‘a twilight smelling of Vergil’

J. Alison Rosenblitt

in E. E. Cummings' Modernism and the Classics

Published in print September 2016 | ISBN: 9780198767152
Published online November 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780191821332 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

‘a twilight smelling of Vergil’

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Chapter 6 considers Cummings as a war poet, drawing on the relationship between his war poetry and his engagement with the classical tradition. Cummings puts sex, gender, and sexual violence at the centre of the links he forges between the Classics and the Great War. This chapter looks at a series of four poems—each of which reveals aspects of Cummings’ exploration of the war, Classics, sex, and gender. ‘Helen’ considers the sexual investment of women in the male display of war. ‘earth like a tipsy’ depicts earth as a cleaning woman, ridding herself of the destroyed male bodies of a crucifix and of the discobolus of Myron. ‘through the tasteless minute efficient room’ explores the blurring of Classics and war, language and sex, military and syntactic order through the sexual encounter between a soldier and a prostitute. Finally, ‘O sweet spontaneous’ shows the sexual violation of earth by warfare.

Keywords: Great War; prostitutes; i: six nonlectures; gender; Helen of Troy; Myron; Greek statues

Chapter.  7033 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical Literature

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