Engendered Edens: Postmodern Landscapes in Novels by John Fowles and Julian Barnes
This study evaluates the ways gendered landscapes in postmodern novels by John Fowles and Julian Barnes challenge the reader-as-explorer’s assumptions about gender’s fluidity and craft what Sigmund Freud might call “polymorphous perversity.” It examines how authors rely on Edenic images of landscape to shape the future and engender narratologically androgynous texts. Using ecofeminism and psychoanalysis as “lenses,” I examine gendered geographical, national, and textual landscapes in several late-Victorian novels and contemporary British novels by John Fowles and Julian Barnes.
The earlier novels seem locked in a rigid understanding of masculine privilege as the heroes seek an impossible virgin/mother/lover figure in the form of an “other” landscape, while Fowles and Barnes’s protagonists are immersed in an ageless “lost domain” before being humbled by its Edenic, womb-like and tomb-like characteristics. The geographical landscapes in The Magus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, and Staring at the Sun impress and cause psychological change by providing the viewer with a new perspective on time and the dangers of romantic idealization. Via national landscapes in Fowles’s Daniel Martin and The Magus and Barnes’s England, England, the authors embrace postmodern fragmentation, revealed via their protagonists’ wavering attitudes toward Englishness, self-imposed departures from their homeland, and comparisons between “mother country” England and “other” national landscapes. Reading Mantissa, A Maggot, Flaubert’s Parrot, and A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters as textual landscapes, I show how Fowles and Barnes undermine gender categorization supported by “traditional” novelistic structure. The authors contest gender-specific narrative constructions with complex subjectivities, dually gendered narrative patterns, complicated climactic moments, temporal experimentation, and suggestive closure. The result is a new fluidly gendered narrative form.
An understanding of gendered landscapes in postmodern novels can enrich a reader’s experience by forcing him or her to pay attention to details otherwise overlooked--details that better reveal the characters’ motivations and psychological transformations on their narrative journeys. Via their sophisticated geographical, national, and textual landscapes, Fowles and Barnes leave a literary legacy: novels that, in postmodern fashion, create pleasure-seeking readers-as-explorers who celebrate the certainty of gender uncertainty.
School:Indiana University of Pennsylvania
School Location:USA - Pennsylvania
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:barnes julian fowles john gender landscape postmodernism
Date of Publication:05/06/2009