Psychomachia

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  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    I suppose “Psychomachia” here refers to the point that JKR “invites her readers to understand her fiction as a psychological distillation of her experiences, which is to say, we are to read them through the filter of her biography if we are to get at the heart of their meaning.”

    That seems to me a fascinating ‘matter’ for discussion in its own right in the context of the history of ‘psychomachia’ as form – including Tolkien’s remarks to his son Christopher in an airgraph of 25 May 1944 (Letter 71): “‘romance’ has grown out of ‘allegory’, and its wars are still derived from the ‘inner war’ of allegory in which good is on one side and various modes of badness are on the other.” Tolkien wrote this in the context both of their discussing his working on what was eventually published as The Lord of the Rings and of Christopher’s experiences in the military. The quotation I just made is preceded by “Yes, I think the orcs as real a creation as anything in ‘realistic’ fiction: your vigorous words well describe the tribe; only in real life they are on both sides of course.” And it is followed by “In real (exterior) life men are on both sides: which means a motley alliance of orcs, beasts, demons, plain naturally honest men, and angels. But it does make some difference who are your captains and whether they are orc-like per se! And what it is all about (or thought to be). It is even in this world possible to be (more or less) in the wrong or in the right.”

    There might be some possible fruitful consideration in light of Tolkien’s remarks of JKR works and your point of “her fiction as a psychological distillation of her experiences” – and of her (so to put it) polemics and apologetics on Twitter and elsewhere. For instance, is HP ‘romance’ in contrast to Strike’s “‘realistic’ fiction” – and if so, with what if any consequences? And in how far do the contours of what is – and is not – shared ideologically by Mrs. Murray and many of those attacking her most fiercely involve an ‘allegorical ‘ simplification “in which good is on one side and various modes of badness are on the other”? And, again, how far does this ‘ideological allegorizing’ (so to call it) seems to include avoidance both of the character of “real (exterior) life” and of the ‘realistic’ features of what (so to say) ‘classical’ psychomachia depicts: the reality of demonic ‘forces’ atempting to fight God for one’s soul?

    Another interesting possible ‘Inklings’ context for your point, is Lewis’s attention to the interrelations of (literary) art and biography – especially in Arthurian Torso – which, however, I will not attempt to go into, here and now.

  2. And would James Paxon have anything to say about this rendering of Psychomachia?

    And would Lewis have anything to say vis a vis The Personal Heresy?

  3. I’m not sure I agree. JKR is surely imbuing her stories with meaning — her understanding of psychological truths such as what makes a good romantic relationship and what is the nature of evil. However, she is also making extensive — EXTENSIVE — cultural references. A friend of mine on Twitter once commented, “She can’t be parallelling all these stories,” which is an understandable sentiment. However, I am forced to conclude that she most certainly is referencing and paralleling, with great specificity, other books in the series, specific scenes, Harry Potter, popular and literary novels both modern and historical, classical mythology, plays, poetry, song lyrics, the occult, games, etc. etc. etc., not to mention the rich, consistent, and meaningful imagery! So, what are we to make of all this referencing? Putting aside the question of how she does it, I wonder if the answer to why she does it is as a means of providing supportive evidence to the conclusions she presents. That is to say, when we respond to the idea that “our choices show who we are more than our abilities,” this thesis is not simply JKR’s conclusions based on her own experience but based on all the cultural works she has referenced in making that point. How we can coral the multitude of her cultural references that reflect on free will, identity, heroism, evil, etc., I don’t know, but I sure enjoy thinking about it!

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