[ilds] OMG and Deus Loci

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Tue May 6 09:38:34 PDT 2008


Dear Body & Blood,

For Heraldic, take a look at my piece in the latest /Nexus/ issue 
(sorry, but I couldn't resist, and I'm sure James Decker will be glad 
for the plugs).

Durrell first articulates the notion of the Heraldic Universe during an 
extended, point by point, response to Herbert Read's most political 
speech from the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition (and, by 
and by, this is the moment when the New Apocalypse became possible, if 
that school is of interest).  There's a great deal of critical writing 
on what Durrell meant, but Heraldry is a topic of play in /Pied Piper/ 
and the individualist element seems to come from the brewing anarchist 
revision of communist Surrealism with which he was involved at the time 
(anticipating Herbert Read's big shift).  Personally, I think "heraldic" 
took on slightly different meanings at different times for Old D, 
revising itself.  I read it as very closely tied to Otto Rank's notion 
of the artist attempting to express a "personal something" in a social 
medium, which he must transform in expression.  This is, in its own way, 
terribly close to Eliot's notion of tradition and Bloom's strong poet 
engaged in misprision.

Richard Pine has some very fine comments on the topic, which will appear 
in his Introduction to /Panic Spring/ later this summer.  He covers the 
ground in /The Mindscape/ as well.

Ray's talk from Victoria was very good, but I must admit that I consider 
Durrell's thinking of the 30s as distinct from his post-war work, or 
perhaps Cyprus was a transition point.  Either way, I'd rather look at 
the Heraldic Universe in the context of the 30s poetry.

But, rather than taking a critic's word, why not try setting these works 
all beside each other and Durrell's letters to Miller about the Heraldic 
Universe:

"The Cherries" (1936)
"The Black Book (Coda to Nancy)." The Booster 2.8 (1937): 19-23.
"Asylum in the Snow" (1938)
"The Underworld" (1940)
     poems
"Carol on Corfu" (1937)
"Themes Heraldic" (1938)
"The Poet" (1939)
"The Egg" (1939)

Notice "egg," "green," and "ankle" in them, and then query the ties to 
/Pied Piper of Lovers/.  Highly individualist surrealist imagery, a 
personal view attempting to impose itself onto the poetic order, and 
expression grafting itself to an external world.  That's how I see the 
'Heraldic' notion in these works, and it's also how I see the 
Apocalyptic poets attempting to revise Surrealism, lock & step with 
Durrell while denying (protesting too much) Durrell's & Miller's 
influence upon them.

Is that a ramble or is it actually useful?  I appreciate Ray's adroit 
reading, but I personally see "Deus Loci" as coming from a different 
moment in Durrell's thinking, though I appreciate the Taoist (and 
Buddhist...?) sympathies.

Cheerios,
James

Bruce Redwine wrote:
> Dr. D.,
> 
> I have never understood Durrell's notion of the "Heraldic Universe" and was hoping you could explain it to me.  (Do you think OMG stands for "Om" followed by a final, negating stop?)  An excellent essay which touches on that subject is Ray Morrison's "Lawrence Durrell's Lyric 'Deus Loci' as the Heraldic Mirror of His World."  Morrison read parts of his paper at the 2006 OMG in Victoria.  I was also hoping to read the full essay in the next issue of Deus Loci, but apparently it will not appear there, nor will any of the other conference papers.  That is a great shame.  My question below has not been answered.
> 
> 
> Bruce


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