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Living in the End Time: Ecstasy and Apocalypse in the Work of H.D. and Janette Turner Hospital

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2016

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Extract

Despite the current preoccupation with globalisation, literary criticism remains heavily focused on national cultures. In the context of Australian literature, comparisons are regularly made with the literatures of other British Commonwealth nations, but surprisingly infrequently with that of Britain's first and most successful colony, the United States. This article explores thematic and cultural connections between the work of American-born modernist poet and novelist H.D. (1886–1961) and the Australian-born postmodern novelist Janette Turner Hospital (born 1942). It suggests that the transnational phenomenon of ecstatic Protestantism, which originated in northern Europe and was disseminated widely around the globe along the channels of commerce and colonisation, has been a key influence in shaping the literary imaginations of these writers. Indeed, Protestantism – far from being a spent or reactive force – continues to generate new forms of modernity as its emphasis on transformation is exported from somewhat inward-looking religious communities into broader cultural domains.

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Research Article
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 

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References

Notes

1 McKay, Belinda, ‘Transformative Moments: An Interview with Janette Turner Hospital’, Queensland Review 11(2) (2004): 6, 8, 9. The interview was conducted on 7 November 2003.

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2 Moravianism traces its roots back to Jan Hus and sometimes beyond. A group of Brethren formed in Bohemia in 1457 had attracted widespread support of the population by the middle of the sixteenth century, but was forced underground after the Thirty Years’ War. In 1772, a small group of Brethren from Moravia were given refuge on the Saxon estate of the pietist Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf. Under Zinzendorf's leadership, Moravianism became a significant transnational religious movement. For the impact of Moravianism on John Wesley, see John Telford, The Life of John Wesley (New York: Hunt & Eaton and Cincinnati: Cranston & Curtis, n.d.), 77–80. Wesley was attracted by the deep faith of the Moravians, and by the religion's emphasis on the transformation of the emotional life of the believer.

3 Martin, David, Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism in Latin America (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 19.

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4 McKay, Transformative Moments’: 7.

5 Following Proverbs 16:33.

6 Martin, Tongues of Fire [163].

7 Watt, Ian, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1957), 85.

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8 H.D. ’s grandfather, Francis Wolle (1817–93), provides a good example of Weber's thesis in action. Wolle was brought up in the Moravian townships of Nazareth and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While working as a clerk in his father's grocery store, he invented and patented the first machine for making paper bags. Wolle became a teacher and principal in Moravian schools, and was ordained in the Moravian church in 1861. He was also a noted botanist, who published three books on algae.

9 During World War II, H.D. began to explore the history of Moravianism in a serious way, and in the 1950s she incorporated some Moravian prayer practices into her extremely syncretic spiritual regime.

10 McKay, Transformative Moments’: 10.

11 Harmer, J.B., Victory in Limbo: Imagism 1908–1917 (London: Secker and Warburg, 1975), 142.

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12 H.D., Bid Me to Live (London: Virago, 1984 [1960]), 159.

13 H.D., Collected Poems of H.D.: 1912–1944, ed. Martz, Louis L. (New York: New Directions and Manchester: Carcanet, 1984), 25. Subsequently CP.

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14 May Sinclair, ‘The Poems of H.D.’ [review of Hymen], The Dial, 72 (February 1922): 203, 207, 206.

15 See John Gould Fletcher, ‘H.D.’s Vision’ [review of Sea Garden], Poetry, 9 (1927): 266–67; H[arriet] M[onroe], ‘H.D.,’ Poetry, 5 (1925): 272. See also Richard Aldington, ‘A Young American Poet’, The Little Review, 2 (1915): 22–25.

16 See Ellen Gregory, H.D. and Hellenism: Classic Lines (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

17 See Faull, Katherine M., ed. and trans., Moravian Women's Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750–1820 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997).

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18 H.D., Tribute to Freud (Boston: David R. Godine, 1974). See also Susan Stanford Friedman, ed., Analyzing Freud: Letters of H.D., Bryher and Their Circle (New York: New Directions, 2002). H.D. began analysis in London in 1931 with Mary Chadwick, and continued with Hanns Sachs, before being accepted by Sigmund Freud on Sachs’ recommendation. She was analysed by Freud for five months early in 1933, and then for several more months in 1934. She then continued analysis with Walter Schmideberg in London during World War II, and with Erich Heydt in Switzerland in the 1950s.

19 H.D., Paint It Today, ed. Laity, Cassandra (New York: New York University Press, 1992), 7.

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20 Wolle, Francis, A Moravian Heritage (Boulder, CO: Empire Reproduction and Printing Co., 1972), 58.

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21 H.D., HERmione (London: Virago, 1984 [1981]), 223, 225

22 H.D., The Gift: The Complete Text, ed. Augustine, Jane (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1998).

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23 Benigna Zahm in Faull, Moravian Women's Memoirs, 22.

24 Janette Turner Hospital, Collected Stories: 1970–1995 (St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1995), 167. Subsequently CS.

25 McKay, ‘Transformative Moments’: 7.

26 Janette Turner Hospital, Due Preparations for the Plague (Sydney: Harper Collins, 2003), 301. Subsequently DP.

27 Callahan, David, Rainforest Narratives: The Work of Janette Turner Hospital (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2009), 10.

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28 Both H.D. and Janette Turner Hospital explicitly draw on the image of the palimpsest, a parchment or paper that has been reused, so that the original writing has been effaced or erased, and written over. H.D. used it as the title of a book of three stories: H.D., Palimpsest (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926). The image of the palimpsest encapsulated her understanding of her literary mission as the recovery and reintegration of lost or repressed traditions of knowledge, in order to make manifest the spiritus universalis.

29 See Keri Davies, ‘The Lost Moravian History of William Blake's Family: Snapshots from the Archive’, Literature Compass 3(6) (2006): 12971319.

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30 Martin, Tongues of Fire, p 274.

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