One of the most intriguing aspects of A.S. Byatt’s long and distinguished presence on the British literary scene is that, by looking at the critical reception of her work, one can glean as much about trends in criticism as about the author’s production. Despite the variety of genres, settings and themes of Byatt’s oeuvre, some underlying preoccupations persist and are evident from her earliest novels (and from the critical interest in Iris Murdoch), notably the importance of adequate form and accurate language to represent what can be highly rarefied or intensely material realities and are frequently both. However, the critical discourse of the 1960s and 1970s, which was dominated by a Leavisite liberal humanism that placed ‘Life’ (so-called — a capitalised and largely undefined notion) above all considerations of form and patterns, as exemplified by Bernard Bergonzi’s (1970) naively impossible plea for fiction that is ‘about life in a wholly unconditioned way’ (26), did not possess a paradigm that could make sense of Byatt’s metafictional and metanarrative gestures, or of her highly patterned and intellectually stringent writing.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Critical Reception
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number