John Banville : interpreting reality through fiction
Date of Issue2010
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This paper examines John Banville’s oeuvre in the context of fiction’s relation to reality. The various levels of reality – that of the author, his projected self, the scientific or artistic realities of his fiction, and the inter- and intra-textual references – variously merge or divide the “self” that his protagonists seek to define. Banville’s protagonists attempt to re-imagine the world and their relation to it, and their means of doing so evolve throughout his oeuvre. Some choose to approach the world through scientific means, as in Doctor Copernicus and Mefisto. Others use art and acting, as in Birchwood and Eclipse. They generally fail, however, at redefining their universe because they are unable to accept that all reality is fictionalised; we are products of our cultural contexts, and we see the world through an immediately biased lens. This paper therefore traces the recurring symbols in Banville’s novels, studying how they evolve in different books, and culminates in a study of his latest novel, The Infinities. This last novel marks a slight departure from his usual style of writing, in that the protagonist not only manages to make a transition into a fictionalised world, but also revels in that fact. The same themes and symbols that Banville frequently uses appear once again in The Infinities, but this paper will examine what allows the protagonist of the novel to succeed where previous protagonists have failed.
Final Year Project (FYP)