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Myths, Visions, Passions

Myths, Visions, Passions

Martin Seymour-Smith: Robert Graves: His Life and Work; Holt, Rinehart & Winston; New York.

Douglas Archibald: Yeats; Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY.

Although the era of “High Modernism” is well in the past, the pantheon of modern literature still seems to many a palace of confusions. The paradoxes and contradictions, the conflicting impulses that informed the art and shaped the modern sensibility are still being assessed by those who would make sense of that sensibility. It may be that the history which finally emerges will simply be a record of confusions: the quest for traditions in a literature marked by experiment and revolt against the past; the impulse to social and political authority in an age of democratic mass culture; the search for order and belief in a culture that sold its soul for the dubious rewards of the scientific Weltanschauung; the difficulty of the art itself. But for those who wish to understand, the lives of the writers themselves, especially when used to gloss their art, offer instructive lessons on those shaping forces that lie under the surface of our publicly shared culture. While it may be true that biography is one of the mortician’s arts, a telltale sign that the embalming process has begun, we must still look to biographies...

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