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"A bit of unoriginal sin": allusions to the Fall in selected novels of Anthony Burgess

Adamson, Katherine (2010) "A bit of unoriginal sin": allusions to the Fall in selected novels of Anthony Burgess. Doctoral thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis investigates a spectrum of literary, theological, and mythological allusions to the Fall of Humanity in a representative selection of novels by Anthony Burgess. Burgess‘s use of allusion is fundamentally affected by his natal Roman Catholicism, his view of himself as an exile, and his Augustinian vision of the human condition. The study seeks to identify how Burgess applies theological concepts of the Fall and Original Sin as a lens through which to read other myths, and how these allusions to myth are then absorbed and manipulated within his fiction. The central argument is that Burgess employs irony to ridicule valorised, idyllic, or supernatural elements from mythology, epic poetry, and romance in a degraded, yet comic, postlapsarian environment. This thesis will begin by outlining Burgess‘s preoccupation with Original Sin and the Fall, and argue that the presentation of the postlapsarian state is a core theme throughout his writing. The critic Northrop Frye‘s discussion of the archetypes and central features of myth, romance and irony – and his focus upon the Bible as the bedrock of western literature – provides an ideal framework to analyse the mythical allusions used throughout Burgess‘s fiction. Though Frye is the basis of the critical approach in this thesis, Mikhail Bakhtin‘s essay ‗Epic and Novel‘, from The Dialogic Imagination, is also drawn upon. Each chapter involves close textual reading, paying specific attention to mythological, biblical, and literary allusions to the Fall, underpinned by the theories of Frye and Bakhtin. The first chapter examines allusions to the wilderness in The Malayan Trilogy (1956-9) and The Doctor is Sick (1960). These novels parody the katabasis, or hero‘s descent into the underworld, in order to dramatise the destruction of the modern individual in the face of greater forces of disorder. The second chapter considers A Vision of Battlements (1965) and Any Old Iron (1989), investigating the connection between the descent into a temporal world and the onset of warfare and violence in human society. The third chapter turns to Tremor of Intent (1966) and MF (1971), and argues that these novels present a battle between individuals who acknowledge their Original Sin, opposing sterile, solipsistic, and tyrannical forces. The fourth chapter explores the conflict in Earthly Powers (1980) between the heretical notion that evil stems solely from the devil, and the opposing Augustinian vision of evil at the core of human civilisation. Finally, an analysis of A Clockwork Orange (1962) and The Wanting Seed (1962) proposes that the novel form best expresses the capacity of fallen humans to choose and change in a mutable world. The present study aims to demonstrate that Burgess uses allusion to clarify the nature of the Fall to the modern reader. I conclude that Burgess does not yearn for a lost Eden or Golden Age in his fiction, but instead celebrates the postlapsarian state as an authentic human vision. I eschew a socio-political or biographical approach to Burgess‘s writing, offering an alternate way of interpreting his novels through close textual analysis of mythological, biblical, and literary references.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Anthony Burgess; mythology in the novel; the Bible and literature; the Fall; literary allusions; twentieth century British fiction; British novelists
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Departments, Research Centres and Related Units:Academic Faculties, Institutes and Research Centres > Faculty of Arts > School of English
ID Code:1439
Deposited On:13 Jan 2011 09:48
Last Modified:30 Apr 2012 12:08

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