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In What Ways Does John Fowles Play With Textual Form And Feature In Order To Transform Ideas, ‎Experience And Acts Of Reading? ‎

1357 words - 6 pages

In what ways does John Fowles play with textual form and feature in order to transform ideas, experience and acts of reading? Discuss with close textual analysis to support your response.
“The French Lieutenant’s Woman is both a formal imitation of the Victorian novel and an elegant endeavour at assessing the historical and mental difference between such a story and a modern reader.” John Fowle’s 1969 novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman , experiments with textual techniques and strategies to produce a postmodern pastiche of the Victorian romantic novel. Emerging in the 1960s, postmodernism is both the continuation and development of modernism. The literature of this period represented a ...view middle of the document...

The alliteration in “pure and perfect” references Ernestina’s obvious Victorian values, which exemplified her as a perfect woman of the time. Another point of intertextuality is the reference to Victorian medical perspectives towards women is notable in the text, exemplified by Dr Grogan’s diagnosis of Sarah and his attempt to convince Charles that she is in fact ill and unsafe, an example of female hysteria. As for Charles to love a “fallen woman”, is contrary to the typical Victorian romance in which the female protagonist was a pariah of virtue and untouchable. “That girl, Smithson, has a cholera, a typhus of the intellectual faculties[…] You are not to blame that upon yourself…” The doctor’s dismissal of Sarah’s actions as an illness demonstrate the sexual repression of the time towards women, as desire or forwardness could be diagnosed as a disease. The contextual reference that Dr Grogan gives of the trial of Emile de La Ronciere in 1835 further emphasises the misunderstanding of “female hysteria”, which forged links between female desire and illness. By using frequent references to Victorian literature and parodying it’s conventions, Fowles’ reinforces to the reader that his novel is not a self sufficient text, but rather is a text influenced by literature and ideas of the past.
As an example of historical metafition, Fowles uses the intrusive narrative voice also influences the act of reading, reinforcing the fictionality of the novel and allowing the reader to compare and contrast 20th century perspectives to his representation of the past. Fowles frequently addresses the reader directly so one is constantly aware of the presence of the narrator, and this is exemplified throughout the novel. In chapter one, the narrator gives an extended commentary on the comparison between the Victorian era and his own eras, offering a ‘translation’ for the contemporary reader. “The colors of the young lady’s clothes would strike us today as distinctly strident[…]but the world was then in the first fine throes of the discovery of aniline dyes.” The contrast of the nouns “today” and “then” deliberately emphasizes the difference between setting of the novel and the time the author is writing, revealing that the novel is written by a 20th century narrator who is not himself writing from a 19th century perspective. This difference in eras is then further emphasised by the continuous reference to the year “1867”. The technique of the intrusive narrator is also exemplified in chapter 13 where the narrator interrupts the story entirely and speaks directly to the reader about the process of writing and the ideas behind the text. “But I live in the age of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Roland Barthes[…]So perhaps I am writing a transposed autobiography[…]Perhaps it is only a game[…]. It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live.” Fowles use of anaphora in his playful repetition of “perhaps” to directly engage the reader,...

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