[ilds] Summae litterarum

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu Sep 9 12:45:25 PDT 2010


David,

Thanks for picking up on this topic and pointing out Shakespeare's use of proverbial language.  Re Prospero's Cell, I'd like to elaborate on Lawrence Durrell's place in the literary history of the Greek isles.  In an article, "Beowulf in Literary History," Joseph Harris defines a category of literary works he calls, summae literrarum.  His examples are Beowulf and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, of which he says, "Such works are generically synthetic and punctuate or terminate a period, summarizing the literary past and seemingly either to generate no direct progeny or to devour their own by overshadowing them in the course of subsequent literary history" (Pacific Coast Philology, vol. 17 [1982], no. 1-2, p. 16).

I'll throw out that a selection of Durrell's Mediterranean island books fits Harris's category of a "literary summa."  I'd include in Durrell's summa the following:  Prospero's Cell, Reflections on a Marine Venus, Bitter Lemons, and Sicilian Carousel.  Yes, another "quartet," and I include Sicily because in Durrell's "mind's eye" it's really Greek, which the history bears out.  One of Harris's interesting points is that such works subsume a long tradition.  So the fact that we have echoes of other writers (e.g., C. Morley's "where the blue begins") shouldn't bother us.  Great works "absorb" their predecessors and come to define the genre by dint of their breadth and excellence.  Of course, this opens up the whole issue of plagiarism, but that's another matter.


Bruce



On Sep 8, 2010, at 11:31 PM, Denise Tart & David Green wrote:

> Bruce,
>  
> I have seen references to the beast with two backs in other texts - older than Shakespeare's. it appears to be a late medieval English term but may have translations in other languages. I am sure the French have something equally descriptive?
>  
> Re Durrell and Douglas I like the idea posted recently regarding 'where the blue really begins' which suggests that Durrell was acknowledging Douglas but moving beyond Italy to Greece. It may have been unconscious, but it is a nice idea anyway. Durrell owed a fair bit to Norman Douglas. Old Calabria and South Wind are great reads. But I have to say that the blue really begins in the Aegean around Rhodes and Crete.
>  
> David
> 
> From: Bruce Redwine
> Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010 3:22 AM
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Cc: Bruce Redwine
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu theblue reallybegins
> 
> Gotta say no to the C. Morley allusion and go with a reference to N. Douglas, as Grove notes below.  Along this line, I always thought Iago's slur, "making the beast with two backs," was original with Shakespeare, but it wasn't — a note in the Arden Othello says the phrase was proverbial.  Still, Shakespeare gets the credit, and Durrell will too.
> 
> 
> BR
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On Sep 8, 2010, at 2:27 AM, Wilson, Fraser wrote:
> 
>> 
>> Douglas certainly knew how to describe a boat trip - as in South Wind,
>> below - which can be grabbed online from Project Gutenburg at no cost.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> His companion, meanwhile, beheld the panorama in all its nightmarish
>> splendour, as it drifted past him. He saw the bluffs of feathery
>> pumice, the lava precipices--frozen cataracts of white, black, blood
>> red, pale grey and sombre brown, smeared over with a vitreous enamel of
>> obsidian or pierced by oily, writhing dykes that blazed with metallic
>> scintillations. Anon came some yawning cleft or an assemblage of dizzy
>> rock-needles, fused into whimsical tints and attitudes, spiky,
>> distorted, over-toppling; then a bold tufa rampart, immaculate in its
>> beauty, stainless as a curtain of silk. And as the boat moved on he
>> looked into horrid dells which the rains had torn out of the loose
>> scoriae. Gaping wounds, they wore the bright hues of corruption. Their
>> flanks were blotched with a livid nitrous efflorescence, with flaring
>> sulphur, unhealthy verdure of pitchstone, streaks of arsenical
>> vermilion; their beds--a frantic maze of boulders.
>> 
>> He beheld this crazy stratification, this chaos of incandescent nature,
>> sent in a flame of deep blue sky and sea. It lay there calmly, like
>> some phantasmagoric flower, some monstrous rose that swoons away, with
>> upturned face, in a solar caress.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [mailto:ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On
>> Behalf Of gkoger at mindspring.com
>> Sent: 08 September 2010 03:44
>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>> Subject: Re: [ilds] Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu theblue really
>> begins
>> 
>> Gissing? As in George Gissing, who wrote /By the Ionian Sea/? 
>> 
>> I've always assumed that Durrell's line is a reference to Norman Douglas
>> and his /Old Calabria/, in which Douglas devotes several pages to
>> Gissing, by the way. In doing so Durrell acknowledges a debt to Douglas
>> AND announces that he is moving beyond him, geographically and
>> otherwise. Douglas devoted one short book to Greece but his interests
>> lay primarily in Italy.
>> 
>> Grove
>> 
>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: "Godshalk, William (godshawl)" <godshawl at ucmail.uc.edu>
>>> Sent: Sep 7, 2010 7:23 PM
>>> To: "ilds at lists.uvic.ca" <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>>> Subject: Re: [ilds] Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu the blue
>> really begins
>>> 
>>> Well, there are plenty of references to ships, islands, etc. No Corfu
>> though.
>>> 
>>> The book ends with: "clear immortal blue." 
>>> 
>>> Did Larry read it? I leave it to you. 
>>> 
>>> O, yes, the chief character is a man called Gissing. 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> W. L. Godshalk *
>>> Department of English    *           *
>>> University of Cincinnati*   * Stellar Disorder  *
>>> OH 45221-0069 *  *
>>> ________________________________________
>>> From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On Behalf
>> Of Bruce Redwine [bredwine1968 at earthlink.net]
>>> Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2010 8:25 PM
>>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>>> Cc: Bruce Redwine
>>> Subject: Re: [ilds] Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu the blue
>> really        begins
>>> 
>>> Does Morely's book have related subject matter, i.e., the Ionian or the
>> Aegean?  The next question:  any evidence that LD knew of this title?
>> I'm inclined to think it's a coincidence.
>>> 
>>> 
>>> BR
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> On Sep 7, 2010, at 5:01 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>>> 
>>>> "Where the Blue Begins" is a book by Christopher Morley published in
>> 1922.
>>>> 
>>>> "Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu the blue really begins."
>>>> 
>>>> Is Durrell's "really" a reply and a correction?
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> W. L. Godshalk *
>>>> Department of English    *           *
>>>> University of Cincinnati*   * Stellar Disorder  *
>>>> OH 45221-0069 *  *
>>> 
> 

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