Partial Answers - Homepage Journal of Literature and The History of Ideas The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 Volume 17/1, includes forum "Narrative Selves"
 January 2019

 Volume 16/2, includes forum on Monika Fludernik's Towards a 'Natural' Narratology
 June 2018

 Volume 16/1 includes forum "Modernity and Mobility: Victorian Women Traveling"
 January 2018

 Volume 15/2
 June 2017

 Volume 15/1: includes forum "Audionarratology"
 January 2017

 Volume 14/2: includes forum "Modern Jewish Spaces"
 June 2016

 Volume 14/1: includes forum "Saul Bellow as a Novelist of Ideas"
 January 2016

 Volume 13/2: includes forum "Comics and the Canon"
 June 2015

 Volume 13/1: includes forum "TheGhetto as a Victorian Text"
 January 2015

 Volume 12/2: includes forum "The Novel and Theories of Love"
 June 2014

 Volume 12/1
 January 2014

 Volume 11/2: includes forum "Translating Philip Roth"
 June 2013

 Volume 11/1
 January 2013

 Volume 10/2: includes forum "Bildung and the State"
 June 2012

 Volume 10/1: includes forum "Fernando Pessoa and the Issue of Heteronymy
 January 2012

 Volume 9/2: Dickens: Uneasy Pleasures
 June 2011

 Volume 9/1
 January 2011

 Volume 8/2: British Women Writers
 June 2010

 Volume 8/1 includes forum "The Ethics of Temporality"
 January 2010

 Volume 7/2: Eyewitness Narratives
 June 2009

 Volume 7/1
 January 2009

 Volume 6/2: Narrative Knowing, Living, Telling
 June 2008

 Volume 6/1
 January 2008

 Volume 5/2
 June 2007

 Volume 5/1
 January 2007

 Volume 4/2: Narrative as a Way of Thinking
 June 2006

 Volume 4/1
 January 2006

 Volume 3/2
 June 2005

 Volume 3/1
 January 2005

 Volume 2/2
 June 2004

 Volume 2/1
 January 2004

 Volume 1/2
 June 2003

 Volume 1/1
 January 2003

 Quick Article Search

   Newest Articles

 Response Essay
 Monika Fludernik

 Experience, Affect, and Literary Lists
 Eva von Contzen

 Posthuman Narration as a Test Bed for Experientiality
 Marco Caracciolo

 The Curse of Realism
 Karin Kukkonen

 More than Minds
 Jonas Grethlein

 Toward the Non-Natural
 Maria Mäkelä

 Two Conceptions of Experientiality and Narrativity
 Dan Shen

 Against Nature
 Brian McHale

Get Adobe Reader

Updated Up To 26/06/2018
Volume 7, Number 1 (January 2009) : 19--30
How Browning and Byatt Bring Back the Dead
“Mr. Sludge, the ‘Medium’ ” and “The Conjugial Angel”
June Sturrock
Rubric A: Topoi


Just as Robert Browning repeatedly speaks through other voices in his poems, so does his admirer and critic A. S. Byatt in her fiction, ventriloquizing her characters’ poems, stories, letters, and even their academic work.  Such writing as Browning’s and Byatt’s can be understood as mediumistic, a channeling of the voices of the dead or the imaginary.  In turn both writers create mediums, Browning in “Mr. Sludge, the ‘Medium’” and Byatt in “The Conjugial Angel,” one of the two novellas set in Victorian England that form Angels and Insects.  Like Browning’s Sludge, Byatt’s mediums, Sophy Sheekhy and Lilias Papagay, function as figures of the creative writer.  Byatt has described Lilias as a “novelist manqué” and Sophy as poet-like.  Sludge is critically acknowledged to be a figure of corruption in art, and through him Browning explores the narrative artist’s inevitable negotiations between truth, fiction, and lies.  Sludge’s spiritualist activities are clearly aimed at the greater glory of Sludge.  Byatt’s mediums, however, are genuinely involved with the mourners and the mourned in the liminal world in which they move.  Lilias brings comfort to a bereaved mother, while Sophy transforms the life of Emily Tennyson Jesse, for this novella is based on the most famous case of protracted Victorian mourning, that for Arthur Henry Hallam, the subject of Alfred Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H.  Browning condemns his character by implication for Sludge’s wish that other people should “participate in Sludgehood.”  Byatt represents Lilias and Sophy as intensely aware of others beside themselves.  Thus both through their acts of ventriloquism and through their narratives and characters, Browning and Byatt demonstrate a shared anti-solipsistic aesthetic in texts involving the writer as medium.  They turn in imagination to what is outside themselves and represent either negatively (through Sludge) or positively (through Sophy and Lilias) the value of such outward movement.

 All Rights Reserved to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem- Partial Answers © 2004. Powered By Priza

The Johns Hopkins University Press