Henry Miller's philosophy and style in "Tropic of cancer", "Tropic of Capricorn" and "Black Spring"

Henry Miller is an American writer known as a literary innovator for his brilliant writing. His works has been a topical theme for critics for a long time and still his novels remain on the top of the most eccentric and ironic works of the 20 century.

25.11.2013

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Henry Miller's philosophy and style in Tropic of cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring

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2013

After the World War II the USA became a mass society described by Irving Howe above (Mass Society and Postmodern Fiction) in which advanced technology (cars, airplanes, information and communication technologies) and media (television, radio) have fostered a further development of democracy (control of the government by independent media, access to information) and has enabled a massive dissemination of popular culture such as popular culture including popular music (blues, jazz, rock), literature (comic strips, comic books, pornography, the western, love stories), film, TV serials, soap operas, sitcoms, fashion and others. As can be seen from the above and as Irving Howe defined it as early as in the 1950s, American society, culture and sensibility of the 1950's was considerably different than this shortly after the World War II (Howe, 195..). Not too many American authors, however, were able to reflect this new condition, culture and reality through formal or them1tic means in their works. Many of them were still influenced by and wrote in a tradition of either Naturalist, Modernist or more experimental absurd and existentialist writing influenced by French authors Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. T As can be seen from the above and as Irving Howe defined it as early as in the 1950s, American society, culture and sensibility of the 1950's was considerably different than this shortly after the World War II (Howe, 195..). Not too many American authors, however, were able to reflect this new condition, culture and reality through formal or them1tic means in their works. Many of them were still influenced by and wrote in a tradition of either Naturalist, Modernist or more experimental absurd and existentialist writing influenced by French authors Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.

A depiction of the chaotic urban setting, disintegration of moral values, absurdity, radical rebellion, nihilism, sexuality, alcoholism, vernacularism, slang and jargon expressing a rebellion against standard norms (Salinger) better than traditional Realistic, Naturalistic or more traditional Modernist novels depicted the spirit of the period, but these formal, thematic or aesthetic innovations still could not grasp a new upcoming postmodern atmosphere and condition of a newly formed society characterized above. Postmodern authors, especially of the 1960's, developed the themes and some of the techniques and visions of the world as used by the above authors (absurdity, chaos, nihilism, thematization of alcoholism and drugs, grotesque).

It seems that it is especially postmodern literature and authors, their formal and aesthetic innovations and the vision of the world could best reflect a new spirit of the period. These authors were inspired by some of the techniques discussed above, but a strong generation of American postmodern authors who used postmodern narrative techniques and style appeared and started to dominate American fiction as late as in the 1960's. Some of the writers who some critics understood as postmodernist appeared earlier and their work both significantly 61inspired their work and expressed a different vision of the world than the above Modernist authors. This vision was much closer to the contemporary atmosphere of the mass and postmodern society discussed above. Henry Miller is one of them.

miller american novels literary

Henry Miller's philosophy and style in Tropic of cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring

Henry Miller is an American writer known as a literary innovator for his brilliant writing which according to Ralph B. Sipper used to be written in such a way that actual and imagined experiences became indistinguishable from each other. His works has been a topical theme for critics and specialists in literature for a long time and still his novels remain on the top of the most eccentric, audacious, frank and ironic works of the 20th century. It is a wonderful thing that some of Henry Miller's work at last is coming out in a popular edition in the United States. Henry Miller is a really popular writer, a writer of and for real people, who, in other countries, is read, not just by highbrows, or just by the wider public which reads novels, but by common people, by the people who, in the United States, read comic books. As the Southern mountain woman said of her hero son, dead in Korea, Mister, he was sure a great reader, always settin' in the corner with a piece of cold bread and one of them funny books.

Among the reviews of critics and men of letters there could be found quite negative assessments and disavowal of any talent and writing skills of H. Miller, denegation of any philosophy but only the flight of ideas and thoughts lubberly cloistered between the lines. As well as positively oriented reviews full of appreciation and gratitude for daring to reveal every intimate moment followed by philosophic comments of the author himself. For example, George Orwel in his essay written in 1940 affirms: Tropic of Cancer has been vaguely associated with two other books, Ulysses and Voyage au bout de la nuit, but in neither case is there much resemblance. What Miller has in common with Joyce is a willingness to mention the inane, squalid facts of everyday life. Putting aside differences of technique, the funeral scene in Ulysses, for instance, would fit into Tropic of Cancer; the whole chapter is a sort of confession, an expos of the frightful inner callousness of the human being. But there the resemblance ends.

Miller was first recognized after the publication of his novel, Tropic of Cancer, which to date remains Henry Miller's most famous work. Tropic of Cancer was followed by Tropic of Capricorn in terms of fame. Although the books are fiction, they contain autobiographic elements revolving around Miller's life as a struggling writer. The books were originally published by Jack Kahane at Obelisk Press in France in the mid thirties. However, when the books were brought to the United States for publishing, a censorship ban of 30 years was pressed. Miller finally won the case and the two books were published with efforts of Barney Rosset by Grove Press. After the publication of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, Miller's other works were also published in the United States. Miller became a hero and his books, best sellers. The publication of his books proved to be a life changing experience and he went from a life of poverty and begging in Paris to living comfortably and respectfully in the United States.

Henry Valentine Miller was born on December 26, 1891 in Yorkville, NYC. His parents were German immigrants. Henry acquired his love of fine clothing from his father who was a tailor. Miller spent a life of scarcity and poverty till his late 30's until the legendary Tropic of Cancer was published. Miller attended City College of New York for a short period of time and decided to quit despite being a bright student because he did not believe in the traditional system of education. He moved to Paris alone in 1930 after marrying twice. After an initial life of neediness and struggle, Miller's days changed for the better after befriending Hugh Guiler and Anais Nin who supported him financially. Miller returned to the United States in 1940 at the age of 48 and continued writing in his bold style, challenging and raising questions about the American morals and values. He lived in Big Sur, where he established an artist's colony and married two more women. He married a total of five times. It was also in Big Sur that he completed another masterwork, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. When Miller and his wife could not take anymore the rising fame and unlimited visiting fans, they moved to Pacific Palisades in Southern California where he spent the last twenty years of his life. Henry Miller died on June 7, 1980 due to circulatory problems at the age of 88.

In order to comprehend all the books, which are to be analyzed it is appropriate to cover each of them one by one. The first is a novel which brought H. Miller the fame: Tropic of cancer.

This novel has been described as "notorious for its candid sexuality". Miller wrote the book between 1930 and 1934 during his "nomadic life" in Paris. As Miller discloses in the text of the book, he first intended to title it "Crazy Cock". Miller gave the following explanation of why the book's title was Tropic of Cancer: "It was because to me cancer symbolizes the disease of civilization, the endpoint of the wrong path, the necessity to change course radically, to start completely over from scratch. Tropic of Cancer centers on Miller's life as a struggling writer. Combining autobiography and fiction, some chapters follow a narrative of some kind and refer to Miller's actual friends, colleagues, and workplaces; others are written as stream-of-consciousness reflections that are occasionally epiphanic. The novel is written in the first person, as are many of Miller's other novels, and does not have a linear organization, but rather fluctuates frequently between the past and present. As a struggling writer, Miller describes his experience living among a community of bohemians in Paris, where he intermittently suffers from hunger, homelessness, squalor, loneliness and despair over his recent separation from his wife. There are many passages explicitly describing the narrator's sexual encounters. Now hailed as an American classic, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller's masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for twenty-seven years after its first publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American censorship standards, ushering in a new era of freedom and frankness in modern literature, permitted the publication of this first volume of Miller's famed mixture of memoir and fiction, which chronicles with unapologetic gusto the bawdy adventures of a young expatriate writer, his friends, and the characters they meet in Paris in the 1930s.

The next one is Black Spring", Miller's second published novel, following Tropic of Cancer and preceding Tropic of Capricorn. First published in 1936, the book consists of ten almost independent episodes covering Miller's early life in Brooklyn and the period when he was writing in Paris. The Wikipedia description of Miller's writing applies perfectly to this book: mixture of novel, autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association, and mysticism. Much of this book is set in Paris and Miller seems to transform this busy, commercial capital into an almost mystical place. Never more so in fact than in the chapter, Walking Up and Down in China, where Miller experiences Paris as China, with its Great Wall of streets and boulevards which he wanders through and lives out a Chinese life, an incomprehensible opium-inspired dream of a man who wakes from a long sleep to find he is dreaming.

`Tropic Of Cancer' was written in 1934, and `Tropic Of Capricorn' in 1938. They are his two most famous works - rivaled only by his `Sexus', `Plexus', and `Nexus' trilogy. Had only Miller spent more time working on writing than his own most obvious talent, public relations, he may have been a greeting card writer in the offing. Here is his most famous quote from Cancer: This is not a book. This is a libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty.' `Tropic Of Cancer' was written in 1934, and `Tropic Of Capricorn' in 1938. They are his two most famous works - rivaled only by his `Sexus', `Plexus', and `Nexus' trilogy. Had only Miller spent more time working on writing than his own most obvious talent, public relations, he may have been a greeting card writer in the offing. Here is his most famous quote from Cancer:This is not a book. This is a libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty.' Both books are basically the autobiographies of Miller, with the usual dash of braggadocio and bullshit thrown in. Of course, nothing much really happens in either book. Yet, the work is not pornographic, as its detractors over the years have claimed. Porn actually induces a visceral reaction. This is just dull as sin. Cancer goes on for 318 pages, while Capricorn drones on an even longer 30 pages more. The novel is set in 1920s New York, where the narrator 'Henry V. Miller' works in the personnel division of the 'Cosmodemonic' telegraph company. Although the narrator's experiences closely parallel Miller's own time in New York working for the Western Union Telegraph Company, and though he shares the author's name, the novel is considered a work of fiction.

The book is a story of spiritual awakening. Much of the story surrounds his New York years of struggle with wife June Miller, and the process of finding his voice as a writer.

Henry Miller is thought to be a representative of Naturalist movement, but the stream-of-consciousness which is clear to be the distinctive feature of H. Miller's works. George Orwell in his essay Inside the Whale mentions: Evidently these books are of the sort to leave a flavour behind them -- books that `create a world of their own', as the saying goes. The books that do this are not necessarily good books, they may be good bad books like Raffles or the Sherlock Holmes stories, or perverse and morbid books like Wuthering Heights or The House with the Green Shutters.

American postmodern fiction of the 1960's marked by the use of linguistic play, experiment with the language, with referential function of the language, radical irony, postmodern parody, fragmentation, and intertextuality, the overlapping of fact, fiction, and dreams, and by the use of techniques and conventions typical of different not only genres, but also kinds of arts and media (cinema, television). One of the main representatives is Henry Miller, the author of many books, and the books we examined in our work: Tropic of cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring. He was often referred to as using anything goes type of narrative. The works of Henry Miller was influenced especially by a playful magic realist narrative emphasizing storytelling and imagination as liberating force, and by linguistic and philosophical theories (post-structuralism, deconstruction) expressing a skepticalview on the possibility of language to express the objective truth, on understanding of a subject as a coherent, unified whole and emphasizing the active role of a reader in the construction of meaning. At the same time, this author have revealed both stimulating and manipulative power of media and popular culture influencing people's vision of the world. As an aesthetic philosopher, Miller has important things to say about writing and the writing process.

1. Miller, Henry. SEXTET. New York: New Directions, 2010.

2. Charters, Ann, Ed. Beat Down to Your Soul: What was the Beat Generation? N.Y.: Penguin Books, 2001.

3. .. XIX - XX . - .: , 1984. - 360 .

4. http://www.famousauthors.org/henry-miller




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