Buchnummer des Verkäufers
Inhaltsangabe: This book is a meditation on isolation and community through the study of literary treatments of the theme.The treatments are fanciful rather than literal or clinical accounts of exile from society, myths, fables, tales of men without women on desert islands. Even Thoreau's Walden is something of a lark, a wilfully eccentric experiment. Most of the stories take place on islands, but sometimes the open sea, mountains or the forest make do as an 'I-land'.
The fullest treatment of the isolation theme we have is the Kwakiutl Winter Dance. The literary material here is the collections of myths and prayers made by Franz Boas, placed in his and others' accounts of the Winter ritual. From these sources, the chapter has been written as an essay in speculative literary anthropology.
The idea that the individual outside society may be endowed with sacred powers that society needs to get hold of is a recurrent literary theme. But Sophocles' Philoctetes does not entirely answer to it. Though it ends in reconciliation rather than disaster, this tragedy treats the exile of the hero, made insufferable to his companions by a stinking sore and terrible cries of pain, not as a journey into the self or into a state in which wild and saving power may be acquired.
Later Greek platonic and neoplatonic traditions favour the contemplative over the active life, favour, that is, withdrawal from the world to enter a truly rational order. Such ideas of retirement are the background to the hermits and stylites of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. The holy man at the edge of the earth is at the world's centre.
While Britain's mercantile empire prospered through the self-reliance of licensed pirates, solitude opened up in the midst of prosperity. More interesting than Robinson Crusoe and vastly more instructive than the improving literature made of Alexander Selkirk's stay on Juan Fernandez are Cowper's poems of being cast away. What he describes is a state of clinical depression from which there is no coming through. He tried the standard deliverance from the abyss of the self, Calvinist conversion and assurance of grace, only for this to turn to poison with fears of not being found among the elect. It is a paradox that the most significant contribution of his isolation to the community, thought of as cultivators of humanity through reading, is his poetry of the incommunicable isolation of suicidal despair. Beside that, the real charm and observation of his poems of civilised country walks and the companionship of adoring women comes over as fragile and self-cosseting.
Answering more easily in an age of Western mercantile expansion to the notion of regeneration through the spiritual adventure of the isolated individual is the Romantic solitary. The pattern was set by Rousseau's retreat to the Isle de St Pierre, where he overcame his rejection by the Swiss through a psychological operation of self-dispossession to attain a state of suspended animation in which he could feel at one with nature. He was not the first to find in vegetable bliss a paradisal wholeness: Herbert of Cherbury, Andrew Marvell and Henry Vaughan among English seventeenth-century Metaphysical poets had already explored the charms of regression and retreat from human life.
About the Author:
Academica Press is an independent scholarly press specializing in publishing monographs and reference material in the humanities and social sciences. We are particularly interested in producing works of scholarly interest English language studies, literary history and criticism ,drama, sociology, education and Irish studies. (Our dedicated imprint, Maunsel & Co., specializes in scholarly research in Irish studies.) We have recently developed projects in African and Afro-American research areas as well as Theology and Legal Studies.
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