|About the Book|
Critics have failed to read processions in literature, while using them as a privileged metaphor- yet poets and novelists have depicted processions unstintingly in ways that illuminate poetic imitation, genre, and the development from epic to lyric.MoreCritics have failed to read processions in literature, while using them as a privileged metaphor- yet poets and novelists have depicted processions unstintingly in ways that illuminate poetic imitation, genre, and the development from epic to lyric. In particular, in post-Christian literature, writers have depicted scenes where characters themselves must interpret processions, beginning with Perceval and the Grail procession. Sociological and anthropological analyses of processions, based on the work of thinkers such as Clifford Geertz and Victor Turner, offer limited potential to explain processions in literature. As an example of critics ambivalence toward processions in literature, Auerbachs Mimesis narrative of literary history demonstrates a failure to read the processions in the literary texts he chooses, as well as an opposition between two processional forms that he never acknowledges: the hierarchical and the purely serial, which he uses as metaphors for literatures capacity to represent history and achieve realism. These omissions and undeclared dichotomies, in turn, show Auerbach to be a forerunner of the New Historicism and cultural theory, sharing with them an unacknowledged inheritance from Neo-Kantian philosophy and Hegel. Since Auerbachs misreading of processions is partly a function of his misunderstanding of classical literature, I go on to analyze how classical epic catalogues, representations of processions, have been misunderstood since the Renaissance. This counters a view of ancient Roman poetry and imitation established in the Renaissance that persists in scholarship today, even though philology has given twentieth-century classicists a new understanding of Vergil, Horace and Ovid and their relation to Callimachus and Hellenistic poetry. Using this new scholarship, a reading of Ronsards epic catalogue in the Franciade shows how Ronsard misread classical poetry as a Renaissance reader, but responded to it as a poet. Victor Hugos Notre-Dame de Paris is as full of processions as it is suffused by the ego of the writer. Hugo seems to impose a sociological interpretation of these processions, but an alternative reading of the novel shows that it prefigures more successful lyric works. In another example of the failure to read, Walter Benjamins influential readings of Baudelaire miss its processions. Correcting this, I argue that Baudelaire deepens the processional depictions of the self begun by Vergil and Ronsard, and relates them to the society around him.