Academic journal article German Quarterly

The View from the Tower: Origins of an Antimodernist Image

Academic journal article German Quarterly

The View from the Tower: Origins of an Antimodernist Image

Article excerpt

Ziolkowski, Theodore. The View from the Tower. Origins of an Antimodernist Image. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998. 196 pp. $29.95.

Modernism generally is understood as a widespread tendency in Western Europe, England, and the United States between the two world wars. Modernist praxis achieves a decisive turn away from conventional rhyming verse, from the lush repetitions of many symbolists, but remains quite serious about itself; it avoids the fragmentation, collage, pastiche, ludic and aleatory elements that characterize post-modernism's refusal to dramatize the communication of didactic meaning to the reader. The modernist lyric often is urban, and therefore anti-pastoral. In its rural mode, imagist tendencies tend to purge its diction of every manmade thing, leaving only elemental constellations of stone, sea, grass, and trees, as in the earlier works of Pablo Neruda. Whether it be urban or rural, modernism waxes pessimistic concerning the human condition, but optimistic concerning the artist's ability to encompass that condition with a masterful, overarching vision. Apollinaire, Eliot, Joyce, Pound, Stevens, and Woolf among many others exemplify such tendencies. So does Jeffers, many a time: "Unhappy brother [Christ] / That high imagination mating mine / Has gazed deeper than graves; is it unendurable / To know that the huge season and wheel of things / Turns on itself forever, the new stars pass / And the old return and find out their old places, /And these gray dead infallibly shall arise / In the very flesh [...]" ("Point Pinos and Point Lobos," Tamar). Ziolkowski's amiable amble through meadows of quotation and paraphrase illustrates the oxymoron of "a meaningful coincidence"-Auch die sternische Verbindung trugt. He observes that Yeats, Robinson Jeffers, Rilke, and Jung all sought to live in towers--Jeffers spent six and a half years building his, by the sea near Carmel, California-and that the creative imagination of each was decisively modified by the experience. These authors chose isolated towers, he implies, not a lighthouse that broadcasts meaning, and not a part of a larger structure-an ivory tower of seclusion, but with spiritual links to a higher truth. Therefore the evocation of old myths predominates, in an era when the secular syncretism of Frazer's The Golden Bough still exerted a strong cultural influence, replacing the individualistic visionary gospels of the Romantics. The first and best chapter devoted to an author argues that Yeats renounced his old dreams at the time of the Armistice (1919), and that his stay in Thoor Ballylee transformed his imaginative vision of the tower (68). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.