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Mythology in the Modern Novel: A Study of Prefigurative Techniques

Mythology in the Modern Novel: A Study of Prefigurative Techniques

Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 278
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    Mythology in the Modern Novel: A Study of Prefigurative Techniques
    Book Description:

    J. J. White reexamines the use of myth in fiction in order to bring a new terminological precision into the field. While concentrating on the German novel (Mann, Broch, and Nossack), he discusses the work of Alberto Moravia, John Bowen, Michel Butor, and Macdonald Harris as well, in order to show the modern predilection for myth in whatever national literature. Throughout his discussion, Mr. White delineates carefully his specific subject: the novel in which mythological motifs are used to prefigure events and character-Joyce'sUlyssesis, of course, the archetypal novel in this tradition.

    Setting forth his terms, and making clear his use of them, Mr. White then analyzes the wide appeal of the mythological novel for both twentieth-century novelists and critics: he distinguishes four ways in which modern novelists use myth and surveys the range of critical literature on the subject. His concluding chapters are discussions of specific texts in which he differentiates between novels which have a unilinear parallel between myth and plot, novels of "juxtaposition" in which chapters retelling myth parallel modern action, and novels of fusion in which the action of the modern account synthesizes more than one mythic prefiguration of mythological motif.

    Originally published in 1972.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7178-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Chapter One Myth and the Modern Novel
    (pp. 3-31)

    “The Mythical Age” was the name the German novelist Hermann Broch gave to the twentieth century.¹ It is a view which would at least seem to be corroborated by the preoccupations of many writers and critics of today. Yet although a common denominator of much modern literature, myth can assume as many shapes as Proteus himself, and the attribute “mythical” may conceal a variety of cultural phenomena. Anyone consulting the relevant critical literature on the importance of myth for recent writers or on the particular role of mythology in contemporary fiction will find himself confronted by a plethora of general...

  6. Chapter Two Terms and Distinctions
    (pp. 32-75)

    The hazard of employing such words as “myth,” “mythical” and “mythological” is not so much that they refer to a single, ill-defined “area of meaning,” as Wellek and Warren once suggested,¹ but that they can imply various, almost distinct connotations, largely dependent upon the user. While elasticity can sometimes be a definite asset, in the case of words which possess such different associations as “myth” can have in various contexts, it at times becomes the critic’s worst enemy. To illustrate this point, I shall first review some definitions and widespread uses of basic vocabulary associated with myths in literature, including...

  7. Chapter Three Approaches to the Mythological Novel
    (pp. 76-117)

    Is the view of nature and of social relations which shaped the Greek imagination and Greek art possible in the age of automatic machinery, and railways, and locomotives, and electric telegraphs? Where does Vulcan come in against Roberts and Co.; Jupiter, as against the lightning rod; and Hermes, against the Crédit Mobilier…. What becomes of the Goddess Fame by the side of Printing House Square?¹

    These questions, posed over a hundred years ago by Karl Marx, touch upon some of the key problems concerning the introduction of mythology into modern fiction. They raise issues of accommodation; not only accommodation in...

  8. Chapter Four The Unilinear Pattern of Development
    (pp. 118-190)

    “The novel had to be fairly long, since a pattern had to be established; and for that you need a considerable number of variations“…. As soon as the pattern emerges, the novel, as written, ceases to exist.”¹ The novel in question is Max Frisch’sMein Name set Gantenbein,² a work which includes a Hermes motif and also uses Philemon and Baucis as prefigurations. What Frisch says here about variations and a final pattern is of more general import; to see how, the relationship between myths and patterns has to be looked at in some detail.

    A pattern is something which...

  9. Chapter Five Distorted Motif-Structures
    (pp. 191-240)

    “C’etait comme une piste tracée à mon intention” the hero of Michel Butor’sL’Emploi du Tempssays in the section “Les Présages,” which introduces the novel’s main prefigurations.¹ His is a feeling of being set a task of detection, of having a trail to follow, with which the reader of most mythological novels is familiar. One comes to recognize that a certain degree of complexity, challenging one to solve much of the analogy for oneself, as Butor’s hero does, is a property of many prefigurations. It was one of the suggested reasons why mythological similes have been used sparingly, and...

  10. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 241-254)
  11. Index
    (pp. 255-265)