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A Companion to Romance: From Classical to Contemporary

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Are You Romantic or Classical?

Bowling Green, Wilhelm, Kate New York: Pocket Books. The End of the Age. Dallas, Wolfe, Gary K. Robinson, Spider, and Jeanne Robinson Wyndham, John The Day of the Triffids. New York: Baen Books. New York: Fawcett Crest. Zelazny, Roger New York: Ace. Best of the Nebulas. Russ, Joanna Islands in the Net. Clareson, ed. Byatt, and Romance Clare Morgan Visions, you know, have always been my pasture; and so far from growing old enough to quarrel with their emptiness I almost think there is no wisdom comparable to exchan- ging what is called the realities of life for dreams. But something has happened,those feelings are no longer the central focus of her attention.

Between Worlds: Iris Murdoch, A. Both Murdoch and Byatt are raising important questions about the nature ofknowledge, in particular how rational and intuitive knowledge should be differen-tially valued. Competing Systems of KnowledgeWhat both novelists present to their readers is an epistemological hall of mirrors,where not only are the relative values of rational and intuitive knowledge almostimpossible to distinguish, but also the power of competing systems of knowledge,and their relevance to human existence, are disputed.

In Flight from the Enchanter,. In The Game, media power is compared to that of academe and religiousbelief. Closer social ties are also in the process of disruption: Annette,attempting a Bildungsroman progression from girlhood to womanhood, discoversthat estrangement from familial connections casts her dangerously adrift, to theextent that in the absence of any effective role model she ultimately if somewhatcomically attempts suicide.

Where was he born? What blood is in his veins? What siege is Murdoch as realist under? What ways around realism does Byattnegotiate? The Influence of Neo-RomanticismByatt, seven years younger than Murdoch, shares with her an immersion in the mid-twentieth-century resurgence of romanticism that came to be known as the Neo-Romantic movement, which extended from around to the mids.

Bothwriters place in their list of significant influences the figure of Samuel Palmer. Byatt, and Romance simply my secret self.


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Samuel Palmer is one of the central influences on Neo-Romanticism. The Neo-Romantic movement has generally been regarded asshort-lived, contained, and minimal in its influence: in short, a kind of mid-centuryaberration. The influence of Neo-Romanticism is, however, considerably more profound andfar-reaching than its critics have so far acknowledged. Neo-Romanticism in certain ofits aspects creates for Byatt and Murdoch a world between what can be broadly termedthe modern and the postmodern sensibilities.

In particular, it creates a ground whereboth writers can negotiate some of the questions of character, narrative form, audi-ence, which came to be central preoccupations of postwar novelists see, for example,Connor There is other circumstantial evidence linking the two writers to the Neo-Roman-tic movement. Tolkien is still rulingthe landscape of the imagination in the s. Most important among these terms, for the purposes of this discussion, are thosethat deal with time, space, and imagination. The significant thing being that our horizons vanish. Delineation between near andfar is called into question, and along with this questioning doubt must be cast on anytraditional apprehension of the relations between things.

Interpretations make use of certain linguistic matrices that are themselves derived from primordial images. From whatever side we approach this question, everywhere we find ourselves confronted with the history of language, with images and motifs that lead straight back into the primitive wonder-world. Hauke 4. The vocabulary matters lessthan the structure. Each can be seen as a permeable membrane through the fabric ofwhich the collective past and the individual present are forever passing and repassingin the process of deforming and reforming themselves and one another.

This importance can also beseen in her analysis of the Romantic movement, Unruly Times: Wordsworth andColeridge in their Time But, for Murdoch, insurmountabledifficulties of abstraction face such writers as Sartre. How to combine the particular and the general?

How to avoid abstrac-tion and at the same time to contain any tendency to unleash the obsessive ego in anunwelcome solipsism that would fail, perhaps, to tell any general truth? It is also, arguably, thematerial out of which Byatt and Murdoch create fictional worlds which surpass therealms available to the concrete apprehension of the realist eye.

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The wild beast resumes its sway within us. We feel like hunting animals. The holocaust and the atomic age had cast fresh doubt on the grand narratives ofscience and humanism; an increasingly secular society questioned the foundationalefficacy of religion as a healing force. And, fueled by existentialist claims for thepossibilities of freedom and self-determination, patterns of social division wereloosening, and the rights and duties of authority structures based in a paternalistapprehension of human relations were being undercut. It is a wish that issues, in their work, in an emphasis onarchetypes, the patterning not of cause and effect, but of mythic or symbolictranscendence.

Conradi It is a world of distance and displacement which mediates between the narrativecommonality of folktale and the radical critique of the human condition encounteredin the theater of the absurd. Byatt, and Romance experience and intuitive knowledge. Divisions between human characters, and between the human and thearchetypal, have no meaning. Blick is the last line one has to cross before reachingMischa; he fulfills a role somewhere between minder and alter ego. But Mischahimself inhabits the text as a fluid presence, the Minotaur at the heart of thelabyrinth, the spider Hunter envisions in quasi delirium all the characters are inone way or another bound up in his web , yet at the same time Mischa as human isportrayed sometimes as gentle and life-saving, sometimes as the ultimate destructiveforce in his magnetism and in his demands.

The fluidity of character identity within andbetween realms real and unreal facilitates her portrayal of Mischa as shape-shifter,weaving a magical pattern between past and present, actual and imagined, concreteand fantastic. His eyes one brown, one blue see into an impossible diversity of worlds,those who inhabit the worlds fearing always that he can magically divine theirintentions and acts.

He has the compelling power of a wizard, like Merlin, turningup at unexpected times and places, and with an inscrutability that defies any attemptat prediction of intent. False CausalitiesThere is a sense in which his all-seeingness reflects the postwar political climate oftotalitarian opposition, of espionage and surveillance.

The Flight from the Enchanter deals with aworld where people construct and live by images of false causality. True, Rosa is at her. Rainboro constructs false causes in the form of conspiracy theories, casting hiswomen colleagues as demons and furies, within these constructions finding himselfacting without knowing why or how. Murdoch extends her critique of false causalitiesin an examination of the pernicious aspects of romantic love. Rosa and Annette in particular fall under hisspell, both attachments shown ultimately as having a delusory, and highly destruc-tive, content. Her boundary-less world of permeable realms is con-structed around interlinking themes of personal, social, moral, and political displace-ment.

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There is another significant way in which the novel can be read as an early. Byatt, and Romance postmodernist text. Narration isseen as the goal as well as the medium. Names take on metaphorical resonance: Maud for mad; Bailey forfortification; Ash for the ashes of death but also gesturing toward the rejuvenatingrole of the ash tree in Celtic mythology. Boundaries between past and present, real andunreal, are dismantled through a negation of the idea of horizon. Byatt, and Romance other end. Recognis-ing a fairy tale motif, or an ancient myth, Cinderella or Oedipus, in the mess of a lifelived or observed gives both pleasure and security and the sense — or illusion — ofwisdom.

All andnone of these were Ash and yet he knew, if he did not encompass, Ash. I like subtledistinctions within a continuing language, not doctrinaire violations. Notes 1. Cited in Gillian Beer, The Romance. Critical The Dial February 28, , In his Idiom series London: Methuen, , pp. Further ref- vigorously against the intellectualism of erences in the text are to TG. References University Press, This text was a in the text are to SS.

Chatto and Windus, , p. Further references in the text are to FS. See Byatt Writings from www. All further references in the Winter , 5. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse ; Har- Further references in the text are to TL. See Piper quotes W. Pyne on Girtin. Christopher Butler, Postmodernism: A Very Press, , p. Realism here is used in the terms suggested by J. Stern, Writings, —, ed. Paul, , p. Study of the Novels of A. Byatt London: Byatt, and Romance See for instance K.

Appended by translators to The Post- Manchester: Manchester University Press, Byatt, Portraits in Fiction London Byatt, www. References and Further ReadingAntonaccio, Maria Picturing the Human: Connor, Steven Oxford: tory. London: Routledge. Oxford University Press. Conradi, Peter Iris Murdoch: A Life. Banhabib, Seyla Community and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics.


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  • Cambridge: Polity. Frye, Northrop Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. The Romance. Critical Idiom Press. Foucault, Michel Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Colin Gordon. Brighton: Harvester. Gasiorek, Andrzej Postwar British Fiction.