Ritual and the Idea of Europe in Interwar Writing

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  • Patrick R. Query, United States Military Academy, USA
  • While most critical studies of interwar literary politics have focused on nationalism, Patrick Query makes a case that the idea of Europe intervenes in instances when the individual and the nation negotiate identity. He examines the ways interwar writers use three European ritual forms-verse drama, bullfighting, and Roman Catholic rite-to articulate ideas of European cultural identity. Within the growing discourse of globalization, Query argues, Europe presents a special, though often overlooked, case because it adds a mediating term between local and global. His book is divided into three sections: the first treats the verse dramas of T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and W.H. Auden; the second discusses the uses of the Spanish bullfight in works by D.H. Lawrence, Stephen Spender, Jack Lindsay, George Barker, Cecil Day Lewis, and others; and the third explores the cross-cultural impact of Catholic ritual in Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, and David Jones. While all three ritual forms were frequently associated with the most conservative tendencies of the age, Query shows that each had a remarkable political flexibility in the hands of interwar writers concerned with the idea of Europe.
  • Contents: Introduction: making, watching, and using ritual; Interchapter: ghosts; That the pattern may subsist: Eliot, English, and the mind of Europe; For European purposes: Yeats and Fascism revisited; Auden (and company): a taste for ritual; Interchapter: los toros no hablan Inglés; We are one blood: Lawrence and the bullfight' The European wound: bullfighting and the Spanish civil war; Interchapter: a trinity of converts; Like going home: Greene and Waugh in Mexico; Keep the islands adjacent: David Jones and the 'European thing'; Conclusion: writing ritual; Bibliography; Index.
  • About the Author: Patrick Query is Associate Professor of English at West Point, the United States Military Academy.
  • Reviews: 'Query's triumph is his illumination of an unexpected literary and cultural dialogue between these diverse - often politically, geographically and culturally disparate - writers.'
    Notes and Queries

    'This ambitious project is articulated in the best kind of academic prose. It is muscular and clear while still brimming, even at times bristling, with personality. Query’s gift for precision in summary and critique without loss of nuance makes for a compelling read. His book will prove valuable for any scholar of the many authors Query examines, but it is best approached in its entirety. The fact that the book coheres so beautifully demonstrates the central premise of his argument: that a host of interwar authors draw upon ritual to find varying ways to depict unity in diversity without cheapening either term.'
    Twentieth-Century Literature

    'Rich in literary references, copiously annotated, with a comprehensive bibliography and supported by intelligent and sensitive readings of some of the most important British and Irish interwar literary works, [this book] is valuable reading as well as an excellent reference book for literary scholars and historians alike.'
    English Studies