Consciousness and the Novel

Consciousness and the Novel

3.9 (128 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

As the richest record we have of human consciousness, literature may offer a kind of understanding that is complementary, not opposed, to scientific knowledge. Lodge explores the representation of human consciousness in fiction, mainly English and American, in the light of recent investigations in science.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 336 pages
  • 130 x 194 x 26mm | 240.41g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 0141011246
  • 9780141011240

Review Text

David Lodge's novels, from The British Museum Is Falling Down (1965) to Thinks... (2000), stand out from most works of modern fiction for their exploration of the life of the individual mind and their delight in stylistic experimentation, particularly the use of multiple viewpoints and parody of other writers. Lodge is, of course, a professor of English Literature and respected literary critic as well as a novelist, and in this remarkable collection of essays and lectures he combines all his interests to create a series of penetrating discussions of our understanding of our own consciousnesses and the ways this understanding is transmuted into the medium of fiction. The title essay is the longest and the most enlightening. Lodge starts with the basic problem of consciousness - the disparity between our sense of our self as somehow separate from our physical attributes and the scientific evidence suggesting that our feelings and perceptions are simply the result of physical reactions in the brain - and describes how novelists over the ages have sought to reconcile the two, and combine the omniscience of third-person narration with the evocation of specific, personal experience. Fascinatingly, he demonstrates how the development of free indirect speech and later the stream-of-consciousness enabled writers to illuminate their characters' thought processes without the need for clumsy description, and sketches out the development of the genre from the 18th-century epistolary novel via the Victorian multi-viewpoint narrative and the introspection of modernism to the postmodernist renewal of emphasis on first-person experience, but often with a twist. The ideas Lodge is dealing with are often complicated, but his writing is never less than beautifully clear. Particularly stimulating and enjoyable are the sections in which he discusses specific extracts from novels - from Ulysses to Vile Bodies - and how they represent the human consciousness. The other essays in the collection, focusing on individual writers from a variety of linked perspectives, are just as approachable, ranging from an analysis of themes and characterization in Howards End to a transcript of a conversation between Lodge and the critic Craig Raine about Thinks..., the novel in which Lodge dealt most explicitly with the issue of consciousness. This absorbing and endlessly thought-provoking collection will be enjoyed not only by those with a specific interest in the subjects Lodge discusses but by anyone who loves novels and cares about how and why they are written. Each of the essays sheds fresh light on the books discussed, and sends the reader straight back to the original to appreciate it with newly opened eyes. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

128 ratings
3.9 out of 5 stars
5 22% (28)
4 48% (62)
3 28% (36)
2 2% (2)
1 0% (0)
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