[ilds] [RG 2003 Justine 2]

James Gifford gifford at ualberta.ca
Fri Apr 6 12:58:04 PDT 2007


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 21 Jun 2003 08:09:14 -0400
From: Charles L. Sligh <cls9k at cms.mail.virginia.edu>
To: lillios at pegasus.cc.ucf.edu
Subject: Fwd: REVISION

Dear Anna:

Here follows a restored version of my "Planes. . . ." email.  The
original note somehow lost its punctuation.  I submitted this new
email early yesterday, but I have not seen it posted.  Could you
send it out?

Thanks, Anna.

CLS

****************
Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
University of Virginia
cls9k at virginia.edu
****************


------ Forwarded message -------


From: Charles Sligh <cls9k at virginia.edu>
To: durrell at news.cc.ucf.edu
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2003 07:56:33 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)

Planes, Prospero, & Promontories

"and now the wind unpacking the great planes, ransacking the great
planes. . . ." (1.1)

Like Isabelle, I have also always read "planes" as plane trees,
which for me have always been associated with the urban environment
of London.  Since they are a hardy and resilient species, planes
were planted early on in the city, and they figure prominently in
the literature of London, where they often represent the
continuation of life amidst harsh conditions.

And I'll recall that plane trees shed in a distinctive fashion, with
their bark peeling away in large strips.  That would be
another reading of "unpacking" and "ransacking."  I would
also connect the image with the destruction of the
narrator's papers, which we learn have been scattered and
censored, having been destroyed by the child's games or
used for the kitchen, fostering his realization of "the
indifference of the natural world to the constructions of
art" (1.5).

***

"I have escaped to this island with a few books and the child"
(1.1)

Bill Godshalk has already noted how the opening sections create a
Winter (island) and a Summer (Alexandria) contrast, a
thematic use of landscape and memory somewhat reminiscent
of Shakespeare's _The Winter's Tale_.  For the attentive
reader, the above references to exile, books, and a child
calls to mind Prospero, Miranda, and _The Tempest_;  an
experienced reader of LD's works might then recall LD's
earlier book, _Prospero's Cell_ (1945).  The narrator's use
of landscape and language and the distinctive sections of
_Justine_ hold many affinities with that other island book.
Cf. the following juxtaposition:

"It is April and we have taken an old fisherman's house in the
extreme north of the island--Kalamai. . . .  We are upon _a bare
promontory_ with its beautiful clean surface of metamorphic stone
covered in olive and ilex. . . ." (29.4.37, 2000 Faber reset
paperback edition, 3)

"Living on this _bare promontory_, snatched every night
from darkness by Artcturus. . . ." (_Justine_ 1.1)

But between the two books there is a notable transposition of the
direction of the narrator's nostalgia.  In the "Epilogue in
Alexandria," in _Prosepero's Cell_, the narrator sits in
Egypt looking back on Greece, feeling shipwrecked and
cut-off from his "unregretted home" (29.4.37, 2000 Faber
reset paperback edition, 3):

"The sightless Pharos turns its blind eye upon the coast,
featureless, level and sandy. . . .  The loss of Greece has been an
amputation.  All of Epictetus could not console one against it"
(2000 Faber reset paperback edition, 143)

LD and his narrators so often conceive of exile from place as a
physical wounding--cf. the earlier printings of _Justine_, where the
narrator depicts himself as somehow damaged in body, as well as in
spirit:  "At night . . . I light a lamp and _limp_ about, thinking
of my friends. . . ." (1.1).  LD changed "limp" to "walk"
for later printings.

CLS

----------------------
Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
University of Virginia
cls9k at virginia.edu


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