Sunday, April 10, 2011

Katy Masuga: A New Way of Reading Miller

“Having been marginalized on moral grounds since first publication in 1934, Miller’s works require reexamination in order to bring new attention to his unwritten connections to other writers during this period, including Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and James Joyce. Miller is not often thought of in academic circles in studies in modernism, despite the innovative and influential style of his work. The aim of this book is to suggest a new way of reading Miller that is alert to the aggressively writerly and self-conscious form of his work, and to undertake an examination of his texts without integrating him into another socially constructed, literary category.”
– Katy Masuga, “Introduction,” The Secret Violence of Henry Miller.

Essays by scholar Katy Masuga have twice appeared in the annual Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal; these include “Transgressing the Law of Literature” (vol. 6) and “Crossing Brooklyn Bridge: An Ekphrastic Correspondence between Walt Whitman, Hart Crane and Henry Miller” (vol. 7). In each essay, Masuga made use of her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature to analyse both the power and intent behind Miller’s use of language. Recently, Masuga, currently a researcher and adjunct Professor at Sorbonne University in Paris, has built upon her analysis of Miller with the release of two new published books: Henry Miller And How He Got That Way (Edinburgh University Press, 2011) and The Secret Violence of Henry Miller (Camden House/Boydell and Brewer, 2011). Below are summaries of each book (promotional blurbs from the publishers, not by me), with links to the publishing houses.

Henry Miller and How He Got That Way

Edinburgh University Press - Introduction; 1. Leaves of Letters // Walt Whitman; 2. The Dream of a Ridiculous Writer // Fyodor Dostoevsky; 3. Through the Jabber // Lewis Carroll; 4. The Drunken Inkwell // Arthur Rimbaud; 5. In Search of Lost Allusion // Marcel Proust; 6. Writers and Lovers // D. H. Lawrence; Conclusion; Works Cited; Index. [208 pages].

Identifying six significant writers - Whitman, Dostoevsky, Rimbaud, Lewis Carroll, Proust and D. H. Lawrence - Katy Masuga examines their influence on Miller's work as well as Miller's retroactive impact on their writing. She explores four forms of intertextuality in relation to each 'ancestral' author: direct allusions, unconscious style, reverse influence and participation of the ancestral author as part of the story within the text. The study is informed by the theories of polyvocity from Bakhtin, Barthes and Kristeva and of language games and the indefatigability of writing in the work of Blanchot, Wittgenstein and Deleuze. By presenting Miller in intertextual context, he emerges as a noteworthy modernist writer whose contributions to literature include the struggle to find a distinctive voice alongside a distinguished lineage of literary figures.

The Secret Violence of Henry Miller

Camden House/Boydell and Brewer - Introduction; 1. A Denial of Categories; 2. Reflecting the Galactic Varnish; 3. The Fleshly and the Angelic; 4. Material Trifles; 5. Our Changing Geography; 6. The Illusion of Force and Speed; 7. Developing a Painter’s Eye; 8. The Book of Life; Conclusion; Index. [230 pages].

Henry Miller is a cult figure in the world of fiction, in part due to having been banned for obscenity for nearly thirty years. Alongside the liberating effect of his explicit treatment of sexuality, however, Miller developed a provocative form of writing that encourages the reader to question language as a stable communicative tool and to consider the act of writing as an ongoing mode of creation, always in motion, perpetually establishing itself and creating meaning through that very motion. Katy Masuga provides a new reading of Miller that is alert to the aggressively and self-consciously writerly form of his work. Critiquing the categorization of Miller into specific literary genres through an examination of the small body of critical texts on his oeuvre, Masuga draws on Deleuze and Guattari's concept of a minor literature, Blanchot's "infinite curve," and Bataille's theory of puerile language, while also considering Miller in relation to other writers, including Proust, Rilke, and William Carlos Williams. She shows how Miller defies conventional modes of writing, subverting language from within.