The Apocrypha in Trilogy

Last class, we had a discussion concerning the word “Apocrypha” in “The Walls do not Fall;” although our discussion leaned towards Apocalyptic, as in that of Revelations and the End, Sarah Graham (the author of the article I’m going through at the moment) disagrees with the latter, believing it’s too easy. Here is what she says::

The Apocrypha are religious writings not counted as genuine and thus excluded from the Bible by both Jews and Christians, although it would be equally valid to assess their status as that of “unauthorized truth”; from the conventional definition has come the broader meaning of “doubtful authenticity.” H.D. capitalizes the word in triplet thirteen, so that the “fire” that is “over us” could be read as coming from a source that is considered unconventional or fake. While it is tempting–given H.D.’s fondness for wordplay, particularly evident in Trilogy–to suggest that the “fire” of German bombs is “ejected from a can(n)on,” it is more informative to argue that the use of “Apocryphal” in reference to the bombs suggests that, for H.D., the terror of the Blitz finds its source in acts that are subversive, beyond the teachings of any accepted faith, beyond anything that the conventional observer can understand. “Apocryphal,” in evoking ideas of exclusion, must also raise issues about the religious faiths that demand such exclusion: who conveys the “true faith” to us and who decides what must be included or excluded in the process of recording “truth”?….Instead, I would contend that it is a term chosen to provoke in the reader a sense that all texts can be rewritten: accepted truth can prove to be false, and myth can become a part of reality; so, too, can the “meaning” of the war be rewritten by the poet.

-‘We have a secret. We are alive’: H.D.’s ‘Trilogy’ as a response to war

It’s food for thought, at any rate. We’ve discussed the war separately, as well as HD’s role as a poet, but I think that linking them together–thus making the war indeterminate through the power of language–is pretty interesting.

Meg’s CC: C

The Spanish Influenza of 1918 was perhaps one of the most widespread and virulent diseases recorded in human history; although its death toll is debated, the estimates range from 22 million to 50 million worldwide. However, those that were infected range much higher—an estimated one third of the world’s population (500 million). No one is quite sure why the name was attached to the Spanish, because there is little evidence that it began there. However, the newspapers in Spain censored details about the epidemic the least (as it was not involved in WWI) and so word of the disease was most known there.

The symptoms of influenza are close to that of a cold or respiratory infection: cough, fever, and an aching of the body. The victims’ skin also turned blue. However, the virus often lapsed into pneumonia or other lung complications. What is most peculiar about this epidemic is that those who died were most often killed by the body’s immunological response to disease; the lungs would often fill up with fluid, thus suffocating the victim. This is one of the theories on why the disease more often killed the younger (20-40 years old) as opposed to older and other immunocompromised individuals. The stronger one’s immune system was, the more likely it would be to kill the individual.

The disease occurred in three waves. The first, least lethal, began in March 1918; it is most often linked to Fort Riley in Kansas, although theories also point to China and India. August 1918 marked the second wave, which appeared in France and quickly moved to the US and Africa. November 1918 brought a third wave upon the world. At first, doctors were reluctant to call it the flu, suggesting that it was merely a respiratory disorder, cholera, dengue fever, or botulism. Many people also believed that the disease had been caused by Germans trying to start pathogenic warfare or that it was caused by the poison gas that soldiers were using. Doctors also tried to treat the disease with useless compounds such as arsenic compounds and quinine.

Whatever the cause, individuals were dying at a rapid rate. It became policy that one had to wear a gauze mask in public; without following this rule, one would be fined. The sharp decline in the population also led to a sharp decline in the public workforce; with labor already stretched during the wartime, cities lost people to collect garbage and dig graves.

One of the easiest (and most obvious) reasons that the Spanish Influenza is important to this seminar is that HD was one of those affected by it. To make matter worse, she was pregnant with Perdita; however, Bryher nursed her back to health. Since Asphodel is fairly autobiographic, knowing the Spanish Influenza also aids in understanding these sections in the text, which are arguably more erratic and confusing than many of the other sections. This can be attributed to HD’s delirious mental state at the time. Furthermore, HD’s reference to the other angel, “Azrael,” on 190 becomes more apparent as the reader understands that, once again, she is close to death.

I think also that HD’s preoccupation with death during Asphodel plays into this. Hermione repeats over and over that she is dead, and with the onset of war, she is—at least mentally. The stress of the war becomes too much. Figuratively, Hermoine’s writing also suffers during this time as she constantly bounces between identities and individuals (such as Pound, Gregg, and eventually Aldington) who denounce her work. However, the onset of Spanish Influenza brings her to a more literal, physical death. Interestingly enough, it is this near literal death that brings both a literal birth (the life of Perdita and the possibility of being “mother”) as well as two figurative ones. The flu brings Hermione closer to Bryher, who becomes her savior. It also marks the end/death of the war, as well as the death of her marriage to Darrington. This becomes a reincarnation of sorts; Mrs. Darrington and all her pains and instabilities are allowed to die with the fighting, while Hermione Gart, someone who is (somewhat) fresh and who shas different worries, steps in to retake her place.  With the onset of her new life, Hermione’s writing also begins to resurrect itself; following the first World War, she begins writing again.


Hays, JN. “Influenza Pandemic, 1918-1919.” Epidemics and Pandemics: Their Impacts on World History. Santa Barabara: ABC-Clio, 2005. Print. 385-396.

Meg’s Bridge to the Blog

Today in class we continued the idea of war—as well as women’s place in it. What I find particularly interesting about this topic is that the placement of gender spheres within the war almost seemed to contradict themselves. That is, despite the fact that women were taking the place of the men who were in the trenches and moving from domesticity (although I’m assuming not as greatly as WWII), there was still a societal emphasis on trying to normalize gender roles. Perhaps this was because of the shift towards masculinity that society pushed it.

Either way, I think that during class there was a lot of difficulty (Asphodel? Difficulty? Ha.) in  placing either Hermione’s or the reactions to women. Page 187 discusses both Hermione’s movement through (and past) conventional gender roles, as well as a general reaction to those that do. Just like European society, she’s contradictory. She comments, “If I can do without a husband…if I can do without a lover…if I can do without anybody and want to prove to myself that I am strong and I am alone like Madonna was…alone. We are always alone.” Hermione doesn’t necessarily need a man to depend on; instead she is the palimpsestic Madonna, needing a man for neither impregnation nor the raising of her child. However, at the same time, while Hermione is grateful for the “plough-girls,” she despises the ruin of their hands. Admittedly, this “ruin” is very likely the ruin that the war has caused, both to society and the individuals at the time, and that women ruined themselves for the war effort—and were happy to do it. At the same time, though, I don’t feel that Hermione can criticize the women who step forward and depend on themselves, just as she is looking to depend on herself.

Domesticity seems at a loss during Asphodel. Dr. Scanlon noted that the traditional endings that are typically provided by and are the end to a traditional feminine narrative occur in gaps—unmentionable, or not worth speaking about. We learn in full detail neither of Hermione’s marriage, nor the birth of Perdita. Instead, the narrative extends beyond these, insisting that Hermione’s struggle after is important; her fight for independence is what matters. Despite this, I find it interesting that Hermione never achieves that longed-for independence, and although her benefactor is not a man, she still retains a sort of traditional, gendered role.

Since we also briefly talked about the end, what do you make of Hermione’s lack of independence at the end of the novel (sans biography). What gendered position does this put her in—or does it place her anywhere at all? Finally, do you think that Hermione’s position and difficulties through the war have helped her achieve anything (identity, independence, whatever else you believe she is searching for) and how else do you think has the war impacted HD/Hermione?

Class MVP: Claire, for making delicious brownies.

Choke of the Day: All of us? Seriously, who got a good night’s sleep last night?

Quote of the Day: I can’t think of anything particularly memorable, except for Jacklyn quieting down our t-shirt czar discussion-“I know how we can make the t-shirts.” You had to be there, I guess.

And now for something completely (well, not quite) different

Okay. So don’t judge me, but I was milling around JK Rowling’s website and look what I found::

This is Ulric the Oddball (do you remember him from your History of Magic texts?). Look at his head. Clearly, JK + HD=besties.