Poetic Calibration and Mythic Measures in David Jones’s In Parenthesis
David Jones’s In Parenthesis (1937) communicates the excessive character of war experiences by depicting the breaking of measuring instruments. It meditates on the difficulty of conveying the impact of these experiences when the clichéd overuse of violent imagery in everyday contexts has desensitized readers and listeners. A modernist, seeking new representational modes, Jones calls for a recalibration of the scale by which experience is measured. Showing how clichés literalize once transported to the battlefield, he communicates sensory overload in a way that avoids both the reduction of war to shorthand metaphors and aggressive hyperbole. With mythical analogy he offers an alternative to the empirical measures he shows to be inadequate, and finds a way of weighing up experiences without laying down universalizing laws.
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