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Ideas that Matter: Strategies of Intertextuality in A. S. Byatt's Fiction

Franchi, Barbara (2017) Ideas that Matter: Strategies of Intertextuality in A. S. Byatt's Fiction. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

What is the role of intertextuality and ekphrasis in A. S. Byatt's novels and short stories? How does Byatt deploy intertextuality to address the relationship between art as experience and representation? And how do intertextuality and ekphrasis enhance creativity and destructive forces across characters, texts and discourses? This thesis examines how the numerous intertextual and ekphrastic references in Byatt's fiction challenge and complicate the crucial relationship between ideas and matter, and between mental processes and bodily experiences. Starting from Kristeva's theory of intertextuality, I argue how in Byatt reading, storytelling and writing are not only the highly demanding intellectual activities that most of her characters engage with, but also potentially dangerous: writing can kill once written words come to replace actual experience (Chapter 1). Conversely, the visual arts, medicine and science, appearing throughout Byatt's fiction in the form of intertextual and ekphrastic presences, represent more positive, empowering and liberating elements because of the greater balance between the mental and the physical dimensions they encourage (Chapters 2 and 3). The two final chapters shift their attention from the metatextual, theoretical perspective of the first part and focus on how Byatt deploys intertextual strategies to address political and historical discourses, in particular war trauma and the construction of national identity. Where the weight of history defines material existence, intertextuality unleashes its most creative powers of self-defence and survival, and allows characters to defend themselves, through mythology and storytelling, against the traumas of war and cross-cultural encounters. Ultimately, Byatt's are stories of individual development: intertextuality and ekphrasis thus become the ultimate strategies with which her protagonists are given agency over themselves, either to fight for their own emancipation, or be the tragic cause of their own self-destruction.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Cregan-Reid, Vybarr
Uncontrolled keywords: A.S. Byatt; intertextuality; post-structuralism; metatextuality; contemporary literature; neo-Victorian fiction.
Subjects: P Language and Literature
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2017 17:00 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 18:55 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/61262 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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