The Maze in the Mind and the World: Labyrinths in Modern Literature

The Maze in the Mind and the World: Labyrinths in Modern Literature

The Maze in the Mind and the World: Labyrinths in Modern Literature

The Maze in the Mind and the World: Labyrinths in Modern Literature

Synopsis

These essays probe the labyrinth as a metaphor for the acute sense of loss, disorientation, and alienation in a selection of 20th century writers such as James, Joyce, and Lawrence.

Excerpt

This book is based on the metaphor of the maze or labyrinth of 20th century experience in literature. Only a few of the works discussed in this collection, however, are treated directly as harboring mazes or labyrinths. Most of the literature discussed in the essays embody or represent figurative mazes: complex or chaotic social conditions, biological or sexual necessity, physical or social confinement or uncertainty. Almost all of the essays in this collection focus on 20th century British and American literary artists: William Butler Yeats, D. H. Lawrence, John Millington Synge, James Joyce, E. M. Forster, Henry James, B. Traven, Henry Miller, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Richard Eberhart, and Kenneth Rexroth (plus one South American, Jorge Luis Borges).

The Maze begins with the section "Entrances," which consists of two essays. The opening essay, "The Labyrinth in Myth, Reality, Modern Fiction," besides introducing the master metaphor of the book, also approaches four well-known modern literary works in terms of their labyrinthine properties (James' The Jolly Corner, Forster A Passage to India, Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Borges' "The Garden of Forking Paths." Chapter two broaches a sense of entrapment within the human condition implied in D. H. Lawrence's long poem from Birds, Beasts, and Flowers called "Fish."

The second section, "Eros Sacred and Profane," centers on the maze of sex and love in essays about Yeats, Lawrence, Henry Miller, and Kenneth Rexroth. Though part of the Yeats essay attempts to explain the Japanese Noh or Dance play and Yeats' dramatic use of it, two of the three Yeats plays discussed actually concern the inability of human beings to surmount sexual desire or to love for either higher or opposed values. Tropic of Cancer depicts the world as a maze of lust that neither Miller nor his cronies ever seem to consider leaving. Despite all the recent stir about Miller's unending sexual chauvinism, the fact remains that he possesses a sharp comedic eye for the ridiculous . . .

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