Friday, November 20, 2015

October 4, 1940: Jesus Changed Literature

Article in Gospel Messenger about Dr. Naumann's talk


"Fate Need Not Correspond To Character"

Dr. W. A. Naumann Addresses Chapel On Interesting Theme

"Christ gave a consistent view of the relationship between destiny and personality." declared Prof. Walter A. Naumann, who spoke upon the influence of the Gospel on the presentation of man in literature during the chapel you Monday morning.

Three essentials of the novel are characters drawn from everyday life, incidents from history and daily events, and motivation which must harmonize with the character and his situation. 

The anthropomorphic qualities of ancient paganism contended that there must be a relationship between the personality and his fate - one's fate corresponded to his character. They separated fate from outside forces. Thus, the Stoics isolated themselves from the world by a false dignity. Early examples of literature manifest this fatalistic philosophy of the times.

"No correspondence exists necessarily between fate and character" is the teaching of Christ. The life and death of Christ teaches that men are not confined to an earthly existence but their lives reach out into the spiritual realm. The literature created after the advent of this new theory was profoundly influenced, as the student of literature may readily observe.

Professor Walter Naumann was another German refugee that McPherson College supported and rescued from the tight grip of the new, Nazi way. McPherson College was a small Church of the Brethren school, and therefore had regular chapel services and other religious activities. They encouraged outside voices, Dr. Naumann and Opa included. I don't know if Dr. Naumann shared the religious beliefs of the Brethren school, but he was able to present material that connected his literary background to the Gospel. Impressive!

I love this idea that prior to Jesus' philosophical break through, that the people felt very much like fate was connected to character. This makes sense- most people still thin this. You get what's coming to you, what comes around goes around, etc. 

Naumann's statement is that Jesus turned this philosophy on its head, saying that your character and personality actually did not necessarily affect your fate. Why do good things happen to bad people (and vice versa)? 

I love that Naumann connects these philosophical ideas to literature. So once a writer gets the idea that character does not affect fate, the storylines can shift significantly. I don't know enough about literature to know if this is true, or if this short recap of Naumann's presentation is accurate- but it's food for thought. I appreciate that the school encouraged critical thinking.

This article kind of makes me miss college. Where you can hear lectures and ideas from incredibly well-read experts about almost any topic. I should look into the local college and see if they have a lecture series!

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