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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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Bowen’s Recesses: From Realism to Inter-Objectivity

Bowen’s Recesses: From Realism to Inter-Objectivity

(p.127) Chapter 8 Bowen’s Recesses: From Realism to Inter-Objectivity
Elizabeth Bowen

Laurie Johnson

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter re-orients consideration of realist elements in Bowen’s short stories by framing readings according to a series of ‘recesses.’ The first is as a building feature designed to conceal and display, which frames a discussion of the status of ‘things’ in Bowen’s writing, that is, the objects that deck out her narratives and become a focus for critical interest in her realism. The second is as a cue for the notion of receding, which I use against claims about consistency in narrative voice in Bowen’s work to argue instead that Bowen’s ‘voice’ can be shown increasingly to recede, leaving the subject-position in such doubt as to compel the willing reader to complete the point of view. Finally, ‘recess’ is used in the sense of suspension or adjournment, against claims that the ‘psychological realism’ created by Bowen presents a ‘transtemporal subjectivity,’ to argue that agency in Bowen’s narratives becomes, by virtue of the points raised above, suspended, such that ‘subjectivity’ is itself untenable. The term I will use to describe the coming together of people and things in Bowen’s fictional universe—and indeed in her writings about the world of the Blitz—will be ‘inter-objectivity.’

Keywords:   Elizabeth Bowen, inter-objectivity, narration, realism, subjectivity, things, voice

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