Para/worlds: Entanglements of Art and History
The essays in this book engage in a broad range of topics, stretching from Anacreon and Horace to Kafka and Samuel Beckett, and they concern themselves with the notion of Art and Life as "para-worlds," or fields of being that elucidate and complete each other, answer and imply each other, confront and contradict each other: in short, with the "entanglements of Art and History." Pearce finds centrally that there is at present a crisis in literary criticism. On the one hand, there is a bustling and exciting crop of competing critical schools, each with its special mind-set, each tending to regard itself as the final hierophantic mode. On the other, it seems clear that criticism has recently become a part of higher pathology diagnosing and (if possible) eradicating, as Giles Gunn says, "the disease called literature." The result is that scholars and critics have become more and more self-conscious and obsessive about the purpose and methods of their work. The critical approaches that Pearce himself has employed in these essays are those of no one school or dogma but are almost as varied as the texts themselves, ranging from essays in classical scholarship, through new critical close readings, to postmodernist semiotic analysis. But whether traditional or innovative in method, each of these essays aims in the first instance to be what Anatole France once said all true criticism should be: "the adventure of the soul among masterpieces."
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By an immortal sickness which kills not ; It works a constant change , which happy death Can put no end to ; deathwards progressing To no death was that visage ; it had passed The lily and the snow ; and beyond these I must not think ...
Cleopatra's death is presented as a Roman , not an Egyptian , death , a most illustrious one , with a deliberately formal and exemplary quality about it ; a criterion , it could almost be said , among deaths .
This is the real meaning of Cleopatra's death scene as he presents it . For though it is one of the most familiar pictures in history , or in literature , it is not really a “ documentary ” scene at all , but one deliberately ...
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