Monday, 07 February 2011

Dave Sim's relationship to literary modernism and Dear Lord whose prose is that? I'm revising the paper for the Cerebus collection I mentioned earlier and, to be frank, I'm not sure I recognize myself. Too much blogging and writing a pedagogy book instead of revising the dissertation must do that, I suppose, because this doesn't even sound like me: Linking Sim to Pound by reference to their similarly developing relationship to form and to Joyce by their analogous material circumstances may seem like an attempt to shoehorn Sim into a canon in which he does not properly belong. However, Sim's inclusion and ventriloquism of another notable Irish modernist, Oscar Wilde, in Jaka's Story requires at the very least that the book be considered an homage to, or possibly a parody of, Wilde's high modern aesthetic. Whether the book partakes of that high modern aesthetic depends upon an estimation of the success of the ventriloquism, but even if it is unsuccessful, the inclusion alone is enough to warrant numbering Sim among academic modernists like Pound and Joyce. Because there exist as many definitions of “modernism” as scholars of it, for the purposes of the current argument—not to mention general relevance—these competing modernisms will be defined specifically by the attitude they strike to history. In this respect, the high modernism of Wilde can be characterized by its rejection of mimesis and the attendant distancing from history that that rejection entails, whereas the academic modernism of Joyce and Pound seeks to, as the latter urged, “make it new,” with the “it” in question being the nightmare of history from which the former struggled to awake. That Sim lifts Wilde from history and employs him as a narrator in Jaka's Story is not merely an irony seemingly designed to irritate the author of The Decay of Lying, but in “making Wilde new,” Sim demonstrates a formal and aesthetic solidarity with the academic modernists. The highest irony of Wilde operating as a narrator is that he is not narrating Sim's book, Jaka's Story, but one that exists within Sim's titled Daughter of Palnu—meaning, in short, that not only does Sim's imitation of Wilde violate the principles of high modernism, but he employs the imitation to write a book which itself violates the principles of high modernism by relating the actual story of an exiled princess named Jaka. The word “actual” is not meant to imply that Daughter of Palnu is factually accurate, merely that because her story is related to Oscar by her husband, Rick, no matter how fantastically Oscar embellished the novel would still be one in which, to paraphrase Wilde in The Decay of Lying, art would be imitating life. I feel like, I maybe need, a few more, commas. Also, this is, or may be, my most boring, post ever.

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