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Title: Ideas that matter : strategies of intertextuality in A.S. Byatt's fiction
Author: Franchi, Barbara
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 1265
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2017
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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.
Supervisor: Cregan-Reid, Vybarr Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: P Language and Literature