Be a Member of this BLOG

Search This Blog

Aug 8, 2012


“CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE NOVEL” David Lodge (first published 2002)

It’s one thing for me to voice some misgivings about the reductive tendencies of postmodern criticism, but it’s quite another to direct you towards the type of criticism I find more congenial. So, after a postmodern Something New, allow me to acquaint you with a book of fine criticism as this week’s Something Old.

First published nine years ago, David Lodge’s Consciousness and the Novel is not the work of somebody who is ignorant of current critical modes. As well as being a prolific novelist - and therefore somebody who knows the craft of writing from the inside – Lodge is a formidable critic who has, among other books, produced a tome on structuralism. He is not a reactionary. But, unlike too many postmodernists, he does know how to write limpid and lucid prose. His criticism is eminently understandable. 
Cognitive neuro-scientists and researchers into artificial intelligence are very concerned with the problem of human consciousness. Do we actually know what consciousness is? Can we describe it in scientific terms? And could it some day be replicated artificially?

As one scientist quoted by Lodge said “virtually nothing worth reading has been written about consciousness” by scientists. Insights into consciousness tend to be the province of imaginative literature.

It’s this interface of science and the craft of fiction that is the starting point for David Lodge’s 90-page essay that give this volume its title. It was originally delivered as a series of lectures on an American campus The essay concerns the way consciousness is presented in the modern novel. By examining different styles of narration in modernist and postmodernist works, Lodge comes to grips with how novelists imagine, conceive and describe consciousness.

It is an illuminating and very accessible piece of criticism and has the distinct merit of condensing, for non-specialist readers, some of the more abstruse current literary theory.

The other 200 pages of this book are taken up with ten reprints of pieces Lodge originally wrote for the New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement etc. Lodge is always a fair, well-informed and commonsensical critic, and there are insights in every piece.

The best of the reprints is a longish essay on movie adaptations of Henry James’ novels. It is a model of precise, pointed criticism. Lodge’s main contention is the fairly obvious one that, no matter how careful the adaptation may be, movies trade in surfaces and have difficulty accessing the psychological layers of a densely written novel. (This come close to my crack, in an earlier blog, of movie adaptations of classics being akin to Classics Illustrated comics). Regrettably, in discussing Jane Campion’s film version of Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady, Lodge identifies her as an “Australian” director, but I don’t think this compromises his very sensible argument.

I do not want to talk this book up too much. Sometimes, in the reprints, the strain of the jobbing critic peeps through. In Lodge’s piece on Philip Roth, there’s a tension between his admiration for Roth’s technique and his distaste for Roth’s world view. His admiring account of Evelyn Waugh’s early comic novels is little more than a set of annotated plot summaries. I’m not sure his efficient review of Jane Smiley’s brief biography of Dickens was really worth reprinting, although it does say some tart things about the cult of author-as-celebrity. The book ends with a magazine interview with Lodge himself about one of his own novels.

Yet, despite the perishable topicality of some pieces, this is still vivid and informed criticism which respects the form, respects the canon, and does allow the work to be overwhelmed by its context.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

All Posts

" Indian "Tomb of Sand A Fine Balance A House for Mr. Biswas Absurd Drama Achebe Across the Black Waters Addison Adiga African Ages Albee Alberuni Ambedkar American Amrita Pritam Anand Anatomy of Criticism Anglo Norman Anglo Saxon Aristotle Ariyar Arnold Ars Poetica Auden Augustan Aurobindo Ghosh Backett Bacon Badiou Bardsley Barthes Baudelaire Beckeley Bejnamin Belinda Webb Bellow Beowulf Bhabha Bharatmuni Bhatnagar Bijay Kant Dubey Blake Bloomsbury Book Bookchin Booker Prize bowen Braine British Brooks Browne Browning Buck Burke CA Duffy Camus Canada Chaos Characters Charlotte Bronte Chaucer Chaucer Age China Chomsky Coetzee Coleridge Conard Contact Cornelia Sorabji Critical Essays Critics and Books Cultural Materialism Culture Dalit Lliterature Daruwalla Darwin Dattani Death of the Author Deconstruction Deridda Derrida Desai Desani Dickens Dilip Chitre Doctorow Donne Dostoevsky Dryden Durkheim EB Browning Ecology Edmund Wilson Eliot Elizabethan Ellison Emerson Emile Emily Bronte English Epitaph essats Essays Esslin Ethics Eugene Ionesco Existentialism Ezekiel Faiz Fanon Farrel Faulkner Feminism Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness Ferber Fitzgerald Foregrounding Formalist Approach Forster Foucault Frankfurt School French Freud Frost Frye Fyre Gandhi Geetanjali Shree Gender German Germany Ghosh Gilbert Adair Golding Gordimer Greek Gulliver’s Travels Gunjar Halliday Hard Times Hardy Harindranath Chattopadhyaya Hawthorne Hazara Hemingway Heyse Hindi Literature Historical Materialism History Homer Horace Hulme Hunt Huxley Ibsen In Memoriam India Indian. Gadar Indra Sinha Interview Ireland Irish Jack London Jane Eyre Japan JM Synge Johnson Joyce Joyce on Criticism Judith Wright Jumpa Lahiri Jussawalla Kafka Kalam Kalidasa Kamla Das Karnard Keats Keki N. Daruwala Kipling Langston Hughes Language Language of Paradox Larkin Le Clezio Lenin Lessing Levine Life of PI literary Criticism Luckas Lucretius Lyrical Ballads Macaulay Magazines Mahapatra Mahima Nanda Malory Mamang Dai Mandeville Manto Manusmrti Mao Marlowe Martel Martin Amis Marx Marxism Mary Shelley Maugham McCarry Medi Media Miller Milton Moby Dick Modern Mona Loy Morrison Movies Mulk Raj Anand Mytth of Sisyphus Nabokov Nahal Naidu Naipaul Narayan Natyashastra Neo-Liberalism NET New Criticism new historicism News Nietzsche Nikita Lalwani Nissim Ezekiel Niyati Pathak Niyati Pathank Nobel Prize O Henry Of Studies Okara Ondaatje Orientalism Orwell Pakistan Pamela Paradise Lost Pater Pinter Poems Poetics Poets Pope Post Feminism Post Modern Post Structuralism post-Colonialism Poststructuralism Preface to Shakespeare Present Prize Psycho Analysis Psychology and Form Publish Pulitzer Prize Puritan PWA Radio Ramanujan Ramayana Rape of the Lock Renaissance Restoration Revival Richardson Rime of Ancient Mariner RL Stevenson Rohinton Mistry Romantic Roth Rousseau Rushdie Russia Russian Formalism Sartre Sashi Despandey Satan Sati Savitri Seamus Heaney’ Shakespeare Shaw Shelley Shiv K.Kumar Showalter Sibte Hasan Slavery Slow Man Socialism Spender Spenser Sri Lanka Stage of Development Steinbeck Stories Subaltern Sufis Surrealism Swift Syed Amanuddin Tagore Tamil Literature Ted Hughes Tennyson Tennyson. Victorian Terms Tess of the D’Urbervilles The March The Metamorphsis The Order of Discourse The Outsider The Playboy of the Western World The Politics The Satanic Verses The Scarlet Letter The Transitional Poets The Waste Land The Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction The Wuthering Heights Theatre of Absurd Theory Theory of Criticism Theory of Evolution Theory of Literature Thomas McEvilley Thoreau To the Lighthouse Tolstoy Touchstone Method Tughlaq Tulsi Badrinath Twain Two Uses of Language UGC-NET Ukraine Ulysses Untouchable Urdu Victorian Vijay Tendulkar Vikram Seth Vivekananda Voltaire Voyage To Modernity Walter Tevis War Webster Wellek West Indies Wharton Williams WJ Long Woolfe Wordsworth World Wars Writers WW-I WW-II Wycliff Xingjian Yeats Zadie Smith Zaheer Zizek Zoe Haller