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Ondrej Skovajsa: “Written Voice: Walt Whitman’s first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855) and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (1934)”
April 16, 2012 @ 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm | Stevenson Fireside Lounge
The Literature Department invites you to a talk by: Ondrej Skovajsa, Visiting Fulbright Scholar
“Written Voice: Walt Whitman’s first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855)
and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (1934)”
Discussing first the relevance of oral theory when dealing with texts, the paper deals with the strategies Whitman and Miller share to get their voices across to the reader. With some striking similarities already at the paratextual level, the paper moves to stylistic features, most important of which is the present tense: it aligns these works with the “future focus” of biblical orality that James Nohnrberg defines as contrary to the “nostalgia” of literature. Further, the paper discusses how the two texts employ Marcel Jousse’s notion of “mimisme” as the rhythmical creative law of the universe. (Jousse’s notion is parallel to Dorothee Soelle’s notion of creative happiness, and Elaine Scarry’s notion of beauty that demands a replication of itself.) On a still deeper level, the paper discusses imitatio Christi strongly embraced by both authors: important is the two flâneurs’ “sympathy”, and the notion of “rebirth as hermeneutics” – i.e. as resurrection of the spoken living logos from the “grave of the book”, as discussed by Walter Ong’s in “Maranatha” (1977). Whitman and Miller remain in resurrection of – and constant dialogue with – their textual “fixations” on their further journeys.
Mr. Skovajsa is an assistant professor at Purkyně University in Usti nad Labem, and a doctoral student at the Department of Comparative Literature at Charles University in Prague.