Late modernist quest for a human community in post-1945 epic poetry: reading David Jones’s The Anathemata, William Carlos Williams’s Paterson, and Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems with Georges Bataille’s Summa Atheologica
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Trub, Simon Dominique
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Reading David Jones’s The Anathemata, William Carlos Williams’s Paterson, and Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems as epics, this doctoral dissertation challenges the old but persistent notion that epic poetry ceased being written at a particular point in the past and instead examines the particular formal, philosophical and political difficulties writers of this genre had to confront in the second half of the twentieth century. Twentieth-century epic poetry will primarily be defined in terms of its purpose or function, which is the representation of the identity of a ‘community’, while the literary period beginning with the end of the Second World War will be defined as late modernism. Chiefly inspired by Anthony Mellors’s Late Modernist Poetics: From Pound to Prynne, late modernism will be discussed as an aesthetico-political challenge with which writers had to come to terms in the wake of twentieth-century European totalitarianism. Georges Bataille’s philosophy of community, it will be argued, paradigmatically illustrates these aesthetico-political difficulties in philosophical terms, and the discussions of the three epic poems are therefore preceded by an analysis of Bataille’s Summa Atheologica, which constitutes the core of his philosophy of community.