Research Paper (postgraduate) from the year 2012 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics, grade: 1.0, Durham University, language: English, abstract: In a close reading of “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller” (1981), Mariolina Salvatori examines how Calvino’s meditation on writer's authority versus reader's autonomy – understood as a battle between production and consumption of text or, in common parlance, the experience and difficulties of writing a novel opposite reading one – influences our understanding of the text. Focussing on how framing devices affect the reading of the novel as a whole, Salvatori poses pertinent questions about readers’ autonomy. The following essay follows up on her insights and proposes that within the novel is buried a stringent critique of postmodern theories, especially deconstructionism, that dominated literary discourse in the nineteen-seventies. At that time, postmodern theory stressed the role of the reader and critics assumed that reading creates meaning from the text, independent from writerly intention. If texts are said to have no inherent meaning, there follows the extreme conclusion that any text can mean anything, depending on the manner in which it is read. One argument for reading Calvino’s novel in this manner is still prevalent: embedded in a novelty form of fictional arrangement, the book is preoccupied with the metaphysical struggle for dominance between supposedly antagonistic forces: readers and writers; literature and literary industry. By putting the case for each side, Calvino implicitly questions who is ‘master’ and who is ‘slave’ in the production and consumption of texts. Following the postmodern transformation of an "authorial self" into a "textual self", the novel explores the relationships between readers, writers, their books and the ideas they engender, however ludicrous or possessive those ideas might play out. The plot is driven by the meditation on the nature of reading as much as on the nature of writing. Extremist attitudes regarding the production and consumption of books form the basis of an exploration of the general suggestion that there has been a reduction in the authority of the literary author. The ability of a writer to seduce and manipulate readers through a tightly controlled narrative strategy is examined to assess the extent of a reader’s autonomy. As a writer of fiction whose fiction is clearly about the writing of fiction, Calvino uses game-playing within the aegis of meta-fiction to demonstrate writers’ ability to exercise control by destabilizing the text and confusing readers.
Essay from the year 2011 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1.2, Durham University, language: English, abstract: The clinical picture of paranoid narcissism and its inherent contradictions provides a particularly useful framework for revisiting Nabokov’s work. The premise that the novels are studies of paranoid selves, who suffer from an interpretive delirium that rejects the real in order to impose meaning, has not been explored in sufficient depth to date. A more developed understanding of the pathology of paranoia and schizophrenia as delusional disorders helps to elucidate that the protagonists are locked in internally consistent systems of false beliefs. Their alternating states of grandeur and persecution are an implicit critique of Modernism’s tendency to professionalize artists and art criticism.
Research Paper (postgraduate) from the year 2006 in the subject English - Literature, Works, grade: 1.5, James Cook University, course: Honours, language: English, abstract: Set in the art world of the early nineteen-eighties, the elements ‘Theft’ and ‘Love’ abound in a turbulent adventure of pretence and deceit, deftly written in a genre-mix of crime story, romance, fictional Künstlerroman and fictional memoir, with traces of biographical data from the author. This essay examines Peter Carey’s novel Theft: A Love Story from the aspect of a particular depiction of ‘Truth and Lies in a Postmodern Sense’, which I intend as a pun on Nietzsche’s essay ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’. Moreover, I seek to apply Nietzsche’s epistemic thesis of perspectivism, according to which any act of understanding depends on the dispositions and biases built into the perspective out of which it was made. Perspectivism is a useful theory that can be applied to examine the motivation of many characters in Theft. The novel is preoccupied with dishonest dealings in which the concept of theft pervades throughout and even intrudes into the world of private relationships; it shows morals being no longer conditioned by any commonly held universal truths, such as ‘good or bad’, ‘right or wrong’. Instead, all moral categorical imperatives have lost their absolute meaning and are shown to have been subsumed under various relative points of view, a subjective preference of each individual – features that seem to have become characteristic of postmodern society. The main characters in the novel exhibit a moral relativism that goes against the Kantian maxim that each person should be treated as an end, never as a mere means to our ends. Moral relativism and the perspective of a wounded ego of a divorcee might even show to be the author’s emotional dilemma with which he faces his own ethical problem in the book: there frequently emerge difficulties for readers not only in deciding which characters are actually fictional, but also how many autobiographical references can be detected, if the reader assumes that the protagonist with his bitterness for his ex-wife might be set up as an alter-ego figure.
Essay from the year 2004 in the subject English - Literature, Works, grade: Distinction, James Cook University (James Cook University), course: Strangers in the South Pacific, language: English, abstract: The tradition of island imaginings in European thought existed long before explorers were actually able to reach far away islands and give first-hand accounts of their encounters and observations. Myths of islands are of an extreme age and deeply rooted in European culture, where they were subjected to ongoing transformation by writers of various periods in history. Story telling about islands stretches back thousands of years: from early island myths in antiquity, to explorers, poets and philosophers in the Age of Discovery; from idealizing nature and islanders, to islands that acted as vehicles for social criticism and reflection on social conditions in Europe. The island setting was originally employed as a site and inspiration for spiritual, emotional, or psychological transformation, as a kind of incubator for the initiation and fostering of an individual’s growth. The specific workings of the archetypal place as an agent of change involved a morally challenging confrontation in a magical setting. Appropriate conduct and prudent behaviour opposite the unfamiliar, followed by the resolve of a potentially dangerous situation or conflict, enabled the shipwrecked to finally leave the island and return to their respective societies. This essay provides a historical overview of the island tradition in European literature and links it specifically to the islands of the imagination where the writer travels behind or in front of his or her time envisaging a better world – utopias often take the form of a subversive analysis of contemporary society. Islands and island dwellers were often envisaged as superior versions of the countries and peoples who imagined them, an idea that survived and came to the fore in the positivist scientific and rationalist discourse of the Enlightenment. Island-stories are always set distant in time and place and the remoteness and finite dimensions of islands seemed perfect for constructing a compressed and complete universe, a miniature world, solely governed by the poet’s ideals and ideas.
Essay from the year 2005 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, James Cook University (James Cook University), course: Women in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel, language: English, abstract: The aftermath of the traumas of the American Civil War saw an unleashing of intellectual, cultural and economic forces, which accelerated the rate of transformation in American society. In post-Reconstruction America, after so much controversy about slavery, social and political reformers climbed on the platform to agitate on behalf of the Feminist movement in an “air [that] was thick with theory and controversy about women” (Habegger 9). When Henry James outlined his general idea for "The Bostonians" (1886) in his notebook-entry of 1883, he referred to this new ideology, which he perceived as being responsible for the perversion of the confused and uprooted young American society: I wished to write a very American tale, a tale very characteristic of our social conditions, and I asked myself what was the most salient and peculiar point in our social life. The answer was: the situation of women, the decline of the sentiment of sex, the agitation on their behalf. The undoing of the differences between man and woman and the blurring of the boundaries between the feminine and the masculine and, in particular, the subordination of the masculine hegemony by “the stirrings of feminism in late nineteenth-century Boston” (Lansdown x) might be the root, or at least a symptom of the problem, which was upsetting both public and domestic affairs. The novel is a drama between opposing dogmas: progressive Feminism versus conservative Chauvinism, ultimately, between the forces of progress and reaction. The analysis of the ideological conflict between these two extremes is “dramatically focused in a conflict among characters who, James said, were evolved from his ‘moral consciousness’” (McMurray 339). The notebook-entry reveals that the novel represents James’s response to a contemporary phenomenon: it seeks to investigate the situatedness of individuals in a historical context. James's main purpose was to trace the effects of a confused system of morals in the relations between men and women and he chose to exemplify that idea by portraying a group of people in whom the essence of love had become distorted or vulgarized. The conservative James assumed that the epitome of the American problem lied in the decline of what was generally considered traditional ideals surrounding gender, which he evaluated as a potential threat to the equilibrium of forces that had previously regulated society.
Essay from the year 2006 in the subject Communications - Media History, grade: High Distinction, James Cook University (James Cook University), course: History of Communication, language: English, abstract: The Industrial Revolution was characterized by two intrinsically linked social phenomena. Firstly, a social shift in the transformation of a traditionally agricultural society into an industrial and increasingly urban mass society; secondly, a technological shift resulting in the virtual explosion of the mass production of consumer goods. Towards the end of the nineteenth century these two events, large-scale changes in social structure and mass production, became the basis for the rise of consumer capitalism. This newly generated consumer market was made possible by a steady increase in mass production, characterized by large numbers of diversified goods, often with a built-in obsolescence, which stimulated the process of ongoing consumption. The need for a frequent replacement of commodities, in combination with the striving of urbanised individuals to fill the gaping void within his or her existence that resulted from the demotion of labour productivity in the framework of modern society, gave rise to consumer culture.