[ilds] Elizas

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue Jun 30 07:06:04 PDT 2015


Richard, thanks for the response and the reference to Phoebe Sheavyn’s study on the Elizabethans.  As you note, Durrell’s ideas on the Elizas probably wouldn’t have been “scholarly,” but they would have been fresh, provocative, and helpful in understanding the man himself.
 
Another link occurs to me between Liza Pursewarden and Durrell’s Elizas.  You’ll recall her description in Mountolive, when Mountolive comes upon a book of Pursewarden’s poems:  “Yet as he [DM] turned the pages of the little book he was suddenly interested by a poem which impinged upon his memory, filling him with misgivings.  It was inscribed to the poet’s sister and was unmistakingly a love-poem to ‘a blind girl whose hair is painted black’” (1962 ed., p. 443).  You’ll also recall Shakespeare’s Sonnets 127-154, the Dark Lady sonnets.  The beloved woman has black hair, and the poet plays with black as something disreputable:  “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds, / And thence this slander as I think proceeds” (Son. 131).  Well, Liza is Pursewarden’s “Dark Lady,” his sister, and the two have a slanderous relationship.

Bruce


> On Jun 29, 2015, at 10:18 PM, mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org wrote:
> 
>  ps - I should have added that the LD archive at Carbondale includes a long catalogue, made by LD, probably in the British (Museum) Library, of biographical notes on Elizabethan writers - makes interesting reading - the background to the book he never wrote but which, I suspect, would have proceeded along the lines of Phoebe Sheavyn, "The Literary Profession in the Elizabethan Age" Manchester University Press, 1909) a copy of which he possessed.
> RP
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> From: mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org [mailto:mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org]
> Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 01:14 AM
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Subject: Re: ILDS Digest, Vol 98, Issue 10
> 
> Bruce, in a Durrellian phrase, "you've twigged it". Yes, what you say about the Elizas is exactly true of LD - and as you say he would have had no time for theorists - like many a writer, he only came to appreciate critics near the end of his life when he realised that a critical industry that had grown up around him MIGHT (emphasise MIGHT) enhance his reputation. (One thinks of Wilde: "You are defending me at the risk of my life") But he would nevertheless have agreed with Greenblatt et al, simply he wouldn't have had to go down the critical path to reach the same (self-evident) conclusions. I sometimes think critics are people who cannot feel, merely think.
> RP 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ilds-request at lists.uvic.ca [mailto:ilds-request at lists.uvic.ca]
> Sent: Monday, June 29, 2015 03:00 PM
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Subject: ILDS Digest, Vol 98, Issue 10
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> Send ILDS mailing list submissions to ilds at lists.uvic.ca To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit https://lists.uvic.ca/mailman/listinfo/ilds or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to ilds-request at lists.uvic.ca You can reach the person managing the list at ilds-owner at lists.uvic.ca When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific than "Re: Contents of ILDS digest..." Today's Topics: 1. Elizas (Bruce Redwine) 2. Re: Elizas (Bruce Redwine) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Message: 1 Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2015 12:50:10 -0700 From: Bruce Redwine To: Durrell list Cc: Bruce Redwine Subject: [ilds] Elizas Message-ID: Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8" Richard, I look forward to reading your next book on the ?Minor Mythologies.? You ask a good question. A theory is a set of ideas that account for a set of data or events. No surprise here. A theory of English literature during the Renaissance would attempt to explain why it occurred, why it took the form it did, and why it was ?great.? Others can think of other whys to consider. A popular field of literary theory nowadays centers around the ?new historicists,? whose founder is Stephen Greenblatt, a specialist in the English Renaissance (Renaissance Self-Fashioning [1980], among others), Shakespeare in particular. This school owes much to the French philosopher Michel Foucault and his theories of culture, language, social interaction, and personal identity (Les Mots et les choses [1966], among others). Basically, very very simply, the new historicists argue that culture (social and political) shapes the individual. Free will is an illusion. The ?self? forms through the exertion of cultural/political ?power.? Let me state upfront that I?m highly dubious of the new historicists? positions. It seems to me, however, that Lawrence Durrell?s most formative and creative years (ca. 1935-1960) approximated the turmoil and creativity of the Elizabethan Era (1558-1603). He lived ?in interesting times,? as the Chinese curse supposedly goes. His experiences reflected those disruptions and undoubtedly influenced his writings. So we should keep in mind Durrell?s cultural and historical matrix, if not go overboard in drawing any conclusions about its importance. I strongly doubt that Durrell would have shared the theoretical assumptions of new historicism. He believed too much in the sovereignty of the artist. But he and Greenblatt do have a common impulse or desire, and that is to join in fellowship with the dead. Greenblatt begins his Shakespearean Negotiations (1988) with the famous sentence, ?I began with the desire to speak with the dead.? In Mountolive, Pursewarden says, ?The artist?s work constitutes the only satisfactory relationship he can have with his fellow-man since he seeks his real friends among the dead and the unborn? (1962 ed., p. 439). Re the Elizas, I think Durrell identified with the era and found prototypes or antecedents in its writers. The bond was very close. He may have even imagined, consciously or not, an incestuous relationship with them, so Pursewarden?s sister and lover is called ?Liza,? as in ??Liza, my darling?? said the poet? (p. 438). That address follows upon a discussion on politics and the nature of kingship: ??They are a biological necessity, Kings. Perhaps they mirror the very constitution of the psyche?? (p.440). So Durrell, as we all know, was given to theoretical musings. But the Elizas, I think, were not theory. Bruce > On Jun 28, 2015, at 3:19 AM, mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org wrote: > > ELIZAS: As Bruce says, his references do not add up to an explicit "theory" but it's up to the scholar/reader to come to terms with LD's views: first, the very general refs. to the "Elizas" in the letters, then his two essays on Shakespeare, and his fairly extensive references to the Elizas in "Minor Mythologies". I'm following up the latter in the work I'm engaged on now, b ut the book won't be published until end of 2017. What, we might ask, IS a "theory"? The "rawness of life " was more than just an idea about sensuality.... > Richard Pine 23 June 2015 In a 1937 letter to Miller, Durrell sums up nicely his attitude towards the ?Elizas?: ?The virtue of the Elizabethans was this: their exuberance was so enormous, so volatile, so pest-ridden, so aching and vile and repentant and spew-stuck, that here and there, by glorious mistakes, they transcended the cannon? (MacNiven ed. of Durrell-Miller Letters, pp. 42-43). This is not so much a theory as a personal manifesto. It?s remarkable how consistent Durrell was throughout his life. The Elizabethans provided a framework for his art. I?d say the Quintet comes closest to this manifesto. Bruce > On Jun 23, 2015, at 6:01 AM, Bruce Redwine <> wrote: > > The revisions James is referring to are probably in the archives at Carbondale, Illinois. So they're not easily accessible. > > Beyond the fact that the Renaissance is the greatest period of English literature, I'd like to know if Durrell had a theory about its greatness. And by theory I mean something beyond statements about its rawness of life. We can look at his own work and infer this attitude. Poetry and horror probably have roles. Hence his revival of plays in verse. Too bad Bill Godshalk didn't complete his comparison of Middleton's Black Book and Durrell's. > > Bruce -------------- next part -------------- An HTML attachment was scrubbed... URL: ------------------------------ Message: 2 Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2015 13:06:30 -0700 From: Bruce Redwine To: Durrell list Cc: Bruce Redwine Subject: Re: [ilds] Elizas Message-ID: Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8" The sentence in the last paragraph should read: That address precedes a discussion . . . BR > On Jun 28, 2015, at 12:50 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote: > > Richard, I look forward to reading your next book on the ?Minor Mythologies.? > > You ask a good question. A theory is a set of ideas that account for a set of data or events. No surprise here. A theory of English literature during the Renaissance would attempt to explain why it occurred, why it took the form it did, and why it was ?great.? Others can think of other whys to consider. A popular field of literary theory nowadays centers around the ?new historicists,? whose founder is Stephen Greenblatt, a specialist in the English Renaissance (Renaissance Self-Fashioning [1980], among others), Shakespeare in particular. This school owes much to the French philosopher Michel Foucault and his theories of culture, language, social interaction, and personal identity (Les Mots et les choses [1966], among others). Basically, very very simply, the new historicists argue that culture (social and political) shapes the individual. Free will is an illusion. The ?self? forms through the exertion of cultural/political ?power.? > > Let me state upfront that I?m highly dubious of the new historicists? positions. It seems to me, however, that Lawrence Durrell?s most formative and creative years (ca. 1935-1960) approximated the turmoil and creativity of the Elizabethan Era (1558-1603). He lived ?in interesting times,? as the Chinese curse supposedly goes. His experiences reflected those disruptions and undoubtedly influenced his writings. So we should keep in mind Durrell?s cultural and historical matrix, if not go overboard in drawing any conclusions about its importance. > > I strongly doubt that Durrell would have shared the theoretical assumptions of new historicism. He believed too much in the sovereignty of the artist. But he and Greenblatt do have a common impulse or desire, and that is to join in fellowship with the dead. Greenblatt begins his Shakespearean Negotiations (1988) with the famous sentence, ?I began with the desire to speak with the dead.? In Mountolive, Pursewarden says, ?The artist?s work constitutes the only satisfactory relationship he can have with his fellow-man since he seeks his real friends among the dead and the unborn? (1962 ed., p. 439). > > Re the Elizas, I think Durrell identified with the era and found prototypes or antecedents in its writers. The bond was very close. He may have even imagined, consciously or not, an incestuous relationship with them, so Pursewarden?s sister and lover is called ?Liza,? as in ??Liza, my darling?? said the poet? (p. 438). That address follows upon a discussion on politics and the nature of kingship: ??They are a biological necessity, Kings. Perhaps they mirror the very constitution of the psyche?? (p.440). So Durrell, as we all know, was given to theoretical musings. But the Elizas, I think, were not theory. > > Bruce > > > > > >> On Jun 28, 2015, at 3:19 AM, mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org wrote: >> >> ELIZAS: As Bruce says, his references do not add up to an explicit "theory" but it's up to the scholar/reader to come to terms with LD's views: first, the very general refs. to the "Elizas" in the letters, then his two essays on Shakespeare, and his fairly extensive references to the Elizas in "Minor Mythologies". I'm following up the latter in the work I'm engaged on now, b ut the book won't be published until end of 2017. What, we might ask, IS a "theory"? The "rawness of life " was more than just an idea about sensuality.... >> Richard Pine > > > 23 June 2015 > > In a 1937 letter to Miller, Durrell sums up nicely his attitude towards the ?Elizas?: ?The virtue of the Elizabethans was this: their exuberance was so enormous, so volatile, so pest-ridden, so aching and vile and repentant and spew-stuck, that here and there, by glorious mistakes, they transcended the cannon? (MacNiven ed. of Durrell-Miller Letters, pp. 42-43). This is not so much a theory as a personal manifesto. It?s remarkable how consistent Durrell was throughout his life. The Elizabethans provided a framework for his art. I?d say the Quintet comes closest to this manifesto. > > Bruce > > >> On Jun 23, 2015, at 6:01 AM, Bruce Redwine <> wrote: >> >> The revisions James is referring to are probably in the archives at Carbondale, Illinois. So they're not easily accessible. >> >> Beyond the fact that the Renaissance is the greatest period of English literature, I'd like to know if Durrell had a theory about its greatness. And by theory I mean something beyond statements about its rawness of life. We can look at his own work and infer this attitude. Poetry and horror probably have roles. Hence his revival of plays in verse. Too bad Bill Godshalk didn't complete his comparison of Middleton's Black Book and Durrell's. >> >> Bruce -------------- next part -------------- An HTML attachment was scrubbed... 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