UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Theme as structure in three novels of John Cowper Powys. Fogel, Stanley Howard


In this thesis I first delineated the universe that John Cowper Powys envisioned and the ways he posited of living in that universe. The magician, the ichthyosaurus-ego, the saint and the sadist are anthropomorphized facets of what Powys felt was his own composite nature. Each has his own way of coming to terms with his environment. Then, I attempted to show that, in his novels at any rate, Powys's concern is artistic not philosophical or prophetic. He does not advocate one specific way of life such as that offered in In Defence of Sensuality. Only in the last few pages of A Glastonbury Romance does he eschew his personae for a personal statement about the ineradicable nature of a certain kind of response to the universe. However, in the greater part of A Glastonbury Romance, and in Wolf Solent and Maiden Castle, Powys is chiefly concerned with situating his characters, the autonomized fragments of his own character, in Glastonbury, Dorset and Dorchester. He explores the reactions of these characters to the milieu in which they are placed. My investigation of the themes of the three novels and their relationship to the novels' structures reinforces my contention that Powys's emphasis is not on the narrow formulation of a life-way. A Glastonbury Romance probes the responses of the magician, ichthyosaurus-ego, saint and sadist to that aspect of existence which the Grail represents—the unseen, the scientifically unverifiable. Wolf Solent examines the convoluted state of an ichthyosaurus-ego who learns to simply accept the universe. Maiden Castle is a hybrid of Wolf Solent and A Glastonbury Romance. It combines the focus on the ichthyosaurus-ego with the multiple perspectives of that aspect of existence represented by the powers of Maiden Castle. Though both the magician and ichthyosaurus-ego display a partial inability to cope with quotidien events, they seem most aware of all the dimensions of Powys's universe. Consequently, the three novels dwell for the most part on the responses of the ichthyosaurus-ego and the magician. Powys does not resolve which of the two ways is most viable; however, he does espouse that facet of both of them which accepts a living cosmos, a non-mechanistic world redolent of the fourth dimension, that aspect of existence which cannot be rationally apprehended.

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