By showing that Joseph Heller was heavily influenced by the New Criticism and myth criticism that he studied in graduate school, this book discloses that
Catch-22 is a faithful and inclusive retelling of the ancient epic of Gilgamesh, much as Joyce’s
Ulysses famously recapitulates Homer’s
Odyssey. This book shows that what previous critics have understood to be characteristics of the absurdist and Black Humor influence are derived from Heller’s faithfulness to the Babylonian text itself. The study details Heller’s use of a mystical and Jungian framework to portray the individuation of a modern hero through his struggles with the mythic and archetypal forces of irrationalism as they are manifested in modern civilization. Revealing that Heller’s conception is religious and mystical, this book explores Heller’s use of T. S. Eliot’s mythic method and the experimental techniques of Joyce’s
Finnegans Wake. The themes of race, homosexuality, individuation, sado-masochism, and modernity are dealt with at length.