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ELT: Volume 33:3 1990 A literature based on such a belief should not, as Gardner ultimately suggests, neglect mythmaking; in fact, the poet who affirms the "redemptive qualities of art" may actually need to possess the instinct, as Yeats demonstrated, for creating and perpetuating myth, both as an instrument in the poet's survival and in his maturity. So while it was necessary for Yeats, as part of his mythmaking, to elevate experience to the artistic plane, he did so to identify art with the timeless, thereby "achieving dramatic catharsis." The unique and most compelling feature of this study, then, is its serious and satisfying treatment of how myth worked in the growth of Yeats's own artistic life as the result of his association with the Rhymers' Club, and how, in turn, his interpretations worked for the poets of succeeding generations. For if Yeats, who finally found in myth "not only personal solace but the key to a more sophisticated, objective art," characterized the brief history of the decadents as one of doomed passion in pursuit of the unattainable, he may have done so as a warning to others, who could then avoid similar excesses while they "learned their trade," embracing a less personal, more universal image of their art. Gordon J. De La Vars St. Bonaventure University Gissing and New Influences John Sloan. George Gissing: The Cultural Challenge. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989. 172 pp. $35.00 JOHN SLOAN avers that his study as a whole is "not to question Gissing's minor place in the traditional literary canon, but rather to offer a reading of his novels that will attempt to make visible something of their problematic relation to our received notions of literature and specifically to the traditions of realism with which he writes." Sloan does not question the earlier psychological interpretation of Gissing's life and works. He attempts, instead, "to probe the real social and ideological tensions of the 'inner sympathy" or 'exile.'" This Sloan does well, especially in tracing through the novels, in chronological order, Gissing's progress through a number of social and cultural tensions. He also provides, almost incidentally, newly found sources of "influences" at work upon some of Gissing's novels. In the conclusion to his book Sloan notes that Gissing enjoyed in the last years of his life a reputation which should be attributed in part to "a kind of veneration and respectability that sometimes comes 358 Book Reviews to grace the survivor of an older generation." Gissing's name was linked increasingly in the late 1890s with those of Meredith and Hardy, and his high standing of that time is also to be related to a growing note of tolerance and resignation in his fiction. Previous to the 1890s Gissing had been accused of an "exaggerated, dreary realism ." This favorable view of the later novels has not been shard, however, by subsequent readers. Gissing's return to nature, or, more specifically, to that "dogged disillusioned affirmation of the quotidian" which Eagleton has identified in the works of Bennett and Wells, can in part be accounted for in terms of publication and marketing after 1894, the last year of the use of three-decker novels. Gissing then spent more time abroad in a life of "restless wanderings," homesickness and exile. His most popular work of his last years, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, is dominated by some feeling of chronic melancholy and exile. And in The Crown of Life (1899), the later Gissing displays his inability to live at peace with his society or to find a new basis for relationships in cosmopolitan life through which to express the terms of his separateness . In The Crown of Life Piers Otway sees the city as a world where the forces of oppression have become obscure, but systematic; he sees the city as a huge machine which reduces men to "a position of an inconceivably complicated mechanism." Lee Hannaford's dreams of carnage unite with "a puritanical coldness" towards his wife. Their sterility is seen as a symptom of a new, acquisitive power-hungry life: "The correlation of barren sexuality with a wide pattern of social and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 358-361
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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