Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs: L-Z - Vol. 2

Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs: L-Z - Vol. 2

Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs: L-Z - Vol. 2

Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs: L-Z - Vol. 2

Synopsis

"This index is a veritable who's who of the greats of Western literature. . . . The Board recommends it for every collection whose users conduct analytical studies of literature." Reference Books Bulletin

Excerpt

The history of literary motifs and themes is an essential part of a contemporary academic discipline known as thematology or thematics. This Dictionary meets an urgent need of the literary-oriented world at large, and especially of the English-speaking community, which has been deprived so far of authoritative reference books in this domain. Some twenty years ago, it is true, Sith Thompson completed his related six volume Motif-Index of Folk Literature, which may have encouraged, if not inspired, present-day critical endeavors. The work rendens mainly ancillary services, however, to researchers engaged in the study of letters. Closer to our concerns are Elisabeth Frenzel two books, Stoffe der Weltliteratur and Motive der Weltliteratur. Although directly accessible only to German-speaking scholars, they are valuable and have been consulted by some of the contributors to the present publication. Individual studies on various themes have also been systematically pursued during the last fifty years. Hundreds of monographs and articles about multifarious motifs and themes, from Potiphar's wife to the Flying Dutchman, have found their way to the shelves of academic and public libraries and enriched the cash registers of various publishing houses and bookstores. The entries of this Dictionary, however, do not reproduce indiscriminately reference cards stocked in the Library of Congress. A choice had to be made among thousands of theoretically eligible items. The criteria for selection were their relevance to a broad and prominent body of literary works, their significance for the evolution of cultural history, and their vitality as measured by the interest shown by presently active researchers. The focus points to the West, although scores of entries reveal the universal interests of their authors.

Two factors may explain the rise of the thematological method: its interpretive potentialities and its intrinsic congruency with the history of ideas. Influential literary authorities, moreover, have considered it an efficient antidote against primarily aesthetic movements such as "progressive Universalpoesie," a formula first used in 1800 by Friedrich von Schlegel in the Athendum which he published with his brother August Wilhelm. The concept has been revamped by Verlaine with his dedication to "De la musique avant toute chose," [Music . . .

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