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Universitatea “Dunărea de Jos” din Galați

Departamentul pentru Învăţământ la Distanţă

şi cu Frecvenţă Redusă

Curs practic de
literatură engleză
Michaela Praisler

Facultatea de Litere
Limba și literatura română – Limba și literatura engleză
Anul III, Semestrul 2
Faculty of Letters

Postmodernism and the Novel

Course tutor:
Professor Michala Praisler



Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Learning Unit no. 1
Postmodernism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.1. Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
1.2. Metafiction (Durrell, Fowles, Lodge) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
1.3. Feminist Issues (Lessing, Weldon) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
1.4. Postcolonial Voices (Rushdie, Ishiguro) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Learning Unit no. 2
Representative Names and Titles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
2.1. Lawrence Durrell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2.2. John Fowles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
2.3. David Lodge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
2.4. Doris Lessing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
2.5. Fay Weldon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
2.6. Salman Rushdie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
2.7. Kazuo Ishiguro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Learning Unit no. 3
Tests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
3.1. Test One . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
3.2. Test Two . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
3.3. Test Three . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
3.4. Test Four . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
3.5. Test Five . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
3.6. Test Six . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
3.7. Test Seven . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Glossary of Literary Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63

Postmodernism and the novel in english 3



The course is designed so as to allow form to support content and invite at interactive
approaches to the texts and contexts under focus.
Its main objectives are:
 to help students identify the main background issues pertaining to the postmodern
age and the postmodernist movement
 to develop students’ capacity to analyse the literary phenomenon within the
broader multicultural frame of the later decades of the twentieth century
 to bring to attention individual writers and writings, standing for different trends,
narrative practices and techniques
 to encourage the simultaneous understanding and practice of literary and critical
discourse events
 to facilitate the accessing of illustrative texts via literary theory
The volume offers support for the didactic activities addressing third year philology
students, during the second semester of the academic year: lectures, euristic
conversations, explanations, debates, case studies, problematisation, workshop practice
It comprises an informative section (Chapters1-2: “Postmodernism” and
“Representative Names and Titles”), an applicative text-oriented part (“Tests”) and a
selective tool kit for decoding varied discourse patternings (“References” and “Glossary of
Literary Terms”) – all of which eventually envisage mature self improvement through
distance learning.

Postmodernism and the novel in english 5


Learning Unit no. 1


1.1. Background
The term ‘postmodernism’ has invaded the contemporary cultural
stage. It appears in a wide range of texts and contexts, carrying numerous
connotations. Its all-encompassing nature partly defines the multitude of
changes that our world has recently witnessed, and partly demands an
elitist interpreter to penetrate its deepest philosophy. Unless one is
tempted into using it as an umbrella term for everything that makes today
a unique and challenging mixture of clashing worlds and perspectives
(from fashion and advertising to visual arts and literary theory) it has to be
looked upon as a term in the making, as expressing a break, a fissure in
the flow of tradition in all domains.
If anything, postmodernism implies a reaction against modernism.
Some of the basic beliefs of modernity are turned upside down and inside
out by the ways in which we now choose to describe the world. More
importantly, the aesthetics of modernism is discarded as false, pretentious,
much too experimental to match our desperate attempts at penetrating
beyond surfaces and anchoring our whole existence in something
worthwhile. Seismic transformations have taken place and we are
confronted with cultural events derived from previously unheard of
phenomena: new viruses (including electronic ones) resisting antidote,
cloning, widespread genocide, travels into space, portable communication
facilitators – to name only a few. Consequently, if we accept to describe
our age in terms of postmodernism, we are forced to take into account the
multifarious aspects it presupposes and deal with it as complex, involving
a multidisciplinary effort.
From among them, the most noteworthy (involved in a mutual
relationship with the literary stage) seem to be:
 globalisation
 identity politics
 economy of reproduction
 media capitalism
 computer hyperreality
 fragmentation
 high technology
 life imitating art
Nevertheless, despite its diverse and eclectic nature, postmodernism
can be recognized by two key assumptions: […] that there is no common
denominator – in ‘nature’ or ‘truth’ or ‘God’ or ‘the future’ – that guarantees
either the One-ness of the world or the possibility of neutral or objective
thought [and] that all human systems operate like language, being self-
reflexive rather than referential systems – systems of differential function
which are powerful but finite, and which construct and maintain meaning
and value. (Edward Craig [ed], Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
1998: 587)
Literature, as already implied, is the perfect common ground for the
marriage of opposites and the interplay of diverse positions. In its obvious
enterprise of building worlds (other than, parallel to, but similar to ours), it

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allows for the freedom of choice, opinion and imagination. Using words to
represent worlds, it denies THE referent, THE signified, questioning unity
and directing the text/signifier towards a liberating plurality. Literature itself
has become yet another manifestation of the world as text, of that which
we now accept as the ‘textuality’ of the contingent, whose ‘texting’
(reading, rereading and misreading) is a universal practice, a globalising
factor therefore.
In literature, the novel especially, postmodernism may be said to be
recognisable at the level of that particular text which has any, some or all
of the following features inscribed into it:
 preaches in favour of the return to history (previously having
been fought back by the modernist writing – in flight from chronology, from
objectively representing that which lies beyond it and which interferes with
one’s private, intimate experiences)
 illustrates the obvious return to narrative (taken apart by earlier
twentieth century writers, seemingly interested in mirroring the chaotic
state of things in the world outside at the level of the literary work by
abolishing clear structure, neat plot)
 is mainly the result of self-contemplation (rounding itself up as
metafictional – exposing its inner workings, deconspiring its purposes and
addressing a reader accustomed to working with and reading into
 brings forth the fiction/fact paradox (by allowing its ‘consumer’ to
understand that the only reality it observes is that of the very textuality of
the text, of the materiality of the pages which, once written, become part of
the contingent and potentially inspire others)
 enters the post-symbolist phase (not abandoning the symbol, but
using it in its broader acceptance, that of archetype; rather than
manipulating private symbols to show the interaction between feeling and
thought, public ones are formed by endowing the former with archetypal
 shapes itself up as parody or oblique criticism (in an attempt at
embedding tradition while, at the same time, disclosing the absurd, false
anachronism at its core; simultaneously makes the text easily digestible,
entertaining and instructs its audiences)
 incorporates critical perspectives (somehow implying that there is
no such thing as a clearly delineated frontier between the literary and the
literary critical – a trespassing that points to the melting of fiction into non-
fiction and vice versa)
 presupposes an academic novelist (usually a professor of literary
studies, whose teaching expertise is used both as a starting point,
therefore autobiographically, and as an end, so as to find a cure for the
common illness of anxiety with/due to the ‘difficult-to-define-and-follow’
 blurs the history/fiction border (by looking into the subjectivity
characterising all texts, historical ones included, and by subtly underlining
the idea that history cannot be taken for fact or reality, but only for yet
another version of his-story)
 sends to the textuality of history (nourishing the comforting
thought that one can easily intervene in the texts already written, and can
rewrite history, if not backwards, at least from a totally different
perspective: that of a continuous present)

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 includes highlighted artifice (foregrounding and emphasizing the

other, novel, shocking – with a view to awakening readers from a culturally
induced complacency with accepting the traditional and postponing the
innovative in all walks of life)
 makes extensive use of irony (structural or verbal, achieved by the
handling of multiple/possible viewpoints about its subject matter or,
respectively, by understatement, concealment and allusion; turns the text
into a complex, fascinating whole)
 is governed by intertextuality (a thorough reader above everything
else, the postmodernist writer – aware of the fact that there is little left
unsaid/unwritten, that the world itself is a text –turns to the enormous
library that precedes him)
 reformulates magic realism (mixing and disrupting ordinary,
commonplace realism with strange, miraculous episodes and powers;
adding a fantastic dimension to the engagement with political and social
 is forwarded in keeping with the principles of fabulation (self-
consciously includes fictions within fiction and catches the reader in the
trap of elaborate forms and misleading paths that do not match his/her
 constructs a surrogate reader/author (includes a reader or an
author as characters within the narrative so as to de-canonise them and to
endow them with a voice by means of which artistic credos are formulated
and opinions supported)
All the enumerated features might help to establish some sort of
order, some backbone of the contemporary textual scene – a scene of
dissolution, a vertiginous melting-pot where the old canons of ‘literature’
are invaded by textual stuff from psychology, philosophy, law, medicine,
geography, and the old generic boundaries are down, and the distinction
between ‘literary’ and ‘non-literary’ goes, and old minor or marginal texts
(authors’ jottings, essays, fragments, versions, foul papers, say) cease to
lurk in the supplementary shadows and come busily in from the margin
and the cold to receive equal treatment with what were once thought of as
the main objects of concern, the poems and novels and plays, the
published stuff, the final versions, and so on. (Valentine Cunningham, In
the Reading Gaol. Postmodernity, Texts and History, 1994: 6)
They announce the non-conformism of today’s novel text and guide
along the path of counternarratives (see Henry Giroux et al. [eds],
Counternarratives. Cultural Studies and Pedagogies in Postmodern
Spaces, 1996), whose main functions seem to be:
 disturbing grand narratives which gain legitimacy from
foundational myths concerning the origins and development of an
unbroken history of the West based on an evolutionary ideal of progress
 opposing official narratives of everyday life propagated for specific
political purposes to manipulate public consciousness by heralding a
national set of common cultural ideals.
Numerous theorisers on the postmodern condition have affirmed that
postmodern counternarratives must, they themselves, be interrogated and
brought into productive dialogue with other narratives. It is only through
facilitating the clash that the discussion finds the appropriate grounds for
Described as a method, a philosophy, an attitude, a tonality, a style,
a moment, a condition, a movement, a theory, postmodernism may

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therefore be seen at work in the rewriting of the globally observable

cultural crises and in the formulation of trans-disciplinary literatures, most
of which are self-reflexive and self conscious, disclosing goals and inner
Its critique of the subject, of historicism and of philosophy
(specificities of the poststructuralist phase) has found favour not only with
the practitioners of metafiction, but also with feminist and postcolonial
writers, seeking to show how representation can no longer be considered
a politically neutral and theoretically innocent activity (Linda Hutcheon).
Grouped under the umbrella terms of ‘postmodernism of resistance’ or
‘postmodernism of reaction’, these orientations bring to attention the
plurality of language games so as to advance an attack on the conceptions
of universal reason, the unity of language and the unified subject. Their
politics of difference and of the local and particular are not only symptoms
of, but also essential strategies for coping with a postmodernist culture that
advertises itself as decentred, transnational and pluralistic (Andrew Ross).
To conclude, the fashionable and elusive term (and notion) of
‘postmodernism’ has led to vigorous debates and bitter controversies.
Nevertheless, what emerges is the certainty that postmodernism is of
great interest because it directs our attention to the changes, the major
transformations, taking place in society and culture. Usually associated
with it are great names like: Warhol in art, Jencks in architecture, Artaud in
drama, Barth in fiction, Lynch in film, Sherman in photography, Derrida
and Lyotard and Baudrillard in philosophy. Of special interest to literary
studies are the works of the latter three, recommended titles being:
Jacques Derrida’s The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing,
Jean François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report on
Knowledge and Jean Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange and Death.

1.2. Metafiction (Durrell, Fowles, Lodge)

Metafictional novels are the ones to explicitly reveal themselves as
fictional and to reflect on their own status and narrative procedures. Within
this self-reflective category, one can distinguish between:
 overt, diegetic metafiction (that takes its status, the rules
and underlying conventions of the novel and the process of
narration as its theme)
 covert, linguistic metafiction (that suggests, through
language games, intertextual references and parody, the inability of
language to function as a means of communication or, more
importantly, its ability to create worlds, alternative to and more
meaningful than the ‘real’ one underneath).
This bewildering type of novel, unlike the traditional realistic one,
does not want to maintain the illusion that what it is about is an objective
reality, which is truthfully reflected in language. It sooner aims at posing
problems, at teasing readers out of their acceptance of pre-established
modes of thinking, at inviting to play the literary game. Regarding the area
that explores the relationship between fiction and reality, the metafictional
novel proposes a number of startling questions:
Is there a reality ontologically separate and different from our
linguistic consciousness? And if there is, can we know it without altering
it by our knowledge? And if we can, can we ‘render’ it in language? And if

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we can, does this rendering correspond to, give a truthful view of that
ontologically different reality that we have assumed to exist? Or are we
fooling ourselves in believing that there is such a reality, when in reality we
are locked up in the prison-house of language, in the reading gaol?
(Guido Kums, Metafictional Explorations into Novel Theory, in
Marialuisa Bignami; Caroline Patey (eds), Moving the Borders, 1996:
Foregrounding the gap between art and life, metafiction occurs in the
form of asides (from prefaces and mottos to direct, authorially intrusive
passages) in novels that are primarily focused on traditional means of
conveying message, portraying characters and action; such passages are
felt as manipulative, employing the conventions of realism as they
acknowledge their artificiality; they address a reader that is supposed to
know a lot about the intricacies of weaving a text, flattering him by
considering him an intellectual equal who is aware of the fact that a work
of fiction is a verbal construction rather than a ‘slice of life’. As to
metafictional writers, they seem to have a sneaky habit of incorporating
potential criticism into their text and thus ‘fictionalize’ it (David Lodge, The
Art of Fiction, 1992: 208).
The borders become additionally obscured due to the juxtaposition of
a number of possible worlds: the real, the fictitious, the fictionalised
fictitious and metafiction itself. The central issue remains that of TRUTH.
In literary studies, the distinction between fictional and factual
discourse ultimately depends on a correspondence conception of
reference and truth (the former with objects and facts), but such a
conception is untenable, pragmatist arguments in the philosophy of
language supporting the thesis by defining fiction through the inexistence
of the objects it is describing and thus including in its discourse false
statements, deprived of any truth.
The solutions offered envisage either admitting that the objects in
fiction have a certain type of existence, that can sometimes perfectly
match the existence of objects in the real world, or considering that the
only objects that exist are those of the real world, denying any existence to
the objects in fiction. Therefore, there is no ultimate ground for the
distinction between fictional and factual discourse:
Fiction is whatever is man-made (conceptually or linguistically).
Truth is man-made (conceptually or linguistically).
Therefore, truth is just a species of fiction.
(Peter Lamarque, Narrative and Invention, in Narrative in Culture, ed.
by Christopher Nash, 1994: 137).
If, linguistically speaking, the fictional discourse is a descriptive one,
it differs nonetheless from a referential type of discourse since its
sequences do not imply ‘real’ referents. But this is only a purely negative
determination of fiction – that simply shows what it does not do, without
considering the explanation of its positive function, one that replaces the
act of reference with ‘real-ised’ objects.
From the logical point of view, fictional discourse is defined in terms
of the zero denotation: the linguistic constituents that, in factual discourse,
have a denotative function (proper names, deictics, demonstratives...) lack
any denotation proper. The fictional statement has a meaning, but no
referent. This definition of fiction as discourse with zero denotation has
been accepted by almost all logicians, but N. Goodman (1968) has
brought to it an extra dimension by insisting on the idea that it only sums

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up a necessary condition (otherwise all types of false statements, lies

included, would be ranked among the fictional).
With metafiction therefore, non-denoted (but real-ised) is fiction itself.
The process of reaching that slippery referent is made difficult by the elitist
and self-parodic game of mirrors presupposed by the metafictional text, a
particular manifestation of intertext, allusive of other, similar texts, and
illustrative for literay text-forwarding. Considering itself and its artificiality,
the metatext may also be looked upon as intratext, whose depth is not
simply structural (usually numerous diegetic levels being juxtaposed), but
message-ridden also (the discussions on its own construction being turned
into the very content thus foregrounded).
Self-reflexive, self-aware and self-ironic, modern and contemporary
metafiction is anchored in Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and reaches far out
to texts yet unwritten, but whose existence will surely depend on

1.3. Feminist Issues (Lessing, Weldon)

In its various manifestations, literary feminism is a cultural politics
which aims at freeing itself from naturalised patriarchal notions. The
tremendous dynamism at work within feminist orientations has lead to the
formulation of numerous critiques and counter-critiques regarding both
other ideologies and its own positions, all of which start, however, from
similar and constantly innovative, challenging and subverting theories.
One speaks today of: British feminism, French feminism, Irish
feminism, American feminism, African feminism, Asian feminism, black
feminism, lesbian feminism, linguistic feminism, myth feminism,
psychoanalytic feminism, deconstructive feminism, gynesis, gynocritics
etc. – components of the same scene and usually at war with one another.
Historically speaking, the first feminist pronouncements in literary
studies were made in connection with the literary text as accentuating the
idea of androgyny (Virginia Woolf, Orlando). Later on, the emphasis was
laid on woman as ‘other’ and on the sex/gender opposition (Simone de
Beauvoir, The Second Sex).
The newer feminisms point out the differences between the sexes in
terms of biology, experience, discourse, the unconscious, politics, social
and economic realities. Works like Germaine Greer’s The Female
Eunuch, Dale Spender’s Man Made Language, Kate Millet’s Sexual
Politics, Elaine Showalter’s A Literature of their Own, Toril Moi’s
Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory, Julia Kristeva’s
Desire in Language, Hélène Cixous’s The Laugh of the Medusa, Luce
Irigaray’s The Sex Which Is Not One are just a few of the many written
during the last thirty years or so on the issue of the female / feminine /
One interesting theory for the purpose of this course is formulated by
Elaine Showalter who, in an article published in 1979, Towards a
Feminist Poetics, distinguishes between two main types of feminist
 feminist critique – which is concerned with woman-as-reader, with
the ‘other’ consumer of male-produced literature, with the new light shed
on the text from her perspective

12 Postmodernism and the novel in english


 gynocritics – which is concerned with woman-as-writer, with the

history, themes, genre and structure of literature by women, with female
language and its referentiality
Both seek to foreground the newly visible world of female culture and
to find ways into the new language and new way of reading the
transparent medium of the text, integrating women’s intelligence,
experience, reason and suffering, scepticism and vision (see Elaine
Showalter in Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary
Theory, 2002)
The women novelists of the later half of the twentieth century, aware
of the contemporary preoccupation with feminist issues, address them
either directly (in an outspoken, politicised fashion) or obliquely (through
parody and language games). Their works are mostly about women,
whose problems can only be truly grasped by other women. They feature
universes which are built inside and against man’s world, and give a
central voice to the formerly silent fringes.
The most frequent aspects such novels bring to attention are:
 representations of womanhood in texts written by men and women
 the replacing of (his)story with her story
 masculinity versus femininity with both sexes
 the role of the social in the construction of man and woman as
 opposing woman-as-other by glimpses into man-as-other
 fighting back patterns of authority, power, control, manipulation as
embodiments of patriarchy
 rejecting the patriarchy of language and attempting to find a freer
feminine discourse to replace it
 announcing the emancipation of man soon to take place and to
allow for a reconsideration of the ‘battle between the sexes’
Women writers, novelists and critics, have to be pluralists, given the
feminist insistence on the dominant and all-pervasive nature of patriarchal
power so far in history: there is no pure feminist or female space from
which we can speak (Toril Moi, Feminist Literary Criticism, in Ann
Jefferson and David Robey, Modern Literary Theory, 1988: 205). They
need to find appropriate means of showing just how much all ideas,
including feminist ones, have been contaminated by patriarchal ideology,
without necessarily criticising the inertia that has allowed the phenomenon
to take place or the impetus in its growing strong roots.
Women are shown engaging in routine activities, in living lives and
dreaming dreams. If caught in ridiculous or tragic hypostases, they seem
to deserve what is happening to them and their positions are made to raise
questions in the reader.
The individual characters, despite individual features, remain part of
a broader pattern, which is not so much due to biology as it is the result of
women historically having been subjected to the same kinds of
oppression. Under patriarchy, women have formed a separate subculture,
and the thus socially produced female essence is what feminist writing is
mostly concerned with.
The textual strategies by means of which anger is expressed are,
from the literary point of view, those which give feminist writing its savour.
Inspired from the literature of the past, but shaped to address a different
kind of readership, they speak about the many, but usually to the educated
few who might read stylistics into the politics of the text. From the

Postmodernism and the novel in english 13


immasculation of discourse, to experimental narrative practices, the

dissolution of obsolete modes of analysing the self in fiction and fiction
itself, the rearranging of chronology and the metafictional commentary,
texts by, about and for women undermine the stable foundation of the
canon, whose centrality has enforced a marginal spot for women.

1.4. Postcolonial Voices (Rushdie, Ishiguro)

One of the dominant, obsessively recurrent issues of the late
twentieth century fiction – the problem of the subject, of constructing
identity – has probably been due to the tremendous influence that
psychoanalytic writings have had upon the contemporary mind and stage.
Postmodern, hyperrealist, magic realist and other experimental types of
writing have primarily concerned themselves with this problem reflected in
fictional characterisation, authorship and intentionality, readership,
narrative technique, style, genre and thematics.
Following psychoanalysis, the subject was portrayed in literature as
less stable and essentialist, and more in process, determined by the
‘other’. As a result, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class and race were split
accordingly, being shown as constructed out of difference, out of the
dialogic, out of discourse. Heterogeneity, not homogeneity or unitariness,
impurity and mélange, not originary purity, were shown to govern these
aspects of identity. The decentring and de-essentialising of the subject
have brought about the cultural story, the idea that meaning is provisional
and social, and knowledge always perspectival and contextual. Art,
literature included, is no longer considered as basically representational; it
is sooner looked upon as politicised and empowered, as participating
(from the cultural point of view) in the creation of the real. In it, signs
replace objects of the material world. Its power is symbolical.
Questioning representation remains, however, a subversive political
strategy, whose resistance to established practices and beliefs has
managed to place the emphasis on the margins rather than on the
outmoded centre. In terms of the imperialism of representation, fetishist
images of the ‘margin’ are produced from within ‘civilising’ centres to
satisfy the western need for political and psychological focal points and to
silence any attempt at autorepresentation with the former. In other words,
if the margins have become the centre, they have been denaturalised,
forced to accept their very condition of a margin – now fashionably at the
core of universality.
Bringing the two together and alternating their role and significance,
postcolonial writing covers a wide range of ambivalent cultural modes and
formations, specific to the colonial aftermath – a period of transition and
translation in redefining old identities or discovering newly-acquired
oppositional ones.
Charged with the rhetoric of independence and the creative euphoria
of self-invention, postcolonial writing, in its earlier stages, has sought
therapeutic aid in the revisiting of the colonial past, offering itself to being
interpreted as committed to this complex project of historical and
psychological recovery.
In its present day form, postcolonialism in literature is oriented
towards the following problematics:

14 Postmodernism and the novel in english


 the economic, political and, more importantly, cultural heritage of

the colonial system
 the classical debate on the equality of races, peoples, religions
 the world and the book as authoritarian, ‘colonising’ structures
 woman as ‘other’/colony/colonised
 national politics versus nationalistic politics
 the mutual transformations of globalisation, uniformisation and
hybridity, diaspora
 textual politics and (post)colonial literatures
 the metanarrative of the colonies, of colonialisation and of the end
of colonialism
Central remains the idea of history, synonymous in Western
philosophy with that of (European) civilisation, which has imposed itself as
ideal, supreme, dominant – a phenomenon obvious especially in the
international languages bringing along an intellectual, cultural, artistic,
literary colonialisation.

Postmodernism and the novel in english 15


16 Postmodernism and the novel in english

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Learning Unit no. 2


2.1. Lawrence Durrell

 born in India, in 1912
 educated in Britain, lived mostly in France
 novel sequences: The Alexandria Quartet [Justine (1957),
Balthazar (1958), Mountolive (1958) and Clea (1960)], The Revolt of
Aphrodite [Tunc (1968) and Nunquam (1970)], The Avignon Quincunx
[Monsieur; or, The Prince of Darkness (1974), Livia; or, Buried Alive
(1978), Constance; or, Solitary Practices (1982), Sebastian; or, Ruling
Passions (1983) and Quinx; or, The Ripper’s Tale (1985)]
 volumes of travel writing: Prospero’s Cell (1945), Reflections on a
Marine Venus (1953), Bitter Lemons (1957), The Greek Islands (1978)
 collections of short stories: Sauve Qui Peut (1966), The Best of
Antrobus (1974), Antrobus Complete (1985)
 plays: Sappho (1959), Acto (1961), An Irish Faustus (1963)
 volumes of poetry: Collected Poems (1960 and 1968), Collected
Poems 1931-74 (1980)
 died in 1990
Interested less in social or psychological aspects, Lawrence Durrell
prefers dwelling on the image of reality and the individual’s
ability/possibility to grasp its inner meaning. An adept of Einstein’s theory
of relativity and interdeterminancy, he associates the observing of nature
with the latter’s being disturbed by the interference. As a result, he places
the emphasis on the role of imagination, by means of which one reflects
on things untouched by the presence of the observer. With him,
knowledge is thus reached through subjective perspective rather than
through objective analysis.
Applying these beliefs in the practice of writing fiction, Durrell
formulates a critique of the impositions at work within Western society and
gives liberating alternatives under the form of Eastern patterns of thought
and behaviour. Combining mythical elements with philosophical
speculations, he focuses on the global cultural phenomenon and the
human beings caught in its web.As an experimental novelist, Lawrence
Durrell’s principal aim seems to be that of building a totally detached and
impartial fictional text, one that does away with author and authority,
inviting personal interpretations on the part of the reader. The latter is
empowered with the interpretational task, is given letters, journals,
quotations from characters within the story or from famous names in the
English literature outside the text as such. Fiction expands therefore and
contaminates the real, just as the latter is already known to invade (to
have invaded once and for all) the novel. The universe(s) he rounds up
resemble unsolved puzzles, endless combinations of their disparate parts
being possible as one reader is exchanged with another or one and the
same person goes through the reading task more than once and, as
experiences vary, moods shift, expectations are transformed, awareness
of fictionality differs.
Multiplying perspectives to infinity, Durrell’s writings may suggest,
(besides the obviously intended diversity of the world and interplay of

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subjective positions regarding it) hesitancy or even carelessness, but the

unitary, palpable, real settings that hold the pieces together imply the idea
that the ultimate purpose of he texts is that of pinpointing the only actual
similarity there is between the fictional and the real: their constitution out of
fragments and the necessary understanding of its being ordered by the-
less-than-apparent thread of life – chaotic, yet pulsating with inner energy.
Depth of analysis and complexity of indirect comment on the state of the
(literary) world are achieved by means of:
 the relativity of truth
 the trespassing of textual boundaries
 symbolic modes of writing
 the comic of language and situation
 mythic suggestiveness
 inter-human relationships governed by love and/or passion
Sudden interferences of an authorial and authoritative kind are
present in his text to awaken readers from comfortably plunging into the
fiction of fiction and, therefore, to undercut expectations of separation from
the real world (of novels and novel writing). The reality Durrell constantly
sends to is one of unity in diversity, singularity in multiplicity, harmony in
polyphony. His richly populated fictional universe, his numerous narrators
and standpoints define the way of the world, governed as it is by the story-
telling process going on around us and taking us across the frontiers of
our own stories into everybody else’s. A huge novel, our lives are
inscribed in the collective memory, whose traces remain discernible for
future inscriptions to start from or move around.

The Alexandria Quartet

The four novels that are part of the ‘quartet’ are: Justine, Balthazar,
Mountolive and Clea, all named after characters involved in the
plurifaceted story of the sequence. Its central character, however, remains
Alexandria, the setting whose spirit Durrell means to bring to attention.
Prefacing Justine is the following disclaimer: The characters in this novel,
the first of a series, are all inventions together with the personality of the
narrator, and bear no resemblance to living persons. Only the city is real.
(1982) It serves a double purpose: that of warning against the sin of taking
fiction for reality, and that of emphasizing the feeling of place, exotic and
different, under whose spell all the characters are to discover unexpected
angles of themselves.
The plot and the characters remain essentially the same throughout
the four novels, narrative technique being the only variable. As narrators
change and different viewpoints are presented, the reader is taken on an
open ended journey along the fictional(ising) path. Expanding the story
beyond the limits of one book, Durrell suggests that the result of the
extension might still be part of a continuum. The addressee of this
message is the reader – invited to play the narrating game and tell his/her
own version of the ones already caught on paper.
Justine is narrated from Darley’s point of view. He, a novelist in love
with Justine, offers to tell her story and, no matter how hard he might try to
keep it objective, he remains unreliable because of his very awareness of
the possibility of being influenced by his love for this narrated woman. Like

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Pygmalion, he grows obsessed with his creation and tends to construct his
whole narrative around her.
A rich, young and beautiful Egyptian Jewess now at her second
marriage (to Nessim Hosnani), Justine attracts the attention of men, who
gravitate around her in trajectories mirrored at the level of the text’s inner
structure. Part of a world of the drifters, the uprooted, the ‘lost’, Justine’s
main preoccupation is with herself, her well-being. Selfish and narcissistic,
she is the perfect choice for a metafictional text whose norms are
scrutinised, exposed and turned into the focal point of reference.
Balthazar adds information meant to correct/contradict Darley’s
assumptions in Justine. Balthazar is a physician; his narrative is
automatically considered to be nearer to objectivity and reliability.
Nevertheless, he remains partly unreliable due to his being involved in the
story that he tells.
Balthazar discloses the fact that Justine had only used Darley as a
screen for her true love for Pursewarden, the latter’s close friend. He also
alludes to Justine’s infidelity to her lover(s) in her alliance with Nessim in
setting up an anti-British plot to smuggle weapons to Palestine, a
partnership stronger than any kind of love.
Mountolive, narrated by the homonymous character – British
ambassador to Egypt – brings an omniscient, therefore objective and
reliable narration, whose ‘politics’ is to shed light on that which people
commonly choose to keep silent about: from political plots to private lives
and skeletons in dark closets.
Clea is the novel which centers round a breakthrough from the
bondage of time and space. It presents Darley’s escape from Alexandria’s
contaminating influence and his freedom to enjoy true love with Clea, the
The link between the four narratives is provided by the progression
envisaged, one that alludes to the constant metamorphoses of the self in
and of fiction. A state of permanent suspense is thus maintained, the
reader being supposed to expect and accept any sudden mutation in the
interpretation of relationships and personal motives on the one hand, and
of narrative practices and techniques on the other.
Initially intended to investigate modern love, perpetually changing in
a kaleidoscopic fashion, The Alexandria Quartet is sooner about the
violation of current tastes and the norms of social realism. Taboos are
tackled directly, to shock and prevent from complacently accepting
impositions. Absolute truth is questioned and replaced with personal
truths, stories and experiences, stories of experiences. Its circularity (in
time, plot, setting, characters) confers it the quality of a whole, a series of
cycles similar to that of life itself.

2.2. John Fowles

 born in Essex, in 1926
 educated at Oxford University
 novels: The Collector (1963), The Magus (1965 and 1977), The
French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), Daniel Martin (1977), Mantissa
(1982), A Maggot (1985)
 short stories: The Ebony Tower (1974)
 nonfiction: Islands (1978), The Tree (1979), The Enigma of
Stonehenge (1980), Land (1985)

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Writing under the influence of existentialism and the practices of the

nouveau roman, John Fowles experiments with fiction and focuses on its
very nature. Considering how fiction interacts with reality and history, and
the boundary separating them, he covertly discusses issues like: the
power of repressive convention, the negative force of social (and literary)
conformity, the enigmatic nature of sexual relations, individual freedom
and the desire to manipulate and control.
In the preface added to the second edition of The Magus, and as a
result of the numerous criticisms his book had received, Fowles explains
his intentions, points to his indebtedness to literary tradition and personal
life and defines his text as an exploration into the antipathy between God
and freedom.
If there was some central scheme beneath the […] stew of intuitions
about the nature of human existence – and of fiction – it lies perhaps in the
alternative title, whose rejection I still sometimes regret: ‘The Godgame’. I
did intend Conchis to exhibit a series of masks representing human
notions of God, from the supernatural to the jargon-ridden scientific; that
is, a series of human illusions about something that does not exist in fact,
absolute knowledge and absolute power. […] I do not defend Conchis’s
decision at the execution, but I defend the reality of the dilemma. God and
freedom are antipathetic concepts; and men believe in their imaginary
gods most often because they are afraid to believe in the other thing.
(1983: 10)
This metafictional aside may be read as two things at once (in
keeping with the kind of reader one is); on the one hand, it might be taken
for a neutral ground where the freedom of choice is still very much
possible, since it lies in the future; on the other hand, it might imply that,
despite its preaching in favour of total freedom, it remains an intrusive
exercise which, by telling the reader what not to expect from the text, is
actually telling him/her what to read into it. In other words, the preface is
illustrative of Fowles’s fiction, one which demolishes pretensions of divine
powers, both on the part of the writer (as author) and on the part of the
reader. Targeted by his bitter irony and obvious parody are the omniscient
authors of the English literary past and the passive, submissive readers of
the present, too narrow minded or too blind to see the text as constantly in
the making.
The non-diegetic historical information Fowles makes use of serves
to authenticate the fiction it encloses; to both offer a pleasing surface for
the reader who is eager to establish links between the real and the
fictional, and give the text the depth expected by the active, inquisitive
reader who seeks to reach the ‘true’ message underneath the dialogism of
the text. Added is either a fantastic dimension or a fictionally-real one. The
former is suggestive of the movement away from the object reality, the
latter gives access to the reality of fiction, inside the metafiction thus
constructed. Or, from a different perspective: committed to democratic
socialism in their urging emancipation from oppressive social structures
and sympathising with a whole tradition of religious dissent, the novels of
John Fowles are also utopian texts firmly opposed to reaction.

The Magus

A strikingly new kind of novel which, although intends to establish an

absolute level of reality, paradoxically relativizes reality (Brian McHale,

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Postmodernist Fiction, 1987: 114), The Magus foregrounds a godgame

whose central protagonist is Nicholas Urfe, the puppet whose strings are
held by Conchis – God/the puppeteer.
Arriving on the Greek island of Phraxos, the young Nicholas Urfe
(supposed to teach English in a local boys’ boarding school) meets and
befriends Conchis, an elderly Greek millionaire residing at Bourani.
Nicholas accepts to be experimented on by Conchis, who stages a
succession of theatrical situations, for his younger friend to experiment
with confrontations with the ‘real’. What actually happens is that Nicholas
is made to accept responsibility for his ‘true’ self by plunging at the heart of
fiction(s) and returning, each time, to reconsider reality in terms of the
fictional underlying it (as illustrated by his bringing along vivid memories of
worlds which only seem real but are obviously artificially created).
All of Nicholas’s journeys into the possible are paralleled by a journey
inwards, to his own consciousness, which may be inferred by considering
Conchis’s name, symbolically pronounced to suggest ‘the conscious one’
(Nicholas’s rational alter ego, but also the embodiment of narrative
‘How do you know who I am, Mr Conchis?’
‘Anglicize my name. I prefer the “ch” soft.’ He sipped his tea. ‘If you
question Hermes, Zeus will know.’ (The Magus, 1983: 80)
Indeed, apparently it is Nicholas Urfe who functions as narrator, but it
is really Conchis who manipulates him into telling his stories the way
authority imposes it on him. They are both, in turns, authors and narrators,
narrators and narrated, sharing the statute of magus, imposing
perspectives and trapping the reader into the labyrinth of their story-telling.
Pathologically driven towards the games Conchis keeps making him
a pawn of, Nicholas loses contact with reality. His own personal life is
backgrounded in favour of the enticing experiences he is the subject of.
His teaching career, his love for Alison, the death of his parents no longer
count, no longer manage to interfere with his new reality or unreality.
In its constant building and breaking of frames and settings, the novel
is resonant of metatheatre and metafiction: Nicholas’s role-playing in
Conchis’s theatre is similar to the reader’s experience with this novel
which offers multiple illusions of reality as food for thought. It seems that
this was the perfect choice for Fowles to pinpoint the features of the new,
liberated literature of the later half of the twentieth century, one of illusory
textual representation and of interactive activities meant to both educate
the reader and allow him/her a personal interpretation.
The last pages of the book, presenting Nicholas reunited with Alison
back in London, once again formulate the central ideas of The Magus:
The final truth came to me, as we stood there, trembling, searching,
between our past and all our future; at a moment when the difference
between fission and fusion lay in a nothing, a tiniest movement, betrayal,
further misunderstanding.
There were no watching eyes. The windows were as blank as they
looked. The theatre was empty. It was not a theatre. […] I looked away
from Alison and at those distant windows, the façade, the pompous white
pedimental figures that crowned it. It was logical, the perfect climax to the
godgame. They had absconded, we were alone. I was sure, and yet …
after so much, how could I be perfectly sure? How could they be so cold,

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so inhuman – so incurious? So load the dice and yet leave the game?
Nicholas Urfe’s incursions at the heart of fictionality and his analyses
of the way in which it is constructed and perceived make the novel a
document of postmodernism, with its obvious questioning of realist
conventions and simultaneous parodic acknowledging that, unfortunately,
realism still has control over the way in which literature is read, taught and
A novel about worlds in collision, The Magus is as near fabulation as
it is realism. The two are blended in a way that makes its reading at once
challenging and rewarding.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Unlike The Magus, too theoretical for the common reader, The
French Lieutenant’s Woman is a deliberately readable piece of fiction
which clearly brings out the artistic preoccupations of two generations of
novelists and which offers keys for its author’s intellectualising inclination
in novel writing.
It adopts an old fashioned Victorian narrative pattern, which it both
praises and parodies. Its setting is Victorian, its plot is Victorian, its
characters are Victorian too. Nevertheless, besides the Victorian narrated
time, there is the twentieth century narrating one that the author – a
character in his own story – belongs to. The latter addresses a
contemporary reader, in a way which facilitates the discussions on the
absurdities related to the previous century’s mentality, behaviour, habit,
narrative practices.
In his Notes on an Unfinished Novel, Fowles wrote:
I write memoranda to myself about the book I’m on. On this one: You
are not trying to write something one of the Victorian novelists forgot to
write; but perhaps something one of them failed to write. And: Remember
the etymology of the word. A novel is something new. It must have
relevance to the writer’s now – so don’t ever pretend you live in 1867; or
make sure the reader knows it' (in Malcolm Bradbury, The Novel Today.
Contemporary Writers on Modern Fiction, 1977: 138)
The French Lieutenant’s Woman is set in the Lyme Regis and the
London of the late 1860s. It tells the story of Sarah Woodruff and Charles
Smithson. The latter comes to Lyme on the occasion of his engagement to
Ernestina, but falls prey to Sarah’s manipulative story-telling. She, by now
known as ‘the French lieutenant’s whore’ due to her own fabrication of a
story of unrequited love and sexual misfortune, seems aware of the fact
that a Victorian man like Charles will sooner be attracted by a past such as
her invented one than by an impression of propriety and innocence. She
plays her role to perfection, turning into the character she had imagined.
Lured by the mystery surrounding her, Charles indulges in a relationship
with her, only to discover the total lie underneath Sarah’s tale.
What follows is a temporary separation and numerous special and
temporal journeys back and forth, as Charles begins looking for the
woman he had abandoned, and as their paths fail to cross. This is also the
point at which the authorial voice (making the savour of Chapter Thirteen)
turns into an authorial presence and the smooth flow of the Victorian
narrative is interrupted by the intervention.

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The parallel plots of Sam and Mary, of Mrs. Poultney and of Dr.
Grogan add to the complexity of the novel’s construction and formulate
judgements on strict social hierarchies, narrow-minded mentalities and
progressive scientific research respectively, as embodied by the above
mentioned characters.
In point of structure, the novel’s chapters are all preceded by asides
under the form of famous Victorian texts; excerpts from Thackeray, Hardy,
Dickens, Browning, Darwin, Marx, Arnold, Ruskin and others, together
with quotes from late nineteenth century journals, magazines, legal and
political writings are all used to provide each fictional section with an
appropriate introduction, further developed to later connote in the exact
opposite direction.
The ending is open in its double-natured form, therefore overtly anti-
Victorian as the whole novel. It once again returns to the formula of
existentialist philosophy in its forwarding more than one choice for the
reader to experience freedom of interpretation (a necessary condition of
the human condition) and to the theory of the nouveau roman that Fowles
owes to Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute and Michel Butor and that
he abides by, favouring the movement of the writing, the novel’s own
language and technique.
All in all, it is now accepted (see Neil McEwan, The Survival of the
Novel. British Fiction in the Later Twentieth Century, 1981) that The
French Lieutenant’s Woman serves as a revealing introduction to the
work of other modern novelists, who are as conscious as Fowles is
(although less explicitly) of the need to be wary about the nature of fiction.
It is a brilliant, but also a conscientious work which explores the
incongruities of fiction today.

2.3. David Lodge

 born in London, in 1935
 educated at London University
 Professor of Modern English Literature at the University of
Birmingham (since 1976)
 novels: The Picturegoers (1960), Ginger, You’re Barmy (1962),
The British Museum is Falling Down (1965), Out of the Shelter (1970),
Changing Places (1975), How Far Can You Go? (1980), Small World
(1984), Nice Work (1988), Paradise News, Therapy (1995), Home
Truths (1999), Thinks (2001), Author, Author: A Novel (2004)
 works of criticism: Language of Fiction (1966), The Novelist at
the Crossroads (1971), The Modes of Modern Writing (1977), Working
with Structuralism (1981), Consciousness and the Novel (2002)
An attempt at sugaring the metalanguage pill has been that of
transforming literary theory and criticism into theoretical fiction or
narratology as narrative. Nevertheless, the abrupt shift asks for an
educated, highly cultivated and, why not, patient reader, for a reading elite
who might consent to abandoning hope of ever deriving any pleasure out
of experiencing literature and to plunging into a thorough study of fiction
while apparently reading fiction. And, some would say, as if it weren’t bad
enough for critics to write fiction and novelists to concentrate on theory,
the university professor is added at times as a special ingredient meant to

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hold everything else together in a puzzling puzzle, with a view to

instructing (!?) an already overburdened readership.
Some thirty years ago, the relationship between fiction and criticism
was comparatively unproblematical. Criticism was conceived of as a
second-order discourse dependent on the first-order discourse of fiction.
Novelists wrote novels and critics criticised them. (David Lodge, The
Novelist at the Crossroads, 1984: 11)
Nowadays, the literary phenomenon has offered itself to being
moulded and controlled by academics who, on the one hand, have
operated selections and exclusions within the canon (simply because
literature cannot be taught or learnt without there being a common body of
texts to refer to and compare) and, on the other hand, have attempted to
write texts about the canon, themselves becoming canon-ised, within a
relatively short period of time. Additionally, mention must be made of the
fact that inside and outside the educational system there is a growing
variety of conflicting views on the subject of literary value and on the
difference between literary and non-literary texts (Ann Jefferson and David
Robey [eds], Modern Literary Theory, 1988:10), which has led to relative
hierarchies being drawn up.
A case in point is the simultaneous manipulation of the critical,
theoretical novel and of the fictionalised critique (whose skilful handling of
the terminological instrumentarium perhaps performs investigation
enterprises on the literary corpse if not surgical interventions to resuscitate
it back on track) with David Lodge. The following excerpts from his
(non)fiction will hopefully support the thesis:
1. To understand a message is to decode it. Language is a code.
But every decoding is another encoding. (Small World, 1984: 25)
2. Any text inevitably undermines its own claims to have a
determinate meaning, and licences the reader to produce his own
meanings out of it by an activity of semantic freeplay. (Modern Criticism
and Theory, 1988: 108)
3. Aporia. In classical rhetoric it means real or pretended uncertainty
about the subject under discussion. Deconstructionists today use it to refer
to more radical kinds of contradiction or subversion of logic or defeat of a
reader’s expectation in a text. (Nice Work, 1988: 338)
4. The ‘meaning’ of a literary text is objectively knowable, and
distinguishable from the ‘significance’ attributed to that meaning by
particular readers. (Modern Criticism and Theory, 1988: 253)
5. The paradigms of fiction are essentially the same whatever the
medium. Words or images, it makes no difference at the structural level.
(Changing Places, 1978: 251)
In Lodge’s academic trilogy, the professor-character is carefully
manipulated so as to forward ideas, principles, concepts and to have
literature-about-literature and language-about-language embedded within
the text. The reading process is rendered difficult and, most often than not,
meanings are either overlooked, added, misinterpreted, or misattributed.
In other words, signifiers send to signifieds that are multiple or simply
different with each reader/reading. The comedy embedded is,
nevertheless, the ingredient which allows parody and self-parody,
avenging the reader’s difficulties in digesting the hard core of the texts.

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Changing Places. A Tale of Two Campuses

This novel is structured around the idea of an academic exchange

scheme, further developed in Small World and Nice Work. In Changing
Places, the American professor Morris Zapp, from Euphoria State
University exchanges places for a year with the English professor Philip
Swallow, from Rummidge University. As the two men are confronted with
different universes, the cultural clash is brought to the fore; the American
finds the English educational system rural, quite absurd and out-of-date,
while the Englishman is shocked to discover an emancipated, highly
progressive urban environment. They are both misfits trying hard to
survive and to cope with everything: from accommodation facilities to
teaching activity and social life.
A study of the cross-Atlantic, invisible but powerful cultural battle, the
book ridicules the inertia both sides manifest in accepting the other.
Although it analyses all this on the small scale of the university situation, it
is allusive of similar practices in other domains as well. The academic
campus is nothing but the world in a nutshell and the academic an
embodiment of Man at his most ridiculous, despite the novel’s disclaimer:
Although some of the locations and public events portrayed in this
novel bear a certain resemblance to actual locations and events, the
characters, considered either as individuals or as members of institutions,
are entirely imaginary. Rummidge and Euphoria are places on the map of
a comic world which resembles the one we are standing on without
corresponding to it, and which is peopled by figments of the
imagination.(Changing Places, 1978)
David Lodge manages to create a feeling of verisimilitude by
recurrent references to the state of affairs in the wide world outside the
university and in the claustrophobic academic one, and to types of
discourse that distinguish one from the other. Furthermore, the use of
numerous letters in the epistolary section of the novel (exchanged
between Philip and Morris and their wives, Hilary and Désirée), the British
English and the American English alive in their texts, together with the
numerous and humorous incursions into the frontier reality/fiction (e.g.
Morris is a specialist in Jane Austen, and his twin children are called
Elizabeth and Darcy) mirror a mock-refined cultural situation one can
easily recognise.
The ending takes one back to the novel’s opening paragraphs, with
the two professors (this time each accompanied by the other’s wife) on
planes moving in opposite directions than they were when their story
began, and which are about to collide – avoided accident that has the four
reunited and planning on future exchanges, all suggestively illustrated by
the scene’s being presented as a script whose stage directions both
manipulate the actors-characters and introduce an authorial presence who
ultimately proves to be inefficient, so the play-novel remains open.

Small World. An Academic Romance

This second novel in the series is set against an international

academic background. The numerous academics populating the novel’s
universe are presented as migrating from one place to another, to take
part in conferences (but also to seek the company of others like them, who
might understand their worries, appreciate their efforts and plug in to their

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creative energy). The conferences are nothing but alibis, the real reason
for their being constantly on the move being the socialising involved:
But, on the whole, academic subject groups are self-defining,
exclusive entities. Each has its own jargon, pecking order, newsletter,
professional association. The members probably meet only once a year –
at a conference. Then what a lot of hallos, howareyous and
whatareyouworkingons over the drinks, over the meals, between lectures.
(1984: 233)
The romance mode, the mythical pattern and the metafictional design
of Small World are brought together by Lodge’s skill with constructing
memorable stories which speak of/to the contemporary mind. The main
character, Persse McGarrigle, a young university lecturer is, like Percival,
in search of a Grail: Angelica Pabst, a fellow academic. Naïve and
romantic, Persse keeps answering calls for papers and putting his name
down for all possible future conferences in the hope of meeting Angelica
once again. His (mis)adventures seem never-ending, like the metafictional
discussions on texts and textuality, literature and literary theory – that most
of the characters spend their lives delivering. Among those who forward
the metafictional debate in the novel is Morris Zapp – the
deconstructionist. Philip Swallow is also present but, unlike his peers, he
has adopted no critical orientation and seems to be the only one still
enjoying literature for what it is rather than massacring it for the sake of
Criticising criticism and the critic is the dominant goal of the metatext,
infested by regurgitations of critical discourse from people who seem to
have lost their human features and replaced them with labels and
concepts: Fulvia Morgana – a Marxist, Sigfried von Turpitz – a Teutonic
Response Theory expert, Michel Tardieu – a narratologist and, last but not
least, Arthur Kingfisher – their mentor and superior, embodiment of both
the King Arthur and the Fisher King figures.
The academic romance announced in the title is followed through to
the very end, when Persse discovers true love outside the suffocating
world of sterile words the academia is (in the person of Cheryl
Summerbee, a non-academic, working for British Airways). His quest
continues, however, as he is incapable of tracing her down. Open ended,
therefore also open to interpretation and reinterpretation, Small World,
plays with expectations and amuses while uncovering the darkest of
corners in the life outside and inside the text.

Nice Work

The last novel of the trilogy returns to the exchange scheme in

Changing Places. This time it involves an academic and a businessman,
a woman and a man, other oppositions being considered, without the
university milieu’s being left out.
Robyn Penrose, a lecturer specialising in the nineteenth century
novel and women’s studies, is asked by her faculty board (that Philip
Swallow is a part of) to spend some time becoming acquainted with the
industrial world and to accept that an engineer, Vic Wilcox, managing
director of a steelworks, attend her classes in return, everything being part
of a project initiated by the government on Industry Year. Totally
displeased at the thought of the drab involved in all this, she shows up in

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Vic’s office, only to discover that he is just as angry about the scheme as
she. The difficulties they initially encounter in understanding the world of
each other (and which are comically rendered by Lodge) gradually
become easier to accept, as the two get to know each other better.
Lodge’s craft of rendering the atmosphere of the two universes that
are part of the broader one but that do not cross paths too often is related
to his portrayal of their discourses and the essential misunderstandings
they cause as a result of the war of mentalities thus formulated.
‘My field is […] women’s studies.’
‘Women Studies?’ Wilcox echoed with a frown. ‘What are they?’
‘Oh, women’s writing. The representation of women in literature.
Feminist critical theory.’
Wilcox sniffed. ‘You give degrees for that?’ […] ‘Still, I suppose it’s all
right for the girls.’
‘Boys take it too,’ said Robyn. ‘and the reading load is very heavy, as
a matter of fact.’
[…] ‘Why aren’t they studying something useful, then?’
‘Like mechanical engineering?’
‘You said it.’ (1989: 114)
The language Vic speaks is that of a middle-aged married man with a
wife he no longer loves and children whom he cannot get to grips with; the
language of an engineer who, after having graduated, does nothing to
broaden his cultural horizon; the language of the well-off, who pay for their
pleasures without giving real quality a second thought, driven as they are
by the dictates of fashion and by the need to impress neighbours and
Robyn’s language is that of a young and beautiful woman who is still
single because of the time and effort she puts into her long-term
education; the language of the open-minded academic who freely
discusses all subjects, including those which are disturbing for most
people; the language of the literate, the scholar, the researcher.
Communication between them is obviously impossible at first. Only
as human beings can they finally find common ground, and even then not
wholly: when Vic develops a crush for her, Robyn is bewildered by the old
fashioned, syrupy approach he adopts (candle light, roses, romantic
declarations and adolescent love-making); she seems more accustomed
to frank statements and safe sex.
The last paragraphs of the novel bring an image that sums up the
whole content and message: looking out of her office window that gives on
to the campus lawn, Robyn can see a gardener pushing his motor mower
up and down. The students make way for him to pass, without uttering a
word, without communicating in any way, although he is roughly of the
same age as they. No arrogance is obvious on the students’ part, no
resentment on the gardener’s, just an avoidance of contact. Physically
contiguous, they inhabit separate worlds. (384) Food for thought on the
reader’s table.

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2.4. Doris Lessing

 born in Persia (Iran), in 1919 and brought up in Rhodesia
 educated in Salisbury, at a Roman Catholic convent, but left
school at the age of fourteen
 settled in London in 1949
 novel series: Children of Violence [Martha Quest (1952), A
Proper Marriage (1954), A Ripple from the Storm (1958), Landlocked
(1965), The Four Gated City (1969)] and Canopus in Argus: Archives
[Shikasta (1979), The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five
(1980), The Sirian Experiments (1981), The Making of the
Representative for Planet 8 (1982), The Sentimental Agents (1983)]
 novels: The Grass Is Singing (1950), The Golden Notebook
(1962), Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971), The Summer Before
Dark (1972), Memoirs of a Survivor (1974), The Diaries of Jane
Somers (1984), The Good Terrorist (1985), The Fifth Child (1988), The
Old Age of El Magnificato (2000), The Sweetest Dream (2001), The
Grandmothers (2003) and others
 collections of stories: This Was the Old Chief’s Country (1951),
Five: Short Novels (1953), The Habit of Loving (1957), A Man and Two
Women (1963), African Stories (1964), Winter in July (1966), The
Black Madonna (1966), The Story of a non-Marrying Man (1972) and
many more
 other: Going Home (1957), In Pursuit of the English (1960), A
Small Personal Voice: Essays, Reviews, Interviews (1974)
Doris Lessing’s literary works are closely associated with feminism,
social criticism and autobiography, their central themes being in
connection with the world’s being shaken into new patterns by the current
cataclysms and with individuals in search of wholeness, both illustrated at
the level of content and form (the latter being used to support the former).
Her writing covers a wide range of genres, settings and narrative
techniques, but are held together by a number of main concerns. Worth
mentioning are the following: the analysis of the contemporary cultural
scene; the awareness of the perpetual social change; the association of
the catastrophic nature of twentieth century history with personal
dissatisfaction and unhappiness; the emphasis on higher states of
consciousness as a possible retreat in the face of alienation; intense anger
at social injustice; interest in radical revisions of the self; concentration on
the nature of inter-human relationships.
A novelist at odds with old-fashioned ways of shaping novel
discourse, Lessing remains nonetheless indebted to traditional modes of
writing which she uses to express the manners, aspirations, anxieties and
particular problems of the times she lives in. Authorial omniscience is not
abandoned wholly, the moralising tone is partly preserved, the anchoring
in historical, social, political and cultural realities is still obvious, despite
the numerous, more experimentalist, narrative practices and techniques
The tradition she works in stems from the great European realists of
the nineteenth century, with their special preoccupation with liberation
movements and profound judgement of the quality of a whole way of life in
terms of the qualities of people. (see Lorna Sage, Women in the House

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of Fiction, 1992). What she resents is the world’s inability to allow women
to stand for universality, and she builds her texts so as to highlight the
recognition of difference and the authority of otherness.
Whether her novels are autobiographical, science fiction or
metafictional, they adopt realism as a backdrop, but do not round up
imaginative worlds one can live inside. Uncomfortable, threatening,
terrifying, her universes demand fighting for survival. The reader’s task
seems to be that of finding his/her way through the entanglement of plots
celebrating heterogeneity and of ‘listening’ to the silence undermining
In the Preface to The Golden Notebook (in Malcolm Bradbury, The
Novel Today. Contemporary Writers on Modern Fiction, 1977),
Lessing formulates a complete literary credo, by exposing the inner
workings of her fiction:
 mild feminism, the unsilencing of women: This novel was not a
trumpet for Women’s Liberation. It described many female emotions of
aggression, hostility, resentment. It put them into print. Apparently what
many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing, came as a great
surprise. (171)
 the theme of the breakdown: Sometimes when people ‘crack up’ it
is a way of self-healing, of the inner self’s dismissing false dichotomies
and divisions. (170)
 other thoughts and themes:
- the impossibility of finding a novel to describe the intellectual and
moral climate of a hundred years ago, in the middle of the last century, in
Britain, in the way Tolstoy did it for Russia, Stendhal for France (173)
- the main character – an artist with a ‘block’, so as to tolerate no
longer this monstrously isolated, monstrously narcissistic, pedestalled
- a different kind of subjectivity: The way to deal with the problem of
‘subjectivity’ is to see [the individual] as a microcosm and in this way to
break through the personal, the subjective, making the personal general,
as indeed life always does (176)
- allowing the book to make its own comment, a wordless statement:
to talk through the way it was shaped (176)
- criticising the critic/reader: the book is alive and potent and
fructifying and able to promote thought and discussion only when its plan
and shape and intention are not understood (185)
Like Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing orients her texts towards
transcending difference and exploring a shared crisis of consciousness.
She expands the discussion so that it might also cover the area of novel
writing, but, most often than not, she prefers to look into real women, with
real worries in real-life situations. Starting from individual cases and then
broadening the scope to catch womanhood between parallel mirrors, she
manages to disturb and please at the same time, opening doors behind
which unspoken selves have long been hidden.
The attempted dialogue with the rest of the world is more valuable in
its preliminary, anticipative stage than in its actual manifestation. The
feeling of entrapment and the loud noise of silence remain overwhelming
and contaminate the reading process also, leaving behind painful traces of
sudden realisations.

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The Diaries of Jane Somers

The book appeared initially as two separate volumes, entitled The

Diary of a Good Neighbour and If the Old Could. In its present day
form, these are the two parts of the novel.
Central is Janna, an intelligent, attractive magazine editor from
whose perspective the story is told. Before her illumination on the true
value of existence, her life had meant money, comfort, success and
glamour. With the death of her husband, and that of her mother, Janna
begins to understand her inadequacy and to question the way of the world.
The shiny cover of her life, like that of a women’s magazine, hides
the real bitterness, the dim corners underneath. Her emotional sterility, her
vulnerability and her inefficiency in really communicating with others drives
her to writing a diary and to becoming committed to the old and the
deprived, in an attempt at analysing her true nature and making up for the
lost time.
Accidentally meeting Maudie Fowler (old, wicked, poor), Janna
becomes obsessed with the woman and joins ‘The Good Neighbour’ social
aid programme, volunteering to help look after the needy. Leaving behind
her wonderful career, expensive clothes, educated friends, travels abroad,
she embarks on a journey of self-knowledge that is painful in that it
discloses aspects she had previously been blind to, living, as she had
done, among the priviledged. Her downfall (in the eyes of her
acquaintances) runs parallel with incursions into her soul, which she turns
upside down and inside out, especially in the pages of the diary she
Maudie is the secondary character who, in Part I, supports the
introspection by providing the necessary ‘other’ against which Janna may
define herself. In Part II, the role is played by Richard Curtis, the man with
whom Janna falls in love.
Richard is a married man, which adds to the responsibilities both are
weighed down with. Their relationship is clearly an impossible one, and
Janna can decide to bring it to an end only when she eventually
acknowledges the fact that, in wanting him around she is desperately
trying to deny Freddie’s death. She pretends to be in love with Richard,
but all she does is relive her past with Freddie, her then empty marriage,
now fictionalised and improved due to her having become older, more
mature, therefore more alert to the small things in life which make it worth
All this richness and intensity of feeling and thought is shared with
the reader in a way that reminds of everyone’s personal unhappiness
wrapped up in the self-satisfaction on display with most. Following Janna’a
text, pretext and context, the reader discovers aspects of the self
previously buried and is lead to looking with fresh eyes at the impositions
of society, at the norms it seems to force people to accept and thus remain
caught on the surface of things, behind the artificial mask of convention.
The Diaries of Jane Somers is a novel which involves the self-
conscious and deliberate textualisation of one’s self. It posits fiction
alongside truth, blurring the boundary between them and suggesting that
the fictionalising of fact is closer to truth than reality/history.
Aware of the unreliability and unpredictability of memory, Lessing
demolishes the myth of the past as real and as contained in the present. In
so doing, she gives her writing a feminine and feminist touch: the fertility of

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imagination is not devoid of messages about women and womanhood,

especially since the mother-daughter and the woman-lover relationships
are focused upon and amplified until distorted, made to go beyond the
commonly accepted prejudices.
Trapped inside the identity of someone she barely recognises, Janna
decides it is time for her to become involved in establishing connections,
no matter how extra-ordinary they may be. It is not surprising maybe that
she holds on to her friendship with Maudie and gives up the one with
Richard. The symbiosis of the former is far more valuable than the
attraction of opposites with the latter. Man-the-centre becomes man-the-
outsider, gravitating around the main character’s presence, yet incapable
or forbidden to trespass its inner circle. Like Doris Lessing, Jane Somers
goes through the therapy of writing and of living anew, accessing the
truths of a younger and fictive self from the different perspectives of her
split older ones.

2.5. Fay Weldon

 born in Worcestershire, England, in 1931
 educated at University of St. Andrews, Scotland (studied economics
and philosophy)
 lives in Dorset, England
 novels: The Fat Woman’s Joke (1967), Down Among the
Women (1971), Female Friends (1975), Remember Me (1976), Words
of Advice (1977), Praxis (1978), Little Sisters (1978), Puffball (1980),
The President’s Child (1982), The Life and Loves of a She-Devil
(1983), The Shrapnel Academy (1986), The Rules of Life (1987), The
Heart of the Country (1987), Leader of the Band (1988), The Cloning
of Joanna May (1990), Darcy’s Utopia (1991), Growing Rich (1992),
Life Force (1992), Affliction (1993), Splitting (1995), Worst Fears
(1996), Big Women (1997), Nobody Likes Me (1997), The Bulgari
Connection (2001), Nothing to Wear and Nowhere to Hide (2002),
Mantrapped (2004)
 children’s books: Wolf the Mechanical Dog, Party Puddle
 collections of short stories: Watching Me, Watching You (1981),
Polaris (1985), Moon Over Minneapolis (1991), Wicked Women (1997),
A Hard Time to Be a Father (1998) and others
 non-fiction: Letters to Alice, Rebecca West, Sacred Cows etc.
The feminism of Fay Weldon’s writing is concentrated on the idea of
women exploited by men in domestic circumstances. She shifts the
emphasis from the broader social context to the narrower one of the home
where, behind doors and shutters, the real unhappiness unfolds. Aware of
the fact that women allow themselves to be subjected by men and by their
natures alike, she uses satire to formulate judgements on a world that
seems to have been arranged so that it suits men. The novelist bridges
the gap between the popular and the serious, presenting the simple, small
things in life as we know it in a way which invites at the thorough
consideration of the complicated pattern underneath. She finds the best
wording for everything that has remained unsaid, avenging all the silent
splinters of a woman’s life. Her readers are pleased to discover only too
familiar representations which, through exaggeration and caricature, are
rendered ridiculous and preposterous, yet remain sufficiently connected

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with what goes on in the real world to result in an analysis of actual

Adopting a direct, straightforward attitude and point of view, Fay
Weldon expresses a sense of paradoxical sisterhood and exposes the
various aspects of patriarchal ideology. She seems to point to the fact that
any stereotype is self-destructive, easily transformed into its own unstable
contradiction and thereby demonstrates that such stereotypes only exist
as verbal constructs in the service of that ruling ideology or to that, as
Germaine Greer argues (see The Female Eunuch, 1993) whatever the
kind of feminine stereotype to which women are supposed to conform to, it
is necessarily a construction of patriarchal capitalism: The stereotype is
the Eternal Feminine. […] She need never give positive evidence of her
moral character because virtue is assumed from her loveliness, and her
passivity. (in Keith Green and Jill LeBihan [eds], Critical Theory and
Practice, 1996: 234)
The woman as mother, lover, wife, housewife, friend, career woman
etc are roles her characters play, usually in separation one from the other,
to gratify preconceived ideas that are further developed, pushed out of
shape, until they become monstrously deformed, defamiliarised so as to
contain the criticism intended. Ordinary and middle-class, her characters
are mostly described in terms of the relationships they establish with
others. The men and women around them are just as bad, just as
disappointing, and it is Weldon’s frequently expressed intention of
exposing weaknesses with women, of not discriminating against men, of
unfavourably treating both, that gets forwarded. Her politics appears to be
related to the notion that women themselves are to blame for the status
they have been imposed and have accepted. The victims are more
numerous than the warriors, and their inertia is contagious, passed on
from generation to generation. Furthermore, when not silenced altogether,
most women play their roles conscientiously, under the yoke of male
power and control, although capable of seeing through the consensus.
Narrating with a view to disclosing multiple perspectives, Weldon’s
women adopt dialogism to juxtapose the surface level of things with the
subtle pondering on its depths. They wear the mask, but rebel behind it; in
observing their situation, they pronounce aphoristic truths that give flavour
to the writing: Men are irrelevant. Women are happy or unhappy, fulfilled
or unfulfilled, and it has nothing to do with men (Down Among the
Women, 1971: 187); Men do get very odd when their wives are pregnant
(Affliction, 1993: 96); If the wife leaves an empty bed, a husband’s first
impulse is to fill it (Worst Fears, 1996: 57) Embodying abstract notions of
womanhood, characters switch from the third person to the first person,
both imitating male voices and guiding the responses to the inner
femininity/feminism of the text. Thus two types of audiences are
addressed efficiently and the message carried through.
The plots are also selected to illustrate the argument about women
today and always. From childhood to maturity and old age, women are
portrayed as suffering from gender inequalities directly related to
economic, monetary conditions. The additional subplots foreground
hypostases of institutions like marriage, career, love affairs, education, the
succession of which (never presupposing the same order) creates the
impression of life, of a dynamism to be associated with change or
progress rather than with prosaic circularity or cyclicity leading nowhere in
the end.

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Down Among the Women

The novel’s theme is stated by its very title: women’s oppression and
the low status they have always been associated with. Used as a refrain,
to start most chapters, it emphasizes a dangerous streak in the collective
unconscious, and ridicules the current drive to subdue the already
subdued. It depicts the complexity of women’s experience and glimpses
into the unreasonable expectations society enacts upon them. The
characters and the plot serve to transmit the idea that patriarchy must be
fought back and freedom of action and thought allowed to dictate the
evolution of women in society. Built around six characters, whose lives are
interwoven to compare and contrast, to oppose and analyse, the novel
also presupposes two levels – one on which the diachronic debate is
developed and one on which the synchronic aspect is considered:
 on the one hand, three generations of women are presented, each
embodied by a particular character: Wanda – the grandmother, Scarlet –
the mother, Byzantia – the daughter
 on the other hand, a group of friends (not really all that friendly
towards one another) is discussed: Scarlet, Jocelyn, Audrey, Helen, Sylvia
and Susan
The link remains Scarlet, a partly autobiographical character, an
independent single mother, a woman with a will and a way, the most
intelligent and emancipated of all. Through Scarlet, whose name adds a
critical and intertextual component, Weldon empowers women with the
force to appreciate their value and refuse submission to absurd
Jocelyn turns from a bright, open-minded intellectual into a bored and
boring housewife. She stands for the ‘happily married’ woman, trapped in
an impossible situation, with a husband who cheats on her and with no
other satisfaction to ever look forward to. Eventually, she breaks free, as
she leaves Philip for Ben, with whom she begins a new life.
Audrey is the one who moves in the opposite direction: from a quiet,
submissive wife and mother to a woman of the world, as she manages to
shake off the ties imposed on her, abandons husband and children and
lives with a married man. She awakens from the woman’s nightmare and
lives life to the full, with no remorse or sense of guilt whatsoever.
Helen is the prototype of the victim; she is beautiful, sensitive and
loving, therefore a misfit. After numerous disappointing relationships, she
understands that men only feel comfortable with women who are their
inferiors, but continues to make compromises and lower herself in
degradation. Her suicide, and her decision to take her daughter’s life also,
is symbolical for Weldon’s feminist message of anger at such philosophies
of life.
Sylvia is another victim. Unlike Audrey, who has gone through all the
stages of social womanhood and come out a fresher, better person, she
sees all her attempts at happiness destroyed, all her hopes shattered in
the unfortunate relationships she establishes. Punished for having
punished in her turn, Sylvia has to accept her fate and simply carry on with
her life.
Susan, who becomes Scarlet’s stepmother, is the ‘nicest’ from a
patriarchal point of view. She transforms her status of wife and mother into
a religion, dedicating all her time and effort to making her marriage to an

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elderly man work, despite being aware of the bitterness underneath the
polished surface of her life.
Wanda, the only feminist proper, opens the novel, and Byzantia, her
follower, ends it. The former introduces the discussion on the necessity of
educating women to think independently and fight for the right of making
personal choices, while the latter detaches herself and her generation
from ‘the last of the women’ (as patriarchy has constructed and as focused
upon in the book), announcing the emergence of a new, emancipated
woman with the strength to operate major changes and to provide all
women with an improved, culturally and socially determined, status.
The narration is achieved by the handling of both a third-person,
omniscient narrator and a first-person subjective one, underlining the shift
from the historical perspective to the individual, particular viewpoint.
Jocelyn’s narratorial task is interrupted every now and then by authorial,
intrusive passages (very patriarchal in essence) within which
generalisations are made and a twenty-year span is covered, all in relation
with the evolution (or involution) in feminist positions. Immortalised in
fiction, the female, feminine and feminist voices inside Weldon’s novel
leave deep traces in the reader and therefore attain their goals.

2.6. Salman Rushdie

 Indian novelist, born in Bombay, in June 1947
 educated at Cambridge University
 has recently moved from London to New York
 novels: Grimus (1975), Midnight’s Children (1981), Shame
(1983), The Satanic Verses (1988), Haroun and the Sea of Stories
(1990), The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995), The Ground Beneath Her Feet
(1999), Fury (2001)
 short stories: East, West (1994)
 a book of reportage: The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey
 critical essays: Imaginary Homelands (1991)
 film criticism: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1992)
 non-fiction: Step Across This Line (2003)
Defined as a postcolonial, experimentalist, metafictional, magic
realist writer, Salman Rushdie’s fame rests upon the uniqueness of the
imaginative space he foregrounds, where representations of alterity meet
and fill the void of denied realities. Rushdie is an enthusiastic proponent of
new forms, able to match the new sensibilities, the twentieth century
location of culture: film, radio, television, video – all present as narrative
material, structural device and metaphor in his fiction. (see Damian Grant,
Salman Rushdie, 1999) The emphasis on the media helps him open a
whole discussion on the fundamentally new relationship between public
and private life, language and silence, the centre and its fringes. Inside
today’s global culture, Rushdie’s intention, as formulated in Imaginary
Homelands, is that of writing books that draw better maps of reality, and
make new languages with which we can understand the world.
Drawing on a vast range of Hindu, Islamic and Western, classical
and modern, academic and popular traditions, he produces a highly
original collage which speaks equally to the East and to the West, about
the past and about the present, in elaborate or in simplistic ways. A self

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conscious and versatile writer, Rushdie discusses diversity and uses

multiplicity as forms of resistance to the unitary nature of imperialist
ideology, of political and religious control, of canonical artistic impositions.
The magic realism of his fiction allows the combination of the realistic
portrayal of poverty and suffering with magic, fantasy, farce, symbolism
and allegory. In other words, the objective meets the subjective, the
masculine the feminine, tradition innovation, authority the subdued.
Assuming migrancy (and therefore discontinuity) at the personal,
national and artistic levels, Rushdie seems to find a liberating mode of
defining the self taken up by fiction, using in his defence the very weapons
that have been directed against him by fate. A ‘translated’ man, he now
translates his translation, distancing himself from the original, while
creating a better one to replace it. An easterner whose western definition
is found unsatisfactory, he adopts the opposite position to do justice to his
Placed within the British tradition (of Forster’s A Passage to India),
and benefiting from a deeper knowledge of ‘the other’ to which he has
always belonged, but is now distant from (therefore less biased about),
Rushdie sets out to juxtapose layers of cultural patterns that run parallel to
successive strata of story-telling – all shown to be on the fiction - reality
Narratologic and historiographic self-consciousness is subtly
incorporated by his symbolical, obliquely theoretical fiction preoccupied
with the subjectivity of historical narrative, which places its endings and
beginnings at the centre to avoid any obtrusive moral conclusion. Social
boundaries are crossed, cultural frontiers trespassed and distinctions
blurred in this insane game of having the misplaced other intrude upon
worlds he/she does not belong to. Resulting is an impression of reality
melting into a fiction that implies an overpowering authority gaining in
altitude and becoming increasingly frightening, especially when identified
with the realist’s urge to have complex reality represented, encapsulated
by strict formulations within or without the fictional text.
Salman Rushdie’s rewriting of the past has helped define not only
time, but history also, as relative. Much of the knowledge about the past,
he believes, is of a narrated nature since all past events are potential
historical facts, actual facts remaining those which have been chosen to
be narrated. He therefore separates personal history from the collective,
acknowledged version of history and, by doing so, rediscovers himself,
man and artist.
The autobiographical vein remains a unifying feature of Rushdie’s
writing, despite his transgression of genre categories and its challenges
upon the reader. From the mention of one’s arrival on a strange island (in
Grimus), to one’s birth into a new world (in Midnight’s Children),
nationality versus religious (dis)orientation (in Shame and The Satanic
Verses), to language and culture in conflict (in Fury), his texts cover
painful ground, engage in ideological discourses, experiment with the
limits of imagination, test the coherence of life, explore the nature of Man
and Art –obvious metaphors of Rushdie’s own life experiences. Inside his
texts, autobiographical characters, like everyone else, live history forward
and ‘write’ it in retrospect (see The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan
Journey, 1987), feeling free to commit mistakes, knowing that the draft of
their lives will be corrected in the future narrative about it.

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Midnight’s Children

The Three Books that make up the novel cover sixty-odd years (from
1915 to 1977) and four generations. However, there are numerous
incursions into the distant, mythical past of India and the world. As to the
future, it is only suggested, or left untouched for the moment when, years
from now, it will already have become someone else’s past.
Saleem Sinai, the main character, is writing an autobiographical
novel, but starts the story of his life much earlier than usual (as in
Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy), by the presentation of his
grandparents’ meeting and falling in love. Their story is symbolical for the
metatext of Midnight’s Children. Saleem’s grandmother pretends to be
ill, just to have the new doctor in town consult her. Custom had it, in those
days of India’s past, for young, virgin women not to expose their bodies to
anyone, not even a doctor; she is therefore consulted from behind a sheet,
perforated to allow the doctor’s hand to touch her belly. What follows is
love and marriage, years spent together in getting to know each other. As
time passes, the perforated sheet acquires new holes, it becomes more
and more transparent. And so does the narrative: if initially obscure,
allowing brief glimpses into the narrated universe, it then opens new
doors, as new perspectives are added and the mysteries begin to clear.
Saleem-the-narrator discusses Saleem-the-character with Padma-
the-narratee. The former adopts the stance and voice of the author, while
the latter stands for an inquisitive, constantly dissatisfied reader, who
keeps complaining about the meaninglessness of the narrative that is
presented to her every time she comes in the room where Saleem sits at
his writing desk. It is Padma who avenges the problems the reader has
with the exotic and sophisticated mixture of autobiography, history, magic
realism and metafiction in Midnight’s Children.
Saleem writes of his birth, simultaneous with that of one thousand
more children across the country, and with that of the new, liberated India
(at midnight, on 15th August 1947) – hence the title of the novel. The births
bring about a generation of witnesses/artists, with their own, intruded-
upon, stories/tales, as 1001 Sheherezades under the threat of telling what
they are told, or as obedient practitioners of religion, whose personal
interventions in THE text are looked upon as a deadly sin (with One
Thousand and One Nights and The Quran as obvious intertexts).
He then goes through pains to rebuild the past out of disparate
fragments with the aid of memory and ends up disintegrating, he himself,
as Padma has foreseen: You better get a move on or you’ll die before you
get yourself born (in fiction) (1982: 38). The ending he provides marks an
abrupt shift from the metonymical ‘I’ standing for the group, to the ‘I’
becoming the group and, incapable of holding it together, splitting into a
multitude of virtual ‘I’s about to rewrite their own versions of a story that
has engulfed them and their wor(l)d .
Although silenced in the end, his individuality pulverized (the clock
having made time become a bomb), HISstory fights back time and disrupts
accepted patterns: I spend my time at the great work of preserving.
Memory, as well as fruit, is being saved from the corruption of the clocks
(38). His view on history/the past is that of a succession of jars containing
pickles to be swallowed as one swallows words which contain worlds,
although one’s perceptions get to be distorted and hideously altered by/in

36 Postmodernism and the novel in english

Representative names and titles

The future, however, is much more difficult to encapsulate; on the

other hand, it will, for sure, presuppose yet another possible interpretation
of things past and digested by a former present having become a recent
past by then; in other words, what lies ahead is only for others to actually
experience and deposit under the form of dried-out memories. One last
empty jar seems to await a Proustian reader who, by tasting the past
(historical and literary), might begin to write the future.
The principles at work in the novel are those of decentring, plurality
and double-selves, all related to India’s cultural, religious, linguistic
heterogeneity, her ‘double parentage’ – native and colonial – and her
‘double emergence’ – birth and death/rebirth. (Benjamin Graves, Born
Again – Double Parentage in Midnight’s Children, 1998, The Internet)
Throughout the intricate scaffolding of the plot, the irony of the mistaken
identity is built on double-faceted cultural archetypes (Shiva, in the divine
division of labour, is sometimes the destroyer, sometimes the creator) and
apparent truths: Saleem should be Shiva and Shiva – Saleem; Ahmed is
really Shiva’s father (not Saleem’s) and Wee Willie Winkie – Saleem’s (not
Shiva’s); the son Saleem finally adopts when marrying Parvati the Witch is
really Shiva’s etc.
The multiplicity beyond appearances rooted in unilateral
misjudgement painfully becomes the object of satire, even towards the
end, where three options are presented and none chosen: to provide the
book with a happy ending, to raise unanswerable questions or to give
dreams the concluding statement. Instead, the complex film of future plural
lives/narratives is projected on the paper screen.

2.7. Kazuo Ishiguro

 Japanese novelist, born in Nagasaki, in 1954
 came to Britain in 1960
 educated at the University of Kent, Canterbury and the University of
East Anglia
 now lives in London
 novels: A Pale View of the Hills (1982), An Artist of the Floating
World (1986), The Remains of the Day (1989), The Unconsoled (1995),
When We Were Orphans (2000)
 screenplays – A Profile of Arthur J. Mason (1984), The Gourmet
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels are mainly historical ones. They are
developed on moments, events and ideologies that have shaped the
contemporary situation. The global and individual histories his writings
present resemble Rushdie’s, in the sense that they constantly haunt
characters, to the extent to which they become incapable of distinguishing
between what really is/has been, what is/has been fictionally constructed.
With Ishiguro, however, the emphasis is on the twentieth century rather
than on ancient, mythical times, and the magic is replaced by the illusory,
although the allusive and symbolical is preserved.
With the two World Wars in the background, Ishiguro’s novels
acquire a dangerous, threatening nuance, employed to the full in the
portrayal of life on the edge of reason and meaning. Violence seems to be
the key-word in defining the human condition, in the essence of existence.

Postmodernism and the novel in english 37

Representative names and titles

People are violently manipulated and respond with violence, irrespective

of the level on which this ‘battle’ takes place (global, national or individual).
Most often than not, the public and the private selves are described
as at war with each other, their struggle resembling the conflict between
nations, the combat between armies. If nations have history, individuals
have memory, and it is this double slippery ground that Ishiguro’s writings
cover. Like Rushdie, Ishiguro invites at considering both as fluid or in-the-
making, and therefore rewriteable. He consequently inscribes both with
traces that give substance to the commentary on the way we are.
Re-membering, putting together the dismembered past to make
sense of the trauma of the present (see Leela Ghandi, Postcolonial
Theory, 1998), Ishiguro carries out a therapeutic project, postcolonial in
essence, bridging the gap that keeps worlds apart.
Historically-accurate descriptions accompany the otherwise
extremely subjective, character-based narration, which leads to the mixed
chronology of the plot and the double-layered narrative structure. Usually
involved in the thorough consideration of their own movements forward in
space and backwards in time, Ishiguro’s character-narrators subvert
accepted notions of truth and deconstruct patterns of authority in and
outside fiction. Stereotypes are judged as forming the buffer zone between
cultures, advertised by greedy vendors who offer them as tax-free
merchandise, without the awareness of the disastrous impact their actions
might have on a wider scale in the foreseeable future. Behind them,
cultures flourish independently, few managing to preserve their
genuineness from the onslaught of the invading ‘other’, while most
facilitate the conquest and accept the yoke.
Besides the historical contexts, the settings chosen also disclose
their author’s philosophical perspectives: Ishiguro's first two novels are set
in Japan, the third in England, the fourth somewhere in an unidentified
European country, and the most recent in London and Shanghai. The two
worlds they stand for are considered from the opposite direction without
the break being too obvious since the only alienating factor at work here is
hybridity, as embodied by the writer himself.
Populating his novels are characters which filter the world from
different standpoints: that of a woman (in A Pale View of the Hills), of a
painter (in An Artist of the Floating World), of a butler (in The Remains
of the Day), of a pianist (in The Unconsoled), of an orphan (in When We
Were Orphans). All the roles are assumed by Ishiguro, as all are margins,
now central to the discussion on the cultural politics of otherness.
The quiet surface of Kazuo Ishiguro’s fiction hides deep water
underneath. Submerged are the subjugating forces of the literary craft,
human psyche, logocentric discourse. Working his way around Conrad,
Forster, Joyce, Freud (among others), the novelist speaks to and from the
canon about what has been de-canonised but matches the canonical.
Plunging into the depths of consciousness, reaching the unconscious and
experimenting with language and technique so as to illustrate their inner
workings (already associated with the great twentieth century Western
masters) are mirrored by, or simply versions of the analysis of the exiled,
misfit, outcast, exotic, different (now coming from Japan and flooding the
Western stage).

38 Postmodernism and the novel in english

Representative names and titles

Challenging boundaries of all sorts, Ishiguro addresses readers

world-wide, developing themes and strategies of universal appeal in an
international language that allows the voicing of local concerns, the
sharing of personal preoccupations.

The Remains of the Day

The novel focuses on the absolutely desolate life of an English butler

with no family (besides a butler-father – now dead), no name (he seems to
have been christened Stevens, as he even thinks of himself in terms of his
surname), no home (he has always found accommodation with his
employers), no past (his life has only presupposed butlering), no future
(his friends are inexistent; as to love, it has generally been out of the
Mr. Stevens is the last of a long line of butlers. With him, tradition
ends and nothing replaces it. His Englishness (as constructed from the
outside, as seen through foreign eyes) is old fashioned and sterile,
doomed to disappear. Its absurd inappropriateness in a changing world is
exacerbated by the seriousness with which Stevens reflects on issues like
friendship, affection, happiness, which people set as ultimate goals for
themselves, but which are incomprehensible to him. Spontaneity, humour,
enthusiasm, open-heartedness are as alien to him as reserve, dignity,
sobriety, propriety are natural, inbuilt.
Reluctant to change, he does not accept difference, diversity, simply
because he does not know they exist. In his enclosure, isolated from the
rest of the world and caught in time, Stevens lives to serve and serves to
live, in a mechanical and surveyable way. The book however breathes
freedom from constraint and escapes the bonds of time, moving
backwards and forwards, from the present to the past and back, involving
circularity and repetition.
In 1956, after a very long and for the first time, Mr. Stevens takes a
break from the routine of his daily life and is made to go on holiday by the
present owner of Darlington Hall – the American Mr. Farraday, who finds it
absurd to expect someone to dedicate his whole time to one’s career and,
anyway, is incapable of seeing what to do with the inherited butler.
Leaving the residence (which had been his foster home for countless
years while in the service of Lord Darlington) is a difficult experience for
Stevens. He has nowhere to go, no one to visit. Eventually, he remembers
Miss Kenton (now Mrs. Benn) – former housekeeper, workmate and secret
love, the woman who had brought the freshness of living intensely, of
actually being alive to Darlington Hall and in Mr. Stevens’ path. He
pretends (to himself) to be going on a ‘business’ trip to provide Darlington
Hall with a suitable housekeeper, when what he really wants is to see her
His six day motoring trip through the south of England takes him
down memory lane and he revisits his life/butlership. The focal point is
March 1923, when two crucial events took place, without his then being
aware of their significance: the death of his father and the conference
organised at Darlington Hall. Seeing to the Lord’s French, German and
American guests (gathered to discuss politics and to aid Germany after
the war), Mr. Stevens cannot be with his father on his death bed; his place
is taken by Miss Kenton and a special bond develops between the two.

Postmodernism and the novel in english 39

Representative names and titles

Blinded by this ray of light in the blandness of his life, he is incapable of

grasping the importance of the history written in his presence, one that will
bring about the downfall of his master and the end of the old ways. The
two events remain the link in Mr. Stevens’ digressive meandering through
his past, which now seems so distant, so unreal, so belittled by the current
sensation of being alive and part of a greater scheme.
The cinematic enchaining of scene after scene, reflected on the
automobile windows, builds the film of Stevens’ life in retrospect. Gone
wrong, it now comes in the way of perceiving the normal evolution of
things. In its portrayal of the emblematic figure of the butler stubbornly
and ridiculously opposing the challenges of the Times, at odds with History
and picking up the remains of a Day, dreams of comfortable inertia and of
predictability are shattered and rebuilt by Ishiguro in this book about the
contamination of Englishness by the long-dreaded other, Americanness in
particular being hinted at: I do not mean to imply anything derogatory
about Mr. Farraday; he is, after all, an American gentleman and his ways
are often very different (The Remains of the Day, 1990: 15) The novel’s
depersonalised style, its artificial morality and its sense of superior
detachment in capturing the still-life posture of Englishness speak of
Ishiguro’s knowledge of the people and the culture he embodies only to
offer new insight to from the heritage of his Japanese sensitivity to detail
and nuance.

40 Postmodernism and the novel in english


Learning Unit no. 3


Use the glossary of literary terms to decode the texts and find appropriate
solutions to the tasks formulated.


But what stamps the carnival 1. Comment on Alexandria as setting and

with its spirit of pure mischief is the character.
velvet domino – conferring upon its
wearers the disguise which each man
in his secret heart desires above all.
To become anonymous in an
anonymous crowd revealing neither
sex nor relationship nor even facial
expression – for the mark of this
demented friar’s habit leaves only two
eyes, glowing like the eyes of a
Moslem woman or a bear. Nothing 2. Isolate the principal tropes embedded in the
else to distinguish one by; the thick fragment and develop on their usage.
folds of the blackness conceal even
the contours of the body. Everyone
becomes hipless, breastless,
faceless. And concealed beneath the
carnival habit (like a criminal desire in
the heart, a temptation impossible to
resist, an impulse which seems
preordained) lie the terms of
something: of a freedom which man
3. How much emphasis is placed on the
has seldom dared to imagine for
question of the truthfulness of love and to what
himself. One feels free in this disguise
to do whatever one likes without
prohibition. All the best murders in the
city, all the most tragic cases of
mistaken identity, are the fruit of the
early carnival, while most love affairs
begin or end during these three days
and nights during which we are
delivered from the thrall of personality,
from the bondage of ourselves. Once
inside that velvet cape and hood, and 4. Consider the carnival situation and the
wife loses husband, husband wife, carnivalesque discourse.
lover the beloved. The air becomes
crisp with the saltpetre of feuds and
follies. The fury of battles, of
agonizing night-long searches, of
despairs. You cannot tell whether you
are dancing with a man or a woman.
The dark tides of Eros, which demand
full secrecy if they are to overflow the
human soul, burst out during carnival
like something long dammed up and

Postmodernism and the novel in english 41


raise the forms of strange primeval 5. Look into the shifts in narrative practice and
creatures – the perversions which are, technique.
I suppose, the psyche’s aliment […]
Yes, who can help but love carnival
when in it all debts are paid, all crimes
expiated or committed, all illicit
desires stated – without guilt or
premeditation, without the penalties
which conscience or society enact?
But I am wrong about one thing 6. Discuss the excerpt in terms of the relativity
– for there is one distinguishing mark of truth.
by which your friend or enemy may
still identify you: hands. Your lover’s
hands, if you have ever noticed them
at all, will lead you to her in the
thickest press of maskers. Or by
arrangement she may wear, as
Justine does, a familiar ring – the
ivory intaglio taken from the tomb of a 7. Dwell on the mythic suggestiveness of the
dead Byzantine youth – worn upon text above.
the forefinger of the right hand. But
this is all, and it is only just enough.
(Pray that you are not as unlucky as
Amaril who found the perfect woman
during carnival but could not persuade
her to raise her hood and stand
identified. They talked all night lying in
the grass by the fountain, making love 8. Find the existentialist ideas rendered by the
together with their velvet faces text and relate them to the reading pattern
touching, their eyes caressing each suggested by the whole novel sequence.
other. For a whole year now, he has
gone about the city trying to find a pair
of human hands, like a madman. But
hands are so alike! She swore, this
woman of his, that she would come
back next year to the same place,
wearing the same ring with its small
yellow stone. And so tonight he will 9. Identify the metafictional stance and point to
wait trembling for a pair of hands by its functioning as a disclaimer in itself.
the lily-pond – hands which will
perhaps never appear again in his life.
Perhaps she was after all an afreet or
a vampire – who knows? Yet years
later, in another book, in another
context, he will happen upon her
again, almost by accident, but not
10. How much does the text anticipate the
here, not in these pages too tangled
already by the record of ill-starred further development of the story pattern?
(adapted from Justine, 1982: 98)

42 Postmodernism and the novel in english



I do not know. This story I am 1. How is the postmodernist debate

telling is all imagination. These illustrated?
characters I create never existed
outside my own mind. If I have
pretended until now to know my
characters’ minds and innermost
thoughts, it is because I am writing in
(just as I have assumed some of the
vocabulary and ‘voice’ of) a
2. What purpose does the mentioning of
convention universally accepted at the
Alain Robbe-Grillet and Roland Barthes serve?
time of my story: that the novelist
stands next to God. He may not know
all, yet he tries to pretend that he
does. But I live in the age of Alain
Robbe-Grillet and Roland Barthes; if
this is a novel, it cannot be a novel in
the modern sense of the word. […]
You may think novelists always 3. Develop on the discussion on
have fixed plans to which they work, authors/authority as embedded in the excerpt.
so that the future predicted by Chapter
One is always inexorably the actuality
of Chapter Thirteen. But novelists
write for countless different reasons:
for money, for fame, for reviewers, for
parents, for friends, for loved ones; for
vanity, for pride, for curiosity, for
amusement: as skilled furniture- 4. What is stated with regard to
makers enjoy making furniture, as readers/readings?
drunkards like drinking, as judges like
judging, as Sicilians like emptying a
shotgun into an enemy’s back. I could
fill a book with reasons, and they
would all be true of all. Only one same
reason is shared by all of us: we wish
to create worlds as real as, but other 5. Focus on the reality/fiction borderline
than the world that is. Or was. This is foregrounded.
why we cannot plan. We know a world
is an organism, not a machine. We
also know that a genuinely created
world must be independent of its
creator; a planned world (a world that
fully reveals its planning) is a dead
world. It is only when our characters
and events begin to disobey us that 6. How does the text break with tradition at
they begin to live. […] the level of structure and content?
In other words, to be free myself, I
must give [Charles], and Tina, and
Sarah, even the abominable Mrs
Poulteney, their freedoms as well.
There is only one good definition of
God: the freedom that allows other

Postmodernism and the novel in english 43


freedoms to exist. And I must conform 7. Refer to the time and tense of the fictional
to that definition. discourse.
The novelist is still a god, since he
creates (and not even the most
aleatory avant-garde modern novel
has managed to extirpate its author
completely); what has changed is that
we are no longer the gods of the
Victorian image, omniscient and
8. Concentrate on the existentialist
decreeing; but in the new theological
principles formulated.
image, with freedom our first principle,
not authority. I have disgracefully
broken the illusion? No. My characters
still exist, and in a reality no less, or no
more, real that the one I have just
broken. Fiction is woven into all, as a
Greek observed some two and a half
thousand years ago. I find this new 9. Identify the rhetorical devices employed
reality (or unreality) more valid; and I throughout the fragment.
would have you share my own sense
that I do not fully control these
creatures of my mind, any more than
you control – however hard you try,
however much of a latter-day Mrs
Poulteney you may be, your children,
colleagues, friends or even yourself.
(adapted from The French 10. Delineate the fictional worlds that words
Lieutenant’s Woman, 1983: 85-87) build.


Philip to Hilary 1. How much ‘reality’ may be observed at the

level of this epistolary section of the novel?
Darling, I was stricken with guilt as
soon as I saw your second air-letter
this morning. Mea culpa, but it has
been a rather hectic week, with the
term, or quarter as they call it,
beginning. […]
I confess I had something of the
raw-recruit feeling when I went to
meet my classes for the first time this
week. The system is so different, and
the students are so much more
heterogeneous than they are at home.
They’ve read the most outlandish

44 Postmodernism and the novel in english


things and not read the most obvious 2. Note the cultural clash obvious in the
ones. I had a student in my room the letters and draw an outline of each.
other day, obviously very bright, who
appeared to have read only two
authors, Gurdjieff (is that how you
spell him?) and somebody called
Asimov, and had never even heard of
E. M. Forster.
I’m teaching two courses, which 3. Identify the characteristics of the two
means I meet two groups of students educational systems which help support
three times a week for ninety minutes, Lodge’s commentary on the way literature
or would do if it weren’t for the Third is/should be taught.
World Students’ strike. There’s a
student called Wily (sic) Smith, who
claims he’s black, though in fact he
looks scarcely darker than me, and he
pestered me from the day I arrived to
let him enroll in my creative writing
course. Well, I finally agreed, and then
on the first occasion the class met, 4. Analyse the symbolism of names with the
what d’you think happened? Wily characters above.
Smith harangued his fellow students
and persuaded them that they must
support the strike by boycotting my
class. There’s nothing personal in it, of
course, as he was kind enough to
explain, but it did seem rather a nerve.
Well, darling, I hope the length of 5. Develop on the academic as the source of
his letter will make up for my the comic.
remissness of late. Please assure
Matthew that my house is not about to
slide into the sea. As to Robin
Dempsey, I think it’s unlikely that he’ll
get a senior lectureship this year,
promotion prospects being what they
are at Rummidge, but not through any
6. Comment on the retreat of the authorial
competition with me, I’m afraid. He
has published quite a lot of articles.
All my love, Philip
Morris to Desiree
[…] Desiree, your letter did nothing
to lighten a heavy week.
It isn’t true after all that there are no
students at British universities: this 7. Extract the parodic and self-parodic
week they returned from their instances in the text.
prolonged Christmas vacation. Too
bad, I was just beginning to get the
hang of things. Now the teaching has
thrown me back to square one. I
swear the system here will be the
death of me. Did I say system? A slip
of the tongue. There is no system.

Postmodernism and the novel in english 45


They have something called tutorials, 8. Consider literature as an act of

instead. Three students and me, for communication and analyse the roles played
an hour at a time. We’re supposed to by the addressers and addressees.
discuss some text I’ve assigned. This,
apparently, can be anything that
comes into my head, except that the
campus bookshop doesn’t have
anything that comes into my head. But
supposing we manage to agree, me
and the students, on some book of
which four copies can be scratched
together, one of them writes a paper
and reads it out to the rest of us. After
about three minutes the eyes of the 9. Discuss the main tropes in the text and
other two glaze over and they begin to their cultural implications.
sag in their chairs. It’s clear they have
stopped listening. I’m listening like hell
but can’t understand a word because
of the guy’s limey accent. All too soon,
he stops. “Thank you,” I say, flashing
him an appreciative smile. He looks at
me reproachfully as he blows his
nose, then carries on from where he
paused, in mid-sentence. The other
two students wake up briefly,
exchange glances and snigger. That’s 10. Find the autobiographical component of
the most animation they ever show. the excerpt above.
When the guy reading the paper finally
winds it up, I ask for comments.
Silence. They avoid my eye. I
volunteer a comment myself. Silence
falls again. It’s so quiet you can hear
the guy’s beard growing. Desperately I
ask one of them a direct question.
“And what did you think of the text,
Miss Archer?” Miss Archer falls off her
chair in a swoon.
Well, to be fair, it only happened
once, and it had something to do with
the kid’s period that she fainted, but
somehow it seemed symbolic.
Believe it or not, I’m feeling quite
homesick for Euphoric State politics.
What this place needs is a few bomb
outrages. They could begin by blowing
up the Chairman.
(adapted from Changing Places,
1978: 122-125)

46 Postmodernism and the novel in english



We ate in the kitchen, for which he 1. Identify the general feminist issues
said he was grateful, making a joke of addressed in the excerpt.
it. […] When we went back to the
living room we were restless, did not
sit down for a time, then did; but got
up, and went strolling about, he to
examine my – I nearly said our, since
Freddie bought it – Picasso lithograph,
and set of flower prints. Very nice,
they are; but then, so is my living
room, this whole flat. I offered him a 2. Discover their particular instantiations and
drink. We both had another Scotch, comment on them.
and then it was eleven o’clock and
both of us knew it was all impossible.
We were stricken, shocked,
shaken, but it would not have been
possible for us to go into our bedroom,
take our clothes off and make love. I
was thinking wildly, If all the lights
were switched off, what then? A
thought which utterly amazed me, so 3. Find the female stereotypes alluded to and
foreign was it to me. discuss their reception.
And he said, just as I thought it, ‘If
the lights were off, Janna –but who
would we be making love with, I
wonder?’ And he was looking at me
from an unfriendly distance, and even
laughing, a most masculine laugh I
judged it, full of irony – and finality. Yet
I felt my spirits lift as I heard it, for
4. Develop on sexuality and
there was a sanity there which had
been missing.
Then he said, ‘I’m going. I shouldn’t
have come.’
‘Yes, you must,’ and I couldn’t wait
for him to leave. […]
As for me, his going was a load off
me; literally, I felt myself expand and
breathe again and want to move about
and do things. So I did – tidied, 5. What are the barriers inferred and to what
cleared up, put on the radio and extent are they overcome inside the text and
danced a little by myself, which I do outside it?
very often, coming back from Richard.
But last evening, it was sheer relief.
Yet of course I could have wept, too.
Not so much for ‘the night of love’
which had been presenting itself to us
so unpleasantly, like something on an
agenda, provided for by
circumstances and by careful planning
– was that the rub? – but because we

Postmodernism and the novel in english 47


had both been in such disarray that 6. Concentrate on the man-woman

we were foregoing the treat of a whole relationship and underline the deviations from
day together, today, which we were to accepted/acceptable patterns.
have spent free of all other ties.
It goes without saying that I
dreamed of Freddie, my lost love.
Who was never my love. Or I don’t
think he was. It is strange what a bad
memory I have for the things that
matter. I can remember exactly what I
wore and what he wore, where we
were: we were married in Kensington 7. Discuss the narrative technique employed
Registry Office and Freddie’s parents to forward the text.
and my parents gave a reception at
the Savoy. My parents could not have
afforded it by themselves. Joyce was
my matron of honour. We never saw
Freddie’s best man, or I don’t think we
did, after the wedding. We were all
jolly. I looked, I had no doubt, very
pretty; after all, I was very pretty. But
what was I feeling? I have no idea at 8. How much does the diary form contribute
all. The honeymoon, motoring in the to facilitating introspection?
Dordogne, is a mystery to me. I
remember lovely scenery, wonderful
food. I am sure we had wonderful sex,
because we did. What did I feel? As
for what he felt, I am sure I didn’t give
that a thought. Did I ever ask myself
what Freddie felt about anything, until
after he was dead? And yet, what a
9. Observe the deliberate textualisation of
credit I was all round! I do remember
the self and discuss it in relation with the
strolling back into the office, after the
contemporary situation.
honeymoon, and the satisfaction of it,
as after a job properly done! I’ve done
that, done it well, everything is as it
should be!
(adapted from The Diaries of Jane
Somers, 1978: 122-125)

10. Point to the juxtaposition of temporal

levels and the demarcation between the real
and the fictional(ised).

48 Postmodernism and the novel in english



Down among the women. What a 1. Discuss the impact that the title as refrain
place to be! Yet here we all are by has upon the reader.
accident of birth, sprouted breasts and
bellies, as cyclical of nature as our
timekeeper the moon – and down here
among the women we have no option
but to stay. So says Scarlet’s mother
Wanda, aged sixty-four, gritting her
On good afternoons I take the
children to the park. I sit on a wooden
bench while they play on the swings,
or roll over and over down the hill, or 2. Mention the ideas overtly expressed and
mob their yet more infant victims – the ones barely suggested.
disporting in dog mess and inhaling
the swirling vapours that compose our
city air.
The children look healthy enough,
says Scarlet, Wanda’s brutal
daughter, my friend, when I complain.
The park is a woman’s place, that’s
Scarlet’s complaint. Only when the
weather gets better do the men come
out. They lie semi-nude in the grass,
and add the flavour of unknown 3. Refer to the oblique criticism addressed to
possibilities to the blandness of our patriarchal society.
lives. Then sometimes Scarlet joins
me on my bench.
Today the vapours are swirling
pretty chill. It’s just us women today. I
have nothing to read. I fold the edges
of my cloak around my body and
consider my friends.
One can’t take a step without
treading on an ant, says Audrey, who
abandoned her children on moral
grounds, and now lives with a married 4. Read the text again with a view to
man in more comfort and happiness understanding the role of the immasculation of
than she has ever known before. She, discourse.
once imprisoned on a poultry farm,
now runs a women’s magazine, bullies
her lover and teases her chauffeur.
How’s that for the wages of sin? With
her children, his children, her
husband, his wife, that makes eight.
Eight down and two to play, as Audrey
boasts. With the chauffeur’s wife
creeping up on the outside to make
Sylvia, of course, got into the habit

Postmodernism and the novel in english 49


of being the ant; she kept running into 5. Which are the female stereotypes brought
pathways and waiting for the boot to to attention and how is each perceived?
fall. Sylvia too ran off with a married
man. The day his divorce came
through he left with her friend, and her
typewriter, leaving Sylvia pregnant,
penniless and stone deaf because
he’d clouted her.
How’s that for a best friend? You’ve
got to be careful, down here among
the women. So says Jocelyn,
respectable Jocelyn, who not so long
ago pitched her middle-class voice to
its maternal coo and lowered her baby
into a bath of scalding water. Seven
years later the scars still show; not
that Jocelyn seems to notice. In any 6. Are men associated with money? If so,
case, the boy’s away at prep school why?
most of the time.
‘Better not to be here at all’, says
Helen to me from the grave, poor
wandering wicked Helen, rootless and
uprooted, who decided in the end that
death was a more natural state than
life; that anything was better than
ending up like the rest of us, down
here among the women.
It is true that others of my women
friends live quiet and happy married
lives, or would claim to do so. I watch
them curl up and wither gently, and
without drama, like cabbages in early
March which have managed to survive 7. What is the importance of time in the
the rigours of winter only to succumb presentation of womanhood?
to the passage of time. ‘We are
perfectly happy,’ they say. Then why
do they look so sad? Is it a temporary
depression scurrying in from the North
Sea, a passing desolation drifting over
from Russia? No, I think not. There is
no escape even for them. There is
nothing more glorious than to be a
young girl, and there is nothing worse
than to have been one.
Down here among the women: it’s
what we all come to. […]
Wanda’s flat, at the present time, is
two rooms and a kitchen in Belsize
Park. It won’t be for long. Wanda has
moved twenty-five times in the last
forty years. She is sixty-four now.
Rents go up and up. Not for Wanda

50 Postmodernism and the novel in english


the cheap security of a long-standing 8. How is the text narrated and by whom?
tenancy. Wanda turns her naked soul
to the face of every chilly blast that’s
going: competes in the
accommodation market with every
long-haired arse-licking mother-
fucking (quoting Wanda) lout that ever
wanted a cheap pad.
Wanda’s flat then, twenty years
ago, when we begin Byzantia’s story,
was two rooms and a kitchen in
another part of Belsize Park. Some
women have music wherever they go,
Wanda has green and yellow lino. 9. What purpose do the breaks in the text
Scarlet, who at this time is twenty, has serve?
been sleepwalking on this lino since
she was five and last felt the tickle of
wall-to-wall Axminster between her
toes. That was before Wanda left her
husband Kim in search of a nobler
truth than comfort.
The lino used to be lifted, rolled,
strung, tucked under some male arm
and heaved into the removal van.
Presently it cracked and folded
instead of curling itself gracefully, and
the male arms became impatient and
scarcer, so Wanda hacked it into
square tiles with a kitchen knife, and 10. Why do you think the urban setting was
now when it’s moved it goes piled, and chosen?
Wanda carries it herself. Amazing how
good things last. The lino belonged in
the first place to Wanda’s lover’s wife.
This lady, whose name was Millie,
bravely threw it out along with the past
when she discovered about Wanda
and her husband Peter – Peter for
short, Peterkin for affection – but
depression returned, sneaking under
the shiny doors (three coats best
gloss, think of that, in wartime!).
(adapted from Down
Among the Women, 1973: 5-7)

Postmodernism and the novel in english 51



‘An Anglo?’ Padma exclaims in 1. What central postcolonial issues are

horror. ‘What are you telling me? You addressed in the text above?
are an Anglo-Indian? Your name is not
your own?’
‘I am Saleem Sinai,’ I told her,
‘Snotnose, Stainface, Sniffer, Baldy,
Piece-of-the-Moon. Whatever do you
mean – not my own?’
‘All the time,’ Padma wails angrily,
‘you tricked me. Your mother, you
called her; your father, your
grandfather, your aunts. What thing
are you that you don’t even care to tell 2. Develop on hybridity: manifestations and
the truth about who your parents perceptions.
were? You don’t care that your mother
died giving you life? That your father is
maybe still alive somewhere,
penniless, poor? You are a monster or
No: I’m no monster. Nor have I
been guilty of trickery. I provided
clues… but there’s something more
important than that. It’s this: when we
eventually discovered the crime of
Mary Pereira, we all found that it made 3. Discuss the central paradox of the
no difference! I was still their son; they excerpt: being fathered by history and rewritten
remained my parents. In a kind of by fiction.
collective failure of imagination, we
learned that we simply could not think
out way out of our pasts… If you had
asked my father (even him, despite all
that happened!) who his son was,
nothing on earth would have induced
him to point in the direction of the
accordionist’s knock-kneed, unwashed
boy. Even though he would grow up,
this Shiva, to be something of a hero.
So: there were knees and a nose, a 4. Consider the metafictional aspect: the
nose and knees. In fact, all over the dialogue between the narrator/author and the
new India, the dream we all shared, narratee/reader.
children were being born who were
only partially the offspring of their
parents – the children of the time;
fathered, you understand, by history. It
can happen. Especially in a country
which is itself a sort of dream.
‘Enough,’ Padma sulks. ‘I don’t
want to listen.’ Expecting one type of
two-headed child, she is peeved at
being offered another. Nevertheless,
whether she is listening or not, I have

52 Postmodernism and the novel in english


things to record. 5. How many diegetic levels may be

Three days after my birth, Mary observed?
Pereira was consumed by remorse.
[…] She gave up her job at the
Nursing Home and approached Amina
Sinai with, ‘Madam, I saw your baby
just one time and fell in love. Are you
needing an ayah?’ And Amina, her
eyes shining with motherhood, ‘Yes.’
Mary Pereira (‘You might as well call
her your mother,’ Padma interjects,
proving she is still interested, ‘She
made you, you know’), from that
moment on, devoted her life to 6. How does structure contribute to
bringing me up, thus binding the rest forwarding content?
of her days to the memory of her
On August 20th, Nussie Ibrahim
followed my mother into the Pedder
Road clinic, and little Sonny followed
me into the world – but he was
reluctant to emerge; forceps were
obliged to reach in and extract him;
Dr. Bose, in the heat of the moment,
pressed a little too hard, and Sonny
arrived with little dents beside each of
his temples, shallow forceps-hollows 7. Analyse the magic realism of the
which would make him as irresistibly fragment.
attractive as the hairpiece of William
Methwold had made the Englishman.
Girls (Evie, the Brass Monkey, others)
reached out to stroke his little valleys
… it would lead to difficulties between
But I’ve saved the most interesting
snippet for the last. So let me reveal
now that, on the day after I was born,
my mother and I were visited in a
saffron and green bedroom by two
persons from the Time of India 8. Focus on the role of the media in catching
(Bombay edition). I lay in a green crib, the moment.
swaddled in saffron, and looked up at
them. There was a reporter, who
spent his time interviewing my mother;
and a tall, aquiline photographer who
devoted his attentions to me. The next
day, words as well as pictures
appeared in newsprint…
Quite recently, I visited a cactus-
garden where once, many years back,
I buried a toy tin globe, which was
badly dented and stuck together with
Scotch Tape; and extracted from its

Postmodernism and the novel in english 53


insides the things I had placed there 9. Which personal and national histories are
all those years ago. Holding them in developed upon and to what purpose?
my left hand now, as I write, I can still
see – despite yellowing and mildew –
that one is a letter, a personal letter to
myself, signed by the Prime Minister
of India; but the other is a newspaper
It was a headline: MIDNIGHT’S
And a text: ‘A charming pose of
Baby Saleem Sinai, who was born last
night at the exact moment of our 10. Observe the multitude of ‘I’s and eyes
Nation’s independence – the happy holding the text together and reread it from this
Child of the glorious Hour!’ perspective.
And a large photograph: an A-I top-
quality front-page jumbo-sized baby-
snap, in which it is still possible to
make out a child with birthmarks
staining his cheeks and a runny and
glistening nose. (The picture is
captioned: Photo by Kalidas Gupta.)
Despite headline, text and
photograph, I must accuse our visitors
of the crime of trivialization; mere
journalists, looking no further than the
next day’s paper, they had no idea of
the importance of the event they were
covering. To them, it was no more
than a human-interest drama.
(adapted from Midnight’s
Children, 1982: 118-119)


I hope you will agree that in these 1. What is Englishness defined in terms of
two instances I have cited from his and why?
career – both of which I have had
corroborated and believe to be
accurate – my father not only
manifests, but comes close to being
the personification itself, of what the
Hayes Society terms ‘dignity in
keeping with his position’. If one
2. Concentrate on the ‘(re)writing’ of the
considers the difference between my
national and personal self as obvious in the
father at such moments and a figure
such as Mr. Jack Neighbours even
with the best of his technical
flourishes, I believe one may begin to
distinguish what it is that separates a
‘great’ butler from a merely competent
one. We may now understand better,
too, why my father was so fond of the

54 Postmodernism and the novel in english


story of the butler who failed to panic 3. Discuss the quality of the discourse in
on discovering a tiger under the dining relation with the problematics envisaged.
table; it was because he knew
instinctively that somewhere in this
story lay the kernel of what true
‘dignity’ is. And let me now posit this:
‘dignity’ has to do crucially with a
butler’s ability not to abandon the
4. Point to the subversive practices and
professional being he inhabits. Lesser
techniques employed.
butlers will abandon their professional
being for the private one at the least
provocation. For such persons, being
a butler is like playing some
pantomime role; a small push, a slight
stumble, and the façade will drop off to
reveal the actor underneath. The great 5. What tropes are predominant and what
butlers are great by virtue of their roles do they play?
ability to inhabit their professional role
and inhabit it to the utmost; they will
not be shaken out by external events,
however surprising, alarming or
vexing. They wear their
professionalism as a decent
6. Disambiguate the I, the you and the we in
gentleman will wear his suit: he will
the text.
not let ruffians or circumstance tear it
off him in the public gaze; he will
discard it when, and only when, he
wills to do so, and this will invariably
be when he is entirely alone. It is, as I
say, a matter of ‘dignity’.
It is sometimes said that butlers 7. How may the existentialist references be
only truly exist in England. Other interpreted?
countries, whatever title is actually
used, have only manservants. I tend
to believe this is true. Continentals are
unable to be butlers because they are
as a breed incapable of the emotional
restraint which only the English race is
8. Discuss the ratio seriousness/irony in the
capable of. Continentals – and by and
large the Celts, as you will no doubt
agree – are as a rule unable to control
themselves in moments of strong
emotion, and are thus unable to
maintain a professional demeanour
other than in the least challenging of
situations. If I may return to my earlier 9. To what extent does the historical debate
metaphor – you will excuse my putting support the argument formulated?
it so coarsely – they are like a man
who will, at the slightest provocation,
tear off his suit and his shirt and run
about screaming. In a word, ‘dignity’ is
beyond such persons. We English
have an important advantage over

Postmodernism and the novel in english 55


foreigners in this respect and it is for 10. Which might be the worlds colliding in
this reason that when you think of a Mr. Stevens’ presentation and how is otherness
great butler, he is bound, almost by perceived?
definition, to be an Englishman.
(adapted from The Remains of the
Day, 1990: 67)

56 Postmodernism and the novel in english

Glossary of Literary Terms


allegory form of narrative containing meanings different from or additional

to those made explicit on the literal surface
allusion reference made in a literary work to something that lies outside it
analepsis flashback in narrative; reference to its past
archetype theme, image, pattern, character, interest, situations, plot and
personality recurrent in literature; myth
aside also known as ‘disclamer’; text which is added to the fictional one
proper and which comments on the latter’s form/content
atmosphere the mood of a written work; it may be moral, sensational,
emotional or intellectual
bildungsroman ‘formation novel’; one which describes the protagonist’s
development from early childhood to maturity and old age
carnivalesque co-existence of multiple points of view available to plural
interpretations; works which subvert the literary culture of the
ruling classes and undermine their claim to moral monopoly
characterisation the way in which characters are created and described within a
narrative, with a view to producing different reactions in the
reader(s); there are as many methods of characterisation as there
are ways of narrating
characters invented, imaginary people populating the universe of fiction;
access to them is enabled by means of dialogue, action,
collage the technique of gluing together otherwise disparate elements;
jumping from one topic to another by means of fragmentary
comic means of provoking sympathetic or derisive laughter
counternarrative narrative which disturbs grand narratives with a political or
manipulative function; innovative, anti-canonical
cubism 20th century style of art, in which objects and people are
represented by geometric shapes
decadence the state of having low moral standards and being more
concerned with pleasure than with serious matters
decentring in deconstruction, a term used to denote the opposition to the
centre (ideological, political, cultural, linguistic)
defamiliarisation making strange; making the familiar seem totally new, as if it were
seen for the very first time
dénouement the final unfolding of a plot, satisfying or denying the reader’s
expectations from a narrative
description the creation or representation in words of objects, people, patterns
of behaviour or scenes
dialogism the expression of a variety of viewpoints, leaving the reader with
open questions
diction the choice of words in a literary text; the kind of vocabulary used
diegesis narrative, telling; the elemental story level of a narrative; derived
are: the homodiegetic level (of the story told in the first person by
a character-narrator); the heterodiegetic level (of the story told in
the third person by an authorial narrator); the intradiegetic level (of

Postmodernism and the novel in english 57

Glossary of Literary Terms

events that are part of the same story as the narrator’s); the
extradiegetic level (of events that are part of a different story than
the narrator’s)
digression a straying away from the main subject/idea; free association
disclaimer also known as ‘aside’; explanatory text running counter reader
discourse the ‘how’ of a narrative (as opposed to the ‘what’, or story pattern);
also ‘voice’
ellipsis omission of essential words; as a figure of speech: the
condensation of maximum meaning into the shortest form of
éloignement spatial or temporal distancing (usually with a view to looking back
at once familiar details from a different standpoint)
epiphany sudden meaning or insight carrying artistic potential
epistolary means of telling a story through letters of participants or observers
existentialism philosophical trend which stresses the importance of existence;
takes the view that the universe is an inexplicable, meaningless
and dangerous theatre where the responsibility of making choices
determines the nature of this existence and allows a freedom
which results in a state of anxiety (due to endless possibilities)
expressionism European artistic movement meaning to show reality as distorted
by an emotional or abnormal state of mind
fable short moralising tale in which animals act like human beings
fantastic unreal happening demanding supernatural and psychological
explanation; creates a state of suspended understanding in the
fantasy the most playful kind of imagining, separated from any kind of
contact with the real world; in literature: a world which is parallel to
the real one
fauvism a 20th century style of painting which uses pure bright colours
focalisation perspective or viewpoint adopted as the lens through which
particular events, descriptions or characters are seen and reported
framing story the story that embeds other, successive stories by means of mise-
free indirect style a narrative technique which uses the third person to refer back to
a first person and juxtaposes direct and reported speech
futurism early 20th century style of painting, music and literature that
expresses the violent, active qualities of modern life
grand narratives logical, chronological narratives covering whole lives, with
metonymical characters and a moralising tendency; based on the
Western evolutionary ideal of progress
grotesque deliberate distortion and ugliness intended to shock, satirise or
gynesis feminist critical orientation concerned with constructions of women
and womanhood
gynocritics feminist critical orientation concerned with the characteristics of
texts written by women
historiography the literary re-writing of history, where the past may be ‘set right’ or
made to move in different directions
hybridity mixture, usually in a cultural acceptance
idiolect the individual language system of a certain person (his/her
pronunciation, choice of vocabulary, usage, grammatical forms)

58 Postmodernism and the novel in english

Glossary of Literary Terms

image word picture, description of some visible scene or object; more

generally, reference to objects and qualities which appeal to the
senses and feelings
imagery commonly, the figurative language in a literary work; words
referring to things that appeal to the senses
imagism modernistic movement in art and literature aiming at a musical
presentation without adornment
imitation concept which underlies theories of realism; literature is seen as a
mirror held up to life
immasculation becoming masculine, authoritative, imposing; in feminist terms:
violent, manipulative
implied reader imagined, intended reader; also known as ‘encoded reader’
impressionism 19th century style of painting which uses colour instead of details
of form to produce effects of light or feeling
interior monologue means of narrating so as to convey in words the process of
intertextuality the many and various kinds of relationships that exist between
texts; from this perspective, literature is seen as a self-referential
system or structure
intratext text presupposed by a self-referential text
irony saying one thing and meaning another; usually involving
understatement, concealment or allusion
juxtaposition deliberate multi-layering of narrative to produce special effects
kűnstlerroman novel which focuses on the spiritual or artistic maturation of its
leitmotif a recurrent motif (type of character, theme, image)
logocentrism the centrality (authority) of the word/ language
magic realism fiction which mixes and disrupts ordinary, everyday realism with
strange, impossible and miraculous episodes and powers
metafiction fiction about fiction; elitist, narcissistic, circular or repetitive;
associated with ‘the literature of exhaustion’
mimesis imitation, reflection, mirroring of life/reality
mirrors reflectors; functional characters used to reflect on the protagonist
montage art form in which a piece of writing is made from parts belonging to
different pieces
Movement (the) a school of poetry associated with the fifties, whose
representatives reasserted traditional values favouring a so-called
‘no-nonsense’ tone
myth stories usually concerning gods or superhumans; a system of
myths voicing the religious or metaphysical beliefs of a society;
nowadays, that which culturally defines humanity as a whole
narrated character/event that the narrative centres around
narratee implied, imagined figure in the text to whom a narrative is told
narrative story in which a selection of incidents is made so as to suggest
some relationship between them; their sequencing is also
significant for the point intended
narrative technique method, skill of narrating (telling); manipulation of narrators and
points of view
narratology ‘science’ which studies the ‘grammar’ of narratives; analysis,
categorisation and theory of narratives
narrator he/she who tells the story; a narrator may be of an author type or
of a character type (usually associated with a third or a first person

Postmodernism and the novel in english 59

Glossary of Literary Terms

narrative respectively); first person narrators may be: unreliable (a

character whose opinions cannot be taken for granted since they
are subjective) or autobiographical (supposedly objective); third
person narrators may be: intrusive (commenting upon their
stories) or impersonal (somehow detaching themselves from the
stories they tell); omniscient (playing the God-game and
pretending to know everything about everybody) or limited
(presupposing a restricted, ‘human’ point of view)
naturalism an extension of realism; it claims scientific accuracy
nouveau roman French avant-garde, the experimental anti-novel of the 50s and
novel long fiction which concentrates on character and incident and
usually contains a plot; it covers a wide range of styles and
manners, subject matter and technique
omniscience God-like knowledge of characters, actions, situations, thoughts
paradox statement which is apparently self-contradictory; one that seems
in conflict with reason and common sense
parody imitation of a particular work intended to ridicule its specific
petits histoires subjective stories about individual experiences glimpsed at and
allowed to connote
plot the pattern of relationships existing between events; the ‘how’ or
‘why’ of a narrative; ‘discourse’ in narratology
point of view the way in which the material and the audiences are approached
by a narrator
polyphony the co-existence of different voices (types of discourse) and points
of view in a literary work
prolepsis rhetorical term which refers to the anticipation of future events in a
narrative; flashforward
psychological style of writing in which the inner lives of the characters, their
realism ideas, feelings, mental and spiritual development are realistically
pun ‘play upon words’; one and the same word may lead to opposing
realism the literary trend associated with the increasing relevance of
scientific investigation during the later half of the nineteenth
century; seeking to show up the false hopes and fanciful
aspirations of characters; mimetic, usually in opposition with fiction
which describes life as full of thrilling adventure and fulfilled
repetition recurrent use intended to emphasize an idea or to create a sense
of pattern
romantic new interest in nature, corresponding with the investigation of the
self; exploring the complicated relationships between things,
feelings and ideas
setting the temporally-marked place against which characters are
presented and which determines them to a certain extent
short story small prose fiction concentrating on few characters, having a
simple plot and numerous descriptions; it provides a swift
dénouement (ending)
stereotype standard, fixed idea or mental impression; a cliché, an ordinary
perception made dull by constant repetition

60 Postmodernism and the novel in english

Glossary of Literary Terms

story the logical and chronological sequencing of events told; the ‘what’
of a narrative
stream of the flow of human thought, usually rendered by means of free
consciousness indirect style and interior monologue
style the characteristic manner in which writers express themselves or
the particular manner of an individual work; specific subject
matter, vocabulary, imagery, diction etc.
suggestion ideas and meanings of language that are beyond the bare literal
surrealism 20th century artistic trend which connects unrelated images and
objects in a strange way
syllepsis a simultaneous presentation of events that pertain to the past,
present and future of a narrative; a figure of speech, also known
as zeugma, in which words or phrases with very different
meanings are yoked together
symbol something which represents something else (usually an idea or
abstraction) by means of analogy or association
theme abstract subject of a work; central idea (explicit or implicit)
time in literature, it may be objective and/or subjective, the time of the
clocks and/or the time of the mind
tone manner or mood; attitude adopted by the ‘speaker’ in a literary
trope figurative language; words or phrases not used in their literal
sense; sometimes distinguished from figures of speech, whose
departure from ordinary speech is a matter of order or rhetorical
effect, rather than of meaning
Victorian having been produced during the reign of Queen Victoria (1832-
1901); usually realistic
voice authorial persona; speech
vorticism modernist movement in art and literature redefining the image in
more dynamic terms; a continuation of imagism
witness character who does not participate in the events told; secret

Postmodernism and the novel in english 61

Glossary of Literary Terms

62 Postmodernism and the novel in english




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