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A concert of hells: Journeys to the underworld in `Fin de siecle' literature

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Title: A concert of hells: Journeys to the underworld in `Fin de siecle' literature
Author(s): Vynckier, Henk
Department / Program: Literature, ComparativeLiterature, ModernReligion, GeneralAnthropology, Cultural
Discipline: Literature, ComparativeLiterature, ModernReligion, GeneralAnthropology, Cultural
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Literature, Comparative Literature, Modern Religion, General Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract: The journey to the underworld or katabasis constitutes one of the quintessential themes in Western literature which, though the product of a mythical and theological world view, has not vanished from the consciousness of modern man. It is intriguing, however, that in many prominent thematological surveys (Frenzel, Aziza, Daemmrich) no effort has been made to map the uses of this theme during the fin de siecle period. Thus, a period of some 60 years in European literature during which the theme of the journey to the land of the dead was exploited as much as, if not more than, in the preceding or following periods remains to be fully explored. Following Rimbaud's remarkable proclamation in his Une Saison en enfer (1873) of a "concert of hells," numerous fin de siecle authors, indeed, incorporated visions of the underworld to delineate the complex of psychological, social, moral, mythological, and artistic phenomena which governed the literary culture of Europe. Three particular variants of the ancient theme of the downward journey which occur emphatically in fin de siecle literature are examined: the hero's descent into the ancestral underworld of a portrait gallery containing the portraits, i.e. the shades, of his forebears, the journey within the contemporary and communal hell of the metropolis, and the katabatic journey to the cross-cultural underworlds of non-Western cultures. Fin de siecle literature is, moreover, revealed to be, by its very nature, an underworldly or katabatic literature. Its purpose is a radical probing of the unconscious, the anomalous, the forbidden, the occult, the realm of archetype and myth, and the Reality behind our everyday reality. Much of this program, one may assert with confidence, can only be achieved via a descent into the underworld.
Issue Date: 1989
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/23583
Rights Information: Copyright 1989 Vynckier, Henk
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog: AAI9011065
OCLC Identifier: (UMI)AAI9011065
 

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