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JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
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JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
JKR as Critic: "The Man is Nothing . . . "

by Subtle Science

Posted on July 27, 2007, 08:01:19 AM

Much has been and is being made of JKR's remarks following the publication of DH--specifically, her statement that she does not perceive Severus Snape to be a hero. Those who enjoy the character are appalled; those who despise Snape are rejoicing.

Neither side should care.

What JKR says about her books is irrelevant. It always has been; it always will be. An author is not the final authority on his/her own work.

It seems a paradox, if not downright outrageous....The problem lies in the fact that, once JKR speaks of her beliefs regarding character motivation, or gives any other interpretative comment on the books, she has stepped out of the role of author and into the role of critic. And, as a critic, her opinions count for no more or less than yours, mine, or anyone else's.

It was Northrop Frye who delineated this in his essay Anatomy of Criticism . In it, Frye analyzes the difference between artist and critic, and the function of criticism in relation to art:

"Criticism can talk, and all the arts are dumb. In painting, sculpture, or music it is easy enough to see that the art shows forth, but cannot say anything."

What Frye means by this is that the art is, itself, what the artist had to say. A writer, painter, sculptor--whatever his/her art form--has a plan and a purpose. Art is not without conscious intention; its meaning does does rely solely upon the observers' reactions. Writers have an intention, and it is as possible for a reader's interpretation to be wholly wrong as it is wholly right. However, what the writer has to say is the work itself--nothing more. The mode of expression is the medium the artist chose, and what he/she had to say is the work of art that is produced:

"Poetry is a disinterested use of words: it does not address a reader directly. When it does so, we usually feel that the poet has some distrust in the capacity of readers and critics to interpret his meaning without assistance, and has therefore dropped into the sub-poetic level of talk ("verse" or "doggeral") which anyone can learn to produce" (Frye).

The poem, or novel, or painting, is the statement: it contains all the meaning, and, as Frye says, further elaboration by the artist would step across a boundary--the artist would usurp the place of the critic to analyze and deduce the meaning....or turn the work of art into a lecture.

This is how it is possible for a reader to find more--or less--in a work of literature than the author intended. The author's artistic skill should provide all the information necessary for the reader to understand, should the reader be capable of understanding. The reader-critic's job is to be capable: to analyze the work, develop theories, and test those theories, all rigorously. The reader develops an interpretation--which the text must bear out. Literary criticism is akin to assembling a jigsaw puzzle: all the pieces must fit together; they cannot be forced. If an idea jars with another, or with evidence from the text, everything must be re-examined--until it all fits together logically and consistently.

The interpretation must be as internally consistent as the literary work must be--the two go hand-in-hand. The jigsaw pieces fit easily, the picture is coherent. As Aristotle says in his Poetics, "In character, as in the construction of incidents, we must always seek for either the necessary or the probable, so that a given type of person says or does certain kinds of things, and one event follows another according to necessity or probability" (XV). The quality of art depends upon this consistency; similarly, the validity of critical interpretation is founded upon its consistency with what appears in the author's text.

An author is as free as anyone else to critique and interpret his/her own work, but there is no special validity to the remarks. Someone may ask me about my art, but nothing I say is of any particular note--not in terms of interpretation. Factual, yes: if someone states that the medium was watercolor, and I say that it was colored ink, I am right. However, if someone asks me why I drew such a subject or what meaning I intended--well, then, I am merely a critic giving my own opinion, which may be quite different from someone else's. The key is how each of us reaches the conclusion and the evidence to which each of us can point to porive the points. If the evidence is there, we are right. Or perhaps we're partially right. Or maybe we're wrong. My opinion carries no more weight: what I had to say as an artist is in the drawing--now we can discuss whether or not the artist expressed her ideas clearly and consistently. This is most obvious and understandable when there is the most basic conflict of interpretation of all: I despise my work, and someone else likes it, or vice versa.

How can an artist be wrong about his/her own work? It lies in the nature of creativity itself: art is produced by a conscious act, but it is fueled by the subconscious. Therefore, there is what is meant, and then there what is actually communicated. The critic steps forward to uncover what is communicated. An author is welcome to join that process, but it is a separate, distinct process from the act of creation. The author who comments upon his/her own work joins the ranks of the outsiders examining it. The author is not the novel; the novel is a separate entity, which, to be art, must stand alone, on its own merits. Gustave Flaubert said it most succinctly, "L'homme n'est rien, l'oeuvre tout."

Is Snape a hero? Yes. The novel says so.


Works Cited

Aristotle's Poetics: A Translation and Commentary for Students of Literature. Trans. by Leon Golden, Commentary by O. B. Hardison, Jr. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1981.

Flaubert, Gustave. Letter to George Sands. http://www.etudes-litteraires.com/flaubert-art.php

Frye, Northrop. "Polemical Introduction," Anatomy of Criticism. http://www.noteaccess.com/Texts/Frye/Intro.htm

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sly_Lady
Sisterhood of the Snape Hunters
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2007, 10:12:37 AM »
________________________________________
I never considered this idea before JKR's statements yesterday. This is fascinating, Subtle. Thank you.

Vivian
Seventh Year
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2007, 10:17:15 AM »
________________________________________
I don't recall JKR saying, "The man is nothing."



weaver
Guest
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2007, 10:45:02 AM »
________________________________________
Quote from: Vivian on July 27, 2007, 10:17:15 AM
I don't recall JKR saying, "The man is nothing."


I believe the thread title refers to this quote from the essay:

"Gustave Flaubert said it most succinctly, "L'homme n'est rien, l'oeuvre tout.""

Modified to add translation: "The man is nothing, the work is everything."

« Last Edit: July 27, 2007, 11:09:12 AM by weaver » Logged


Silver Ink Pot
Messenger To The HPN
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2007, 12:54:50 PM »
________________________________________
Thanks for the wonderful essay, Subtle! Bravo!

I had a great poetry professor who taught us that there are two ways to look at a poem - from the view of trying to guess the author's intent, which is difficult apart from symbolism, or from the more "deconstructionist" view that the reader interacts with the work of art and "creates" the new reality. I think that most of us interact with the HP books in a way that sets us apart from the author. They are her creations and she owns them, but they resonate with us differently as readers.

For so long I've looked to JKR for answers and hints about the HP books, and that really isn't helpful anymore. In fact, the last few days have stunned me into disbelief at her insensitive comments about a character that many people now love more than ever.

The final book stands alone, and all the books will go on into the future without her. Subtle's Essay is all about that, and I totally agree with her.

And let's face it - artists don't always have enough emotional distance to review their own work, or they are too overly involved to see when their view is "through a glass darkly." Great directors make horrible movies, great musicians write stupid lyrics sometimes, and now we know for sure that great writers do not always understand why some characters resonate with the reading public.

Arthur Conan Doyle is a great example - he killed off Sherlock Holmes, who was another great ambiguous character, who became a beloved character. The details about Holmes are sometimes shocking, but also full of pathos about his secrets and unhappiness. He's not a kind, loving, normal human being. But who among us doesn't love being compared to the great Sherlock when we track down a clue about something! I know I do!

NBC cancelled Star Trek at the height of it's popularity, and couldn't believe the fan outcry. Nor did they ever think much of the character of Mr. Spock who seemed to look like the devil to some of the executives. Gene Roddenberry wanted to go on to make other TV shows and tried to use Star Trek as his "Wagon Train to the Stars." While he loved his creation, he never dreamed it would become the most fascinating science fiction series of all time, with parodies and spin-offs. JKR is just another Gene Roddenberry.

George Lucas, an extremely talented director, spent a fortune making "Howard the Duck." That reminds me of JKR when she talks about the Epilogue as the best way to end the book. For many of us, the book ended a few chapters before that. Also, when she said the most moving chapter for her was the scene in the forest, with the spirits of the dead, my only question was - where was Snape? Hiding behind a tree again?

Many Beatles fans loved the album, Revolver, and thought it was a masterpiece. Years later, John Lennon said he couldn't remember recording it.

The movie Casablanca is an example of a work of art that is greater than the intention.

*nods to Nicc and Ricc*

The actors didn't think the script was any good, the director and producer just hoped to break even, and the whole point was to make a propoganda war movie to convince the U.S. to enter WWII. Paul Henreid didn't want to take second lead to Bogart, so he was playing Lazslo against his will due to a contract problem! Bergman and Bogart didn't really like each other, though their chemistry works on the screen. The producers and writers couldn't decide whether Ilsa should end up with Rick or Lazslo, and the actors didn't know until the final scene was filmed. No one could see what the film would become. The finished product is a masterpiece of filming, editing, dialogue, and acting that was greater than the intention.

So, I guess JKR is in good company, and the work goes on without her to the next generation who will forget all about her thoughtless remarks. The body of work has to stand alone, and the last book is much more about Snape and Harry together, than about Harry's victory alone. I think JKR knew that deep down, but she is rather in denial about it. That doesn't change one word of the book, though. If she didn't grieve for Snape, she should realize that generations to come will, and they won't have to listen to her comments when they are done.


Louisa
HPN Writer in Residence
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2007, 01:01:59 PM »
________________________________________
I haven't really got anything intelligent to add to the thread. Just wanted to say well said Subtle and SIP.


subtle science
Graduate
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2007, 01:12:56 PM »
________________________________________
Another example is Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. After seeing the first daily rushes, the Disney executives wanted Johnny Depp fired and replaced in his Academy-Award nominated role as Jack Sparrow.

As much as artists want to cling to their works--and as much as the public wants to view the artist as the expert....It simply is not so and cannot be so.

Art is intensely personal; it expresses personal experiences, and viewers react to it based upon personal experiences. This does not mean, as I have said, that art is not intentional: it is. Subtexts are not always accidental--although they can be. How many times have you used the phrase "No pun intended" in something you've written? Consciously, you did not intend it; however, your subconscious did. Sometimes you realize what you did; sometimes you don't (it's why editors have jobs).

It works on the other side, too: a reader-critic can completely miss a subtext. Any of us who argued for years that Snape loved Lily know exactly how that works. Sometimes, a reader-critic just needs knowledge: for instance, fluency (or really, really good footnotes) in French, ancient Greek, German, Hindi, Italian, and Latin means you can read TS Eliot's "The Wasteland" as he wrote it. However, as Eliot himself acknowledged, you the readermight know far more about Dante's Inferno than he did (hard to imagine, but possible ) , and so see more in the subtext than he intended.

Or your own life experiences color your reaction. How many times have you read a book as a child, hated it--only to love it upon re-reading it as an adult? Or vice versa? Or--you re-read and see things you missed on the first six readings (see DevSev for examples ).

Writing is a difficult activity. So is reading/criticism. They should be equally intensive.

By the way--we could do a little experiment....To me, the essay title has three meanings. One is Flaubert's comment: "The man is nothing, the work everything"--meaning that the artist does not matter; only the work matters. Second is that, by saying Snape is not a hero, JKR said that that man was nothing. Third, it is true that Snape is nothing--for what makes him the hero is his work.

What did you think the title meant? I'm not the expert here.

Thanks for reading the essay, folks! I appreciate it....



clk
Graduate
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2007, 01:25:24 PM »
________________________________________
I read it as the man is nothing if his actions mean nothing. Not exactly what you intended...


Sly_Lady
Sisterhood of the Snape Hunters
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2007, 01:28:15 PM »
________________________________________
Quote from: subtle science on July 27, 2007, 01:12:56 PM

By the way--we could do a little experiment....To me, the essay title has three meanings. One is Flaubert's comment: "The man is nothing, the work everything"--meaning that the artist does not matter; only the work matters. Second is that, by saying Snape is not a hero, JKR said that that man was nothing. Third, it is true that Snape is nothing--for what makes him the hero is his work.

What did you think the title meant? I'm not the expert here.

Hmm… an amusing question, Subtle. Once I got my rusty brain to reluctantly translate Flaubert's comment, I looked no further. It makes sense. When Vivian asked if JKR said the man is nothing, that seemed possible. The third? I never thought of it. Maybe there are more meanings too, although I can't imagine what they might be.


subtle science
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2007, 01:35:33 PM »
________________________________________
As clk has shown--there's at least another meaning out there. I didn't think of it, because it wasn't connected to my train of thought. But that doesn't mean it isn't connected, because clk's version also makes sense.

What I intended is of no significcance: what matters is if the interpretation works, logically--or if it doesn't work with anything else the author wrote.

You can't just make stuff* up....but, just because the author doesn't say it herself (or does say it) doesn't mean the interpretation is wrong. The interpretation is never held up to the author, or what the author says. It's held up to the work. The work is everything.

(*real New Yorkers use another word here.... )



weaver
Guest
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2007, 01:40:23 PM »
________________________________________
I have to admit to shallowness here... I just accepted the Flaubert quote as the source, and the meaning to be that the meaning of a work (art, music, literature, architecture, etc) is found in the work, not in the artist.



Louisa
HPN Writer in Residence

Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2007, 01:41:52 PM »
________________________________________
I'll admit to the same shallowness weaver.

And they wanted to fire Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow - were they completely barking mad!!!!? !!!!!!





subtle science
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2007, 01:50:10 PM »
________________________________________
It's not shallowness. We judge ourselves so harshly....

The point is not to make anyone feel bad--but to point out the difference between author intent and audience interpretation. I probably should've waited to respond--but I suffered from two author reactions: A. I didn't expect anyone to read this and B. therefore, I couldn't wait to check for responses.

As an author, I cannot ever say--"Huh?! Where did they get that?" As a critic, I could--and I haven't seen a "Huh?" yet. Clk offered a different view, but one that worked in terms of the text presented... according to the critic. The author says, "Dude--I didn't think of that!"

That's the key to any of JKR's comments about her HP novels. She is entitled to her opinion--but she is not the final authority. Any more than I am about the title of my essay. As an author, I had intention; as a critic, I must evaluate if that intention came across to me or any other reader. There are two separate processes at work.

And no--the final title is not the first title I wrote. Authors do have intent. It only matters, though, in the final analysis.


Spirit
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2007, 01:53:02 PM »
________________________________________
Quote from: subtle science on July 27, 2007, 01:35:33 PM
(*real New Yorkers use another word here.... )

Umm... and what is it? BTW, is the black kitty smilie new? I've never seen it before.

The essay was very well written, and - what is more - it was needed. You know, I agree wholeheartedly with what you wrote in it, and I believed this from the very moment I read the interview, I was still upset with JKR's comments and I can totally understand why people are shocked and devastated. She is an authority, after all, although not one who is faultless.

Most of all, I needed to read that other people thought the same as I did and I needed to see someone take a stance on it. Thanks for giving us this, subtle.




clk
Re: JKR as Critic: "The Man Is Nothing...."
« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2007, 01:53:28 PM »
________________________________________
Which just goes to show that I'm overly analytical, anyway. Can I excuse myself by saying it is helpful in my chosen career path?

Actually, that thought came to me because it seemed to describe Snape, regardless of JK's intent. He would be nothing, as a character, if his actions meant nothing. But his actions did mean something and so his character must, as well, once again regardless of JK's intent. Which I thought Subtle was implying, as well...

« Last Edit: July 27, 2007, 01:54:19 PM by clk » Logged

Anger cannot be dishonest ~ Marcus Aurelius
Time is the justice that examines all offenders ~ William Shakespeare
(This post was last modified: 06-12-2012 09:56 AM by Silver Ink Pot.)
05-11-2012 10:22 PM
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RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
One of the chances that an author takes when they publish a work is that their interpretation of a character may not be the way others see them. This has evidently happened with Severus. He has become more than the sum of the parts she gave us glimpses of throughout the series. Once she wrote TPT, and put those parts together, it was a lost cause. When Severus Snape produced the White Doe patronus and whispered the word, "Always..." it was a lot cause for anyone with a romantic bone in their body.

How could one not look back over the previous six books and see a human being with all of the shortcomings of any other human being?

How could one not see the loneliness, anguish, regret, remorse, of his past?

How could the change in him from the time that he met Dumbledore on the windy hill until he breathed his last not be acknowledged as a major change in his character?

Oh, Sevvy, you'll always be my hero, always. Heart

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(This post was last modified: 05-13-2012 06:29 PM by MinervasCat.)
05-13-2012 06:27 PM
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Silver Ink Pot Offline
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RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
I think JKR meant Snape to be very human and almost fragile, but he also has the ability to mask his inner feelings. I think people either get that or they don't.

Back when Subtle originally wrote this essay, fandom was in an uproar because JKR seemed to be changing her mind daily about how she viewed Snape and it was disturbing to the fans. No one expected that the author would plan the entire series around a certain character and then throw him under the bus with dismissive remarks on television - it was like she was killing him off twice! Confused She was also somewhat insulting our intelligence. Before her North American tour, most Snape fans felt vindicated, and some felt that JKR was speaking directly to us. But JKR knew that half of fandom was angry that they had missed the clues and the point, so she placated them (once again) by attacking us. She also let us all know that her own definition of hero was narrow and included mainly Gryffindors.

Subtle really helped me to realize that none of that matters - it's just noise. JKR's interviews and additional comments don't change the essence of the books or Snape's character. He is what he is, no matter what she intended.
05-13-2012 06:38 PM
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subtle science Offline
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RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
Thanks for salvaging this essay, Silver Ink Pot. Much appreciated!!

I can't even begin to guess at JKR's motives for what she said after DH was published. It seemed to me that she was pandering to the fans who felt betrayed by the way Snape's character turned out--the fans who had not read well or accurately and who were shocked by what they perceived as a reversal by their author. And perhaps she genuinely believes some of what she said. Or all of it. Whatever--she could even go back and completely rewrite the books, and that still wouldn't change what she originally put on the page.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
--T. S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

We have built no Temple but the CAPITOL; We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (King James Version, Matthew 25: 37-40)
05-13-2012 07:39 PM
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Silver Ink Pot Offline
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RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
I think this picture describes what happened in 2007, and even in the present day when people read the series for the first time:

[Image: tumblr_m3w2m979aZ1qbmxuro1_500.jpg]
05-13-2012 09:44 PM
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RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
Yes. For some reason she seems to feel the need to pander to those who "didn't get it" as she was writing the series. While I did not see Severus' being in love with Lily coming until TPT, I did peg him as a "good guy" from the beginning. Even when he killed Dumbledore, I thought that either DD was going to do an "Obi Wan" and come back as a spirit of some type to protect Harry, or had some other reason for having Sev kill him. I never saw it as murder.

I liked Severus from the intro to Potions (ahhhhh), and never thought he was after the Stone. But, once Quirrell verified that Sev had saved Harry's life at the Quidditch match, I knew from there I was right, no matter how JKR tried to mask it in the later books. I don't mean this as bragging (being the humble little kitty that I am), it's just that I've read enough books to know when an author is laying a smoke screen, and, the thicker the smoke the more obvious they're trying to hide something. JKR almost overdid it with the greasy-haired, black-robed, snarky, withdrawn, mean-spirited Professor Snape. He was almost "too bad to be true."

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05-15-2012 02:59 PM
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RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
I really didn't focus on Snape much until PoA and GoF.

I accepted at the end of SS/PS that Snape was on the good side because Dumbledore and Voldemort both said he was (why would they lie at that point?) and Quirrell was obviously a red herring. Then in CoS, I despised Lockhart, so Snape looked even better, and made the potion that saved all the children plus Mrs. Norris. PoA was problematic because Lupin was a sympathetic character, at least on the surface, and I honestly had no idea what was going on in the Shrieking Shack. We just didn't have enough information about the past to parse and analyze that scene effectively.

But GoF really brought Snape to the forefront and showed that he was complex, and had been a Death Eater, but was now working for Dumbledore. I don't find the ending of GoF all that ambiguous. JKR leaves Harry at the banquet staring at Snape across the room, wondering what had happened in the graveyard when Snape went back. So for a few minutes there, he knows they have walked in each other's shoes. Harry can imagine how bad it was for Snape in the graveyard, having been there himself.
05-15-2012 04:42 PM
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RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
Snape was my favorite character as soon as I read the Potions scene in PS/SS, and I was pretty sure throughout that novel that he was the good guy. Once the ending confirmed that, my expectation was that he would prove to be a hero and Harry's close ally.....It was just a question of whether or not JKR was going to adhere to the pattern she'd set down or hare off in some very peculiar direction.

PoA, the first time around, was a good read--but a bit confusing, except that I supposed JKR was trying to throw everyone off the scent so the readers wouldn't be sure that Snape was a hero. PoA was also a very fun re-read after OotP came out, because then everything about the novel became clear: it was amazing and fun and challenging to see how what seemed to be happening in PoA was suddenly re-written by what was depicted in GoF and OotP.

The end of GoF was the mortal lock on Snape's being a hero--JKR was going to have to rip everything to shreds in order to have the series work out so that Snape could be ambiguous (the moronic 'shades of gray' concept...), never mind a villain. OotP clarified everything: as soon as she gave everyone SWM, JKR tipped her hand; that chapter brought pretty much everything into focus and confirmed almost every suspicion and interpretation about Snape's true character. "The Prince's Tale" just spelled it all out, in case there were doubters and people who didn't get it left--well, yeah: as another place ably demonstrated, there were plenty of weak readers who not only didn't get OotP, but still couldn't grasp DH.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
--T. S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

We have built no Temple but the CAPITOL; We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (King James Version, Matthew 25: 37-40)
05-18-2012 07:51 PM
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Silver Ink Pot Offline
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RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
I remember after staying up all night with my kids reading OotP, I told my daughter how amazed I was about Occlumency because instead of writing lots of scenes with Harry and Sirius or Harry and Lupin, JKR had instead written so many scenes with Harry and Snape, and given them insight into one another's personal lives.

My daughter (who was just a young teenager then) was confused by that and a little disappointed, I think, because Sirius had died. But Occlumency and SWM just captured my imagination and took the books to a whole new level for me. That's the point at which I knew the Snape/Harry relationship was the author's focal point even though I couldn't really see where she was going with it.

And when I joined a forum to talk about it, I was amazed that so many people dismissed Occlumency as just another "mean teacher" scene, instead of discussing Snape's Worst Memory. And when people did talk about SWM, they praised James/Sirius instead of having any sympathy for the victim - which was Severus. Confused

Thank goodness I found the Dev of Sev thread and people who were on the same wavelength!
05-19-2012 12:30 AM
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Post: #10
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
I have to admit while I read JKR's commentaries on her work, I don't think it helps to appreciate her. For me, the usual effect is rather the opposite - although I will always credit her for her well-put imagination of this amazing magical world and the overall adventure story arc.
I just fear to find out what else she might have to say on Pottermore that will leads to disappointment for one or the other fan faction.

(05-15-2012 04:42 PM)Silver Ink Pot Wrote:  I really didn't focus on Snape much until PoA and GoF.
... PoA was problematic because Lupin was a sympathetic character, at least on the surface, and I honestly had no idea what was going on in the Shrieking Shack. ....
PoA really outraged me - in the way that the repeated humiliation of Snape was depicted as "good sport" while his reasoning and concerns were pretty much constantly dismissed. Really, that book made me a Snape fangirl, just out of protest. I still have not been able to read this book without cringing at all the episodes to belittle Snape. I never figured how people could not see the victimisation in that. I figured that JKR had a reason to do so, but it somewhat seemed to reapply the ambiguity of the first book with increased focus - which made me more convinced, actually, that Snape wasn't bad. Still, if he had turned bad, he would still have had my sympathies after PoA.

(05-19-2012 12:30 AM)Silver Ink Pot Wrote:  ... I was amazed that so many people dismissed Occlumency as just another "mean teacher" scene, instead of discussing Snape's Worst Memory. And when people did talk about SWM, they praised James/Sirius instead of having any sympathy for the victim - which was Severus. Confused
...
I sooo agree with you there, I never really got why people complained about Snape's behaviour without putting it into the context how he used to be treated ...
05-19-2012 08:04 AM
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Matts Offline
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Post: #11
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
(05-19-2012 08:04 AM)Rana Wrote:  PoA really outraged me - in the way that the repeated humiliation of Snape was depicted as "good sport" while his reasoning and concerns were pretty much constantly dismissed. Really, that book made me a Snape fangirl, just out of protest. I still have not been able to read this book without cringing at all the episodes to belittle Snape. I never figured how people could not see the victimisation in that.

You and me both. Same with OotP, I remember reading discussions about how some were afraid young Sirius wouldn't be hot enough in the movies, and I was baffled. Talk about missing the point and being blind when it comes to characters. And they call Sanpe fans biased. And it's not JKR's fault, if we take away her comments on the characters, PoA and OotP made it pretty clear that Sirius had big problems wanting to or at the very least being perfectly fine with another kid getting killed by one of his friends, and James being a self-absorbed bully. Not to mention both were really bad at judging others, making Wormtail the secretkeeper and thinking Lupin was the traitor.
05-19-2012 08:40 PM
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sethisuwan Offline
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Post: #12
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
With regards to the notion of an author being the creator, and not the 'dictator' of his/her work, I'd like to add the following.

An author or artist is like a mother. She gives birth to a child. But she cannot manipulate the child to act in each and every way she likes it. The child has its own unique personality and makes its own decisions. Great authors understand this. In fact, great mothers understand this. They treat their children as a person, not a 'product'. Great mothers know that children come from them, not 'for' them.

Agreed?

(05-13-2012 06:38 PM)Silver Ink Pot Wrote:  Back when Subtle originally wrote this essay, fandom was in an uproar because JKR seemed to be changing her mind daily about how she viewed Snape and it was disturbing to the fans. No one expected that the author would plan the entire series around a certain character and then throw him under the bus with dismissive remarks on television - it was like she was killing him off twice! Confused She was also somewhat insulting our intelligence. Before her North American tour, most Snape fans felt vindicated, and some felt that JKR was speaking directly to us. But JKR knew that half of fandom was angry that they had missed the clues and the point, so she placated them (once again) by attacking us. She also let us all know that her own definition of hero was narrow and included mainly Gryffindors.

The same thing happened with regards to Harry/Hermione and Ron/Hermione. There was a lot divide on this subject and perhaps even more fandom is devoted to these two 'shipping' camps. We all know how things eventually turned out in the books. However, as there was a huge out-roar on this subject from those who disagreed with outcome in the book, JKR later made public remarks that tried to placate them, she said that in DH there was a real possibility that Harry/Hermione could have happened, during the scenes when Ron had left and the two were together.

In the book there is actually no hint towards this, Harry and Hermione both missed their own partners, but one suspects that JKR made those public statements only because she wanted to please those fans who had wanted Harry/Hermione, even though her comments were not true and dishonest to the actual message in the books.

Me, Professional Quidditch Keeper, Puddlemere United
(This post was last modified: 06-06-2012 09:56 AM by sethisuwan.)
06-06-2012 09:44 AM
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subtle science Offline
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Post: #13
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
Welcome to the HPN island, sethisuwan!

I suppose it would be a tad redundant of me to say I don't really care about JKR's remarks about her books, especially when she instructs her readers on how to understand them--whether her remarks appear in interviews or on Pottermore or anywhere else.... Wink

When I first read/finished PoA, I was appalled by the way Lupin treated Snape....However, it all made sense, in the context of Snape's being a variation on the archetype of the Gothic hero. It had been made perfectly clear, by the end of PS/SS, that Snape was on the good side; that was generally reinforced by CoS. Therefore, it was important--as the character was supposed to remain a mysterious figure (in Gothic fashion) until the last book--to undermine the impression of the first two books: to try to get the readers to question what they already knew about the character and so to have doubt about him. Classic Gothic style.

Therefore, in PoA, it's Snape who's presented as the overwrought, borderline lunatic: he must be the one who is so filled with the vitriolic need for unreasonable revenge; his views are the wrong ones. What's fun, to me, is how PoA changes after one reads the subsequent books--the further one goes into the series, the more one realizes that Snape is the victim in PoA....Snape is the good man who speaks the truth; the ones who appear to be good are, in fact, amoral and liars--the whole impression of the book reverses; the purpose is to underscore the qualities of the Gothic hero, including how he suffers through misunderstanding. PoA is quite complex and so one of my favorites in the series--but dependent upon the rest of the series in order to be one of my favorites.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
--T. S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

We have built no Temple but the CAPITOL; We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (King James Version, Matthew 25: 37-40)
06-06-2012 07:23 PM
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Ianus Incantatus Offline
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Post: #14
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
I was recently reading about using intuition and analysis in decision making (for what it's worth, this was related to purchasing a robot vacuum cleaner). In an article titled “A Theory of Unconscious Thought” by Ap Di jksterhuis and Loran F. Nordgren, these two primary modes of thought are discussed.

Dijksterhuis and Nordgren: A Theory of Unconscious Thought. Perspectives on Psychological Science. June 2006 vol. 1 no. 2 Wrote:Abstract
We present a theory about human thought named the unconscious-thought theory (UTT). The theory is applicable to decision making, impression formation, attitude formation and change, problem solving, and creativity. It distinguishes between two modes of thought: unconscious and conscious. Unconscious thought and conscious thought have different characteristics, and these different characteristics make each mode preferable under different circumstances. For instance, contrary to popular belief, decisions about simple issues can be better tackled by conscious thought, whereas decisions about complex matters can be better approached with unconscious thought.

Analysis is applied when using conscious thought, whereas intuition can be seen as a powerful aggregator of the subconscious. Having read the latest “revelations” in Pottermore, I came to think the difference between author and critic has to do with intuition vs. analysis, too.

For an artist, the essence of the work comes from the intuition, the subconscious. Surely, if one is tasked for example with production of freschi for the Sistine Chapel, a great amount of analysis is needed to have the space filled neatly. However, this analysis is only an auxiliary tool. The real artwork gets its spirit from something that nobody, not even the best of artists, has capacity to consciously analyse.

A critic, on the other hand, to be credible relies on analysis. Intuition may be an important help in recognising relevant questions in the artwork, but “Snape was (not) a hero because I just very strongly feel so” is not a statement of a critic.

As for JKR, if we accept this difference in the means of thought between an author and a critic, we actually have a lot of evidence that she is much better in writing than critiquing. In other words, her intuition is vastly superior to her analytical skills. She is infamous for the time line inconsistences and she claims she hasn’t reread her books, so she doesn’t really have proper data, which is essential for accurate analysis.

This creates an apparent contradiction that what she wrote in the books (mostly) fits nicely together and has several, exciting layers of meanings, but what she has said afterwards seems incoherent and simply does not add up with facts that can be checked from the books. Possibly she is not trying to actively “rewrite” her own work, but is not capable of analysisng and realising what she actually subconsciously “knew”… In this respect, it might have been better not to threaten to write an encyclopedia.
08-14-2013 09:09 PM
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Silver Ink Pot Offline
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Post: #15
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
I was about to disagree with you, Ianus, because it seems to me it took intuition to pick up some of the clues about Snape and Lily throughout the books.

However, thinking about it a little more I realized that since the clues were indeed included in the text - no matter how "subtle" they were Wink - that means that we were using logical analysis, not just feelings.

ETA: The reason many spurned our Snape theories is that they were based on a small look or movement or action by Snape, and not some big heroic gesture. Indeed, many felt that the lack of a big swashbuckling gesture is the reason Snape couldn't be a hero, so they missed the point. (And it's pretty swashbuckling duel all the other teachers then fly out a window to escape alive - Sirius couldn't do that!)

And to go even further, many readers base their dislike of Snape on their sympathy for Harry, Hermione, Neville, Lily, and even Petunia! And that was a trick JKR employed to paint Snape as black and white, when really he was the most complex of characters.

It does produce the conundrum of JKR having intuition to create almost the perfect literary character, then denying the very traits she gave him. Interestingly, after the movie came out and there was more concensus about Snape's sympathetic story, she mellowed on him somewhat.

So I have to agree with you that it is JKR as a writer drawing on her depths of emotion during the process that most of admire. The weeping fangirl who cries at the mere mention of Sirius or Lupin, not so much. Rolleyes

(This post was last modified: 08-14-2013 11:07 PM by Silver Ink Pot.)
08-14-2013 11:05 PM
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Ianus Incantatus Offline
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RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
(08-14-2013 11:05 PM)Silver Ink Pot Wrote:  I was about to disagree with you, Ianus, because it seems to me it took intuition to pick up some of the clues about Snape and Lily throughout the books.

However, thinking about it a little more I realized that since the clues were indeed included in the text - no matter how "subtle" they were Wink - that means that we were using logical analysis, not just feelings.
hbuckling gesture is the reason Snape couldn't be a hero, so they

Your intuition was right. You should have disagreed. Big Grin Then I could have partly agreed with you but pointing out that this didn't contradict what I wrote...

Now I have to disagree. And resort to annoying habit of quoting myself: A critic, on the other hand, to be credible relies on analysis. Intuition may be an important help in recognising relevant questions in the artwork, but “Snape was (not) a hero because I just very strongly feel so” is not a statement of a critic.

I think I also was redefining "a critic" in my mind without realising it. So, in my text, "a critic" mostly refers to the product, a critique, that is presented, and this distinguishes a critic (person) from just any audience (reader). When we are reading a (good) book, it creates all kinds of feelings in us that are results of intuition. Reading a mystery novel, we may get a very strong idea who the murderer is without really being able to explain it. Or, reading HP we may have first felt very clearly that Snape must have loved Lily.

Hoverer -- and here I'm implying that a critique is more than a mere opinion -- reporting those feelings doesn't alone constitute much of a critique. Critic's work includes validating the intuition with analysis. Trying to expose the subconscious so those subtle hints become apparent. And I think this is exactly what you did with Snape/Lily.
08-15-2013 06:16 AM
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Nyctalus Offline
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Post: #17
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
Ianus Incantatus Wrote:This creates an apparent contradiction that what she wrote in the books (mostly) fits nicely together and has several, exciting layers of meanings, but what she has said afterwards seems incoherent and simply does not add up with facts that can be checked from the books. Possibly she is not trying to actively “rewrite” her own work, but is not capable of analysisng and realising what she actually subconsciously “knew”… In this respect, it might have been better not to threaten to write an encyclopedia.

Interesting thoughts, Ianus! Smile
I think you’re very right about the lacking analysis. Maybe JKR genuinely thinks she’s adding coherent background material to her books – as she remembers them - on Pottermore, while at a critical reflection of both sources – which she doesn’t perform - certain aspects of the stuff are rather just messing things up. I get the feeling that on Pottermore she takes on the role of some kind of a moral critic on her own characters. Since certain characters, which she had meant to represent the ”good” in the books, actually came across as having some major moral flaws, she now tries to straighten them up by adding conclusions that don’t have a solid basis in the books. Which makes them seem more like Elphias Doge’s rather favorably biased obituary on Dumbledore than a real, objective evaluation of (and complement to) what we can all read in the original text.

Silver Ink Pot Wrote:However, thinking about it a little more I realized that since the clues were indeed included in the text - no matter how "subtle" they were - that means that we were using logical analysis, not just feelings.

Ianus Incantatus Wrote:Hoverer -- and here I'm implying that a critique is more than a mere opinion -- reporting those feelings doesn't alone constitute much of a critique. Critic's work includes validating the intuition with analysis. Trying to expose the subconscious so those subtle hints become apparent. And I think this is exactly what you did with Snape/Lily.
Yes, I definitely think we did that, both regarding Snape’s relation to Lily, which I tried to show here, and regarding our perception of Snape’s character in general. And it’s also important to keep in mind, I believe, that this was a) a collective effort and b) based upon evidence.

In this sense, I think our discussion was sometimes similar to how science works – in this case a very subtle science…Wink Someone presented an idea, a ’hypothesis’ about, let’s say, what actually happened at the Astronomy Tower in HBP. Their idea was based on their own observations, not only in that scene, but of the involved characters in the whole book series so far. Their idea was then considered by the other posters, who tried to refute or confirm the hypothesis, depending on their own take on these aspects, also adding observations of their own. Although these observations were often small, subtle pieces of evidence, as SIP says above, they were still there, and summing them up they did provide a basis for conclusions. And of course we often used our intuition to find these little clues, but they still came out of a careful scrutiny of the text. You had to look closely to observe them (remember how Sherlock Holmes often berates Watson: ”You see, yet you do not observe” Wink ).

We can’t, of course, expect the author of the books to ever scrutinise her own text in this fashion – that might even put a weight on her creative writing. But if she at least were more concious about the actual logic of her story, and the fact that her characters might have taken on a ”life of their own” caused by her more subconcious writing, maybe she would be more careful about the extra material and conclusions she publishes after the books were finished?

Lo que puede el sentimiento no lo ha podido el saber, 

ni el más claro proceder, ni el más ancho pensamiento 

Todo lo cambia el momento cual mago condescendiente 

nos aleja dulcemente de rencores y violencias 

Solo el amor con su ciencia nos vuelve tan inocentes

Violeta Parra, from the song “Volver a los 17”

@@@
"I've always assumed that love is a dangerous disadvantage; thank you for the final proof!"

Sherlock Holmes, TV-version "A Scandal in Belgravia"
(This post was last modified: 08-15-2013 10:44 AM by Nyctalus.)
08-15-2013 10:16 AM
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Ianus Incantatus Offline
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Post: #18
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
Ah, science, Sherloc Holmes, subtle science / exact art...

Nyctalus, I think the analogy to science is valid and underlines the idea I tried to convey: both an author of a work of art and a critic may - an most often do - use both intuition (subconscious thought) and analysis (conscious thought) in their work. The difference is how the end product is judged: a scientist, or a critic, can work purely based on analysis, but they can also employ a great deal of intuition to form a hypothesis (like you rightly point out). When proving (or disproving / falsifying) a hypothesis, the work is judged against the analysis. Sometimes even a large number of intuitive hypotheses may be proven by a very small, but crucial, piece of analysis and sometimes a simple-sounding little intuition may require a huge body of analysis...

A work of art does not necessarily need any analysis. If it has an impact on the audience, it doesn't really matter how the artist arrived at it. Most often the best pieces of art are a result of a strong vision (gained by an intuition?), but sometimes it might be that major part of the work is actually based on very analytical work, into which life has been blown by a tiny drop of artistic touch. (Sorry, I think my metaphors are getting really convoluted now...)

Think about the Half-Blood Prince! If a student meticulously follows the instructions in Advanced Potion-Making by Libatius Borage, they will get a result that is perfectly acceptable and bears no obvious mistakes yet doesn't truly impress. A true master of the exact art of potions making knows (and I dare claim knows intuitively) where to put a little twist into the published recipe so that the result rises above ordinary.

Finally, I wanted to say something about Sherlock Holmes, too. For he is a truly curious case: there we have a character who relies purely on conscious thought, deduction, logic... analysis. At least I recall no instance he would manifest intuition (on the contrary, he seems to despise it). He seems to posses such an extraordinary brain power that he actually can process all the details analytically - which normal people cannot an therefore intuition is more powerful for them. Compare this to Monsieur Poirot, for example, whom we see quite often stating something along the lines that something in this bothers me but I cannot grasp what exactly, thus displaying strong intuition before analytically arriving at the conclusion.

This is getting nicely off-topic... [Image: smiley_hijack.gif]
08-15-2013 06:51 PM
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Silver Ink Pot Offline
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Post: #19
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
No Hijacking! Maybe Sherlock needs a thread of his own. [Image: sherlock.gif]

Nyctalus: Great point about the "collective effort." It's one thing to read a book and blurt out some personal conclusions. It's a whole new ballgame to debate people for weeks and months - and years - and even appear to be on the opposite side from the author. You have to be obsessed enough to hang in there, and many can't take the heat.

I can name several well-known HP fans who rode the fence all the way to the end and refused to predict much. And in the end, what they did predict was wrong. For instance, John Granger was right to go out on a limb and predict the Christian symbolism in the books, but his Alchemy theories were a little off, and he seemed terrified to say whether Snape's character was good or bad. Part of that was he probably didn't want trolls coming after him if he predicted that Snape was a hero, but he also refused to go on the record that Snape was redeemed. I think he was just terrified of being wrong.

So to me, while Granger got attention from the media and lecture circuit for years, he sort of blew it on Snape.

But sticking with some theories has a great reward, as we know. Even the essays we write as individuals are often born out of discussions, and often not scientific at all but just random moments when we tripped over new ideas. More like serendipity. Cool

And as we know, that is both the joy and the pain of fandom, because when people agree on new points and enjoy criticizing the books we become best friends, but if just a few disagree vehemently they can troll us for years about it. Tongue

But, sigh, all critics pay a price, don't they?

(This post was last modified: 08-15-2013 09:00 PM by Silver Ink Pot.)
08-15-2013 08:57 PM
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subtle science Offline
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Post: #20
RE: JKR as Critic - The Man is Nothing... by Subtle Science
I think the reference to a great work of art's not needing analysis if it has an impact on the audience brings up a key idea.....It doesn't need analysis if one is simply an audience and just wants to react on an emotional, visceral level. In contrast, a critic MUST analyze it: a critic rects, but then stops and tries to determine why and how the work produced that reaction.

Criticism is very scientific: the initial response to a work may be unconsidered, instant, and intuitive, but the critical process then proceeds to pulling the work apart in order to determine the underlying cause. Proof is sought--and has to be weighed dispassionately: if something in the work contradicts the hypothesis, then the hypothesis must be re-evaluated.

Long practice in such analyses then gives the critic the ability--the knowledge base--in order to present an opinion on the WORTH of the work: is it, in fact, "great"? is it average? poor? Even a poor work may still have a deep, emotional effect on someone--but that effect on an individual does not make the work a "classic"....Perhaps it sounds elitist, but it's really a question of being able to determine true quality--and that comes from the process of analysis and evaluation.

A critic can actually not LIKE a work of art--but could still evaluate it as great, because it has an emotional impact on others and the critic can analyze its effect and its quality.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
--T. S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

We have built no Temple but the CAPITOL; We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (King James Version, Matthew 25: 37-40)
08-15-2013 09:46 PM
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