[ilds] Durrell's Diction

William Apt billyapt at gmail.com
Sat May 1 08:46:36 PDT 2010


Wonderful discussion!




On Sat, May 1, 2010 at 9:25 AM, Charles Sligh <Charles-Sligh at utc.edu> wrote:

>
> > Now, Durrell's chosen vocabulary may simply be part and parcel of his
> > Romantic disposition, his infatuation with the exotic, somewhat like
> > Poe's.  Maybe.  I suspect, however, that something else is going on,
> > something rooted in his psyche, if you will.  If I had to liken
> > Durrell's love of words to anyone's, it would be to Shakespeare's,
> > whom the English Romantics valued above all others.  This discussion
> > is, of course, just speculation.  What is needed is an examination of
> > the data, and by that I mean an extensive lexical study of Durrell's
> > vocabulary and usage throughout his oeuvre.  Some enterprising
> > graduate student should take this up.  It would involve a lot of work.
> >
> The project would be important, no doubt.  Perhaps the most necessary
> element would be the kind of maturity of thought required to analyze
> "Durrell's prose style for Durrell's prose style's sake."
>
> That is to say, the scholar could certainly analyze and place Durrell's
> style in relation to the long history of English prose stylists.  But to
> begin the task with the working assumption that Durrell's style is
> somehow aberrant or ineffective would do little than to reinforce the
> status quo--bosh and Grundyism of the narrowest provincial sort.
>
> You mention Poe.  Most critics fail with Poe because they cannot enter
> his weird stylistics with the Negative Capability that style requires.
> Not stopping to mark their own shortcoming as readers with a very
> limited notion of literature, such critics would take a clipboard to his
> language, checking off penalty marks for archaism and artifice that
> extrudes and layers itself like coral.  Artifice is not wrong.  Weird is
> not wrong.  Both artifice and weirdness are tools of estrangement,
> sometimes calculated, sometimes expressive.  Cf. Freud's /unheimlich/.
>
> Shakespeare is right on as a comparison, Bruce, because Shakespeare
> seems to share Durrell's skepticism about language's ability to catch
> the Thing (cf. /Hamlet/).  Shakespeare also seems to share Durrell's
> conviction that we have very little else to turn but these words, words,
> words.  In response to that realization, Durrell and Shakespeare do not
> take the stylistic turn of Beckett, into withdrawal, but turn in another
> direction--to densities of artifice and layered illusion, reminding
> their audiences about how very little knowing is possible.  If one must
> have a moral, I suppose that is a sort of darkling moral of the Yorick
> sort. . . .
>
> Durrell's style is quite remarkably what it is.  Durrell's style is a
> serious challenge.  If the scholar comes to it with a moralist,
> corrective, progressive sensibility--the sort of reader who desires to
> gain a vantage on to the "true" world by means of a supposedly "clear,"
> correct prose style--that scholar will go very wrong, very early.  Very
> few students coming up today have the maturity, the training, and the
> independence of mind to carry out such an analysis, I am afraid.
>
> But good luck to the ones who try!
>
> C&c.
>
> --
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************
>
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