This essay analyses 'The Rash Act' and 'Henry for Hugh' as a meditation on Mediterranean and European culture. It focuses on the philosophy of enjoyment and pure aestheticism found in the two novels, tracing its literary and pictorial debts in French culture while setting it in the wider context of post-war reflections on idleness and diminution of work as a cure for social and political aggressiveness (Paul Valéry and Bertrand Russell). Starting from the incipit of 'The Rash Act' – with its emphasis placed very firmly on the relationship between vision and thought – the essay develops its enquiry along the ambiguous borderline between the visible and the invisible, arguing that Henry’s imagined voyage to the Islands of the Blest is a disguised meditation on afterlife. This is shown as inextricably intertwined with the Matisse-Baudelaire theme of luxe, calme et volupté and reminiscent of the Bachelardian reverie of a metaphysical, cosmic space. The relationship between Hugh’s art collection and Egyptian funerary offerings is also investigated. The wider context of early twentieth-century interest in Egyptian excavations is reconstructed: parallels are traced between on the one hand Hugh’s and Henry’s imagined voyage on board Le Sécret and on the other the dead king’s afterlife voyage in the funerary barge. The final section is devoted to ‘cultural ghosts’: the protagonist’s condition of ennui and spectral evagatio mentis is analysed in relation to Ford’s concern for the fate of European culture in the age of totalitarian regimes.

'Ford, Matisse and the Book of the Dead: The (In)visible Objects of The Rash Act and Henry for Hugh'

COLOMBINO, LAURA
2009

Abstract

This essay analyses 'The Rash Act' and 'Henry for Hugh' as a meditation on Mediterranean and European culture. It focuses on the philosophy of enjoyment and pure aestheticism found in the two novels, tracing its literary and pictorial debts in French culture while setting it in the wider context of post-war reflections on idleness and diminution of work as a cure for social and political aggressiveness (Paul Valéry and Bertrand Russell). Starting from the incipit of 'The Rash Act' – with its emphasis placed very firmly on the relationship between vision and thought – the essay develops its enquiry along the ambiguous borderline between the visible and the invisible, arguing that Henry’s imagined voyage to the Islands of the Blest is a disguised meditation on afterlife. This is shown as inextricably intertwined with the Matisse-Baudelaire theme of luxe, calme et volupté and reminiscent of the Bachelardian reverie of a metaphysical, cosmic space. The relationship between Hugh’s art collection and Egyptian funerary offerings is also investigated. The wider context of early twentieth-century interest in Egyptian excavations is reconstructed: parallels are traced between on the one hand Hugh’s and Henry’s imagined voyage on board Le Sécret and on the other the dead king’s afterlife voyage in the funerary barge. The final section is devoted to ‘cultural ghosts’: the protagonist’s condition of ennui and spectral evagatio mentis is analysed in relation to Ford’s concern for the fate of European culture in the age of totalitarian regimes.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11567/234353
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