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Session 25: April 21st, 2010 – Chps 11-13 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


Christmas Pudding

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While eating some Christmas pudding, also called plum pudding, we summarized and discussed chapters 11-13 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Our next session will be the last Wednesday in May, May 26th. We will summarize and discuss the last chapters of the book.

In addition, I plan to discuss these questions:
1) Why do we read?
2) Lewis said the Narnian stories are fairy tales. How is a fairy tale different from other kinds of fiction?
3) Lewis wrote that he chose to write the Narnian stories as fairy-tales because the fairy-tale was the best way to express what he wanted to say. What did he want to say?

Session 24: March 24th, 2010 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, chps 7-10

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Session #24 was held on Wednesday, March 24th, [Correction] 3-5 pm. We  heard summaries of chapters 7-10 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and discused them. We began reading chapter 11, and heard a brief report about another C.S. Lewis book, Till We Have Faces.

Update: Today we discussed the following topics:

  1. dragons as archetypes
  2. when the children hear the name “Aslan“, “everyone felt quite different… At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” Have you ever had such an experience?
  3. in single file 1列縦隊で
  4. “Safe? … Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
  5. Lilith, Adam’s first wife, according to legend. I see that, according to Wikipedia, there is only one possible place in the Hebrew bible which might be referring to Lilith.
  6. When the children discover that Edmund is missing, their first instinct is to look for him, but Mr. Beaver says no: “‘Don’t you see that the only chance of saving either him or yourselves is to keep away from her [the Witch]’…. ‘Oh, can no one help us?’ wailed Lucy.  ‘Only Aslan,’ said Mr. Beaver, ‘ we must go on and meet him. That’s our only chance now.'” Here Lewis introduces the idea that one’s first instincts may not be always the best thing to do: the children have to learn that there is a higher value, something more important, than simply finding Edmund: what needs to happen is to save him. Imagine if the children did look for Edmund and did find him, what then? Perhaps he would have refused to come with them, because he preferred to be with the White Witch (hoping that she would make him a Prince and give him more Turkish Delight).
  7. (Chapter 9). Edmund was not 100% bad:
    1. he did not actually want “his brother and sisters to be turned into stone.” He pretended he believed that she wouldn’t do anything very bad to them.
    2. “At least, that was the excuse he made in his own mind for what he was doing. It wasn’t a very good excuse, however, for deep down inside him he really knew that the White Witch was bad and cruel.”

    We discussed “sin”, and the Christian idea that you must first accept that you are a sinner before you can become a Christian (i.e. accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master). When I was a high school student, some of my friends became Christians, and they were always telling me about this; this feeling of sin was something I did not feel at all, and I could not accept it. C.S. Lewis wrote “The [second] greatest barrier I have met [in presenting the Christian Faith to modern unbelievers] is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin. . . . The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews, Metuentes or Pagans, a sense of guilt. . . . Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.” [from http://hope.edu/academic/english/schakel/tillwehavefaces/chapter12.html Lewis, “Difficulties in Presenting the Christian Faith to Modern Unbelievers,” Lumen Vitae, 3 (1948); reprinted as “God in the Dock,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 243-44 (in Britain, Undeceptions: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper [London: Geoffrey Bles, 1971], p. 200)]

  8. (Chapter 10). Mrs. Beaver refuses to panic, and remains practical. I cannot think of specific examples now, but this kind of character may be considered typically British. Although I’m sure such characters exist in other cultures, the combination of stoicism (link to Japanese Wikipedia) with good humour is a character trait traditionally highly valued in British culture.
  9. How can there be a Father “Christmas” if it is “always winter and never Christmas” in Narnia? asked a participant. Quite right! Probably children who read this book will not question this, though. Also, of course, how can there be a Father “Christmas” in another world into which Jesus Christ has not been born? Perhaps Lewis was appealing to a basic human sense that “always winter” and never any fun or celebration, is somehow wrong; that there should be some happiness and joy, even in the middle of winter.
  10. The children receive 3 gifts from Father Christmas: a sword and shield for Peter, a bow and arrows and a horn for Susan, and a dagger and a vial of healing cordial for Lucy. It is part of the convention of fairy tales for the hero to receive  magical gifts. In addition, the gifts are not purely personal toys, but are given to the children for the purpose of helping them to help others. What if Edmund had been there? Would he have received a gift? What would he have received? Would Father Christmas have given him Turkish Delight?
  11. (Chapter 11). Slowly, Edmund realizes that the Witch never “intended to make him a King.”
  12. The White Witch is not only cruel, but she is a puritan: she gets angry at the gifts Father Christmas gave to the squirrel family: “What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this self-indulgence?”

We also heard a brief summary of C.S. Lewis’ novel Till We Have Faces (thank you, Okabayashi-san!). Someone asked the meaning of the title. The title comes from a single line in the book, near the end, when the main character, Orual, asks “How can the gods meet us face to face till we have faces?” In a letter to Dorothy Conybeare, Lewis explained ‘the idea behind the title was that a human being must become real before it can expect to receive any message from divine beings; “that is, it must be speaking with its own voice (not one of its borrowed voices), expressing its actual desires (not what it imagines that it desires), being for good or ill itself, not any mask, veil, or persona.“‘ [Constance Babington Smith, Letters to a Sister from Rose Macaulay, 1964, 261; also at Hooper, Companion (see IX) 252, quoted in Wikipedia.]

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Aristotle’s Poetics

Miniature from a manuscript of the Roman de la...
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In the movie Shadowlands, there are a couple of scenes showing C.S. Lewis, professor of Medieval and Renaissance English Literature, teaching some tutorials. (The movie shows Lewis teaching in Oxford; he was first a professor at Oxford, then moved to Cambridge University, which is where he was teaching when he met Joy Gresham, although he continued to live in Oxford until the end of his life.)

In the first tutorial scene, Lewis is talking about the Romance of the Rose. He then notices one of his students is asleep, and, perhaps like the viewer and the other students, he wonders why. This reminds him of Aristotle’s theories on literature, especially theatre or drama, because Aristotle would have said that the question to ask, as a writer of literature, is not “why is the student sleeping?” but “what will he do next?” In other words, he is using the occasion to teach.

One of our participants (thank you, Katsuyo!) kindly found a summary in Japanese of Aristotle’s Poetics, which help explain what Lewis was talking about:

インターネットで、「詩学」(”Poetics”)の日本語訳を探してみました。下記のサイトでは、「詩学」の各章の要約が書かれています

http://www.kanshin.com/keyword/1244860

下記のサイトでは、喜劇と悲劇の違いについて「詩学」でどのように述べられているかが簡単にまとめられています。

http://www.geocities.jp/m_t_g/report.5.html

蛇足ながら、検索をしているうちに、「詩学」の本もある事がわかりました。

http://www.amazon.co.jp/詩学-岩波文庫-アリストテレース/dp/4003360494

これをライフワークで研究されている方もあるのですね。

http://www.osaka-up.or.jp/books/ISBN4-87259-055-4.html

「ルネッサンス以来行われてきた2000を越える研究成果・・・云々」びっくりです。

I think the Japanese summary which refers to Aristotle’s ideas mentioned in the Shadowlands movie is this part (scroll down to Section 6):

悲劇とは行為の描写であり、その行為する人間は性格と知性の面でかならず一定の資質をもっていなければいけない。性格と知性の面で一定の資質を持っている者の行為もやはり一定の資質を持つことになり、その一定の資質が成功したり失敗するのが行為を描写する意義だ。

行為そのものを抽出するものは物語であると言えて、これは出来事の組み立てのことである。これに対する性格というものは、行為する人間の資質がそれによってきまると我々が言うところのものである。また知性というのは、それら行為する登場人物が、論証をしたり、自分の見解を表明したりするすべての技術のことを言う。

I don’t think these ideas are all that important to the movie, however. The scene is just an example of an Oxford professor teaching a tutorial. Also, it shows Mr. Whistler sleeping. Mr. Whistler is a small sub-plot in the story. What is the purpose of this little sub-story, do you think?

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Happy New Year and welcome back.

Happy New Year, readers. Welcome to 2010. I look forward to reading and discussing with you high-quality English writing. May our conversation be bright and witty and profound.

(I stole this photo from Stardust’s blog. Isn’t it a great picture?)

We already had our first session, on Wednesday January 27th, in which we read a newspaper article about the pleasures and dangers of eating too much at Christmas (a common theme in many Christian countries), and also listened to a popular winter song, Baby It’s Cold Outside.

To make a change from last year, I proposed reading an English novel over several sessions, e.g. 2-3 months. This idea seemed to be accepted by those present last Wednesday.

The next session will be on February 3rd, and I have chosen a well-known children’s story by one of the most influential British writers and critics of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis (in Japanese here): The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  (This novel was made into a movie recently. I don’t think it was a movie that does justice to the novel. However, if you would like to see it, before you spend money at Tsutaya, let me tell you that it will be shown on Feb. 11th on the cable Star Channel.)

I have sent copies of chapter 1 to all members. You can also buy the paperback quite cheaply.

I have created a new page on this website to introduce our meeting place, Rifuan. The page includes links to a map and other details about Rifuan.

Session #19 December 2nd, 2009: The Age of Innocence

* Photo: Edith Wharton, 1915 * License: Public...
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The next session will be on Dec. 2nd from 3:30-5:30. This will be the last meeting of the Informal Reading Group this year.

For this session I’ve chosen 2 pages from a novel by American authoress Edith Wharton, “The Age of Innocence”, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921.

Edith Wharton wrote in a post-Romantic style, the style called Realism. The story and the characters show the tension between Romanticism and Realism.

Edith Wharton on Wikipedia (English) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Wharton

There seems to be no Japanese Wikipedia entry for her, but perhaps some of you can find a good website in Japanese about her.

“The Age of Innocence” is also the title of a painting by the famous British portrait painter Joshua Reynolds. You can see the painting and read about Reynolds here.

Did this painting influence Wharton? We can discuss this in the session, perhaps.

This website tells the whole story of “Age of Innocence” in a “digested” form (in English, though).

This article writes about “Age of Innocence” and Gustave Flaubert‘s classic “Emma Bovary“, itself a novel about Romanticism.

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Session #17 November 11th: British autumn, and the philosophy or art

bookshelf meme 2
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Update #2: At the bottom of this page is an audio player. Click on it and you will hear a recording of this session. (The mic recorded my voice clearly; it was not intended to record the other participants.)

Update #1:  Ayn Rand‘s ideas on art, her philosophy of art, were expressed in a book called “The Romantic Manifesto”. I will bring some quotes from this book, to discuss. Do you know what Romanticism is? Here is the link to the Japanese Wikipedia entry, and to the English wikipedia entry, and to the Simple English Wikipedia entry.

The next session will be Wednesday November 11th, 3-5 pm.

As I said last time, I would like to discuss the philosophy of art.

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Session #13: September 2nd, 2009 – lay judges 裁判員 and the jury system

A scan of the Magna Carta, signed by John of E...
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UPDATE (2009.09.03.08:20): Thank you to everyone who participated today. Today’s session was about lay judges, a new system introduced into the Japanese courts. We read this article about it , Courting Controversy in Japan, by David Murakami Wood, in the Guardian newspaper, Wednesday August 5th, 2009. We then discussed the origins and purposes of the jury system. This involved learning something about Magna Carta. I feel very grateful to the people who made Magna Carta and forced King John to sign it. The jury system was intended to be a legal protection against the almost limitless powers of the king: Magna Carta states that the king may not punish any freeman except by the consent of his (the freeman’s) peers. The peers does not mean the peerage (the aristrocracy), but “the people”, as opposed to the king or the ruling class. It put a limit on the king’s power.

Before reading the article, I introduced a book about the financial crisis: Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and the Government Bailout Will Make Things Worse and its Japanese translation メルトダウン 金融溶解 The foreword to the book was written by US Senator Ron Paul. Ron Paul has written his own book on the subject of the Federal Reserve: End the Fed. You can read chapter 2 of this book for free on the Mises Institute website (Ludwig von Mises was one of the most important Austrian economists. Read about him in Japanese here). The libertarian website Lew Rockwell.com has announced that Ron Paul’s book “End the Fed is now #4 in non-fiction on Amazon, and #17 overall. End the Fed!

During August, our Reading Group had no meetings. But that does not mean that members were not busy. Some of them read Atlas Shrugged (some in English, some in Japanese 肩をすくめるアトラス). One member read Emma (Jane Austen‘s classic Pride and Prejudice , or in Japanese 自負と偏見, was the subject of an earlier reading course, and we read the beginning of Emma, or エマ in our first session). She also read City of Glass (in Japanese シティ・オヴ・グラス ) by Paul Auster. (Here is a website in Japanese about the story: シティ・オヴ・グラス.)

The first session after the holidays.  To make a change from reading fiction, I have chosen a newspaper article about the new system of lay judges adopted in Japanese courts this year.

The article is Courting Controversy in Japan, by David Murakami Wood, in the Guardian newspaper, Wednesday August 5th, 2009.

As well as discussing this article, we will be looking at the history of the jury system: when and why it was established.  To prepare for this, read about Magna Carta (in Japanese here), especially about rights still in force today.

UPDATE: Here is the original Latin from Magna Carta which relates to trial by jury. “Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut disseisetur, aut utlagetur, aut exuletur, aut aliquo modo destruatur; nec super eum ibimus, nec super eum mittemus, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum, vel per legem terrae.” According to Lysander Spooner, in his “Essay on the Trial by Jury” (1852),

The most common translation of these words, at the present day, is as follows: “No freeman shall be arrested, or imprisoned, or deprived, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed, nor will we (the king) pass upon him, nor condemn him, unless by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land.”

As I mentioned during the session, the “law of the land” was also called “Common Law”, and it was different from laws created by the king. In other words, the Common Law is law independent of the king. At the time (the Middle Ages), kings had to promise to protect and respect the Common Law, although many of them did not (and King John was one of the worst in this regard, and the result was the barons opposed him).

Lysander Spooner, in his essay on trial by jury, examines the exact words of the Magna Carta, and other charters of that time, and argues that the purpose of the jury was originally not only to decide guilt or innocence, but also to decide whether the law was just or not. In other words, the purpose of trial by jury is to check and limit the power of the king to do exactly whatever he wants. Spooner gives evidence that King John was extremely angry about the contents of Magna Carta and at first refused to sign it. He even appealed to the Pope, and the Pope replied with sympathy. Spooner writes that this shows that both King John and the Pope understood that the Magna Carta was taking away a very great power from the king: it was not only about deciding guilt or innocence, but it gave the jury the power to express their judgment of the law itself. Obviously, if only the king can make laws but if the jury can decide whether the law is fair or not and refuse to punish anyone who is accused under an unfair law, then this gives the people a very great protection against the abuse of power that any king might make. It is protection for the people against the king, or government, or state.

This history lesson teaches us much about the purpose and meaning of trial by jury, and also throws some light onto the lay-judge system created in Japan recently.

I will also bring an article about the recent elections, to show the point of view from the British media.

UPDATE: In fact, we did not have time to discuss this.  I have a list of links to articles in the British press about the election at my other blog Searching for Accurate Maps. A Japanese comedy troupe called The Newspaper has created a comedy skit showing Hatoyama choosing his new cabinet ministers. Watch the video here.

TOKYO - AUGUST 11:  Yukio Hatoyama, President ...
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