Snow and window: archetypes of imagination

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Klujber, Anita Rita 

Within the field of comparative literature, this dissertation investigates how the paired symbols of snow and window illuminate certain imaginative processes such as the threshold experience of creative and receptive acts. This work is an intertextual analysis and synthesis of self-allusive poems by Boris Pasternak, Ted Hughes, Gyula Illyes, and Gennady Aygi. Poems by other authors are also discussed briefly, or linked to the main texts through epigraphs. Contemplation of snow through a window is the central theme of the focused texts. Snowflakes falling on the window pane allegorically represent words on the page, and the observation of this process is a metaphor for the ongoing creative and receptive acts. Meditative contemplation of nature and of the processes of writing and reading are portrayed as means for an introspective self-discovery of imagination. The threshold experience of observing the creative mind as it is externalised in nature and embodied in the poetic text involves a deconstructive reversal and overlapping of the external and the internal worlds, and other opposites. The complex mental process of watching the internal in what is external is comparable to the fusion of the optical effects of transparency and reflection on a window. The works analysed reveal that poems can function both as 'windows' displaying external phenomena, and as symbolic 'mirrors' in which one can catch a glimpse of the working of imagination at the very act of simultaneously outward and inward contemplation. The methodological scope of this work is primarily concerned with the intertextual connective function of recurring poetic images (symbols). The metaphorical symbol is a central embodiment of imagination. By focusing on recurring symbols, one can establish links between literary texts and between various imaginative systems (such as literature, mythology, music and visual arts) on a primarily aesthetic basis, without recourse to extraliterary criteria. Northrop Frye's Theory of Symbols, Jungian archetypal criticism, Iurii Lotman's models of communication, and more recent theoretical works by Harold Bloom, Michael Riffaterre, Owen Miller, Roland Barthes, Jonathan Culler, Jacques Derrida, and other scholars serve as the conceptual framework for this approach. Five main intertextual relations are explored. The recurring metaphorical image is shown to be (1) a semantic link between works of the same author, (2) a manifestation of transpersonal features of imagination, (3) a trace of one author's text in the work of another, (4) a means for establishing hypothetical dialogues between texts which are not related by their authors, and (5) a potential connective between literature and other imaginative systems, such as mythology and visual art. These comparative analyses reveal that intertextual approaches are not only tools for uncovering and enriching the meanings of literary texts; they are also means for constructing order in one's otherwise chaotic corpus of reading, and they enable one to gain knowledge about the nature of imagination. The thematic and methodological aspects of the dissertation thus complement and support each other.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
I am grateful for the generous assistance of Trinity College (Cambridge), the Overseas Research Students Committee, the Cambridge Overseas Trust, the Board of Graduate Studies of the University of Cambridge, and the British Federation of Women Graduates. Their grants and scholarships enabled me to carry out this research.