Sunday, March 13, 2016

Lost in Lewis

 I. Google, why can't I quit you? [says everybody, all the time]
Lucky for me, there are only 33 episodes of the British TV mystery Inspector Lewis
it is pushing my "obsessively look things up" button with its many scraps of references to literature, art, philosophy, theology & religion, and English culture, including guest stars from every British production you've ever seen. 

Such as Anna Massey (d. 2011--her "life in pictures" in the Guardian), who I know from the weird and wonderful Peeping Tom (1960, dir. Michael Powell):

Here she is, below, in the Lewis episode "Whom the Gods Would Destroy" (fans of Star Trek may notice similarity in episode titles). She's reading in the Bodleian---I thought it was the Duke Humfrey's reading room---checked, and so it is.

I am no Anglophile.
But just as Starsky and Hutch took me back to the 1970s,  Lewis, set in Oxford, takes me to the decade I spent involved, off and on, with O., originally my [Oxford-educated] classics prof. 
Our affair started in Oxford, … at a patristics conference
(Elements of the story would make a comic novel, like Lucky Jim, or Small World by David Lodge. Barbara Pym could have written it.)

II. Boarding School Syndrome

Not funny: Boarding School Syndrome--the lasting effects of "the psychological abuse of children" in boarding schools from "long-term emotional neglect, the absence of safety, the failure of justice, the loss of love";
 plus, from this (being sent to boarding school) being a privilege, accorded to children of high social rank.
Talk about a mind fuck. 
I got thinking about this because Sgt. Hathaway, a public school boy, possibly suffers from it. Lewis says Hathaway doesn't know himself at all. 
Not knowing yourself is not unusual, of course, but this is more like dissociation from self.

 (O.,  sent to boarding school at seven, certainly suffered from this.
Tales of his school days were like Dickens or if…).

Joy Schaverien, a Jungian psychoanalyst, came up with the name Boarding School Syndrome a decade ago, but it's hardly a new idea.

Writers such as "George Orwell to Roald Dahl, wrote in their different ways about the systemic cruelty, psychological and physical, and of its wider effects," 
according to the Guardian article,
 "Boarding School Syndrome Review: A gripping study of the mental wounds inflicted by classic British institutions" (June 2015), which further reads:

"John Bowlby, the psychologist famous for first coming up with attachment theory in the 1960s, described public school as part of “the time-honoured barbarism required to produce English gentlemen”." 

The author of the article writes:
I once knew an American psychoanalyst who worked in a Bangkok practice, specialising in expats. …He said, “Middle-aged, middle-class Brits who went to your crazy private schools may just about be the most damaged social sub-group I’ve ever come across.”
Picture File

My friend who introduced me to Lewis has started a shared google doc, where we can record our questions and findings.

Just for fun, and because I'm spending a lot of time on this, I'll plunk items from my Lewis picture library here. 
They're random:
I won't bother here to note their episode or the plot points. (You can ask, if you want.)

 Below: Royal Mail, Classic British Comics 

This last isn't a direct reference to Lewis---there is a Bertrand Russell quote, but it was "Absolutism has always been accompanied by some form of slavery or serfdom." However, this quote applies more to me, googling away at Lewis references:


Frex said...

P.S. In "Boarding School Syndrome: The Psychological Trauma of the 'Privileged' Child, Dr Joy Schaverien writes:

“Early rupture with home has a lasting influence on attachment patterns. When a child is brought up at home, the family adapts to accommodate it: growing up involves a constant negotiation between parents and children.

"But an institution cannot rebuild itself around one child. Instead, the child must adapt to the system. Combined with the sudden and repeated loss of parents, siblings, pets and toys, this causes the child to shut itself off from the need for intimacy.
This can cause major problems in adulthood:
depression, an inability to talk about or understand emotions,
* * *the urge to escape from or to destroy intimate relationships.

"These symptoms mostly affect early boarders: those who start when they are older are less likely to be harmed.”

Zhoen said...

Anna Massey has such a distinctive face. But then, I am a mild anglophile.

Boarding School Syndrome, makes sense to me. Like putting children in the Army. Or orphanages. And they come out feeling like they have to be proud of it. Messed right up.

If there were that many murders in Oxford, they'd close the place down. They actually get about one every ten years, as opposed to ten a year. I know, I know...

Frex said...

ZHOEN: Hey, thanks: that's something I was going to look up too:
How many murders actually occur in Oxford.
There are probably more murders in Lewis's Oxford than there are in all of the UK.