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Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary CultureThe Backward Gaze$
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Judith Fletcher

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198767091

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198767091.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 April 2021

The Ghost of the Father

The Ghost of the Father

Spirits of the Postmodern

(p.47) 2 The Ghost of the Father
Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary Culture

Judith Fletcher

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 looks at the underworld theme in two postmodern works of fiction: John Barth’s 1968 Lost in the Funhouse, which adapts Homer’s Odyssey, and Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic series (1989–93), which features a version of Orpheus’ descent. Both authors tap into the tradition of Hades as an intertextual archive and confront the canon by writing fiction that symbolically stages a conflict between fathers and sons. The mythical descent story becomes a metafictional device that pays homage to literary tradition while also critiquing literary forefathers, Milton and James Joyce. The polemical stances of Barth and Gaiman epitomize postmodern literary practices by setting the heroic paradigm in culturally marginal contexts or by using media not conventionally associated with high culture.

Keywords:   Hades in postmodernism, Orpheus in comics, John Barth, Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Lost in the Funhouse, intertextual underworlds, postmodern Odyssey

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