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The Status of Metaphor in (De)Constructing Historical Master-Narratives in the Novels of Julian Barnes and Graham Swift and Kazuo Ishiguro

The following thesis consists in an attempt at synthesising several problems connected with narrating historical representations by means of metaphors. It examines the functions metaphorical narratives may attend in order to (de)construct historical identities as well as the places metaphors may occupy in the order of discourses. Divided into three chapters, the dissertation deals with the ‘spectacular’ and the ‘performative’ potential of figurative speech assembled in historical narrations that are, in quite distinct fashions, presented in selected novels by Julian Barnes, Graham Swift and Kazuo Ishiguro. The methodological profile of the analysis conducted in this thesis is centralised on the deconstructionist notion of metaphor as well as certain poststructuralist conceptions of power relations. But despite the fact that most theoretical inspirations are drawn from the philosophy of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault there appear also other names and theoretical sources. Among these quite a substantial role can be assigned to literary criticism developed between 1950s and 1990s in Great Britain and elsewhere in Europe, feminist critique along with its various orientations, psychoanalytic writings by Erich Fromm, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva, as well as texts authored by philosophers and critics linked more to structuralist tradition and New Criticism rather than deconstruction such as Paul Ricoeur, Roland Barthes, Mikhail Bakhtin, Wolfgang Iser, Stanley Fish or Walter Benjamin. The first chapter, Metaphoricised Historiography, as its title implies, serves as a short introduction to the intricacies of post-war British history and its impact on literature. Moreover, the chapter investigates the possible manoeuvres of both individual and collective identifications with respect to the sum of semantic aspects of reality inherited from history. Finally, it tries to confirm the creditability a metaphor can be granted thanks to such an analysis. The next chapter entitled History as Spectacle deals with recontextualising and manipulating historical scenes. It describes protagonists whose actions are focused on a sort of metaphorical redistribution of historical roles in the sphere of especially Judeo-Christian tradition. The aspiration to interact with the hybrid rhetoric of place and to undermine the autonomy of the canonical, as a consequence, leads to the conviction of the end of all historical processes. And the last chapter, History as Performance, addresses a certain type of historical sensitivity; it differs from spectacle in the degree of private efforts of the protagonists put into the search of historical truths and an intensified personal feeling of repression from history. The protagonists situate the focal point of their attention on the process of interpretation and interpretative tools that may be employed in order to come up with the most truthful and reliable version of the past. It is discussed on the examples of visual arts and the situation of historical painting in the context of being objectified in endless interpretative circulation in galleries and museums. Finally, performative actions are most vividly exhibited by the schizophrenic discourses describing an alternative reality fabricated with the intention to protest against cultural hegemony. On the whole, the dissertation tries to estimate the significance of metaphors in discourses narrating historical identities.

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6 The following thesis has been inspired by several problems connected with the modern condition of historicity in the context of post-war British literature. Most distinctly, it shall concern the redefinition of national and cultural values which was enforced by England’s colonial crisis and the growing popularity of liberalism. The drawing of methodological bases from different aspects of deconstructionist theory, culture studies and literary criticism will constitute the major interpretative strategy devised with respect to selected novels of Julian Barnes, Graham Swift and Kazuo Ishiguro. Beyond doubt, the choice of the aforesaid authors is not accidental. Despite the strongly individualised styles of writing as well as preferences of motifs, all three authors share a similar intellectual background. As representatives of the dominating walk of society, except perhaps for slightly unprivileged Ishiguro, they might feel urged to shoulder responsibility for the reformulation of notions such as “Englishness”, aspire to draw up a new cultural map of Europe and, ultimately, question the rationale of history itself. The thesis shall be divided into three chapters. The first chapter, Metaphoricised Historiography, is an attempt at categorising notions such as identity, history in time and space as well as metaphor. It gives a short outline of the theoretical background and social facets of culture that are related to statements assembled in the thesis. The two following chapters are entitled as History as Spectacle and History as Performance with the intention to compile a systematic description of themes that appear to be especially liable to the inclusion in narratives that have a metaphorical overtone. The former, basically, deals with situations in which protagonists experience some sort of friction occurring between his/her sense of individuality and the pressure of historical events which query whether anything that happens to them can be singular and unprecedented. Such history is a spectacle because it offers a limited handful of scenes, sceneries and archetypical figures with which one may identify; moreover, the spectacle of history is finished and it has low tolerance of even a commentary. Since the character of history is so unappeased there arises the question if metaphors presented in private accounts of the characters are there because they integrate meta- and mini- narratives in master-history or if they can only be used to oppose such integration. The latter proposes another view of the situation. Performance, generally, is an interpretation of a very specific sort. Namely, it takes place when protagonists are conscious of the historic importance of their time and adopt an active attitude towards

International thesis/dissertation

Autore: Daria Przybyla Contatta »

Composta da 96 pagine.


Questa tesi ha raggiunto 208 click dal 03/07/2007.

Disponibile in PDF, la consultazione è esclusivamente in formato digitale.