Wednesday, March 3, 2010

1922: Ulysses and The Wasteland

Chronology of World, British and American Literature.

James Joyce. Irish. 1922. Novel. Ulysses. Greatest 20th century novel written in English. Obscurity. TS Eliot: A landmark because it destroys our civilization. Disillusioned study of estrangement, paralysis and disintegration of society. Records events of one average day, June 16, 1904, in the lives of the three leading characters. Journeys about the city of Dublin, matched by inward journeys into the consciousness. Dispassionate description of details of daily life; details become symbols. Relates time in world of Dublin to timeless myth, history, religion. Plan of book parallels Odyssey; echoes episodes in the Odyssey. Central theme is exile; cannot find key to loneliness and frustration. Molly Bloom: embodiment of feminine regenerative principle of the universe. Her soliloquy in one uninterrupted long sentence ends with “yes.” Joyce perfected interior monologue; parodies variety of literary styles.

TS Eliot. American/British. 1922. Poetry. The Wasteland. Breaks from conventional modes of poetic expression in its condensed use of language. Wealth of literary and historical references; lack of narrative sequence. Violent literary controversy on publication. Explores different psychic stages of soul in despair, struggling for redemption. Wasteland = central image of spiritual drought; contrasts with sources of regeneration. Doubt is not resolved; literary, religious fragments offer hope of rebirth, however, in foreign languages, suggesting unassimilated memories. In medieval legend, wasteland ruled by Fisher King, sterile by curse. Cured by purifying ordeals undertake by a knight. Important event in development of modern English poetry. Like Joyce’s Ulysses. Contrast spiritual stagnation with myths from the past. Both use city as major symbol of paralysis. Full of scenes, phrases, references with little meaning in themselves, but echo, explain one another. Both depend on readers’ knowledge of many works of literature, religions and history.

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