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Munro’s “Carried Away” and Voigt’s Kyrie: Ghostly Hauntings, Sublime Eclipses

  • Jane Elizabeth Fisher

Abstract

While the 1918 influenza pandemic appeared catastrophic and thus silencing to many survivors in the years immediately following it, the distance of time has blunted the fear it inspired, making this period less traumatic and more appealing as a subject to more recent authors and readers. A surprising number of twentieth-century writers, such as Wallace Stegner, Horton Foote, Kaye Gibbons, Christina Schwarz, Myla Goldberg, and Kevin Kerr, have found the 1918 pandemic engaging as a dramatic literary setting, valuable in its ability to motivate characters, supply unfamiliar historical detail, and provide suspense.1 Children’s writers have also been drawn to the pandemic as a way of writing about World War I, which emphasizes the home front, including danger and mortality but not actual bloodshed.2 Few of these writers evoke the women’s literary narratives of the earlier twentieth century in their representation of the 1918 influenza pandemic as simultaneously destructive and generative.

Keywords

Influenza Pandemic Solar Eclipse Short Story Woman Writer Pandemic Disease 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Horace Foote, Courtship, Valentine’s Day, 1918: Three Plays from the Orphans Home Cycle (New York: Grove Press, 1994); Kaye Gibbons, Divining Women (New York: Harper-Perennial, 2005); Goldberg, Wickett’s Remedy: A Novel (New York: Anchor, 2006); Kevin Kerr, Unity (1918) (Talonbooks: Vancouver, British Columbia, 2002); Christina Schwarz, Drowning Ruth (New York: Doubleday, 2000); Wallace Stegner, On a Darkling Plain (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1940); and James Rada, Jr., October Mourning (Gettysburg, PA: Legacy, 2006). Stegner’s narrative is notable for parallels with Porter’s “Pale Horse, Pale Rider.” Published a year after Porter’s narrative, its main character is a returned soldier who becomes a nurse during the height of the 1918 influenza pandemic; the novel also draws on hallucinations and dreams. On a Darkling Plain, however, does not include the apocalyptic emphasis central to Porter’s work. Other contemporary 1918 influenza narratives will undoubtedly follow.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For examples of popular children’s literature centering on the 1918 influenza pandemic, see Karen Hesse, A Time for Angels (Hyperion, 1997); and Jenny Moss, Winnie’s War (Walker Childrens, 2008).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Heble who argues that all of Munro’s works partake of this paradigmatic discourse, emphasizing the possibility of what might have been in order to create a more satisfactory form of realistic fiction. Ajay Heble, The Tumble of Reason: Alice Munro’s Discourse of Absence (Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 1994), 1–18.Google Scholar
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    Ildikó de Papp Carrington, “What’s in a Title?: Alice Munro’s ‘Carried Away,’” Studies in Short Fiction 30 (1993): 555–6.Google Scholar
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    Helen Hoy, “Alice Munro: ‘Unforgettable, Indigestible Messages,’” Journal of Canadian Studies 26.1 (Spring 1991): 17.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 17.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Mark Levene, “‘It was about vanishing’: A Glimpse of Alice Munro Stories,” University of Toronto Quarterly 68:4 (Fall 1999): 855.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Alice Munro, “Carried Away,” in Open Secrets (New York: Vintage, 1994), 4.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid., 29.Google Scholar
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    For negative connotations involving female invalids, see chapter 1 in Diane Price Herndl, Invalid Women: Figuring Feminine Illness in American Fiction and Culture, 1840–1940 (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    In an interview published in the Paris Review, Munro mentions Katherine Anne Porter as a Southern woman writer whom she really loved because “[t]here was a feeling that women could write about the freakish, the marginal” (“Carried,” 423). See Jeanne McCulloch, “Alice Munro: The Art of Fiction,” in The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. II, ed. Philip Gourevitch; Orhan Pamuk (intro); Maureen Freely (trans.) (New York, NY: Picador, 2007), 395–431.Google Scholar
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    Miriam Marty Clark, “Allegories of Reading in Alice Munro’s ‘Carried Away,’” Contemporary Literature 37.1 (Spring 1996): 56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Mary Ellen Brown, Burns and Tradition (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1984).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  15. 56.
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  19. 74.
    Harold Horwood, “Interview with Alice Munro,” in The Art of Alice Munro: Saying the Unsayable, ed. Judith Miller (Toronto: McGraw-Hill-Ryerson, 1971), 124.Google Scholar
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    Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, ed. Alison Booth (London: Longman, 2008), 27.Google Scholar
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  25. 90.
    See Joanne Feit Diehl, Women Poets and the American Sublime (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990); and Helen Regueiro Elam, “Dickinson and the Haunting of the Self,” in The American Sublime, ed. Mary Arensberg (Albany: State University of New York Press), 83–99.Google Scholar
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    In an interview, Voigt discusses form in poetry as a response to the human need for order: “We have a huge appetite for order; that’s part of the human animal. We love forms of any kind. We just want it, and we want it to continue. Suzanne Langer says that all art is the providing of the form of the emotion.” See Ernest Suarez with T. W. Stanford III and Amy Verner, “Ellen Bryant Voigt,” in Southbound: Interviews with Southern Poets (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 77.Google Scholar
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  28. 93.
    Ellen Bryant Voigt, Kyrie (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996), 11.Google Scholar
  29. 94.
    For a discussion of the sonnet’s form in relation to gender and history, see Stacy Carson Hubbard, “‘A Splintery Box’: Race and Gender in the Sonnets of Gwendolyn Brooks,” in Diversifying the Discourse: The Florence Howe Award for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship 1990–2004, ed. by Mihoko Suzuki and Roseanna Lewis Dufault (New York: Modern Language Association, 2006).Google Scholar
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    Deborah Pope, “A Litany in the Time of Plague,” The Southern Review 32.2 (Spring 1996): 363.Google Scholar
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    For a more sustained discussion of the Romantic sublime in Barrett Browning’s poetry in general and her sonnets in particular, see Marjorie Stone, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), especially the chapter “The Scene of Instruction: Romantic Revisionism.” For a discussion of silence in Barrett Browning’s sonnets, see Amy Charlotte Billone, “‘In Silence Like to Death’ Elizabeth Barrett’s Sonnet Turn,” Victorian Poetry 39: 4 (2001) 533–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Elizabeth A. Dolan, Seeing Suffering in Women’s Literature of the Romantic Era (Ashgate: Hampstead, England and Burlington: VT, 2008), 28.Google Scholar
  33. 99.
    Smith favored the sonnet form, especially in Elegiac Sonnets. Barrett Browning frequently used the sonnet as well, most famously in the sequence Sonnets from the Portugeuse, but also in many individual sonnets. See Billone, “Silence”; and Dorothy Mermin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The Origins of a New Poetry (Women in Culture and Society Series) (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989) for discussions of Barrett Browning’s many other sonnets.Google Scholar
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    Jerome Mazzaro, “Mapping Sublimity: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese,” Essays in Literature 18.2 (1991): 166, 177; Mermin, Barrett Browning, 129–34.Google Scholar
  35. 123.
    See Ellen Bryant Voight, “Angel Child,” in A William Maxwell Portrait: Memories and Appreciations (New York: WW. Norton & Co., 2004), 137.Google Scholar
  36. 128.
    For a detailed discussion of A. S. Eddington’s expedition to photograph the 1919 eclipse and thereby test Einstein’s theory of relativity, see Matthew Stanley, Practical Mystic: Religion, Science, and A. S. Eddington (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  37. 136.
    For discussions of the sublime’s relationship to the subject, see Mary Arensberg, “Introduction: The American Sublime,” in The American Sublime, ed. Mary Arensberg (Albany: State University of New York Press), 1–20; and Thomas Weiskel, The Romantic Sublime: Studies in the Structure and Psychology of Transcendence (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Press, 1986).Google Scholar

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© Jane Elizabeth Fisher 2012

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