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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Prospero's cell : Lawrence Durrell and the quest for artistic consciousness Brigham, James Albert


The purpose of this thesis is to consider the movement toward and achievement of artistic consciousness on the part of Lawrence Durrell. The emphasis is on the early work, particularly Prospero's Cell, "Prospero's Isle", Reflections On A Marine Venus, Durrell’s published correspondence with Henry Miller, and "Cities, Plains and People". The 1937-1946 period was chosen because it was the period which Durrell spent in Greece in a voluntary exile from England. A discussion of the poems and articles from this period and of the later Alexandria Quartet, which traces the growth toward artistic consciousness in a more objective way, was not possible within the limits of the thesis. Chapter I is a concise commentary on "Cities, Plains and People", in which the controlling symbol, Prospero, is seen to be a 'persona’ for Durrell. During the course of the chapter, 'artistic consciousness’ is defined as ‘sensitivity to the happenings of the external world coupled with intense introspection and self-realization which allow the artist to take from his inner being the power embodied in his elusive 'furies' in order to mold the events of his environment into what is called 'art,' the means of communication with his reader.’ The method used is one of brief observations on the meaning of specific lines in the poem, a copy of which has been included as an appendix. Chapter II discusses the importance of Prospero for Durrell as seen in "Prospero's Isle", an article published in 1939. The first part of the chapter, "'This Rough Magic'", is concerned with Prospero's achievement of artistic consciousness in The Tempest, and part two, "The Paradise of Innocence", discusses the meaning of that achievement for Durrell. Chapter III, "The Quality of Silence", concentrates on Prospero's Cell and Reflections On A Marine Venus, Part one, "'The Heraldic Universe"*, is a discussion of the influence of the Greek landscape on Durrell, corroborated by references to Henry Miller's The Colossus of Maroussi, "'To Move Towards Creation'", sums up the growth toward artistic consciousness and ends with Durrell's leaving the islands to return to Europe and the larger context of the world. In general, the thesis shows the importance of artistic consciousness for Durrell, discussing his concern with the dualism which he saw typified in and initiated by Descartes, and showing the solution which he found in isolation and introspection in the Greek islands between 1937 and 1946,

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