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Henry Miller and Narrative Form: Constructing the Self, by James M. Decker

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By James M. Decker

In this daring examine James M. Decker argues opposed to the widely held opinion that Henry Miller’s narratives be afflicted by ‘formlessness’. He in its place positions Miller as a stylistic pioneer, whose position has to be guaranteed within the American literary canon.

From Moloch to Nexus via such widely-read texts as Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, Decker examines what Miller calls his ‘spiral form’, a considerably digressive type that shifts wildly among realism and the wonderful. Drawing on quite a few narratological and significant resources, in addition to Miller’s personal aesthetic theories, he highlights that this fragmented narrative type shaped a part of a sustained critique of recent religious decay. A planned flow instead of a compositional weak spot, then, Miller’s kind reveals a wide selection of antecedents within the paintings of such figures as Nietzsche, Rabelais, Joyce, Bergson and Whitman, and is seen by way of Decker as an try and chart the adventure of the self throughout the sleek city.

Henry Miller and Narrative Form offers readers new insights into essentially the most difficult writings of the 20th century and offers a template for realizing the importance of a unprecedented and inventive narrative form.

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Extra resources for Henry Miller and Narrative Form: Constructing the Self, Rejecting Modernity (Contexts and Genre in English Literature)

Sample text

Narratologically, Miller takes advantage of the telegraph company, for the service-oriented organization proves an excellent setting for his embryonic spiral techniques because of both its hectic pace and its diverse subject matter, two of the principal methods Miller eventually adopts in the mature version of spiral form. ” Miller thus transforms Moloch’s life into a series of anecdotes. Like the telegrams that Moloch’s messengers deliver or throw down the gutter, Miller tells only part of the “inexhaustible story” of his life with his anecdotes about Moloch and his friends, and thus represents only one spiral twist of the supraself’s story (1941e: 20).

While neither Moloch nor Crazy Cock strictly belongs to the genre that Miller referred to as the autobiographical romance, Miller firmly grounds them in the soil of his experience. In fact, Miller wrote to Nin in a letter of March 1935 that he “was erecting a monument to past sorrows” in his earliest narratives (Nin and Miller 1987: 297). In these texts, Miller draws heavily from material that would eventually infiltrate his more mature work. 1 Although Miller later asserted that “they were no good,” citing the novels’ conventionality—“the ‘Writer’ with a capital ‘W’”—he locates neither Moloch nor Crazy Cock in any Brooklyn dawn 2 27 definite tradition or subgenre (1994i: 176).

As spiral form places a premium on motion—because of its 30 Brooklyn dawn metaphoric significance to the supraself’s quest for identity—Moloch functions in the context of what Ihab Hassan calls the spiritual quest. The novel’s preponderant concern with movement represents a formal manifestation of the abiding thirst for self-knowledge that consumes not only Moloch, but all of Miller’s selves. Miller’s concentration on the kinetic elements of Moloch’s quest leads him toward the extreme fragmentation of character he would later exploit more fully in the autobiographical romances.

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