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27 FORUM: THE CONFERENCE ON THE ARTIST-HERO NOVEL Comments by Charles McCann, Eric Solomon, Sister Mary Bernetta Quinn, Lionel Stevenson, and James G, Kennedy. [Editor's Note: The following informal comments find their way into this section as a result of my feeling that at the end of the Conference much remained to be said, Since some of these remarks came to me in the form of random notes in personal letters, I have sometimes rearranged the material a little, but on the whole I have left the writers' arguments unmolested. Three of these papers, those by Charles McCann, Eric Solomon, and Sister Bernetta, seem to me to foccs on a similar point. All three are in various ways concerned with the issue pointedly raised in U, C. Knoepflmacher's paper: "'lshmael' or Anti-Hero? The Division of Self," or, to put it a little differently, Autobiography or Artistic Creation? or Fact versus Fiction. All three, in any event, seem to raise some fundamental questions about the esthetics of the Artist-Hero novel. Professor Stevenson's paper and James Kennedy's comments on the Discussion Guide in the main focus on those aspects of Gerald Goldberg's paper which were directed toward making a distinction between the genre as practiced before 1880 and as practiced after 1880. All references in these notes to the papers by Knoepflmacher and Goldberg and to the Discussion Guide may be found in EFT, IV, No. 3 ('96I), where these items were published, —HEG.] Vc Vc * Vc Vc Vf * Vi Vf PORTRAITS OF THE ARTISTS AS YOUNG MEN: FACT VERSUS FICTION Gerald Goldberg's paper and U. C, Knoepflmacher's reading of THE WAY OF ALL FLESH were for me a provocative combination whose effect was to rekindle a smouldering doubt about the fictional integrity of portraits of the artists as young men. Goldberg summed up his study of the artist-novel in terms of a sort of spectrum of which the primary variable was the function of the artist-hero: "The artist operates in such a variety of ways in the novel—from providing a material for the exploitation of autobiographical material to functioning as a symbolic representative of the state of modern man—that one can readily understand his popularity among authors." I have felt that to the degree the novel provides "for the exploitation of autobiographical material" it becomes almost a sub-genre. While it is not autobiography, neither is it the fiction that we commonly accept--the ending appears defective. Perhaps too personal a way of illustrating this last is to say that I know that I am dealing with it when I feel disturbed by the artist-hero's "success" at the end of the story. For example, THE WAY OF ALL FLESH produces this feeling, and I think I could borrow Knoepflmacher's explanation of the artistic failure of the novel for a description of the causes of the disturbing feeling: By merging spiritually with the self-satisfied Overton, who also represents Butler, Ernest rises from the world in which he has been making mistakes and causing and experiencing suffering. It is difficult to repress a like feeling when Stephen Dedalus leaves his world behind with "Welcome, 0 Life'.," and when Paul Morel walks "towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly" after having shaken off his world. 28 To put the point in general terms: the reader expects all the characters of a novel to be subject to the same fictional laws, and when the artist as a young man is exempted from them as in Joyce, when he levitates above them as in Butler, or when, as in Lawrence, he rises like a Phoenix from the ruins about him, then this form of escape stirs a reaction in tne reader. The reaction perhaps could be described in less personally revealing terms, but in shorthand, let us say that it is akin to a resentment whicn resembiss democratic jealousy. There is a possibility, too, that the reaction I am speaking of occurs only in those with a particular "humour": the disposition to take a tragic view of life, to hesitate to accept anything as truth unless it approaches...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
p. 27
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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