Modern British Women Writers

Modern British Women Writers



Modern British Women Writers

Modern British Women Writers
An A-to-Z Guide
Edited by Vicki K. Janik and Del Ivan Janik
Emmanuel S. Nelson, Advisory Editor
Greenwood Press
Westport, Connecticut • London

Questia Media America, Inc. www.questia.com

Publication Information: Book Title: Modern British Women Writers: An A-To-Z Guide. Contributors: Del Ivan Janik - editor, Vicki K. Janik - editor, Emmanuel S. Nelson - editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of Publication: Westport, CT. Publication Year: 2002. Page Number: iii.

Modern British Women Writers: each phrase within the title of this reference work implicitly calls for clarification or at least discussion. We can now look at, if not yet see, the twentieth century as a whole, recognizing that in literary terms—or indeed any terms other than the purely statistical—the isolation of a one-hundred-year period bounded by double zeros is artificial and arbitrary. Nevertheless, as a field for literary commentary, the period from (roughly) 1900 through 1999 seems to offer more than the usual justification for such an exercise. For one thing, the early decades of the century coincided with the rise of what we now call “modernism, ” not only in literature but also in painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and dance. An early observer of modernist art might well have described it with terms such as haziness, distortion, fragmentation, and dislocation, but from the perspective of later decades the movement seems far less disturbing. One of the most persuasive and least polemical definitions of modernism is David Lodge's in Working with Structuralism (1981):
Modernism turned its back on the traditional idea of art as imitation and substituted the idea of art as an autonomous activity…. The writer's … style, however sordid and banal the experience it is supposed to be mediating, is so highly and lovingly polished that it ceases to be transparent but calls attention to itself by the brilliant reflections glancing from its surfaces. (5-6)
Lodge writes about fiction in particular, but his comments apply to modernist drama and poetry as well:
In pursuing reality out of the daylight world of empirical common sense into the individual's consciousness, or subconscious, and ultimately the collective unconscious, discarding the traditional narrative structures of chronological succession and logical cause-and-effect, as being false to the essentially chaotic and problematic nature of subjective experience, the [modern] novelist finds himself relying more and more on literary strategies that belong to poetry, and specifically to Symbolist poetry, rather than to prose. (6)
Modernism, then, offers a more internal and self-reflexive, and therefore potentially more comprehensive, window on the human condition than the approaches to art that preceded it. But Lodge warns against equating “the modern” with the art of the twentieth century. He points out that throughout the period “modernism” coexisted with what he calls “anti-modernism, ” an anachronistic but more inclusive characterization than “re-
alism” or “traditionalism.” Lodge's definition of “anti-modernism” is simple enough:
This is writing that continues the tradition modernism reacted against. It believes that traditional realism, suitably modified to take account of changes in human knowledge and material circumstances, is still viable and valuable. Anti-modernist art does not [like modernist art] aspire to the condition of music; rather it aspires to the condition of history. (6)
Of postmodernism, a third, later-appearing strain in twentieth-century writing that is also relevant to the subject at hand, Lodge observes,
Postmodernism continues the modernist critique of traditional realism, but it tries to go beyond or around or underneath modernism, which for all its formal experiment and complexity held out to the reader the promise of meaning…. A lot of postmodernist writing implies that … whatever meaningful patterns we discern in [experience] are wholly illusory, comforting fictions. (12)
As Lodge, himself a late-twentieth-century novelist and professed antimodernist, asserts, among twentieth-century writers there was no clear chronological progression from one of these broad approaches to writing to another. This is true regardless of gender. T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson, Edith Sitwell, and Virginia Woolf, for example, may all be identified as pioneering modernists. Indeed, Woolf wrote one of the most famous and evocative definitions of modernism in prose (and, for that matter, in poetry and drama):
Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? (“Modern Fiction, ” 106)
Any reader of Mrs Dalloway or To the Lighthouse soon recognizes the ways in which Woolf practiced the imperatives implied in this statement. The almost seamless interweavings of perspectives and modes of perception in Mrs Dalloway and the shifting focuses and asymmetricality of the three “chapters” of To the Lighthouse are applications, conscious or not, of the principles outlined in “Modern Fiction.” In the ensuing three-quarters of the century Woolf's example was perhaps followed less often in terms of structure or point of view than in sensibility. Elizabeth Bowen and Penelope Fitzgerald, for example, constructed their novels fairly conventionally, but gave their characters the kind of subtlety or indeterminacy of thought that we find in Woolf's.
The antimodernist or realist approach to writing also flourished throughout the century, among women writers as well as men. It is most obviously to be seen in the mystery fiction of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and P.D. James, where tightly constructed plots and traditional characterizations are essential to the genre. But it is equally apparent in the work of writers as different as Barbara Pym and Iris Murdoch. Postmodernism is generally considered a phenomenon of the final quarter of the century, but Woolf's Between the Acts, with its multiple focus on the playwright, the production of her play, and the play-behind-the-play, as well as its attention to the intersection of history and the immediate present, was postmodernist work from the pen of a “modernist” back in 1941. Other more recent examples include Ann Jellicoe's The Knack (1964), Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger (1987), and of course A.S. Byatt's Possession (1990), with its vertiginously entertaining and highly literate interweaving of the antics of contemporary critics with the lives and works of
nineteenth-century poets and lovers. To write of twentieth-century literature, then, is not to pinpoint a particular manner or style. It includes the modernism of Woolf or Sitwell, the traditionalism or antimodernism of Pym and Sayers, and the postmodernism of Byatt or Caryl Churchill.
Furthermore, not all of the events of the twentieth century that affected the lives, works, and livelihoods of British women writers were literary. That is, they were not necessarily matters of writers reading other writers and adapting, modifying, or reacting against their techniques and ideas. The achievement of women's suffrage, the continuing pace of urbanization, the movement of women (in Britain, very gradual) into stereotypically “male” occupations, the redefinitions of class, power, and prestige that were effected, at least in part, by two world wars, the loss of Britain's international dominance, and the shifts of the political spectrum over both the short and long terms—all of these were at least equally important. In the more immediately artistic sense, the possibilities offered to women writers by the proliferation of small and specialized journals, presses, and fringe theaters—and most notably, the reemergence and growth in the final quarter of the century of the political and cultural feminist movements—contributed to the emergence of an identifiable “women's” literature. It gradually became easier for women writers to get their work published and performed: consider the distance between Woolf's lament in A Room ofOne's Own that Jane Austen had found it necessary to hide her manuscript of Pride and Prejudice at the approach of visitors (67) and that as late as 1928 one could read in the New Criterion that “female novelists should only aspire to excellence by courageously acknowledging the limitations of their sex” (75) and the founding in 1973 of Virago Press, a female and feminist publisher of reprints of “lost” works by writers like Vera Brittain and Rosamond Lehmann as well as new books by Angela Carter, Pat Barker, and Molly Keane and pertinent nonfiction such as Amrit Wilson's Finding a Voice: Asian Women in Britain (1978) and The Heart ofthe Race: Black Women's Lives in Britain by Beverley Brian, Stella Dadzie, and Suzanne Scafe (1985). Virago's success undoubtedly contributed to the interest of “mainstream” publishers in contemporary women's writing. Whether or not Woolf's wish for her fellow women writers—an income of £500 a year and a lock on the door—had come true, by the end of the century their chances for professional respect and public success had improved immeasurably.
The writers showcased by Virago Press have not been exclusively British, for they include Irish women like Molly Keane, Canadians like Margaret Atwood, and Americans from Willa Cather to Marilyn French. The scope of the present reference volume is more restricted. Because one volume could not possibly begin to do justice to the literature written by women in the twentieth century in both the United Kingdom and Ireland, it consciously excludes Irish writers except for those who, like Elizabeth Bowen, made their reputations or lived for substantial portions of their lives in the United Kingdom other than Northern Ireland. Not by design, most of the writers treated here are English rather than Scottish or Welsh. Not a few were, or are, émigrés from countries of the former British Empire or Commonwealth, like Katherine Mansfield, Fleur Adcock, and Doris Lessing, and, more recently, women of color like Kamala Markandaya from India and Buchi Emecheta from Nigeria. The increase in ethnic diversity is a trend that of course reflects the United Kingdom's accelerating evolution toward a multiethnic society; we can already recognize in Britain the beginnings of a proliferation of the kind of literature of immigration and assimilation that flourished in the United States a century earlier. It is significant that the most admired and most widely discussed
new British novelist of the first year of the twenty-first century was Zadie Smith, a then twenty-four-year-old London-born writer of Jamaican and English parentage.
The final terms of this reference book's title, “women writers, ” probably raise the most difficult issue: to what extent is writing by women a distinguishable subset of the writing of any period or nation? One could finesse the question by asserting that women writers are, after all, writers who happen to be women, and that like their male counterparts they have written in a wide variety of genres and styles on a wide variety of subjects. But such an attempt at declassification would ignore the many critics who have made valuable observations in defining “women's” writing—British, twentieth-century, or otherwise. Perhaps more important, it would run counter to the judgments of readers of both sexes who are aware—sometimes painfully aware—of the historic and contemporary contrasts and inequities between female and male experience, and who see intimations and reflections of them in fiction, poetry, and drama by women.
As might be expected, there is not much agreement about the nature of “women's” writing. Elaine Showalter, in her 1977 study A Literature ofTheir Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing, sees women as a “subculture” who have had to make a special effort at self-definition and self-assertion, much like any other “minority group” (11). Showalter describes a three-part historical development: the first, “Feminine, ” stage, which she identifies with Jane Austen, George Eliot, and the Brontës, was marked by the internalization of the dominant (male) tradition's standards. In the second, “Feminist, ” stage, lasting roughly from 1880 to 1920, women writers protested against these standards, often in the context of the movement for women's suffrage. The third, “Female” stage, which Showalter identifies with Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, and their twentieth-century successors, has involved an inward-turning process of identity seeking and self-discovery (20). According to Showalter, Richardson, Mansfield, and Woolf “created a deliberate female aesthetic, which transformed the feminine code of self-sacrifice into an annihilation of the narrative self, and applied the cultural analysis of the feminists to words, sentences, and structures of language in the novel” (33). Woolf and her contemporaries “tried to create a power base in inner space, an aesthetic that championed the feminine consciousness and asserted its superiority to the public, rationalist, masculine world” (298).
Two years earlier, Sydney Janet Kaplan had offered a definition of such a feminine consciousness:
[Dorothy Richardson's] discoveries are concerned with state of being and not with state of doing. Miriam [Henderson, Richardson's protagonist] is aware of “life itself”; of the atmosphere of the table rather than of the table; of the silence rather than the sound. Therefore she adds an element to her perception of things which has not been noticed before or, if noticed, has been guiltily suppressed. (79)
Kaplan sees in Woolf's narrative style, too, an expression of a uniquely feminine perceptivity that recognizes the unity of things: “The kind of movement from self to the object of perception, to past and immediate past and present, the movement from perception to reflection and back again is characteristic of these sentences which illustrate the movements of the mind” (82). Maggie Humm points to Doris Lessing as a later exemplar of “feminine consciousness, ” noting that her novels “never have one simple and overarching structure” (520). Furthermore, Lessing herself insists that women's very thought processes simply differ from men's: “[T]hat's how women see things. Everything is a sort of continuous creative stream” (qtd. in Humm 52). While many early attempts to define women's writing focused on psychology and language, Humm and other critics of the
1980s and 1990s began to put increasing emphasis on social and political factors. Humm refers to “borders” of genre, history, sexual preference, politics, and race, noting the emergence and importance of Asian and black women “writing in tandem about racism and sexism … [in] protest about the experience of Black women in Britain” (57). Flora Alexander writes, “Gender must be placed alongside, for example, social class and cultural background, as one of a set of interesting factors that produce a woman's use of language” (8). Furthermore, Alexander is apparently unconcerned by the acknowledged or recognized influences of male writers on their female counterparts, like Henry James's on Byatt or William Wordsworth's on Drabble: “ 'You are what you eat, ' says Angela Carter, referring to the formation of her imagination, and the same is surely true of use of language. Some feminists would regard this as colonization of the female by the male, but such analysis proceeds from an unsatisfactorily narrow view of literary value” (9). Anthea Trodd reminds us that writing by British women—even in the half-century most closely associated with modernism—was exceedingly diverse, and asserts that characterizations of “female consciousness” like Kaplan's based on the styles of Woolf and Richardson are simply inadequate:
As modernism became more self-conscious and exclusive … the writers who distinguished themselves as modernists saw their literary activity as entirely distinct from that of other women writers; two sometimes antagonistic groups emerged from the intensive Edwardian engagement with women's issues: the modernists and those [like E. H. Young, Storm Jameson, and Winifred Holtby] who foregrounded content rather than formal innovation. (57)
Olga Kenyon, writing in a more international context, notes the “plurality of voices” in women's writing today: “Writers like Angela Carter and Bessie Head consider the central conflict to be that between men and women. Others, like Margaret Atwood, consider patriarchy a force equal to, and intertwined with capitalism” (9). Even Showalter, more than two decades earlier, had expressed the opinion that already by the 1950s the difference between English female and English male writers was less dramatic than the contrasts between English writers generally and “their more ambitious, explosive American counterparts” (301).
It seems clear that while analyses like Showalter's, Kaplan's, and Lessing's can help to illuminate twentieth-century texts and can suggest further psychological and sociological inquiries, the range and diversity of writing by British women in the twentieth century is too great to be pigeonholed and neatly categorized. We recommend, rather, that our readers explore the more specific biographical, critical, and bibliographical discussions that follow and, best of all, the poems, plays, novels, and stories themselves. Each entry in this reference work includes an overview of the writer's background, an analysis of the writer's work, an assessment of the critical reception of her writings, and primary and secondary bibliographies. The entries are arranged alphabetically to facilitate access, and the volume concludes with a selected bibliography and an extensive index.
Alexander, Flora. Contemporary Women Novelists. London: Edward Arnold, 1989.

Hanscombe, Gillian, and Virginia L. Smyers. Writing for Their Lives: The Modernist Women 1910-1940. London: Women's Press, 1987.

Humm, Maggie. Border Traffic: Strategies of Contemporary Women Writers. Manchester and New York: Manchester UP, 1991.

Kaplan, Sydney Janet. Feminine Consciousness in the Modern British Novel. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1975.

Kenyon, Olga. Writing Women: Contemporary Women Novelists. London and Concord, MA: Pluto, 1991.

Lodge, David. Working with Structuralism. London: Routledge, 1981.

Anita Brookner 1928-
Del Ivan Janik
Since 1980, when she changed the focus of her writing from art history to fiction, Anita Brookner has been among the most prolific of literary novelists not only in Britain, but in the English-speaking world, publishing a new novel virtually every year. Her scope is not particularly broad; most of her novels center on the problems of middle-aged or elderly women who find themselves marginalized by or alienated from the society around them. But her works examine that subject from a variety of perspectives, and they include at least one acknowledged masterwork, the Booker Prize-winning Hotel du Lac (1984).
Anita Brookner was born in London in 1928 to Newson and and Maude Schiska Brookner. Her father, a Polish Jew who emigrated to England before the Great War and served in the British army, changed his name from Bruckner when he married Maude, whose family were less recent immigrants of similar background. Anita Brookner's interest in the arts was probably fostered by the atmosphere at home: her mother had been a professional singer before her marriage. That atmosphere was also characterized, however, by a degree of instability and melancholy. The Brookner house in the south London suburb of Herne Hill, besides harboring an extended family and a number of servants, welcomed a stream of Jewish refugees throughout the 1930s and the years of World War II (Fullbrook, DLB 40). According to Lynn Veach Sadler, the Dorn family in Family and Friends (1985) and the Livingstones in A Friend from England (1987) are fairly closely modeled on the Brookners. The circumstances of her childhood seem to have had a lasting effect on Brookner's sense of her relationship with her native country: “I think my parents' lives were blighted—and in some sense mine is too—largely by this fact of being outside of the natural order, being strangers in England…. I've never been at home here” (Haffenden 65). Brookner studied at James Allen's Girls School in Dulwich, read history and studied French at King's College, London, and completed a doctoral degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She lectured at the University of Reading from 1959 to 1964 and at the Courtauld from 1964 until her retirement in 1988, so that she actually wrote her first eight novels during her summer holidays. Brookner never married or developed a long-lasting intimate relationship, and in an interview with Olga Kenyon she left the impression that the lives—or at least the feelings—of her pro-
tagonists often reflect her own: “Mine was a dreary Victorian story: I nursed my parents till they died. I write out of a sense of injustice, because I felt invisible and passive. Life is so badly plotted” (Kenyon, Women Writers 12).
A number of reviewers and critics have noted the “formulaic” character of Brookner's novels, and some have, less justifiably, compared them to the popular romances of the Mills and Boon or Harlequin variety (see Skinner 7 for a summary of such critiques). That the outlines of Brookner's novels form what becomes a recognizable pattern is undeniable: a female protagonist, often an academic, who has experienced a difficult childhood in an eccentric family builds a successful but unglamorous career and finds herself lonely and alienated from her surroundings. She attempts a new approach to life, encounters female foils who share some of her characteristics but seem to place others in a negative light, meets an outgoing and superficially attractive man or, often, a sparkling couple somewhat in the mold of latter-day Scott Fitzgeralds or Gerald Murphys who take her under their wing but turn out to be self-absorbed opportunists: the Dixons of A Start in Life (1981) are the prime example. She may become involved with the man of the pair or with their unattached friend—either of whom proves a disappointment—and she settles, in the end, for a return to her original, unrewarding circumstances. This is, of course, an over-simplification, and not all of its elements appear in every novel, but it does serve to undermine the characterization of Brookner as a writer of romances, which, as she pointed out in an interview with Shusha Guppy, depend on happy endings, however achieved; furthermore, according to Brookner, “In the genuine Romantic novel there is a confrontation with truth and in the 'romance' novel a similar confrontation with a surrogate, plastic version of the truth” (161).
Brookner's novels, superficially traditionalist in form, on closer inspection reveal their ties to other late-twentieth-century fiction, not least in their use of intertextuality; they are often tied to a work of literature—Balzac's Eugénie Grandet in the case of her premiere novel A Start in Life, Benjamin Constant's Adolphe in her second, Providence (1982), and so on. Even Edith Hope of Hotel du Lac, ironically a writer of romance novels, is described as physically resembling Virginia Woolf. These traits of intertextuality and referentiality have led Patricia Waugh, among others, to classify Brookner as a postmodernist, but on the other hand, her emphasis on social criticism and her psychological observation link her to a tradition that includes Charles Dickens, Henry James, and Edith Wharton and, some argue, Barbara Pym (Sadler 5-6). Aspects of Brookner's novels also reflect the influence of her first career, as an art historian. The life of Goya is a subtext of Look at Me (1983); Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne is an important touchstone in A Misalliance (1986); and similar functions are performed by paintings by Giorgione in A Friend from England (1987), Turner in A Closed Eye (1991), and Rubens, Tintoretto, Redon, and Walter Sickert in A Private View (1994).
Hotel du Lac, besides being Brookner's most prominently honored novel, is also a conveniently typical example of her early fiction. Edith Hope (pen name Vanessa Wilde—the surnames are unsubtly significant), who has been carrying on a passionate but apparently doomed affair with a married man, David Simmonds, has left her fiancé Geoffrey Long standing at the altar (actually the Registry Office) and to escape the ensuing scandal has gone on holiday in Switzerland at the staid Hotel du Lac. The hotel is inhabited this autumn only by Mrs. Pusey and her daughter Jennifer, ardent shoppers whose apparent ages advance roughly a decade each time Edith observes them; Monica, the stun-
ning but censorious lady-with-a-dog whose husband is seeking an heir or alternatively a divorce; Mme de Bonneuil, an aristocrat whose son and daughter-in-law have deposited her in the hotel as in a nursing home; and Philip Neville, a middle-aged gentleman-scoundrel who pursues a relationship with Edith. There is relatively little action but a great deal of observation and introspection, which come to a head when Edith, having agreed to marry Philip, sees him leaving Jennifer's bedroom in the middle of the night. Reluctantly recognizing her kinship with the other women of the Hotel du Lac, she decides to return to London, David, and her marginal existence. She is, as she writes in the telegram she sends David, not exactly “coming home”—the phrase implies a sense of place and a degree of warmth that will always elude her—but simply “returning” (Hotel du Lac 184).
Brookner presented similar patterns in A Misalliance (1986), A Friend from England (1987), and Brief Lives (1990). One departure was Family and Friends (1985), which focused not on one heroine but on the Dorns, a German-Jewish immigrant family resembling the Brookners, chronicling their lives from the beginning of the twentieth century to nearly its end. However, the contrasts between relatively passive characters and their more colorful and often-unscrupulous counterparts that form the basis of many of her other novels are represented here by the younger Dorns, Mimi and Alfred in the first instance, Betty and Frederick in the second. A similar contrast is evident in Latecomers (1988), which uncharacteristically centers on two men, Holocaust survivors Thomas Hartmann and Thomas Fibich. Hartmann fits successfully into British society, but Fibich remains an outsider, haunted by the terrors of the 1930s and the loss of his parents. A trip to Berlin gives him a respite, during which he is able to write a book of memories to pass on to his son. In Lewis Percy (1989) the protagonist is again male, but his life resembles those of Brookner's early heroines. Lewis, a completely unheroic librarian who has written a thesis on heroism in the nineteenth-century novel, is abandoned by his feminist wife after she becomes pregnant. Unlike Edith Hope, however, he responds to disillusionment with action rather than acquiescence, publishing his book, quitting his job, and leaving for Paris with a new lover. A third male protagonist, George Bland (another significant surname), is at the center of A Private View: Grieving for his old friend Michael, George, who is sixty-five years old and has never married, makes a lonely pilgrimage to Nice, and on returning to London he comes under the spell of Katy Gibb, a flamboyant young neighbor who has until recently been living in the United States. In one of Brookner's few hopeful endings, George eventually recognizes Katy as an opportunist and dismisses her from his life, reviving an old relationship with a former lover.
Europe, particularly France, figures significantly in many of Brookner's novels in addition to those already mentioned; perhaps this is a reflection of her own sense of “foreignness” in Britain. John Skinner pointed out in his 1992 study that “Brookner has repeatedly emphasized her own sense of marginality and alienation in England. Her predominantly female protagonists are also mentally, if not actually ethnically, outsiders” (50). Nice, for example, is a setting again in The Bay of Angels (2001), where it seems to offer new possibilities of life for the sheltered protagonist Zoe and her widowed mother. In Brief Lives (1990) Owen, the husband of Fay Langdon, a singer who had given up her career for him, dies in an automobile accident on the Riviera. A Closed Eye (1991), like Hotel du Lac a revelation of and a reflection on a middle-aged woman's lonely life, is, like that earlier novel, set in Switzerland. Anna Durant of Fraud (1992), after a protected, uneventful, and frustrating life, suddenly leaves for Paris and a career as a fashion designer. Incidents in the Rue Laugier (1995) reverses the direction of movement
but not the geographical symbolism: it begins in Dijon, where Maud Gonthier is seduced by an Englishman named David Tyler, who then abandons her. His friend Edward “rescues” the pregnant girl by marrying her and taking her to England, where they live out a comfortable, placid, and passionless life that contrasts with the brief excitement of her affair with David.
Whatever their settings, however, Brookner's novels taken as a whole are characterized by variety of invention and detail in the context of consistency of thematic focus. Brookner's subject is an almost Manichaean division between innocence, goodness, and haplessness and the opposing values of opportunism, worldly success, and, if not evil, blithe self-absorption. Both her early protagonists, like Ruth Weiss in A Start in Life and Edith Hope in Hotel du Lac, and their later counterparts, like Maud Gonthier in Incidents in the Rue Laugier, Miriam Sharpe of Falling Slowly (1998), and Claire Pitt in Undue Influence (1999), are quiet, sheltered, and marginal individuals who are drawn for a time into the mainstream of life with disquieting and usually damaging results, only to return to their decent but unexciting lives.
As John Skinner summarizes, early reactions to Brookner's novels, while recognizing their intelligence and erudition, generally related them to the fiction of Barbara Pym and, less flatteringly, to popular romances of the Victoria Holt, Barbara Cartland, Mills and Boon, and Harlequin varieties (6-7). The publication of Hotel du Lac and its recognition via the 1984 Booker Prize (in the face of outstanding competition that included Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot and Penelope Lively's According to Mark) won Brookner a degree of both material security and critical respect as a novelist. Writing in 1990 about Brookner's first seven novels, Lynn Veach Sadler emphasizes their focus on “moral choice” and how they “remind us of the novel's genuine legacy as a purveyor of values” (140). Sadler observes that “we come away from them in internal debate”; Brookner takes us “across hecatombs … of human reach—pagan, Christian (though she is Jewish), female, male, principled, unprincipled” (141). Patricia Waugh (in 1989) interestingly reads Brookner in the context of contemporary feminism, pointing out that in spite of her conscious repudiation of “adversarial positions” (Haffenden 75), she depicts characters like Edith Hope as at least seeking satisfying identities outside the stereotypes that seem on the surface to define feminine success (142, 149). Although it dates from 1992 and addresses fewer than half of Brookner's novels, the most stimulating full-length study to date is Skinner's The Fictions of Anita Brookner. Skinner agrees with Waugh that Brookner addresses feminist issues in spite of herself, noting her tendency “to separate feminine intelligence from female sexuality—an insistence on mutual exclusivity which bears an ironic resemblance to reactionary male stereotypes” (81). He subjects the opening paragraph of Hotel du Lac to a close reading that he says linguistically reveals a “double tension” in Edith Hope and perhaps in Brookner herself between “the simultaneous desire for economic independence and need for psychic relief” while “she nevertheless faces a world where woman is defined in socio-economic terms by and through men, and where her imaginings can only be articulated in a patriarchal or phallocentric discourse” (82), which might be taken as more evidence of Brookner's belief, voiced in her interview with Olga Kenyon, that “life is so badly plotted” (12). Skinner's recognition of “Brookner's common concern to provide, in her fiction, the kind of moral order that she finds so conspicuously absent in life” (170)—not, I would add, an anachronistic moralism but a genuine exploration of what “morality” can mean in a rapidly changing society—applies not only to the nine novels he examines but to her work of the 1990s and of the new
century. It may be what finally accounts for her continuing appeal to readers and critics.
Primary Sources
J.A. Dominique Ingres. Paulton, UK: Purnell, 1965.

Jacques-Louis David. Paulton, UK: Purnell, 1967.

Watteau. London: Hamlyn, 1968.

The Genius of the Future:Studies in French Art Criticism. London and New York: Phaidon, 1971.

Greuze: The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth-Century Phenomenon. London: Elek, 1972.

Jacques-Louis David, A Personal Interpretation. London: Oxford UP, 1974.

Jacques-Louis David. London: Chatto; New York: Harper, 1980.

A Start in Life. London: Cape, 1981. As The Debut. New York: Linden, 1981.

Providence. London: Cape, 1982; New York: Pantheon, 1984.

Look at Me. London: Cape; New York: Pantheon, 1983.

Hotel du Lac. London: Cape; New York: Pantheon, 1984.

Family and Friends. London: Cape: New York: Pantheon, 1985.

A Misalliance. London: Cape, 1986. As The Misalliance. New York: Pantheon, 1986.

A Friend from England. London: Cape; New York: Pantheon, 1987.

Latecomers. London: Cape; New York: Pantheon, 1988.

Lewis Percy. London: Cape; New York: Pantheon, 1989.

Brief Lives. London: Cape; New York: Random House, 1990.

A Closed Eye. London: Cape; New York: Random House, 1991.

Fraud. London: Cape; New York: Random House, 1992.

A Family Romance. London: Cape, 1993. As Dolly. New York: Random House, 1993.

A Private View. London: Cape; New York: Random House, 1994.

Incidents in the Rue Laugier. London: Cape, 1995; New York: Random House, 1996.

Altered States. London: Cape; New York: Random House, 1996.

Soundings. London: Harvill, 1997.

Visitors. London: Cape, 1997; New York: Random House, 1997.

Falling Slowly. London: Viking, 1998; New York: Random House, 1998.

Undue Influence. London: Viking, 1999; New York: Random House, 2000.

Romanticism and Its Discontents. London: Viking; New York: Farrar, 2000.

The Bay of Angels. London: Viking; New York: Random House, 2001.

Secondary Sources
Baxter, Giselle Marie. “Clothes, Men, and Books: Cultural Experiences and Identity in the Early Novels of Anita Brookner.” English 42 (Summer 1993): 125-139.

Fisher-Wirth, Anne. “ 'Hunger Art:' The Novels of Anita Brookner.” Twentieth Century Literature 41 (Spring 1995): 1-15.

Fullbrook, Kate. “Anita Brookner.” In British Novelists since 1960, Second Series. Ed. Merritt Moseley. Vol. 195 of Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 38-48.

———. “Anita Brookner: On Reaching for the Sun.” In British Women Writing Fiction. Ed. Abby H.P. Werlock. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2000.

Grover, Jan Zita. “Small Expectations.” Women's Review of Books 11 (July 1994): 38-40.

Guppy, Shusha. “The Art of Fiction XCVIII: Anita Brookner.” Interview. Paris Review 104 (Fall 1987): 147-169.

Haffenden, John. “Anita Brookner.” Interview. In Novelists in Interview. Ed. John Haffenden. London and New York: Methuen, 1985. 57-75.

Hosmer, Robert E., Jr. “Anita Brookner.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook 1987. Detroit: Gale, 1988. 293-308.

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A.S. Byatt 1936-
Maria Koundoura
A.S. Byatt uses nineteenth-century form in much the same way that she uses nineteenth-century content or history: not nostalgically, as most postmodern writers do of the styles of the past, but as the tenuous referent of a present that is itself contingent. She sees writing as that which produces but also that which derails this contingency. Her work is thus concerned with the artistic process—not only with its methods but with its uses and abuses as exorcism, manipulation, self-projection, self-forgetfulness, rescue, and paradigm.
Antonia Susan (Drabble) Byatt was born in Sheffield, England, on August 24, 1936. She is the sister of Margaret Drabble, another noted novelist. Byatt earned a B.A. from Newnham College, Cambridge (1957), and did her graduate work at Bryn Mawr College (1957-1958) and at Somerville College, Oxford (1958-1959). She has taught at the University of London, the Central School of Art and Design, Newnham College, and University College London and as a British Council lecturer in Spain, India, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Korea, and Germany. She has been a member of the panel of judges for the Booker Prize and the Hawthornden Prize, among others. Also, she is a member of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Social Effects of Television Advisory Committee, a member of the Communications and Cultural Studies Board of the Council for National Academic Awards, and a member of the Kingman Committee on the Teaching of English. She has won numerous awards, among them the Silver Pen Award for Still Life and the Booker Prize for Possession.
“I'm a political feminist. I think women's lives need quite a lot of improving, some of which has now happened. I'm interested in feminist themes, women's freedom, ” declared Byatt in a 1999 Salon interview with Laura Miller, distinguishing her kind of feminism from the “literary feminism” of Monique Wittig. She takes issue with the latter's singularity of focus, not looking at “anything else that might have contributed to a woman's life or writing other than women.” “It's because I'm a feminist, ” she explains, “that I can't stand women limiting other women's imagination” by focusing only on what “they think are female styles” or “women's themes” (Salon interview). “If you want to teach women to be great writers, ”
she concludes, “you should show them the best, and the best was often done by men.” Clearly, feminism is a major background to Byatt's work. As this interchange indicates, however, there is not one feminism but feminisms. Unlike the French feminism of Wittig, Byatt's is the more traditional kind: she wants to represent women's lives so that her reader can be aware of the problems they face, see those problems in her life, and improve them. In Ways of Seeing John Berger, Marxist art critic, screenwriter, and novelist, has discussed the way in which the display of women in the visual arts (a field in which Byatt immerses herself) results in “a woman's being split into two. A woman must continually watch herself. She is continually accompanied by her own image of herself. While she is walking across the room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking and weeping” (46). “From earliest childhood, ” he explains, “she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually” (46). Byatt wants to intervene in this watching, hence the duality of her representation of the women Morph, Eugenia, and Matty in Angels and Insects, and the self-consciousness of her fiction. She is not interested in arguing for a different sphere for the “feminine”; rather, she represents women in the world as it is. French feminists like Wittig, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and Hélène Cixous, whose work came out in the mid- to late 1970s, believe that Western thought has been based on the systematic repression of women's experience. As Ann Rosalind Jones has argued in “Writing the Body, ” they assert the existence of a bedrock female nature (féminité) from which to deconstruct language, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and the social practices (86). Furthermore, they argue that if women are to discover and to express who they are, to bring to the surface what masculine history has repressed in them, they must begin with their sexuality (Jones 91), and their sexuality begins with their bodies. The immediacy with which the body is experienced, according to them, promises a clarity of perception and a vitality that can bring down mountains of phallocentric delusion. Finally, to the extent that the female body is seen as a direct source of female writing, a powerful alternative discourse seems possible: to write from the body is to re-create the world. “Féminité” and “feminine writing” are problematic as well as powerful concepts. They have been criticized as idealist and essentialist, bound up in the very system they claim to undermine (Marks and Courtivron 212-230). They have also been attacked, as was seen in Byatt's comments, as fatal to constructive political action. Nevertheless, they have influenced contemporary women's writing. Byatt herself admits in the Miller interview that she did “cannibalize” Wittig's The Lesbian Body for Babel Tower because “it fits into all the Norman O. Brown theories of polymorphous perversity being the true and proper and right form of sex.”
One of the means through which Byatt intervenes politically in the lives of her readers is through her use of realism. As the Marxist feminist critic Catherine Belsey has argued, using the work of French critics Roland Barthes and Louis Althusser, realism is a code that is characterized by “illusionism, ” a narrative that leads to “closure, ” and a “hierarchy of discourses” that establishes the “truth” of the story (“Constructing the Subject” 53). The classic realist text, she explains, and by this she means primarily the Victorian novel and its subsequent inheritors, “turns on the creation of an enigma through the precipitation of disorder.” Disorder's commonest sources at the level of plot, she points out, are “murder, war, a journey, or love” (53). But the story moves inevitably toward closure, “which is also disclosure, the dissolution of enigma through the re-establishment of order” (53). The moment of closure is the point at which events become intelligible to the reader, but a “high degree of intelligibility is sustained throughout the narrative as a result of the hierarchy
of discourses in the text” (53). This hierarchy is most evident in the use of quotation marks (real or imaginary) and the fact that every utterance or idea that is in them is subordinated to the narrative that is out of them. “By these means, ” Belsey concludes, “classic realism offers the reader a position of knowingness which is also a position of identification with the narrative voice” (53). To the extent that the story first constructs and then depends on this knowingness, it confirms both the universality of the reader's intelligence and the obviousness of the shared truths in question. This is why Byatt's texts are so appealing to readers, and it is also how she hopes to change their lives.
Although she uses the code of realism, Byatt has also been read as a postmodern writer. One of the reasons for such a characterization is the fact that she is a contemporary writer in what is, according to quite a few literary critics, our postmodern age. The other is that her novels and stories are characterized by the self-consciousness characteristic of postmodern metafiction. In metafiction, according to Linda Hutcheon, “the most radical boundaries crossed … have been those between fiction and nonfiction and—by extension—between art and life” (Poetics of Postmodernism 10). Metafiction is a fictional form that is culturally relevant and comprehensible to contemporary readers. In showing us how literary fiction creates its imaginary worlds, metafiction helps us to understand how the reality we live day by day is similarly constructed, similarly written. Women's postmodern texts often employ metafiction on the personal level; the truth they are questioning, for example, is often related to the microcosmic rather than the macrocosmic. Similarly, the metahistoriography they undertake may have as much to do with personal events and multiple stories as with official records and global history. George Eliot, one of Byatt's favorite authors and a huge influence on her work, offers a good, although not postmodern, example of this kind of historicism in Middle-march. For her there is no “universal” past, but a past that continually changes based on individual perspective. History in Middle-march maintains a fidelity to documented events (for example, the local political agitations leading to the first Reform Bill of 1832), but Eliot's true focus is on those unhistorical acts that shape the public record in subtle and usually unnoticed ways. Similarly, history in Possession, for example, is not seen as “hard facts” that are knowable—given enough patience and research—but as something that is continuously evolving with the interventions of the present. Possession consistently works, through the use of the parodic self-reflexiveness characteristic of metafiction, to undermine its characters' assumption that given enough access to enough documents, the scholar can attain complete knowledge of his or her subject. “Parodic self-reflexiveness, ” Hutcheon argues, “paradoxically leads [in postmodern historical novels like Possession] to the possibility of a literature which, while asserting its modernist autonomy as art, also manages simultaneously to investigate its intricate and intimate relations to the social world in which it is written and read” (19).
Because of Byatt's wide experience as a critic, novelist, editor, and lecturer, she “offers in her work an intellectual kaleidoscope of our contemporary world” (Musil). “Both an awareness of the dangers of academic introspection, and an instinctive longing to unify intellect and intuition, ” writes Gail Davey in “Still Life and the Rounding of Consciousness, ” “seem to have contributed to Byatt's convincing grasp of such a broad range of disciplines” (1544). In her novels and stories she is as comfortable writing about fractal theory as she is about fine art, and about photosynthesis as about a tense family Sunday brunch. In her first novel, The Shadow of the Sun, she struggles to combine the role of critic with that of novelist, and the role of mother with that of visionary. Her second novel, The Game, established her reputation as a novelist in Eng-
land. It is a study of the artistic process. The novelist in the text is the artist as consumer, attacking her human subjects with what Byatt (speaking of The Game) has described as “the sharp teeth and the gaping jaws” of her imagination (Sugar 22). The Virgin in the Garden (the first volume of her projected tetralogy) is set in 1953, the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; its theme is growing up, coming of age, tasting knowledge. The book's central symbol is Queen Elizabeth I, a monarch Byatt sees as surviving because she used her mind and thought things out, unlike her rival Mary, Queen of Scots, who “was driven by sex and made a lot of very silly choices” (Miller interview). Still Life (the second volume of her tetralogy) is an example of what Byatt terms the “rounding of consciousness.” In this book she explores Ludwig Wittgenstein's view of the mathematics of color, the demystification of the church, Vincent van Gogh's struggle with metaphor in painting, and theories on the acquisition of language. Still-life representations, Alexander Wedderburn, the playwright character in the novel tells us, are a “version of the golden age—a world without desire and division.” A still life, in other words, is an attempt to capture a perfect, timeless moment within the ravages and strivings of living. Byatt uses this discussion and the highly vivid tableaux that she creates throughout the novel to heighten the contrast with what she, in Passions of the Mind, calls “self-conscious realism”—a realism that “leaves space for thinking minds as well as feeling bodies” (46). The inadequacy of words in describing the “real” has haunted Byatt for much of her writing life; the stilllife contrasts in Still Life are her dialogic attempt at exorcising this ghost. In her short-story collection Sugar and Other Stories Byatt extends her exploration of art and reality. The line between realism and postmodernist metafiction gets blurred in this collection, which is about real life and about the art that tries to capture it. Taken as a sequence, the stories move from the more realistic to the more metafictional end of the scale. “The confecting process, ” writes Jane Campbell, “the imagination's shaping activity, itself emerges gradually as a subject; and, simultaneously, the reader, warily addressed in 'Racine' [the first story], is invoked more confidingly in 'Sugar' [the last story]” (106).
The 1990 publication of Possession brought the greatest attention to Byatt as a novelist. The novel tells the story of Maud and Roland, two contemporary literary scholars whose paths cross during their research. Roland is an expert on the famous fictional Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash, and Maud is interested in the obscure Christabel La-Motte. They discover that the two Victorians were linked in a passionate relationship; their joint investigation, meanwhile, leads to an affair of their own. Possession won critical acclaim for its “true” representation of the two fictional Victorians, its use of self-reflexive parody, and its critique of factdriven knowledge. So did Byatt's Angels and Insects, with its two novellas, both set in the Victorian age. The first, “Morpho Eugenia, ” concerns a biologist who becomes part of a wealthy family with an ugly secret. The second, “The Conjugal Angel, ” revolves around the Victorian fascination with spiritualism. In The Matisse Stories Byatt adopted a more concrete style. The stories in the book all make reference to the French impressionist painter Henri Matisse. The third of the stories in the book, “The Chinese Lobster, ” Byatt told Lewis Frumkes in an interview in the Writer, “is one of my favorites of anything I've ever written” (15). As is usual in all her fiction, these stories are self-conscious about the act of writing. She renders her own prose after Matisse, creating stylized settings and interpersonal dialogues. In places she directly ponders questions of aesthetics, as in the instance of the story about the neorealist painter who is forced to ask himself, “Why make representations of anything at all?” The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, a collection of contemporary self-reflexive fairy tales, continues Byatt's dialogue with herself as writer
and critic. The title story dramatizes literary theories of the fairy tale through the story of a middle-aged narratologist who encounters a djinn, or genie, with the power to grant her the three traditional wishes. Being the scholar, she knows all the pitfalls, so her wishes are anything but traditional. Byatt relies on her readers' expectations of the plot and themes of fairy tales to experiment with the form's and the readers' boundaries.
Babel Tower (the third volume of her tetralogy) has Frederica Potter (the heroine also of The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life) trying to overcome a soured marriage and make it on her own as a single mother in 1960s London. The novel is centered on two trials: an obscenity prosecution against Frederica's employer for publishing “Babble-tower, ” an overripe fairy tale of a utopia gone bad, and the heroine's own battle for custody of her son. Byatt tells us that she based “Babbletower” on the Marquis de Sade's 120 Nights of Sodom and on the work of the utopian social philosopher Charles Fourier. In her latest collection, Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice, she mixes reality with folktales and fairy tales and again draws on her love of fine arts to put together a series of contrasting stories to explore the alienation that most of us feel in the world. Her narrative practice, blending fact and fabrication, demonstrates the duplicitous relationship of the imagination to its materials.
In her essay “People in Paper Houses” in Passions of the Mind, Byatt observed that Julian Mitchell's novel The New Satyricon provides a criticism of “the relation of the novel, the writer, and his world.” She continues: “It plays games with truth, lies and the reader, teasing him with the knowledge that he cannot tell where veracity ends and games begin. It is the game all novelists played anyway, raised on the structural principle” (180). She is describing her own practice here and also echoing her work's critical reception. It is a reception that has been enthusiastic, for, as Gail Davey says, her work is “particularly pleasing for any frustrated polymath.” Most academic criticism of her focuses on her use of realism and metafiction. Jane Campbell, for example, argues that Byatt's fiction is a rare example where “intertextuality”—a key element of metafiction—“works organically: her probing of the processes of narrative illuminates, and is inseparable from, the stories she tells” (105). Juliet Dusinberre has observed that Byatt knows that “what is real in terms of specific moments of experience is without shape or order until the mind has placed it in time and so given it form” (58). Byatt's fiction, however, also calls narrative patterning and plotting into question. It fits into the category that Patricia Waugh places at the center of metafiction: “[T]hose texts that manifest the symptoms of formal and ontological insecurity but allow their deconstructions to be finally recontextualized or 'naturalized' and given a total interpretation” (19). This is how, as Catherine Belsey points out, realist fiction builds and confirms the “knowingness” of the reader and “interpellates” the reader/subject, that is, makes her willingly entangle herself in the ideology represented by the text (52-53).
Clearly, this kind of willing entanglement also happens with metafiction. Byatt's fiction successfully blends the self-reflexive (metafictional) and the mimetic (realist). She does this through her use of history as a referent for a “real” whose truth we can never know but are always willing to speculate on (and hence confirm the author's view of it). Possession is an excellent example of this use of history in which the historian/author/reader's view of the past is continually augmented and revised by present knowledge. It calls into question how completely we can know the past from its textual traces. It is full of mysteries that resist the very notion of solution while, at the same time, it illuminates (and pokes fun at) the insatiable curiosity of its scholar-detectives, who come to learn
that collecting the artifacts of dead poets and scrutinizing their marginalia does not itself produce knowledge and that attention must be paid to what is left out of the standard biographies. Like Ellen in Possession, Byatt despairs of language's capacity for conveying “the truth of the way it had been, of the silences in the telling, the silences that extended before and after it, always the silences” (492). Like the narrator in “Sugar” and its central question—the exploration of the dividing line between lived events and mythmaking—she is aware of “the long black shadows of the things left unsaid” (241). Like Matty from “Morpho Eugenia, ” however, she also knows how to manipulate forms. This is why she stretches the realist form to its limits until it shatters; she then uses its relics as the referent of the real of her metafiction. In other words, she uses earlier literary forms and styles to reveal the tenuous foundations of the present. She is also committed to enacting the ambiguities and confusions of these foundations so that her characters (and her readers) can achieve “moral freedom” in the present. Byatt defines moral freedom, using the words of Iris Murdoch, as “knowing and understanding and respecting things quite other than ourselves” (quoted in Iris Murdoch 8).
Primary Sources
The Shadow of the Sun. New York: Harcourt, 1964. Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1965.

The Game. London: Chatto, 1967; New York: Scribner's, 1968.

(Contributor) The Major Victorian Poets: Reconsiderations. Ed. Isobel Armstrong. London: Routledge, 1969.

Wordsworthand Coleridge in Their Time. London: Nelson, 1970. As Unruly Times. London: Hogarth, 1989.

Iris Murdoch. London: Longman, 1976.

The Virgin in the Garden. London: Chatto, 1978; New York: Knopf, 1979.

The Mill on the Floss. By George Eliot. Ed. and introduction by A.S. Byatt. London: Penguin, 1979. Still Life. London: Chatto; New York: Scribner, 1985.

Sugar and Other Stories. New York: Scribner's, 1987.

Possession: A Romance. London: Chatto, 1990; New York: Vintage, 1991.

Selected Essays, Poems, and Other Writings. By George Eliot. Ed. A.S. Byatt and Nicholas Warren. London: Penguin, 1990.

Dramatic Monologues. By Robert Browning. Ed. A.S. Byatt. London: Folio Society, 1991.

Passions of the Mind. London: Chatto, 1991.

Angels and Insects: Two Novellas. London: Chatto, 1992.

The Matisse Stories. London: Chatto, 1993; New York: Random, 1995.

The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye: Five Fairy Stories. London: Chatto, 1994.

Babel Tower. New York: Random, 1996.

Imagining Characters: Conversations about Women Writers: Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Willa Cather, Iris Murdoch, and Toni Morrison. With Ignés Sodré. New York: Vintage, 1997.

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories. Ed. A.S. Byatt. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice. New York: Random, 1999.

Secondary Sources
Belsey, Catherine. “Constructing the Subject: Deconstructing the Text.” In Feminist Criticism and Social Change. Ed. Judith Newton and Deborah Rosenfelt. London: Methuen, 1985. 45-64.

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. New York: Viking, 1973.

Campbell, Jane. “Confecting 'Sugar': Narrative Theory and Practice in A.S. Byatt's Short Stories.” Critique 38.2 (Winter 1997): 105-122.

Davey, Gail. “Still Life and the Rounding of Consciousness.” Lancet 7 November 1998.

Dusinberre, Juliet. “Forms of Reality in A.S. Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden.” Critique 24 (1982): 55-62.

Frumkes, Lewis. “A Conversation with A.S. Byatt.” Writer 110 (May 1997).

Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. London: Routledge, 1988.

Jones, Ann Rosalind. “Writing the Body: Toward an Understanding of l'écriture fémininé.” In Feminist Criticism and Social Change. Ed. Judith Newton and Deborah Rosenfelt. London: Methuen, 1985. 86-101.

Angela Carter 1940-1992
Anna Katsavos
Angela Carter, one of Britain's most original, provocative contemporary writers, was a cultural subversive who was fascinated and disturbed by the impact of popular culture on gender politics. Her work treats issues of female sexuality, eroticism, and violence with a transgressive humor that stuns and unnerves, leaving readers uncertain whether to laugh, scream, or cry.
A novelist, short-story writer, journalist, and scriptwriter, Carter received little scholarly attention, especially in the United States. She confounded critics by crossing and fusing genre boundaries with unpredictability and ease. Employing a pastiche of traditional literary forms, Carter conflated romance with realism and infused the picaresque with the pornographic, the Gothic with the grotesque, and the fairy tale with the fantastic. Although she was noted for her lush imaginative prose, Carter's profane themes, wicked wit, irreverent tone, and radical leftist/feminist politics contributed to her wildly variable literary reception.
Carter's early novels, Shadow Dance (1966), The Magic Toyshop (1967), Several Perceptions (1968), and Love (1971), written in the social realist tradition, were well received in England and established the author as a promising new writer. The Magic Toyshop received the 1967 John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize; Several Perceptions won the 1968 Somerset Maugham Award. Her reputation shifted, however, as Carter moved from the mimetic to the speculative and her fiction began more forcefully to rebuke patriarchal assumptions about femininity and female sexuality. Following the publication of Heroes and Villains (1969), The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972), and The Passion of New Eve (1977), reviewers became increasingly alarmed that Carter's literary fireworks were a bit too explosive. What is more, her 1979 feminist polemic on the ideology of pornography, The Sadeian Woman, and her eroticized fairy tales collected in The Bloody Chamber (published that same year), baffled or annoyed critics, especially feminists, and served further to alienate Carter from the inner circle of the literati.
In the mid-1980s Carter once again shifted artistic gears, and her critical acclaim began to flourish. Her fanciful comic novel Nights at the Circus (1984), winner of Britain's James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and her short-story collection Black Venus (1985) (U.S. title Saints and Strangers, 1986), hailed in the New York Times Book Review as “one of the Best Books of 1986, ” made her a literary outsider no longer. Carter's last novel, Wise Children (1991), praised as her best,
deservedly secured her a place in the modern British canon.
Born in 1940 in Eastbourne, England, Angela Carter was the overprotected daughter of middle-class parents. Her father was a Scottish journalist, her mother a would-be scholar who, Carter lamented, dropped out of school to work as a salesclerk. Practically at birth (Carter was born the week that Dunkirk fell), the infant Angela and her twelve-year-old brother were evacuated from London to escape the blitz and what seemed an imminent German invasion. They were sent to live with their maternal grandmother in Wath-upon-Dearne, a mining village in South Yorkshire. “Gran, ” a working-class chambermaid who had marched in support of the 1870 miners' strikes and, years later, prominently displayed her “Votes for Women” badge, was Carter's strongest feminist model.
Carter's pubescent years were painful, due in part to a troubled relationship with her mother, whom Angela considered simultaneously trapped by the demands of domesticity and complicit with prevailing attitudes about women. Ironically, Angela, eager to leave her parental home, married Paul Carter at twenty. She apprenticed for two years as a junior reporter for the Croydon Advertiser until she and her husband settled in Bristol, where she studied English and medieval literature at Bristol University.
The intellectual climate and relaxed sexual mores of the 1960s shaped Carter's development as a writer and cultural theorist. By the time she was twenty-five, Carter had written her first novel, Shadow Dance, and by the end of the decade she had completed The Magic Toyshop, Several Perceptions, and Love. Presenting female characters as visitors in their own flesh, Carter exposed socially prescribed notions about femininity, sexuality, and family as debilitating to women.
Shadow Dance examines the restrictive boundaries of marriage as well as the consequences of a powerful, unchecked female sexuality. Carter's treatment of three female characters—Ghislaine, Edna, and Emily—points to the physical and emotional abuse confronting women whose sexual activities are for pleasure, not procreation.
The Magic Toyshop, which reads like a Freudian fairy tale about Oedipal relationships, blends puppets and toys with magic and psychoanalysis. It charts the maturation of young Melanie, who, while living with her ogre Uncle Philip and his mute wife Margaret, grapples with pubescent anxieties about sexuality and marriage. With oftenbiting sarcasm Carter dismisses notions of male sexuality as aggressive, all-consuming, and destructive.
Like Carter's first novel, Several Perceptions is not feminist friendly. Women do not figure prominently and serve primarily as stereotypes. Depicted as objects, they are referred to derisively as “birds, ” “bitches, ” “whores, ” or “old cows” who get “screwed” or “poked” by men. Nevertheless, though they remain peripheral to the male protagonist, three of Carter's female characters are noteworthy prototypes. Charlotte, Anne Blossom, and Mrs. Boulder are representative of Carter's evolving tendency to portray independent, unattached women characters who in part escape male violence. As does The Magic Toyshop, this novel ends up attacking traditional notions of marriage and family. It works best as a novel of ideas that exposes paternity as a matter of semantics and motherhood as an arduous, thankless job.
Carter continued to undermine romanticized notions of love and marriage in subsequent novels. Love, ironically entitled, looks at the flimsy, sometimes-bizarre connections that hold people together in their desperate search for attention. Probing the complex interrelationships of three characters who serve more as metaphors than as individuals, Love
charts a sexual triangle comprised of the fragile, eighteen-year-old Annabel, her hippie husband, and his crazy half brother. The trio plays out a grotesque scenario through which Carter exposes human perversities, sending the frightening message that “the only place for a woman in the kind of male-dominated world that the novel depicts is either the loony bin or the grave” (Love, 1987 ed., Afterword). Ultimately, the female characters in Carter's early novels are depicted not as individuals, but as icons. Their behavior reflects their basic allegiance to the domestic sphere, as well as to the universally accepted premise that women are defined as a function of their bodies.
In 1969 Carter received the Somerset Maugham Travel Award—prize money that enabled her to flee a failing marriage that ended in 1972. She went first to America and then to Japan, where she found a strengthened political consciousness and a stronger voice to protest the sexual objectification of women. During her two years in Japan she wrote a number of articles for the British magazine New Society (collected in 1982 as Nothing Sacred), as well as many of the stories collected in Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (1974), some of which have an autobiographical quality. Reflecting her sharpened sensitivity to feminist issues, three of these stories, “A Souvenir of Japan, ” “The Smile of Winter, ” and “Flesh and the Mirror, ” resonate with misgivings about a culture that she experienced as blatantly hostile toward women.
The novels written after Carter's experience in Japan, Heroes and Villains, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, and The Passion of New Eve, attempt to imagine the world differently. Influenced by the works of J. G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock, Carter began to dabble in speculative writing, explaining that she desired an alternative to naturalism—a revolutionary fiction of the imagination that tapped into the domain of the unconscious, what she called “inner space.”
In Heroes and Villains, using elements of the fantastic and the surreal, Carter probes the possibilities and consequences of a civilization not bound by inherited social order. With parody and exaggeration she stretches human relationships almost to the grotesque, depicting a speculative situation that, as the title suggests, insists upon a symbolic reading of the characters. Set in a post-Armageddon world, the novel presents two domains: the steel and concrete villages of the Professors (Heroes) and the surrounding jungles of the tribal Barbarians (Villains). Marianne, a Professor's daughter, learns to renegotiate her position in the hostile Barbarian environment, vacillating between hunter and prey to survive. At the end of the novel, though she seems the idealized icon of domesticity—in the kitchen, pregnant, stirring stew—she is, in fact, self-assured, more a powerful witch at her cauldron. Ultimately, the novel's surreal landscape enables Carter to assault accepted ideologies of gender politics by presenting Marianne as one who must be reckoned with, perhaps feared.
Carter's next venture into speculative fiction resulted in The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (published in the United States as The War of Dreams). Lengthy and overwritten (sounding much like a literary psychedelic trip), the novel runs amok, and many of the passages are prosaic speculations on language and dream theory. Nevertheless, this work exemplifies Carter's continued experimentation with magic realism and her further exploration of what she called the “artificiality” of gender. Two characters in particular, Desiderio and Albertina, pave the way for the creation of the “New Eve” in Carter's subsequent novel, The Passion of New Eve, written five years later.
With this 1977 work Carter assumes a more radical approach to the “feminization” of Evelyn, the male narrator obsessed with Tristessa, the beautiful, “artificially constructed” queen of celluloid. Carter stretches gender boundaries to unprecedented limits as Evelyn, transgendered into Eve, experiences
pleasure in her sexual awakening as a female. As Carter's “man-made masterpiece of skin and bone” (146), the new Eve no longer feels like a visitor in her own flesh. She understands, instead, that flesh can be “a function of enchantment” (148) separate from the masks of masculinity and femininity that we choose to wear.
By the late 1970s Carter was exploring many of these same gender issues in her nonfiction. In The Sadeian Woman (1979), a feminist tract appropriating the Marquis de Sade as a feminist ally, Carter claims the importance of Sade's “refusal to see female sexuality in relation to its reproductive function” (1). To Carter, because women have been defined solely as childbearers and nurturers, female sexuality traditionally has been ignored. Carter insists that Sade exposed culturally determined myths about female sexuality, femininity, and motherhood as “consolatory nonsense” used to justify and continue women's subservient and acquiescent social positions.
During this same period Carter was working on The Bloody Chamber, her revised variations of traditional fairy tales such as “Beauty and the Beast, ” “Snow White, ” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” Moving toward fictional landscapes where in female desire could be expressed without harm or restraint, Carter unabashedly injected her own radical reworking of the tales with a double shot of the erotic and the pornographic. These adult tales, often distorted versions of the classic originals, focus on the perversely human attraction to that which is most feared. With language at once provocative and unsettling, Carter portrays women as victims and agents of violence. Exploring erotic possibilities for women, she ventures into territory where nothing is sacred and everything is taboo. In addition to her own writing, Carter translated the stories of Charles Perrault and Madame de Beaumont (collected in Sleeping Beauty and Other Favourite Fairy Tales) and edited The Virago Book of Fairy Tales, ananthology of international tales demonstrating the diversity of female response to the common predicament of being born a woman. Carter's fascination with the fairy-tale form continued until her last days. Working from her hospital bed on The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales (published posthumously in 1992), she was determined to bequeath something to “the girls”—the women of future generations. Presenting some of Carter's favorite themes, including erotic violence and women's feral nature, this volume also features the quick-witted women found in popular tales from around the world.
As expressed in Carter's nonfiction of this period, she very much admired the work of Colette, Charlotte Brontë, Christina Stead, Louise Erdrich, and Grace Paley. In her 1980 essay “The Language of Sisterhood” Carter discussed the role of the woman writer, maintaining that the so-called language of sisterhood, which relies on the instinctive camaraderie all women share, is a potentially subversive tool that can be used by women writers to find a place for themselves in history. Three years later, in “Notes from the Front Line, ” Carter discussed how writing is the vehicle with which women writers can accelerate “the slow process of decolonializing our language and our basic habits of thought” (75). Women writers, Carter believed, have a responsibility to create a language for expressing “an infinitely greater variety of experience than has been possible heretofore, to say things for which no language previously existed” (75).
In 1986 Carter edited Wayward Girls and Wicked Women, an anthology of short stories by women writers, featuring female characters who represent a “new kind of being unburdened with a past” (“Notes from the Front Line” 74), women who “know about life, ” who even in defeat “are not defeated” (Wayward xii). Carter's last two novels, Nights at the Circus (1984) and Wise Children (1991), are populated by just such women. In these works Carter first introduced female characters who ignore all socially imposed restrictions. These “liberated” heroines shed
their history and often their clothes. Neither domestic nor domesticated, they are perfectly equipped for survival: they are in control of their lives, their money, their bodies, their pleasures, their language. They do anything and everything except fit traditional molds of female domesticity.
With these novels Carter again moved in a new direction, away from the speculative and fairy-tale forms. She employed conventional devices of the carnivalesque and the fantastic narrative to blur reality and fantasy. She lured her readers into worlds of surreal logic and metaphysical impossibilities to subvert notions of Western culture that traditionally romanticize marriage and sanctify motherhood. To the female protagonists of Carter's last two novels, neither hearth nor home is sacred. Enterprising, inventive, qualified by experience, they could easily rule the roost, but they choose instead to call the shots. They flee the private, familial sphere of the kitchen and head for the public domain of the brothel, the stage, the circus, television—landscapes that evoke a Bakhtinian sense of the carnivalesque.
Characters like Fevvers (Nights at the Circus) and the Chance twins (Wise Children) free themselves from the confines of a preexisting social order. By shifting her gaze away from the domestic, Carter has empowered Fevvers (a trapeze artist with wings) and Nora and Dora Chance (vaudeville dancers) to operate within territories where they can behave by self-generated rules. Whether they tap-dance into the night or, with wings, swing on a trapeze, they take on (sometimes only out of necessity) unconventional professions.
Especially in Wise Children the nuclear family, as idealized by Western culture, vanishes. Carter's “wise children” of this novel know that although marriage, domesticity, and motherhood exist as desirable ideals, being a wife, homemaker, and mother often leads to negation of self. For Carter's later female characters, not having a husband increases rather than precludes happiness. Though for Carter, nurturing and fertility remained necessary goals, the romantic notions associated with motherhood and fatherhood have been blown to pieces.
Ultimately, the real magic of Carter's fiction is a surreal logic that forces us to envision new possibilities. At the close of Nights at the Circus Walser and Fevvers's relationship suggests that theirs is a true companionship between the sexes, a mute understanding of their shared responsibilities. At the end of Wise Children Dora and Nora, though septuagenarian spinsters, are still kicking, perhaps because they are single. They are last seen dressed to kill in spandex miniskirts, pushing a pram (with two babies), and singing “I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby.” Carter, the master conjurer, created a fantastic world where love outside of matrimony is not only plausible but desirable.
“For Angela Carter, a very good wizard and a very dear friend”—so reads the dedication of Salman Rushdie's monograph on The Wizard of Oz, one of Carter's favorite films. Rushdie reiterates the compliment in his obituary tribute to Carter, whom he further acclaims as the “high sorceress” and “benevolent witch-queen” of English literature.
Carter would have appreciated the plaudits, especially since during her lifetime she never enjoyed the recognition that she desired and deserved. Regrettably, this literary wizard's reputation suffered because, unlike the fraudulent Wizard of Oz who uttered empty rhetoric, Carter dazzled her readers with verbal pyrotechnics. A public intellectual, she set out to expose all shamans who hide behind the curtain of cultural myths, unaware that artificial constructs are not universal truths. In the end, however, the author's literary and linguistic acrobatics proved too risky; many reviewers, though im-
pressed by individual works, never figured out quite how to classify Carter.
Unlike her British contemporaries Doris Lessing, Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch, and Margaret Drabble, Carter did not make it into A Literature of Their Own, Elaine Showalter's 1977 study of British women novelists. Nor was she included in Patricia Meyer Spacks's Contemporary Women Novelists, published that same year. It is distressing that it took two decades after the publication of her first novel for Carter's fiction to find its way into collections, such as The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women (1985) edited by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar—the same amount of time that it took for Carter's name to appear in the International Who's Who.
Fortunately, Carter's literary popularity is on the upswing. Not only is Carter included in Robert Hosmer's 1993 Contemporary British Women Writers, but contemporary novelists Jeanette Winterson and Michelle Roberts, among others, have acknowledged Carter's influence on their work. Furthermore, as the progressively increasing volume of current Carter scholarship indicates, she is commanding a secure, if yet not specifically determined, place in the contemporary canon of English literature.
In both her fiction and her nonfiction Carter imaginatively examined the construction and deconstruction of fixed gender roles. Most notably through her use of the fairy tale and the fantastic modes, she artfully protested the repression of female sexuality and desire by debunking culturally constructed ideologies, specifically myths about femininity, marriage, and motherhood. She redefined the sexual politics of desire as separate from romantic love and procreation, suggesting too that sexual impulses are potentially dangerous and in no way gender specific. Particularly in her later works Carter created a gallery of spirited, wayward women characters; young and old, these lovable “bad girls”—prostitutes, circus performers, and music-hall dancers—parley their feminine wiles into pleasure and profit. Angela Carter is a notable literary figure of our postmodern era who deserves recognition for her innovative narrative strategies as well as for her representation of strong female characters whose smarts and sexuality she celebrated without restraint.
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Doris Lessing 1919-
Del Ivan Janik
Doris Lessing's novels, stories, and other writings, beginning in 1950 with The Grass Is Singing, have appeared regularly throughout the second half of the twentieth century and beyond. Her early novels were based fairly closely on her own experiences, but in 1979 she published the first of five science-fiction novels forming the series Canopus in Argos: Archives. Having completed that series, she reinvented herself as a writer again in 1983 when she submitted a novel called Diary of a Good Neighbour under the pseudonym of “Jane Somers” to her own publisher, who rejected it; Lessing had found some support for her suspicion that star quality—a “name”—counted with publishers at least as much as literary quality. Since the Canopus series and the Jane Somers books, Lessing has published six novels, a play, numerous short stories, and two volumes of autobiography; she shows no signs of retiring from her calling.
Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in Kermanshah, Persia (now Iran), on October 22, 1919. Her parents, Alfred Cook Tayler and Emily McVeagh Tayler, had been born in England. Alfred met Emily, a nurse, when he was convalescing from a crippling wound received in World War I. When Doris was born, her father was working for the Imperial Bank of Persia; in 1925 the family moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to try farming. It was a rough existence—the family lived in a mud-walled and grass-roofed house whose other inhabitants included snakes, lizards, rats, a variety of insects, and occasionally a tree growing up through the dirt floor (Brewster 17)—and the farm was a financial failure.
Doris left school at the age of thirteen, and at sixteen she went to work in Salisbury, the capital, as a typist. Three years later she married Frank Wisdom, a civil servant, with whom she had two children, Jean and John. Doris and Frank were divorced in 1943, and the children stayed with their father (Barnes 161). One factor contributing to the divorce seems to have been Doris's dissatisfaction with the narrow, conservative, racist social set of which she found herself a member (Brewster 108-110). Doris had become involved in leftist politics, a fact that she believed was threatening her husband's career. It was in a Communist discussion group in Salisbury that she met her second husband, Gottfried Lessing, a German immigrant. They were married in 1945 and had a son, Peter, two years later. The Lessings were divorced in 1949; Gottfried left for East Ger-
many and Doris, with Peter, for London, where both have lived since then.
Lessing arrived in bleak, war-damaged, still largely impoverished London with the nearly completed manuscript of The Grass Is Singing, which soon found a publisher, and she undertook the writing of Martha Quest, the first of the Children of Violence novels. She came to London also with a concern for the urban poor and a waning interest in communism.
It took me four or five years from my first falling in love with Communism, or rather, ideal Communism, in 1942, to become critical enough to discuss my “Doubts” with people still inside the Communist fold. In another two or three years I discussed with other Communists facts and ideas for which in a Communist country we would have been tortured and killed. By 1954 I was no longer a Communist, but it was not until the early 1960s I ceased to feel residual tugs of loyalty, was really free. (Under My Skin 397)
She had been drawn to communism for the apparent alternative it offered to the smug, exclusionary imperialist society in which she had been raised; it took the end of the wartime alliance, the Soviet subjugation of Eastern Europe, and the revelation of Stalin's crimes against humanity to undermine and eventually overcome Lessing's youthful commitment. Her humanistic and humanitarian impulses remained, however, now freed from Party trappings.
In 1956 Lessing was for the first time able to revisit Southern Rhodesia. Although the family farm had reverted to nature, many elements of Rhodesian society that had repelled her remained. She returned to London to write Going Home, an account of her response to her contacts with Rhodesians on all levels of society and an affirmation of her commitment to individualism, liberty, and democracy, beyond party or government: “I believe in the ginger-groups, the temporarily associated minorities, the Don Quixotes, the takers-of-stands-on-principle, the do gooders and the defenders of lost causes” (Going Home 316).
Among Lessing's next major projects were her most outstanding and her most notorious: The Golden Notebook (1962), The Four-Gated City (1969), and the five Canopus in Argos novels (1979-1983). These, and for that matter her later novels, have been influenced by Lessing's readings in Sufism, or to be more exact, by the writings of Idries Shah, to whose works she came in the course of an exploration of non-Western spiritual traditions. Sufism is not a doctrine so much as a quietist Path, taken with the help of Teacher (in Lessing's case Idries Shah), toward union with God, but without a withdrawal from the everyday world.
By the 1980s Lessing was a sufficiently publicfigure that her pseudonymous offering of the Jane Somers novels was no mere lark but a telling, if good-humored, mark against the literary establishment, of which she herself had undeniably become a part. Along with stories and books of nonfiction, new novels continued to appear throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1999 Honours List Lessing was named a Companion of Honour, a recognition that she appreciated because unlike “Dame of the British Empire, ” which she had declined, it carried no title and had nothing to do with a political entity that no longer existed (“Doris Lessing Retrospective”).
Doris Lessing's work can best be characterized by the word “commitment.” In her 1957 essay “The Small Personal Voice” she expressed admiration for the great authors of the nineteenth century who, whatever their religion or politics, had in common “a climate of ethical judgement; they shared certain values; they were humanists” (A Small 4-5). For Lessing, who at that time had finally renounced communism, commitment emphatically did not mean propagandism, but a recognition that as a writer she, like all
of us, faced two choices: “that we force ourselves into the imagination necessary to become what we are capable of being; or that we submit to being ruled by the office boys of big business, or the socialist bureaucrats who have forgotten that socialism means a desire for goodness and compassion—and the end of submission is that we shall blow ourselves up” (9). Lessing's commitment to humanistic values has been manifested consistently from the realistically presented antiapartheid critiques of The Grass Is Singing, African Stories, and the early novels of the Children of Violence series through the feminism of The Golden Notebook and the fabulized Sufi wisdom of the Canopus in Argos: Archives apocalyptic warnings of her later novels.
The Grass Is Singing is a conventionally structured novel set in South Africa in circumstances resembling those of Lessing's parents. It begins with a newspaper report of the murder of its central character, Mary Turner, by her houseboy Moses. The bulk of the novel consists of one long flashback, to Mary's bleak childhood and her passionless and childless marriage. Her husband Dick, due partly to illness, partly to ineptitude, fails to make a go of their farm, and Mary, through an arrogance born of fear, alienates the native farmworkers and a series of houseboys. The last of these is Moses, who had received a visible scar when Mary once angrily lashed him across the face during a time when she was substituting for her sick husband as overseer. Moses, however, treats her with deference and even kindness, taking special care over her tea, solicitously helping her to bed for a nap when she is exhausted, and even doing up the buttons on her dress—tasks that a maid or a husband might perform and that are surely inappropriate for a black male servant in this racist society. Mary feels a loss of her “proper” control as a white person and discomfort at her growing awareness of a sexual attraction to Moses, which is manifested in nightmares and in daytime bouts of anxiety and disorientation. Matters are brought to a head when Dick sells his land, and as the Turners prepare to leave for the coast, the new owner, Charlie Slattery, brings in Tony Marston as manager. When Marston happens upon Moses helping with Mary's toilette, her reaction shifts from embarrassment and anger at Marston to a sudden dismissal of Moses, who goes off into the bush. The next night Mary goes out to meet what she sees as her fate. As Roberta Rubenstein points out, as well as depicting the “dehumanization of both races by the color bar” (31), The Grass Is Singing “anticipates many of Doris Lessing's subsequent explorations of abnormal consciousness, particularly as manifested in mental breakdown and madness, ” as well as issues surrounding the nexus of power and sexuality (30).
The Children of Violence novels are even more obviously based on Lessing's personal experiences. The first, Martha Quest (1952; the protagonist's surname alone places the novel firmly in the genre of the bildungsroman), recounts the life from her midteens to her early twenties of a Southern Rhodesian girl of English parentage who leaves school, rebels against her parents, and begins an independent life in the capital, becoming involved first with the high-living Sports Club crowd and through them with Douglas Knowell, a superficially iconoclastic but in fact quite conventional civil servant. In her 1957 essay “The Small Personal Voice” Lessing stated that Children of Violence is “a study of the individual conscience in its relations with the collective” (A Small 14). The “collective” in Martha Quest and the first part of A Proper Marriage (1954) is the society that centers on the Sports Club, with its eminent leaders of the white community, their irresponsible offspring, and the bourgeois young marrieds they eventually become. Martha ultimately rebels against the club's values, and the fact that she leaves not only her husband Douglas but their daughter Caroline is a testament to Martha's resolve, or perhaps an indication of how radical and personal Lessing wanted her decision to find
a new life to seem. A Ripple from the Storm (1958) somewhat resembles Retreat to Innocence, a non-Martha Quest novel that Lessing had published in 1956 but later repudiated, saying, “I think a good many serious questions were far too easily, too lightly treated” (qtd. in Schlueter, Novels 137n). The novel accepts communism far less critically than any of Lessing's others, and it appeared in the bookstores just after she formally left the Party. A Ripple from the Storm treats the issues of political belief, commitment, and freedom more deeply. Martha throws herself into committee activity on behalf of the Russian ally—and eventually the avowedly Communist group that evolves from such committees, the “collective” with which Martha's “conscience” is now in most direct relation. She comes into contact with avowed Communists who apparently have attitudes toward blacks and women that make them seem no more enlightened than the Sports Club crowd, but she also meets Anton Hesse, a German Jewish refugee, with whom she has an affair and whom she eventually marries. Landlocked (1965), the last of the Children of Violence novels to take place in Africa, offers a summation as well as a farewell. Martha suffers from her estrangement from Caroline, and her new marriage offers no solace; it is poised on the edge of divorce, and she has taken a lover, Thomas Stern, a Polish Jew who at the end of the war has gone to fight for Israel. When he returns, he goes into the bush to study the working conditions of the blacks and dies of blackwater fever. At the novel's end the Left in Salisbury is in disarray, partly because of the contradictions implied in reports from Russia, partly because of a sense of impotence in the face of a general strike organized by the blacks. Martha's divorce has gone through, and she is preparing to leave for England.
The Four-Gated City (1969), the fifth and final novel of the series, was written and published after The Golden Notebook, and it represents a departure from the other four, not only in its locale but in its literary methods and the locus of its concerns The first four Children of Violence novels were essentially external and realisticin their presentation. Here Martha's quest becomes internal, perhaps reflecting Lessing's experience with Jungian analysis. The title refers to Martha's vision, in the early pages of her eponymous novel, of “a noble city, set foursquare and colonnaded along its falling, flower-bordered terraces…. and its citizens moved, grave and beautiful, black and white and brown together” (Children I:21). The vision recurs in later novels, but it is emphatically not realized in the fifth, which recounts twenty years of Martha's life in London. Visions and dreams play an increasing role in the novels of the series, and in The Four-Gated City psychological issues eclipse the political and even the societal; the “collective” in the earlier sense recedes into the background. The setting is not so much the city as a house—the Claridge house, presided over by the writer Mark Claridge and inhabited also by Martha, his secretary and eventually his mistress; Mark's wife Lynda, the “madwoman in the cellar”; the sensible Phoebe; and the irresponsible Jimmy Wood. If the house is a microcosm of the city—and a reflection of Martha's own condition—it is significant that, as Rubenstein points out, “a disproportionately high number of the characters … suffer mental breakdowns in one or the other form during the course of the narrative” (148); she quotes Lessing from a 1969 interview by Jonah Raskin: “Now, almost everyone I know has had a breakdown, is in psychoanalysis, or pops in and out of mental hospitals. Mental illness is part of the mainstream…. People who are called mentally ill are often those who say to the society, 'I'm not going to live according to your rules. I'm not going to conform' ” (A Small 69). The time that Martha spends in the cellar with Lynda can be seen as a descent into her own unconscious, which ultimately frees her from her self-perceived bond to the house and makes it possible for her to proceed in life as
an independent individual. However, Martha's personal achievement turns out to be rather pyrrhic. Lessing appended to the novel a kind of prophecy, told in the form of reports and letters, based on her view of the direction the world seemed to be taking in the 1960s. There has been a nuclear accident; Britain has been essentially destroyed; war has been loosed on the world, and a rigid and particularly unintelligent authoritarianism prevails; only on the island of Pharos, where Martha survives for a time, are there a few children whose superior consciousness seems to hold out hope for the future.
In a sense, Lessing wrote The Golden Notebook (1962) as a kind of sabbatical from the Children of Violence series, but this most famous of her novels pursues many of the same themes, albeit in a form that represents a significant departure from her earlier realism and reflects or, in light of its publication date, helps define the late-twentieth-century fashion of postmodernism. Anna Freeman Wilf is a mature woman born in Africa, a former Communist, living alone in London, seeking stability through Jungian analysis. The departure from Lessing's familiar materials lies in their presentation. Only a couple of years after the liberation of Ulysses and Lady Chatterley's Lover from the censors, Lessing here published a novel of unprecedented frankness about female sexuality and women's opinions of men. Rather than the linear story one might expect, she wrote it as four “notebooks, ” two of them retrospective, one consisting of Anna's autobiographical fiction, and one a diary. Each is divided into four parts, and each cluster is prefaced by part of a novel called “Free Women.” These sequences are followed by the “GOLDEN NOTEBOOK, ” which recounts Anna's breakdown almost literally—the fragmentation of her personality into bits of her waking self, her dreams, the people she knows, and the characters she has created—and the beginnings of her reintegration. The novel ends with a final segment of “Free Women.” Paul Schlueter has observed, “[T]he reader can either read from page 1 to the end of the book, or … all the parts of each notebook and 'Free Women' together” (“Doris” 280). This combination of flexibility of structure and coherence of meaning in the context of a foregrounding of the fiction as fiction makes The Golden Notebook one of the early successes of postmodernism.
In 1971 Lessing began a new phase in her career with the publication of Briefing for a Descent into Hell. Her now-familiar themes of mental illness and apocalypse are present, but Lessing moves into new realms of fantasy, blurring and never quite reconciling the borders between everyday reality, dream, and hallucination. At the book's beginning Charles Watkins (Lessing's first male protagonist), a Classics professor, is circling the Atlantic on a raft; a spaceship has abducted his companions but has left him on earth. When he arrives on a mysterious island on which a colony of apes is engaged in a bloody war against a group of cat/dog hybrids, the spaceship saves him, and he finds himself in the midst of the Olympian gods, who are plotting to send some of their number to earth as human children—the “descent into hell” of the title. The scene abruptly switches to London, where Watkins, suffering from amnesia, is admitted to a mental hospital and subjected to a variety of treatments; shock treatment finally restores him to the “real” world—but not necessarily to a satisfactory life in it. Briefing, like The Four-Gated City and The Golden Notebook, reflects Lessing's studies in Sufism, with its skepticism about accepted ideas and notions of reality and its emphasis on the value of openness to the irrational.
The experiences of forty-five-year-old Kate Brown, the protagonist of The Summer before the Dark (1973), somewhat parallel Watkins's in that (with her husband and family absent for the summer) she leaves her normal middle-class environment and attempts—voluntarily in her case—some kind of renewal. Like Watkins's, her story ends ambiguously in that her brief affair with a younger man, her friendship with Maureen, a neigh-
bor who seems a younger version of herself, and the clarification of her feminist thinking lead only to a return to the dull life she had been leading—presumably the “dark” of the title. This novel is quite different from its predecessor, however, in that while it again pursues themes of mental illness and social displacement, it returns to the conventionally realisticmode of Lessing's early novels.
That is not the case in The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974), in which the background of apocalypse, the foreground of mental illness, and the modes of dream and fantasy return to prominence. Lessing's central character is a middle-aged woman living in London after a catastrophic war. For unexplained reasons she finds herself raising a girl named Emily through the crucial years from twelve to fourteen, in an extremely difficult societal context that demands radical adaptation for survival. The early part of the novel is written in a relatively realistic, if dystopian, mode, but the second half focuses on the protagonist's personal visions, which she “sees” through the “transparent” walls of her flat. They are apparently a series of metaphors for the stages of her earlier life, and they culminate in the vision of a goddess with whom she comes to identify on a mystical level—in what Lessing presents not as an escape from reality but a merging of reality and myth for the sake of psychological survival.
Lessing's fullest and most striking departure from realism, into science fiction or “space fiction” or “speculative fiction, ” came in 1979 with Shikasta: Re, Colonised Planet 5 and continued through four succeeding novels: The Marriages between Zones Three, Four, and Five (1980), The Sirian Experiments (1981), The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (1982), and Documents Relating to the Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire (1983). The parallel that most immediately springs to mind is not literary but cinematic: George Lucas's first Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983), which, like Lessing's almost exactly contemporary Canopus in Argos: Archives series, offers analogues to earthly, especially twentieth-century, events, experiences, perplexities, and potentials from the perspective of planets far, far away. The “aliens” in Lessing's series, however, are directly concerned about earth's fate: the planet Canopus seeks to help save “Shikasta” (its name for Earth) from the degradation brought about by the evil planet Shammat, which has replaced among us the “substance-of-wefeeling” with the disease of individualism. Except for The Marriages and The Making of a Representative, the novels are presented not as conventional narratives but as a collection of documents chronicling the activities and putting forward the ideas of the “people” of the novel's planets. This in itself makes for narrative distance, and there are hardly any sympathetic “human” characters. Yet the overall theme of the series is the need for human change in the face of threats to survival. As Katherine Fishburn puts it, “[T]he pressures of a changing environment force people to evolve or die with their planet” (Doris 142). The idea is hardly new in Lessing; if “environment” is defined broadly and “die” is understood metaphorically as well as literally, it could be taken to apply to virtually all of her fiction. The emphasis on openness to change is directly in line with Sufism's attempt to use stories (albeit briefer than Canopus in Argos: Archives) to encourage receptivity to new and mind-expanding modes of awareness.
Lessing's next shift of ground was her serious joke on the publishing industry, the reviewing profession, and the reading public: The Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983), offered under the pseudonym “Jane Somers.” As Mary Doll reports, the manuscript was rejected by British publishers Cape and Granada but accepted by Michael Joseph, where the editorial director said that it “reminded her of Doris Lessing.” In America Lessing's editor at Knopf, Robert Gottlieb, reported, “I burst into laughter because it was a voice so well known to me” (Doll 287). The public, like Cape and Granada, rose to Lessing's bait. According to Gottlieb, in America the novel
and its 1984 sequel If the Old Could … sold about six times as many copies in a reprint with Lessing named as the author as they did as books by Jane Somers (Doll 288). The novels themselves focus on the relationships formed by Janna (later Jane) Somers, a middle-aged magazine editor, first with Maudie, a ninety-year-old woman dying of cancer for whom Janna performs essential personal and household tasks. Through knowing, caring for, and talking with Maudie, Janna develops a sense of identity and purpose that she had found in neither her work nor her own family. In If the Old Could … Janna (now Jane) meets Richard, a married man with whom she has a romantic—but not sexual—affair that fills some of the void left by Maudie's death. The unexpected arrival of her niece Kate, who suffers from a mental illness, reverses Jane's generational position and complicates her life, but she responds to the challenge, affirming her identity and life choices with self-knowledge and confidence.
In The Good Terrorist (1985) Lessing returned to some of her earlier themes, but from a different perspective. Whereas she took political causes seriously in the Children of Violence series, here she wryly depicts the confusion and drift in the minds and lives of the young and youngish would-be terrorists who inhabit the condemned London house that her protagonist Alice Mellings tries to maintain for her fellow Communist Centre Union members. This is not a political novel so much as a novel about a certain type of politics, which Lessing depicts without any of the emotional ambivalence of the early Martha Quest novels. If not contemptible, these self-styled urban revolutionaries seem misguided and pathetic.
With her 1988 novel The Fifth Child Lessing began another sequence, continued in 2000 with Ben, in the World. The Fifth Child chronicles the effect on the Lovatts' conventional and stereotypically “happy” family of the arrival of a fifth child, Ben, who is mentally retarded, unusually large, extremely aggressive, and preternaturally strong. When he becomes completely unmanageable, David and Harriet Lovatt have him institutionalized, but Harriet's guilt feelings lead her to return him to the family, which promptly disintegrates, leaving her alone to cope with the destruction that Ben and his antisocial friends wreak in the formerly “ideal” Lovatt home. The book's images of futility and decay are familiar enough from many of Lessing's novels, but here they are brought down to a domesticlevel that makes them no less pointed and perhaps even more problematic. The sequel, Ben, in the World, is, although brief, something of a picaresque novel (London to France to Brazil to the Andes) in contrast to the previous situation tragedy. Ben is now eighteen, on his own, and barely surviving until he is taken in by a prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold and then, less benevolently, by a cocaine dealer who uses him to run drugs to Nice, a filmmaker who wants to use him in a horror movie, and an unscrupulous scientist who wants to study this curious specimen after death. Ben does die at the novel's end, but with a shred of pathetic dignity, in a manner and in a place that thwart the scientist's plans. These two novels, like many of Lessing's, focus on an individual who lives on the margins of society and either exemplifies or embodies its ills—or who, like Ben, is both victimizer and victim.
In 1996, between the “Ben” novels, Lessing published Love, Again, an only slightly less unpleasant story in spite of the absence of literal monsters. Once again Lessing placed a cast of characters in a relatively closed setting, this time the preparation of a musical play based on the life of a nineteenth-century writer and composer, Julie Vairon. Sarah Durham, the sixty-five-year-old producer, responds to the romance of Vairon's story and music by falling in love first with Bill, an actor more than thirty years her junior, and then with Henry, the director. Meanwhile, Stephen, the play's financial backer, develops a passion for Julie herself, who has been dead for eighty years. The novel's admittedly improbable story line
nevertheless again brings together several of Lessing's preoccupations: love and its ironies, the pain of aging, and the prospect of death.
After Ben, in the World (2000), Lessing's next novel was Mara and Dann (1999). Set in the far-distant future in an “Ifrik” (Africa) suffering from a new ice age, the novel recounts the adventures of a brother and sister from a royal family who must hide from their community's enemies and then, because of the dangerously unpredictable weather, join a great migration north in search of food and water. The novel is reminiscent of the Canopus in Argos: Archives series in its futurism and its resemblance to popular fiction, and to The Four-Gated City in its catastrophic conclusion.
There is no question that Doris Lessing has been one of the most important figures on the British literary scene since 1950. If not all reviewers and critics would agree with Jeremy Brooks that she is “the best woman novelist we have, ” most would agree with him that she is “one of the most serious, intelligent and honest writers of the whole post-war generation” (qtd. in Schlueter, Novels 2). The distinction is well expressed by Florence Howe: “No one will read Doris Lessing to learn how to write a good novel or to admire a beautiful work of art. She disdains—is suspicious of—smoothness of most sorts. There is nothing subtle about her fiction; its bulk alone is formidable” (34). In this sense she is perhaps reminiscent of Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence, who as novelists were above all concerned with “saying their say.”
What Lessing has had to say has often accorded closely with—and perhaps to an extent shaped—some of the major public concerns of the times in which she has written. Her depiction of the dangers of apartheid—to whites as well as blacks—surely contributed to the gradual changes in racial attitudes during the second half of the twentieth century. The evolution of her protagonist's relation to communism in Children of Violence was part of the reevaluation of ideology and institutions that was important to leftist intellectuals in the 1950s and 1960s. Her visions of apocalypse—nuclear, as in The Four-Gated City, or environmental, as in Mara and Dann—were expressions of the ultimate fears that have haunted the postwar era. Her depictions of mental illness and madness have reflected the era's fascination with psychology and psychiatry. Above all, her novels' explorations and articulations of the problems and potentials of women in the late twentieth century—their struggle for self-awareness and self-realization—accorded with and helped give intellectual underpinning to one of the major social and intellectual shifts of her or any time.
This is not to say that Lessing has been perceived (any more than Hardy or Lawrence) as a mere didactic drudge. Betsy Draine points out that Lessing's style is far from uniform, encompassing as it does both the realism of The Grass Is Singing and the early Children of Violence volumes, the “modern perspectives” of “The Golden Notebook—a work that radically questions the realism and objectivity which formed the basis of the style and structure of her previous works” (xiv), and then in The Four-Gated City (and of course the Canopus novels) a “new preoccupation with the visionary, ” another of what Draine calls Lessing's “formal choices” (xv). How enthusiastica reader or criticmay be about any one of Lessing's novels may have to do with her or his preference for these realistic, modernist, or visionary modes, for the personal and social issues they address come out of the same humanistic sensibility.
In the 1960s and 1970s, in the wake of The Golden Notebook and The Four-Gated City, Lessing was at the forefront of the novelists writing as women about women, and her reputation as a writer soared in general. She had earned the right (which she had been exercising anyway) not to repeat herself, and so she followed her intellectual and
spiritual interests with the Canopus series and with books as divergent as The Diaries of Jane Somers and Mara and Dann. It is safe to speculate that readers will continue to return to the Notebook and the City, and to pass through those gates to enjoy the rest of Lessing's work.
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Penelope Lively 1933-
Jacqueline L. Gmuca
An award-winning author in the realms of both children's literature and adult fiction, Penelope Lively is a rare phenomenon. The first eleven works of her publishing career were written for children, and then in 1977 she published her first novel for adults, The Road to Lichfield. From that point forward she has continued to write both children's and adult fiction, although her adult fiction has predominated since the early 1980s. Lively excels with both audiences, as witnessed by her prestigious awards: the Carnegie Medal (the highest award in Great Britain for children's literature) for The Ghost of Thomas Kempe in 1973; the Whitbread Award for AStitch in Time (1976), her ninth book for children; the Southern Arts Literature Prize for Nothing Missing but the Samovar, and Other Stories (1978), her first collection of short stories; the British Arts Council's first National Book Award for her second adult novel, Treasures of Time; and the Booker Prize for 1987 for Moon Tiger, her seventh novel for adults. Whether she is writing for children or adults, her concern is the same—memories that bind together the individual's multiple selves over time, overlap personal and publichistory, and create the dense layering of places with people from the past, the present, and the future. In creating novels and picture books for children, Lively has worked in the genres of modern fantasy, realism, and historical realism and has developed exciting narratives, each with a clear chronological order. But it is in her work for adults that her significance is truly apparent. Lively is clearly a postmodern novelist, continuing to experiment with point of view and narrative structure. Incorporating not only shifting points of view within a narrative frame but also montagelike juxtapositions of the same event from several viewpoints, Lively has continued the experimentation of her modern predecessors, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. Her novels explore the synchronic nature of narrative structure in which events widely separated in time coalesce in the chronological narrative.
When Lively was interviewed by Amanda Smith of Publishers Weekly several months after Moon Tiger won the Booker Prize, she detailed that the novel “was about 30 years in gestation” (48). Actually, one can trace the roots of this novel even deeper, back to Lively's early childhood in Egypt. Born in Cairo, Egypt, on March 17, 1933, to Vera Greer and Roger Low, she was often a solitary child, her mother caught up in the social
whirl of British colonial society, her father occupied with his duties as a manager in the National Bank of Egypt. In her autobiography, Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived (1994), Lively relates how she felt “battered” by the “cultural confusion” of Egypt, using the most rudimentary categories of “us” and “the world at large, ” dress and behavior, to sort out the many cultures surrounding her, as diverse as the British and French from the Turkish and Muslim (65). One of her most memorable experiences as a child of eight or nine was a visit to an archaeological site, with British planes overhead and a skeleton thousands of years old at their feet (“Bones in the Sand” 13). Interviewed by Cathy Courtney for Something about the Author (1990), Lively pinpoints how this experience “of living in a very ancient land” led to her “lifelong obsession with the processes of time and of memory” (63).
She attended no formal educational institution as a child but was home schooled by her nanny, Lucy. With no training in teaching or experience as a governess, this “surrogate mother, ” as Lively acknowledged her (Courtney 62), followed the program designed especially for families in the British colonies by the Parents' National Education Union. Through the program's emphasis on literature, Lively was exposed to a number of masterpieces, including the Bible, Greek and Norse mythology, Dickens, and the tales of The Arabian Nights. The method of instruction was simple but highly influential on Lively's development as a writer: the stories were read to her, followed by her writing their plots in her own words. She told herself stories all the time, writing her first work at the age of seven, The Flora and Fauna of the Lower Nile Valley, in imitation of the style used by a nineteenth-century clergyman whom she had read.
With the end of World War II and the divorce of her parents, Lively's childhood in Egypt abruptly ended. She was sent to Great Britain to stay with her paternal grandmother before beginning three unhappy years in a boarding school known for its athletic rather than its academic accomplishments. In this “absolutely appalling purgatory, ” as she described it to interviewer Amanda Smith, Lively was chastised for reading in her spare time and was forced to hide her own writing of poetry (47). About a year after he returned to Great Britain, her father recognized that his daughter was totally unprepared for the critical exams necessary for admission to a university and subsequently enrolled her in a “crammer, ” a type of school known for its success in assisting students in passing exams. In 1951 she entered the “total liberation” of St. Anne's College at Oxford, quickly enjoying her social life and many new friendships. Although she was widely read in literature, Lively opted for a history degree instead, a decision she traced years later to having grown up in Egypt and “needing to place myself in time and to make some sort of interpretation of continuities” (Courtney 65). With her career choices limited after graduation, Lively followed the route taken by many female graduates at the time, enrolled in a secretarial course, and obtained a position as a research secretary at Oxford. It was there that she met her husband, Jack, and with their marriage in 1957 and the birth of her two children in 1958 and 1961, respectively, Lively dedicated herself to raising her children, determined that they would not have the same solitary childhood that she had experienced. She constantly read aloud to her daughter and son, a practice that she credits as the origin of her interest in children's books. Upon her second child's entrance to school, she gave herself six months to decide on her plans. That time gave her the leisure to delve into the history and folklore of Oxfordshire and the impetus to begin her first children's book, published in 1970 as Astercote. Since then Lively has been a most prolificwriter, publishing ten fantasy novels for older children, over fifteen novels and picture-book stories for young children, two works of nonfiction, several
collections of short stories, including an edition of children's stories, and twelve novels for adults.
Since the major concerns of Lively's fiction for adults are closely intertwined with her writing for children, it is imperative to consider two of her most popular books for children, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe (1973) and A Stitch in Time (1976). The former, her fifth book for children, was awarded the Carnegie Medal in 1974; A Stitch in Time, the Whitbread in 1976. Both are time fantasies in which the protagonists intersect with characters from previous centuries. In The Ghost of Thomas Kempe the ghost of a seventeenth-century sorcerer is released when workmen break a small bottle wedged behind an atticwindow frame. The reader quickly empathizes with James, the highly imaginative protagonist, when he is blamed for Thomas Kempe's noisy breaking of objects and written messages against those he sees as his rivals. Hilarious episodes underscore a quite serious theme—the presence of layers of time—as James encounters not only a ghost from the seventeenth century, but also the presence of Arnold, a Victorian boy from 1856. In reading the diary of Arnold's aunt, James discovers that the ghost of Thomas Kempe had plagued Arnold and his aunt as well. Yet another ring of time is encountered in James's next-door neighbor, Mrs. Verity. In a moment of insight James realizes that “deep within stout, elderly Mrs. Verity … there sheltered the memory of a little girl who had behaved outrageously in Sunday school. And that, when you stopped to think about it, was a very weird thing indeed” (80). The novel ends with a moment of epiphany in which the narrator recognizes that time is actually a continuum filled with many lives behind one as well as ahead. But that continuum does not devalue the importance of one's individual life, for “in the middle, there was James, walking home for tea” (186).
David Rees recognizes The Ghost of Thomas Kempe as the first novel in which the “author is completely sure of her own abilities” but ultimately deems A Stitch in Time her “most important and memorable book” for children (192, 195). In this novel present-day Maria intersects with Harriet Polstead, age ten, from 1865. The vehicles of their intersection, comparable to fossils of extinct forms, are Harriet's sampler and her drawings of fossils, leading Maria to experience aspects of Harriet's life. Harriet is not a tangible ghost like Thomas Kempe but a more subtle memory of a past way of life. In this work Lively affirms the importance of place as the location of memories. As Harriet tries to explain to her cat, places are like clocks “full of all the time there's ever been in them, and all the people, and all the things that have ever happened” (121). Just as James in the previously discussed novel had insight into an earlier self of Mrs. Verity, Harriet also ponders the many selves she will eventually become, and how each of these previous selves resides in a particular space and time.
Asked on a number of occasions when she would be ready to write a book for adults, Lively was vehement about the importance of works for children. In a February 1978 article for the Horn Book she quotes W.H. Auden that there “are no good books which are only for children” (“Children, Part I” 19), emphasizing that books read by children are just as high in quality as those for adults. In 1977, after eleven works for children and one work of nonfiction, Lively published The Road to Lichfield. In this novel private and public memories play a central role as Lichfield is identified as the home of Samuel Johnson. It is also the town in which the protagonist's father is approaching death. The inability to ever really know the truth of the past emerges as a central insight of the novel when Anne Linton, going over her father's financial records, finds that her father has had a long-standing extramarital affair. Her life comes to parallel his as she finds her-
self falling in love with David Fielding, the headmaster of a local boys' school. Anne ultimately meets the daughter of the woman her father had loved for ten years, discovering that Shirley knew all about her and her brother from the very beginning. With the advent of autumn and her father's death, her affair with David is discovered and brought to an end since no one wants a divorce. Critical reception of The Road to Lichfield was quite positive, as affirmed by the novel being shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
In her ensuing novels Lively continues to examine alternate viewpoints toward memory, the past, and the power of places to hold past lives. Her characters frequently confront death in one way or another, are exceedingly well developed, and struggle with diverse types of relationships. The award-winning Treasures of Time (1979), for example, focuses on a producer's efforts to film a documentary on Hugh Paxton, a deceased archaeologist. Private memory intersects with public memory in each character's differing views of Paxton as the plot unravels the intricate, intertwining relationships among Paxton, his wife, her sister who loved him, Paxton's daughter, and her fiancé. The opening question of this novel, whether it is possible to truthfully reconstruct another's life, is a further amplification of Anne's attempt in The Road to Lichfield to find out about her father's relationship to Betty Mansell and her married daughter, Shirley Barron. The novel's narrative style is characterized by shifting points of view among the major characters, a style employed in each of Lively's novels.
In According to Mark (1984), her sixth novel for adults, Lively approaches the same question she had posed in Treasures of Time, this time from the stance of a biographer gathering material on Gilbert Strong, a man of letters. When the biographer Mark Lamming finds the most unexpected collection of letters under the literary execution of Strong's granddaughter, he is overwhelmed by the fresh insights they will provide. He quickly discovers that the letters are not his only reason for making the drive from London to Dean Clos, as he has fallen in love with Strong's granddaughter, Carrie. As in The Road to Lichfield, the novel traces the evolution and conclusion of their affair. In the end Mark makes up with his wife, and Carrie finds herself able to begin a new relationship with a journalist. As Mark becomes more and more familiar with Strong's life, he discovers what he ultimately does not want to know, that Strong had an intense love affair with a woman who was willing to divorce her husband and marry him, but when she quite suddenly died, Strong never got over her loss. Mark's moral dilemma is clear—should such an intensely personal aspect of Strong's life be included in a biography? This is ultimately a moot point, since for the sake of truthfulness, of course it should. The novel ends with Mark feeling as if Strong is speaking to him directly in an old BBC broadcast, uniting the two characters together, writer and biographer, both involved in serious love affairs. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, According to Mark was published in the same year as a collection of short stories for adults, Corruption, one for children, Uninvited Ghosts and Other Stories, and a picture-book story, Dragon Trouble. Throughout this time, then, Lively continued her development of short stories and novels for both children and adults.
Moon Tiger (1987) was also published the same year as two works for children, A House Inside Out and Debbie and the Little Devil. It was immediately recognized for its excellence, receiving the Booker Prize. Indeed, in her book-length study on Lively, Mary Hurley Moran considers the work to be the novelist's “most impressive display to date of her unconventional narrative methods and her characteristic themes of history, memory, evidence, and the subjective nature of reality” (111). The novel takes place over the course of a few days, the week in which a popular historian, Claudia Hampton, is dying. During this time she is visited by her sister-in-law,
her daughter, her surrogate son, and Jasper, her lover for many years. The narrative structure is a complex blending of Claudia's stream of consciousness, an objective third-person point of view, and shifting third-person points of view among Claudia's family members. In addition, the novel moves synchronically in flashbacks to pivotal moments of Claudia's life, so that the moments of the novel's present time are infused by memories of the past. In inspecting these past events, yet another point of view emerges, one in which the same scene is viewed several times from the perspective of its key players. Terming this method “kaleidoscopic, ” Moran (1993) traces its first appearance to The Road to Lichfield, pointing out Lively's recognition that she derived the technique from watching the Japanese film Rashomon (37-38). What emerges in the novel is a highly complex view of an individual life, that of a journalist and historian who not only tackled a male-dominated field but who on her deathbed challenges a linear, cause-and-effect view of history, replacing it with her own synchronic vision. Debrah Raschke pinpoints as well Claudia's subversion of the conventional view of historiography in which the publicview of history predominates, moving the personal lives of women to a secondary role (117-118). In writing a history of the world, then, Claudia is writing her own history. Such an account, which of course is never formally written down in the context of the novel, most dramatically encompasses the World War II campaign in Egypt, during which Claudia falls in love with a soldier, Tom Southern. On her deathbed she affirms his being as the essence of her core, but as Moran points out in a 1990 article for Frontiers, the novel extends beyond their ill-fated love affair and Tom's sudden death to reveal the many layers of Claudia's psyche as she advances in her career, has a long-lasting affair with a Russian immigrant with whom she has a daughter, raises her child, and serves as a surrogate mother to Laszlo, trapped in London when the Communists take over his native Hungary (“Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger” 94). Clearly, the novel is a tour de force not only in its probing of the nature of publicand private history, but through its experimentation with point of view and narrative structure.
Lively's next novel for adults, Passing On (1989), is “a much quieter, more conventional novel” as Moran points out in her critical study (Penelope Lively 128). Lively shifts her focus from those involved in love affairs to the ways in which a brother and sister cope with the death of their highly abusive mother. Helen and Edward Glover, now fifty-two and forty-nine, respectively, had lived all of their adult lives with their mother. Beginning with the gathering of children at the funeral, the novel traces the expression of Helen's and Edward's sexuality, suppressed for many years by their mother. Helen falls passionately in love with their solicitor Giles, a man who continually entices women, and Edward finally displays his feelings of homosexuality, making a pass at the neighbor's boy. Throughout this whole time Helen is haunted by the presence of her mother as she encounters a number of reminders of the emotional and verbal abuse she had endured. With Edward's attempt at suicide and Helen's rejection of Giles's invitation to meet, the novel ends with their mother's presence growing dimmer and dimmer. Indeed, when Helen searches the garden for that “familiar, forbidding brown figure, ” she is no longer there (209). While Helen's third-person limited point of view dominates the novel, the narrative shifts to include Edward's perceptions from a third-person limited standpoint.
In City of the Mind (1991), Lively's next novel, she returns to a paralleling of past and present very similar to the juxtapositions in her earlier children's novels The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and A Stitch in Time. This time, however, there are only the most tenuous links between the architect who is the main focus of the story, Matthew Halland, and memories of the past juxtaposed with his
experiences of London. Ruth Feingold compares the work to both Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and James Joyce's Ulysses in its concentration on the life of a city. Indeed, place is paramount here, as a keeper of quite diverse memories, including those of the architect's ex-wife; of Jim Prothero, a fire warden during World War II; of a homeless child; of a nineteenth-century paleontologist; and then, further back in time, of the Elizabethan navigator Martin Frobisher, seeker of the Arctic. Perhaps the crux of the novel is presented at the opening of chapter 6 when the unnamed narrator, while recognizing the reader's need to see a city as part of the present, affirms its opposite nature: “It streams away into the past; it is now, then, and tomorrow” (79). The narrative traces Matthew's half-year journey in his work as an architect as well as his personal quest to accept his divorce from his wife. As Feingold points out, City of the Mind illustrates one of Lively's favorite concepts, a palimpsest, “the layers of experience, memory, and physical data that make up a place or a person” (164). Earlier, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and A Stitch in Time had begun to explore the nature of such layers of time, with Moon Tiger further developing a narrative constructed of a palimpsest.
In Lively's next books, Cleopatra's Sister (1993) and Spiderweb (1999), seemingly separate stories are traced concerning widely different characters. In each case, setting brings the major characters of the novels together. Cleopatra's Sister converges two lives, that of paleontologist Howard Beamis, who is en route to view important specimens in Nairobi, and Lucy Faulkner, a travel writer. Their lives intersect when their plane makes an unexpected landing in Marsopolis, the capital of the imaginary country of Callimbia. Unexpectedly detained, the passengers soon learn the truth of their plight: they are being held hostage to ensure the release of dissidents questioning the recent presidential election in Callimbia. Quickly Howard and Lucy fall in love, establishing a rapport and closeness neither had thought possible with someone met under these circumstances. Suspense begins to build when Howard is randomly selected to be executed as an example to the British government, the novel reaching a pivotal point in the scenes where he is incarcerated and receives what he feels is his last meal. Just as he steels himself to face his own death, he is reprieved. As the translator explains, the dissidents have been taken care of, and so no harm will come to any of the passengers. After a lengthy exposition in which the experiences of Lucy and Howard and the growth of Marsopolis are juxtaposed, the second section of the novel brings all three histories together.
In Spiderweb (1999) the ties between characters are quite diffuse. Again, place is what brings characters together, this time two women, but their lives never truly converge. They only happen to share the same place. The main character, Stella Brentwood, a retired social anthropologist, has bought a house in the country, ostensibly to settle down. Her life is juxtaposed with that of a neighbor's, Karen Hiscox, an extremely controlling and abusive wife and mother. Stella herself recognizes the diffuseness of this community: “The truth is that this place is a web, a network…. All sorts of mutually exclusive groups co-existing after a fashion. And I'm in there with the rest of them…. Quite as alienated in my way as anyone else” (208). The novel maintains this alienation to the end, as Stella prepares to sell the cottage and Karen Hiscox packs herself, her husband, and their sons off to another community. Reviewer Rebecca Barnhouse points out that the reader assumes Stella's role; we become ethnographers “watching Stella navigate the lineage patterns and kinship structures within her new community” (144), employing a variety of documents to draw our conclusions, including letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, lists of items, and phone messages. Intertwined with the present-day narrative of her settling in this Somerset community, we encounter a number of
Stella's previous selves, giving us further insight into her well-developed character.
Throughout her career, then, Lively has explored memory and history from a number of perspectives and for two distinct audiences. Betsy Hearne affirms the close relationship between Lively's fiction for children and novels for adults, posing the larger question of what finally separates children's from adult literature. She finds the answer in narrative technique. While Lively's novels for adults subvert and transform linear narrative order, an audience of children necessitates a strong sense of story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. In “Bones in the Sand” Lively concurs, identifying “one of the fascinations of writing both for children and for adults, the subtle and sometimes half-conscious way in which you find yourself adjusting tone and mood according to the audience, although the theme may remain the same” (15). However, it is undeniable that two prominent roots of Lively's experimentation can be uncovered in her children's stories, as they can in her childhood in which myriad cultures, public and private histories, and time periods coexisted.
During her career Penelope Lively was first recognized for her excellence in writing fiction for children and subsequently for her expertise in writing for adults. Her characters are exceedingly well developed and frequently involved in matters of both personal and publicimportance as they fall in love, conduct relationships with others, confront death, and ask the larger questions of life—on the importance of place, of time and events, and of the individual. But more important, both the male and female protagonists of her novels challenge preconceived notions of their time, most prominently in their subversive questioning of the linear delineation of documentaries, biographies, and histories as well as the traditional role of women. Lively's explorations of memory, history, and time coupled with her innovative approaches to point of view and narrative structure affirm her importance in terms of the development of twentieth-century literature. In 1985 she became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 1989 she was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire in honor of her literary works. Lively has clearly emerged as a leading writer of the postmodern novel.
Primary Sources
Astercote. London: Heinemann, 1970.

The Whispering Knights. London: Heinemann, 1971.

The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy. London: Heinemann, 1971.

The Driftway. London: Heinemann, 1972.

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe. London: Heinemann, 1973.

The House in Norham Gardens. London: Heinemann, 1974.

Boy without a Name. London: Heinemann, 1975.

Going Back. London: Heinemann, 1975.

Fanny's Sister. London: Heinemann, 1976.

The Presence of the Past: An Introduction to Landscape History. London: Collins, 1976.

The Stained Glass Window. London: Abelard-Schuman, 1976.

A Stitch in Time. London: Heinemann, 1976.

The Road to Lichfield. London: Heinemann, 1977.

“Children and the Art of Memory: Part I.” Horn Book February 1978: 17-23.

“Children and the Art of Memory: Part II.” Horn Book April 1978: 197-203.

Nothing Missing but the Samovar, and Other Stories. London: Heinemann, 1978.

The Voyage of QV66. London: Heinemann, 1978.

Fanny and the Monsters. London: Heinemann, 1979.

Treasures of Time. London: Heinemann, 1979.

Fanny and the Battle of Potter's Piece. London: Heinemann, 1980.

Judgement Day. London: Heinemann, 1980.

The Revenge of Samuel Stokes. London: Heinemann, 1981.

Next to Nature, Art. London: Heinemann, 1982.

Perfect Happiness. London: Heinemann, 1983.

According to Mark. London: Heinemann, 1984.

Corruption. London: Heinemann, 1984.

Dragon Trouble. London: Heinemann, 1984.

Uninvited Ghosts and Other Stories. London: Heinemann, 1984.

Pack of Cards: Stories,1978-1986. London: Heinemann, 1986.

Debbie and the Little Devil. London: Heinemann, 1987.

A House Inside Out. London: Deutsch, 1987.

Moon Tiger. London: Deutsch, 1987.

Passing On. London: Deutsch, 1989.

City of the Mind. London: Deutsch, 1991.

Judy and the Martian. Hemel Hempstead, UK: Simon & Schuster Young Books, 1992.

Cleopatra's Sister. London: Viking Penguin, 1993.

The Cat, the Crow, and the Banyan Tree. London: Walker, 1994.

Good Night, Sleep Tight. London: Walker, 1994.

Oleander, Jacaranda: AChildhood Perceived. London: Viking, 1994.

The Disastrous Dog. Hemel Hempstead, UK: Macdonald Young Books, 1995.

AMartian Comes to Stay. Hemel Hempstead, UK: Macdonald Young Books, 1995.

Staying with Grandpa. London: Viking Penguin, 1995.

Heat Wave. London: Viking Penguin, 1996.

Beyond the Blue Mountains. London: Viking, 1997.

“Bones in the Sand.” In Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children's Literature. Ed. Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire. New York: Lothrop, 1987. 13-21.

Ghostly Ghosts. London: Heinemann, 1997.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Hove, UK: Macdonald Young Books, 1997.

One, Two, Three, Jump! London: Viking 1998; New York: McElderry, 1999.

Spiderweb. New York: HarperFlamingo, 1999.

A House Unlocked. London and New York: Viking, 2001.

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Burton, Stacy. “Bakhtin, Temporality, and Modern Narrative: Writing 'the Whole Triumphant Murderous Unstoppable Chute.' ” Comparative Literature 48 (1996): 39-64.

Courtney, Cathy. “Lively, Penelope.” Something about the Author 60 (1990): 61-72.

Feingold, Ruth P. “Penelope Lively.” In British Novelists since 1960, Third Series. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 207. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 163-177.

Hearne, Betsy. “Across the Ages: Penelope Lively's Fiction for Children and Adults.” Horn Book March/April 1999: 164-175.

Jackson, Tony E. “The Consequences of Chaos: Cleopatra's Sister and Postmodern Historiography.” Modern Fiction Studies 42 (Summer 1996): 397-417.

———. “The Desires of History, Old and New.” CLIO 28 (1999): 169-187.

LeMesurier, Nicholas. “A Lesson in History: The Presence of the Past in the Novels of Penelope Lively.” New Welsh Review 2 (Spring 1990): 36-38.

“Lively, Penelope.” Current Biography Yearbook 1994: 338-342.

Moran, Mary Hurley. “The Novels of Penelope Lively: A Case for the Continuity of the Experimental Impulse in Postwar British Fiction.” South Atlantic Review 62 (Winter 1997): 101-120.

———. Penelope Lively. New York: Twayne, 1993.

———. “Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger: A Feminist 'History of the World.' ” Frontiers 11: 2-3. (1990): 89-95.

Raschke, Debrah. “Penelope Lively's 'Moon Tiger': Re-envisioning a 'History of the World.' ” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 26 (October 1995): 115-132.

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Iris Murdoch 1919-1999
John Louis DiGaetani
Iris Murdoch remains arguably one of the greatest British novelists since World War II. She depicts a world of artists, professors, intellectuals, and generally upperclass creative types, but she still creates fascinating characters and fascinating situations that have earned her a popular reading public on both sides of the Atlantic. She often uses the form of the thriller, and she knows how to create an exciting plot with unexpected sudden turns of event, but her novels are not just driven by plot but also ask probing questions about the nature of good, the nature of evil, the complexities of the human personality, and the realities of modern existence. Some of her novels have also become successful plays, and she has also written some poetry, but the novel remains her forte. Her life had a very sad ending once she contracted Alzheimer's disease—effectively but painfully and realistically described in her husband John Bayley's Elegy for Iris—but for most of her life she was a very successful Oxford professor and writer who entertained and fascinated her readers with her probing of modern life and modern mores.
Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin, Ireland, of Anglo-Irish parents, but when she was a child, the family moved to London. She attended schools in England and then went to Oxford to study philosophy; she took her degree there in 1942 and got a job for the Treasury Department. She was in London for much of the blitz, and war experiences sometimes appear in her novels. She worked for the United Nations after the war trying to help displaced persons, and while she was in Belgium, she became very interested in existentialism. She then did graduate work in philosophy at Cambridge and then Oxford, where she became a professor of philosophy. She taught existentialism and ethical philosophy, though she retired as a full-time teacher in 1963 and became a full-time writer. She continued to teach part-time after that, but her main commitment became her writing, and she soon had significant success in that field. In 1956 she married the literary critic John Bayley and remained married to him until her death. Bayley's Elegy for Iris (1999) describes her final years when she was struggling with the disabilities caused by Alzheimer's disease, which finally ended her life in 1999. It was tragically ironic that such a brilliant woman would be unable even to dress herself by the end of her long life.
Murdoch's background in philosophy and particularly her interest in French existentialism ensured that philosophical concerns
permeated her novels, especially the search for the good philosopher and the search for the nature of good itself. Indeed, the word “good” appears often in her titles—The Nice and the Good, The Good Apprentice, and The Sovereignty of Good are examples. Increasingly, her search for good seemed to exist in a world without a God and in a suspicion of all religions, though she maintained a continued interest in them as well. In terms of literary influences, in many ways her novels continued the English tradition of the novel of manners, especially the tradition of Jane Austen's works and E.M. Forster's. Like Austen, Murdoch remained centrally concerned with plot and action and often used an omniscient but almost invisible narrator, and like E.M. Forster, she had a sense of wit and humor as well as a concern with the complex nature of her characters, family life, and goodness. Austen's novels often revolve around a few families in an English village, and that is often the case in a Murdoch novel as well, though often her characters also have flats in London. Freud can be listed as an influence on her work as well, though Freudian analysts often appear as buffoons and hypocrites in her novels. But Freud's central concerns with cycles of behavior, the repetition compulsion, the Oedipal complex, bisexuality, homosexuality, and incest recur repeatedly in Murdoch's novels, especially A Severed Head, The Nice and the Good, The Black Prince, and The Good Apprentice.
Murdoch began as an existential philosopher but soon became a novelist instead, but philosophical concerns have often appeared in her novels. The nature of good, the nature of evil, and the nature of the human condition in post-World War II Britain remained constant concerns. In addition to concerns already mentioned, sibling rivalry also recurs in her novels in that brothers and sisters remain often very wary of each other. But these complex psychological and philosophical themes are balanced with a wonderful sense of humor, so that some of her most complex theories are presented wittily and with a light touch, which has oubtedly added to her popularity. Jane Austen said that she centered her novels around one or two families, and Murdoch often does this as well, but Murdoch, as a writer of the twentieth century, can use the themes of sexuality and complex motivation that Austen could hardly use in Regency England. In addition, Murdoch chronicles an England in which a traditionally homogeneous white society has gradually become as multinational, multiracial, and multicultural as the United States. Often Murdoch's England includes refugees from Eastern Europe, Indians and Pakistanis, blacks, and Chinese. Her Britain reflects the changes in British society since World War II. The complex social and racial forces at work in contemporary Britain often appear in her novels. Her fiction also reflects her fascination with art in the form of allusions to music, other works of literature (especially Shakespeare), and paintings. Her novels present a highly intelligent, highly cultivated view of a complex and often-brutal world. Often her most civilized characters seem the most brutal, and an obsession with power clearly balances an obsession with art.
Iris Murdoch has remained one of the major novelists in Britain since World War II. That she is a woman has attracted many female readers, but she cannot easily be described as a feminist. She is rarely guilty of the misandry of many feminist writers who insist that men are the enemy who are always exploiting women. Some of her women are as evil and selfish as some of her male villains. In her novel A Severed Head the main female character, Honor Klein, is as exploitative of other people as her male counterpart Martin Lynch-Gibbon. Clearly, Murdoch does not fit easily into the framework of feminism. She
does present women who are fiercely intelligent and lead liberated lives, but she does not have rigid concepts of male and female identities or of what liberation involves. Her genius, however, lives in four areas:comedy, acute characterizations, interesting ideas, and witty plots. In these areas she has been unsurpassed in her greatest novels, which include A Severed Head, The Nice and the Good, The Black Prince, The Good Apprentice, The Green Knight, and The Sea, the Sea.
Murdoch succeeds more at asking questions than offering solutions. Her moral questioning, especially about the nature of good, is provocative and intelligent. The moral universe of her novels often necessitates living in a world of confusion where questions rather than answers are the norm, but the intelligence of her questioning and the wit of her characters and situations offer provocative entertainment in her novels. Combining both humor and insight, her novels both amuse and enlighten.
Primary Sources
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Under the Net. London: Chatto, 1954; New York: Viking, 1954.

The Flight from the Enchanter. London: Chatto, 1956; New York: Viking, 1956.

The Sandcastle. London: Chatto, 1957; New York: Viking, 1957.

The Bell. London:Chatto, 1958; New York: Viking, 1958.

A Severed Head. London: Chatto, 1961; New York: Viking, 1961.

An Unofficial Rose. London: Chatto, 1962; New York: Viking, 1962.

The Unicorn. London: Chatto, 1963; New York: Viking, 1963.

Women Ask Why: An Intelligent Woman's Guide to Nuclear Disarmament. With Anne Mclaren. London: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 1962.

The Italian Girl. London: Chatto, 1964; New York: Viking, 1964.

A Severed Head: A Play in Three Acts. By Murdoch and J.B. Priestley. London: Chatto, 1964.

The Red and the Green. London: Chatto, 1965; New York: Viking, 1965.

The Time of the Angels. London: Chatto, 1966; New York: Viking, 1966.

The Nice and the Good. London: Chatto, 1968; New York: Viking, 1968.

Bruno's Dream. London: Chatto, 1969; New York: Viking, 1969.

A Fairly Honourable Defeat. London: Chatto, 1970; New York: Viking, 1970.

The Sovereignty of Good. London: Routledge, 1970; New York: Schocken, 1971.

An Accidental Man. London: Chatto, 1971; New York: Viking, 1971.

The Black Prince. London: Chatto, 1973; New York: Viking, 1973.

The Three Arrowsand The Servantsand the Snow: Plays. London: Chatto, 1973; New York: Viking, 1974.

The Sacred and Profane Love Machine. London: Chatto, 1974; New York: Viking, 1974.

A Word Child. London: Chatto, 1975; New York: Viking, 1975.

Henry and Cato. London: Chatto, 1976; New York: Viking, 1977.

The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists. Oxford: Clarendon, 1977.

The Sea, the Sea. London: Chatto, 1978; New York: Viking, 1978.

Nunsand Soldiers. London: Chatto, 1980; New York: Viking, 1981.

The Philosopher's Pupil. London: Chatto/Hogarth, 1983; New York: Viking, 1983.

A Year of Birds: Poems. London: Chatto/Hogarth, 1984.

The Good Apprentice. London: Chatto, 1985; New York: Viking, 1986.

Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues. London: Chatto, 1986; New York: Viking, 1987.

The Book and the Brotherhood. London: Chatto, 1987; New York: Viking, 1988.

The Message to the Planet. London: Chatto, 1989; New York: Viking, 1990.

Metaphysicsasa Guide to Morals. London: Chatto, 1992; New York: Allen Lane/Penguin, 1993.

The Green Knight. London: Chatto, 1993; New York: Viking, 1994.

Joanna Joanna: A Play in Two Acts. London: Colophon, 1994.

Jackson's Dilemma. London: Chatto, 1995; New York: Viking, 1996.

The One Alone. London: Colophon, 1995.

Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature. Ed. and with a preface by Peter Con-

Muriel Spark 1918-
Frank Kelly
Muriel Sparkhas produced a substantial body of work—twenty novels, plus stories, poetry, drama, literary criticism, and biography—in which she considers, in lean, gemlike, ironic prose and plots of surpassing ingenuity, the social interaction of people and through them the moral and cultural concerns of the twentieth century. Though many of her works are set in Great Britain, other novels and stories focus on political and ethical dilemmas in South Africa and Europe, particularly Italy, as well. A realist who includes spirituality, even religion, in her reality, she often experiments with the literary forms in which she is working.
In a personal interview poet John Masefield told Muriel Spark, then thirty-two years old, “All experience is good for an artist” (Curriculum Vitae [CV] 197). Spark's eminence among twentieth-century British writers may be traced in part to the unusual variety of social, cultural, and religious experiences that have informed her life and work.
She was born Muriel Uezzell Camberg in the Morningside district of Edinburgh, Scotland, on February 1, 1918. Her father Bernard was a Scottish-Jewish engineer who had refused to change his name to Camber, as the rest of his family had done. Her mother Sarah was English. The small but telling differences between her mother's speech, dress, and manner and those of her Edinburgh neighbors were among Spark's most vivid childhood observations.
She felt an early affinity with fellow Edinburgher Robert Louis Stevenson, whose A Child's Garden of Verses was among the first books she owned. She spent twelve years at James Gillespie's High School for Girls, the basis for the Marcia Blaine School in Spark's most famous work, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Sparkwas a Jew in a school whose official religion was Presbyterian, but other Jews, Catholics, and girls of mixed faith attended as well. “In my day Tolerance was decidedly the prevailing religion, always with a puritanical slant” (CV 53). At Gillespie's Sparkencountered the teacher Miss Christina Kay, the model for Jean Brodie, and immediately began to write about her. Kay's enthusiasm for foreign locales and culture in many forms also shows up in Spark's life and work. She saw John Masefield read aloud; twenty years later she wrote a bookabout him. She memorized the Border ballads; her own poetry brought her prizes while she was still in school. The fact that Spark's maternal grandmother lived with her family for the
last four years of her life may have honed Spark's extraordinary skill in presenting the habits and concerns of the aged, particularly in her novel Memento Mori (1959).
She enrolled at the Heriot-Watt College with the expressed purpose of mastering “economical prose, ” certainly a distinctive feature of her work (CV 102). In the late 1930s the first of many Penguin paper back books she purchased was André Maurois's Ariel, a biography of Shelley. The first version of Spark's own critical biography of Mary Shelley appeared in 1951.
In August 1937 she set out for Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), there to marry Sydney Oswald Spark, “a disastrous choice. Unbeknownst to us, the poor man had mental problems, not obvious at the time” (CV 116). In the colony where she settled initially, there were fifty-five thousand whites to one and a half million blacks. The clashes she observed in South Africa informed her stories “The Curtain Blown by the Breeze, ” “The Seraph and the Zambesi, ” “The Portobello Road, ” and “The Pawnbroker's Wife.”
Refusing to have an abortion as her husband suggested, Spark gave birth to her son Robin in 1938. Moving from place to place gave her full knowledge of the country even as her marriage became intolerable. She read Shakespeare, the Bible, T.S. Eliot, and Ivy Compton-Burnett, whose work she considered, in opposition to major opinion at the time, “basically surrealistic” (CV 146). After a protracted divorce proceeding she retained her husband's name so that it would be the same as her son's.
In the bombed-out London she returned to in 1944, she registered as required for war service and lived at the Helena Club, the basis for the May of Teck Club in The Girls of Slender Means (1963). She found workin the Political Intelligence Division of the Foreign Office, where she was trained in disinformation or “black” propaganda, delivering to Germany “detailed truth with believable lies” (CV 148). The intrigue and subterfuge associated with this work shows up notably in the tone and plots of many of her novels, especially in the form of blackmail. In her novel The Hothouse by the East River (1973) she used an incident involving a colleague who had a romance with one of the POWs who worked at the job. Also, her story “The House of the Famous Poet” is based on an actual visit to the home of Louis MacNeice while he was away, as is her essay “The Poet's House.”
She was employed as a researcher, copy editor, and writer for Argentos, a quarterly that dealt with the history of jewelry and allied crafts. At twenty-nine she became the editor of the journal of the Poetry Society, Poetry Review, which had twice awarded her prizes for poems. Her first editorial, which barely hinted at the upheaval to come, began, “Cannot we cease railing against the moderns?” by which she meant Eliot, Auden, and Pound (CV 169). After two years of disputes she chose to be fired rather than resign so she could collect severance pay. Her experiences at Poetry Review were translated later into her novel Loitering with Intent (1981). They also led her to the habit of maintaining complete documentary evidence of her life and work.
Spark began a literary partnership with critic and poet Derek Stanford, with whom she shared a voluminous correspondence. Spark and Stanford coedited a volume, Tribute to Wordsworth, to mark the centenary of the poet's death in 1850, and a selection of Mary Shelley's letters. At about this time Spark also published her first book of poems, The Fanfarlo and Other Verse (1952), and edited a volume of Emily Bronte's poetry. The plot device of incriminating letters that appears in several of her novels, including Memento Mori, may be traced to her later experience when certain of her letters to Stanford were offered to her for sale. In her autobiography Curriculum Vitae (1993), which covers her life up to the late 1950s,
Spark complains vigorously and in great detail of the inaccuracies that plague both Stanford's book about her and his later volume about the 1940s.
Spark's initial dedication to lyrical poetry turned to an increasing interest in narrative verse that was reflected in her book John Masefield (1953). Her job as a secretary at Falcon Press was the source for some portions of her novel A Far Cry from Kensington (1988). Spark identifies 1951 as a turning point in her professional life when she won a short-story competition sponsored by the Observer with “The Seraph and the Zambesi.”
Influenced by the writings of John Henry Newman, Spark first converted to the Church of England and then, in May 1954, to Roman Catholicism. Her reason was that it “corresponded to what I had always felt and known and believed” (CV 202). This was a pivotal event in her life, and faith is often a subject in her writings. Indeed, she coedited with Stanford a selection of Newman's letters, published in 1957. Her fascination with the Book of Job was later the focus of her novel The Only Problem (1984).
Shortly after she began writing a study of Eliot, a combination of malnourishment and medication produced hallucinations. She recovered while living with two groups of Carmelite nuns (a convent is the setting of her 1974 Watergate fable The Abbess of Crewe). In 1954, when she was commissioned by Macmillan to write a novel, she produced The Comforters, the title of which she derived from Job's comforters, who were, “in fact, like modern interrogators who come to interview and mock the victim in shifts” (CV 203). The novel dealt with a character who heard voices; the book was published in 1957 just before Evelyn Waugh's The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, on a similar theme. Waugh declared her approach to be the better one.
Spark was named a commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1967. She resided in New York City during the 1960s, but thereafter lived in Italy.
Muriel Spark once commented that the word “nevertheless” has a great deal of significance to her. It implies that the acknowledged existence of one set of facts or “realities” does not negate another set that exists as well. The contradictions between these two realities may be acknowledged or explained, or they may not be. The ironies inherent in these juxtapositions may not always be pointed to. They are simply there. It may be useful to remember “nevertheless” in trying to assess Spark's works, for she has confounded attempts to be classified according to the major tides of twentieth-century fiction. She writes lean, economical “literary” prose; nevertheless, she has enjoyed persistent “popular” success. Her plots are thought too well developed for the more ruminative strains of twentieth-century literature (some are even described as whodunits), yet her spiritual and moral preoccupations distinguish her work from the mainstream of genre fiction.
The assumptions of the realist tradition in literature are two fold: realism is the novel's sole legitimate domain, and this domain is necessarily secular. In its meticulous accumulation of detail, Spark's work could hardly be described as anything but realistic. The problem is that she routinely presents phenomena that are extraordinary but nevertheless actual. The fact that this involves issues of spirituality and, worse, religion only exacerbates the realists' problem with Spark's works. Of course, for many of Spark's readers, her brand of realism is all the more realistic for these inclusions.
If her “realities” are more broadly based than many others in the tradition, nevertheless there is a self-consciousness in many of her works—an awareness of their being artistic constructs—that aligns her with the
more experimental writers of the century. She has often explored form qua form: the novel as novel (The Comforters), the play as play (Doctors of Philosophy). Some critics have complained that her refusal to subscribe fully to any particular literary tradition or approach limits her achievement as an artist. However, this may be a failure of their critical systems rather than of Spark's vision of art.
Muriel Spark cuts a very distinctive profile in twentieth-century English literature. A few would argue that she is an exquisite miniaturist, but the weight of the themes she considers makes this classification seem confining and dismissive. Wherever she has turned her gaze, whether the classroom or the office, the Scottish or the Italian countryside, wartime London or premillennial Rome, her clarity, wit, and questing spirit have produced a substantial oeuvre whose weight is belied by its gemlike precision and luster. Readers looking for a clear-eyed yet passionate consideration of the major moral and cultural concerns of the twentieth century could do no better than to make Muriel Spark their guide. Though she is often concerned with problems of faith and with Roman Catholicism in particular, the breadth of her interests and the depth of her vision require that she be labeled catholic with a small c.
Primary Sources
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Child of Light: A Reassessment of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Hadley, UK: Tower Bridge, 1951. Rev. as Mary Shelley. New York: Dutton, 1987.

The Fanfarlo and Other Verse. Adlington, UK: Hand & Flower, 1952.

A Selection of Poems by Emily Brontë. Ed. with an introduction by Muriel Spark. London: Grey Walls, 1952.

The Letters of the Brontës: A Selection. Ed. with an introduction by Muriel Spark. London: Peter Nevill, 1954; Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1954.

Emily Brontë: Her Life and Work. With Derek Stanford. London: Peter Owen, 1953; New York: Coward, McCann, 1966.

John Masefield. London: Peter Nevill, 1953. Rev. ed. London: Hutchinson, 1992.

My Best Mary: The Selected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Ed. with Derek Stanford. London: Wingate, 1953.

The Comforters. London: Macmillan, 1957; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1957.

Letters of John Henry Newman. Ed. with Derek Stanford. London: Peter Owen, 1957.

The Go-Away Bird with Other Stories. London: Macmillan, 1958; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960.

Robinson. London: Macmillan; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1958.

Memento Mori. London: Macmillan; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1959.

The Bachelors. London: Macmillan, 1960; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1961.

The Ballad of Peckham Rye. London: Macmillan; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. First published in the New Yorker, 14 October 1961. London: Macmillan, 1961; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1962.

Voices at Play. London: Macmillan; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1962.

Doctors of Philosophy: A Play. London: Macmillan, 1963; New York: Knopf, 1966.

The Girls of Slender Means. London: Macmillan; New York: Knopf, 1963.

The Mandelbaum Gate. London: Macmillan; New York: Knopf, 1965.

Collected Poems 1. London: Macmillan, 1967; New York: Knopf, 1968.

Collected Stories 1. London: Macmillan, 1967; New York: Knopf, 1968.

The PublicImage. London: Macmillan; New York: Knopf, 1968.

The Very Fine Clock (children's book). New York: Knopf, 1968; London: Macmillan, 1969.

The Driver's Seat. London: Macmillan; New York: Knopf, 1970.

Not to Disturb. London: Macmillan, 1971; New York: Viking, 1972.

The Hothouse by the East River. London: Macmillan; New York: Viking, 1973.

The Abbess of Crewe. London: Macmillan; New York: Viking, 1974.

The Takeover. London: Macmillan; New York: Viking, 1976.

Territorial Rights. London: Macmillan; New York: Coward, McCann, 1979.

Loitering with Intent. London: Bodley Head; New York: Coward, McCann, 1981.

The Only Problem. London: Bodley Head; New York: Putnam, 1984.

The Stories of Muriel Spark. New York: Dutton, 1985. A Far Cry from Kensington. London: Constable; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.

Symposium. London: Constable; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

Curriculum Vitae: Autobiography. London: Constable, 1992; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Reality and Dreams. London: Constable, 1996; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

Open to the Public: New and Collected Stories. New York: New Directions, 1997.

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Adler, Renata. “Muriel Spark.” In On Contemporary Literature. Ed. Richard Kostelanetz. Expanded ed. New York: Avon, 1969. 591-596.

Auerbach, Nina. Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1978.

Baldanza, Frank. “Muriel Spark and the Occult.” Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 6 (Summer 1965): 190-203.

Bold, Alan. Muriel Spark. Contemporary Writers. London and New York: Methuen, 1986.

———, ed. Muriel Spark: An Odd Capacity for Vision. London: Vision, 1984.

D'Erasmo, Stacey. “Grand Dame: Interview with Author Muriel Spark.” Artforum 36 (November 1997): 21.

Dobie, Ann B., and Carl Wooton. “Sparkand Waugh: Similarities by Coincidence.” Midwest Quarterly 13 (1972): 423-434.

Edgecombe, Rodney Stenning. Vocation and Identity in the Fiction of Muriel Spark. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1990.

Frankel, Sara. “An Interview with Muriel Spark.” Partisan Review 54 (1987): 443-457.

Halio, Jay L. “Muriel Spark: the Novelist's Sense of Wonder.” In British Novelists since 1900. Ed. Jack I. Biles . New York: ASM, 1987. 267-277.

Harrison, Bernard. “Muriel Sparkand Jane Austen.” In The Modern English Novel: The Reader, the Writer, and the Work. Ed. Gabriel Josipovici. London: Open Books, 1976. 11, 48-49.

Heptonstall, Geoffrey. “Muriel Spark.” Contemporary Review 269 (November 1996): 185-188.

Holloway, John. “Narrative Structure and Text Structure: Isherwood's A Meeting by the River and Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Critical Inquiry 1 (1975): 581-604.

Hoyt, Charles Alva. “Muriel Spark: The Surrealist Jane Austen.” In Contemporary British Novelists. Ed. Charles Shapiro. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois UP, 1965. 125-143.

Hynes, Joseph. The Art of the Real: Muriel Spark's Novels. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1988.

———, ed. Critical Essays on Muriel Spark. New York: G.K. Hall, 1992.

Kelleher, V.M.K. “The Religious Artistry of Muriel Spark.” Critical Review 18 (1976): 79-92.

Kemp, Peter. Muriel Spark. Novelists and Their World. London: Paul Elek, 1974.

Kermode, Frank. Continuities. London: Routledge, 1968.

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Little, Judy. Comedy and the Woman Writer: Woolf, Spark, and Feminism. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1983.

Lodge, David. “The Uses and Abuses of Omniscience: Method and Meaning in Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”Critical Quarterly 12 (1970): 235-257.

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“A Sinister Affair.” Economist 321.7734 (1991): 102.

Snow, Lotus. “Muriel Spark's Use of Mythology.”

Fay Weldon 1931-
Kathleen Ellis
Since the publication of her first novel in 1967, Fay Weldon has been one of the most popular writers dealing with women's liberation. She is known for her wicked wit, relentless critique of the patriarchy, and wonderfully flawed but indomitable women who, through their calamitous lives, reveal the hypocrisies and absurdities at the heart of our relationships with each other and with ourselves. If the purpose of much of feminist theory and literature has been to promote equality for marginalized groups, to subvert the understanding that the world is based on binary oppositions forever privileging one side at the expense of the other, Weldon answers that the conflict will never be resolved. “Sometimes I think there is simply a body of human suffering in the world, ” Weldon said in an interview, “… and the sum of it never alters: it just gets handed round from this group to that” (“Changing” 197). The central question for Weldon, then, is how to live in a world where contradiction and paradox reign, where there is no justice, and where imperfect women and men, trying to get along the best they can, usually make a muddle of things. A grim message. But Weldon's resilient protagonists never give up, and their struggles to construct their own identities and to determine their own economic, sexual, and reproductive rights demand courage and tremendous sacrifice and offer some hope for the evolution of humanity. Weldon's vision, in her own idiosyncratic, postmodern manner, is intensely moral. Our job, according to Sonia, the convicted arsonist and heroine of The Heart of the Country, is “to be scavengers: to pick up the dregs and dust of creation and save what's possible and render it back to the Almighty, not to hang about carelessly, adding to the mud, the trouble and confusion” (14).
Weldon's work reflects very powerfully the early philosophy of the feminist movement, that “the personal is political.” Her fiction focuses primarily on the everyday lives of women, and political action often happens in kitchens, on playgrounds, or at suburban dinner parties—wherever women spend their lives. It is also evident from several interviews Weldon has given that she draws heavily on her own life in creating her fictional world. She has, however, refused to clarify a number of conflicting or ambiguous biographical details. In answer to a query on the online Weldon discussion list Weldon said, “I am a writer of fiction; you cannot expect me to provide true or reliable information.
You must learn what you can from the internal evidence of my novels or from websites, which indeed get everything wrong” (“Thank”). I must also point out that Weldon is very helpful to students requesting explication of her work, always urging them not to overanalyze and to trust their own interpretations. The following summary of Weldon's life, taken mainly from Lana Faulks's excellent critical analysis of her work, reflects the most current research.
Born Franklin Birkinshaw in Alvechurch, a village in Worcestershire, England, in 1931, Weldon emigrated with her family to New Zealand when she was around five years old. Weldon's parents divorced when she was still quite young, and the impact on her work can be seen in the recurring theme of men who abandon their wives and children. Weldon returned to England with her mother and sister when she was fourteen. For most of her life Weldon was raised in relative poverty and in a household of women—mother, sister, and grandmother—which profoundly influenced her writing. “I believed the world was female, ” Weldon has said (Faulks 1).
In 1949 Weldon entered St. Andrews University in Scotland, where she received an M.A. degree in economics and psychology. Her first son was born in 1955 during a brief marriage. She spent the next few years as a struggling single parent, working at a number of jobs: on the problem page of the Daily Mirror and as a copywriter for the Foreign Office. In 1960 she married Ron Weldon, an antique dealer, with whom she had three more sons (1963-1977). During the 1960s she had a successful career in advertising, starting as a copywriter for Ogilvy, Benson and Mather, London. Her most famous slogan is “Go to work on an egg.” The mid-1960s marked the beginning of her prolific career as a screenwriter and novelist. Her first television play for the BBC aired in 1966 and was followed by one almost every year through 1977. Her three episodes for Masterpiece Theatre's series Upstairs Downstairs (1971-1973), one of which won the Society of Film and Television Arts award, and her adaptation of the BBC's production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1985) are probably her most noted television works. Her first novel, The Fat Woman's Joke (called And the Wife Ran Away in the United States) was published in 1967. She has written twenty-four novels, six short-story collections, four nonfiction works (the fourth, Godless in Eden, has at this writing not yet been released in the United States), and numerous radio, stage, and television plays. She and Ron Weldon divorced in 1994, and she is currently married to Nicholas Fox and living in London.
The influence of Weldon's early training in economics and psychology is evident in the major thrust of her work: the effects of post-World War II British political and economic systems on women's lives, especially as concerns the development of the feminist movement. Weldon's relentless critique of the hypocrisy, greed, and evil that too often masquerade beneath the latest “theory” or “ism” begins with Britain's experiment in bureaucratic socialism of the 1950s and 1960s and continues through the 1970s—the “me” decade of privatization and welfare cutting, policies honed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s—to the most recent millennial new liberalism of Tony Blair.
British scholar Janet Todd points out that along with Marxism, British feminism has been influenced by postmodern theories of deconstruction and psychoanalysis (87); but Weldon's fiction continually questions the existence of any foundational truths that privilege one idea or ideology over another. According to Regina Barreca, Weldon's official biographer, “A structuring principle for all Weldon's fiction is an un-evasive acknowledgment of the mutability of perception and definition. Only the worst are full of unconsidered conviction” (“It's the End” 176). However, Weldon's work does not give way to a postmodern ennui or debilitating inaction, but presents a more existential construction of self reflective philosophers like
Heidegger and Sartre, incorporating a Nietzschean call for transgressive action. According to Patricia Waugh, “The Nietzschean subject must create its own order out of itself, for there is no Divine I AM, no blueprint to be discovered…. divinity has to be relocated in a self which must aesthetically construct its own ground in a transformation of the body through body” (21).
For Weldon, too, sexuality, the body, is the site of transformation. She seems particularly to share some of the ideas of French feminists like Hélène Cixous who reject the phallocentric psychology of both Freud and his more radical interpreter, Lacan, and who posit a woman-centered psychology—one based on difference as powerful to women rather than as subjugating, one that delights in female desire. A passage from Cixous's “The Laugh of the Medusa” (1991) mirrors what Weldon attempts in her fiction: “A feminine text cannot fail to be more than subversive. It is volcanic; as it is written it brings about an upheaval of the old property crust, carrier of masculine investments; there's no other way. There's no room for her if she's not a he. If she's a her-she, it's in order to smash everything, to shatter the framework of institutions, to blow up the law, to break up the 'truth' with laughter” (344). Weldon's novel The Lives and Loves of a She-Devil, for example, clearly reflects this subversive intent, reversing gender roles, shattering our concept of the feminine, and illustrating the enormous price paid for the illusion of romantic love.
Although Weldon writes in great detail about the oppressive, often tragic lives of women in a patriarchal society, satire is the literary device she most often uses to present the all-too-familiar failings of both men and women that create these situations. This satiric style has a long tradition in British fiction, and Weldon has been compared most often with Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark. Critic Karen Karbo points out that “Ms. Weldon's earlier books are hysterical, fierce and gleefully mean in a way that only British novelists seem to be able to get away with.” Her prolific nonfiction work, which includes numerous magazine and newspaper articles and speeches as well as books, presents an ongoing, razor-sharp commentary on the often-failed liberal orthodoxy and the “paralysis of the well-intentioned.” In a 2000 editorial in the New York Times Weldon takes British prime minister Tony Blair to task regarding his hesitation to take paternity leave: “It is the [same decision] that faces all forward-looking leaders who preach nonelitism but find its practice difficult when it comes to themselves” (“New”).
Weldon's universe is created as much by her style as by her message, a lesson she learned in her advertising career. As critic Olga Kenyon summarizes, “She has developed a dramatic style of the novel, dealing with essentials only, in media language, easy to relate to” (Women Novelists Today 108). Sensationalism—outrageous plots that heap one calamity after the other on her female characters, snappy one-liners reminiscent of marketing slogans, and sound-bite paragraphs separated by extra spacing—both shocks readers out of complacency and appeals to a diverse audience:
I take off my clothes. I stand naked. I look.
I want to be changed.
Nothing is impossible, not for she-devils.
Peel away the wife, the mother, find the woman, and there the she-devil is.
Glitter-glitter. Are those my eyes? They're so bright they light up the room.
(The Life and Loves of a She-Devil 44)
A pastiche of genres and styles—fairy tale, allegory, biblical allusion, pop culture, journalism, nineteenth-century romance novel, stand-up comedy—helps, as critic Agate Nesaule Krouse comments, to “distance
many of the horrors, make them comically absurd, and hence either funny or at least endurable for both characters and readers” (6). Multiple narrators present a dizzying array of contradictory statements, switching from first person to third in a technique that while creating abundant opportunities for satirical comment and postmodern self-reflexivity sometimes seems abrupt or manipulative.
Both critics and the public have generally received Weldon's work enthusiastically. Jenny Newman argues that her experimental style “makes Weldon one of the most innovative and popular writers in Britain today” (205). However, many critics do agree that her work can be uneven, citing heavy-handed polemic, lack of characterization, and overuse of advertising techniques. Kenyon says, “Weldon is a variable writer, too episodic in Down Among the Women, too far-fetched in The Life and Loves of a She-Devil” (Women Novelists Today 124). Victoria Glendinning, reviewing Female Friends (1976) in the Times Literary Supplement, presents a fairly typical criticism: “The characters are real, in that one knows the most intimate things about them; and yet they are schematic, reduced, as are people known only through an informant—or through the television screen” (565).
Novels that are more naturalistic, with more fully developed, nuanced characters, received the most praise: Praxis (1978) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Heart of the Country (1987) won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for 1989; and Worst Fears (1996) was nominated for the Whitbread Prize. Reviewing Weldon's 1997 collection of short stories Wicked Women, Deborah Mason says that Weldon has become “one of the most cunning moral satirists of our time.” In her most sophisticated work Weldon juxtaposes her breezy media style with longer, more lyrical sentences, creating a more complicated inner life and a deeper emotional impact:
That God was not good. That the earth you stood upon shifted, and chasms yawned; that people, falling, clutched one another for help and none was forthcoming. That the basis of all things was evil. That the beauty of the evening, now settling in a yellow glow on the stone of The Cottage barns, the swallows dipping and soaring, a sudden host of butterflies in the long grasses in the foreground, was the lie: a deceitful sheen on which hopeful visions flitted momentarily, and that long, long ago evil had won against good, death over life. (Worst Fears 94)
Weldon's fiction generally follows a similar plot structure: the female protagonist(s), caught in the illusions and deceptions created by the patriarchal culture, suffers a series of traumatic events, realizes her predicament, rebels, and must then deal with the consequences of her actions. Some of Weldon's most damning narrative depicts how the attributes idealized in a patriarchal culture—reason, the scientific method, survival of the fittest, monotheism—are illusions responsible for much of the evil in the world: the repetitive cycle of poverty and victim consciousness of the powerless, war, the increasing devastation of the planet's resources. In The Cloning of Joanna May, set during the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, the evil Carl May creates four clones of his wife, an attempt to use science to create the perfect wife, one who will love him unconditionally. In The Heart of the Country (1987) a collusion of male real estate developers and businessmen sell illegal toxic chemicals to farmers. Wicked Women chronicles the privatization of the 1980s and 1990s and the havoc wreaked by greedy businessmen, corrupt politicians, and hypocritical new-age practitioners.
Weldon also describes with scathing humor how the patriarchy creates and maintains the illusion that women are weak, irrational, unstable creatures equipped only for mothering and marriage. Most of the female characters begin in ignorance, dutifully living through the men in their lives; they
typify “the embryonic woman, ” as Deborah Mason says, “who grows up by default and becomes shrewd by suffering.” In discussing why the women in Weldon's fiction betray other women and demean themselves in their competition for male approval and economic support, Faulks points to “the sadomasochistic urge that exists in the division of power … Women are sexual and domestic servants in return for economic solvency” (68).
When the illusion is broken—arrogant, heartless husbands run off with their mistresses, leaving their wives and children penniless and at the mercy of humiliating and inept government institutions—the disillusioned protagonist begins her descent into the bleak world described powerfully in Weldon's second book, Down among the Women (1971): “The tower block where I live is full of women who were once girls … now off to bingo, desperate, with their children left locked up; pale, worried and aging badly; without the spirit any more even to tuck a free-gift plastic daffodil behind the ear” (120). The British welfare state has failed not only because it has not provided economic and political equality, but because the myth of romantic love and female subordination has left women unable to act, blaming themselves for their failure and filled with anger and hatred at their circumstances. Women then pass on this legacy of delusion, guilt, and degradation to their children. Looking back at her terrible childhood, Praxis, the beleaguered protagonist in Praxis, says, “Children who have been hurt, grow up to hurt … the shrieks of generations growing louder, not softer, as the decades pass” (21).
Extreme measures are needed, Weldon suggests, to break free from this deadly cycle: her female characters burn down buildings, give away their children, have affairs, prostitute themselves, and commit incest. By breaking sexual taboos, by reclaiming their sexuality, and by creating alternative lifestyles conducive to their own goals and desires, women refuse to be bound by traditional roles of virgin/mother or whore. Sex, as Weldon most clearly defines it in Life Force, “is the energy not so much of sexual desire as of sexual discontent: the urge to find someone better out in the world, and thereby something better in the self.” However, because sex is also “irrational, uncontrolled, universal, shameful, ” it must be reconciled with its opposite aspect that “yearns for a moral shape to the universe” (15-16). It is a seemingly impossible task, Weldon suggests, leaving us to balance eros and instinct, on the one hand, with responsibility and consequences, on the other.
Praxis, one of Weldon's richest and most sophisticated novels, presents perhaps the most outrageous transgression. Praxis smothers her friend Mary's infant, born with Down syndrome, in an attempt to release both Mary and her baby from an existence of poverty and hopelessness. Faulks believes that “[b]y killing the baby, Praxis has enacted a symbolic turning point for all women, freeing them to pursue independent, self-fulfilling lives” (41). The act has even deeper significance, however, and ties the quest for women's liberation, for some recourse against the pervasive suffering in the world, with a complex interaction of love, compassion, and sacrifice. “And there is perhaps a force abroad—or in ourselves—” Praxis muses, “which demands that sacrifice is a part of faith. That Abraham must sacrifice Isaac, to prove that God exists” (262). Praxis spends some years in prison, and after getting out, destitute and in ill health, she looks back at her struggles and wonders if the sacrifice was worth it:
Then what we feel is the pain of the female Lucifer, tumbling down from heaven, having dared to defy the male deity, cast out for ever, but likewise never able to forget, tormented always by the memory of what we threw away. Or else, and on this supposition my mind rests most contentedly, we are in the grip of some evolutionary force which hurts as it works, and which I fear has already found its fruition
in that new race of young women which I encountered … dewy fresh from their lovers' arms and determined to please no one but themselves. (13)
This is Weldon at her best, reversing traditional roles, combining hope and despair in powerfully lyric prose.
The development of the feminist movement as a crucial aspect of this evolutionary force is one of Weldon's most important themes. Beginning with her earliest novels, Weldon criticizes feminists who oppress other women by their dogmatic adherence to theory and their unwillingness to look at the hypocrisy of their own actions. Big Girls Don't Cry (1997), Weldon's most comprehensive commentary on the history of the movement, follows the lives of Nancy, Layla, Alice, and Stephanie, who in 1971 start Medusa, a feminist publishing company, for all the right and all the wrong reasons. While they are publishing liberationist articles and books, starting women's studies programs, and protesting nuclear weapons, they also sleep with their friends' husbands, ignore their children, fight among themselves for power and men, and sell out for money. Nancy, desperately trying to convince herself that giving up her life to work for the movement, being underpaid and alone, is making her happy, argues, “Truth can never be too big a price to pay for social change. If you only believe hard enough, what is not true can become true” (105).
And what of the next generation? Saffron, the young, liberated 1990s woman, is cold and calculating, embodying a consumer mentality that argues for profit and pragmatism over politics and “love … that old thing” (341). In a wonderfully humorous scene Saffron and Layla stage a hostile takeover of Medusa, the old generation and the new converging in a postfeminist version of the patriarchy. Has the feminist movement failed, then? Weldon's answer is as complicated and contradictory as the history of feminism. In the end, however, Weldon's sympathy is always with “big women, ” who, despite their failings, are not afraid to try to change the world. “They had got things wrong, personally and politically, ” the narrator says, “but who ever got everything right?” (338).
Understand and forgive, Weldon enjoins over and over again, and get on with it. Numerous short stories describe both men and women who have come to terms with their painful childhoods, dysfunctional mothers, and absent or abusive boyfriends and husbands and decide, against all the odds, that life is worth living. In Puffball (1980), Weldon's favorite novel, pregnancy becomes a redemptive act that leads Liffey to face the dangers of the patriarchy. Motherhood (freely chosen, of course), caring for another person, and individual acts of kindness come the closest to an unselfish love, one not based on sexual or romantic illusions. In the short story “Down the Clinical Disco” two characters meet in the Broadmoor institute for the criminally insane, victims of society's often-absurd and convenient definitions of sane/insane, normal/abnormal, and find refuge in each other: “I reckon love's a talisman. If we hold on to that we'll be okay, ” the narrator says (79).
However, some of Weldon's most beautifully written and complex stories are the most pessimistic, refusing the tacked-on happy ending that is common in her work. “Wasted Lives, ” set in the crass, post-Communist world of Sarajevo after the war, juxtaposes the British narrator, a wealthy businessman, with Milena, his pregnant mistress, who, moved by poverty and desperation, commits suicide (we are never certain whether or not she succeeds) when the narrator refuses to marry her. One of the few male protagonists in Weldon's work, the narrator tells his story with a terrible sadness, a grim recognition of his inability to love the weak, the pitiful, the “other.” “The powerful are indeed whimsical, ” he says, “they leave their elegant droppings where they choose—be they Milena's baby, Benetton, the Marl-
boro ads which now dominate the city: no end even now to the wheezing, the coughing, the death rattling along the river” (Wicked Women 101).
Even in the most hopeless situations, however, Weldon interjects the concept of the “frivolous” or the “wicked, ” especially in her later work. As John Glavin explains, “Historically, the frivolous has meant everything the good bourgeois is not” (135). Weldon's women break the rules, reject self-righteousness, and face life with a remarkable exuberance and determination to enjoy themselves. For example, as the many complications in Life Force resolve into a Weldonesque “happy” ending, Nora contemplates her life: “Perhaps now I would be able to give up smoking. The thought prompted me to open a new pack. There had to be some source of pleasure in life, even though it kills you” (219). In her 1991 essay “On the Reading of Frivolous Fiction” Weldon urges us to “read the bad good books while you gather strength for the good good books” (qtd. in Barreca, Fay 228). Being wicked, indulging in frivolity, then, is a survival tactic that can help us maintain a sense of humor and keep us from the sin of over-zealousness.
Weldon addresses the inequities and devastation created by the power struggles central to all relationships, whether between people or countries. Her answer to the central question “Is change possible?” is both grim and hopeful, reflecting Weldon's refusal to indulge in easy answers and her insistence on acknowledging paradox as the underlying force and meaning in the world. By refusing primacy to any religion, movement, philosophy, or political system, she leaves moral decisions up to the individual, based on, as Barreca argues, a philosophy of situational ethics (“It's the End” 181). However, Weldon's recognition of flawed human nature leads her to explore the painful consequences that result from the struggle to gain the economic and political equality necessary to create an authentic self, free from the oppressive manipulation of the patriarchy. Her most successful characters, having been dealt a tough hand to play, grow up: they use their suffering to learn something about themselves and the world, they try to make the world a more just place, and, most important, they try to, as E.M. Forster urged, “only connect.”
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Jeanette Winterson 1959-
Maria Koundoura
Why is it that in the last years of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, after all the transformations of the novel and after postmodernism has shown the “real” to be a discursive effect, realism is still at the heart of evaluations of Jeanette Winterson's work? The answer lies in the tension between Winterson's use of the fictions of her life and the fictions of her characters' lives. Despite her use of “fictional nobodies” as her protagonists, Winterson's novels always have an extratextual reference to somebody; in her instance it is always the author. It is a figure that Winterson cultivates both in her work and in her interviews about her work. It is this tension between fact and fiction that ties Winterson's work to the realist tradition and not only to postmodernism.
The story of Jeanette Winterson's life is as well known as her fictions. She was born in 1959 in Manchester, England, was adopted by John William Winterson, a factory worker, and his wife Constance Brownrigg, and grew up in Accrington, a mill town in northern England. Her adopted parents were Pentecostal Evangelists and deeply committed to God. They raised Winterson for evangelical service, to be a missionary and to spread the word of God among the heathen. At the age of eight she was already writing sermons. Her reputation as a preacher spread, and believers came to Accrington just to hear her preach. She learned to read by slowly plodding through the Fifth Book of Moses, the Deuterotnomy. Her interest in reading was not shared by her parents, who owned only six books between them, three of them Bibles. Books that Winterson used to sneak in at home during her adolescence and hide under her mattress were all found and burned by her mother. She left home, or was more or less thrown out, when at fifteen, after she had her first lesbian relationship, she told her parents about it. She had a number of odd jobs after she left home, including makeup artist at a funeral parlor and assistant at Calderstones Mental Hospital. Eventually she moved to Oxford, where in 1981 she graduated with an M.A. in English. She then moved to London and worked at the Round-house Theatre and then at Pandora Press. She became a full-time writer in 1987. She was awarded the Whitbread Award for best first novel in 1985 for Orangesare not the only fruit, the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1987 for The Passion, and the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1989 for Sexing the
Cherry. Winterson is an avid book collector, a passion that she describes in detail in the essay “The Psychometry of Books” in Art Objects. Her collection mainly contains the work of the English and American modernists in signed first editions: Virginia Woolf, Marianne Moore, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, and many more.
Interestingly, these are the authors that she herself tells us have influenced her work as a writer. “Modernism” is a term used to describe the early-twentieth-century literary and cultural movement that tried to convey an increasingly sharp sense of historical relativism through stylistic experimentation. The term, as Matei Calinescu states in Five Facesof Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism, was first used by the South American writer and critical commentator Rubén Darío in the early 1890s to designate a movement of aesthetic renovation, but also of cultural independence from Spain (69). Its English and American application was consolidated in the 1920s under Ezra Pound's motto “Make it new.” After the destruction and chaos of World War I, writers lost faith in the eternal and the immutable, so they turned to language to make sense of the chaos around them. They believed in the restorative power of art; hence their desire to make life like art, not lifelike art, as was the goal of Victorian realism. Modernism is the tradition that informs Winterson's individual talent, to paraphrase the title of her favorite modernist's essay, T.S. Eliot's “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” It is also the tradition that, according to her, should inform all contemporary writers. “To assume that Modernism has no real relevance to the way that we need to be developing fiction now, ” she writes in Art Objects, “is to condemn writers and readers to a dingy Victorian twilight” (176). Exemplifying the “Make it new” motto of her “ancestors, ” she continues, “[W]e can only look for writers who know what tradition is, who understand Modernism within that tradition, and who are committed to a fresh development of language and to new forms of writing” (177).
“Modernism” as a term needs to be distinguished from the general concept of “modernity.” Modernity, according to Peter Osborne in The Politics of Time, is a category of historical consciousness, a distinctive way of temporalizing history as a radical break with tradition characterized by self-consciousness (ix, 9-13). It is also the name for the period of time that began in the eighteenth century with the Enlightenment and with colonial expansion. While most literary and cultural historians echo Osborne's definition and agree on modernity's origins, few agree on when it ends. Only the theorists of postmodernity celebrate the end of modernity; most others argue that since modernity is about breaking with tradition, our consciousness of that break makes modernity a continuous present. Postmodernists point to this ultimately self-defeating character of modern time consciousness, in which the new is an “invariant” and thus the “ever same, ” and attempt to overcome this pessimism by celebrating its end. Unlike their earlier counterparts, the modernists, whose work was informed by an anxiety over the fragmented nature of experience and by a desire to unify it, postmodernists celebrate the fragmentation, the anxiety, and the impasse. Thus, according to Fredric Jameson, whose Postmodernism; or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism was instrumental in both defining and criticizing the term, the characteristic feature of postmodern art is “the random cannibalization of all the styles of the past” (18).
This is certainly a characteristic of Winterson's fiction. She, like the writers she describes in Art Objects, uses modernism but makes it new, postmodern: she uses allegory, myth, symbolism, fairy tales, mysticism, and history. She references romanticism, the Renaissance, the seventeenth century, and the ancient world. She admittedly uses “history as a device” in order to “create an imaginative reality sufficiently at odds with our
daily reality to startle us out of it” (Art Objects 188). Jameson finds this problematic because if one's relation to the past is a matter of randomly retrieving various styles, then one loses the impetus to find out what actually happened in that past. Postmodernism's skepticism about how much we can know from the past, he tells us, has resulted in nostalgia for the “look” of the past: “the past as historical referent finds itself gradually bracketed, and then effaced altogether, leaving us with nothing but texts” (18). Textuality is certainly central in Winterson's work. Her narratives from Orangesare not the only fruit get progressively more antilinear; chronological order and nature are willed away, and everything is about style, that is, textuality itself. “Style, ” she writes in Art Objects, proving Jameson's point, “refuses history as documentary and recognizes that history is as much in the reconstruction as in the moment” (187).
The fluidity of styles and the lack of desire to control meaning that characterize Winterson's texts and make them postmodern also link them to the tradition of feminist writing exemplified by Virginia Woolf (an author whom Winterson consciously strives to emulate). Like Woolf, in The Waves, Winterson also wants to recapture “some little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words” in her work (161). Also like Woolf's, her efforts at recapturing these fragments can be seen as part of the woman writer's attempt to find “a room of her own, ” a voice that is not controlled by the male-dominated Western tradition. Feminist literary critics argue that this tradition codes woman and her body as negative, threatening, a body so excessive in its functions and sexuality that it must be controlled either through violence or silence. In Art and Lies Winterson expresses this through the figure of Sappho, the most famous writer of the Greek island of Lesbos. “Her body is an apocrypha, ” she writes, “she has become a book of tall stories, none of them written by herself. Her name has passed into history. Her work has not. Her island is known to millions now, her work is not” (69). Winterson makes that work known not through her own (like Sappho's) sexual preference for women, as most commentators are quick to argue, but through her efforts in her writing to change traditional narrative structures. As Teresa de Lauretis has insightfully shown in Technologies of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction, the traditional narrative structure is the movement of a mobile figure, marked male, through a boundary or passive space, marked female (43). In this scheme only one gender has agency or subjectivity, and this gender also has the ability to conquer and control its opposite. Western thought, feminists like de Lauretis argue, constructs these gendered distinctions in narrative as a way of establishing and confirming a number of oppositional values: pure/impure, order/disorder, natural/unnatural. What seems most important in this ideology is the maintenance of boundaries. Winterson's work is part of that tradition of writing—made up primarily but not exclusively by women—that blurs these boundaries by upsetting the reader's sense of them and leaving them “abject.” In Powers of Horror the prominent feminist theorist Julia Kristeva introduces and explains the term “abject.” She defines it as that which we are repulsed by, not as an innate quality, but because it “disturbs identity, system order” (4). Winterson's work consciously disturbs identity, system, and order, not only as part of a postmodernist self-consciousness, but also, which is more important, as part of a conscious political practice that seeks to decode the “apocryphal” body of woman and her writing.
“It seems that if you tell people that what they are reading is 'real, ' they will believe you, even when they are being trailed in the wake of a highly experimental odyssey” (Art Objects 53). Certainly reading a Jeanette Winterson novel is like being trailed in a
highly experimental odyssey. From Oranges are not the only fruit to The Passion, Art and Lies, and Gut Symmetries she has gotten progressively more and more experimental. For example, Orangesare not the only fruit has a traditional story line: it is a first-person narrative of a young girl's coming into her own despite all the allegorical fairy tales that are woven into it and the fact that it is a novel about storytelling. Gut Symmetries, on the other hand, although beguilingly simple in its story line—it is about how Alice, the main character, meets Jove, a married man, and starts an affair with him and then meets his wife Stella and starts an affair with her—has nothing traditional about it. The story is told through a wide spectrum of philosophical discussions, Jewish mysticism, tarot, quantum physics, and fairy tales: a mishmash of things all striving in different directions. “What I am seeking to do in my work, ” Winterson writes, explaining this gradual shift to experimentalism, “is to make a form that answers to the twenty-first-century needs” (Art Objects 191). This is why, she tells us in classic postmodernist self-conscious fashion, she uses “stories within stories within stories within stories” (Art Objects 189). It is also why again as a classic postmodernist she focuses on style. “Style, ” she writes, “makes a nonsense of conventional boundaries between fiction and fact” (Art Objects 187). “Through the development of style, ” she continues, “imagination is allowed full play. The writer is not restricted to what she has experienced or to what she knows, she is let loose outside of her own dimensions. This is why art can speak to so many different kinds of people regardless of time and space. It is why it is so foolish to try to reconstruct the writer from the work” (187).
This is advice that has clearly not been heeded by most Winterson critics, positive and negative, who constantly try to reconstruct her from her work. Exasperated with these efforts, she said in a June 1997 interview in The Advocate: “It is fine here in The Advocate to be talking about myself as a lesbian. But to be constantly forced back to this in the mainstream press is not good for me, because it diminishes my work. That's why I say that I'm not a lesbian writer but a writer who is a lesbian.” It does not especially help the critics from the popular press that all of her books are centered around lesbian characters, that Orangesare not the only fruit is strikingly similar to her own biography, and that she, as she admits in the Advocate interview, cultivated a wild image early on in her career. Despite her eloquent explorations of the process of writing and reading in Art Objects, her insistence on style in her writing on writing, and her exemplification of style in her writing itself, it appears that her style does not make “a nonsense of conventional boundaries between fact and fiction.” In fact, as is seen in the merger of her life and her work, quite the opposite: her style with its mixture of fact and fiction, the “real” and the “fanciful, ” seems to reinforce these boundaries. This is why one could argue that Winterson is not a postmodernist but a realist writer, that she is not making a new “form that answers to twenty-first-century needs” but is revisiting the old form of the novel at its origin. This claim goes against every article that has been written about Winterson, against Winterson's own claims, and against what the reader sees with her own eyes when reading her novels.
Such a contrary evaluation of her work is supported by the tension between fact and fiction in Winterson's work and by the fact that, as we saw earlier, Winterson is not only aware of this tension but actively plays with it. “I'm telling you stories. Trust me, ” she writes in Art Objects to muddy the waters of her realist game (189). This is an old poetic trick reminiscent of Sir Philip Sidney's “the poet never lies because he never tells the truth” and of the claims of writers at the novel's origin, a form that she tells us “is finished” (Art Objects 191). Winterson is aware of the history of the novel and of its early practitioners' use of the fact/fiction dichotomy to consolidate its form. Her direct use
of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and its author's preface that tells you that what you are reading is a fact when you know it is a fiction by the fact that you are reading what the author tells you is his autobiography of Robinson Crusoe shows her knowledge of this history. Robinson Crusoe has been uniformly declared by critics working on the origin of the novel as not only the first English novel but also the first realist novel. Winterson uses this example to defend attacks on Gertrude Stein's Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and to deflect readings of Oranges are not the only fruit as autobiographical (Art Objects 53-54). Considering the extent to which the fact/fiction debate is central in readings of her work, it is important to look at its critical history.
In Nobody's Story, the most important work on the novel since Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel, Catherine Gallagher has shown how the real was a highly charged term in the mid-eighteenth century. “Amassive reorientation of textual referentiality took place” at that time, she tells us, and the unmapped and unarticulated “wild space” of fiction became the “preferred form of narrative” and the novel the preferred form of fiction (xvi, 164). The new category of fiction, she continues, renounced claims of historical truth and replaced them with mimetic ones whose “truth” rested not on any extratextual references but on their lack of referentiality (165). Thus, contrary to Ian Watt's argument that “formal realism” was a way of trying to disguise or hide fictionality, Gallagher suggests that “realism was the code of the fictional” (174). The “wealth of circumstantial and physical detail” in novels, she argues, that referred to nothing and “nobody in particular” (174) should be viewed as “a confirmation, rather than an obfuscation, of fiction” (173). Fictionality, for Gallagher, “simultaneously, if somewhat paradoxically, allowed both the author and the reader to 'be acquisitive without impertinence.' That the story was nobody's made it entirely the author's; that it was nobody's also left it open to the reader's sentimental appropriation, ” that is, to his or her emotional identification and “ownership” of the novel (174-175). Unlike “true” characters (like the ones in scandal, for example), “fictional nobodies” were “a species of utopian common property, potential objects of universal identification” that everyone could have a sentimental “interest” in without paying any of the penalties (172). This is the main point of Gallagher's book, whose purpose is to examine the affective force of fiction. “Eighteenth-century readers identified with the characters in novels because of the characters' fictiveness and not in spite of it, ” she tells us. “Moreover, these readers had to be taught how to read fiction, and as they learned this skill (it did not come naturally), new emotional dispositions were created” that formed the basis for the modern “self” (xvii). The primary one of these is one that is still in use today: it is the ability to invest and divest emotionally with characters we know are not “real.”
This explains the popularity of Winterson's novels: readers emotionally invest in her characters they know are not real, for who could argue that Jordan the sexually ambivalent character from Sexing the Cherry is real, or Dog Woman the grotesque giant from the same novel, or Villanelle the web-footed Venetian woman of The Passion, or Handel, Picasso, and Sappho from Art and Lies? The fact/fiction debate described by Gallagher also explains the confusion of Winterson's fiction with her life. Her use of “fictional nobodies”—characters loaded with circumstantial and physical detail like Jeanette of Orangesare not the only fruit, orthe storyteller of Written on the Body, or Alice of Gut Symmetries, or herself in all of her interviews and in Art Objects—makes Winterson's characters entirely her own. It also leaves them open to the reader's sentimental appropriation: the popularity of her novels testifies to this. It is because these fictional nobodies are her own and because she consciously stages herself as one of them—“I prefer myself as a character in my own fiction, ” she tells us in Art Objects (53)—that
Winterson's novels have been read as autobiographical and critics continuously attempt to reconstruct her life from her work. “I'm telling you stories. Trust me, ” she insists throughout Art Objects (189). But nobody seems to believe her, even though what they are reading is a fact and not a fiction; after all, she is indeed telling us stories. They are “real” stories, that is, that is why they are fictional.
Winterson is one of the most contradictory of contemporary British women writers. Arealist despite her use of myth, fairy tale, tarot, mysticism, and postmodern styles, political despite her repeated attempts to hide it all as fiction, traditional despite her repeated disavowals and her deconstruction of tradition, she is truly modern in the epochal sense of the term. In other words, her work is a self-conscious radical break with a tradition that it is an example of, the tradition, that is, sometimes called realism, by others modernism, and by others still postmodernism, in which writers attempted to represent the eternal in the light of the ephemeral. These attempts have resulted in her offering examples of both lifelike art (realist fictions) and of life like art (factual fictions). This is her originality.
Primary Sources
Boating for Beginners. London: Methuen, 1985.

Orangesare not the only fruit. London: Pandora, 1985; New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1987.

The Passion. London: Bloomsbury, 1987; New York: Vintage Books, 1989.

Sexing the Cherry. London: Bloomsbury, 1989; New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1990.

Written on the Body. London: Cape, 1992; New York: Vintage, 1994.

Art and Lies: A Piece for Three Voices and a Band. London: Cape, 1994; New York: Knopf, 1995.

Great Momentsin Aviation; and, Oranges are not the only fruit: Two Filmscripts. London: Vintage, 1994.

Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery. London: Cape, 1995; New York: Knopf, 1996.

Gut Symmetries. London: Granta; New York: Knopf, 1997.

Interview. The Advocate. June 1997.

The World and Other Places (short stories). London: Cape, 1998; New York: Knopf, 1999.

The Powerbook. London; Vintage, 2001. As The Power Book. New York: Vintage, 2001.

Secondary Sources
Calinescu, Matei. Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1987.

de Lauretis, Teresa. Technologies of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.

Gallagher, Catherine. Nobody's Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670-1820. Berkeley: U of California P, 1994.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism; or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1991.

Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1982.

Osborne, Peter. The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde. London: Verso, 1995.

Watt, Ian. The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding. Berkeley: U of California P, 1957.

Woolf, Virginia. The Waves. 1931. London: Granada, 1977.


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