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n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - Het labyrint in de letterkunde : van de Barok tot het Postmodernisme : research article
The labyrinth in literature : from Baroque to Postmodernism
The labyrinth has proved to be an essential symbol of postmodernist literature and the philosophy of our time. This symbol has apparently had the power to bridge the centuries between Ancient Greece and the year 2000. In reality the labyrinth as a geometrical figure has acquired various meanings in the course of time. The history of the labyrinth as symbol shows that the constant elements are as essential as the changes in meaning from the Middle Ages until the present day. Two of the new symbolic elements that accompany the labyrinth on its way through various cultural periods are the garden and the path of life. During the Baroque the labyrinth, for example, represented the synthesis of garden, path and maze. At the end of the twentieth century the labyrinth once more becomes a dominant and significant structure. The labyrinth reflects the inability and perhaps impossibility to find the key to the centre of the world and to discover the truth behind the words we use. On the other hand, the labyrinth suggests that the search for meaning and truth is an aim in itself or even that this search can lead to new forms of wisdom. The labyrinth therefore is an ambivalent and fascinating symbol of our time. Dedalus and Ariadne, however, have not yet brought the salvation we are waiting for.
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