Now it is, no doubt, possible that the masters of a totalitarian State might have a bee in their bonnets about sex as about anything else; and, if so, that bee, like all their bees, would sting. But we are shown nothing in the particular tyranny Orwell has depicted which would make this particular bee at all probable. Certain outlooks and attitudes which at times introduced this bee into the Nazi bonnet are not shown at work here. Worse still, its buzzing presence in the book raises questions in all our minds which have really no very close connection with the main theme and are all the more distracting for being, in themselves, of interest.

The truth is, I take it, that the bee has drifted in from an earlier (and much less valuable) period of the author’s thought. He grew up in a time of what was called (very inaccurately) ‘anti-Puritanism’; when people who wanted – in Lawrence’s characteristic phrase – ‘to do dirt on sex’ were among the stock enemies. And, wishing to blacken the villains as much as possible, he decided to fling this charge against them as well as all the relevant charges.

But the principle that any stick is good enough to beat your villain with is fatal in fiction. Many a promising ‘bad character’ (for example, Becky Sharp) has been spoiled by the addition of an inappropriate vice. All the passages devoted to this theme in 1984 ring false to me. I am not now complaining of what some would call (whether justly or not) a ‘bad smell’ in the erotic passages. At least not of bad smells in general only of the smell of red herring.

Animal-Farm-RulesBut this is only the clearest instance of the defect which, throughout, makes 1984 inferior to the Farm. There is too much in it of the author’s own psychology: too much indulgence of what he feels as a man, not pruned or mastered by what he intends to make as an artist. The Farm is work of a wholly different order. Here the whole thing is projected and distanced. It becomes a myth and is allowed to speak for itself. The author shows us hateful things; he doesn’t stammer or speak thick under the surge of his own hatred.

The emotion no longer disables him because it has all been used, and used to make something.

One result is that the satire becomes more effective. Wit and humour (absent from the longer work) are employed with devastating effect. The great sentence ‘All animals are equal but some are more equal than others’ bites deeper than the whole of 1984.

Thus the shorter book does all that the longer does. But it also does more. Paradoxically, when Orwell turns all his characters into animals he makes them more fully human. In 1984 the cruelty of the tyrants is odious, but it is not tragic; odious like a man skinning a cat alive, not tragic like the cruelty of Regan and Goneril to Lear.

Animal_FarmTragedy demands a certain minimum stature in the victim; and the hero and heroine of 1984 do not reach that minimum. They become interesting at all only in so far as they suffer. That is claim enough (Heaven knows) on our sympathies in real life, but not in
fiction. A central character who escapes nullity only by being tortured is a failure. And the hero and heroine in this story are surely such dull, mean little creatures that one might be introduced to them once a week for six months without even remembering them.

In Animal Farm all this is changed. The greed and cunning of the pigs is tragic (not merely odious) because we are made to care about all the honest, well-meaning, or even heroic beasts whom they exploit. The death of Boxer the horse moves us more than all the more elaborate cruelties of the other book. And not only moves, but convinces. Here, despite the animal disguise, we feel we are in a real world. This – this congeries of guzzling pigs, snapping dogs, and heroic horses – this is what humanity is like; very good, very bad, very pitiable, very honourable. If men were only like the people in 1984 it would hardly be worth while writing stories about them. It is as if Orwell could not see them until he put them into a beast fable. Finally, Animal Farm is formally almost perfect; light, strong,
balanced. There is not a sentence that does not contribute to the whole. The myth says all the author wants it to say and (equally important) it doesn’t say anything else. Here is an objet d’art as durably satisfying as a Horatian ode or a Chippendale chair.

four legs good two legs badThat is why I find the superior popularity of 1984 so discouraging. Something must, of course, be allowed for mere length. The booksellers say that short books will not sell. And there are reasons not discreditable. The weekend reader wants something that will last till Sunday evening; the traveller wants something that will last as far as Glasgow.

Again, 1984 belongs to a genre that is now more familiar than a beast-fable; I mean the genre of what may be called ‘Dystopias’, those nightmare visions of the future which began, perhaps, with Wells’s Time Machine and The Sleeper Awakes. I would like to hope that these causes are sufficient. Certainly, it would be alarming if we had to conclude either that the use of the imagination had so decayed that readers demand in all fiction a realistic surface and cannot treat any fable as more than a ‘juvenile’, or else that the bed-scenes in 1984 are the flavouring without which no book can now be sold.


that hideous strength cS lewis 1990sThis post is part of a series featuring the 70th anniversary of both Animal Farm and That Hideous Strength

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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49 Responses to Is Animal Farm Greater than 1984? C.S. Lewis’ Thoughts about George Orwell’s Work

  1. WriteFitz says:

    1984 was assigned reading for me in high school. It left quite an impression (I’ve a rather poor memory for the average book). I still marvel at the prophetic similarities in our modern world (post-1984, though it is). Such as the wife sitting in the room full of media screens, with her “ear buds” in place. Grant it, that was not what Orwell called them. Seems I recall a comparison to a small seashell…

    Anyway, I didn’t read AF until I was an adult. Greatly enjoyed it, found it witty. But maybe because it’s now post Cold War, it’s had less of an impact. That, and AF is written with a lighter tone. 1984 felt very ominous at the time. And it was probably around 84 when I had to read it! The idea that the government would try to make everyone equal…the image of ballet dancers wearing ugly, heavy masks…as a ballet teacher, I think of it on occasion, still!

    I don’t recall anything sexual in either one, so that part is lost on me :-/

    Enjoyed it!

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    • In High School it was the opposite for me: Animal Farm first, then 1984 on my own. 1984 really connected with me about what it might have been like in communism (I lived through the 80s–my first “adult” memories are watching the Wall fall as a young teen). Animal Farm, though, I’m ashamed to say, I missed that it was about Russian communism. I thought it was a critique of the Church, and came to read it as a critique of any system that becomes capital “S” system. It was as a young adult, rereading, that I realized I over-read it (perhaps).

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      • WriteFitz says:

        Definitely could apply to both!

        Liked by 1 person

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        We got taught Animal Farm in junior high, so I don’t know if I would have caught the Russian Revolution on my own, or not, but I think your experience shows its applicable and mythic qualities beyond its allegorical satire. (Not dissimilarly, when I bought a boxed set of Narnia as an undergrad, having never read any and not (I think) knowing much about it, a widely well-read friend, equally unfamiliar, immediately borrowed it first and thoroughly enjoyed it – that it might have any detailed reference to Christianity only striking him after he’d finished the lot: which I suspect is how Lewis probably preferred it to be read, in the first instance.)

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    • Steven Elmore says:

      WriteFitz, I think you are confusing 1984 with two other very good dystopian works. The wife with the screens and seashell ear buds is in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The ballet dancer with the mask and weights on is from the short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vinnegut. They are both favorites of mine, and in a lot of ways are more prophetic than 1984.

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      • Steven Elmore says:

        And that’s Vonnegut, not Vonnegut… 🙂 small phone keyboard.

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      • WriteFitz says:

        OH MY GOODNESS! You’re right! How embarrassing 🙂 Definitely F451. Though I thought both events happened in the same story, I probably read all three books together for a class and lumped them in my brain. Now I’m going to have to look them all up for a refresher.

        Well, it was a looong time ago and, as I said, I’ve not the best memory for books (or movies for that matter).

        Thank you for graciously steering me in the right direction!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. robstroud says:

    I, for one, happen to agree with Lewis. Both works are powerful. Persuasive. Yet Animal Farm made a deeper impression on me when I originally read them. I suspect the same would remain true if I reread them today. Perhaps even more so.

    Lewis’ essay raised a question which has me curious. He uses the word “dystopia” for the genre here, and I’m wondering who originated that term. It certainly represents a huge proportion of the fiction written today.

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    • I’m the same about Animal Farm.
      I don’t know who originated “dystopia.” Really, all the utopias were “dys.”
      Actually, I looked it up on my OED subscription. “Dystopia” is not coined until 1952–just 3 years before this essay. But the adjective is earlier:

      1868 J. S. Mill in Hansard Commons 12 Mar. 1517/1 It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable.

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  3. Animal Farm probably reflects the reality of life in the Western World as opposed to the Totalitarianism of the Soviets. The most effective Totalitarian government is the one in control without the populace knowing it. In short, the people who think themselves free are not, if they are subject to manipulations by propaganda and brainwashing. Just think of Clam Plate Orgy and subliminal seduction techniques and how it all originated back around WWI and is always in the process of being refined with the ultimate aim to control minds electronically. Right now the big push is on to reduce the population by 5.5-6.5 billion people so those who think they are in control can feel more secure.. Never mind that we, apparently, we now have the means to settle planets in other solar systems and galaxies. With a frontier like that, it seems advisable for the humanity of the rulers to make use of such a relief valve. But of course that might mean the loss of control. Preposterous!

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  4. jamesbradfordpate says:

    1984 was more intriguing to me as a reader, but Animal Farm made my blood boil—-with how the pigs were acting.

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  5. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    When Lewis says, “it is not surprising that either book, or both, should find plenty of readers, and both are obviously the works of a very considerable writer” I think he includes himself under the enjoyers of both, though his specification that, to him, 1984 seems “to be merely a flawed, interesting book” characterizes the qualification of its interest, some of which he goes on to treat in detail. I think he is right about those details, and about the greatness of Animal Farm, but would also gladly know more of his thoughts about the interest of 1984, for its “realistic surface” seems to have distinct interests of its own, in atmosphere, in the specific sympathy and/or empathy for the suffering of “such dull, mean little creatures” (though, mutatis mtuandis, Tolkien does something not so unlike it better with Gollum), and in the terrible determination of the powers that be to bring the ideological “heretic […] over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him.”

    I don’t know that he anywhere gives a comparable degree of detailed attention to Huxley’s Brave New World. I wish he did, for I would be interested to compare what he says about its attention to ‘sex’, which seems not at all like “dead wood” and where the “outlooks and attitudes which […] introduced this [distinctly different] bee into the [imagined totalitarian] bonnet are [so well] shown at work”.

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    • Lewis recommends Huxley in the letters, but you are right: I don’t know where he really digs in. I think in Huxley the designed promiscuity helps heighten the tension between the Savage and the Civilized.
      In CSL’s speech “On Science Fiction,” he considers Brave New World:
      “A much more
      frequent use of the leap into the future, in our time, is satiric or
      prophetic: the author criticises tendencies in the present by
      imagining them carried out (‘produced’, as Euclid would say) to
      their logical limit. Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four leap to
      our minds. I can see no objection to such a ‘machine’. Nor do I see
      much use in discussing, as someone did, whether books that use it
      can be called ‘novels’ or not. That is merely a question of definition.
      You may define the novel either so as to exclude or so as to include
      them. The best definition is that which proves itself most
      convenient. And of course to devise a definition for the purpose of
      excluding either The Waves in one direction or Brave New World in
      another, and then blame them for being excluded, is foolery.”
      He also there calls it an “eschatological” book.

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  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    This article was preceded by one some half year earlier (August 1954) which rounded off a series of exchanges begun five years before with Lewis’s ‘The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment’ (1949): ‘On Punishment: A Reply’. Its penultimate sentence reads, “For, if I am not deceived, we are all at this moment helping to decide whether humanity shall retain all that has hitherto made humanity worth preserving, or whether we must slide down into the subhumanity imagined by Mr. Aldous Huxley and George Orwell and partially realised in Hilter’s Germany.” (This is echoed and expanded upon here by, “all totalitarian rulers, however their shirts may be coloured, are equally the enemies of Man.” Varieties of “subhumanity” and ways to it can be imagined – and (partially) realised – but the abolition of Man is the result.)

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  7. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    An interesting bit of context is that Orwell was a contributor to Time & Tide from 1936 to 1943, while Williams was one from 1933 until a month after his death (a number of reviews having been submitted in advance), while the Wikipedia article (q.v.!) about it notes ” an association between Lewis and the magazine that would last twenty years” beginning in 1940.

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  8. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Another sort of context which had never fully struck me before was that it was two years after this article on Orwell that the late Robert Conquest launched his Orwell-indebted attack on Williams and Lewis, “The Art of the Enemy” (Essays in Criticism (January 1957): reprinted in The Abomination of Moab in 1979), which generated a number of published responses and a reply. I could imagine Lewis applying this characterization to Conquest as well as Orwell: someone exhibiting “the disillusionment of one who had been a revolutionary of the familiar, entre guerre pattern and had later come to see that all totalitarian rulers, however their shirts may be coloured, are equally the enemies of Man.” But I do not know if Lewis ever refers anywhere to Conquest in general, or this tendentious attack in particular. Curiously, Conquest was, if I am not mistaken, friends with the decidedly Williams-friendly Bruce Mongomery (pen-name, Edmund Crispin). The late Stephen Medcalf interestingly considers Conquest’s critique in a paper available in the Williams Society Newsletter/Quarterly archive online at the Soc. website (though I cannot put my hand on the reference details as to which issue – fortunately, the back issues make enjoyable browsing…).

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  10. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    It may have been done more than once – I’m not on top of the literature by any means – but it suddenly occurs to me that a survey of ‘dystopias in Narnia’ as part as a larger survey of Narnia and political philosophy (or, echoeing Voegelin’s last great project, ‘Order & History in Narnia’) would be interesting.

    The account of the White Witch’s ultimately defeated dystopian totalitarian regime seems to have been finished about the time 1984 appeared. Written almost immediately after though leaping down the Narnia centuries is Prince Caspain with its dystopian Telmarine monarchy transformed by Caspian to an ‘inclusive realm’ like that of the ‘Golden Age’ after the defeat of the Witch. The Horse and His Boy, started about a half-year later, reveals he Calormenes as having developed a sort of tyrannous cosmological empire, well-established in that ‘Golden Age’. (I wonder if corrupted Numenor contributed to this?) The next major dystopia is what one of the “Northern Witches” has made of Underland as its ‘Queen’ in The Silver Chair, written in the next half-year.

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    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Hmm… ‘Lewis’s Decade of Dystopias Defeated’: from the publication of THS to that of The Last Battle – ? And what of the kakodemonological element common to Numenor corrupted, THS, and the Calormene empire?

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    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      With Lewis’s first dystopian fiction, Dymer (1926), republished in 1950 in the midst of this decade…And Pilgrim’s Regress with its dysopian elements reprinted on the cusp of it…

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    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      To continue, The Magician’s Nephew reveals the White Witch as dystopian ruler from Charn whose further dystopian ambitions fail on earth but find scope in Narnia. And the Last Battle entails the dystopian ambitions of Shift soon serving Calormene imperial plans, all eschatologically resolved.

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      • Wow!
        It seems you’ve caught wind on something. You are right: when we think of Dystopia and define it as a perverted or inverted utopia guided by an autocrat or dictator or cruel monarchy, you see a great trend in Lewis. And he was writing critically about dystopia–and it hadn’t been named, really. They all knew it was the inversion of Utopia, but notice that More wrote Utopia under an autocratic and paranoid king who engendered space for arts but pleasantly removed More’s head for individual thought. Even Utopia is embedded in critique.
        When will you have the paper finished?

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        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          I’m not sure if I should try tackling it as, or in, a paper, but I’m enjoying brooding and mulling, so, who knows?

          One thing which occurred to me (which I don’t by any means know enough about) is how some dystopias – like Brave New World, Animal Farm, and 1984, are open-endedly miserable. But Lewis’s are often dystopias averted or defeated (in the longer or shorter term: I don’t know by heart what we know about the duration up to the story’s present of the White Witch’s reign or the other witch’s in The Silver Chair – in the books themselves, or in subsequent developments, or notes external to any of the books and not published by Lewis). If the destruction of Numenor-become-dystopian (which is borrowed into the background of THS) is cataclysmic, Calormen (however we can best describe it) only meets its end together with its world. So, that is among the possibilities – but it also entails the defeat of tyrannical evil, together with the end of inner-worldly mutability.

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        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Something just struck me in regard to Lewis saying “1984 belongs to a genre that is now more familiar than a beast-fable; I mean the genre of what may be called ‘Dystopias’ ” – are there specific characterics of ‘Dystopias’ assumed here – characteristics readers would tend to expect – contrasted with the basic fact of a beast-fable? That is, would a dytopian beast-fable perhaps have problems of appeal which a ‘realistic futuristic’ dystopia would not?

          I am also thinking of the Reynard the Fox cycle of stories set in ‘the animal kingdom’ (so to put it), of which Caxton produced a version in 1481 (when Thomas More was a toddler), which William Morris reprinted in 1892 (there’s a scan at Internet Archive). I’ve read around in the EETS edition of Caxton’s Reynard but don’t know it properly, but it has its element of intrigue at the court of “the Lyon, the noble kynge of all beestis”. (Embarrassing confession: I have never read Boxen right through, yet, either. and so can’t say how it may ‘enter the picture’.)

          Has Lewis both followed, and varied from, the example of Animal Farm in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in embarking on a dystopian beast-(and-other-non-humans)fable where (as in THS) the dystopia is defeated by ‘mediated Divine intervention’ (so to put it – though crucial details of the mediation are quite different)?

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  11. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Meanwhile, Inklings-ward there are the Sauron, Saruman, and ‘scouring of the Shire’ dysopias defeated in The Lord of the Rings in this period, and the modern-totalitarian turn Williams gives one of the features of his Arthurian retelling in the last play he published, The House of the Octopus (which Tolkien playfully mentions in one of the parts of the Notion Club Papers which must have been written before his death).

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    • I have to return to Notion Club and read it leisurely. Though I am struggling with leisure time!
      Is it any wonder that WWII brought on dystopia from men and women who were young in WWI?

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      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Indeed! A lot more intelligent work has (I understand) been paid to the ‘Frontline Inklings’ (esp. Tolkien) than I have caught up with, and the avoidance of LotR ‘allegorism’ is well established (while also seeming a never-ending job), but I’m not sure what’s been done on Inkling mythpoeic interaction with the ‘dystopian’ Powers of WW II – Tom Shippey has a very interesting paper in The Tolkien Phenomenon conference proceedings bringing in T.H. White and William Golding, but I haven’t kept up enough to know if he’s built on that in later published work.

        The whole arc of their work and the century invite attention (which, again, I don’t know how much they’ve received). For instance, Williams’s first novel, written in 1925, but only published in 1933 in revised form as Shadows of Ecstasy (with its complex tale of dystopian aspirations defeated) has, in some sense, in its immediate background the establishment of Mussolini (with, of course, the Russian Revolution and ensuing Civil War a bit further in the background: e.g., Britain only recognized the Soviet government in Jan 1924) – and the same may be said of Dymer.

        Enjoying the first, alchemical romance in the LibriVox version of The Wallet of Kai Lung, we went looking up more about Ernest Bramah – and learned he had published a futuristic dystopian novel, What might Have Been (1907), republished as The Secret of the League: The Story of a Social War in 1909 (in which form it is scanned in the Internet Archive and transcribed in Project Gutenberg), mentioned by Orwell in his “Predictions of Fascism”, originally published in the Tribune on 12 July 1940, and (according to Wikipedia…) “acknowledged by George Orwell as a source for Nineteen Eighty-Four”!

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        • i don’t know the breadth of the Inklings conversation. Who could know? It is a lifelong story, yet kind of a necessity if Lewis is your anchor (as he is mine).
          So what do you do when you have an idea like this? If I had the space to hunt it down (which I don’t now), I would read another 20 or 30 books, then I would do the literature review to see if my idea is there. If I am still excited, I write a paper to test it.
          What about you?

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          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            I blog-comment 😉

            I don’t write enough papers, but I like the etymological idea of an ‘essay’ just trying things out – tossing out suggestions, sketching roughly… A certain (traditional – ?) kind of footnote is good for that, too.

            Stephen Medcalf used to give different versions of a paper or talk over time, testing it on audiences, discussing with them, brooding further, letting it rest, rewriting till he reached a version he’d think worth publishing – which didn’t exclude future revision: and always, in my experience, with very valuable result. (His contributions to the Huttar & Schakel Lewis and Williams volumes are like that.)

            I suppose I also go meandering along with an idea ‘on file’ and see how things fit into it or build it up, without a concentrated attempt at systematic reading-up – though I can see that might ‘crown it off’ at some point, if I felt I’d reached such a point. I might also try to write something more limited in scope from time to time that could also be a component in a larger whole. (That’s what Medcalf does in the Lewis volume contribution: the paper as “companion to” both another previously-published essay, and a longer work still in progress.)

            Dissertation-wise, you can’t do everything, and you shouldn’t try: the most solid, well-worked-out contribution is still going in various ways (and quite properly) to be incomplete, tentative, open to new material and new insights.

            (And, don’t let me worry you if some of the things I toss out so blithely seem on target! – assume they’re side-paths at best, till you’re Dr. Dickieson!)

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  14. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I just ran into a UPI report on something to my thinking not unrelated to That Hideous Strength. I had not realized there was a “Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize awarded by the Brain Preservation Foundation.” But someone has just won it for ” ‘the first demonstration that near-perfect, long term structural preservation of an intact mammalian brain is achievable,’ foundation officials wrote”. According to part of the headline, “Frozen Rabbit Brain Successfully Recovered”. “​ ‘Every neuron and synapse looks beautifully preserved across the entire brain,’ said Kenneth Hayworth, foundation president.” (“Looks”.) There’s even a nice Animal Farm dimension: “The same research team used their ASC freezing technique on a larger pig brain — more analogous to the human brain — and are currently awaiting the results of that experiment.” As far as I can see, it’s still a dead bunny brain. And there is nothing to suggest it will not be a dead pig brain. Something to be grateful for, I’d say.

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      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Alas, no! And now I’ve run into another UPI report, about “Scientists at Johns Hopkins University” who “used a method developed in Japan to derive stem cells from skin samples. The stem cells are then stimulated to grow into brain cells that grow to form brain-like structures over the course of eight weeks.

        “The brains are grown to a size of 350 micrometers — no bigger than [ the eye of] a housefly. Thousands of copies can be produced, allowing researchers to easily and efficiently repeat tests with control and experiment groups.”

        It links to a Johns Hopkins press release which speaks in terms of “tiny, barely visible ‘mini-brains,’ balls of human neurons and other cells that mimic some of the brain’s structures and functionality.” I’m not sure how comforting one should find the details “human neurons and other cells” and that they ‘only’ (if I may insert an adverb) “mimic some of the brain’s structures and functionality.” Not exactly little further-bodiless clone-brains, ideal to experiment on, infect, traumatize? And yet, “They even showed spontaneous electrophysiological activity, which could be recorded with electrodes, similar to an electroencephalogram, or EEG. To test them, researchers placed a mini-brain on an array of electrodes and listened to the spontaneous electrical communication of the neurons as test drugs were added.” ‘I have no mouth,… but I produce spontaneous electrical communication’?

        There’s no reference to killing them – for purposes of dissection, or anyhow, or to things like vivisecting them, instead, or trying to keep them alive indefinitely to go on and on experimenting. “One hundred of them can grow easily in the same petri dish in the lab.” How many fallen angels – or should I say, ‘mini-macrobes’? – can dance on on petri dish with a hundred?

        Here’s the press release link:

        http://hub.jhu.edu/2016/02/12/mini-brains-drug-testing

        Liked by 1 person

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  17. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Whew! – here we go again! The Washington Post (29 Aug.) has “Surgeons want to transplant a human head — really — and a Russian is offering his” (with a link to an Atlantic story). Some of the background is in The New Scientist of 19 January with “Head transplant carried out on monkey, claims maverick surgeon” (I did not ” New Scientist Live:”Scroll down to see this image”, though, as possibly being among “Some readers [who] may find it upsetting”!) And The Daily Mail provided more of the background on 5 February (updated 16 May) in “Disabled human guinea pig is selling ‘world’s first head transplant’ mugs and t-shirts pay for £14m operation HIMSELF”.

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