Smith, Evans Lansing
About the author: Dr. Smith received his PhD from The Claremont Graduate Schools.He traveled with the late Joseph Campbell, on study tours of Northern France, Egypt, and Kenya, and he studied literature in England at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Since then, he has taught at colleges in California, Switzerland, and California. He is currently Professor of English at Midwestern State University, Texas. He has published six previous books, including The Descent to the Underworld in Literature, Painting and Film with Mellen in 2001, and numerous articles.2001 0-7734-7492-7
The study presents the most comprehensive analysis of the descent to the underworld in Modernism. The work shows that the nekyia was the single most important myth for the Modernists writing between 1895 and 1946. It focuses on ‘necrotypes’, symbolic images typically found in association with descent to the underworld. It also takes an interdisciplinary approach to the subject, with chapters on the nekyia in film, science, psychology, and painting. It pays careful attention to the multicultural sources for the myth – Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, Celtic, Norse, and Native American.
“This is a courageous and broadly-sweeping study of many key literary and artistic figures of a crucial half century of creativity in Europe, England, Ireland and the United States . . . . Smith’s study is not simply a survey, but a study in depth, in descent, and in a kind of scholarship that is remarkably free of the current horizontal jargon of literary theory. . . . The book’s interdisciplinary flavor makes such a study an excellent resource not only I showing the confluence of various disciplines but a model for how interdisciplinary studies can be used to see the larger whole of work rather than the narrow confines of a particular agenda.” – Dennis Patrick Slattery2003 0-7734-6700-9
This book presents the most comprehensive study currently available of the myth of the descent to the underworld in postmodern literature. It develops a theory of necrotypes – archetypal images consistently evoked by the myth of the nekyia – and applies it to close readings of selected works by major authors of the period, from Alejo Carpentier and Octavo Paz to Thomas Pynchon and Ken Kesey. In addition, the study shows how these works exemplify the postmodern practice of ludic syncretism, the playful fusion of materials from a wide variety of multicultural sources, including Classical, Biblical, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Native American, Nordic, Celtic, and Hermetic mythologies. Finally, it shows how ludic syncretism evolved from High Classical Modernism, in a manner analogous to the evolution of Hellenistic from Classical art, or of Baroque from that of the High Renaissance.