Mythology in the Modern Novel
A Study of Prefigurative Techniques
John J. White
J. J. White reexamines the use of myth in fiction in order to bring a new terminological precision into the field. While concentrating on the German novel (Mann, Broch, and Nossack), he discusses the work of Alberto Moravia, John Bowen, Michel Butor, and Macdonald Harris as well, in order to show the modern predilection for myth in whatever national literature. Throughout his discussion, Mr. White delineates carefully his specific subject: the novel in which mythological motifs are used to prefigure events and character—Joyce's Ulysses is, of course, the archetypal novel in this tradition.
Setting forth his terms, and making clear his use of them, Mr. White then analyzes the wide appeal of the mythological novel for both twentieth-century novelists and critics: he distinguishes four ways in which modern novelists use myth and surveys the range of critical literature on the subject. His concluding chapters are discussions of specific texts in which he differentiates between novels which have a unilinear parallel between myth and plot, novels of "juxtaposition" in which chapters retelling myth parallel modern action, and novels of fusion in which the action of the modern account synthesizes more than one mythic prefiguration of mythological motif.
First published in 1972.
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