Before the internet, Google, and hyperlinks, Guy Davenport was the original polymath, perhaps the last great American polymath, who provided the links between art and literature, music and sculpture, modernist poets and classic philosophers, the past and present. And pretty much everything in between. Not only has he seemingly read (and often translated from the original languages) everything in print, he also has the ability, expressed with unalloyed enthusiasm, to make the connections, to see how cultural synapses make, define, and reflect our civilization. He serves as our guide through the jungles of history and literature, pointing out the values and avenues of thought that have shaped our ideas and our thinking.
Praise for The Geography of the Imagination
There is no way to prepare yourself for reading Guy Davenport. You stand in awe before his knowledge of the archaic and his knowledge of the modern. Even more, you stand in awe of the connections he can make between the archaic and the modern; he makes the remote familiar and the familiar fundamental.
—Los Angeles Times Book Review
As a critic, Davenport shines as an intrepid appreciator, an ideal teacher. By preference, he likes to walk the reader through a painting or a poem, teasing out the meaning of odd details, making connections with history and other works of art. His must-have essay collections, The Geography of the Imagination and Every Force Evolves a Form, display his range: With a rainwater clarity, he can write about the naturalist Louis Agassiz or ancient poetry and thought…He can account for the importance of prehistoric cave art to early modernism or outline the achievements of Joyce and Pound. He can make you yearn to read or look again at neglected masters like the poets Charles Olsen and Louis Zukofsky and the painters Balthus and Charles Burchfield. He can send you out eagerly searching for C. M. Doughty’s six-volume epic poem, The Dawn in Britain, and for the works of Ronald Johnson, Jonathan Williams and Paul Metcalf. In all this, his method is nothing other than the deep attentiveness engendered by love: that and a firm faith in simply knowing things. He conveys, to adopt his own words about painter Paul Cadmus, ‘a perfect balance of spirit and information.
—Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World