Ethics, religion, and philosophy in Anne Tyler's Noah's Compass.
The Discreet Presence of Philosophical References
Before analyzing the references to philosophy and exploring their modes of presentation and their functions in this novel, it is necessary to recall their very existence because they are presented so discreetly that most reviewers of Noah's Compass make no mention of them whatsoever. Instead, reviewers concentrate on the story, the psychology of the characters, and the style. Yet philosophical references are numerous and spread throughout the text, varying from generic isolated nouns ("philosophy," "the philosopher"), to names of philosophers (Epictetus, Arrian, Marcus Aurelius, Santayana, Seneca, Socrates), to quotations from and brief reflections on the writings of certain of these philosophers, as well as to quotations from the Bible and from Henry David Thoreau's Walden.
Most of the philosophical references are motivated diegetically by the protagonist's past studies. Sixty-year-old Liam, although he graduated with a degree in philosophy and wanted to become a full-time philosopher, ended up as a fifth-grade teacher, only to be dismissed even from that position at the beginning of the novel. Alone, but still possessing among his few worldly goods a number of volumes of philosophical writing, he moves to a smaller apartment, which he expects will be "the final dwelling place of his life" (12). With no current plans, it seems he has only to wait passively for death to come. Into this emptiness, however, Tyler introduces dramatic action and a large cast of characters that will force Liam to realize that he still has a role to play in life or, as Ron Charles puts it, that he is "not dead yet."
For those few reviewers who mention the philosophical references, their sole function seems to be one of characterization with respect to Liam. These references present him as a "desiccated follower of Marcus Aurelius" (Robinson) or "a fogeyish pedant" (O'Connell), or show that "he prides himself on his philosophical approach to life" (Byrne). The philosophical references are indeed elements of characterization, but Tyler often employs a multi-layering technique that makes the words in her texts fulfill several functions simultaneously. I would argue that these references open up spaces in the text that the reader is encouraged to fill with appropriate intertextual content without which the reading experience of this novel may seem incomplete. Perhaps his failure to do this explains why Philip Marchand finds that these references are a "problem," and that there is "hollowness" at the heart of the novel.
The following passage may serve as an example of how a philosophical reference serves different functions. After Liam has been attacked in his new apartment by a burglar, Xanthe, his eldest daughter, reminds him of what she believes to be a quotation from Harry Truman:
"I don't want to say you had it coming," Xanthe said, "but mark my words, Dad: 'Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.' Harry Truman."
"The past," Liam said reflexively.
'"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' And it's George Santayana."
Xanthe gazed at him stonily. (21)
Automatically correcting Xanthe's errors highlights Liam's pedantic habits and serves as an efficient means of characterization. The dialogue can be interpreted as merely developing the psychological traits of the two characters and as presenting their relationship as confrontational. By having Liam insist on the words "remember the past," however, Tyler underlines the importance of this as a theme in the novel. It corresponds neatly to Liam's current partial amnesia following a recent blow to the head and his obsession to recall information concerning his attacker. It also foreshadows his later experience in which memories of his own childhood will enable him to come to an important decision. It plays, then, a thematic and structural role. This quotation from Santayana also opens up an intellectual gateway into the writings of the philosopher. These functions operate simultaneously in the text and this may be one reason why the philosophical references are rarely present in reviewers' articles, as the reader frequently needs two readings to absorb them. The other reason is that the text appears to purposely dissimulate these references.
The dialogue on "remembering the past" exemplifies how Tyler constantly downplays the authentic semantic content of the philosophical reference. In fact, the well-known aphorism is signaled as coming from a philosophical source only at the end of the dialogue. It first appears as simply one remark in a series of three. The aggressive tone of the others is transferred to it and it becomes merely an axiomatic equivalent of what is not said in the preceding phrase, "I don't want to say you had it coming" (21), which is to say that, in fact, the attack by the burglar was Liam's fault because he had not learned from past mistakes and locked his patio doors. Initially, the reader is encouraged to interpret the quotation as Xanthe employs it, more or less as "You had this coming to you!" But the philosophical meaning has been only superficially evacuated from the text. Deeper reading, which is often a second reading, restores it. Other examples suggest that Tyler is systematically drawing the reader's attention away from the semantic content of the philosophical references in order to minimize their importance. This work of downplaying the significance of the philosophical content begins with the first mention of philosophy in the opening paragraph: "His degree was in philosophy" (3). This sentence clearly contributes to the traditional realist topos beginning the novel with background information about the protagonist who, we also learn, has just lost his teaching job. At this point, the reader simultaneously absorbs the word "philosophy" and the information that the protagonist was teaching fifth grade, a necessary but incidental detail which anchors the character in the real world.
The introduction of the names of specific philosophers follows, motivated diegetically by the protagonist's action of moving out of a house and downsizing to a smaller apartment now that he is deprived of his salary: "He'd had to consolidate a bit, discarding the fiction and biographies and some of his older dictionaries. But he had kept his beloved philosophers, and now he looked forward to arranging them. He bent over a carton and opened the flaps. Epictetus. Arrian. The larger volumes would go on the lower shelves, he decided" (8). The preference for his books of philosophy over other works can be read as nostalgia for the past and for his abandoned dream of being a philosopher, thus furnishing a useful element of characterization. After citing the names of the two philosophers, the text immediately directs the reader's attention away from any consideration of the content of the teachings of Epictetus and the writings of Arrian by presenting the books as objects to be arranged on shelves rather than as the works of authors representing specific views. The reference to two specific philosophers opens up an empty space in the text, offering an intertextual invitation which, although skipped over lightly by the author and easily ignored on a first reading, nevertheless exists.
Such references multiply as the novel advances, and the reader constantly has a choice of reading them as elements of characterization only or as means of opening up the text to philosophical reflection. A dialogue between Liam and his daughter, with Liam about to recite a quote from Epictetus and Xanthe refusing to listen (266), both underlines the conflict between the characters and emphasizes a particular philosopher, perhaps for a specific reason. A telephone conversation with the father of a former pupil, followed by a meeting with him, gives rise to the following dialogue:
"Dr Morrow, this is Liam Pennywell. I don't know if you remember me." "Ah, yes! The philosopher" (50).
"Yours was about the only course he managed to get fired up about, as I recall. Seneca! Wasn't that who he wrote his paper on? Yes, we used to hear quite a lot about Seneca at the dinner table. Seneca's suicide! Big news, as if it happened yesterday." (60)
When identified as a philosopher, "Liam felt gratified," and the reader understands that he is flattered to hear that he alone managed to interest the doctor's son at school. In this way, the references help define his personality. Yet they also suggest that philosophy is part of everyday experiential life, associating the name "Seneca" with "the dinner table," mentioning his death "as if it happened yesterday," and identifying Liam in the present as "The philosopher." Philosophy is relevant to present-day life. Later, when his daughter Louise presents her fundamentalist Christian outlook on life, Liam responds, "Ah, well, Life was a matter of opinion, according to Marcus Aurelius" (146). This line is decontextualized and presented as a trivial remark, the equivalent of a proverb such as "It takes all sorts to make a world." The words that grant it philosophical status, "according to Marcus Aurelius," are added at the end, as if a superfluous afterthought. Yet they point to a specific philosophical perspective on life, to which we will have the opportunity to return. Finally, the novel's penultimate paragraph refers to Socrates. Liam settles down in his chair and muses: "Socrates said ... What was it he had said? Something about the fewer his wants, the closer he was to the gods. And Liam really wanted nothing. He had an okay place to live, a good enough job. A book to read. A chicken in the oven" (276). The presence of an axiom providing a conclusion of universal truth at the end of a novel is not unusual, giving a sense of closure to the text without necessarily spurring the reader to delve into its original context.
A Double Reading
To use Umberto Eco's terminology, the "naive" reader may ignore the intertextuality of the references and still enjoy the text (Eco 10). The novel works perfectly well on this level and it seems very important to the author that this should be so. For Tyler, who was brought up as a Quaker, any kind of elitism is anathema. She knows that the average American may prefer to read a novel about a sixty-year-old coming to terms with his age without feeling weighed down by philosophy. (1) The "critical" reader (Eco 10), however, suspects that Epictetus does more than fill an empty space on a bottom shelf and that, whereas on stage the action revolves around Liam's romantic liaison with the newly encountered young woman, Eunice, some kind of philosophical tale is being told behind the scenes.
Tyler places various indicators to guide the critical reader towards this conclusion. The very presence of references to philosophy on the highly significant textual locations of the first and last pages creates a philosophical frame for the text as a whole. The presence of signs, metaphors, and an insistence on the interpretation of stories and the polysemy of words all help suggest that everything in the novel is open to a double reading and that nothing is to be taken at face value. Proper names, for example, are not empty vessels in Noah's Compass', they are imbued with the meaning of their etymology. Liam reminds us that "Eunice," the name of the young woman he is beginning to court, "means victorious'" (110); he explains that his daughter's name, Xanthe, "means 'golden'" (165); and in the doctor's waiting room, on hearing the word "Verity," he interprets it as a spiritual or philosophical truth, rather than as the name of a young woman. Double meanings are everywhere; every word, every story is presented as being open to interpretation. How to read a story is precisely the subject raised by the illustrations of Bible stories that Jonah, Liam's grandson, is looking at. Is Abraham "the man who'd been willing to slaughter his own son," as Liam puts it, or the man who "obeys God's command to deliver Isaac," as the caption under the illustration defines him (139-40)? Everything is a question of interpretation. When Liam begins telling Jonah the Bible story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, he tries in vain to find meaning in it but cannot "for the life of him remember the point of the Joseph story" (141). Lour-year-old Jonah develops his own personal interpretation of Joseph's behavior, criticizing Joseph for not letting his brothers borrow his coat sometimes and for telling his brothers about "a dream he'd had where all of them were forced to bow down in front of him" (142). Liam's and Jonah's search for meaning is highlighted by the fact that Louise offers a different approach to reading a story when Liam asks her what people are supposed to learn from the Joseph story: "They're not supposed to learn anything.... It's an event that really happened. It's not made up; it's not designed for any calculated purpose" (148). Whereas Louise defends a literal, face-value reading, both Liam and Jonah look to interpret the story. Tyler seems to insist that in a fictional text, where everything is "made up," everything has a "calculated purpose." One aspect of the "calculated purpose" in Noah's Compass, then, is to take the reader on a philosophical journey.
The Philosophy of Noah's Compass
Noah's Compass develops a coherent philosophical reflection. Arrian, Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius should not be viewed as disparate individual writers. Arrian recorded the exclusively oral teachings of Epictetus in The Discourses and The Enchiridion and all four belong to the Stoic school. A. A. Long insists on "the religious language and feeling in contexts of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus when they speak of the 'universe' or 'nature' or 'god'" (234) and points out that "It is the Stoicism of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus which has had greatest influence on later writers" (233). Stoicism, a philosophical school concerned with ethics and an influence on religion, is present throughout Noah s Compass. The presence of Old Testament characters (in remarks centered on Liam's grandson's coloring book, Bible Tales for Tots, with its scenes from the Old Testament stories of Abraham, Joseph, and Noah) and the verses quoted from the New Testament confirm the importance in Noah s Compass of a reflection on religion. Tyler has clearly interspersed her story with pointers to two areas of philosophical reflection, with references to Late Stoicism and to Scripture, both concerned with ethics and a religious feeling.
That these areas are essential to the story of Noah's Compass can be seen through the parallel between Liam and Epictetus, who, appearing twice in the text, seems to have a privileged position. Pierre Hadot emphasizes that "The Discourses of Epictetus, as reported by Arrian, constantly remind the philosopher's audience that philosophy does not consist in dialectical skillfulness or beautiful rhetorical language, but in the way one lives day-to-day life" (5). The text of Noah's Compass directs the reader away from speculative philosophers and towards the importance of a person's behavior in daily life, Tyler's specialty. Liam's obsession clearly illustrates this theme: how to become a "good man" (168), a "better man" (160,168). He is particularly indignant when being accused of not providing his grandson with an example of suitably ethical behavior: "I lead a perfectly moral life!" (67).
The Stoic philosopher is Liam's ideal. For Epictetus, the philosopher should not give way to the negative emotions of fear and anger regardless of circumstances. Whatever external events occur, events over which he has no control (aprohairetic things, to use Epictetus's terminology), he must control his reaction to them, his reaction (like his judgments, views, opinions) being within his control (prohairetic). When he is depressed, Liam thus tries to see it as "just a mood he was in, created by current circumstances" (30); he also attempts to avoid anger in his conversations with his daughters: "it was his policy not to argue" (19). What concerns him most when he cannot remember being attacked by a burglar is, significantly, not that he has no memory of the identity of the assailant but that he has no memory of his own reaction: "something had happened, something significant, and he couldn't say how he'd comported himself. He didn't know if he'd been calm, or terrified, or angry" (26). Has he been a "true philosopher"? Has he applied the general principle formulated by Epictetus of asserting "the difference between inner causality, or our faculty of choice--our inner freedom--and external causality" (Hadot 114)? For both Liam and Epictetus, "Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things" (Epictetus, Enchiridion 377). Liam returns to this notion by quoting from Marcus Aurelius, whose concisely expressed " vita, opinio ' (Marci Antonini imperatoris) is precisely a reference to this doctrine and which Liam translates as "Life is a matter of opinion." Far from implying that everyone can have a different opinion about something, Marcus Aurelius implies that the way we experience life depends on how we think about it. Later in the novel, Liam returns to Epictetus to encourage his daughter to take a different, less judgmental view of his own behavior towards her when she was a child, a view which would also free her of the anger she feels against her father: "Epictetus says that everything has two handles, one by which it can be borne and one by which it cannot. If your brother sins against you, he says, don't take hold of it by the wrong he did you but by the fact that he's your brother. That's how it can be borne" (266). For Seneca, too, "the true felicity of life is to be free from perturbations" but is also "to rest satisfied with what we have, which is abundantly sufficient." To be content when our basic needs are met is also the teaching of Socrates quoted at the end of the novel: "the fewer his wants, the closer he was to the gods" (276). Liam, who has few possessions (no computer, no television, etc.) is at one with the Stoics here. That the well-known quotation from Thoreau--"Simplify, simplify!" (4)--is in the same register is hardly surprising since the Stoics influenced Thoreau. (2)
In Noah's Compass, the reader is presented not with incidental, disparate comments having some vague connection to pedantry and philosophers, but with a closely knit web of linked references constantly returning the reader to the same points. Asceticism, the importance of translating moral principles into everyday life, and remaining unperturbed by negative emotions are the principal connotations shared by these de-contextualized references, once their context is restored. Liam has adopted the Stoics as an ethical guide in his life, but clearly he has not found the happiness promised by Epictetus: on the contrary, halfway through the book, he feels that he is hardly alive, comparing himself to a dry mouse carcass found under a radiator (154). By retreating into philosophical imperturbability, Liam avoids some of the problems of family life but finally realizes that he is paying a high price for this lack of engagement with others: "It's as if I've never been entirely present in my own life" (263). Becoming more involved with his grandson, Jonah, taking greater responsibility for his youngest daughter, Kitty, and apologizing to Xanthe for his former mistakes, Liam has changed by the end of the story. He now has less in common with the children who refuse to get their hands dirty at the Texture Table in the kindergarten where he takes a job at the end of the novel. On the contrary, like the children who engage fully with the manual activities offered by the Texture Table, so Liam, accepting the "messiness" of life's interpersonal relationships, begins to understand that there is "something very satisfying about it" (269), something his Stoic guides had failed to teach him. (3)
The Bible is the other source of ethical advice in the novel. Yet, clearly, the Old Testament also fails to supply Liam with any coherent guidelines on how to live an ethical life: he finds no meaning in Joseph's story and he cannot identify with Abraham and his unquestioning obedience. When he asks himself, "Was there some sort of moral?" (144), he finds no answer. As for the New Testament, it is present in the novel through two precisely attributed quotations, one from the Gospel according to Mark, "Thy faith hath made thee whole. Go in peace and be whole of thy plague' (65), and the other from the Gospel according to Matthew, Let your light so shine before men,' Louise said, 'that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (66). The debate over the importance of faith or good works for man's salvation is implicitly invoked, the differing theological stances concerning salvation embraced by the Catholic and Protestant Christian churches. For Louise, who attends "the Book of Life Tabernacle" (56) with her husband, "some kind of fundamentalist Christian" (55), her faith has saved her and she has no doubts about what it takes to be a good person: "You cannot be called good until you accept Christ as your personal savior" (149). The Lutheran doctrine of fides sola (faith alone) is affirmed clearly here. Her reference to "good works," is presented ironically: angry with her father, she defiantly and aggressively asserts her right to quote Scripture as and where she wishes, while criticizing him with little Christian compassion on show. She says to Liam, "You're dismissive and sarcastic and contemptuous" (66). Liam's reported thoughts underline the idea that there is not necessarily a correlation between ethical behavior and the Christian faith: "it always annoyed him when people implied you had to have a religion in order to hold to any standards of behavior" (67). Christianity is not presented here as an efficient guide towards ethical behavior.
Although neither Liam (the philosopher) nor Louise (the Christian) are presented as having found happiness, by confronting the two world views, the text opens up a dialogue between the Bible, leading the individual towards an ethical existence through faith in God, and the writings of the Stoics, relying on their intellectual faculties to arrive at the same destination. In so doing, the novel resembles a short story Tyler published in 1975, "The Geologist's Maid," which pits Dr. Bennet, the man of science, against Maroon, his black maid, "a hard-working, church-going woman who has feared the Lord all her life" and who "reads her Bible daily" (29). For all their principles, whether based on reason or religion, neither character, as Anna Shannon Elfenbein has pointed out, is able to overcome personal resentment to act in a positive way toward the other (383). Finally, the Santayana quote concerning the importance of remembering the past ("Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it") enriches this reflection on where to seek a guiding principle on which to build a good life, on faith or on reason, and develops the dialogical presentation of the problem. This well-known quotation sends the reader to The Life of Reason, in which Santayana discusses the possibility of a rationally-based spirituality, defining the latter as aspiration to an ideal. For Santayana, religion oscillates between two extremes, "either fanatical or mystical," but spirituality can also rest on philosophical reasoning rather than on religious belief, a matter "of supreme importance to the moral philosopher" (3: 208). The beliefs of the past, however, still retain their importance, for he sees a continuity running through "a succession of ... religions" with the result that "some ideal present at the beginning [in religions] is transmitted to the end [contemporary philosophy based on reason and science] and reaches a better expression there" (1: 285, 286). In this context, Santayana affirms that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (1: 284) without progressing to that "better expression." In other terms, one cannot dismiss the importance of religion, even if, as for Liam, a more rational form of spirituality is preferable.
Although uncomfortable with fundamentalist Christianity, Liam admits that he regrets refusing to attend church with his daughter and that he knows "a good father" would have accepted the invitation (151). At the same time, he defends Buddhism and Islam as equally valid religions. The final chapter sees him working at a Jewish pre-school to help three-year-olds make clay menorahs for Hanukkah(149), but he could just as readily defend atheists. Noah's Compass may be suggesting that although neither the Stoics nor religions have all the answers, respect and tolerance are due to them all.
If Liam is looking for an ethical guide, and if neither the Stoics nor the traditional religions have the answers, where should he look? Metaphorically, the answer lies in the novel's title. A dialogue between Liam and his young grandson, Jonah, expands on the idea of "Noah's compass," as they discuss the nature of the ark:
"Was it a sailboat, then?"
"Why, yes, I guess it was," Liam said. Although he had never noticed sails in the pictures, come to think of it. "Actually," he said, "I guess he didn't need sails either, because he wasn't going anywhere."
"Not going anywhere!"
"There was nowhere to go. He was just trying to stay afloat. He was just bobbing up and down, so he didn't need a compass, or a rudder, or a sextant..."
"What's a sextant?"
"I believe it's something that figures out directions by the stars. But Noah didn't need to figure out directions, because the whole world was underwater and so it made no difference." (219-20)
Like Noah, "just trying to stay afloat ... just bobbing up and down" in life, Liam doesn't have "a compass, or a rudder, or a sextant" to indicate the right direction. No easily applied ethical guide exists. Yet when he is faced with his final ethical dilemma, whether to make a new life with Eunice, which would involve breaking up her current marriage, or else continue to live alone, without a partner to share his final years, Liam succeeds in making a decision. What guides him finally is his own past, his experience as a child in a broken marriage, his own conscience: he is his own ethical compass. Liam decides to renounce Eunice, so the Santayana quotation takes on one more meaning, linked now to the importance of remembering one's personal past. At the same time he becomes able to look back over his whole life and realize that by wanting to remain imperturbable, he has cut himself off from the people around him. The figurative amnesia of the beginning is now applied metaphorically in retrospect to his whole life: "Why, he'd had amnesia all along. ... he had experienced only the most glancing relationship with his own life" (241). Even if a certain ambivalence is present in the last line--"He could almost convince himself that he'd never been wounded at all" (277)--the novel leaves him optimistically opening his life up to share time with the three-year-olds at the nursery school, accepting his youngest daughter, Kitty, into his home, and laughing at memories that he had, till then, repressed.
Remembering the etymology of the names of two of the characters--Verity (Spiritual Truth) and Eunice (Victory)--it is tempting to see in this novel not only a reflection on how we all seek guidance to live a good life in different ways but also an assertion of another ethical principle of Epictetus, evoked in a playfully allegorical form: "If you seek truth, you will not seek merely victory at all hazards" (Epictetus, Fragments 410-11). Liam may have sacrificed his own Eunice/Victory in order to learn to be a little truer to himself. The philosophical and religious quotations and references are an integral part of the text. A philosophical debate operates behind the scenes in Noah's Compassas one viewpoint is subtly played off against the other, creating a coherent whole where philosophy, religion, story, character, and metaphor are elements inextricably linked together in a text which ultimately invites us to question the sources of our own ethical choices and to reflect on the nature of the compasses we choose to use to find direction in our own lives.
Adams, Susan S. Loss and Decline in the Novels of Anne Tyler: The "Slipping-Down" Life. New York: Edwin Mellen P, 2006.
Byrne, Kathleen. "Families, they suck you up." Rev. of Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler. Globe and Mail. Globe and Mail, Inc., 29 Jan. 2010. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
Charles, Ron. Rev. of Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler. Washington Post. Washington Post, 6 Jan. 2010. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
Chupin, Helen. "Growing Old and Searching for Identity in Anne Tyler's Noah's Compass (2009) and Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2004): A Contemporary Semantics of Aging." The Ages of Life: Living and Aging in Conflict? Ed. Ulla Kriebernegg and Roberta Maierhofer. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2013. 193-209.
Eco, Umberto. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. London: Hutchinson, 1979.
Elfenbein, Anna Shannon. "Anne Tyler as Social Critic: Inequality, Racism, and Alienation in 'The Geologist's Maid.'" Mississippi Quarterly 60.2 (2007): 369-84.
Epictetus. The Works of Epictetus, Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion and Fragments. Trans. Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1865.
Furtak, Rick Anthony. "Thoreau's Emotional Stoicism." Journal of Speculative Philosophy (n.s.) 17.2 (2003): 122-32.
Goring, Rosemary. "Opening Calm is Prelude to Tyler's Scorching Wisdom." Rev. of Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler. Scottish Herald. Herald & Times Group, 21 July 2009. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
Hadot, Pierre. The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1988.
--, Sandra Laugier, and Arnold Davidson. "Qu'est-ce que l'ethique?" Ci tes 5.1 (2001): 129-38.
Long, A. A. Hellenistic Philosophy: Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics. New York: Scribner's, 1974.
Marchand, Philip. "Open Book." Rev. of Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler.
National Post. Postmedia Network, 16 Jan. 2010. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in Latin. Claude Pavur at Saint Louis Univ., 2005. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
O'Connell, John. Rev. of Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler. The Times. Times Newspapers Ltd., 23 July 2009. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
Petry, Alice Hall, ed. Critical Essays on Anne Tyler. New York: G. K. Hall, 1992.
Robinson, David. "Book Club Panel Discussion on Anne Tyler's Noah s Compass." Scotsman. Johnson Publishing Ltd., 7 Aug. 2009. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
Santayana, George. The Life of Reason. 1905. 2nd ed. 5 vols. New York: Scribner's, 1948.
Tyler, Anne. "The Geologist's Maid." New Yorker 28 July 1975: 29-33.
--. Noah 5 Compass. London : Chatto & Windus, 2009.
Voelker, Joseph C. Art and the Accidental in Anne Tyler. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1989.
Wagman, Diana. Rev. of Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 15 Jan. 2010. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
Universite de Paris-Dauphine
(1) I discuss the representations of aging in this novel in "Growing Old."
(2) The connotations of "Simplify, simplify!" are not only linked to the Stoics insofar as Thoreau recommends a life with few rather than many possessions, but also because Walden recounts an attempt to put abstract principles into concrete, everyday actions. Hadot has also interestingly pointed out another common point, the existence of what he calls "spiritual exercises" aimed at transforming the self, at enabling it to reach a higher level and a universal perspective ("des pratiques destinees a transformer le moi et a lui faire atteindre un niveau superieur et une perspective universelle" [Hadot, Laugier, Davidson 131]), both in the texts of the Stoics (mentioning specifically Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius) and in those of Emerson and Thoreau. Furtak has also pointed out important links between Thoreau and the Stoics.
(3) My thanks to Anna Shannon Elfenbein for pointing out the metaphorical aspect of the Texture Table and, more generally, for her helpful remarks after reading an earlier version of this article.
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|Publication:||The Mississippi Quarterly|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2013|
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