Epic Voices: Inner and Global Impulse in the Contemporary American and British Novel

Epic Voices: Inner and Global Impulse in the Contemporary American and British Novel

Epic Voices: Inner and Global Impulse in the Contemporary American and British Novel

Epic Voices: Inner and Global Impulse in the Contemporary American and British Novel

Synopsis

"Epic Voices is an assessment of the major achievement of contemporary American and British fiction: what author Robert Arlett terms the contemporary epic novel. The path of the modern novel has been marked by a dialectic of seemingly rival impulses: while certain novelists have sought to deal with wide-scale social and political dimensions of modern existence, others have concerned themselves primarily with interior sensibility. This book examines a group of novels - written on both sides of the North Atlantic within a period covering approximately the early 1960s through the mid-1970s - that confront the simultaneous inner and outer impulses of contemporary experience with textures reflecting the interactive relationships of those impulses and that exhibit experimentation in form as they cut back and forth in perspectives, perhaps reaching for fusion of normally distinct narrative voices." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Genre is culture bound and changing cultures breed new modes of artistic discourse. So we find that the path of the modern novel has been marked by a dialectic of seemingly rival impulses: while certain novelists have sought to deal with wide-scale social and political dimensions of modern existence, others have been principally concerned with the interior sensibility. Zola might be representative of the first tendency, Proust of the other. in The Struggle of the Modern, Stephen Spender categorizes these impulses, respectively, as “contemporary” and “modern,” but the dialectic has tended to be dynamic as the rival impulses of the novel have increasingly interacted in the twentieth century so that narrative experimentation has resulted whereby the novelist as personal participant in his narrative competes, or shares space, with the novelist as director of outside characters and plots. Spender’s aim for his experimental autobiography World Within World “is to create the true tension between the inner and the outer, subjective and objective” —and the second half of this century has seen a number of novels that themselves attempt, with resultant experimentation in form, to achieve Spender’s aim by combining thinly disguised confession with examination of political/social—indeed, global—affairs. An intensification of interaction between first- and third-person voices marks a group of novels covering a period from roughly the early 1960s through the mid1970s. I find the old and sometimes abused term “epic” useful to describe these works that display simultaneously the global reach of contemporary history and a contrary movement demanding the sincerity of inner investigation and revelation. Writers from both sides of the Atlantic—for example, Barth, Bellow, Durrell, Fowles, Heller, Lessing, Mailer, and Pynchon—exhibit a range of poly vocal narrative tendencies as they offer various signals that invite epic consideration.

Clearly, the radicalization of narrative voices in the twentieth . . .

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