Visions of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Fifteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

By Allienne R. Becker | Go to book overview

language pushes for its own form of transcendence. The word for West is like the empty bottle that he fills with "warm, dirty water." He has taken a cliché-ridden language, drained it, refilled tired symbols with new meaning, and elevated those signs to high art. In the end, Shrike's language may stifle life "with a thick glove of words," but West's overall vibrantly grotesque language "simultaneously confronts the antipoetic and the ugly and presents them . . . as the closest we can come to the sublime" ( Van O'Connor19).


N0TES
1.
Marshall Bruce Gentry writes: "As characters bring about their own death, they conclude their grotesque process of perception at the most positive moment . . . Her [ O'Connor's] characters generally have to annihilate themselves to conclude the grotesque process of redemption, but O'Connor herself could use her art to return repeatedly to the redemptive moment" (16-19).
2.
Jeffrey Duncan writes: "The paradox is simple yet profound. All the demonstrations of bad language--the letters, Miss Lonelyhearts' awful answers, Shrike's parodies--all involve not only an exhibition of West's skill, but of the adequacy of language to his skill" (152).

WORKS CITED

Bakhtin Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Trans. Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1968.

Duncan Jeffrey. "The Problem of Language in Miss Lonelyhearts." Modern Critical Views: Nathanael West. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

Gentry Marshall Bruce. Flannery O'Connor's Religion of the Grotesque. Jackson: Univ.of Mississippi Press, 1986.

Harpham Geoffrey. On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1982.

Mann Thomas. Past Masters. Trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter. Freeport: Books for Libraries Libraries Press, 1968.

Orvell Miles D. "The Messianic Sexuality of Miss Lonelyhearts." Modern Critical Views: Nathanael West. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

Ruskin John. "Grotesque Renaissance." Stories of Venice. New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1976.

Van William O'Connor. The Grotesque: An American Genre and Other Essays. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1962.

West Nathanael. Miss Lonelyhearts. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

-----. "Some Notes on Miss L." Contempo 3, no 9 ( May 15, 1933): 1-2: reprinted in Twentieth Century Views. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1971.

-38-

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