Faustian Themes from Gnostic Origins to the Postcolonial.
Amsterdam/New York, NY, 2006, XXII, 330 pp.
Cross/Cultures - Readings in the Post/Colonial Literatures in English 87
Hidden mutualities link the work of major postcolonial writers with Christopher Marlowe’s drama of the Faustian pact – the manipulation of the material world in exchange for the soul – written as the ‘scientific’ world-view was emerging which accompanied the imperial expansion of Europe and has determined the economic and social structures of the colonial and postcolonial world.
This fascinating study brings together researches in widely different fields to show how Doctor Faustus reflects a Gnostic / Hermetic tradition marginalized within the dominant European power structures. Rediscovered in the Renaissance, and combined with occult arts such as alchemy and magic, this living tradition informs the work of ‘Magus’ figures such as Pico della Mirandola, Marcilio Ficino, Trithemius, Johannes Reuchlin, Agrippa of Nettesheim, Paracelsus and John Dee, who are reflected in the Faust tradition and in Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
The second part investigates the dual legacy of the Magus. A counterpoint between a law-governed objective material world and an occult visionary pursuit of the divine potential of the human imagination is traced through the examples of Johan Kepler, Robert Fludd, Isaac Newton, William Blake, Rudyard Kipling, Aleister Crowley, W.B. Yeats, Wolfgang Pauli and C.G. Jung.
In the third part, textual analysis reveals how attention to these Faustian themes opens new and exciting critical perspectives in appreciating the works of postcolonial writers, in particular Dimetos by Athol Fugard, Disappearance by David Dabydeen, Omeros by Derek Walcott, and the novels of Wilson Harris.
Part I: Potent Arts
1 The Gnostic/Hermetic Tradition: Simon Magus to Faust
2 Standing and Falling: Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus
3 Ariel Magic: Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Part II: Overgrown Paths
4 Renaissance and Enlightenment: Kepler and Fludd
5 Rationality and Romanticism: Newton and Blake
6 Rediscoveries: Kipling, Yeats, Crowley, Pauli and Jung
Part III: Re-visioning Mutualities
7 The Fictional Fulcrum: Athol Fugard’s Dimetos
8 The Crystal Cliff: David Dabydeen’s Disappearance
9 The Magic Wound: Derek Walcott’s Omeros
10 Gift of the Magus: The Novels of Wilson Harris
Bibliography of Works Cited
The author is an associate fellow of the Department of Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick.