Friday, January 27, 2012

Icarus Myth Informs Poetry, Science, Popular Culture

In our January 26, 2012, session on Icarus poems, we found that while the three poems all involved the myth as told in Ovid, they had different emphases, with both Auden and Williams noting a "rueful recognition of the world's indifference to martyrdom" (Williams stressing the compression of later free verse and limiting himself to the Icarus painting) and Mary Jo Bang, telling a personal story of loss that we found extremely powerful.

As was suggested, the early passages of Auden's poem probably do refer to two other Bruegel poems at the museum in Brussels:
Bruegel, "Census at Bethlehem"
Bruegel, "Massacre of the Innocents"
Both paintings seem to support the notion of "the religious acceptance of suffering" that can be understood in the first part of the poem.
As was also suggested yesterday, the Icarus story has found to be useful in psychology and psychiatry, and elsewhere in contemporary culture. For further reading, you can Google "Icarus complex" ('A constellation of mental conflicts, the degree of which reflects the imbalance between a person's desire for success, achievement, or material goods, and the ability to achieve those goals; the greater the gap between the idealized goal and reality, the greater the likelihood of failure'). Interesting sidelights: the "Icarus Project", which seems to represent a very different approach to the phenomenon, "The Icarus Syndrome," a book about 'American hubris--a century of unwise military adventures, and "Icarus Complex," which seems to be a rock group.