John Tytell’s PASSIONATE LIVES is a unique interlinkage of life and literature, permitting an understanding of how the work of five major figures in twentieth century culture was formed from the complexity of a central romantic relationship. Beginning with an incisive speculative chapter about the nature of romanticism and the conception of the artist as it developed during the last century, Tytell then joins solid research, very perceptive analysis of individual works, and brilliant psychological theorizing to provide a clear and intriguing portrait of five of the most volatile artist of the modern era.
Recognizing that many conventional biographical treatments never move beyond a presentation of massive quantities of data, Tytell has assimilated the relevant material about the lives of his subjects and them ordered the crucial information about the development of their writing so that an illuminating picture of the often mysterious, always complex creative process begins to emerge. While acknowledging that no single factor can ever explain an artist’s vision, Tytell has concentrated on an overwhelming romantic experience which dominated the lives of his subjects, tracing its course from the initial stages of pure ardor through the agonies of a marriage between two strong-willed, extremely sensitive individuals, establishing how each writer used the circumstances of the relationship as source, then center and ultimately enemy of their art.
All of the figures Tytell examines are familiar, but this command of previous scholarship—as indicated by his succinct and instructive notes—and his ability to write in often striking, evocative language brings both the writers and their work to a kind of blazing life. Purposely avoiding the bland, distant tone of some scholarly volumes, Tytell is able to convey the spirit and the style of the works he explores, while...
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