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Additional info for Guy Davenport: Postmodernism and After (Avant-Garde & Modernism Studies)

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Davenport’s painting Gensidighed hails complementarity in Bohr’s original Danish: a Mondrian-like abstract integrating an ancient Greek coin within a grid (see full-color reprint in Reece 1996, 93). This is a characteristic convergence of ancient and modern. Davenport’s treatment of antiquity is organized on principles of consonance, correspondence, and complementarity. 3 This, however, is achieved without eliding the force of contingency, historicity, and hazard. Contradiction is neither suspended nor resolved: the Herakleitos of Davenport’s story and the Sokrates of “The Daimon of Sokrates” are the profoundly religious fathers of Western rationalism; the Cynic philosopher Diogenes of “Mesoroposthonippidon” is an exuberantly in4 GUY DAVENPORT verted sensualist, a life-affirming negator; the Pythagorean Archytas of “The Wooden Dove of Archytas” is a mystic materialist; the consummately pagan members of the Theban Band in “The Daimon of Sokrates” are model Christians before Christ.

One of the first poems Davenport published, in the April 1948 issue of the Archive, was “Exact Observations of Several Phenomena,” and it is just that: its poet bicycles by a deftly particularized Anderson of “the obscene bluejay bird / Squalling mawsome, witless things” at its “heedless” junkyard mate, railway crossings (“The P & N besliding by”), billiard halls, and “hybrid” middle-class houses toward his Franklin Street home (he lent its name to Pascal’s chum in his sequence of Danish boarding school stories), where he reads Gide and his father reads a crime novel (repr.

Particularity rather than allegory or romance prevails. 7 Hugh Kenner relates a telling anecdote: “‘Mr. ’ So, after class, a student; to whom Mr. ’ Who indeed? Whether or 6 GUY DAVENPORT not truth is created, insight is creative” (Kenner 1976, 30). The archaic may be one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century, but invention is in Davenport discovery. His method is perhaps closest to David Jones’s. Davenport’s texts are of a piece with the Welsh poet and artist’s recuperative collages of obliquely rhyming images.

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