A.S. Byatt and the “perpetual traveller”: a reading practice for new British fiction
Keywords:Angels and Insects, historical fiction, novel, British literature, hermeneutics, intertextuality
While most readers enjoyed, or at least admired A.S. Byatt’s Booker prize-winning novel “Possession”, many are puzzled by her work before and since. This essay argues that the problem is not the novels themselves, but rather the way that readers approach them. Conventional reading practices for experimental or postmodern fiction do not enable the reader to understand and enjoy her dense, dizzying work. By examining the intertexts in her novella “Morpho Eugenia,” in particular two imaginary texts written by the protagonist William Adamson, this essay demonstrates how the novella generates a different kind of reading practice. Using Byatt’s metaphor, the essay recommends that readers become “perpetual travelers,” a global model of readership that will enable readers to navigate not only Byatt’s oeuvre and the realm of neo-Victorian fiction, but also the field of new British fiction and the crowded media landscape in which it resides.
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