[ilds] An "investigation" pertains to the real world — that's the usual sense

Godshalk, William (godshawl) godshawl at ucmail.uc.edu
Sun Sep 26 12:00:15 PDT 2010

Yes, we hope that we are investigating the real. 

But how do we define "real?" For example, let's think about Freud's investigations of the real world. How real are penis envy and the Oedipus complex? When I ask my students about these realities, they reject them as foolishness. Yet many of Freud's followers think they can legitimately investigate these realities, and many anti-Fruedians firmly assert that they cannot. 

How would Durrell define his apparent belief in psychoanalytic realities? 


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: Sunday, September 26, 2010 12:44 PM
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Cc: Bruce Redwine
Subject: Re: [ilds] Seeking the Truth


Two comments below.  I focus on the implication of Durrell's use of "truth."

On Sep 25, 2010, at 12:48 PM, James Gifford wrote:

He calls the Quartet an "investigation," so what is he investigating?
His own imagination?  No.  He's making claims about the world we live
in, and that's why I call the statement "truth is what most
contradicts itself" a bit of seductive nonsense.
Actually, it was originally an investigation of bisexual love...
Revisions shifted the meaning, or I suppose the truth of the
investigation came to contradict itself in time, so to speak.

Durrell's 1957 Note to Balthazar (deleted in 1962) talks to the reader, presents his program, and then says, "The central topic of this book is an investigation of modern love."  An "investigation" pertains to the real world — that's the usual sense of the word.

Most bluntly, "contradicts itself" is a statement about the quotidian
truths of characters in a novel who find that what they had thought was
true was not and that their senses of "true events" change from person
to person, perspective to perspective.

That may be taken as Darley's interpretation or reapplication of Balthazar's statement (AQ 277), but that is not the sense of Balthazar's original comment (AQ 216), when he blows his nose in "an old tennis sock" and makes his pronouncement.  That first sentence doesn't have a specific reference, so "truth" must be taken as a pure concept, whose validity Balthazar mocks by blowing his nose.  This sense pervades the Quartet, as I quoted earlier:  "Humility!  The last trap that awaits the ego in search of absolute truth" (AQ 192).  Moreover, Durrell's corollary to the relativity of truth is his substitution of the imagination for truth.  So, Balthazar's first statement is immediately followed by Darley recalling one of Pursewarden's observations:  "And Pursewarden on another occasion, but not less memorably:  'If things were always what they seemed, how impoverished would be the imagination of man'" (AQ 216).  What interests me is the recurrent pattern, stated as an oversimplification — deny the validity of reality and then leap into the imagination.


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