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Additional resources for Guy Davenport: Postmodernism and After (Avant-Garde & Modernism Studies)
Of his own generation these have included Jonathan Williams and Ronald Johnson, both close friends of Davenport’s. While rejecting the universalist criteria and political ideologies of many modernists, these artists maintain continuity with them by seeking out large sustaining structures immanent in nature, apparent in history, and available to some degree to language. They retain a modernist interest in primitive cosmologies, nonrepresentational art, collage technique, and natural history. With the free, demotic, relaxlii Introduction tivistic postmodernism of the 1980s and beyond these artists have little in common.
Davenport’s essay “Stanley Spencer and David Jones” ends: “With inevitable regularity history liqueﬁes and needs rechanneling, while religions petrify, paralyzing their spirit in pedantry. The guardians of both must constantly keep history from meaninglessness and religion from the death of its symbols. David Jones’s guardianship of both is great and beautiful” (Davenport 1996b, 126). Pythagoras In an essay on Pound, Davenport writes that “to know the past we descend, like Odysseus, into the House of Hades and give the blood of our attention (as translators, historians, poets) so that the dead may speak” (Davenport 1981b, 56).
Hence the great dependence of the utopian novellas on the historical stories that precede them. The novellas gain immensely from the tension of this conjunction to lend pathos and pungency to their fantasies. In several of Davenport’s archival recountings of utopian aspiration Kafka is the wary observer. In “The Messengers” he joins socialists, nudists, and evangelical Christians at a natural therapy sanatorium, but skepticism and despair combine to isolate him. In “The Aeroplanes at Brescia” Kafka witnesses the 1909 air show where the utopian prospect of technology is on display, his exhilaration at romantic feats of pioneering aviation xxxiv Introduction clashing with premonitions of banalized mass transportation and airborne terror.