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Readings from Humanism to Postmodernism


Gerald Gillespie

This book follows several major European literary «echoes» still reverberating since the mysterious emergence of such archetypal figures as Faust, Hamlet, Quixote, and Don Juan alongside lingering ancient and medieval protagonists in the Renaissance.
Four centuries of attempts to redefine «modern» identity are traced against the evolution of a new genre of totalizing encyclopaedic literature, the «humoristic» tradition which re-weaves the positive and negative strands of the European, and today also New World, «grand narrative.»
The book’s method, inspired by Joyce, is to «listen» to recurrent motifs in the cultural flow from Humanism to Postmodernism for clues to an identity transcending the personal.
Contents: Humanist theme of «rebeginning» – Need to compare and critique cultural repertories – Cervantine interrogation of the mind as source of cultural constructs – New incarnations of the antagonist figure in the Christian West – Connecting with the divine through nature and the feminine – Conflicted views on the possibility of «rebeginning» outside Europe in a «New World» – The persistence of pagan imagination in «Enlightened» Europe – Eroticism and the body as message – Inventing the noble savage as Europe’s wished-for alter ego and republican virtue as redemptive pathway – The subjectivist turn in writing history – Romantic psychology complicates identity – A new birth of mythic powers – Triumphant return of Oedipus – Faust grows perplexed in his quest – The modern city as the new mental space and juncture – Fear of decadence, and failure to find the noble savage – The polyphony of modernism – The modern artist as mythic quester hero – Humoristic hypertrophy, or postmodern mannerism in the Western Hemisphere – Cabalistic insights and mystical «yea-saying» trump the family romance.