Preface

Abbreviated Sources
and References


Annotations: title,
epigraph and
dedication


Part I
I.1 Synopsis
pp. 3-21
pp. 23-28
pp. 29-46
pp. 47-62
I.2 Synopsis
pp. 63-68
pp. 69-77
I.3 Synopsis
pp. 78-93
pp. 94-123
pp. 124-153
I.4 Synopsis
pp. 154-168
I.5 Synopsis
pp. 169-187
pp. 188-201
I.6 Synopsis
pp. 202-221
I.7 Synopsis
pp. 222-256
pp. 257-277

Part II

Part III

A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's The Recognitions

      Index    

I.1 pp. pages 3-21

3] THE FIRST TURN OF THE SCREW: see 5.19; only this chapter and III.3 ("The Last Turn of the Screw") have titles. Grace Eckley finds a parallel between R's twenty-two chapters and the twenty-two tarot cards ("Exorcising the Demon Forgery," 131). More relevant, perhaps, is Graves's comment that "The secret sense of 22 - sacred numbers were never chosen haphazardly - is that it is the measure of the circumference of the circle when the diameter is 7," another sacred number (WG 191). Gaddis later commented drolly: "while the 7s were intentional, the 22 = 22 tarot cards is the kind of scholarly ingenuity I find fascinating (since it never occurred to me)(but am willing to remain silent & take full credit: perhaps there is a guiding hand, a 'grand design'?)" (WG/SM).

3.epigraph] MEPHISTOPHELES [...], - Goethe, Faust II: "Mephistopheles (in a whisper): What is it, then? / Wagner: A man is being made" (Act 2, "Laboratory"). Wagner, Faust's pedantic associate, is in an alchemical laboratory creating Homunculus (cf. 262.17-20), who later leads Faust and Mephistopheles to the Classical Walpurgisnacht.

3.1] Camilla: the virgin queen of the Volscians who helped Turnus against Aeneas (cf. Inferno 1:101, 4:124), and of whom Vergil says, "over the mid sea, hung upon the swelling billow, she would keep on her way, nor wet her nimble soles on the surface of the water" (Aeneid 7, trans. Lonsdale and Lee), as indeed Camilla does here. Camilla was a devotee of Diana (in her capacity as goddess of the moon) and is the first woman mentioned in Dante's Inferno. (Gaddis put this on the same level of "scholarly ingenuity" as Eckley's tarot reading, implying there was no particular referent for Camilla's name [WG/SM].)

3.3] cypress trees: a funeral tree, dedicated by the Romans to Pluto, by the Greeks to Artemis (Diana). "Cypress is still the prime resurrection symbol in Mediterranean church-yards" (WG 222).

3.5] fourteen stations of the cross: fourteen incidents in Christ's passage from the judgment hall to Calvary; in a funeral service, prayers are offered at each station (listed at 778.18).

3.8] her soul, if it had been discernible: cf. "The soul, doubtless, is immortal - where a soul can be discerned," from stanza 12 of Robert Browning's "A Toccata of Galuppi's," a poem quoted elsewhere in R (191.34-36, 193.12-14, 797.36).

3.9] Reverend Gwyon: according to de Rougemont, Gwyon was a Celtic divinity whose name "(whence 'guyon' meaning 'guide' in Old French) means the Führer who has in his custody the secret of initiation into the way of divinization" (LWW 210 n.1). Also relevant are Gawain from the Grail romances (see FRR) and Gwion, a semilegendary bard whose poetry hides "an ancient religious mystery - a blasphemous one from the Church's point of view - under the cloak of buffoonery" (WG 55); one of Gwion's poems is quoted at 467.5. (Asked once how to pronounce Gwyon, Gaddis said he didn't know; he had never said it aloud. It probably should be pronounced as one syllable, like "Gwynne," its modern form.)

4.10] Purdue Victory: cf. perdu (French: lost, ruined). A merchant marine ship named Purdue Victory was active during the Korean War and possibly earlier, during World War II. {Christopher Leise}
http://korea50. army.mil/ history/factshee ts/merchant_ marines.shtml

4.14] ad hominem: in rhetoric, an attack on the speaker instead of on the ideas expressed by the speaker.

4.34] an epileptic seizure: cf. 487.17. Gaddis learned how criminals fake epileptic seizures from Hans Gross's Criminal Investigation (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1949), the source of the other tricks and dodges used by Sinisterra in R .

513] Rembrandt's formula: given in a footnote in CCP (144 n.3).

5.19] The first turn of the screw pays all debts: that is, one's debts on shore can be dismissed with the first turn of the ship's screw - a sentiment, says Eric Partridge in his Dictionary of Catch Phrases, "so optimistic as to verge upon the mythical."

5.28] Dante's eye-witness account [...] florin: see Inferno 30:49-129. Malebolge (literally "Evil Pouches") is that part of hell in which cantos 18-30 take place. Adamo da Brescia (d. 1281) is also mentioned in GAF (67).

5.37] Alfonso Liguori: Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), Italian prelate and author of many theological works, including The Glories of Mary (see 23.34) and Theologia Moralis, which Sinisterra owns (see 489.4).

5.37] Pope Pius IX: see 488. 37-42.

5.44] The National Counterfeit Detector Monthly: subtitled "Recognized Authority for the Detection of Counterfeit Currency" (began publication in 1908).

6.14] Pleiades [...] Mordad, and the angel of death: the Greek sailing season extended from the rising of the Pleiades in May (cf. 892.36-38) to their setting in early November. The many customs and legends associated with these stars are recorded in Olcott's Star Lore of All Ages (411-13), the relevant portions from which read:

Memorial services to the dead at the season of the year when the Pleiades occupied a conspicuous position in the heavens are found to have taken place, and to have been a feature in the history of almost every nation of the earth, from remote antiquity to the present day. [...]

Among the Aztecs of South America we find the Pleiades the cynosure of all eyes, a nation trembling at their feet. At the end of every period of fifty-two years, in the month of November when the Pleiades would culminate at midnight, these rude people imagined the world would end. Human sacrifices were offered, while the entire population passed the night upon their knees awaiting their doom.

Far removed from the Aztecs we find the people of Japan in their great national festival, the Feast of Lanterns, a feast that is alive to-day. [...]

The Persians formerly called the month of November "Mordad," meaning "the angel of death," and that month marked the date of their festival of the dead. [...]

[J. F.] Blake tell us [in his Astronomical Myths] that the first of November was with the ancient Druids of Britain a night full of mystery, in which they annually celebrated the reconstruction of the world. Although Druidism is now extinct the relics of it remain to this day, for in our calendar we still find Nov. 1st marked as "All Saints' Day," and in the pre-Reformation calendar the last day of October was marked "All Hallow Eve," and the 2d of November as "All Souls'," indicating clearly a three days' festival of the dead, commencing in the evening, and originally regulated by the Pleiades.

6.25] Argo: the southern constellation (the Ship) into which Athena transformed the Argonauts after the failure of their quest for the Golden Fleece (6.34)(SL 43132).

6.29] "Obscure in parts [...] other portions blaze with light": the description of the constellation Argo in Frothingham's translation (see 597.10) of the poetic Phenomena (or "Appearances of the Stars") of Greek scholar and poet Aratos (ca. 315-240 B.C.), as quoted by Olcott (SL 431):

Against the tail of the Great Dog [Sirius] is dragged
Sternward the Argo, with no usual course
But motion contrary, [...]
So sternward labours the Jasonian Argo
Obscure in parts and starless, as from prow
To mast, but other portions blaze with light.

6.31] Algeciras: city and port in southwestern Spain, five miles west of Gibraltar.

6.32] Vela, the sails? Carina, the keel?: the ancient constellation Argo Navis, the Ship, was divided by later astronomers into four groups: Puppis, the Stern; Carina, the Keel; Vela, the Sails; and Pyxis, the Compass.

6.39] "Importación ilegal de carnes dañadas": "Illegal importation of spoiled meats."

7.2] San Zwingli: "an open parody on Escorial" (Gaddis's notes [Koenig, "The Writing of The Recognitions," 23]), the huge granite structure near Madrid enclosing a palace, church, and monastery, originally built by Philip II in the sixteenth century. In this century it has become a summer resort and a great tourist attraction. Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), founder of the Reformation in Switzerland, was of course not a saint but a Catholic heretic.

7.9] bóveda: Spanish: vault, burial place.

7.11] a land where even lepers [...] communicate their disease to the dead around them: a bookseller of Compostella told George Borrow (see 892.11) that those who die of elephantine leprosy "should, according to law, be burnt, and their ashes scattered to the winds: for if the body of such a leper be interred in the field of the dead, the disorder is forthwith communicated to all the corses [sic] even below the earth" (BS 253).

7.40] Menander [...] with languid step and slow . . .": Greek comic poet and dramatist (341-290 B.C.). "Phaedrus, Fab[les] v. 1, tells how Demetrius [governor of Athens] was fawned upon not merely by prominent politicians but also by retired lovers of ease: 'among whom Menander, famous for his comedies - whom Demetrius had not known personally though he had read him and admired his genius - came, perfumed and in flowing robe, with languid step and slow. Seeing him at the end of the line the tyrant asked "What effeminate is that who dares to enter my presence?" Those nearest replied "This is Menander, the writer!"'" (EB 15:237).

7.42] Thomas Aquinas: (1225-74), Italian theologian, considered one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.

7.42] Roger Bacon, formidable geometric proofs of God: English philosopher and scientist (c. 1214-94). In Etienne Gilson's Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (NY: Scribner's, 1938), Gaddis read that some scholars used "mathematics as a means towards the highest of intellectual ends: achieving some understanding of Christian Revelation. Hence in the Opus majus of Roger Bacon, his curious attempts at representing and expressing, by means of numbers and geometrical figures, the mysteries of grace and predestination, the relationship between the unity of God and the Trinity of the Divine Persons, the necessarily low proportion of the just ones as compared with the number of the sinners and many other religious teachings of unequal importance" (29-30).

8.24] mithdridatism: gaining immunity to a poison by taking small and increasing doses of it.

9.5] "unswerving punctuality of chance": a phrase appearing near the end of Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel (1929)

"Then I of yours the seeming, Ben? Your flesh is dead and buried in these
hills: my unimprisoned soul haunts through the million streets of life, living
its spectral nightmare of hunger and desire. Where, Ben? Where is the world?"

"Nowhere,' Ben said. "You are your world."

Inevitable catharsis by the threads of chaos. Unswerving punctuality of chance.
Apexical summation, from the billion deaths of possibility, of things done.
(Scribner softcover edition, p. 520)    – Travis Dunn

Gaddis told Steven Moore he heard the phrase used by a fellow Harvard classmate in the 1940s; it appears in all five of his novels: R 9.5, JR 486.1, CG 233.3, FHO 50.34, 258.4, AA 63.1.

9.9] Málaga: city and port sixty-five miles northeast of Gibraltar.

9.14] Abd-er-Rahman: (1778-1859), sultan of Fez and Morocco (1822-59).

9.15] Carthusian: a contemplative order of monks founded by Saint Bruno of Cologne in 1084. They are vegetarians and observe almost perpetual silence.

9.19] Real Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de la Otra Vez: "Royal Monastery of Our Lady of Another (or Second) Time," fictitious name for the Real Monasterio de Guadalupe (formerly the Convento de los Jerónimos) in Guadalupe, a small town in Estremadura, where Gaddis stayed for ten days in March 1949. It was founded in 1389 by Alfonso XI; see Baedeker 461 for a history and description. (On Gaddis's name for the monastery, critic Rodger Cunningham comments: "Gaddis seems to think that otra vez means the same as the French autrefois, which it doesn't. Gaddis's Spanish, evidently learned orally, is frequently ungrammatical and Frenchified" [letter to me, 25 January 1991].)

9.30] Homoiousian, or Homoousian, that was the question [...] hung on a dipthong: Gaddis glosses this well enough; the substance under question, of course, is God/Jesus. (The sentence structure echoes Hamlet's famous dilemma.) In its article on Athanasius the Great, EB warns: "The popular idea that the controversy between Catholics and Arians was simply 'over a dipthong' ignores the complexity of the problem and the variety of shades of opinion" (2:598). "Heteroousian" (9.35) means of opposite substance, ie., that Jesus was not divine at all; H. L. Mencken mentions this alternative in his Treatise on the Gods (1930), but it isn't mentioned in most accounts of controversy (probably because it was obviously a minority, heretical view).

9.32] Nicæa [...] Nicæan Creed: Nicaea (in Bithynia, Asia Minor) was the meeting place of a council (325) that, aided and developed by the Council of Constantinople (381), formulated the Nicene Creed, designed to combat the doctrinal errors of Arianism (among others) and emphasizing the trinitarian aspect of God. It has been in liturgical use since the eighth century.

9.36] Arius: a presbyter of the church of Alexandria in the fourth century who proposed, among other things, that Jesus was of like substance but not equal to God. Conybeare believes that "with the defeat of Arianism, the last gleam of good sense and reason in Christian theology was extinguished" (MMM 185).

9.42] Saint Anthony: (ca. 251-ca. 354), Egyptian hermit and patriarch of all monks, a supporter of Saint Athanasius in his struggle against Arianism. The "pornographic" temptations of Saint Anthony in the desert have been treated often in art and literature, perhaps most memorably in Flaubert's La Tentation de Saint-Antoine (1874; cited by Jung, IP 104).

10.9] Brother Ambrosio [...] Abbot Shekinah [...] Fr. Eulalio: all fictitious. Shekinah is a Hebrew word denoting "the visible glory of the Lord" (PPM 37).

10.17] Epiclantos: a transcription error for Epiclautos. {from John Leverence}

10.27] triple-tiered Italian in the Vatican: the three "crowns" of the pope's headdress symbolize sovereignty over Rome, earth, and heaven. The majority of popes have been Italian.

11.2] caudillos: Sp.: chiefs, leaders.

11.2] Fr. Manomuerta: a bilingual pun on Spanish "dead hand" and mort main, the French legal term for property (usually ecclesiastical) in perpetual possession (and cf. 359.34).

11.4] confessor to the young king: the young king would be Alfonso XIII, age sixteen when he ascended the Spanish throne in 1902.

11.6] vitando: Sp.: to be shunned; the distinction between toleratus and vitandus is pointed out at 916.16-23.

11.14] Black Mass: see 372.31 ff.

11.30] Saint Jean Vianney, the Curé d'Ars: according to Rev. Summers (PPM 70),

The Curé d'Ars, St. Jean Vianney [1786-1859], was sensibly persecuted by devils. At night the infernal enemy would rouse him from his few hours' sleep by thundering blows upon the doors and walls of the presbytery. [...] An awful silence followed for a few moments, and there were heard yells of maddened laughter which froze the very blood of the listeners. [...] This persecution of the demon - the grappin as St. Jean Vianney called him - continued for a period of no less than 30 years, and the phenomena are attested by dozens of impeccable witnesses. Thus the infernal enemy would drum incessantly upon the table or chimney-piece, would imitate the clearing of wood, planing boards, hammering nails, just as if a carpenter were noisily at work in the house; would overthrow platters and smash a water-jug to smithereens. M. Monnin, who was actually present, relates how one night the evil one set fire to the heavy serge curtains of the Saint's bed. "Ah, this is a good sign," mildly observed the Curé, "the demon is very angry with us."

11.44] a time before death entered the world, before accident: as Koenig points out ("'Splinters,'" 77), this is from Lang's Magic and Religion (85): "Early men, contrary to Mr. Frazer's account, suppose themselves to be naturally immortal. The myths of perhaps all races tell of a time when death had not yet entered the world. Man was born deathless. Death came in by an accident, or in consequence of an error, or an infraction of a divine command."

12.1] before magic despaired, to become religion: Lang summarizes Frazer's thesis of the evolution of religion thus: "But as men advanced from almost the lowest savagery, they gradually attained to higher material culture, developing the hitherto unknown arts of agriculture, developing also religion, in the despair of magic, developing gods, and evolving social and political rank, with kings at the head of society. [...] But though it was in the despair of magic that men invented gods and religion, yet, as men will, they continue to exercise the magic of which they despaired" (M&R 83). Lang, however, disagrees and cautions: "This question cannot be historically determined. If we find a race which has magic but no religion, we cannot be certain that it did not once possess a religion of which it has despaired" (M&R 47).

13.38] Lost: one golden hour, set with sixty diamond minutes: from American educator Horace Mann's (1796-1859) "Lost, Two Golden Hours": "Lost, yesterday, somewhere between Sunrise and Sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever" (ODQ).

14.14] Town Carpenter: an analogy with the profession of Joseph or Jesus or both is perhaps implied.

14.44] remontant goddess [...] with her virginity renewed: probably Artemis (Diana): according to Graves, Actaeon witnessed "her anodos, or yearly reappearance, when she refreshed her virginity by bathing naked in a sacred fountain" (WG 181).

15.10] Don Felipe V: first Bourbon king of Spain (ruled 1700-24), a mediocre, irresolute, and pious ruler.

15.13] El aire de Madrid [...] un candil: "The air is so keen and so subtle that, according to a popular couplet, it will kill a man, while it will not blow out a candle ('el aire de Madrid es tan sútil, que mata á un hombre y no apaya á un candil')" (Baedeker 59; cf. 772.18-19).

15.25] There would be time: an often-repeated echo of the phrase "there will be time" in T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

15.44] significant form: Clive Bell (1881-1962) outlined his theory of "significant form" in his 1914 book Art (rev. ed. 1949), a book WG has referred to elsewhere. Although not quoted hereafter in R, Bell's book deeply informs Wyatt's aesthetic and his view of the artist's place in the world.

16.1] the disemboweled mosque at Córdoba, the mighty pile at Granada, and that frantic demonstration at Burgos: a cathedral sits awkwardly in the middle of the Mezquita, an eighth-century mosque in Córdoba; "the mighty pile at Granada" would be the Alhambra, a thirteenth-century Moorish palace; Burgos features a grand cathedral also dating from the thirteenth century, the exterior of which is Gothic at its most flamboyant.

16.5] mermaid composed from a monkey and a codfish: several hoaxes such as this were perpetrated in the past, such as P. T. Barnum's "Feejee Mermaid" (made in Japan).

16.12] eleven-year-old girl: based closely on the life of Saint Maria Goretti (1890-1902), canonized on 24 June 1950. Gaddis picked up "a cheap Spanish paperbound on the Goretti girl" while in Spain in 1948-49 (WG/SM), perhaps Alexander Gits's A Modern Virgin Martyr: Saint Maria Goretti (831.35). The canonization of the eleven-year-old girl will be referred to often in the course of the novel.

16.15] intercourse with a virgin: Gross reports the rape of a 7-year-old girl by a man who was "under treatment for acute gonorrhea at the time of the offence. It transpired later that he believed that intercourse with a virgin would clear him of infection" (Criminal Investigation, 96-97).

16.35] Señor Hermoso Hermoso: hermoso (Sp.: beautiful, handsome).

17.32] que fervorosa [...] esposa de Jésus!: "what a passionate honeymoon for that little bride of Christ!"

18.7] holy oils, holy water [...] stolen and used in sorcery: in C. G. Coulton's Ten Medieval Studies--a rigorous historical corrective to sentimental notions of medieval Catholicism, and which Gaddis drew upon for a handful of items--he writes that the ignorant laity regarded the Mass as "a mere pagan incantation," and for that reason, "the holy wafer, the holy oils, the holy water in the font, needed to be kept under lock and key from the common people, who used them as engines of sorcery" (3d ed., Cambridge University Press, 1930, pp. 39, 40).

18.31] Wyatt: it might be noticed Wyatt Gwyon and William Gaddis share the same initials; in response to a query made by his editor at Harcourt, Brace, Gaddis wrote: "I am Wyatt, & Anselm, & Otto, & Stanley: and I have my Basil Valentine moments" (Koenig, "'Splinters,'" 10). Later Gaddis wrote to me: "no specific reason for the name Wyatt (though I'll tell you, the physical person I envisioned in Wyatt was a man I'd met around 1947 & had very high regard for, the photographer Walker Evans - not to say that the character of Wyatt was based on him beyond that)" (WG/SM).

20.7] right after Hallowe'en [...] she came in. She was dressed in white: Frazer notes that "not only among the Celts but throughout Europe, Hallowe'en, the night which marks the transition from autumn to winter, seems to have been of old the time of year when the souls of the departed were supposed to revisit their old homes" (GB 634). White is widely associated with death and apparitions; cf. Graves's White Goddess, especially in her capacity as "the White Lady of Death and Inspiration" (WG 50).

21.26] All things come [...] from Whom all blessings flow: from two hymns in PH: #541, "All Things Come of Thee, O Lord," a choral response adapted from Beethoven (text from 1 Chron. 29:14), and #518, "For Thanksgiving," an introit by Louis Bourgeois (1551).

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