[ilds] Bitter Lemons as a novel

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Sun Jul 15 17:42:28 PDT 2007

Charles, thank you for that.  So it comes down to a lack of utility and 
a lack of seriousness of purpose.  More that, perhaps, than even his 
announced conservatism?  Or women as inflatable, foreigners as monkeys? 
  It is interesting if that is so.  Durrell's sense of revolt, if it is 
noticed at all, is not expressed in the right terms, and his ultimate 
crime is seen as self-indulgence.


On Monday, July 16, 2007, at 01:04  am, slighcl wrote:

> On 7/15/2007 4:09 PM, Michael Haag wrote:
> I would be interested to know what of Durrell's politics the academy 
> finds objectionable. No need to expend any trouble over this, just a 
> few bullet points would do.
> I really want  a few other posters to speak up and to give you their 
> own experiences to test against mine, Michael.   I am not privileged 
> to speak for or about the academy as a whole.  And my experiences will 
> be framed by my teaching literature at the University of Virginia, a 
> top tier US research institution whose faculty hold degrees from the 
> very best US and UK universities, and at Wake Forest University, a 
> small, expensive, somewhat respected liberal arts institution whose 
> faculty is trending Ivy League.  Another shaping experience for my 
> thoughts would be my witness to the lack of attention given to Durrell 
> in major literary journals and at major academic conferences.  More 
> often than not, no attention is given.
> Let me first say that I am using hyperbole.  Certainly there are very, 
> very small sectors of the US and UK academy giving a bit of attention 
> to the writings of Lawrence Durrell.  However, you can meet those 
> Durrell-attending folks almost in total sum at On Miracle Ground.  And 
> note how many of these friends and scholars have larger 
> specializations--as Bill Godshalk the Shakespeare scholar pointed 
> out--giving time to Durrell as a minor specialization within or aside 
> from the major specialization.  Thus the surprise of meeting with a 
> Victorianist who edits Durrell's notebooks and typescripts.  Well, our 
> world is made up of such strange little compromises.
> The exact nature of the political objection is harder to pin down.  
> And my witness can only be anecdotal, not scientific.  I recall a 
> Cambridge-degreed adviser who told me early on, "Dear Charles.  
> Lawrence Durrell.  Well, that is simply  not wise, I think."  Could 
> she even locate the source of the objection, the prohibition?   Like 
> non-academics, academics often work under the terms of too easy 
> assumptions that become accepted prejudices.  Mandates and slanders 
> and even casual asides from the likes of Eagleton or Said have a power 
> to shape or even cut off attention to Durrell's writings in a way 
> already mentioned again and again.  I would zero in on Eagleton's 
> variations on Durrell as a "literary flâneur."  Although this flâneur 
> tag is not necessarily negative in the larger discussion of modernity 
> and aesthetics, Eagleton clearly means this as a slight against 
> Durrell's lack of commitment to any progressive political ideology.  
> Eagleton is almost certainly speaking via his own Marxism and Simmel 
> and Benjamin, making a political as well as a literary critique of 
> Durrell the man.  In other words, Durrell is a mere  
> dilettante--selfish, solipsistic, concerned with aesthetics and 
> exoticism in his writing and indulgence in his own life.  Now for me 
> those traits are not in themselves negative.  I admire quite a few 
> writers who might be tagged as flâneur.  Lamb. Pater. Wilde.  
> Beerbohm.  Norman Douglas.  There is nothing at all casual about the 
> best dandies.  But for someone like Eagleton of the 1980s and 1990s, 
> well, he needed to say no more.  Durrell was suspect because Durrell 
> waited upon no people's revolution.  We have seen the specific shadow 
> of Durrell's aversion to the communist greying of Europe in his 
> memories of Belgrade &c. in Bitter Lemons. 
> In short, I would say that for the last several decades the Academy 
> has charted a course of uplift and progressivism.  Durrell would see 
> those pursuits as siren-songs, I think.  And the majority of literary 
> studies over the last 30 years have returned that suspicion to him in 
> full.  What can his writings be used for?  &c.
> Can anyone give specific bullet points pinning down political 
> objections to Durrell?  My original statement that "political" 
> objections kept Durrell off the radar used "politics" in a loose sort 
> of way--politics as a nod to how people relate to each other and 
> define each other and hold prejudices against each other. 
> "Durrellian" is an adjective that is most frequently used in a 
> negative sort of way, whether in criticism of people or of writings.  
> Perhaps we will live to see that changed.  But I will be here whether 
> or not that ever happens.
> Gone grey in the service of literature.
> Charles
> -- 
> **********************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Department of English
> Wake Forest University
> slighcl at wfu.edu
> **********************
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