Monday, May 23, 2005

Sheer, Unabashed, Prolonged Dullness

The typical vice [of medieval literature], as we all know, is dullness; sheer, unabashed, prolonged dullness, where the author does not seem to be even trying to interest us. The South English Legendary or Ormulum or parts of Hoccleve are good examples. ... The writer feels everything to be so interesting in itself that there is no need for him to make it so. The story, however badly told, will still be worth telling; the truths, however badly stated, still worth stating. He expected the subject to do for him nearly everything he ought to do himself. Outside literature we can still see this state of mind at work. On the lowest intellectual level, people who find any one subject entirely engrossing are apt to think that any reference to it, of whatever quality, must have some value. Pious people on that level appear to think that the quotation of any scriptural text, or any line from a hymn, or even any noise made by a harmonium, is an edifying sermon or a cogent apologetic. Less pious people on the same level, dull clowns, seem to think that they have achieved either a voluptuous or a comic effect--I am not sure which is intended--by chalking up a single indecent word on a wall.
~C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image (1964)


Link of the day: What in the world is a harmonium?

3 Comment(s):

At Mon May 23, 04:42:00 PM EST, Blogger Matthew said...

Good quote and so, so true, most of the time. I think Mr. Lewis would agree that some medieval literature can be quite lively. I'm thinking especially of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The only reason I know what a harmonium is, is that one of them is featured in my favorite film (ever!), Punch-Drunk Love.

(Sorry, I find the film so entirely engrossing that I'm apt to think that any reference to it, of whatever quality, must have some value.)

At Mon May 23, 05:28:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Ha ha! I've never seen Punch Drunk Love (not a huge Adam Sandler fan) so I have no way of knowing if that reference is a 'quality' reference or not!

I had never heard of a harmonium before.

At Tue May 24, 07:05:00 AM EST, Blogger Matthew said...

Oh yeah, don't get me wrong, I'm no Adam Sandler fan myself. I think I've only sat through one other of his films. But this one's quite different. More of a P.T. Anderson (the director) film than a Sandler film. Sandler was even nominated for a best actor Golden Globe for it.


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