Books end, but the stories they tell continue. Stories exist to be retold, and those which are retold often enough acquire the status of myth. To Be Continued considers four such continuations of English literature, extending between the fourteenth and twentieth centuries, and surveying Europe, America, Africa, and Japan. It first asks what happened to Chaucer's pilgrims after the poet deserted them halfway through their pilgrimage: could they ever have arrived at Canterbury? T S Eliot has one answer, William Burroughs another; films by Michael Powell and Pasolini contribute other guesses, and a song by Elvis Presley makes its own enigmatic contribution. Next, two Shakespearean plays undergo universalization: Romeo and Juliet is translated into music by a succession of Romantic composers, and King Lear is reinterpreted by a series of nineteenth century novelists and modern dramatists. Finally, the story of Prometheus is traced from Aeschylus to the monster movies of the 1930s, by way of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
These post-dated meanings enrich and complicate their sources, keeping them alive: a myth, as Levi-Strauss pointed out, is the sum total of all its possible variants and versions. Accessible and entertaining, To Be Continued shows how, by retelling its stories, our culture recreates and reckons with its past.
Publisher: Oxford University Press