Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Modernism's Odysseys
by Culligan-Flack, Leah, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2009, 206; 3386533
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates the prominence of the Odyssey in international high modernism by tracking the Homeric writings of exiled and expatriate writers James Joyce (1882-1941), Ezra Pound (1885-1972), and Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938). In a war-torn world sundered by competing nationalisms, these writers turned to the Odyssey to forge languages of exile and to contend with their lost, distant, and changing homelands. Assembling a network of texts, including the Odyssey translations each author read as well as their fiction, poetry, critical essays, letters, and drafts, I explore a transcultural and historical model of literary influence that reconstructs the creative readings that undergird the poetry of Pound (1904-1968) and Mandelstam (1913-1937) and Joyce's Ulysses (1922). I bring these writers into dialogue to argue that their influential border-crossing projects helped to re-imagine the Odyssey for the twentieth century.

Working in different national traditions and in a variety of genres, Pound, Mandelstam, and Joyce constructed Odyssean voyages that confronted the vicissitudes of homecoming in modern literary forms and that attempted to initiate intercultural dialogue in an era that witnessed two World Wars, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Stalinist purges, and the struggle for Irish independence. Throughout his career, Pound returned to the Odyssey in his poetry and prose to evaluate his era, challenge what he perceived to be America's cultural insularity, and search for a language and form for his poetic voyage across distant eras and cultures in The Cantos (1915-1968). Identifying his poetry as a "longing for world culture" in an era of persecution and censorship, Mandelstam appropriated figures from the Homeric epics for lyric poetic voyages directed toward the shores of an increasingly uncertain future. Whereas Pound and Mandelstam's poetic engagements with the Odyssey drive toward images of perpetual wandering, Joyce's Ulysses sends its modern Irish-Jewish Odysseus, Leopold Bloom, toward a peaceful Irish homecoming. "Cyclops," however, draws upon the Odyssey 's violence to assault the sociopolitical controls and literary censors that impelled Joyce's exile from Ireland. These Odyssean projects exemplify the multidimensional ways the Odyssey served the aesthetic, political, cultural, and moral projects of modernist exiles attempting to construct a home in language for their era.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Froula, Christine
Commitee: Breslin, Paul, Cavanagh, Clare, Hopman, Marianne
School: Northwestern University
Department: Comparative Literary Studies
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Comparative literature, Slavic literature, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Exile, Ireland, Joyce, James, Mandelstam, Osip, Modernism, Odyssey, The, Pound, Ezra, Russia
Publication Number: 3386533
ISBN: 978-1-109-51880-1
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