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Narcissus and Goldmund – A Study of Psychological Types

Hesse And His Typewriter by Qtea

Hesse And His Typewriter by Qtea via Flickr

Narcissus and Goldmund is a novel by Hermann Hesse set in Medieval Germany. It’s about a Christian monk, Goldmund, who one day wanders in the fields a bit too far while gathering herbs and encounters a gypsy woman who asks him to make love.

At this point Goldmund realizes he has an eye for the ladies and was never meant to be a monk. He departs from monastic life, saying goodbye to his close friend and teacher Narcissus, to discover truth through lived experience. In his travels he has several romantic affairs, trains to be a master carver and encounters the horror of the Black Death.

Narcissus represents a stereotypical – or in the Jungian sense archetypal – clergyman bound by rules and regulations whereas Goldmund is a free-thinking, creative seeker.

At the end of the novel the two characters, although estranged throughout most of the narrative, meet up and are reconciled. They reflect on their different paths, the spiritual artist and the theological thinker, and discuss philosophy and science in a way that has been criticized as “too modern” for a historical novel.

English: Carl Gustav Jung, full-length portrai...

Carl Gustav Jung, full-length portrait, standing in front of building in Burghölzi, Zurich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I personally didn’t mind this, probably because I read the book as a teenager. Had I read it today, I might have found the lack of historical accuracy a detriment. But as a youth, I wasn’t overly concerned with historicity.

Hesse was a friend of the depth psychiatrist C. G. Jung, the former once saying that they belonged within a secret circle of mystics.¹ Hesse has always been a psychological, philosophical and spiritual author, so to try to make him into something like Umberto Eco² is misguided. It’s like comparing Drake to Frank Sinatra, saying one should have been more like the other.

On the Web:

To this GradstudentCCC adds:

Hajo Smit’s summary contains an error about the ending. He says:

“Goldmund was so deeply disappointed that he gave up his trip and returned to the monastery, pretending that he had an accident.”

This isn’t the case at all. In the end of the book Goldmund *did* have an accident, in which he broke his ribs. He didn’t return to the monastery until much later (even after staying in a hospital for a while). He was very ill from the accident and returned to the monastery in time to die.

¹ (a) See footnote 2, p. 288 in my doctoral thesis (search “Hesse”): http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk3/ftp04/nq21958.pdf

(b) At that time I was just embarking on the inner life – hardly realizing it at first – and thinkers and novelists like Jung and Hesse provided some kind of road map, however imperfect, to help make sense of my experience.

² I talk a little bit about Eco at earthpages.ca < https://earthpages.wordpress.com/?s=Umberto+Eco+ > but the best place to get a feel for him is from one of his more knowledgeable admirers >> https://stuffjeffreads.wordpress.com/?s=Eco 

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Johannes Gutenberg

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress - Raul654 via Wikipedia

Johannes Gutenberg (1400-68) was a German inventor usually credited with the advent of the printing press based on movable type.

Records are scant but Guternberg likely began printing in Strasbourg (1430-44), seeking to reproduce the religious manuscripts of the day. He constructed a printing press in 1448 with the financial backing of Johann Fust. Around 1455 he printed a 42-line Bible, which historians call the “Gutenberg Bible,” a word respected for its aesthetic charm.

The Chinese had been block-printing with stamps and seals since the Shang dynasty (BCE 1766 – 1122) but the innovation of movable type sparked a technological revolution that continues into the 21st century. The impact of movable type on literacy – and society in general – is much discussed in contemporary sociology and cultural studies courses.

A set of metal types

A Set of Metal Types - Willi Heidelbach via Wikipedia

What you probably don’t hear in these courses, however, is that we’re not really sure if Gutenberg was the inventor of movable type. The uncertainty arose when researchers realized subtle differences between some characters within different printed copies of the same work.

Elaborate computer scans have apparently confirmed that these differences indicate that Gutenberg did not use one indestructible mould but, rather, had to employ some other method to mass produce copies of a single work. And this exact method is still subject to debate.

The following except from Wikipedia explains:

The invention of the making of types with punch, matrix and mold has been widely attributed to Gutenberg. However, recent evidence suggests that Gutenberg’s process was somewhat different. If he used the punch and matrix approach, all his letters should have been nearly identical, with some variations due to miscasting and inking. However, the type used in Gutenberg’s earliest work shows other variations.[citation needed]

In 2001, the physicist Blaise Agüera y Arcas and Princeton librarian Paul Needham, used digital scans of a Papal bull in the Scheide Library, Princeton, to carefully compare the same letters (types) appearing in different parts of the printed text.[20][21] The irregularities in Gutenberg’s type, particularly in simple characters such as the hyphen, suggested that the variations could not have come from either ink smear or from wear and damage on the pieces of metal on the types themselves. While some identical types are clearly used on other pages, other variations, subjected to detailed image analysis, suggested that they could not have been produced from the same matrix. Transmitted light pictures of the page also appeared to reveal substructures in the type that could not arise from traditional punchcutting techniques. They hypothesized that the method may have involved impressing simple shapes to create alphabets in “cuneiform” style in a matrix made of some soft material, perhaps sand. Casting the type would destroy the mould, and the matrix would need to be recreated to make each additional sort. This could explain the variations in the type, as well as the substructures observed in the printed images.

Thus, they feel that “the decisive factor for the birth of typography”, the use of reusable moulds for casting type, might have been a more progressive process than was previously thought.[22] They suggest that the additional step of using the punch to create a mould that could be reused many times was not taken until twenty years later, in the 1470s. Others have not accepted some or all of their suggestions, and have interpreted the evidence in other ways, and the truth of the matter remains very uncertain.[23]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg

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