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    #1

    Mænadism of mass

    Hi,

    My last question for today.

    The flooring gradually assumed a slant like the deck of a sailing ship, its covering waters flowing all to accumulation in one direction. At one point, where the largest of the porticoes projected, the mansion began at every revolution to bump with horrid shiverings against some obstruction. It bumped, and while the lips said one-two-three, it three times bumped again. It was the levity of hugeness! it was the mænadism of mass! Swift—ever swifter, swifter—in ague of urgency, it reeled and raced, every portico a sail to the storm, vexing and wracking its tremendous frame to fragments.

    Vaila, M.P.Shiel, 1896

    I cannot make head or tail of the bold text. I have found out what the words in question mean but I do not understand them in the phrases.

    Thank you very much

  1. Eckaslike's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Mænadism of mass

    I'm not surprised you are finding them difficult, to be honest I think he must have been having a "Coleridge moment" while writing those lines!

    This is my understanding of them, but I expect you may get quite a few interpretations given their impenetrability.

    Levity: Humor or frivolity, especially the treatment of a serious matter with humor or in a manner lacking due respect.
    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us...english/levity

    To me it also conjures up the meaning "light", as in "not heavy", hence "jovial" or "light hearted", almost "bouncing with joy".

    Hugeness: Enormousness (this word is reasonably straightforward, but hugeness usually also conveys the idea of weight and heaviness).

    Maenad: One of the "female followers of Dionysus" and "Their name literally translates as "raving ones."".
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maenad
    +
    suffix "-ism": Denoting a system, principle, or ideological movement.
    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us...n_english/-ism

    Mass: (In general use) weight. [or bulk, my addition].
    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us...n_english/mass


    In general I get the idea that he is saying that the mansion is a huge thing; and huge things like mansions are usually static, hence the additional imagery concerning movement to indicate the storm's violent power and its effects. His imagery is also creatively contrasting lightness with heaviness and seriousness with joviality. In simple terms it is the mansion being destroyed by the storm, but the language he employs provides a far greater intensity than those simple words. All of these ideas combine to generate the sense of something being whisked up into a frenzy, leading inexorably to its own destruction.

    Moving specifically back to the lines in question:
    "It was the levity of hugeness! it was the mænadism of mass!"

    My interpretation is:
    "It was the embodiment of bouncing hugeness! It was the epitome of manic bulk in motion!"

    That is about as near as I can get to the spirit and meaning of these phrases.
    Last edited by Eckaslike; 15-Sep-2015 at 07:12. Reason: Typo correction.

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    #3

    Re: Mænadism of mass

    What a great explanation! Thanks a lot.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 15-Sep-2015 at 08:25. Reason: Deleting unnecessary quote.

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    #4

    Re: Mænadism of mass

    There was no need to quote Eckaslike's reply in full, Johny. Great as it was, we didn't need to read it all again.

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