Thursday, February 14, 2008

the point of no point

I figured, hey, why not chase down one of the references at the back of my copy of Dubliners. So I went to the library site and got Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle: A Study of the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930. Julie's out of town, briefly, TV isn't all it's cracked up to be, so why not (I write, as the TV is playing in the background and the book is lying shut on the table)?
Unfortunately for me, the Joyce chapter is on Ulysses (which the book puts in quotes rather than italics indicating what? it's just an overgrown poem or short story?), not Dubliners.
Still the introductory chapter is interesting and the concluding one promises to be (haven't gotten there yet).
To save you some reading: It appears that there's been stylistic ping-pong going on in literature as well as the other arts. Objectivism - subjectivism; rules - no rules; filtered - hand-rolled; call it what you want. Wilson uses the terms Classicism - Romanticism. Works for me. But he complicates things by saying that French literature is generally Classical and English is generally Romantic and therefore their incursions on the other side of the pendulum swing seem like childish attempts at the style/form. Which is how you end up with a sentence like this one:

Two of the Symbolist poets, Stuart Merrill and Francis
Viele-Griffin, were Americans who lived in Paris and wrote French; and an American, reading to-day the latter's "Chevauchee d'Yeldis," for example, may wonder how, when Symbolism was new, such a poem could ever have been regarded as one of the movement's acknowledged masterpieces: to us, it seems merely agreeable, not in the least revolutionary or novel, but like something which might not impossibly have been written by Thomas Bailey Aldrich if he had been influenced by Browning.


So it turns out Dubliners is a sort of ultra-naturalism as transported from France to Ireland, written quite exquisitely but without much of a point except to expose tiny alterations in the characters' approaches to life without commenting upon said alterations - transformations is too strong a word.

No real ha-ha today except maybe this.
One of the movements identified was the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
In a forward-looking way (unlike them, in other words), I might call myself Pre-Madgeite or Pre-Cocoite. Which has the better ring?

1 comment:

the botticelli babe said...

I vote for pre-Cocoite. It's fun to say!