[ilds] Durrell's Heritage

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Mon Feb 7 20:19:08 PST 2011

On 07/02/11 5:27 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
> Now, about Lawrence G. Durrell's sagging reputation

To be perfectly frank, Bruce, I think a good deal of "reputation" comes 
down to fashionable movements.  Blake was deeply out of fashion for 
quite a while, and some otherwise minor writers are deeply in fashion at 
the moment.  I think we read for convenience, and in some respects, to 
serve secondary goals -- for instance, I teach my compatriot Margaret 
Atwood's /The Handmaid's Tale/ on a regular basis.  I don't actually 
particularly like it as a novel, nor do I see the same artistic merit in 
it that so many others see.  However, it teaches beautifully and allows 
me to develop several reading skills in my students...  Many works 
develop a reputation based on such things.

We might ask the same about nationalist literatures, which may not be 
particularly good, but serve a real purpose.  Hence, the reputation 

Durrell, alas, didn't fit his time period, doesn't easily serve a 
nationalist literary cause, and stubbornly refuses to fit into any easy 
"school" or movement.  That makes him rather difficult to fit into a 
course, into a literary study, and so forth.  Entirely apart from the 
merits of the work, it's unruly and doesn't always fit with the more 
common projects.

Like Grove's Fame and her backward glance, I suspect our literary 
histories will reconsider the 40s through 60s in ways we've not 
anticipated.  Unless I'm mistaken, Mary Wolstonecraft's /Maria or The 
Wrongs of Woman/ was out of print for quite some time!  Surely its 
recovery wasn't purely based on its literary merit, and her cache for 
suffrage and feminism played a goodly role.

Such are my two bits.


More information about the ILDS mailing list