Guy Davenport Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Are the themes of Guy Davenport’s essays also apparent in his fiction or poetry?

How does visual imagery enhance Davenport’s fiction or poetry?

How is one Davenport short story an attack upon the dehumanizing effects of society?

What does Da Vinci’s Bicycle seem to be saying about the nature of genius?

What is the role played by nature and landscape in “Apples and Pears”?

How does the theme of flight link the stories in Tatlin!?

Compare Davenport’s treatment of the loss of innocence in two stories.

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Guy Davenport occupies a rare position in American letters, since he is renowned in so many diverse areas. Not only was he one of contemporary American literature’s most complex short-story writers, but also he was one of its most influential literary critics, translators, and classical scholars. He published more than seventy stories in several collections. In the first four collections, he supplied his own distinctive black-and-white illustrations. He also published a collection of poems and translations, entitled Thasos and Ohio: Poems and Translations (1986), and an early volume of poems, Flowers and Leaves (1966).

Besides his collections of short fiction and poetry, Davenport published highly acclaimed translations of Heraklitus, Diogenes, and the poets Sappho and Archilochus. He also published a number of critically praised nonfiction works: The Geography of the Imagination (1981), Every Force Evolves a Form (1987), The Hunter Gracchus, and Other Papers on Literature and Art (1996), and Objects on a Table: Harmonious Disarray in Art and Literature (1998). These volumes contain essays which cover such challenging thinkers as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Charles Olson, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the late work of Samuel Beckett, to mention but a few. He also edited a selection of writings on Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Among Guy Davenport’s honors are a Blumenthal-Leviton Prize (1967), a Kentucky Research Award (1976), a University of Kentucky Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor citation (1977), a Morton Dauwen Zabel Award (1981), American Book Award nominations (1981 and 1982), a National Book Critics Circle Award nomination (1982), a University of Kentucky Alumni Distinguished Professor citation (1983), a Thomas Carter Award for literary criticism (1987) and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1990).


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Arias-Misson, Alain. “Erotic Ear, Amoral Eye.” Chicago Review 35 (Spring, 1986): 66-71. Arias-Misson proposes that Apples and Pears constitutes Davenport’s mythmaking as an alternative to the demythologizing that most contemporary fiction exemplifies. He genuinely wants his storytelling to aspire to the condition of myth and, as such, revivify the reader’s sense of the world as a physically satisfying place.

Bawer, Bruce. “The Stories of Guy Davenport’s Fiction à la Fourier.” The New Criterion 3 (December, 1984): 8-14. One of the most intelligent and perceptive analyses of Davenport’s work. Bawer labels Davenport a foursquare modernist and a devout Poundian. He admires greatly his enormously esoteric imagination but is worried about where the affectionate stops and the merely sexual begins. He praises Davenport for reminding readers of their humanity and the importance of affection.

Blake, Nancy. “’An Exact Precession’: Leonardo, Gertrude, and Guy Davenport’s Da Vinci’s Bicycle.” In Critical Angles: European Views of Contemporary Literature, edited by Marc Chénetier. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986. Blake suggests that Davenport can be best understood if one views his work as rendering homage to his predecessors and, thus, renewing their vital force and the...

(The entire section is 593 words.)