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The Neutral Territory in A. S. Byatt ’ s Possession Prepared by Anne Chen.

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Presentation on theme: "The Neutral Territory in A. S. Byatt ’ s Possession Prepared by Anne Chen."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Neutral Territory in A. S. Byatt ’ s Possession Prepared by Anne Chen

2 Coexistence of two phases History: past and present History: past and present Fiction: realism and romance Fiction: realism and romance Mirror image: 19th century Victorian poets & Mirror image: 19th century Victorian poets & 20th century contemporary 20th century contemporary academics (history & fiction) academics (history & fiction) Christabel ’ s two-fold identity: a poet and Christabel ’ s two-fold identity: a poet and a mother a mother Tragicomic view of life: death and rebirth Tragicomic view of life: death and rebirth

3 History: past and present (1) Postmodern view of history: an explanatory system like history can be reduced to linguistic formulas: it has persuasive powers rather than truth. This leads to postmodern trends such as multiplicity, self-conscious reflexivity, and intertextuality. Postmodern view of history: an explanatory system like history can be reduced to linguistic formulas: it has persuasive powers rather than truth. This leads to postmodern trends such as multiplicity, self-conscious reflexivity, and intertextuality. Coexistence of past & present: Byatt creates a quest of self-identity for the contemporary academics (20th cent.) to resurrect the living past (19th cent.) and to redefine the present. Coexistence of past & present: Byatt creates a quest of self-identity for the contemporary academics (20th cent.) to resurrect the living past (19th cent.) and to redefine the present.

4 History: past and present (2) Cyclical and linear time: “ are best conceived as two often but not always complementary ways of looking at the same thing, two alternative conceptualizations of the same phenomenon which do not exclude each other. ” Cyclical and linear time: “ are best conceived as two often but not always complementary ways of looking at the same thing, two alternative conceptualizations of the same phenomenon which do not exclude each other. ” Linear time: the Victorian age is the age of science in which the linear certainty of death as the “ real ” future, full of fragmentation and despair. Linear time: the Victorian age is the age of science in which the linear certainty of death as the “ real ” future, full of fragmentation and despair.

5 Cyclical time: by marking the past, contemporary artists can generate the heterogeneity by various histories and resurrect the living past. This heritage in life and art preserves the cyclical story. Cyclical time: by marking the past, contemporary artists can generate the heterogeneity by various histories and resurrect the living past. This heritage in life and art preserves the cyclical story. Byatt creates the cyclical and linear stories of past and present to blend and interact in Possession. Byatt creates the cyclical and linear stories of past and present to blend and interact in Possession. Through the quest for knowledge, all the characters are “ possessed by ” the past. Byatt connects the past to the present. Through the quest for knowledge, all the characters are “ possessed by ” the past. Byatt connects the past to the present. The cyclical story gives hope of rebirth in the tragicomic ending. The cyclical story gives hope of rebirth in the tragicomic ending.

6 Fiction: realism and romance Possession is a blend of poetry and prose, and the Romance and Realism styles of the Victorian and contemporary novel. Possession is a blend of poetry and prose, and the Romance and Realism styles of the Victorian and contemporary novel. Possession, “ a romance ”— Byatt ’ s romance takes us into Nature, human and secret moments with the plots of the quest, the chase and the mystery and reveals hidden historical truths, claiming a more complete re- visioning of reality. Possession, “ a romance ”— Byatt ’ s romance takes us into Nature, human and secret moments with the plots of the quest, the chase and the mystery and reveals hidden historical truths, claiming a more complete re- visioning of reality.

7 Mirror image: 19th & 20th centuries (1) Maud Bailey (an academic as a reader) Roland Michell (an academic & a poet) Christabel LaMotte (a poet as a character) Randolph Henry Ash (a poet as a character) Leonora Stern (a feminist) Val Blanche Glover (an artist) Ellen Ash (20th cent.: contemporary novel) (19th cent.: Victorian novel)

8 Mirror image: 19th & 20th centuries (2) Mirror image: to Lacan, though the mirror image becomes an image outside of the self, the image becomes a sign for a self and constitutes the self. So we depend on the images of the literal Other both to create the self through difference and somehow to fill up the gap created by our subjectivity because the Other represents this unified self we have lost. Mirror image: to Lacan, though the mirror image becomes an image outside of the self, the image becomes a sign for a self and constitutes the self. So we depend on the images of the literal Other both to create the self through difference and somehow to fill up the gap created by our subjectivity because the Other represents this unified self we have lost.

9 Mirror image: 19th & 20thcenturies (3) Christabel (character) Maud (reader) Christabel (character) Maud (reader) (ancestor/mother) (descendant/child) (ancestor/mother) (descendant/child) Christabel & Blanche Maud & Leonora Christabel & Blanche Maud & Leonora Randolph Ash (character) Roland Michell (reader) Randolph Ash (character) Roland Michell (reader) (poet) (poet) (poet) (poet) Randolph & Ellen Roland & Val Randolph & Ellen Roland & Val “ Fictional realism ” : parallelism serves to reverse the concept that art holds the mirror up to nature but shows how reality imitates art. “ Fictional realism ” : parallelism serves to reverse the concept that art holds the mirror up to nature but shows how reality imitates art.

10 Christabel ’ s two-fold identity (1) Christabel as Emily Dickinson: as a poet, Dickinson/ Christabel is in total inwardness, a refusal to share in the collective utterance of the world. Her privateness essential to female writing. Christabel as Emily Dickinson: as a poet, Dickinson/ Christabel is in total inwardness, a refusal to share in the collective utterance of the world. Her privateness essential to female writing. ** “ The stimulus of Loss makes most Possession ** “ The stimulus of Loss makes most Possession mean. ” – Emily Dickinson ** mean. ” – Emily Dickinson ** Christabel as Melusina: Christabel is Melusina, an ambivalent figure – unnatural monster Christabel as Melusina: Christabel is Melusina, an ambivalent figure – unnatural monster -- loving and handy woman -- loving and handy woman

11 Christabel ’ s two-fold identity (2) Melusina like women has no real self for her split between the human and the inhuman (half-woman, half-serpent). Melusina like women has no real self for her split between the human and the inhuman (half-woman, half-serpent). Byatt ’ s perspective on female subjectivity: Byatt ’ s perspective on female subjectivity: She evokes autonomy and creativity from women ’ s roles of a mother (reproduction) and of a woman artist. She evokes autonomy and creativity from women ’ s roles of a mother (reproduction) and of a woman artist. 19th cent. woman ’ s plot does not end in marriage or death but through the bridge of art gets rebirth in the 20th cent. 19th cent. woman ’ s plot does not end in marriage or death but through the bridge of art gets rebirth in the 20th cent.

12 Tragicomic view of life: death & rebirth The death of Ash and the birth of Maia The death of Ash and the birth of Maia Love between Maud and Roland consummates Love between Maud and Roland consummates and continues the love between Christabel and and continues the love between Christabel and Randolph. Randolph. The present interacting with the past revivifies the past memories and renders the possibilities in life by redefining the present. The present interacting with the past revivifies the past memories and renders the possibilities in life by redefining the present. Love promises the rebirth to each other which such withdrawal aids by protecting and regenerating the self. Love promises the rebirth to each other which such withdrawal aids by protecting and regenerating the self.

13 References Bloom, Harold. Emily Dickinson. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, House, Byatt, A. S. Possession: A Romance. London: Vintage, “ Self and the Other. ” Otherness in Advertising. 12 April Young, Michael. The Metronmic Society. London: Thames,


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