2. The Hegemony of New Critical Modernism
The Hegemony of New Critical Modernism - Notes
1 First Epigraph: M. M. Bakhtin/P. M. Medvedev, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics (1928); trans., Albert J. Wehrle (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 8. Originally published as Formal'nyi metod v literaturvedenii (Kriticheskoe vvedenie v sotsiologicheskuiu poetiku) (Leningrad: "Priboi," 1928). Second Epigraph: Charles Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 44.
2 These three "structuralisms" are, however, related, historically by their common debt to the German folk-culturalists and the French Symbolists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and analytically by their common devaluation of narrative as a mode of idiosyncratic aesthetic expression not reducible to formula and convention.
3 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 256.
4 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 49.
5 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 256.
6 Antonio Gramsci, "The Modern Prince," in Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971), 181-182.
7 New Criticism, which abounds in broad philosophic, linguistic, sociological, psychological, and even ethical and political claims, is fully susceptible to other modes of historical analysis than that pursued here, both with respect to its coherence as a synthetic ideology, and its contributions to each of the discourses from which it borrows.
8 The discrete ways in which New Criticism devalues narrative strategies other than Miller's are, of course, not elicited by this type of "representative" analysis. Miller shares with many of his Modernist adversaries a decided turn from the aesthetics of such spokesmen for American "realism" and "naturalism" as William Dean Howells and Frank Norris. For a survey of recent efforts to get beyond the New Critical devaluation of "the older generation," see Eric J. Sundquist, ed., American Realism: New Essays (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982).
9 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 45.
10 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 43.
11 Thus my concern in treating a work such as Ulysses is not with the "text" of Ulysses, whatever that may be--a modern epic, an Irish novel, a "wild romantic work," a narrative as detourous as any of Miller's, a radically indeterminate assemblage of shifting signifiers and signifieds, or Language--but with the polemic that was, and is, the "classical Ulysses"--an argument crafted in, of, and around Joyce's work by determinate individuals, including Joyce, who, responding to the literary and critical debates of their time, sought to change not simply the way we read Ulysses, but the manner in which we read, write, and evaluate all novels.
12 Roland Barthes, "From Work to Text," in Image-Music-Text, trans., Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 157.
13 See Paul de Man's Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (New York: Oxford Oxford University Press, 1971; Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 1983). I make use of de Man, here and elsewhere, but do so with the caveat that it is necessary to move beyond universal intertextuality toward the literary history for which de Man himself calls. The risk de Man runs is that rhetorical analysis will be called to a halt with a "post-modern" definition of the "'literary,' in the full sense of the term, [as] any text that implicitly or explicitly signifies its own rhetorical mode and prefigures its own misunderstanding as the correlative of its rhetorical mode" (136). Many of de Man's disciples have done just this, taking the 'literary' out from de Man's quotation marks and thus settling for an inclusive/exclusive definition of Literature--a new canon--in terms of the reflexive "correlative" of blindness and insight. But this is to miss the historical sense in which the blindness of the "literary" text is directed against the "literary" claims of other texts.
14 Cleanth Brooks, Modern Poetry and the Tradition (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1939), especially page 136.
15 John Crowe Ransom, New Criticism (1941). The term "New Criticism" had been in circulation within the American academy for some time before Ransom's book, perhaps first appearing in an address by Joel Spingarn at Columbia University in 1910 (William Rose Benét, The Reader's Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. [New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1965], 709, s.v. "New Criticism").
16 Frank Norris, "'The English Courses' of the University of California," in Frank Norris, Novels and Essays, ed. Donald Pizer (New York: The Library of America, 1986), 1109-1111. Norris writes specifically of the ordeal of cataloguing various author's metaphors and similes.
17 M. M. Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel," in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, ed. Michael Holquist (1981; Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), 260, 261, 266. The essay dates from 1934-35, but was first published in Voprosy literatury i estetiki (Moscow, 1975).
18 Bakhtin's most extended critique is offered in the opening chapters of Bakhtin/Medvedev, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship.
19 Bakhtin did not fully differentiate between his role as literary historian and as literary critic. His opposition to Russian Formalism was in part motivated by his keen sense of history and its forces, but also by his advocacy of particular novel forms. Perhaps because Miller also looked to Rabelais as a model novelist, there are resonances between his flowing narrative alternative to New Critical modernist symbolism and Bakhtin's celebration of Rabelais' "complex and contradictory (productively contradictory) flow of images" (Bakhtin, "Forms of Time and Chronotrope in the Novel," in M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, 205).
20 Edmund Wilson, Axel's Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930 (1931; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969), 221.
21 T. S. Eliot, Introduction to Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (London: Faber & Faber, 1936; New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1937; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1961), xi-xii.
22 T. S. Eliot, "'Ulysses,' Order, and Myth," in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Farrar, Straus and Giroux--A Harvest/Noonday Book, 1975), 178. Originally published in The Dial (November 1923).
23 Malcolm Cowley, "Readings from the Lives of the Saints," in Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s (New York: Viking Press, 1951; New York: Penguin Books, 1976) This is a revised and expanded edition of the book first published in 1934.
24 The technical commonalities New Criticism postulated as existing between poetic and novelistic structure are most easily apprehended in contrast to the "spiritual" commonalities between Romantic poetry and the Romantic novel. On the distinction between the "lyric subjectivity" of Romantic poetry and the "epic interiority" of the Romantic novel, see Georg Lukács, The Theory of the Novel: A historic-philosophical essay on the forms of great epic literature, trans. Anna Bostock (1971; Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1973), 114. To rewrite Lukács' terms, the Modernist novel, or the novel read New Critically, might be said to cultivate an kind of "epic subjectivity" within which the historical landscape appears no longer exterior to the signs of the self, but projected/subsumed under the very symbolism that structures the subjective text. Thus in Fitzgerald's rewriting of Stendhal's Le Rouge et Le Noir, Gatsby inhabits a "wasteland," the "objective correlative" of his own vacuous dreams, where Julian Sorel flees to the mountains to dream against background of an industrializing town.
25 T. S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent," in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Farrar, Straus and Giroux--A Harvest/Noonday Book, 1975), 44. First published in Egoist (September and December 1919).
26 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism (1925; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich-A Harvest/HBJ Book, n.d.), 130-131.
27 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 183.
28 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 132-133.
29 T. S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent," in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, 43.
30 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 246.
31 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 252.
32 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 43. It was as a late, dissenting participant that Feidelson was able to sum up with such retrospective acuity the "distinctive strain of method and assumption" that has organized modern critical and literary debate. It is similarly the case with Harold Bloom, whose Map of Misreading (1975; New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), graphically elucidates the New Critical elided metaphor of mind and text by listing, in corresponding columns, Freud's defenses, classic tropes, and revisionary ratios. By virtue of this, neither critic is "merely" New Critical--who is? Both elaborate, in all self-consciousness, limits they seek to transcend. In this regard, it is striking that, with so little else in common, both critics invoke a strong sense of history or temporality to advance their analysis: neither is satisfied with a purely static ideal of critical consciousness.
33 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 49.
34 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 63.
35 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 49.
36 Feidelson, Symbolism and American Literature, 64-65.
37 It has been suggested to me: "If Ulysses is unimaginable as a nineteenth-century novel, it is because Ulysses undertakes to dominate and subsume its sources, whereas Moby-Dick basks in the pleasure of conversing with them." A bit harsh on the writer of Ulysses, this is more appropriate of Joyce the critic, who produced, in fact, two outlines of his work and then collaborated with Stuart Gilbert to advertise Ulysses' classical sources. See text below. Yet, dominating and subsuming sources is, in the end, no more distinguishing of 20th century texts than anything that might be called basking in the pleasure of conversation is characteristic of the 19th century.
38 Stuart Gilbert, Preface to the revised and enlarged edition of James Joyce's 'Ulysses': A Study by Stuart Gilbert (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952; New York: Random House-Vintage Books, 1955), vi-vii.
39 Stuart Gilbert, "Preface," (1950) to the revised and enlarged edition of James Joyce's 'Ulysses': A Study by Stuart Gilbert, viii.
40 Edmund Wilson, Axel's Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930, 211.
41 Henry Miller's agent, William Bradley, and publisher, Jack Kahane, did not lack precedent when they induced Miller to attempt a book on D. H. Lawrence to enhance the critical esteem and sales of Tropic of Cancer.
In assessing the result of Miller's shortly aborted effort, Frank Kermode wrote in 1962, "These views are expressed with clarity and force, but in the last analysis are designed for "the maudlin boosting of the ego" (Philip Rahv's phrase) only less directly than usual; they amount to criticism turned against literature, the suborning of a servant." (Frank Kermode, "Henry Miller and John Betjeman," Puzzles and Epiphanies; reprinted in Henry Miller: Three Decades of Criticism, ed. Edward B. Mitchell [New York: New York University Press, 1971], 86.) Kermode's assessment is perfectly correct, but he pays Miller the unintended--and undeserved--compliment of having suborned the servant criticism "less directly than usual." The "usual" relation between criticism and literature is that Kermode deplores as he practices it: not between a gentleman and his aloof, disinterested English butler, but more akin to that between James Joyce and Stuart Gilbert collaborating to advance Ulysses. Throughout his essay, Kermode defends the dispassion of current critical judgment, criticizing Miller's Paris "excesses"--his self-boosting--as old hat. In doing so he must forget that this old hat was one Miller first put on new with Joyce and a generation that boosted itself by proclaiming as self-serving "Revolution of the Word."
42 T. S. Eliot, "'Ulysses', Order, and Myth," in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, 177-178.
43 The scene reflected by Modernism is that of Spengler's "late-world city"--Dublin, London, Paris, New York. It is not accidental, Jacques Derrida suggests, that structural criticism's view of the text replicates an instrument invented in 1824 to view the city: "In literary criticism, the structural 'perspective' [...] separates, disengages, and emancipates. Henceforth, the totality is more clearly perceived, the panorama and the panoramagram are possible. The panoramagram, the very image of the structuralist instrument, was invented in 1824, as Littré states, in order 'to obtain immediately, on a flat surface, the development of depth of vision of objects on the horizon.' Thanks to a more or less openly acknowledged schematization and spatialization, one can glance over the field divested of its forces more freely or diagrammatically." (Jacques Derrida, "Force and Signification," in Writing and Difference , trans. Alan Bass [Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978], 5.) The "forces" divested here include writing, deferral, detour, movement, history, and the violence and proletarian threat of the streets--essential elements of Miller's alternative to New Critical modernism.
44 Robert M. Coates, Yesterday's Burdens (New York: The Macaulay Co., 1933; Carbondale and Edwardsville, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1975).
45 This use of the psychologized "archaic" is evident across the range of Modern arts. The tonal and rhythmic systems of black jazz were passed over by those anxious to appropriate it as "primitive," "instinctual" music. The interpretive impulse here may be read as a mechanism of cultural hegemony: "primitive" and "instinctive" turn the aesthetic other into a rudimentary form of own's own aesthetic. The appropriation of these other aesthetic systems then may be understood as "rejuvenation," rather than challenge. German folklorists and Russian formalists reduced the variety of storytelling traditions to "the fairy tale."
46 Stuart Gilbert, James Joyce's 'Ulysses': A Study by Stuart Gilbert (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1930; New York: Random House-Vintage Books, 1955), 24.
47 The Modernist distinction between "vertical" and "horizontal" tropes is discussed below.
48 The distinctive New Critical use of "irony" may "empty" this totality/mind/vision without altering its structure or the critical techniques used to detect/erect it, as I will argue in the next chapter.
49 Stuart Gilbert, James Joyce's 'Ulysses', 24-25. Gilbert's quotation is from Ulysses (New York: Random House--Modern Library, 1961), 184.
50 Eugene Jolas, et. al., "The Revolution of the Word Proclamation," transition 16/17 (1929): 1. Reprinted in Dougald McMillan, transition: The History of a Literary Era, 1927-1938 (New York: George Braziller, 1976), 49. McMillan concludes that Eugene Jolas was the author; the signatories were Kay Boyle, Whit Burnett, Hart Crane, Caresse Crosby, Harry Crosby, Martha Foley, Stuart Gilbert, A. L. Gillespie, Leigh Hoffman, Eugene Jolas, Elliot Paul, Douglas Rigby, Theo Rutra [pseud. Eugene Jolas], Robert Saga, Harold J. Salemson, and Laurence Vail.
51 Eugene Jolas, et. al., "Poetry is Vertical," transition, 21, (1932), 148-149. Reprinted in Dougald McMillan, transition: The History of a Literary Era, 1927-1938 (New York: George Braziller, 1976), 66. McMillan concludes that Eugene Jolas was the primary author; the signatories were Hans Arp, Samuel Beckett, Carl Einstein, Eugene Jolas, Thomas McGreevy, Georges Pelorson, Theo Rutra [pseud. Eugene Jolas], James J. Sweeney, and Ronald Symond.
52 Eugene Jolas, et. al., "Poetry is Vertical," transition 21 (1932): 148-149.
53 M. M. Bakhtin, "Forms of Time and the Chronotrope in the Novel," in The Dialogic Imagination, 156.
54 M. M. Bakhtin, "Forms of Time and the Chronotrope in the Novel," in The Dialogic Imagination, 158, 157.
55 Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984), 4.
56 See Fredric Jameson's The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1981) for an instance of this symbolic disciplining of narrative--one conducted paradoxically in the name of History. The title speaks for itself. Despite Jameson's criticism of New Critical and Russian Formalist readings, he develops no opposing theory of literary narrative. Indeed, he follows the New Critical tradition in "decoding" narrative into symbolism, but instead of placing authorial or mythic consciousness at the apex of the text, he writes "ideology" and "class." These "symbolic acts" are then inscribed in the only true narrative in Jameson's book: the rather rudimentary Marxist narrative that threads here and there through his chronological treatment of canonical texts.
57 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 189.
58 It is perhaps for this reason that, despite its text-centered analysis, New Criticism, wedded to symbolic structuration of the text, must pose and repose for itself questions that are psychoanalytic in implication. The preeminent metaphysics of the twentieth century is psychoanalysis. Freud's dream text is never far away.
59 All universalizing claims of value, even if restricted to "Western Civilization," tend to run roughshod over non-hegemonic subcultures. The Arnoldian strain in New Criticism, however, has produced some particularly egregious examples:
But subtle or recondite experiences are for most men incommunicable and indescribable, though social conventions or terror of loneliness of the human situation may make us pretend the contrary. In the arts we find the record in the only form in which these things can be recorded of the experiences which have seemed worth having to the most sensitive and discriminating persons. Through the obscure perception of this fact the poet has been regarded as a seer and the artist as a priest, suffering from usurpation. The arts, if rightly approached, supply the best data available for deciding what experiences are more valuable than others. The qualifying clause is all-important however. Happily there is no lack of glaring examples to remind us of the difficulty of approaching them rightly.
(I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 33.)
60 Alternatively, these mechanisms are revealed in the "misreadings" that hold women writers--Eliot, Woolf, Dickinson--within the canon by systematically neglecting those practices which establish their "difference."
61 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1934; New York: Grove Press, 1961; New York: Ballantine Books, 1973), 10. Early in life, Miller fell under the influence of New Thought lecturer Benjamin Fay Mills. His parodies of "conversion" and Christian Science in Black Spring and Tropic of Capricorn draw upon these experiences.
Donald Meyer's The Positive Thinkers: Religion as Pop Psychology from Mary Baker Eddy to Oral Roberts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965) details the wide spread influence of theraputic philosophy and theology in 19th and 20th century popular thought and democratic rhetoric. Academic scholars of intellectual and literary history have tended to ignore this strain of American thought as "simplistic" and not worthy of attention when its "high cultural" version is readily available in Franklin, Emerson, etc. Yet, the same scholars, when they treat influences upon European realists and naturalists, do not think twice about mentioning Fourier, Owens, etc., whose philosophic rigor does not compare with that of, say, Bentham, Mills, or Marx. There remains the possibility of an informative study of pop-theological and pop-philosophical strains in American literature, taking the popular "systematic thinkers" seriously, as coherent ideologists if not as philosophers and theologians. Theodore Dreiser's use of the whole spectrum of popular thought is a case in point. Few bother to read the speculative interludes between the "real story" of Sister Carrie.
62 Miller's preoccupation with these writers is evident in his letters, and particularly, in his extended theoretical debate with Michael Fraenkel, published in two volumes by Fraenkel as Hamlet (Santurce, Puerto Rico: Carrefour, 1939 and 1941).
63 See Kingsley Widmer, Henry Miller (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1963) on Miller's style; and Jane A. Nelson, Form and Image in the Fiction of Henry Miller (Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 1970) for a misdirected but thoroughly adventurous examination of Miller's theoretics. Nelson focuses on Jung, whereas Freud and particularly Otto Rank are the psychoanalytic figures closest to Miller. For relationship to Rank, see William A. Gordon, The Mind and Art of Henry Miller (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967).
64 On Miller's American influence, see the opening essay of Norman Mailer's Genius and Lust: A Journey through the Major Writings of Henry Miller (New York: Grove Press, 1976).
65 Critical attention has focused on Faulkner's symbolic uses of miscegenation in representing racial relations. However, miscegenation is but a part of the more pervasive sexual symbolism which violently asserts the social necessity of suppressing the "female principle". Old Doc "Bitchery and abomination" Hines speaks directly for this necessity, recognized throughout Light in August (New York: Random House, 1932).
66 Van Wyck Brooks, "On Creating a Usable Past," The Dial, 64 (April 11, 1918): 339.
67 Central to this transformation were the "how-to-read-it" new critical books that followed rapidly upon each other in the 1930s: Stuart Gilbert, James Joyce's 'Ulysses': A Study by Stuart Gilbert (1930); Edmund Wilson, Axel's Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930 (1931; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969); Cleanth Brooks, Modern Poetry and the Tradition (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1939).
68 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1934; New York: Grove Press, 1961; New York: Ballantine Books, 1973), 13.
69 There are some critics, the Russian Formalists and M. M. Bakhtin in a qualified vein, who argue the very essence of the novel is parody, parody of its own generic past and the other genres.
70 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 236. Richards continues,
Stuff of an evident and extreme badness is exhilarating rather than depressing when taken from the discriminating standpoint; and there need be nothing snobbish or self-congratulatory in such reading. What is really discomposing and damaging to the critical reader is the mediocre, the work which falls just below his own standards of response. Hence the rage which some feel at the productions of Sir James Barrie, Mr. Locke, or Sir Hall Caine, a rage which work comparatively devoid of merits fails to excite.
Richards' analysis is an astute account of manner in which aesthetic standards are maintained or undermined. In this sense, I do not dispute his "psychology." By recognizing the polemical nature of the aesthetic standards, values, and modes of response Richards believes to be universal, one may derive a "Principles of Literary Hegemony" from Principles of Literary Criticism."
71 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 251:
We can only conjecture dimly what difference holds between a balance and reconciliation of impulses and a mere rivalry or conflict. One difference is that a balance sustains one state of mind, but a conflict two alternating states. [....] The equilibrium of opposed impulses, which we suspect to be the ground-plan of the most valuable aesthetic responses, brings into play far more of our personality than is possible in experiences of a more defined emotion.
72 One needs to reserve a series of distinctions, however formal, among three modes of direct address: address in the author's name, address in the name of a persona, and the address of a character/narrator. I take the difference between the direct address of a persona and a character/narrator to be distinguished by Oscar Wilde's epigram, "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." (Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist," Nineteenth Century ; reprinted in The Portable Oscar Wilde, Revised Edition, ed. Richard Aldington and Stanley Weintraub [New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1981], 114.) In this case "Gilbert" is Wilde's "persona," the mask through which he speaks, however distorted by self-parody, his truth. "Ernest" also speaks a truth, one whose coherence Wilde recognizes, but does not speak. Thus, Ernest's speech in this dialogue is analogous to the partial knowledge expressed by Conrad's character/narrators.
73 Thus, the first person narrative of Dickens' Great Expectations could be revalued: Is Pip's narration merely another of Dickens' many suspense devices or a tour de force and anticipation of Conrad. Are we not now discovering Dickens as a modernist, a post-modernist?
74 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn (Paris: The Obelisk Press-Seurat Editions, 1939; New York: Grove Press, 1961), 332. In Principles of Literary Criticism, I. A. Richards had contrasted irony's "equilibrium," its "balance of opposed impulses," with the "welter of responses" that characterizes the "more usual reactions" to life and the more "usual" literary forms (183). Among other phrases, Miller's use of "welter" and his direct opposition of the "fluid imbalance" of his narrative to "stable equilibrium" suggest that Miller read or was thoroughly familiar with Richards' theory of aesthetic value. Contrary to the image he preferred to project, Miller was a dedicated reader of literary criticism during his Paris years. An extended debate, direct and by allusion, with Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle runs throughout his Paris writings. Miller's thousand page critical correspondence with Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet, was triggered not by a discussion of Shakespeare but by an argument over Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," in Harmonium (1931). Miller's literary and critical education is discussed in the next chapter.
75 In negotiating this leap from part to whole, New Criticism calls upon "irony" to handle the presence/absence of writerly consciousness behind and unifying the text's "unreliable" points of view. That is, the very absence of a unifying point of view is taken as a sign of the hidden presence of the artist/God--"By His works shall you know Him." Thus, points of view that contradict the postulated authorial consciousness demonstrate the higher consciousness of "self-ironization." See discussion of Henry James on Conrad, below.
76 Henry James, "The New Novel," in Henry James, Literary Criticism, Vol. I, ed. Leon Edel and Mark Wilson (New York: Library of America, 1984), 149, 150. Emphasis added.
77 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 236.
78 My analysis to this point parallels that of M. M. Bakhtin with respect to formalism:
Therefore, according to formalist theory, the poetic construction turns out to be the aggregate of its artistic devices. In Shklovskii's words: "The content (the very soul) of the literary work is equal to the sum of its artistic devices." The purpose of all devices is the same: to make the construction perceptible. Every device accomplishes this same task in its own way. The formalists know no other purposes.
The question now arises: just what in the work is perceptible? For the formalists it is, of course, not the material. We know that this is a quantity tending toward zero. The construction itself must be what is perceptible. But, we know that it is the purpose of the construction to create its own perceptibility. Thus we arrive at a paradoxical conclusion: we arrive at a perceptible device, the sole meaning of which is to create perceptibility!
This absurd conclusion is completely unavoidable.
If ideologically significant material were made perceptible, it would cease to be indifferent motivation and would bring all of its meaning into the construction. For example, if the devices of the plot were to make the story perceptible, i.e., the event of the life being narrated, then the event would cease being a replaceable motivation and would be turned right side out. Consequently, the braking device can only make the braking itself perceptible, and not the event to which the braking is applied. Repetition can only make the repetition perceptible, and not the objective content being repeated. And so on. In fact, it turns out that there is nothing perceptible to perceive.
The orientation of the work toward perceptibility is the worst kind of psychologism, since it makes the psychophysical process into something self-sufficient and empty of all content, i.e., something lacking any connection with objective reality. Neither automatization nor perceptibility are objective features of the work; neither exists in the structure of the work. While ridiculing those who seek "soul" and "temperament" in the artistic work, the formalists search it for psychophysiological stimuli at the same time.
(M. M. Bakhtin/P. M. Medvedev, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 111, 150.)
My analysis diverges from Bakhtin's in that New Critical modernism did not seek to seal the text off from history within a world of combinations and permutations of formal "devices."
79 James speaks of his "provisions" for the reader somewhat ironically in the Preface to A Portrait of a Lady.
80 In this way, despite his criticism of New Critical modernism and structuralism, Fredric Jameson understands the "ideology of form" in New Critical fashion. In The Political Unconscious, he "decenters the subject" and the reified text, but his insistence upon History as the "unconscious horizon" of the text is a variant of the meta-fiction of the novel. Jameson brings history into the form of the text in New Critical fashion:
Still, we need to say a little more about the status of this external reality, of which it will otherwise be thought that it is little more than the traditional notion of "context" familiar in older social or historical criticism. The type of interpretation here proposed is more satisfactorily grasped as the rewriting of the literary text in such a way that the latter may itself be seen as the rewriting or restructuring of a prior historical or ideological subtext, it being always understood that that "subtext" is not immediately present as such, not some common-sense external reality, nor even the conventional narratives of history manuals, but rather must itself always be (re)constructed after the fact. The literary or aesthetic act therefore must always entertain some active relationship with the Real; yet in order to do so, it cannot simply allow "reality" to persevere inertly in its own being, outside the text and at distance. It must rather draw the Real into its own texture[....]
(Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act, 81.)
Functionally, this is a description of the manner in which the novels Jameson excludes from analysis--the novels of "high modernism"--lay claim to be novels despite their "poeticization." Indeed, Jameson concludes his analysis of Conrad with a direct assertion that his title and method apply most directly to the revelation of the Real in high modernist works:
After the peculiar heterogeneity of the moment of Conrad, a high modernism is set in place which it is not the object of this book to consider. The perfected poetic apparatus of high modernism represses History just as successfully as the perfected narrative apparatus of high realism did the random heterogeneity of the as yet uncentered subject. At that point, however, the political, no longer visible in the high modernist texts, any more than in the everyday world of appearance of bourgeois life, and relentlessly driven underground by accumulated reification, has at last become a genuine Unconscious.
(Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious, 280.)
I would suggest to the contrary that, because the critical discourse with which Jameson joins debate over the nature of the novel is a modernist critical discourse, the "object of this book" is present in its absence--the "high modernist" novel. The way these novels represent and embody history through repression, and not "History" with a capital H, constitutes the "horizon" of Jameson's method.
81 Jane A. Nelson, Form and Image in the Fiction of Henry Miller. Nelson's is the most thorough "Jungian" interpretation of Miller's works.
82 Confronted by the indeterminacy lurking between "unreliable narrators", New Criticism superimposed upon the text a unifying, totalizing ideology of consciousness. The prime source of this ideology was Henry James. There is an apparent irony here, arising out of the separate action of the novel's legitimating discourse and its practices. James invoked the unity of consciousness in his criticism, but his practice did more than any other novelist's to demolish point of view as an authoritative critical method. James' later novels indefinitely postpone symbolic unification. Point of view is hopelessly problematized: metaphors drift from consciousness to consciousness (including the narrator's) without any adequate explanation of their transmission.
Taking "point of view" most seriously, I. A. Richards' generally high praise of James takes a peculiar turn:
Certainly it is a serious charge against much of Henry James, for example, that when the reader has once successfully read it there is nothing further which he can do. He can only repeat his reading. There is often a point at which the parts of the experience click together, the required attitude is achieved, and no further development is possible.
(I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, 213.)
Richards seems to turn James' critical fictions against his novelistic practice. R. W. B. Lewis has pointed out to me that the "serious charge" here has been read ironically. In that sense, I persist in reading it ironically, that is, as double edged. Richards praises something that exceeds his theory's conceptual frame in ways he cannot measure. Everywhere Richards implies that the literary adventure is an endless ascent to greater heights of "equilibrium," an endless refinement of "adjustments." The Jamesian balance--the "architecture" James was so proud of providing for the "amusement" of the reader--"clicks" at a certain point. The profit of continued New Critical reflection comes to an end at this point. Richards recognizes that there is something more, but this something more requires a rereading that cannot be integrated but only repeated.
James insinuates the dual aspect of his fiction in his affectionately self-mocking discussion of the walls and floors of Portrait of a Lady in his late Preface:
So far as I reasoned, and it took nothing less than that technical rigor, I now easily see, to inspire me with the right confidence for erecting on such a plot of ground the neat and careful and proportioned pile of bricks that arches over it and that thus form, constructionally speaking, a literary monument. Such is the aspect that to-day The Portrait wears for me: a structure reared with an "architectural" competence, as Turgenieff would have said, that makes it, to the author's own sense the most proportioned of his productions after The Ambassadors--which was to follow it so many years later and which has, no doubt, a superior roundness. On one thing I was determined; that, though I should clearly have to pile brick upon brick for the creation of interest, I would leave no pretext for saying that anything is out of line, scale or perspective. I would build large--in fine embossed vaults and painted arches, as who should say, and yet never let it appear that the chequered pavement, the ground under the reader's feet, fails to stretch at every point to the base of the walls. That precautionary spirit, on re-perusal of the book, is the old note that most touches me: it testifies so, for my own ear, to the anxiety of my provision for the reader's amusement.
James, the "rounded," master craftsman, has been built from this passage, but at the cost of discounting James' amusement over "the old note," "that precautionary spirit." The "chequered pavement" of this "house of fiction" alludes directly to "The Jolly Corner" and James' other late works, where the "floor" definitively and deliberately "fails to stretch at every point to the base of the walls." That James dictated his later works need be taken seriously, not as a sign of so wondrous a memory that marvelous structures could be erected despite meandering, oral sentences, but quite directly as a sign of itself--a feat of unparalleled modern storytelling. Perhaps it was James who first meandered through the bric-a-brac world of the urban Waste Land, and found interest in that meandering, rather than in any "point" of interest. James argues as much in The American Scene, and the "hero" of The Sacred Fount lives it even earlier. Was this the quality in James' prose that led to Gertrude Stein's curious endorsement?--"Henry James was the first person in literature to find a way to the literary methods of the twentieth century." (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1933; New York: Alfred A. Knopf and Random House-Vintage Books, n.d.], 78.)
83 Georg Lukács, The Theory of the Novel: A historic-philosophical essay on the forms of great epic literature (1916;1920), trans. Anna Bostock (1971; Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1973), 77:
The outward form of the novel is essentially biographical. The fluctuation between a conceptual system which can never completely capture life and a life complex which can never attain completeness because completeness is immanently utopian, can be objectivised only in that organic quality which is the aim of biography.
84 Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 332. This passage was written in direct response to Edmund Wilson's praise of the solidity of Dublin as represented in Ulysses:
The world of "Ulysses" is animated by a complex inexhaustible life: we revisit it as we do a city, where we come more and more to recognize the faces, to understand personalities, to grasp relations, currents and interests. Joyce has exercised considerable technical ingenuity in introducing us to the elements of his story in an order which will enable us to find our bearings: yet I doubt whether any human memory is capable, on first reading, of meeting the demands of "Ulysses." And when we reread it, we start in at any point, as if it were indeed something solid like a city which actually existed in space and which could be entered from any direction--as Joyce is said, in composing his books, to work on the different parts simultaneously. [....] We posses Dublin, seen, heard, smelt and felt, brooded over, imagined, remembered.
(Edmund Wilson, Axel's Castle, 210-211.)
Miller's description of the "fortified city" follows and opposes the ideals of Wilson's analysis at every point. Miller sarcastically quotes the last line in his treatment of Ulysses in "The Universe of Death, from 'The World of Lawrence'," in The Cosmological Eye (1939; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1961), 113.
85 T. S. Eliot, "'Ulysses', Order, and Myth," in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, 178.
86 Consider Northrop Frye's treatment of the "shape of the story" in his analysis of Biblical mythic structures. Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (1957; Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1971).
87 M. M. Bakhtin/P. M. Medvedev, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 48, 49.
88 Thus the general British-American familiarity with Propp's work on the morphology of the folktale, rather than the mainstream Russian Formalists, such as Shklovskii who offered Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy as the archetype of the novel. See M. M. Bakhtin/P. M. Medvedev, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 104-105.
Under Propp's version of formalism, the archetype of narrative is the fairy tale, such as collected by the Brothers Grimm. Simple, child-like, chronological (with inessential variations), and governed by precise plot formulas, narrative as the fairy tale has a place in the development of the individual as it had in the development of the race, or as Freud was fond of saying about the story of Oedipus, "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." With formalism comes a crucial distinction between the "fabula" and the "sjuzet", between the order of events and the order of the telling of events, but despite the increasing sophistication of analysis, narrative remains a somewhat embarrassing "need", a "desire" for the chronological sequence of cause and effect in a world where power is disturbingly "structural" in Althusser's sense. The "sjuzet" remains a telling of events. Narrative may break free of chronology, but this is "suspense." Analysis, or the hypothetical "reader," always returns the "sjuzet" to the "fabula." From the simple relation of events, even the most temporally disjunctive and digressive narrative derives its appeal. And it is in terms of this reconstructed sequence of events that the narrative is judged.
89 Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays, 140.
90 Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays, 132, 133.
91 Henry Miller, Introduction to Bastard Death by Michael Fraenkel (Paris: Carrefour, 1936), 39. Reprinted in Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel, Hamlet (Santurce, Puerto Rico: Carrefour, 1941) Vol I.
92 Ralph Waldo Emerson, "VIII. Prospects," in Nature (1836); reprinted in Emerson: Essays and Lectures (New York: Library of America, 1983).
93 T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," in T. S. Eliot: The Complete Poems and Plays 1909-1950 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1952) First published in book form in Prufrock and Other Observations (1917).
94 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 25, 90.
95 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 35. Emphasis in the original.
96 Henry Miller, Introduction to Bastard Death by Michael Fraenkel, 39. Quoted above in context.
97 Walter Benjamin, "The Storyteller," Orient und Okzident (1936); quoted from Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zorn (Schocken Books, 1969), 83, 84.
98 William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! (1936; Random House-Vintage Books, 1972), 303. The various, late New Critical attempts to come to terms with Faulkner's narrative practice--especially that of Cleanth Brooks--deserve an extensive analysis I cannot provide here. The limits of critical revision are potentially as illuminative of the dynamics of the discourse of the novel as Miller's buried challenge of the classical Ulysses.
99 An analogue to this lagtime exists in anthropology. Clifford Geertz's definition of culture as an interactive network of stories, as a confluence of often conflicted discourses, struggles for lack of a precise methodology where anthropology has long labored under mythic and symbolic investigations of cultural systems.
100 Ernest Gaines, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (New York: The Dial Press, 1971; New York: Bantam Books, 1981), vi-vii.
101 Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (New York: Viking Press, 1977; New York: The New American Library--Signet Book, 1978), 132.
102 The ahistorical nature of most contemporary challenges to the New Critical legacy has been noted. Once again, Barthes is illustrative. He is fully cognizant of the relationship between criticism and canon formation. A change in criticism necessarily is a "subversive force in respect of old classifications"--"the Text does not stop at (good) Literature" (Roland Barthes, "From Work to Text," in Image-Music-Text, 157). Barthes wishes to avoid what he perceives to be the flaw of modernism--"it is not a question of drawing up a crude honours list in the name of modernity and declaring certain literary productions 'in' and others 'out' by virtue of their chronological situation: ..."--but he immediately recapitulates the task of canonization modernism actually performed--"...there may be 'text' in very ancient work, while many products of contemporary literature are in no way texts." (156). On another level, "where the Text, [...] is bound to jouissance, that is to a pleasure without separation," Barthes attempts to swerve from the task of identifying 'text', from the irony of once again rewriting literary history according to new aesthetic valuations. But to get outside everything that resembles the New Critical tasks that linger, threateningly, in his "vivid idea of the Text", Barthes must so radicalize the Text that it becomes antithetical to the very concept of time. Forever outside, the Text becomes utopian:
Order of the signifier, the Text participates in its own way in a social utopia; before History (supposing the latter does not opt for barbarism), the Text achieves, if not the transparence of social relations, that at least of language relations: the Text is that space where no language has hold over any other, where languages circulate (keeping the circular sense of the term).
(Roland Barthes, "From Work to Text," in Image, Music, Text, 164.)
103 Van Wyck Brooks, "On Creating a Usable Past," The Dial, 64 (April 11, 1918), 337. The irony is not simply that Brooks described a recapitulated condition, but that he was calling for just the "sense of inherited resources" that the hegemony of modernism has provided. The similarity between Brooks' "usable past" and Barthes' Textual utopia should not be overlooked.
104 "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, in The Marx-Engels Reader, trans. T. B. Bottomore, ed. Robert Tucker (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1972), 109. An inversion of Marx's eleventh thesis on Feuerbach seems particularly appropriate where, as here, we are dealing with ideological formations quite distant from class conflict rooted in "social modes of production."
105 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 10.
106 Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself", sc. 29, in Leaves of Grass (edition of 1891-92).
107 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 10. Edgar Allen Poe, "Never Bet the Devil Your Head," in Edgar Allen Poe, Poetry and Tales, ed. Patrick F. Quinn (New York: Library of America, 1984), 459:
There is no just ground, therefore, for the charge brought against me by certain ignoramuses--that I have never written a moral tale, or, in more precise words, a tale with a moral. They are not the critics predestined to bring me out, and develop my morals:--that is the secret. By and by the North American Quarterly Humdrum will make them ashamed of their stupidity.
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885); reprinted in Mark Twain, Mississippi Writings, ed. Guy Cardwell (New York: Library of America, 1982), 912:
[So] there ain't nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I'd knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn't a tackled it and ain't agoing to no more. But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can't stand it. I been there before.
On Poe's sense of place, see William Carlos Williams, "Edgar Allan Poe," in In The American Grain (1925; New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1956), 216-233.
108 Roland Barthes, "From Work to Text," in Image, Music, Text, 164.
109 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 147. Also: "The world around me is dissolving, leaving here and there spots of time" (2).
110 Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 24.
111 Michael Fraenkel, The Genesis of 'Tropic of Cancer' (Berkeley, Calif.: Bern Porter, 1946), 12. Miller, epigraph to "The Fourteenth Ward," in Black Spring (Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1938; New York: Grove Press, 1963), 1.
112 Van Wyck Brooks, "On Creating a Usable Past," The Dial, 64 (April 11, 1918), 337-341.