Creating Literature Out of Life

The Making of Four Masterpieces

By (author) Doris Alexander

Paperback - £28.95

Publication date:

15 September 1996

Length of book:

264 pages

Publisher

Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271026114

An exploration of the creative process in four classic works: Death in Venice, Treasure Island, The Rubáiyát of Mar Khayyám, and War and Peace. Creating Literature Out of Life examines four very dissimilar masterpieces and their authors in search of evidence that will answer some of the many questions in the great mystery of creativity. Crossing boundaries of period, nation, and genre, the study looks into the "why" and "how" of the creation of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Edward FitzGerald's The Rubáiyát of Mar Khayyám, and Lev Tolstoy's War and Peace.

Doris Alexander finds that each of these works was compelled by an urgent life problem of its author, some of them partly conscious, others completely unconscious, which worked in harmony and counterpoint with the author's conscious theme to shape his work. She traces an interconnected nexus of memories—personal experiences, ideas, readings—that came alive in response to the author's problem and served as a reservoir out of which his characters, his images, his story line, and the emotional tone of his work emerged. Creating Literature Out of Life tells the exciting story of how Mann, Stevenson, FitzGerald, and Tolstoy fought out their major life battles in their works.

“Doris Alexander has previously used this understanding of the creative process to explain the meaning of works by Eugene O’Neill and by Charles Dickens. In casting her net even wider this time, and in analyzing poetry in addition to prose, she provides more and eloquent evidence that we can indeed talk about the ‘meaning’ of a work of art. An exhaustive reading of primary sources, and of a great deal of secondary literature on the authors and their times, has enabled Alexander to uncover many of the sources for the memories that Mann, Stevenson, FitzGerald, and Tolstoy refashioned in their works.”

—Robert E. Proctor III, Connecticut College