ALVIN B. KERNAN


The Taking of the Moon

At the center of the institution of literature there is . . . a world-view or myth which informs the various activities of the institution and is in turn objectified by them. To speak of the myth of literature, as Frye does, is probably a mistake since no two minds seem to conceive literature in exactly the same way, and since the dialectic interaction of world and mind results in constant change in the myth. Nevertheless, the great central statements about the nature of literature during a given period tend to hang together well enough to permit us to speak of a governing world-view or myth of literature of that particular time. Within the romantic period with which we are concerned, from Wordsworth's Prelude to Shade's "Pale Fire" the major works of literature, for all their individual differences, join with the major works of criticism such as Arnold's Culture and Anarchy or Frye's Anatomy of Criticism, to create a romantic myth of a vast and mysterious universe, filled with the magic of the unexpected, which is therefore a perpetual source of wonder and joy, never quite to be explained. Its world is a plenum of many things endlessly different from one another, individuals, each with its own special quality and beauty. But in this infinity of variety all the parts are ultimately linked with all other parts in organic ways which can only be apprehended by intuition, imagination, or powerful sensory excitement—not by reason and logic. Only by paying careful attention to the unique being of each person or thing, only by responding to its "thou" of being with the "thou" of its own deep being, can imagination hear the music of the spheres. In this romantic cosmology,

____________________
From The Imaginary Library: An Essay on Literature and Society. Copyright © 1982 by Princeton University Press.

-143-

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Norman Mailer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Norman Mailer *
  • Contents *
  • Editor's Note ix
  • Introduction 1
  • The Angels Are White 7
  • The Early Novels 17
  • The Aesthetics of Norman Mailer 27
  • On the Parapet 33
  • Mailer's New Style 51
  • My Mailer Problem 65
  • Male Chauvinist? 79
  • The Minority Within 85
  • The Naked, the Dead, and the Machine 115
  • "The Armies of the Night" 127
  • "The Executioner's Song" 139
  • The Taking of the Moon 143
  • Sex, Creativity and God 167
  • The Prisoner as Creator in "The Executioner's Song" 183
  • Norman in Egypt: "Ancient Evenings" 193
  • Chronology 201
  • Contributors 203
  • Bibliography 205
  • Acknowledgments 207
  • Index 209
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