A.S. Byatt and the “perpetual traveller”: a reading practice for new British fiction


  • Nicole Flynn South Dakota State University




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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Author Biography

Nicole Flynn, South Dakota State University

Nicole Flynn is an Assistant Professor of English at South Dakota State University who specializes in twentieth century British Literature and theatre. She is the author of “Clockwork Women: Temporality and Form in Jean Rhys’s Interwar Novels,” in the anthology Rhys Matters: New Critical Perspectives (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), and “The Magazine-Programme and the Broadbrow Sophisticate: Britain’s Interwar Theatre Culture (forthcoming in Modernist Cultures). 


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How to Cite

Flynn, N. (2018). A.S. Byatt and the “perpetual traveller”: a reading practice for new British fiction. Journal of English Studies, 16, 91–111. https://doi.org/10.18172/jes.3450