Past, present; present, past
Posted by Karen R on October 24, 1997 at 17:37:16:
In response to Reading Possession post-structurally...., written by Kate on October 24, 1997 at 16:45:07
I wouldn't worry too much about where we are in the novel, I think most of us have read it before and a few times. This week's allocation ended with Maud and Roland "attempting" to read the letters--out of their natural context, which Byatt rights shortly thereafter.
Narrative is a nice way to put it. I have always focused in on the aspect of conversation, which Ash uses in his opening letter to Christabel. That is what attracted her to him. "Since our extraordinary conversation" or the "since our pleasant and unexpected conversation," which were on his early drafts. The letter that was actually sent only used the word "talk" (bummer!!)
But, Kate, when you think about reading things out of sequence, so do they initially when Maud finds the letters. Sir George asks how they should proceed. Logically, they should read the letters in sequence, but what do they do? They read the first two and then the ending!
When Roland and Maud return to Seal Court to read the letters, what do they do? Maud proposes that they read the letters of their respective, favorite poet. One side of a two-way conversation. How on earth are they supposed to understand what happens, what develops between these two.
Actually, Roland appears to sense what should take place.
"he had a vision, which he now saw was ridiculous and romantic, of their two heads bent together over the manuscripts, following the story, sharing, he had supposed, the emotions. He pointed out that by Maud's system they would lose any sense of the development of the narrative and Maud retorted robustly that they lived in a time which valued narrative uncertainty..."
Byatt, our omniscient narrator, knows better then to allow this to continue. She presents the letters in the order in which they were written because that's the way it should be.
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