Eruditorum Press

No ideas but in Swamp Thing

Skip to content

Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

63 Comments

  1. David
    June 12, 2013 @ 12:43 am

    I'm guessing you meant the infamous Dragon's Lair (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon%27s_Lair) rather than Dragon Quest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Quest)?

    Reply

  2. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 12:46 am

    'If it can avoid being a satsuma then it’s a winner.'

    Does that mean it gets 'no second chances'?

    Excellent piece. It's amusing to see the Graske recycled in the 'Doctor Who at the Proms' shows and in 'The Sarah Jane Adventures'. He also turns up in the space bar where Ten matchmakes Jack and Alonso. I wonder if he's on Akhaten for the sing-song too? I'll have to check.

    Reply

  3. Abigail Brady
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:43 am

    In our household this did not cause fun so much as frustrated wrangling of the Freeview box for half an hour or so before giving up on it as being too old to deal with whatever newfangled encoding they were doing… I suspect there was a lot of that going around.

    Reply

  4. Bennett
    June 12, 2013 @ 2:22 am

    "For only the second time ever, December 25th, 2005 featured the debut of two separate new episodes of Doctor Who.

    I was scratching my head at this trivial fact, trying to work out when the first time was (I think I've narrowed it down to Silver Nemesis Part 2 and 3 airing in New Zealand…but how must your mind work to immediately link that to Attack of the Graske?)

    after immediately ignoring the possibility that A Fix with Sontarans could be considered as an "episode"

    Reply

  5. Nick Smale
    June 12, 2013 @ 2:28 am

    The BBC produced a whole selection of digital tie-ins to work alongside series 1 and 2. Clive (from Rose) had a conspiracy website, for instance (which after his death on the show was taken over by Mickey Smith), and there were corporate sites for UNIT, Van Statten and Cybus Industries.

    Despite the fact that it was shown on TV rather than online (and Red Button programming is actually broadcast, just on an obscure high numbered channel that's hard to find unaided) I've always thought of Attack of the Graske as being akin to these, a digital extension of Doctor Who rather than a canonical episode.

    Reply

  6. Ross
    June 12, 2013 @ 3:36 am

    There certainly is an age bracket that reads television as if it’s real, but this has always been a model I’ve been skeptical of at best, and the new series just completely fails to support it. But this raises a question – how is this not cynical? Isn’t rejecting the innocence of childhood fantasy the very definition of cynicism?

    I reject your reality, and substitute my own.

    It's not cynical to dismiss the "innocence of childhood fantasy" because the idea that children of a certain age "think TV is real" is itself a myth. Children of no age actually believe that — people who don't believe it look back at their childhood memories from the perspective of someone with an adult experience of the distinction between TV and reality and mischaracterize the remembered experience as "thinking TV is real". Children in that age group don't experience TV as real because they don't experience reality as real. That is, when you're a child, you don't think in terms of "There is one thing that is reality which is Really Truly Real and Primary, and everything else is Not Really Truly Real, and therefore secondary" — you experience the world as having many different kinds of discontinuous experience, without any reason to privilege one mode as "real" over the others as "unreal". You don't think that dreams and waking-life are "the same thing", but you don't yet have any reason to think that dream-life is any less valid than waking-life — how could you? Your very experience of what it's like to have a waking life itself changes from day to day: today, all of a sudden and for no reason, it suddenly makes intuitive sense to you why the Little Box fits inside the Big Box but not the other way 'round — you only have to look at them to see this is patently and obviously true, but yesterday it was witchcraft.

    As a parent of a small child, one thing that I keep thinking about is this: as an adult — an especially large adult at that — I can't even remember the last time I woke up in a different place from where I fell asleep. And if I did, it would be weird and disconcerting and frightening. But my son pretty much never wakes up in the same place as he fell asleep, and he's entirely cool with it. Because he doesn't expect his experience of life to be continuous in that way.

    I don't really have a larger point in this, just something I wanted to digress about a bit.

    Reply

  7. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 4:09 am

    @Ross. – I love the imagery of waking in a different place as an adult.
    Have you ever tried to demonstrate a piece of close-up magic ( a card trick or a coin vanish) to a very small child? They are invariably unimpressed because to them things appear and disappear all the time timeand they haven't worked out yet when this should be seen as remarkable. However, just from personal experience, I cannot remember a time when as a child I didn't know that narratives from various media weren't real. Television was a form of entertainment and education and often used as a surrogate babysitter but at no time do I recall accepting the goings on in the little box or on the cinema screen as anything but unreal. It was not a case of prioritising 'primary' and 'secondary' experiences just being able to tell one from the other. Reality was something I participated in and could affect through action (eating, playing etc.) while TV was a passive experience. I guess this is what Doctor Sandifer was gesturing toward in his post, how the interactive 'red button' content presented an interface between passive consumption and real activity.
    The concept of a golden age of childhood innocence is of course a construct of the Edwardian age, producing literary delights such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and the works of E. Nesbit and later Enid Blyton.

    Reply

  8. Spacewarp
    June 12, 2013 @ 4:27 am

    Ooo this thread has gone off in an interesting direction! I also am the parent of two (no longer small) children and have found it an insight into the way young children (and by extension me, 40 years ago) see the world. They do know that TV is TV and Real Life is Real Life, but I'd agree that one is no more "unreal" than the other. At the age of 5 or 6 I lived in London with a real Police Box nearby. I also watched Doctor Who. Now I was aware that this was a Police Box, and that was the TARDIS, and I knew that the Police used this one, and the Doctor used that one. But if I'd walked past the box and either seen it dematerialise, or seen the Doctor walk out of it, I would have been incredibly excited, but not unbelieving.

    Children will close their eyes and wish for things to change around them, especially when they've done wrong and want to make things "didn't happen", and they truly believe that if they wish hard enough it will come true. They would certainly be pleased and unsurprised if it worked.

    I think this is in part down to them being too young for experience to have taught them what does and doesn't work in the world. At their age, all bets are still on. And let's face it, even in adulthood there's still a little bit of it hanging on. Who doesn't understand the concept of "lucky" items of clothing?

    Far from being a "passive" experience, I see TV as an essential part of every child's learning, as it is quite simply story-telling, and that's how we as humans learn our most important lessons – the rules of human relationships. Which of course is at the heart of why human societies behave differently on other parts of the planet and at other times in history – because the stories were and are different. 1960s stories taught us that The Celestial Toymaker was an OK story and that it was fine for the Doctor's companions to fall over and screeam, while 1970s stories taught us that The Talons of Weng Chiang was acceptable TV and that there was nothing wrong with objectifying Leela.

    Reply

  9. Lewis Christian
    June 12, 2013 @ 4:38 am

    Reply

  10. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 5:45 am

    it absolutely decimates an entire model of watching Doctor Who

    It reduces it by one tenth?

    Reply

  11. Spoilers Below
    June 12, 2013 @ 5:50 am

    One Tennanth, if you will.

    Reply

  12. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 5:56 am

    The concept of a golden age of childhood innocence is of course a construct of the Edwardian age, producing literary delights such as … Peter Pan

    Maybe if you're talking about the Disney version. The original book's portrayal of childhood is rather dark and not very innocent. There's this passage, for example:

    "But of course he cared very much; and he was so full of wrath against grown-ups, who, as usual, were spoiling everything, that as soon as he got inside his tree he breathed intentionally quick short breaths at the rate of about five to a second. He did this because there is a saying in the Neverland that, every time you breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them off vindictively as fast as possible."

    Reply

  13. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 6:00 am

    Who doesn't understand the concept of "lucky" items of clothing?

    Indeed, I'm wearing my lucky space helmet right now. I haven't taken it off for the last six months. My hair really needs washing, but I don't dare take off my helmet to wash it.

    Too much information?

    Reply

  14. Theonlyspiral
    June 12, 2013 @ 6:19 am

    Beat me to it!

    Reply

  15. Spacewarp
    June 12, 2013 @ 6:23 am

    Can't be as disgusting as my lucky pants! (and that's English pants, not American ones! eeewww!!)

    Reply

  16. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 6:29 am

    That sounds pretty pants.

    Reply

  17. Froborr
    June 12, 2013 @ 6:45 am

    A Doctor Who Alternate Reality Game could be interesting…

    Reply

  18. Pen Name Pending
    June 12, 2013 @ 6:48 am

    Thanks for clearing up what the Red Button actually is…as an American, from what I read it always sounded like it was something online. (I also used to love DVD games when I was little – you know, when DVDs were a new and cool thing with special features!)

    Attack of the Graske sounds more like a Decide Your Destiny book/game than a "be in Doctor Who!" thing.

    Reply

  19. Froborr
    June 12, 2013 @ 6:53 am

    That's a very abridged dictionary you're using, it apparently only has the first definition of each word.

    Decimate, definition 3b: "To cause great destruction or harm to."

    (That's Merriam-Webster Online. I don't have a subscription to the OED, or I'd use that.)

    Reply

  20. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 12, 2013 @ 8:42 am

    Yep. Fixed.

    Reply

  21. Spacewarp
    June 12, 2013 @ 8:44 am

    No, they're not very pretty pants. Not now anyway…

    Reply

  22. David Ainsworth
    June 12, 2013 @ 9:17 am

    What it is rejecting is the passivity of childhood fantasy. If there is something to be frustrated about with Attack of the Graske it’s the passivity it demands. The viewer is ultimately asked to sit and wait for the Doctor’s return.

    Never thought I'd get deeper appreciation for Amy Pond after reading a take on Attack of the Graske!

    Reply

  23. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 10:00 am

    Dictionaries do not settle what usage is best; they're just part of an ongoing negotiation.

    We have many words that mean destroy or devastate. We have only one word that means "reduce by one tenth." It would be foolish to surrender or squander it. Plus, using "decimate" to mean destroy creates giggle-worthy images in the minds of people who know the traditional meaning, so it's rhetorically ill-advised.

    Reply

  24. Theonlyspiral
    June 12, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    The usage that is best for puns is the preferred usage in my friend group.

    Or maybe that's just me.

    Reply

  25. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 10:45 am

    @BerserkRL –
    No I'm not talking about the Disney version of anything. Nor was I using the term 'literary delights' ironically. Peter Pan is an interesting text which actually began life as a live theatre performance and therefore does not have a definitive text. I agree though that it doesn't present in any of its forms anything like an idyllic picture of childhood; as the 'rather dark and not very innocent' excerpt you quote aptly demonstrates. However, that was not my point. I was referring to the Edwardian trope (actually starting in the mid-Victorian era) of constructing a glamourised version of childhood, full of sickly baby talk and anodine nursery rhymes, sailor suits and peasant dresses, which literary constructs such as 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and 'Peter Pan' actually worked hard to subvert. Like Barrie, Charles [Lewis Carrol] Dodgson was (perhaps unknowingly, your mileage may vary) creating a dark satire on society and a pre -Freudian commentary on what would later be called child psychology. The passage from Peter Pan that you chose, particularly the line

    "…He did this because there is a saying in the Neverland that, every time you breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them off vindictively as fast as possible."

    illustrates quite viscerally the phenomenon Spacewarp mentions that –

    'Children will close their eyes and wish for things to change around them, especially when they've done wrong and want to make things "didn't happen", and they truly believe that if they wish hard enough it will come true. They would certainly be pleased and unsurprised if it worked".

    Moffat is the man to explore dark childhoods in Nu-Who with little Amelia Pond (I think everyone got the Peter and Wendy reference of Amy's nightdress), the boy in the Gas Mask, the girl in the fireplace, and others wishing or praying for a change in their reality and getting…The Doctor.

    @Spacewarp –
    I still feel, compared with physical play, computer games and actual interaction with reality, that TV viewing is essentially a passive experience even when it is having an educational effect.

    Reply

  26. storiteller
    June 12, 2013 @ 10:48 am

    I agree that children have some understanding of "stories as stories" and "reality as reality," even if "reality" itself isn't terribly concrete. In general, they understand television as essentially being the same type of thing as a storybook. What I think sometimes really trips kids up is commercials. Not because they have trouble distinguishing between stories and reality, but because commercials promise reality. It's a fundamentally different set of expectations being set. When I was very little, I got a doll that was supposed to talk to you. When I found out it only said a few stock phases, I got so annoyed that I threw it across the room and never played with it again. It promised that the doll could talk to you – how was I to know that it wasn't capable of conversation?

    Reply

  27. Daibhid C
    June 12, 2013 @ 10:51 am

    ISTR I played it twice, once with my neice (then aged 5) and once on my own. And I liked it, possibly more than she did. And I think it's fair to say that, at the age of 29, I understood how the red button worked and that it wasn't sonic screwdriver magic.

    I know Phil hates the phrase "suspension of disbelief", but I can't think of another one. I was able to recognise how cool the idea that I was assisting the Doctor via my remote control was, and was able to translate that into the coolness of what I was doing, even though I knew that wasn't really what I was doing at all. (I liked the Doctor Who Choose Your Own Adventures books as well, even though I freely admit they were objectively dreadful.)

    Reply

  28. Wm Keith
    June 12, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

    So that's Froborr's argument literally decimated. Next, how Terry Nation's Daleks exterminated the postwar resonance of their catchphrase.

    Reply

  29. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 12, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

    I think my problem with "suspension of disbelief" is that it's a negative experience instead of a positive one. I much prefer "thought experiment" or "imagination," where something is created instead of anesthetized.

    Reply

  30. David Anderson
    June 12, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

    I have a problem with using both Blyton and Nesbit in any sentence that attempts to make a general point. (Unless that point is that some children's books are better than others.)

    Reply

  31. Froborr
    June 12, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

    Words have multiple definitions. Using a word as one definition does not "surrender or squander" the other definitions.

    I know the etymological meaning of "decimate," yet I am fully capable of recognizing that, given the context in which Philip is using the word, the colloquial meaning is intended, and as such don't get any giggle-worthy images out of it.

    Honestly, what purpose does this sort of pedantry serve? Are you going to insist that we only use "happy" to mean "fortunate" next?

    Reply

  32. Spacewarp
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

    @Anton B.
    "I still feel, compared with physical play, computer games and actual interaction with reality, that TV viewing is essentially a passive experience even when it is having an educational effect."

    Wouldn't you agree that TV is no more a passive experience than a child having a story read to it? Except perhaps that the story invites the child to imagine, while the TV programme doesn't.

    Reply

  33. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

    @David Anderson.

    I agree. I was foolishly, in an effort to not waffle too much, trying to conflate the history of children's literature into one sentence. Some children's books are definitely 'better' than others. Although any specific value judgments would be subjective. I was suggesting that the whole idea of children's literature as a 'thing' stems from an Edwardian construct of 'childhood' itself. A distinction which we still, to a certain degree maintain.

    Reply

  34. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less. “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

    'Alice Through the Looking Glass' Lewis Carroll

    Reply

  35. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

    @Spacewarp –

    Yes, I guess we're talking about levels of passivity then. I can see where watching a TV programme involves a certain amount of creative thought but not as much as say, painting a picture or creating a Lego construct.

    Reply

  36. Ross
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

    Leaving aside for the moment how old the sentence "I also used to love DVD games when I was little" makes me feel (I used to love DVD games too… When DVDs were a new and cool thing and I was in college.), if you're a fan of DVD games, perhaps you can appreciate this: https://twitter.com/DAScottJr/status/341026900560457728/photo/1

    (For the uninitiated, check out this (possibly nsfw) DVD Game review on my blog: http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/2010/07/if_its_not_one_thing_its_your_.html )

    Reply

  37. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

    Using a word as one definition does not "surrender or squander" the other definitions.

    Well, in practice, yes it does. That's how the older meanings get eroded.

    Honestly, what purpose does this sort of pedantry serve?

    Preventing words from losing their beautiful usefulness.

    Reply

  38. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean different things.”

    At the risk of being, well, pedantic — the line is actually "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

    Reply

  39. David Anderson
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

    I'd have said that the construction of childhood predates the canon of children's literature. Dickens clearly has a concept of childhood, and he talks a lot about children's reading, but his children's reading is a selection from the adult canon: Robinson Crusoe, the Arabian Nights, and so on.
    What I think I'd want to say is that generalisations about children's literature of any period are by the nature of the case less likely to apply to the stand-outs; and of the stand-outs less likely to apply to books like Nesbitt or Carroll than to those like Blyton. Not just true of children's literature obviously.

    Reply

  40. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

    Well, in practice, yes it does.

    To clarify: I don't mean that whenever a word with two meanings is used with one meaning, it erodes the other meaning. But in a case like the present, where the new meaning is coming into wider and wider use because most people are unaware of the old meaning and are simply misled by the similarity in sound between "decimate" and "devastate," it seems clear that the original use is in serious danger of being crowded out by the old. When the old use serves a unique and specific purpose while the new use flattens out interesting distinctions into a general mush, as seems to me to be the case here, then the old sue is worth fighting for, and the new use is worth combating as one would combat termites in a beautiful and useful wooden structure.

    Reply

  41. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

    By "serious danger of being crowded out by the old" I mean "serious danger of being crowded out by the new."

    By "the old sue is worth fighting for" I mean "the old use is worth fighting for."

    By "Mary Sue" I mean "merry use."

    That is all.

    Reply

  42. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

    Anton,

    I'm not sure how to reconcile this sentence —

    Some children's books are definitely 'better' than others.

    — with the one that immediately follows:

    Although any specific value judgments would be subjective.

    (To be clear, my sympathies are with the first sentence, not the second.)

    Reply

  43. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

    By “whether you can make words mean different things.”

    I meant

    "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

    I copied and pasted directly from my Kindle so that'll serve me right for going for the cheap edition.

    Reply

  44. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

    My subjective opinion is that some children's books are better than others. Which ones, specifically, I think qualify as better or worse may differ from yours.

    Reply

  45. Ross
    June 12, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

    Plus, using "decimate" to mean destroy creates giggle-worthy images in the minds of people who know the traditional meaning, so it's rhetorically ill-advised.

    You know that if you "decimate" the US population, that's killing every single person in California, right? That no war ever has decimated the combattants? That anything which kills 1/10 of a population is indeed a disaster, right?

    Because people who "know the traditional meaning" really shouldn't get "giggleworthy" images. "Decimate" has always described a slaughter of horrific proportions. It's just that the pedants are so cynical and jaded as to imagine that 10% doesn't qualify as a horrific proportion

    Reply

  46. Wm Keith
    June 12, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

    A child to whom a story is being read has the ability to interfere with the telling; to ask questions; to provoke changes in the narrative; simply, perhaps to turn two pages at once. A child watching TV can only turn over the channel or go to sleep.

    Reply

  47. Wm Keith
    June 12, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

    Perhaps we could do with a new word onto which we could transfer the "kill one in ten member of a military unit pour encourager les autres" meaning of decimate. Those pedants amongst us who currently find grim humour in any other use of decimate could then freely use decimate to mean an unquantified amount of death, doom and disaster.

    I suggest "decibyng". Indeed, the word could be a noun as well as a verb, a precise unit of slaughter and destruction. "In the aftermath of invasion, the population has fallen by between two and three decibyng."

    Reply

  48. Theonlyspiral
    June 12, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

    Without pedantry huge swaths of the Internet would go silent. Which is a double edged sword. I mean it's good for people who use language casually and have no patience for this sort of thing. On the other hand for large groups of people it makes the world a much less interesting place. I mean if we're going to stop people from going way into depth on trivial things…where does it all end?

    Reply

  49. BerserkRL
    June 12, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

    I mean if we're going to stop people from going way into depth on trivial things…

    Most of us would have to abolish our websites.

    Reply

  50. ferret
    June 12, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

    I always refer to my Master Dictionary:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY19AqRsx_o

    Honestly, call yourselves Doctor Who fans?
    (I kid, I kid)

    Reply

  51. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

    Wm Keith –
    Yes that's exactly right. I suppose on a simple level the development of recorded TV (On tape and then DVD) and 'red button' technology gave the ability to replicate 'turning two pages at once' and is what inspires attempts such as 'Attack of the Graske' to provide TV which may give the illusion of choice and creativity. I think that 'illusion' was what Phillip found interesting in his post.

    Reply

  52. Anton B
    June 12, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

    @David Anderson
    'I'd have said that the construction of childhood predates the canon of children's literature. Dickens clearly has a concept of childhood, and he talks a lot about children's reading, but his children's reading is a selection from the adult canon: Robinson Crusoe, the Arabian Nights, and so on.'

    Yes, that reinforces my point. I didn't say there was no such thing as 'childhood' in the pre Victorian era and Dickens does indeed address it regularly not least in his semi-autobiographical works. I was referring to that specific 'twee' version of idyllic pastoral childhood which was pure invention and reinforced over the years by various works of fiction aimed at children.
    I perhaps should have been clearer in stating which books I considered good and bad but that, as I say, can only be my own subjective view. To clarify – I personally find the Alice books and the various iterations of Peter Pan to be works of genius which explore ways in which the varied experiences and interestingly skewed perceptions of childhood may be mapped. I would give honourable mention to 'The Treasure Seekers' and 'The Phoenix and the Carpet' 'Mary Poppins' and 'The Little Prince' and be very suspicious of anything by Blyton.
    I think 'Doctor Who', in its early days as a primarily children's TV show, took a similar tack to Barrie and Carroll. Presenting disturbing and dark visions from within the psyche of childhood. I am really interested in that respect to read Phillip's take on Calfer's 'A Big Hand for the Doctor' which seems to me to take a very facile version of Peter Pan and attempt to conflate it with a very odd version of the first Doctor to not very great success.

    Reply

  53. BatmanAoD
    June 12, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

    Philip, have you read Tolkien's "On Fairy Stories"? Your skepticism of uncritical fantasy as a standard model for how children typically view stories just SCREAMS Tolkien, and if you haven't yet you really ought to take an hour or two and read the thing. It's brilliant.

    Reply

  54. Froborr
    June 12, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

    It really is, and together with the companion short story "Leaf by Niggle" is quite possibly my favorite thing Tolkien ever wrote. (His first piece in the Legendarium, the original version of "The Fall of Gondolin," is a close second, for the twin bizarreries of being written in the margins of a manual he was issued at the Somme, and the orcs riding to the battle inside dragons.)

    Reply

  55. Froborr
    June 12, 2013 @ 11:01 pm

    That said, while a brilliant essay in its own right, the aesthetic it advances is one Phil has rightly criticized, since it tries to pretend that the work isn't artificial and that it describes a "secondary reality." It's not that different from that "suspension of disbelief" nonsense, alas.

    Reply

  56. George Potter
    June 12, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply

  57. George Potter
    June 13, 2013 @ 12:00 am

    What about 'willing suspension of disbelief' which was the actual formulation:

    "…yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."

    Colerige actually used it to explain why poems about witches n' shit could still work for a contemporary audience, grown jaded by the modernity of 1817.

    Sounds fairly positive to me. It speaks to willful use of imagination rather than chloroform. 🙂

    Reply

  58. David Anderson
    June 13, 2013 @ 1:23 am

    I suppose all I'm trying to say is that the idyllic twee version of childhood is inevitably going to be a feature of bad books. Well, I'm hesitant to describe something that's lasted as long as Blyton as 'bad' unqualified, since clearly some people are gettting something out of it.

    Alice is I think really a Swiftian satire written at a time when people thought a Bowdlerised version of Gulliver's Travels was suitable for children.

    Reply

  59. BatmanAoD
    June 13, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

    It's been a while since I've read it, and I really ought to re-read it, but I don't really see "secondary reality" as synonymous with "suspension of disbelief." Do we really believe that Bilbo Baggins breathed the same air and walked on the same ground that we do today? Of course not. But do we believe that he feels the weight of myth and history on his shoulders just as heavily as we do? Absolutely.

    Reply

  60. BatmanAoD
    June 13, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

    ….that was a lot of "really"'s.

    Reply

  61. Anton B
    June 13, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

    'But do we believe that he feels the weight of myth and history on his shoulders just as heavily as we do? Absolutely.'

    Absolutely not. He's not real. He doesn't feel anything except what the author describes. That is the reason for suspension of disbelief.

    Reply

  62. BatmanAoD
    June 14, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

    I can't quite determine whether you're missing my point or if we actually disagree. Personally, when reading Tolkien, I don't feel any need whatsoever for any cognitive action that could reasonably be described as "suspending disbelief," but you may feel differently.

    Reply

  63. BatmanAoD
    June 15, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

    BerserkRL, I completely agree. It's not mere pedantic prescriptivism that motivates the effort to preserve those useful and interesting qualities of the language that are being lost through disuse and misuse.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.