Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist
poliphilo

"Truths People Can't Fight"

Two characters in A.S. Byatt's Possession have a conversation about how every age is enslaved to "truths" that are so big, so universally accepted that no-one can get out of their shadow. For our own age (Byatt was writing in the 80s but I think the observation still holds good) the big, universally accepted truth is the Freudian one that sex is at the root of everything. One of Byatt's people momentarily rebels. A feminist reading of a Victorian poem that interprets a description of landscape in terms of the female body makes him queasy. He wants to see through other eyes-  for a pool to be just a pool, not a metaphor for bodily secretions, for maidenhair fern to be nothing but itself- and of course he can't. 

This slavery to "truths people can't fight" makes it very hard for us to understand the past. We can't unlearn our "truths" even if we suspect them of being bogus.  The Victorians' innocence of Freud shuts them off from us. And not only is it a case of us "knowing" things they didn't know but also of us having escaped the spell of the "truths" they couldn't question. How can we imagine ourselves back into a world in which "respectability" was all important and religious controversies we have either solved to our satisfaction or lost interest in were a matter of private and public obsession?
Subscribe

Recent Posts from This Journal

  • Snakeshead Fritillaries

    These have been appearing in our garden in growing numbers for several years. I counted over a hundred this morning- mostly in a clump round…

  • Sorting Out An Estate

    Ailz has been up in Derbyshire sorting out her godmother's estate. Her godmother died over a year ago- and the house has stood empty and…

  • Three National Saints

    This window in Leigh church commemorates Lieutenant Godfrey Hine of the Irish Guards who was killed at Loos in 1915. It's the work of the…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 11 comments

Recent Posts from This Journal

  • Snakeshead Fritillaries

    These have been appearing in our garden in growing numbers for several years. I counted over a hundred this morning- mostly in a clump round…

  • Sorting Out An Estate

    Ailz has been up in Derbyshire sorting out her godmother's estate. Her godmother died over a year ago- and the house has stood empty and…

  • Three National Saints

    This window in Leigh church commemorates Lieutenant Godfrey Hine of the Irish Guards who was killed at Loos in 1915. It's the work of the…