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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Strange textures of vision : a study of the significance of mannered fictional techniques in six selected novel of D.H. Lawrence, William Faulkner, and Patrick White, together with a theoretical introduction on " The Novel of vision" Schermbrucker, William Gerald


The purpose of this dissertation is to present, "by theory and example, a critical approach to a certain type of twentieth-century novel, described as "the novel of vision." The approach is intended to enable critical readers to experience the aesthetic impact of such novels most directly, in contrast to the indirect experience produced by those approaches which import concepts or terminology to the text from external sources, such as schools of psychology or theories of genre. The approach follows the basic dogma of New Criticism, in treating each novel as a self-contained work of art requiring close textual scrutiny for its illumination; external glosses are rigorously avoided, and specific stress is placed on strange or distorted elements in the language and structure of each novel, by which the novelist chiefly communicates his particular vision of reality. The first section of the dissertation consists of a theoretical rationale for the critical approach adopted in analyzing the six novels which are the main subject. By way of defining what is meant by "a novel of vision," brief passages are quoted from such novels, which contain the typical characteristics distinguishing this kind of novel from other kinds. Chief of these characteristics is a startlingly mannered prose texture. "The novel of vision" having been defined by textural characteristics, it is then argued that such a novel functions as a cultural medium through which the novelist engages in dynamic interaction with his society, offering society his vision which is usually in conflict with conventional values and norms of perception. Next, a definition is given of a useful role for the critic, as an illuminator of the artist's vision, rather than interpreter or judge of it. Finally in this section, typical techniques of "the novel of vision" are discussed, and a few convenient terms for referring to these techniques are suggested. The main body of the dissertation consists of six analytical chapters in which the present writer plays the role of critic defined earlier, and tries to illuminate the vision of the artist in D. H. Lawrence's The Plumed Serpent and The Man Who Died, William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom!, and Patrick White's The Aunt's Story and The Vivisector. Each of these chapters begins with a brief contrast being drawn between the present approach and typical approaches of other critics. It is noted how certain critics have brought preconceived concepts and terminology to the texts in order to make sense of them, and it is argued that these approaches tend to avoid the artists' strange visions in these texts. Each chapter then proceeds at greater length to employ the critical approach here suggested, confronting each text on its own terms. No attempt is made to relate "the novel of vision" to the history of the novel generally, nor to such trends in literary history as Expressionism, Symbolism or Futurism. Nor, in the analyses of specific novels, are they related to other works by the same author, in order to show the development of techniques of vision in the canon of an author. There is no implication that the three authors studied are the only or even the best examples of "novelists of vision;" rather, these three writers provide convenient and well-known examples by which to demonstrate the critical approach in three quite different literary contexts. The term "novel of vision" is believed to be original, as is the critical approach to such novels here offered.

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