Ultan's Library

a web resource for the study of Gene Wolfe

A look behind the names

Scott Wowra

Scott Wowra

“Rope…” “The Long Coast…” “Thought…” 

Why does Latro, the narrator of Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of the Mist, give such strange and wonderful names to the places he visits in ancient Greece? How does he derive them and what does his choice of names reveal about his thinking?

Scott Wowra explores these questions in his scholarly new article, “Place Names in Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of the Mist”. Skilfully using the taxonomy of toponomy, the formal study of place names, he provides key insights into the way that Wolfe subtly reveals how his protagonist perceives the world that he lives in through the way that he assigns names to the places through which he passes.

“Place Names in Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of the Mist” is due to be published in Ultan’s Library on Wednesday 7 September 2016.

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Place Names in Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of the Mist

2 Comments

  1. Michael Orlando

    Perhaps their misperception is as important as their meaning to his damaged brain, a kind of irruption of his unconscious. Lafcadio Hearn, famously astigmatic, lived in a world of phosphor and lurid blurs that fairly spoon-fed a sense of the mysterious into everyday experience. I myself experienced something of the kind once when, having suffered a bit of head trauma, I staggered around mesmerized by thousands of olive tree leaves shaking like green sistrums in the summer heat. If you’d asked me to give a name to what I was seeing it would’ve been as incoherent as it would’ve been..at least temporarily..revelatory.

    • Nigel

      Thank you, Michael. I hope that you’ll enjoy Scott Wowra’s article when it comes out next Wednesday. It’s principally about the different means Latro uses to derive place names, some of which are indeed, as you point out, based on misconceptions. Some of those misconceptions are linguistic, because Latro’s mother-tongue is early Latin, not Greek. Some are because he is a visitor, not a native. And some must be, although this is beyond the immediate scope of the article, because, by the time he writes them down on his scroll, Latro has already forgotten any better explanations or derivations which he may previously have been given. I’ll be very interested to know what you think when you’ve read the article.

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