I have spent the past year working on "In Parenthesis." It is extremely complex and fascinating, and it sustains two quite different narratives. The overt text is the narrative of Jones's own experience in WWI from December 1915 to the Battle of the Somme on July 10-11, where he was wounded in the attack on Mametz Wood. (The main character, John Ball, is a kind of Jones persona). But there are 34 pages of notes to many, many sources. And the difficulty there is that except for Henry V and Eliot himself, the allusions are not (with a few exceptions) to what has been created as the "Western canon." They include Malory, "The Song of Roland," "Y Gododdin," Taliesin, the Mabinogion, and many other ancient Welsh tales. So to study them is quite different from studying Eliot's sources even though the techniques are very much influenced by Eliot. Fortunately Jones also read them in translation, though he probably learned some Welsh at some point. But the Mallory is in the original, though 15th century English is not very hard once the spelling variants are recognized.
The difficulty of the narrative of War is that so much of the language and geography and soldier's jargon is unfamiliar unless one has read quite a bit about the War, but it can be followed and is brilliant. And I think those who praised it as the great war poem of the 20th C were right. It is time for going back to it and doing the work to understand it. Eliot predicted that it would "no doubt undergo the same sort of detective analysis and exegesis as the later work of James Joyce and the Cantos of Ezra Pound." Yet it has been largely ignored. In the Wikipedia linked below, you can see that the only books specifically on Jones are the ones by Dilworth, though there is a more recent one by Paul Robichaud (2007) also. (I think the part on "theme" very much simplifies.) That is almost nothing compared to other major writers of that period. I want to write more, and I'm starting with a paper at MSA, if any of you will be there. It's in Brighton this year.
So I think everyone should read it through and get the rhythm and imagery and amazing visual accuracy. Jones was an artist first, and his imagery is vivid.
Eliot wrote an introduction, by the way, in 1961.
Nancy>>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]>08/14/13 12:03 AM >>>
We can sense some of the magical power of this prose poem at
The following note from Wikipedia might motivate some of us to peruse/read In Parenthesis if only to learn about the nature/quality of its prose poetry.
// In Parenthesis is an epic poem of World War I (or First World War) by David Jones first published in England in 1937. ... T.S. Eliot called it "a work of genius." W.H. Auden considered it "a masterpiece," "the greatest book about the First World War" that he had read, a work in which Jones did "for the British and the Germans what Homer did for the Greeks and the Trojans" in "a masterpiece" comparable in quality to The Divine Comedy. The novelist and poet Adam Thorpe says it "towers above any other prose or verse memorial of that war (indeed, of any war)". The Jones scholar Thomas Dilworth writes that it is "probably the greatest work of British Modernism written between the wars" and "the greatest work of literature in English on war." //
random and not so random after all
“Which one of us, in his moments of ambition, has not dreamed of a miracle of poetic prose, musical without rhythm and without rhyme, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of reverie, the jibes of conscience?” -- Charles Baudelaire