To discard the mere given and to pursue poetry

maiermoul brookfield place kenner eliot joyce
Neither Believing In Myth Nor Disbelieving In It ©MAIERMOUL

Writing for us, though, and not for posterity’s analysts, Eliot chose, it would seem, an object of nearly ideal triviality, to emblematize “decent godless people”: people, that is to say, unpersuaded not only by the Christian God, but by any god: in one very general terminology, people lacking myths.

Such people are given over to obsessive patterns of action they have no way to justify. One use of myth is to furnish reasons for a ritual act. A myth is a story, and we can see that a scorecard lacks plot.

Yeats and Eliot, we may come to decide, had an unsuspected thing in common: both of them possessed gnostic sensibilities, avid to discard the mere given and to pursue poetry amid the mind’s arcana. The mythological method, as pursued by them, was a kind of trivializing of religion because a trivializing of this present world, the world scorned by the Irishman and humorously shunned by the American.

It was Joyce of all writers, neither believing in myth nor disbelieving in it but finding it a convenience, who was centrally orthodox in devoting his attention to whatever was in front of him.

– Hugh Kenner
A Thousand Golf Balls” The Notre Dame English Journal vol 14, no 3