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Henry Miller and the Surrealist Discourse of Excess

A Post-Structuralist Reading

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Paul Jahshan

Henry Miller is one of the least stylistically understood modern writers. Having been dubbed a Zen saint and ostracized as a happy pornographer, Miller is now relegated to the museum of literary oddities and his text treated with unjustified indifference. If the influence of French surrealism has been recognized by most critics and readers, it is not without a cost: Miller is safely classified as a «surrealist» writer and most, if not all, of his stylistic peculiarities are thus conveniently disposed of. What Miller’s texts share with those of the French surrealists is an imagery of excess, indeed, but one which is economically and masterfully geared toward a reader whose response(s) help in constructing a peculiarly Millerian version of stylistic deviation. This study focuses on the way this «Millerian text» invites a fresh re-reading of one of America’s leading modern authors.