The voice of silence : Edwin Muir and the postmodernists
Despite being trapped within an outdated mode of biographical criticism, the poetry of Edwin Muir contains a symbolic language which is deeply significant for the twentieth century. Such a language, evidently in the process of being formulated within The Structure of the Novel, deserves to be examined in its own right, not merely in the context of Muir's own biography but within a theoretical model of reading, which takes into consideration the relationship of the poetic voice to the reader. Such a relationship is analogous to the psychoanalytic discourse, which---according to Lacan---is the paradigm communication model. Lacan's theory of child development corresponds very well with Muir's own theme of the Fall from Eden, in that the mirror stage initiates a fall out of the childhood imaginary state into society's symbolic state, which event occurs in all persons. Such a Lacanian imaginary state can be seen to correspond to the non-temporal mode of perception which Muir experienced in Orkney, and the symbolic state to the social order of language, exemplified for Muir by his conversion experiences in Kirkwall. The poetic voice often attempts to regain such a non-temporal mode. Muir's themes of conflict and the journey can be seen to correspond to the two ways in which Derrida's differance can be translated into English, that is, as difference and deferment, respectively. Such an analysis of Muir's thematic symbolism allows a reading of poems such as 'The Labyrinth' to stress the Derridean 'play' which is inherent in the opposition of faith and doubt in Muir's ontology. Finally, Muir's eschatological themes can be analysed using a Jungian model. The reader's unconscious takes part in an archetypal projection upon the text, which thus mirrors his or her own unconscious functions. Furthermore, the individuation process, governed by alchemical principles of opposition and conjunction of elements, is necessitated by Muir's poetic voice.