Doris Lessing: The Alchemy Of Survival
Lorna Sage, Nicole Ward Jouve, Katherine Fishburn, Carey Kaplan, Ellen Cronan Rose, Frederick C. Stern, Molly Hite, Alvin Sulliv
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In addition to the cooperation that distinguishes Lessing criticism, its other remarkable quality is its complex eclecticism, arising from this widespread readership. No single scholar has said, or, indeed, tried to say, the definitive word on Lessing. Instead, recognizing that one of Lessing's dominant and most poignant themes is the impossibility of absolute definition, the fragmentary nature of reality, the modern world's resistance to assignment of meaning, academics have tacitly engaged in a critical endeavor that is always seeking, never static. Because Lessing's books never allow the reader to settle down comfortably, respectful scholars, learning life stances as well as literature from Lessing, have also never settled but have approached the books and stories from all available critical directions: Jungian/archetypal; Marxist; Freudian; reader response; feminist; New Critical; semiotic and deconstructionist — and combinations of several of these. None have contained Lessing's work but all have elucidated it.
The eleven essays we have assembled represent both the diversity of approaches scholars have taken to Lessing's oeuvre since 1971, when they began meeting to share their views at the annual MLA convention, and the creative differance of their colloquy. Although by now you are probably eager to read the essays we have distilled from the lively ferment of Lessing panels at the last fifteen annual MLA conventions, we would like you to defer that pleasure in order to share our celebration of the tenacious vitality of a unique community of scholars, united — paradoxically — by their cordial, collegial tolerance of each other's different responses to a body of work that has changed lives as it has challenged the critical establishment.
Carey Kaplan and Ellen Cronan Rose, the editors
demonstrate, then, is really a rather accurate picture of the world view of large sections of the movement she is describing. Never thoroughly Marxist, never fully conversant with Marx's most profound thought [and not yet aware of the impact of the Grundrisse on more recent Marxist thinking, or with the thought of Marx's most significant followers in our own time (one can cite Antonio Gramsci as exemplary here)], many radicals of the forties and fifties did indeed suffer disillusionment so
Empire was automatically suspect, particularly in its power relations. Above all, it was a world that dignified struggle and looked askance at resignation. Although Lessing's various protagonists were often wrong, crazy, too emotional, paralyzed, immature, obsessed with sex and politically extremist, it was also the case that in these pre-Canopean -155- books, as Susan Kress says, "no novelist convince[d] us more forcefully of the need to change ourselves actively, morally and responsibly."
they can still locate today's discontinuities in the historico-transcendental tradition of the nineteenth century, and those who try to free themselves once and for all from that tradition. Lessing's Canopus series criss-crosses this dividing line. My argument has been that Lessing's excursion into space has exposed how thoroughly her language "comes from some place." In distancing her narrative voice from the "warring certainties" of what she would see as local politics, she has arrived
distribution and appropriation in which the prescribing of Lessing texts in the syllabi of higher education and a supportive body of commentary legitimates the texts as "higher culture" and endorses their evaluations. My knowledge of both the texts themselves and of this scholarly commentary equips me with a critical overview to match the authorial metaview. I come equipped also with my own hypothesis concerning the trajectory of her life's work, her evolving style, and its links with her
a new topic. Facial and vocal cues of amusement, disagreement, interest, and concern are also skillfully assessed and put to strategic use, and Lessing's own body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions are commandingly deployed for emphasis (see A in the appendix). TURNTAKING AND REFUSALS CONVERSATION ANALYSTS TALK OF "ADJACENCY PAIRS." Exchanges are divided into two parts: in each the first unit anticipates a preferred second part. For example: A: Will you pass me the salt? B: