Degree Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

William Patrick Day

Committee Member(s)

Sandy Zagarell< br>Laura Baudot

Keywords

Romance, Postmodernism, Possession, Byatt

Abstract

This thesis explores how the novel Possession brings together the sensibilities of postmodernism and the romance in its approach to the world and to narrative. In bringing into focus this conflict between archetype and postmodernism, Possession provides a kind of guide to both the status of the romance in the postmodern era and how we might look at postmodernism with more clarity. The story of the romance can be seen as evolutionary, in the sense that it has adapted to its surroundings with each new literary era while maintaining recognizable features. It has traditionally had something to say about love, desire, transcendence and idealism, all things which the postmodern perspective rejects in their simple forms. In Possession, the romantic quest takes as its object the existence of narrative itself. Under the revisions of postmodernism, the romance becomes a quest for a cohesive text, for some kind of a whole in the postmodern world’s seemingly insurmountable pluralism. Narrative is deconstructed and shown naked as it is simultaneously reconstructed and fulfilled; Possession is always consciously and simultaneously following and creating its narrative structure. We see relevance stripped away in some ways, but also restored to the romance narrative if for no other reason than for its familiarity and its intelligibility. Even if we no longer see a particular meaning attached to the structure of the romance, it is still relevant in that it provides shape by which people organize and understand their lives. Certainly, in Possession, the meat of the story is the attempt to find a story, to fit the events into a recognizable narrative structure in the hope that it will provide some kind of clarity. The clarity we and the characters seek is both elusive and obvious: first, there is no story except that which we create, and second, we cannot help but create stories in the search for meaning.

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