OT: time and religion and literature (was Re: Opinions wanted: person of vocatives)
|Date:||Thursday, July 3, 2003, 13:40|
On Thu, 2003-07-03 at 22:21, michael poxon wrote:
> Not sure I can go along with this - both Yeats and Tolkien, among many
> others, deal with themes which involve religious ideas.
But what normal congregation reads Yeats or Tolkien?
> And why will
> something which will be understood by more people be necessarily a good
Religion is a different matter from literature. Unless you're a member
of that cult the name of which I forget, you generally get your children
involved in a religion at a youngish age. But perhaps religion *should*
be of limited understandability... that might limit the amount of people
who randomly join without having a reason other than that their parents
did, depending on how it's done.
> This will only be the case if the translation is excellent, and these
> occasions are going to be very few and far between. Chaucer, Shakespeare et
> al should be read as they were written, though I don't think this applies to
> texts (say) in OE, which is no longer intelligible without lengthy training.
> In these cases, if a translation is done, it should be at the hands of a
> sympathetic, skilled linguist - you only have to look at some of the howlers
> that JRRT describes (the one I remember was the description of Heorot as a
> "genial saloon" which to my mind conjures up images of out-of-tune tinkling
> pianos and cowboys saying "git me a sarsparilla")
No piece of literature can be truly appreciated without living in the
same culture as the author. The best that can be done for OE texts,
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austin or Poe is an study of the society they came
from, because those societies are now unreachable. Those unwilling or
unable to study but who still need to read the texts need a translation
---a well-done translation that doesn't simply take the words no longer
used and replace them with newer ones---if they're to understand them
but even this will probably lose many of the reasons for the text's
existence in the first place.
But literature isn't religion. Nor is religion literature. (Religious
texts can be studied as works of literature, and when doing that, it's
naïve to think that a translation---be it Latin, Bede's, the KJV, the
Good News (etc.)---can be your base, any more than a literal translation
will help you understand any work of literature.) What difference would
it make to god if you celebrated his triumph or worshipped his creation
or whatever it is your religion does in Present Day English, Early
Modern English, Latin, Arabic or Degaspregos?