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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Henry miller : a definition of the art and the artist Irwin, Rodney

Abstract

This thesis attempts to explain some essential aspects of the literature of Henry Miller by concentrating on an explication of three terms as they apply to Miller's novels. The thesis does not take a stance involving a certain critical "distance", that is, it does not deal with an evaluation of the success or failure of his vision, nor with the validity or invalidity of his world. This, I maintain, has been done to excess by most critics of Henry Miller. The thesis indicates in the opening chapter the major outlines of the literary tradition to which Miller belongs, specifically the American romantic-transcendentalist tradition. Further, though not specific reference is made to this tradition in subsequent chapters in describing the movement toward mysticism apparent in Miller's later novels. The main portion of the thesis details the significance of three major terms, apocalypse, creation, and process, as elements which encompass the overall development of Miller's literature. The thesis attempts to show that these terms indicate an unconscious development in the author of a mystical vision or insight where the works themselves serve as a working out of the author's growing understanding of his inner awakening. The final chapter accounts for Miller's later non-fiction as illustrative of his arrived position. Miller has reached a particular kind of "cosmic consciousness" and he regards his life as a parable of the progress of everyman from unconscious unification with all-things (childhood), through knowledge (manhood), to a new stage of conscious unification with the world (maturity). The period intervening between childhood and final spiritual insight is that detailed by his six major novels, which might generally be characterized as a trial by fire or a trip through the hell of the alienated modern world. This thesis, then, is an exposition of the development of the artist through his art.

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