Self-reflections and repetitions : a study of the writings of Delmore Schwartz
Despite the changes that his work underwent over the course of his career, Schwartz's writings form a cohesive whole. His poems, stories and essays are unified by a series of themes and motifs that recur both within individual works and throughout his oeuvre. One of the most significant of these involves the moment when an individual catches sight of his reflection in a mirror, a moment of sudden self-knowledge, shocking yet liberating. Schwartz provides a reinterpretation of the Narcissus myth that serves as a justification for his self-conscious approach to art. Again and again he returns to an examination of the individual's place in society. The individual is seen as alienated both from his fellow man and from himself, but at the same time unable to escape the bonds that hold him to others. His nature is determined by that relationship. Nevertheless, he can achieve freedom through becoming . truly conscious. Although Schwartz's interest in Freud and Marx is relevant, he does not accept any doctrine uncritically. His use of repetitions helps him to develop contrary positions and is part of an approach to art that favours paradoxes over certainties. He views himself as an isolated artist, yet carries out a sustained critique of the implications of that isolation. One effect of this reading of Schwartz's work is to provide a defence of the hitherto poorly received later stories and poems.