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Elizabeth BowenTheory, Thought and Things$
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Jessica Gildersleeve and Patricia Juliana Smith

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474458641

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474458641.001.0001

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Elizabeth Bowen and the Pleasure of the Text

Elizabeth Bowen and the Pleasure of the Text

(p.48) Chapter 3 Elizabeth Bowen and the Pleasure of the Text
Elizabeth Bowen

Jessica Gildersleeve

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter recognises that while several authors in the extant criticism have used various lenses of critical theory through which to analyse Bowen’s work, a case for Bowen as a theorist herself has not yet been made. Through an analysis of Bowen’s critical essays, reviews, and depictions of reading and writing in her fiction, this chapter proposes a logic of literary theory as it emerges in her work. Bowen’s theory of reading does anticipate, in some ways, poststructuralist theory as it appears in the work of Roland Barthes, particularly in terms of her syntactical evocations of trauma. Where her work differs (or defers) from theirs, however, is in her insistence upon a kind of mindless and spontaneous memory-work which describes the impact of the reader and the text upon each other and the production of pleasure engendered through this relationship. It is in the process of this mutual engagement, Bowen’s work suggests, that each comes into being. This essay will thus argue for the innovation present in Bowen’s understanding of reading and writing as an anticipation and an inflection of later poststructuralist theory.

Keywords:   Elizabeth Bowen, Literary theory, Poststructuralism, Trauma, Memory, Pleasure

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