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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reading Elise Through "Gradiva"

Gradiva from Pompeii
Jensen's Gradiva 1903 Google Books PDF

The Grid of Eric Packer's Journey April 2000
Had not Freud interpreted Gradiva it probably would have sunk into oblivion. It is didactic in style and yet a lovely fantasy. The bas-relief comes from the ruins of Pompeii on that day in 79 AD when the volcano Vesuvius erupted and buried the city and all its people.

Freud's Interpretation of Jensen's Gradiva-Summary of Gradiva at Wiki
Norbert Hanold is following Gradiva in Pompeii. He is convinced she is an apparition of his imagination  . She keeps disappearing before his eyes and he traces her to the House of Meleager, a Greek poet who lived 2000 years ago, where now antiquities are being sold. He keeps getting glimpses of her in the labyrinth of rooms and finds her sitting on the stairs with a papyrus in her lap. It is lunchtime. He is convinced she is a figment of his imagination, a hallucination. She "plays" with him telling him not to speak Latin that he must speak German. She promises to meet him the next day. He is obsessively consumed.

Eric follows Elise through the maze of rooms in The Gotham Book Mart where he goes to peruse poetry books. He catches glimpses of an unknown woman that he follows through the labyrinth of rooms. He finds Elise sitting on the stairs with a book in her lap. Eric talks to her and then takes her to lunch.

Eric Packer is paying attention to what Elise is wearing. Her shoes. A cashmere sweater. Gradiva wears a cashmere shawl. Gradiva - Zoe holds her head high and slightly forward on her slender neck. Elise is described in the same way. They both  walk lightly away, as they disappear.

Elise is Eric Packer's wife of 22 days. The moon is in the 22nd day of its cycle. Eric and Elise have had sex. Elise's seduction of Eric Packer begins after the consummation. Eric is seducing Elise with his constant talk of sex, with wanting her immediately, with suggesting they do it in the bathroom, in the alley indicating his lust for her, not a perfunctory conjugal embrace.

Gradiva (Zoe) is seducing Norbert with her elusiveness and he has been seducing her with his amazing fantasy that she is Gradiva, whom he has sought after a dream of her, when she is really the neighbor Zoe whom he never notices, but  has known since childhood when they were inseparable playmates. With the death of his parents the wealthy Norbert Hanold has been so completely consumed with his research (Eric with his nightly studies and fabulous financial empire) in classical archeology that Zoe stopped existing for him. He has displaced his affection for her with his obsession for Gradiva, which greatly intensified with his dream of her. They both have the same way of walking very lightly, the foot pointed toe down perpendicular to the ground.

Norbert Hanold and Eric Packer are shadowing Zoe and Elise. Norbert is convinced Gradiva-Zoe is not real and Eric is never sure that it is Elise until he catches up with her. They both have only glimpses to follow. And there are many similarities as DeLillo creates a dream scene in a dying metropolis doomed to ruin resonating with the excavated relic of the catastrophically destroyed Pompeii.

The resonances continue. To be continued.

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