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Living Streams: Continuity and Change from Rabelais to Joyce

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Gerald Gillespie

This book examines how a long line of imaginative writers, starting from Rabelais and continuing over Cervantes and Sterne down to such modernists as Proust, Mann, Joyce, and Barth, has reaffirmed the picture of an enduring Western civilization despite repeated crises and transformations. The humanist capacity to recapture a sense of European greatness as exhibited in Antiquity was paralleled by and continued in the guise of newer vernacular works, achievements regarded as vital forms of a shared cultural rebirth. This was amplified most notably in the tradition of the ironic encyclopedic novel which surveyed the state of successive phases of culture. The evolving heritage and revitalization of the arts constituted main subject matters in the series of major self-conscious epochal movements, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Modernism, which Postmodernism reflexively now struggles to supersede.

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Chapter 8: Swallowing the Androgyne and Baptizing Mother

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Swallowing the Androgyne and Baptizing Mother

The Eucharist and Communion

A detailed schematization of aspects of the feminine, as gathered from myth analysts like C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell, was among the helpful frameworks that Michael Palencia-Roth offered in his path-breaking comparative study of Joyce, Mann, and García-Márquez (1987). My purpose here is to illustrate how the interest of modernist writers in “feminine” characteristics and paradigms sometimes was channeled in revisions of mainstream ways for treating two fundamental sacraments, the Eucharist and Baptism. There is nothing strange in the fact that writers of more recent times, liberated after many centuries of anthropological speculation about myth and religion, would play with the tradition of the sacraments as part of their culture’s poetic vocabulary. Switching or unifying “masculine” and “feminine” expressions of God was already attractive to some artists and writers of the high Middle Ages, as the researches of Caroline Bynum have established. A peaking of medieval fascination for the “body” of the Savior was manifested in the institution of a new feast day, Corpus Christi. One formative impulse can be traced to the nun Saint Juliana (1193-1258) of Mont Cornillon in Belgium who experienced a vision of a Eucharistic wafer which bled. She thought the sacrament was telling her to advocate the due observance of its mystery, Christ’s sacrifice nourishing humanity. One of her important confidants, Robert de Thorete, Bishop of Liège, called a synod...

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