[ilds] RG Justine - Eagleton

Beatrice Skordili bskordil at otenet.gr
Tue May 29 11:48:24 PDT 2007

David, I am happy to oblige and to pick up a couple of issues from others as I go along.

Indicatively, I will give a couple of prominent examples of scholarship that have kept these Joyce and Conrad current: For Joyce, among many, Jacques Derrida's essay "Ulysses Gramophone" for instance is characteristic of the way in which seminal work in deconstruction maintains Joyce currency in these debates. Equally, Edward Said's dissertation-turned-book _Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography_ and Said's constant references to Conrad are one of the ways which have kept the academy returning to Conrad for discussions of postcolonialism and race.
    I don't think the same exact theoretical trends necessarily apply to Durrell. However, A careful reading of the _Key to Modern British Poetry_ and Durrell's several interviews WITH his literary works reveals a great investment in and study of psychoanalysis: Freud, prominently, despite Durrell's random statements that may seem to dismiss Freud (which need to be read in context and not be taken as wholesale comments) as well as Jung, Groddeck, etc. But Durrell's Freud is very much Lacanian since it is concerned with the "writing of the unconscious" (I won't elaborate here since it will take us too far afield). Later Durrell talks also about reading Lacan; but his association with Denis DeRougemont, an author discussed extensively by Lacan, and the way it came about does it not bespeak Durrell's investment or familiarity in the same context of issues? Also, Maurice Girodias, son of Durrell's first publisher of the Black Book and Durrell's publisher in Paris in the late fifties, was also publishing Bataille in the forties and fifties (St. Jorre 50), making highly likely an early contact with Bataille's work.  Durrell was certainly aware of the intellectual ferment that was going on in Paris at the time he was there: in fact, after the sixties, there are scattered mentions of Tel Quel, the major French theoretical journal of the time, and to most major theorists. For instance Durrell mentions Foucault, Barthes, Sartre, Leiris, and Lacan "in the Paris of [his] youth" in "Endpapers and Inklings." Unfortunately, both Durrell biographies do not seem to document French readings and contacts as well as the Anglo-American ones. Voracious reader that Durrell was, I think he kept up very well with what was going on in the Paris of his youth, filtering, understanding, misunderstanding, modifying and raising objections to things. None of this should be taken as mere dismissal, as his work shows traces of these influences. The same people who chose to ignore this are the ones who clamor to keep Durrell out of the discussions to which his work is relevant.
    Issues where Durrell would have been relevant: I will choose as an instance the much denigrated _Revolt of Aphrodite_: the issues of identity construction and free will, the issue of memory, the issue of culture as a text that is being constructed by its texts (see Abel), the cyborg (automaton) and most especially woman as cyborg. Although, Durrell's text was indirectly responsible for bringing about the whole cyborg issue (what did was _Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep_ or _Bladerunner_ the movie, which is clearly indebted to Durrell's _Revolt_). But Durrell's book would have put really interesting spins on this discussion, had it ever come up--which it didn't! 
    I don't think that the academy is irrelevant to the ordinary reader--who is affected by academic trends, willy-nilly, by college curricula that keep books in print or not--and by the pervasive atmosphere of discussion. The academic fads--and I will agree to this term--reveal the issues that concern us at large, like it or not, however, problematically they might do so (and I am troubled about this very much). But, I will repeat that the issue is whether a work (an author, etc) is relevant at a particular moment. So to paraphrase Kennedy: Ask not what the academy can do for Durrell, but what Durrell can do for the academy. The ordinary reader is a fiction, anyway. A whole system of paratext (interviews, reviews, websites, movies, references) determines what makes it to the prominent displays of bookstores (and their various promotionals) and this in turn determines to a large extent what a lot of people will pick up to read (and this is to pick up only one strand of how ordinary readers are constructs as well; there are bookclubs, blogs, and many more such strands) or is anyone going to claim that readers are created in a vacuum? (Oh, I forgot: they are full-conscious, freely acting, intentional beings!!!) 
    The "ordinary reader's Durrell" is construct promoted by a certain type of scholarship that chooses to read his work one way--and not the other--to discuss only particular issues--and not others--to recognize particular influences--and not others.
    I see I am getting again into the mode of a long response, which as I have said before, I don't consider appropriate for an email list.
    I hope I have made my position a bit clearer.

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: David Holdsworth 
  To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca 
  Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 7:05 PM
  Subject: Re: [ilds] RG Justine - Eagleton

  Beatrice Skordili wrote:

  The scholars working on Joyce or Conrad (for instance) have managed to keep them current in the academy by demonstrating their relevance to these very theoretical and political debates. Unlike them Durrell scholarship--along with that of other worthwhile authors--has persisted in maintaining a distance from these debates, from these issues, evincing instead a desire to keep the author very much alive and intentional. Only the kind of work that will be commensurate to Durrell's own awareness and investment in all the issues that the academy later came to call post-structuralist theory (understood in the broadest terms) and the ways in which his work intervenes 

  meaningfully in this field will make Durrell relevant in these discussions. 

  This is an interesting intervention - the role of the academy in shaping Durrell's reputation a generation after his death. 

  Presumably all the professional scholars understand exactly its implications for criticism of Durrell and agree or disagree. But it would be helpful to those non-scholars among us if Beatrice could elaborate this point a bit. Can she provide any specific examples of critical approaches to Joyce and Conrad which in her view Durrell scholarship should be following? Any comments from the scholars?


  David Holdsworth


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