Spiritus Mundi, Novel by Robert Sheppard: Setting, Style, Structure and Genre

  1. Setting———Locations of Novel’s Principal Action
    1. Global Setting

Significantly, the setting of Spiritus Mundi as a “Global Novel” or “Global Epic” takes in the virtually the entire globalized modern world, as is reflected in the Table of Contents as the chapter headings move from Beijing to New York to Geneva, Berlin, London, Washington, D.C., Tokyo, the Maldives of the Indian Ocean, Southern Africa, Mexico City, Jerusalem, Iran and Tibet.  This reflects the movement of the action of this Epic Novel of Modernity, centered around the quest to raise global consciousness and will for the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an undertaking in modern dimensions equivalent to the siege of Troy in the Iliad or the quest to found the eternal city of Rome in the Aeneid. In essence it is also the story of the founding of a people, in this case the “People of the World” in their initial struggle for unity, reflected in the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations: “We the Peoples….”

  1. Social Panorama

 

  1. Mythical Dimensions and Otherworlds

 

  1. Style, Point of View and Variety of Texts

Spiritus Mundi exhibits a wide variety of texts, styles and narrative Points of View. These include traditional Third-Person narrative interspliced with the First-Person Blogs of the three principal narrators, Sartorius, Eva and Andreas. In addition Sartorius’ Blog contains regular entries of his poems, included regularly in Book One. Several chapters have unique narrative styles and texts. Chapter 8, Frequentlhy Asked Questions contains a large section composed of semi-rhetorical questions and answers, reminiscent of sections of Joyce’s Ulysses. The narrative action is interspaced with “Newsfeeds” written in the style of Internet RSS Feeds and providing breaking news related to the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. This enlivens the textuality of the book with the texture and feel of the New Media and is reminiscent of the news and “Camera Eye” and newsreels of Dos Passos, introducing the new media of the Internet into the text just as Dos Passos introduced the then new media of the motion picture and newsreel. Similarly the Blogs and Blog Journals of Sartorius, Eva and Andreas contribute the multiple-points of view and perspective associated with Faulkner, but also the contemporanaeity and intimacy of the Internet Age.  Chapter 20, “Cyclops” is written in the form of a Transcript of a Congressional Hearing, conveying the aura of historicity along with oral spontanaeity. It also, as its title suggests, in the tradition of Joyce recapitulates an episode of the Odyssey in the guise of modern life, allusively likening the curmudgeon Congressman Ron Pall to Odysseus’ Cyclops in the nativist unifocality of his limited vision of the wider world. Chapter 26 contains the “Naval Diaries and Ships’ Logs of Admiral Sir George Rose Sartorius” which provides another voice and first-person perspective, and constitutes, in effect, an embedded novella within the greater work with its account of Captain Sartorius’ shipwreck in the Maldive Islands and the romance of his encounter with the sorceress Lillith, “Sir She” and with the Sultan of the Sea of Stories.  Chapter 28, “The Volcano’s Underworld” of Book One, with its special treatment of the surreal adventure of the “Teatro Magico” in Mexico City, told uniquely in part in the Second Person, also constitutes virtually an embedded mini-novella within the greater work, and exhibits the unique stle and energy of drug-induced hallucination, alcoholic delusion and a surreal adventure into the imaginative underworld. Chapter 33 perform a Moibus-strip or M.C. Escher like trompe-l’oeil inversion of the book self-referentially writing itself as Sartorius sets out to compose the novel within the novel.

Book Two, “Spiritus Mundi: The Romance” as the title suggests indicates a shift of gears, that is from the focus of the genre of the Novel grounded in realistic mimesis and verisimilitude to that of the Romance, which asserts a greater degree of freedom to diverge from the mundane probable to the realm of the mythic, the cosmic and the fantastic. Its action includes abrupt historical crisis as well as a divergence into the mythical dimension of a voyage to the center of the Earth, the discovery of the Crystal Bead Game and the Magister Ludi, encounter with the Mothers and Fallen-angel Grigori, and the transit of the cosmic Wormhole to the Council of the Immortals in the Black Hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Its tone is grounded in the realistic context of the characters but verges from there into the mythic and the archetypal.

At every juncture, the style is heavily allusive and intertextual, making constant reference and allusion to the classical works of World Literature in the tradition of Joyce’s Ulysses, including similarly parallel episodes of action and constant reference to Homer’s Odyssey, but also alluding to hundreds of various works in the canon of world literature. This parallels the significant theme of the novel, depicting and re-performing the rise of World Literature as such and deepens the reading experience and resonance of the work. 

  1. Genre—The Emerging Genres of the Global Novel and the Global Epic

Spiritus Mundi grounds sets the benchmark for the emerging genre of the Global Novel or Global Epic in English.  The Global Novel is distinguished by the global focus of its setting, themes, characters and action. Its structure is international and multi-cultural in nature, but transcends mere bi-lateral intercultural accounts to take a globalized perspective reflecting the emerging modern globalized unity of the world, transcending any particular clash of cultures. It most often addresses the underlying unity of human experience, genetic and ecological heritage, anthropological and historical development since the agricultural and industrial revolutions of the past ten thousand years, and the shared archetypes of the human collective unconscious transcending cultural differences. The Global Epic, as a sub-genre, extends the genre of the epic, focusing on the story of the history and place in the universe of a people, to the narrative of the emergence of the “People of the World,” on a global and transnational scale, with its attendant revolutionary emergence of global consciousness and will, and the emergence of new institutions to enable their realization in action. 

The emergence of the Global Novel in English is also seen as part of the globalization of the English Language as the lingua franca and international language of the world, Global English, whereby English and American Literature, or Literature in Global English is seen as not merely the language  and literature of its nation or origin or even of its multi-national community of native speakers, but increasingly as the common heritage of mankind. Just as the Classical Greek and Latin languages became the lingua franca and common heritage of mankind in which number of international literati dwarfed the numbers of native speakers, so Literature in English has become the principal medium through which the consciousness of the world expresses itself internationally, and the concerns of that World Literature in English must necessarily transcend the narrower concerns of English-speaking nations. Increasingly global writers will focus not primarily on writing “The Great American Novel” as much as on writing “The Great Global Novel.”  This also reflects the emergence of “World Literature” as the common heritage of mankind, building on the founding concepts of Goethe’s “Weltliteratur” in all languages.

Additionally, Spiritus Mundi embraces and embodies multiple traditional genres. It is at once a historical novel, a technothriller of espionage and intrigue, a blog-epistolary novel, a novel of sexual romance, a novel of ideas, a political novel, a novel including lyric poetry, a fantasy novel or novel of magical realism, a utopian or prophetic futurist novel, a surreal novel, and a panoramic novel of contemporary society. Like James Joyce’s Ulysses, Spiritus Mundi recapitualates, echoes and re-performs the major genres and literary models of the past, while setting a benchmark for the genres and literary models of the future. Like the major classics of political and social activism such as Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Octopus, The Jungle, or Disraeli’s Sybil, The Two Nations, Spiritus Mundi is an urgent call to action to all of its readers to join the crusade to create a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly to deal with the vast challenges of modern globalization, accompanied by a concrete “Action Plan” outlined in the Appendix 2 section of the book.  Additionally, within the overall unity of Spiritus Mundi itself are found its two constituent parts: Book One—The Novel, and Book Two—The Romance. This division is meant to be partially illusory, as the book formed by these two halves constitutes an overarching whole which transcends any artificial division into parts or genres. Nonetheless, the difference in emphasis in the character and tone of the two components justifies the reference to the two subordinate genres, the novel and the romance. The frontpiece to Book Two makes reference to the distinction drawn by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his Preface to the House of the Seven Gables between the two genres, pointing up the fidelity of the novel to not only the realm of the possible, and even to that of the commonly accepted probable in human affairs, while the romance is given a greater license, while still restrained by the laws of art and fidelity to the workings of the human heart, to stray into the realm of the improbable—–even to venture into that of the “Marvellous” or the palpably fantastic. This distinction is somewhat blurred in the modern phenomenon of “Magical Realism” to which tradition Spiritus Mundi also belongs in part. Thus in the course of the same overall work Spiritus Mundi in Book Two signals, as it were, a shift of gears while the same vehicle continues upward along the same narrative road, but perhaps with a greater torque of the imagination engaged to reach its furthest and steepest upward slopes of development and the denoument of its final destination. Acccordingly, the action shifts from the predominantly realistic realm of the panorama of present global society to the quantum leap first into geopolitical crisis and threatened nuclear war, then to a fantastic journey to the center of the earth and involvement in the Crystal Bead Game of the Magtister Ludi, and thence onward on the quest for the Seed Crystal led by Sartorius and his band of venturers to the cosmic nether realm of the Council of the Immortals.  While, like similar epic voyages of The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and Dante’s Divine Comedy, this transit involves elements of the fantastic or the worldly improbable, it nonetheless conforms convincingly to the the desiderata of the laws of art and the contours of the human heart made visible through the archetypes of the collective unconscious of all mankind.   

  1. Divisions and Structure of the Novel:  Books One and Two–Spiritus Mundi, the Novel and Spiritus Mundi, the Romance

 

Within the overall unity of Spiritus Mundi itself are found its two constituent parts: Book One—The Novel, and Book Two—The Romance. This division is meant to be partially illusory, as the book formed by these two halves constitutes and overarching whole transcending the two parts. Nonetheless, the difference in emphasis in the character and tone of the two components justifies the reference to the two subordinate genres, the novel and the romance. The frontpiece to Book Two makes reference to the distinction drawn by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his Preface to the House of the Seven Gables between the two narrative traditions, pointing up the greater fidelity of the novel to not only the realm of the possible, and even to that of the commonly accepted probable in human affairs, while the romance is given a greater license, while still restrained by the laws of art and fidelity to the workings of the human heart, to stray into the realm of the improbable—–even to venture into that of the “Marvellous” or the palpably fantastic. Thus in the course of the same overall work Spiritus Mundi in Book Two signals, as it were, a shift of gears while the same vehicle continues upward along the same road and common objective, but perhaps with a greater torque of the imagination engaged to reach its furthest upward slopes of development and the denoument towards its final destination. Acccordingly, the action shifts from the predominantly realistic realm of the present global society of Book One, in a quantum leap, first into global geopolitical crisis and threatened nuclear Armageddon, then to a fantastic journey to the center of the earth and involvement in the Crystal Bead Game of the Magister Ludi, and thence onward on the quest for the Seed Crystal led by Sartorius and his band of venturers to the cosmic nether realm of the Council of the Immortals.  While, like similar epic voyages of The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and Dante’s Divine Comedy, or of Verne this transit involves elements of the fantastic or the worldly improbable, it nonetheless conforms convincingly to the the desiderata of the laws of art and the contours of the human heart made visible through the archetypes of the collective unconscious of all mankind.

Advertisements

About robertalexandersheppard

Robert Sheppard , Author, Poet & Novelist Pushcart Prize fof Literature 2014 Nominee Professor of World and Comparative Literature Professor of International Law Senior Associate, Committee for a Democratic United Nations (KDUN) E-mail: rsheppard99_2000@yahoo.com Robert Sheppard is the author of the acclaimed dual novel Spiritus Mundi, nominated for the prestigious 2014 Pushcart Prize for Literature in two parts, Spiritus Mundi the Novel, Book I and Spiritus Mundi the Romance, Book II. The acclaimed “global novel” features espionage-terror-political-religious-thriller action criss-crossing the contemporary world involving MI6, the CIA and Chinese MSS Intelligence as well as a "People Power" campaign to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly on the model of the European Parliament, with action moving from Beijing to London to Washington, Mexico City and Jerusalem while presenting a vast panorama of the contemporary international world, including compelling action and surreal adventures. It also contains the unfolding sexual, romantic and family relationships of many of its principal and secondary characters, and a significant dimension of spiritual searching through "The Varieties of Religious Experience." It contains also significant discussions of World Literature, including Chinese, Indian, Western and American literature, and like Joyce's Ulysses, it incorposates a vast array of stylistic approaches as the story unfolds. Dr. Sheppard presently serves as a Professor of International Law and World Literature at Peking University, Northeastern University and the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of China, and has previously served as a Professor of International Law and MBA professor at Tsinghua University, Renmin People’s University, the China University of Politics and Law and at the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing, China. Having studied Law, Comparative Literature and politics at the University of California, Berkeley (Ph. D.Program in Comparative Literature), Northridge, Tübingen, Heidelberg, the People’s College and San Francisco, (BA, MA, JD), he additionally has been active as professor of International Trade, Private International Law, and Public International Law from 1993 to 1998 at Xiamen University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Graduate School (CASS), and the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. Since 2000 he has served as a Senior Consultant to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Beijing and has authored numerous papers on the democratic reform of the United Nations system.
This entry was posted in Literary, Literary Criticism, Novel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s