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Vortex/t :the poetics of turbulenceby Charles D Minahen
Synopses & Reviews
Vortex/t undertakes a hermeneutical exploration of symbolic turbulence in many canonical works of literature and philosophy. Charles Minahen's approach is diachronic to the degree that manifestations of the symbol are addressed chronologically, but his aim is not to establish a historical linking of cause and effect, even if such connections do appear. Rather, a synchrony of the symbol is reconstructed that places each discrete example of it in a vibrant intertext of patent and latent meanings.
Symbolic turbulence first emerges in ancient "whirls" that display a spiral, spiro-helical, or vertical configuration and usually have cosmic or religious significance.
The first significant textual examples of vertical symbolism occur in the Boulak Papyrus, the Bible, and The Odyssey, where the destructive connotations of the symbol stand out. For the philosophers and poets of the ancient classical period, including certain Pre-Socrates, Plato, Epicurus, and Lucretius, the vortex is a universal structuring principle, although the underlying causes vary. For Dante, the emphasis is no longer on the dynamic cosmogonic role of the whirl, but on the gradations inherent in the vertical structure itself. Descartes and Blake associated the symbol with the transcendence of a mystical vision, which involves, for the latter, an epiphanal breakthrough. In Poe, the maelstrom excites conflicting feelings of horror in the face of death and curiosity about the "novel" beyond. Rimbaud develops Blake's and Poe's fascination with a transcendent vision, but for Mallarme, the vortex-symbol is Poesque in the more negative way. Not only is it a threatening destructive force, it is the specter of death itself, relentlessly drawing the shipwrecked mariner to ultimate extinction and nonentity.
By analyzing, comparing, and contrasting these salient examples of vertical symbolism, Vortex/t attempts to uncover and explore the dynamics of emerging and receding meanings that constitute the paradigm's complexity.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -198) and indexes.
About the Author
Charles D. Minahen is Associate Professor of French at Ohio State University.
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