This dissertation places literature and myth at the suture of two of Simone Weil’s most important concepts: decreation and metaxu. Decreation, or the decanting of subjectivity to become one with God, has become a fixture in Weil scholarship. Yet, the link between decreation and metaxu, the bridges that collapse self and other, has yet to be theorized. This study brings metaxu to the forefront of Weil studies to emphasize its role within the domains of community and culture, thereby signaling its unseen potential to harmonize the political and mystical strains of her thought. I counter decreation’s salvific consolation with metaxu’s radical materialism and its privileging of hybridity, relationality, and metamorphosis. Weil’s writing combines a critique of capitalism (the hegemonic gros animal) with a frequent entanglement of Greek and Christian myth. A discussion of metaxu is brought to bear on literary revisions of classical myths from the 1980s and 1990s, an important peak in capitalism’s global dominance. My work sets into a motion a metaxic hermeneutic to investigate literary revisions of myths of transcendence, but also transcendence as a key myth challenged by late-twentieth-century literature.
In Chapter 1, I outline the importance of metaxu to Weil’s writings on mysticism and locate its roots in Platonic philosophy, Greek Tragedy, and the myth of Prometheus—the subject of her most important (but nearly forgotten) poem. In Chapter 2, I analyze metaxu’s relationship to specific iterations of violence and sacrality in Weil’s “The Iliad: or the Poem of Force” (1939) and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985), which I interpret as an Americanized retelling of Homer’s epic. In Chapter 3, I locate metaxu’s connection to art and neoliberal globalism through Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999). Chapter 4 applies metaxu to issues of metamorphosis and hybridity through Octavia Butler’s Dawn (1987). Butlerdeconstructs notions of mysticism, eroticism, otherness, and species that are to be read against the patriarchal aesthetics of Homer, McCarthy, and Rushdie. By reading these texts together, a subversive and disruptive potential for metaxu will be revealed, one that heralds an important re-reading of Weil’s oeuvre, as well as an ability to reshape the intersection of literature, myth, and mysticism.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Graduate Program in English, York University Toronto, Ontario September 2021