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Extra resources for A. S. Byatt: Art, Authorship and Creativity

Sample text

Byatt’s observations on this subject. The image is relevant not only to her reaction towards politically orientated theories of literature, but also to her ideas about literary theory in general. Two of her main objections to the practice of contemporary academic literary theory and criticism are, first, that it is an aggressive power game and, secondly, that it bullies the reader intellectually. Byatt shares for instance Leavis’s rejection of Marxist theories of literature and authorship. She views them as a threat to literature and great writers: The Turtle and Its Adversaries 15 I am deeply troubled by the accusations of elitism that are levelled against anybody who really cares about the canon in the broadest sense as we have known it.

She found wanting. She was dissatisfied with women’s novels of the nineteen fifties because she thought they were ‘too suffused with “sensibility” ’ (p. xi). Although A. S. Byatt writes that she felt a ‘vague dissatisfaction’ with Bowen and Lehmann’s work at that time, she is in fact far more explicit about her rejection of their fiction: ‘there is no female art I can think of that is like what I wanted to do’ (p. 11 In this sense the young A. S. 14 This is the image of the aspiring writer to emerge from the foreword to The Shadow of the Sun: the young writer A.

In ‘Information in the Novel’ she said: ‘the cardinal virtue of the novel desiderated by English reviewers, some of whom are academics, is not to embarrass’. This observation is pertinent here, because the particular embarassment F. R. Leavis suffers from seems that of gender. It leads him to withdraw approval immediately when he thinks that he detects the ‘personal needs’ of the woman George Eliot ‘directly’ speaking through and in the text. Leavis splits the personae of George Eliot in order to suppress that embarrassment: she becomes an impersonal artist and intellectual who is a genius because of her intelligence, her moral vision and the impersonal non-emotional distance she creates between herself as a writer and her characters.

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