The Emblems of James Reaney: Magnetically Drawn
The literary emblem can trace its roots back to sixteenth-century English collections, which sought to reconcile classical philosophy with Christian doctrine. Consisting of images and verses, emblems challenged readers to use their wit and knowledge to deduce the connection between the visual and the textual. In The Emblems of James Reaney, former Reaney student and professor Thomas Gerry draws on his own considerable wit and knowledge to help readers understand the myth, mystery and meaning behind ten literary emblems, published in 1972 as ‘Two Chapters from an Emblem Book’ by poet, playwright and painter James Reaney.
Gerry conducts an exhaustive investigation of the ‘magnetic arrangement’ that links each emblem with some of Reaney’s best-known fiction, poetry, drama and painting. His detailed analysis of the visual and verbal aspects of each emblem draws on alchemy, biblical mythology and Haitian voodoo. By referring to the influence and inspiration that Reaney drew from William Blake, Edmund Spenser, Northrop Frye and Carl Jung, Gerry reveals the overall cycle of meaning behind the emblems and shows how Reaney marries the opposing concepts of art and experience into a unified artistic vision.
The Emblems of James Reaney presents a fascinating organizational scheme within which to study some of Reaney’s most beloved works, encouraging readers to frolic in the playbox of Reaney’s imagination and to revisit his work – and Canadian literature – with new eyes.
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