Re: [asa] YEC sub-group & fiction

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Wed Jan 28 2009 - 18:12:21 EST

Thanks Kirk,

This certainly pulls everything together for me and illustrates very well the original point regarding views on fiction. The mention that the mother rejected fiction on the urging of "a Calvinist governess" is intriguing. Being of Scottish birth, and having some familiarity with the attitudes of Scot's Calvinists to music, dance, theatre, etc, I wouldn't be surprised to see the attitude go even further back. My guess would be, however, that the original rationale would be that the reading of fiction should be shunned as a waste of time (and probably for it's questionable moral content - stirring the vulgar passions and all that) - rather than because it was "a lie." It would make for an interesting historical inquiry.

As to the citation you provided: it was very interesting and much appreciated.

My attention was arrested by the statement in the last paragraph:

So little did I understand what was allowable in the
> way of literary invention that I began the story without a doubt
> that it was true, and I think it was my Father himself who, in
> answer to an inquiry, explained to me that it was 'all made up'.

It strikes me just how much his education (or lack of it!) has influenced him in a "self-fulfulling" way;

Because he was raised with the idea that all stories must be "true" or "false" that he was unable to correctly approach the work by Scott to which he refers.

And, lacking the skills to properly appropriate fiction, he mistakenly took the text as "true".

And, taking the text as true (when it is, in fact, "not true") his conviction that the story is deceptive, therefore a "lie", would merely be reinforced.

It's precisely because he believes that fiction is "a lie" that he is unable to adequately grasp at what level it is "true" and therefore he is driven back to his starting belief. So it is, as I say, a "self-fulfilling" point-of-view.

This has some relation to one of my major concerns with conservative Christian readings of Genesis - namely that they (we?) have a very limited "repertoire" of literary forms at their command. As a result, they have to force Genesis into one of the few categories in their exegetical arsenal. Well and good, of course, if Genesis actually does happen to fall into a simple category like (to cite one commonly proposed form) eye-witness reportage - BUT what if Genesis is actually something more like Australian Aboriginal Dream-time stories?

I'm not, mind you, asserting that Genesis IS the same as an Australian Aboriginal Dream-time story, only that there are entire genres of literature which simply don't register on the conservative Christian radar-screen. And, as we've seen recently on the ASA list, not only do conservative Christians not appreciate that their perspective might be limited in this regard, they won't even consider the possibility.


Kirk Bertsche wrote:
> Murray,
> I agree that Gosse's position sounds inconsistent. Apparently it was
> mainly his wife's conviction, but he adopted this position as well.
> Below are some passages from Edmund Gosse's "Father and Son" (which is
> in the public domain at numerous places on the web).
> Kirk
> -----
> From "Father and Son":
> Meanwhile, capable as I was of reading, I found my greatest
> pleasure in the pages of books. The range of these was limited,
> for story-books of every description were sternly excluded. No
> fiction of any kind, religious or secular, was admitted into the
> house. In this it was to my Mother, not to my Father, that the
> prohibition was due. She had a remarkable, I confess to me still
> somewhat unaccountable impression that to 'tell a story', that
> is, to compose fictitious narrative of any kind, was a sin. She
> carried this conviction to extreme lengths. My Father, in later
> years, gave me some interesting examples of her firmness. As a
> young man in America, he had been deeply impressed by
> 'Salathiel', a pious prose romance by that then popular writer,
> the Rev. George Croly. When he first met my Mother, he
> recommended it to her, but she would not consent to open it. Nor
> would she read the chivalrous tales in verse of Sir Walter Scott,
> obstinately alleging that they were not 'true'. She would read
> none but lyrical and subjective poetry. Her secret diary reveals
> the history of this singular aversion to the fictitious, although
> it cannot be said to explain the cause of it. As a child,
> however, she had possessed a passion for making up stories, and
> so considerable a skill in it that she was constantly being
> begged to indulge others with its exercise. But I will, on so
> curious a point, leave her to speak for herself:
> 'When I was a very little child, I used to amuse myself and my
> brothers with inventing stories, such as I read. Having, as I
> suppose, naturally a restless mind and busy imagination, this
> soon became the chief pleasure of my life. Unfortunately, my
> brothers were always fond of encouraging this propensity, and I
> found in Taylor, my maid, a still greater tempter. I had not
> known there was any harm in it, until Miss Shore [a Calvinist
> governess], finding it out, lectured me severely, and told me it
> was wicked. From that time forth I considered that to invent a
> story of any kind was a sin. But the desire to do so was too
> deeply rooted in my affections to be resisted in my own strength
> [she was at that time nine years of age], and unfortunately I knew
> neither my corruption nor my weakness, nor did I know where to
> gain strength. The longing to invent stories grew with violence;
> everything I heard or read became food for my distemper. The
> simplicity of truth was not sufficient for me; I must needs
> embroider imagination upon it, and the folly, vanity and
> wickedness which disgraced my heart are snore than I am able to
> express. Even now [at the age of twenty-nine], tho' watched,
> prayed and striven against, this is still the sin that most
> easily besets me. It has hindered my prayers and prevented my
> improvement, and therefore, has humbled me very much."
> ...
> My Father, by an indulgent act for the caprice of which I cannot
> wholly account, presently let in a flood of imaginative light
> which was certainly hostile to my heavenly calling. ...
> One day, as I multiplied inquiries, he rose in his
> impetuous way, and climbing to the top of a bookcase, brought
> down a thick volume and presented it to me. 'You'll find all
> about the Antilles there,' he said, and left me with Tom
> Cringle's Log in my possession.
> The embargo laid upon every species of fiction by my Mother's
> powerful scruple had never been raised, although she had been
> dead four years. As I have said in an earlier chapter, this was a
> point on which I believe that my Father had never entirely agreed
> with her. He had, however, yielded to her prejudice; and no work
> of romance, no fictitious story, had ever come in my way. It is
> remarkable that among our books, which amounted to many hundreds,
> I had never discovered a single work of fiction until my Father
> himself revealed the existence of Michael Scott's wild
> masterpiece. So little did I understand what was allowable in the
> way of literary invention that I began the story without a doubt
> that it was true, and I think it was my Father himself who, in
> answer to an inquiry, explained to me that it was 'all made up'.
> He advised me to read the descriptions of the sea, and of the
> mountains of Jamaica, and 'skip' the pages which gave imaginary
> adventures and conversations. But I did not take his counsel;
> these latter were the flower of the book to me. I had never read,
> never dreamed of anything like them, and they filled my whole
> horizon with glory and with joy.
> On Jan 28, 2009, at 1:24 PM, Murray Hogg wrote:
>> Hi Kirk,
>> If I might press you a little on this; how certain are you that the
>> below is actually the case?
>> I ask because I find it somewhat ironic that Gosse would, at one and
>> the same time, think fiction is deceptive but creating the world with
>> a false appearance of age is not.
>> Now, let me say that I personally don't see how God could create
>> anything ex nihilio which appears as though it has just been created
>> (what does a newly created tree look like?) - so I'm not quite
>> convinced that a false appearance of age actually should be seen as
>> "deceptive". I'm just pointing out what strikes me as an incongruous
>> rejection of fictional literature on the part of an author who is
>> otherwise clearly happy to accept that things are not always what they
>> appear to be.
>> This is, to me, very curious BUT if you assure me that it is the case,
>> then I'll happily take your word for it.
>> Blessings,
>> Murray
>> Kirk Bertsche wrote:
>>> I've never actually met anyone who thought this way. But it was
>>> apparently the position of Philip Gosse, who combined YEC with
>>> appearance of age in his book "Omphalos" in the 1850's. His son,
>>> Edmund, describes his father's anti-fiction views in his own book
>>> "Father and Son."
>>> Kirk
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Received on Wed Jan 28 18:12:56 2009

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