This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.
"The more the characters are allowed to speak for themselves in the narrative text, and the less they are explained by the authoritative narrator, the stronger will be our sense of their individual freedom of choice - and our own interpretative freedom." (David Lodge, 146-147)
All human beings are born "polyglot". We are all born with a background of different social dialects, passed on from our ancestors, from our religion, class and country. This is all part of our "dialogical" life. As we grow older, all these social "dialects" get mixed with another category of "voices", those of our consciousness. And this becomes part of our "polyphonic" life. As a consequence, our individuality is shaped to the extent that, for the rest of our lives, we will be speaking a chorus of "languages"; in fact, this individuality is based on a "we" rather than an "I". For various reasons however, most of the times we find it difficult to cope with all these "languages", hence we are tempted not to do justice to our dialogic nature, but in staid to close out these voices in order to keep things simple and under control. It is the same situation when writing literature, authors experiencing the temptation of imposing a monological unity upon their creations. The reason for all this is that our consciousness is in fact the product of a struggle of assimilating different ideological discourses, both authoritative - like those of our parents, teachers and other important persons, but also non-authoritative ones - like the discourses of our friends. Ideologically speaking, it is therefore wrong to discuss about a freely, unique, undermined individual - hence, also author - since nobody escapes his/her ideological inherited background. In each individual's discourse there is in fact an ongoing dialogue between his/her personal beliefs/views, his/her own ideological value-system and the one shaped by the society, religion, personal background.
Bakhtin believed that the only literary form capable to do justice to these polyphonies of our lives is the novel. Not necessary because of the length available for prose, but because of the technical resources which prose has to offer: its capacity to incorporate languages other than the author's own. The novel is the only literary genre which invites its readers to search carefully for all the "voices", in order to be able to find in the novels a representation of our dialogical quality of life. Consequently, the reason why the Russian critic strongly believed in the "supremacy" of the novel lies firstly in the fact that the novel is the only one able to offer the possibility of doing justice to all these voices, not only to that of the author's. Bakhtin's theory of the novel, which has influenced such novelists and critics as David Lodge, will be discussed in this chapter.
Mikhail Bakhtin devoted himself to the study of the novel, hence to the study of its sources, form, importance, and above all to its being the only truly revolutionary genre: "the genre of becoming." (The Dialogic Imagination, 22) For him the novel as a genre is open, anti-canonic, and most importantly: protean. He traced the history of the novel back to its source in the popular laughter of folklore, of carnival. During carnival times the static and serious world of order and authority is substituted with a chaotic and comic one, with a world liberated from all rules, with a world of renewal. Then, authority and orthodoxy lose their privileged places in a society suddenly given over to pluralism and "joyful relativity." (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, 107-108) Consequently, "the eternal dissolves becoming the multiplicity of the present, a distinctly physical moment marked by the abandonment of authoritarian reason and the triumph of the multi-voiced and the heterodox."( Morace, 3) In literary terms, this theory means that the dominant style is substituted to a polyphony of styles, no one which claims authority over any of the others. In his work The Dialogic Imagination, Bakhtin explains the fact that the novel does not consist of a single, unified form, hence it must be regarded as a genre which subsumes other several sub-genres. In his view, the novel is "multiform in style and variform in speech and voice" (261). These "voices" include: the author's own voice - so-called direct authorial interventions. This is in fact made out of passages where the author's own voice can be clearly heard commenting upon the action or expressing personal beliefs or views, often, these may have little to do with the progression of the plot itself; the narrator's voice, which usually follows a particular literary style or convention; and last but not least the voices of various characters, usually in an oral or semi-literary style. In other words, the author's voice is only one among the many to be found in the novel. For Bakhtin, it is through this diversity of voices and speech genres that heteroglossia, "the internal stratification of any single national language into social dialects"(262), enters the novel. The novel being heteroglot, thus literary criticism must be at the same time formalist and sociological, as Bakhtin himself suggested when saying that "the internal social dialogism of novelistic discourse requires the concrete social context of discourse to be exposed, to be revealed as a force that determines its entire stylistic structure, its form and content" (300). That is, the novel must be forced to reveal the "social and historical voices populating language (...) which provide language with its particular concrete conceptualizations" (300). Heteroglossia is also the dominant characteristic of prose fiction, however, Bakhtin argues, most traditional critical approaches to the novel, are realised exactly following the pattern of poetry interpretation. Hence, they often reduce the novel's ideological and stylistic diversity to the monologism of poetry. This is why the critic argues that the novel does not fit into such critical frameworks oriented towards the study of poetry because the latter ignores the importance of heteroglossia. The association of the novel with poetry has predominated in literary criticism because historically it "served the forces of centripetal unification in the verbal-ideological evolution of specific social groups"(270), which in other words means that it has facilitated the process of economic, political, social, and cultural centralization in European nation-states and the rise of the middle class. This way, by the nineteenth century the novel had become the literary genre most favoured by the bourgeoisie. In addition, literary critics have ignored the dialogic nature of language and also the heteroglot nature of the novel, because they considered the novel as a "hermetic and selfsufficient whole" (270) in other words a "closed authorial monologue" (274). And it is exactly this ignorance which has led critics to disconsider genres such as the novel, which were carriers of the decentralising tendencies of language. As a consequence, the "high" literary genres - such as poetry, were integral to European culture of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, while "low" genres such as the novel became known out of the comedy of the fairs and buffoon spectacles - exactly what Bakhtin calls the "carnivalesque folk humour" of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. All these led, as Bakhtin explains, to a variety of official languages and versions of reality, without one who could claim authenticity over the truth. As for the importance of prose, Bakhtin compares it with poetry, and claims that poetry forgets the fact that the object of description "has its own history of contradictory acts of verbal recognition"(278). Hence,
"in prose fiction the object reveals (...) the socially heteroglot multiplicity of its names, definitions and value judgments. Instead of the virginal fullness and inexhaustibility of the object itself, the prose writer confronts a multitude of routes, roads and paths (...) laid down in the object by social consciousness."(278)
For the author, the object of his description is a "focal point for heteroglot voices among which his own voice must also sound; these voices create the background necessary for his own voice"(278). Moreover, given the dialogic nature of language, Bakhtin explains that a writer always works with the point of view of his potential readers in mind:
"Only now this contradictory environment of alien words is present to the speaker not in the object, but rather in the consciousness of the listener, as his apperceptive background, pregnant with responses and objections (...) In the actual life of speech, every concrete act of understanding is active:it assimilates the word to be understood into its own conceptual system filled with specific objects and emotional expressions, and is indissolubly merged with the response, with a motivated agreement or disagreement." (281-282)
The writer must orient his discourse, in such a way as to "get a reading on his own word" (282), because, due to the fact that language - and the novel - has a dialogical nature, there are always different perspectives and different points of view, often even between the author and his described object. Because of that, Bakhtin believed that the novelist often confuses his own social reality with reality itself, consequently the novel does not represent reality, but is actually represents what people say about reality, hence language. In addition, Bakhtin says that the novel is a multitude of different points of view, which give voice to by different characters. As he states:
"the decisive and distinctive importance of the novel as genre: the human being in the novel is first, foremost and always a speaking human being; the novel requires speaking persons bringing them their own unique ideological discourse, their own language." (332)
Hence, the novel serves to sharpen the reader perception of these socio-linguistics differences which exist in every novel. It also represents - as well as opposes - individuals, their discourses, and their world views. The result is a literary hybrid, an "artistically organised system for bringing different languages in contact with one another." (361) In addition, Bakhtin says that each novel has three types of dialogues, or in Bakhtinian terms, three basic devices for "creating the image of a language" (358). These are: the so-called "pure dialogues" (358) where characters engage in a dialogue with each other; "hybridisations" (358), that is, a "mixture of two social languages within the limits of a single utterance, an encounter, within the arena of an utterance, between two different linguistic consciousnesses, separated from one another by an epoch, by social differentiation or by some other factor" (358); and the third one: "dialogised interrelation of languages" (358), in this case two or more languages are present within the same utterance. Bakhtin believed that to follow the history of the novel is to trace the "deepening of its dialogic essence": "fewer and fewer neutral, hard elements ('rock bottom truths') remain that are not drawn into dialogue. Dialogue moves into its deepest molecular, and ultimately, subatomic levels" (300), because "all words (...) are double-voiced, and in each of them a conflict of voices takes place" (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, 74) there is dialogue everywhere and at all levels. In short, there is not only the dialogic intersection between characters, but also between utterances, between words, styles, languages, between a character and his thoughts, between character(s) and author, between novel and reader, between the text and the intertext and so on. For the Russian critic there was no appropriate language for the novel, no dominant voice, mood or tone, no narrative closure, and above all no ultimate authority. Nor can there be, as himself explains:
"Irony has entered into all the languages of modern timesâ€¦it has introduced itself in all the words and all the formsâ€¦Man in modern times does not declaim but he speaks, that is, he speaks within restrictions. Declamatory genres are essentially preserved as parodic or semi-parodic ingredients of the novelâ€¦The uttering subjects of high declamatory genres - priests, prophets, preachers, judges, leaders, fathers-patriarchs, etc. - have left life. They have been replaced by the writer, the simple writer, who inherited their stylesâ€¦The author's search for a discourse that would be his own basically is part of the search for genre and style, for the position of the author. That is now the most acute problem of contemporary literature, that has led many authors to give up the genre of the novel and to replace it by montage of documents, by the description of objects; it ultimately leads them to concrete literature and, in some measure, to literature of the absurd. All of this could be defined, in a sense, as different forms of silence. These searches have led Dostoevsky to the creation of the polyphonic novel. Dostoevsky was not able to find a discourse for the monologic novel." (Bakhtin quoted in Todorov, 102, quoted in Morace, p. 6)
This lead the discussion towards another important aspect for Bakhtin's literary theory, and this is the term parodic stylisation. For the Russian critic, parodic stylisation implies the fact that parody becomes the logical structure of all those discourses of various literary languages that authors incorporate in their novels. Here also, Bakhtin distinguishes between two principal forms which refer to parody. The first one refers to stylization. In this case a writer borrows a style or ideas from another writer. The second one refers to parody, here Bakhtin states that a writer appropriates others discourses, in order to use the same words but with a different intention, in other words to re-place the same words but in a different context. This way, Bakhtin shows the extent of which each utterance is in fact a hybrid construction, which means that in the utterance of a single speaker there are in fact two or more different styles and corresponding views. Thus, the novel succeeds in offering an image of the multiplicity of languages and ideological systems. Also, by using a variety of languages, the author avoids giving himself up to any one of them. And this stands equally true for Lodge's own fiction, the British novelist and critic being sometimes accused of not making his ideological position clear enough and thus making his works rather confusing. However, Lodge created this "confusion" deliberately, in order to be able to explore the dialogical nature of the novel, in creating real "double-voiced" chronicles, or to use his term "duplex" novels. And to make the connection between these Lodge and Bakhtin even more clear another aspect should be regarded: the carnivalesque atmosphere, so important for Bakhtin and the one which once again influenced Lodge's fiction. This carnivalesque atmosphere has its sources in the popular laughter of folklore - as Bakhtin made so clear in his work on Rabelais - and lives on in all the seriocomic genres, which include of course the English comic novel. As the Russian critic said:
"its [the comic novel] representatives in England were: Fielding, Sterne, Dickens, Thackeray and others (â€¦) In English comic-novel we find a comic-parodic re-processing of almost all the levels of literary language, both conversational and written that were current at that time. Almost every novel we mentioned above as being a classic representative of this generic type is an encyclopedia of all strata and forms of literary language: depending on the subject being represented, the storyline parodically reproduces first the forms of parliamentary eloquence, then the eloquence of the court, or particular forms of parliamentary protocol, or court protocol, or forms used by reporters in newspaper articles, or on dry business language of the city, or the dealings of speculators, or the pedantic speech of scholars, or the high epic style, or Biblical style, or the style of the hypocritical moral sermon or finally the way one or another concrete and socially and socially determined personality, the subject of the story, happens to speak." (The Dialogic Imagination, 301)
For example Lodge's novel Changing Places stands exactly as an "encyclopedia of all strata and forms of literary language" (301), combining literary references, letters, film-scripts, talk-shows, lectures - all these for the purpose of creating a work which to stand for a deliberately self-conscious, critical reflection of the art of fiction, while being in the same time an enjoyable example of it. In addition, there cannot be a discussion about parody without analyzing also the comical aspect which is drown from parody. As Lodge said:
"Comedy reasserts the body, and the collectiveness of the body is what really unites us rather than ideologies. I think this rather grandiose idea explains a lot of what I write in my novels - my attitude towards the academy, for instance, which is not meant to destroy the institution but to remind it that its interests to some extent depend on the suppression of certain facts about life of a low, physical, earthly kind. The novels show that people in academic life are subjects to the same drives and appetites and physical needs as anyone else. Umberto Eco uses the Bakhtinian theory in The Name of the Rose. Bakhtin also provides a kind of rationale for the scatological strain in my novels. I like the scene in Small World where Philip unwittingly uses his lecture notes as toilet paper." (The Times Literary Supplement, 5th November 1982, quoted in 'David Lodge', Novelists in Interview, John, Haffenden. 1985. Methuen & Co. Ltd. London. p. 16)
Common to all seriocomic genres is also the importance of the self-consciousness - which is totally absent from the serious genres, which tend to promote stasis and orthodoxy. In addition, the comic novel is also representational and self-referential. As Bakhtin explains: in the seriocomic genre "alongside the representing word there appears the represented word."(Problems in Dostoevsky's Poetics, 108). In the English comic novels of Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, and Dickens, but also in the more recent fiction of Martin Amis, Graham Green, Malcolm Bradbury or David Lodge, this self-consciousness evidences itself as parody. The author distances himself from the "common language" that he otherwise seems to be using so transparently, as Bakhtin himself says:
"the primary source of language usage in the comic novel is a highly specific treatment of "common language". This "common language" - usually the average norm of spoken a written language for a given social group - is taken by the author precisely as the common view, as the verbal approach to people and things normal for a given sphere of society, as the going point of view and as the going value. To one degree or another, the author distances himself from this common language, he steps back and objectifies it, forcing his own intentions to refract and diffuse themselves through the medium of this common view that has become embodied in language (â€¦)
The relationship of the author to a language conceived as the common view is not static - it is always found in a state of movement and oscillation that is more or less alive (â€¦) The comic style demands the author a lively to-and-fro movement in his relation to language, it demands a continual shifting of the distance between author and language, so that first some, then other aspects of language are thrown into relief. If such were not the case, the style would be monotonous or would require a greater individualization of the narrator." (The Dialogic Imagination, 302)
For him these works have no "style" as such, but they do impose a profusion of self-consciously employed styles, which is in fact a paradoxically style based upon the absence of a "normative shared language." (308) As discussed briefly at the beginning of the chapter, Bakhtin explains that the novel is essentially parodic, a parody of other genres as genres, which becomes a carnivalesque literary form that exposes as well as undermines not only the novels' conventionality, but also what that seriousness implies: authority, orthodoxy, stasis. As he defines it, parody liberates, freeing "language from myth and reality from language." (Morace, 4) Moreover, as Michael Holquist believes, what is also important for Bakhtin is his "extraordinary sensitivity to the immense plurality of experience." (Introduction to Dialogic Imagination, XV-XXXIV) This means that only the essentially carnivalesque and parodic novel can expose and represent this immense plurality. In the novel Bakhtin discovers a "plurality of independence and unmerged voices and consciousnesses, a genuine polyphony of fully valid voices." (Problems, 26)
Also important for Bakhtin's is the treatment of the author in a novel. Bakhtin's critique of realism has important implications for what was considered traditionally the author and the process of self-expression. In his work After Bakhtin, David Lodge argues that when referring to the nineteenth century golden age of the novel it is more accurate to speak of Expressive Realism, rather than realism. In Lodge's view expressive realism emphasis upon both the idea of the author, seen as a uniquely individual subject "the originator and in some sense owner of his work," but also on "the mimetic function of verbal art, its ability to reflect or represent the world truthfully and in detail." (17) Such view of the authorship refers to the fact that one's ideas can refer to the referent, but also to the fact that the idea concerning reality exists in a writer's consciousness without much aid from language, because signs are nothing more than instruments by which to express and communicate them to the others. Bakhtin considers that authors do have intentions, which means that they intend to say something, but this intention is not totally of their own choosing, as the author's voice coexists with other voices existing in his creation, appropriating a diversity of discourses and rearranging them in order to suit his purpose. The novelist's reality is thus one mediated by others, making his novel not a monological, but a dialogical one, also making the novelist's perspective not the only existing point of view. Because the author's voice coexists with those of other characters and because these characters have a certain degree of ideological autonomy, Bakhtin suggested that the issue of the point of view in a novel is divided in at least four parts. The first one is realized through direct authorial intervention; the second one through the use of a narrator - in this case the author chooses to use a narrator with the help of which to reflect his own intentions. The third way to discuss the problem of point of view in a novel is through the languages used by the characters - this means that each of their utterances is double-voiced (hence, dialogical) serving both the author and the character's intentions. The fourth way is made possible through the incorporation of sub-genres. Each genre consists of different forms for assimilating reality, as Bakhtin considers, the novel is a "secondary syncretic unification of other seemingly primary verbal genres (...) [for] appropriating reality." (The Dialogic Imagination, 319) The novel also incorporates genres drawn from nonartistic sources (like the letter, the newspaper and so on) the effect being that each of these layers serves to the authorial intentions. Consequently, in a novel, the author does not simply state the dominant ideology of the society in which he/she lives, nor does he/she simply oppose it. Things cannot be as simple as that because every novel is in fact an ideologically complex discourse. It does not mean that if an author belongs to a certain social class his novel reflects strictly that social class, because given the dialogical nature of words, the novel also incorporates voices not belonging strictly to that author. As the sign is dialogic in nature, the same, the novel is multi-voiced. As Bakhtin (and consequently Lodge) shows, writers have always been preoccupied and involved in the process of "writing back" to their predecessors, while also anticipating the future responses of their readers. Moreover, Bakhtin states that Dostoevsky:
"thought not in thoughts but in points of view, consciousnesses, voices. He tried to perceive and formulate each thought in such a way that a whole person was expressed and began to sound in it; this, in condensed form, is his entire worldview, from alpha to omega." (Problems, 93)
This effort that Bakhtin put into trying to transcend the author's voice must be seen as part of a lifetime of inquiry into profound questions concerning what human life means. When novelists imagine characters, they imagine worlds that characters inhabit. Thus, whenever they reduce these multiple worlds to one - that of the author's - they actually give a false report, a lie concerning the way things are.
The discussion on the "polyphony of styles" leads this study to the analysis of another bakhtinian concept, that of intertextuality. When Bakhtin writes that "there are no 'neutral' words and forms" and that "contextual overtones (â€¦) are inevitable in the word" (Dialogic, 293) he is actually laying the ground for the future concept of intertextuality. For him this appears as the essence of dialogism, as dialogism is the essence of that omnivorous "supergenre", the novel.
(Holquist, "Introduction" to Dialogic Imagination, p. xxix)
Like dialogism, intertextuality also moves in two directions: "down into the text and out into the world (or worlds: social, cultural, historical, biographical, etc.). Furthermore, intertextuality exists on two planes as well; one plane involves what is actually present in the specific work and the other what is physically absent from the text, but nonetheless, contextually present." (Morace, 7) Moreover, following the example of signs - which are always caught up in a dialogue of social voices - the same, each literary text is caught up in a relationship with the past (and thus previous literary works), allowing each writer of always being in the process of "writing back" (or parodying) other writers. This is why Bakhtin states that literature must be studied in terms of its socio-historical context, and not as an autonomous object. Consequently, writers and their literary texts must be studied in terms of their relationship with their precursors but also with their successors.
Now, as for David Lodge is concerned, there must be stated that as novelist as well as a critic, he has always sought to extend the boundaries of the novel, in order to discover new ways for the novel as novel to be able to continue as a viable literary form. However, his fiction strongly suggests that the relationship between criticism and imaginative writing is more problematic than it may look like. Hence, before analyzing the novels, certain preliminary points regarding Lodge's criticism must be made. During the course of his career Lodge published several books of literary criticism, as well as many articles and reviews. Most of his criticism is concerned with fiction, and often reflects his own interests and preoccupations as a novelist. He is the author of two books on two major twentieth century English Catholic novelists - Graham Green and Evelyn Waugh, published in the Columbia Essays on Modern Writers Series. He has also written and edited introductions to several classic novels. His Twentieth Century Literary Criticism: A Reader (1972) is a collection of major texts, completed in 1992 with Modern Criticism and Theory: a Reader. His major works of literary criticism and theory are: Language of Fiction: Essays in Criticism and Verbal Analysis of the English Novel (1966); The Novelist at the Crossroads and Other Essays on Fiction and Criticism (1971); The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Typology of Modern Literature (1977); Working with Structuralism: Essays and Reviews on Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Literature (1981); Write On: Occasional Essays '65-'85 (1986); After Bakhtin (1990); The Art of Fiction (1992); The Practice of Writing (1997); Consciousness and the Novel (2003); Author, Author (2004); The Year of Henry James: The Story of a Novel (2006). This study will analyze only some of them, those showing the Lodge's intellectual progress from the New Criticism to structuralism and to Bakhtin.
The first one, Language of Fiction, was published at a time when criticism of the novel was still undeveloped, because in the 1960s serious discussion of the novel as a literary form had not developed much beyond the pioneering work of Henry James, E. M. Forster and Percy Lubbock. Hence, Language of Fiction is an attempt to apply the New Criticism (which became known by the 1940s) to the reading of novels, considering the fact that a novel is just as much a unique order of words as a poem, and has to be approached by a close analytical attention to its language. The first part of the book contains a series of succinct, but also inconclusive discussion about the relations between literature and language. However, today, this section looks inadequate, as Lodge also pointed out. In fact it was written before he knew anything about the relevant work of Continental structuralism. (Bergonzi, 49) The latter part of the book contains criticism which remains very useful even today. Here Lodge examines novels by authors such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy or Henry James - authors to whom he would return in his future criticism. The book concludes with an essay on his contemporary, Kingsley Amis. What is important in this work is the fact that his readings are not of the type a reader engages himself/herself in the first encounter with a novel - when each reader needs to know what will happen next - but actually they resemble the process of rereading - when the reader knows what has happened and what it is to come next.
Another important book of criticism, and the second after Language of Fiction, is The Novelist at Crossroads. This is a collection of essays, some of them being general studies of fiction and criticism; others being connected with particular authors, like Graham Green, Muriel Spark, or American authors, like Hemingway, William Burroughs or John Updike. The book looks at the state of the English and American novel in the late 1960s. The crossroads where Lodge locates his novelist points in a number of directions: towards traditional realism; towards myth, fantasy, fabulation; towards the "non-fiction" novel - where a work of journalism, history or biography draws on to the narrative devices of the novel; and last but not least towards the "problematic novel" (or the "self-aware" novel) in which the problems of sustaining a narrative are part of the story - as in Tristam Shandy and many more novels, including some by Lodge himself. In 1992, commenting on this book, Lodge says:
"the aesthetic pluralism I sought to defend in my Novelist at Crossroads essay seems to be now a generally accepted fact of literary life (...) The astonishing variety of styles on offer today, as if in an aesthetic supermarket, includes traditional as well as innovative styles, minimalism as well as excess, nostalgia as well as prophecy" (Bradbury, M. and Cooke, J, p. 209, quoted by Bergonzi, p. 50)
By the late 1960s academic critics had come to feel that the familiar modes of reading literature - whether New Critical, aesthetical or scholarly - were becoming exhausted and that new approaches were needed. As a result there was a turn towards Structuralism - which had been dominant for some time in France - and an enthusiastic attempt to learn from it and to assimilate it in Britain as well. Of course, David Lodge shared this interest. He thus spent much of the 1970s studying structuralist criticism, the results being evident in other works of literary criticism, like: The Modes of Modern Writing and Working with Structuralism. In the preface of the latter he writes:
"Nobody professionally involved in the world of literary scholarship in England or America can deny that the most striking development of the last twenty years has been this massive swing of attention towards Continental structuralism." (Lodge, D., Preface to Working with Structuralism, p. vii)
Then, he describes structuralism as having two branches:
"One is the extension of what I would call classical structuralism. It is concerned with the analysis and understanding of culture as a series of systems, of which language is usually taken as the ideal model for explanatory purposes. This structuralism aims to do for literature - or myth, or food or fashion - what grammar does for language: to understand and explain how these systems work, what are the rules and constrains within which, and by virtue of which, meaning is generated and communicated. It is essentially formalist and aspires to the status of science. The second branch of structuralism, perhaps more properly called poststructuralism, is ideological in orientation. It combines the anti-empirical methodology of classical structuralism with ideas derived from Marxism, psychoanalysis and philosophy, to analyse cultural institutions, such as literature, as mediations of ideologies. This structuralism is polemical and engage. Jakobson, Levi-Strauss, and Todorov would be representative figures of the first branch of structuralism; Foucault, Lacan and Derrida of the second." (p.ix)
Lodge makes it clear that he tends towards the former ("classical") mode. However, as he wrote, the second, poststructuralist mode was moving rapidly into academic dominance in America, and was becoming fashionable among young English academics, like the characters of Nice Work, Charles and Robyn. The Modes of Modern Writing's point of departure is the distinction developed by Jakobson between "metaphor" and "metonymy", which he claims was of central importance in literary discourse. Structuralist analysis was often based on binary oppositions, which became strongly influential for Lodge, as it can be seen in several of his novels. Modes of Modern Writing is an attempt to interpret the history of twentieth century literature in terms of the metaphor/metonymy distinction. Metaphor relates things in terms of their resemblances, and metonymy in terms of association; the latter is close to synecdoche, where the whole is taken for the part, and vice versa. In Nice Work, Robyn explains the distinction to Vic Wilcox in terms of cigarette advertisements: Silk Cut is metaphoric, Marlboro metonymic. Presented in such simple terms, the distinction makes sense, as traditionally realistic writing tends to be metonymic, and modernist writings tend to be metaphoric. In addition, Lodge says:
"We are not discussing a distinction between two mutually exclusive types of discourse, but a distinction based on dominance. The metaphoric work cannot totally neglect metonymic continuity if it is to be intelligible at all. Correspondingly, the metonymic text cannot eliminate all signs that is available for metaphoric interpretation." (Modes of Modern Writing, 111)
Related to this, Bernard Bergonzi says that "literary texts are inevitably mixed affaires; the metaphor/metonymy distinction is comprehensible as a kind of laboratory model, but in the process of reading, the terms can be hard to keep apart." In short, the major value of the book lies in Lodge's discussion of specific works and authors, where the metaphor/metonymy distinction is at best an approximate guide.
Working with Structuralism is a collection of essays. In the Preface Lodge suggests that structuralism has become such a dominant intellectual presence that one had to work with or alongside it, whatever one thought about it. The first essay - originally Lodge's inaugural lecture as Professor of Modern English Literature at Birmingham - reproduces some of the arguments of the Modes of Modern Writing and falls into a common confusion about Saussure's distinction between "signifier" and "signified". Thus, under Saussure's influence Lodge draws the very dubious conclusion that the great modernist texts had no necessary connection with "reality". Regarding this, Bergonzi states that this affirmation is "an odd claim for a keen-eyed writer of avowedly realistic novels" (Bergonzi, 54) however, Lodge never advanced this affirmation again. Working with Structuralism contains narratological analyses of a story by Hemingway and one by Lodge himself, which are interesting as demonstrations of a method, but are remote from the normal process of reading. Most of the essays are in the modes that he is more evidently familiar with, where close reading is reinforced by knowledge, and biographical and historical contexts. There are three essays on Hardy, and two on Evelyn Waugh. In one of the best pieces, called "Ambiguously Ever After" Lodge writes about the problems of ending a novel, and discusses the way in which some novels have had more than one conclusion. In the last part of the collection he moves from purely literary questions to aspects of popular culture, as he interprets Ted Hughes's Crow as a cartoon figure, assesses the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe, and is fascinated by the psychobabble of Californian yuppies.
However, even though Lodge learned much from the studies in narrative of Genette and Todorov, in general the hopes raised by classical structuralism were not fulfilled; and quickly enough it was displaced by poststructuralism, for which he had little sympathy.
He eventually found a way forward in his theoretical thinking about literature in the work of Mikhail Bakhtin. As already discussed, for Bakhtin human discourse was part of a continuing process, where words imply other words already mentioned, and others yet to be uttered. The discovery of Bakhtin's theory was very fruitful for Lodge, as he describes in the Introduction to his book After Bakhtin. Here, he acknowledges that The Modes of Modern Writing was "not entirely free from the tendency of most stylistic criticism to treat the language of a novel as if it were a homogeneous entity" (6). Such criticism cannot adequately work with fictional dialogue; but this, adds Lodge, is where Bakhtin comes in, "explaining that there is no such thing as the style, the language of a novel, because a novel is a medley of many styles, many languages - or, if you like, many voices." (6) In short, Bakhtin truly freed Lodge. He freed him and also brought his critical speculations back towards his instincts as a practicing novelist; as Lodge himself states: "for the prose artist the world is full of other people's words, among which he must orient himself and whose speech characteristics he must be able to perceive with a very keen ear." (7) After Bakhtin is a collection of essays linked by Bakhtinian insights, mainly on ninethenth and twentieth century novelists, and it contains some of Lodge's best critical writing. The book appeared not long after Lodge had given up working in a university, and in his Introduction he reflects on the current state of the academic criticism:
"A vast amount of it is not, like the work of Bakhtin, a contribution to human knowledge, but the demonstration of a professional mastery by translating known facts into a more and more arcane metalanguages. This is not an entirely pointless activity - it sharpens the wits and tests the stamina of those who produce and consume such work - but it seems less and less relevant to my own writing practice. Though I intend to o on writing literary criticism, I doubt whether it will be 'academic' in the way most essays included in this book are academic. If the title After Bakhtin has a faintly elegiac ring, then, that is not entirely inappropriate." (8)
Consequently, Lodge's next work of criticism was indeed different. The Art of Fiction contains short informal articles written for a series in a Sunday newspaper. He discusses the technical and thematic devices and resources of fiction, drawing on his own practice as a novelist and his long experience as a literary critic. Lodge takes example like how the art of fiction works from many of the canonical writers he has discussed in the past - Austen, Dickens, George Eliot, Hardy, James, Green, and Waugh, among others - and from a variety of contemporary novelists, British and American. The book is directed at a non-professional audience of novel readers - and, no doubt, of potential novel writers - whom Lodge evidently found rewarding to write for, and who would have certainly learnt a lot from it.
Throughout his criticism, David Lodge realizes that writers may be overly committed to realism and resistant to non-realistic literary modes. In addition, he also realizes that the postmodern age is indeed a time of crisis for the novelist, who suddenly finds himself standing at an actual crossroads where the novelistic tradition appears to change into two quite different directions, as Robert A. Morace explains: "one road looks towards the fabulation of Barth, Vonnegut, and others which Scholes has espoused, and the other towards those 'empirical narratives' - Capote's In Cold Blood, for example, and Mailer's The Executioner's Song - which seem less novelistic than journalistic in technique as well as in effect." (Morace, 15) However, instead of following one path or the other, Lodge suggests that the contemporary writers should adopt a third course of action and "build their hesitation into the novel itself" (Novelist at Crossroads, 22), thus creating what he calls the problematic novel - a work in which the writer can remain loyal both to reality and to fiction without nostalgically thinking he can any longer reconcile them. Following the example of Sterne in Tristam Shandy, the writer of problematic novels makes "the difficulty of his task (â€¦) his subject" and also "invites the reader to participate in the aesthetic and philosophical problems that the writing of fiction presents". (23-24) Problematical novels also show the continuing dialogization of the novel. This type of novel represents "a way to continue the development of the genre rather than either breaking with it altogether or maintaining the realist/liberal tradition as a literary anachronism" (Morace, 15). For example Lodge's novel Changing Places is a problematic novel which implies that as the "synthesis" which realism once made possible becomes more difficult - perhaps impossible - to achieve, the novelist can turn to the construction, or compilation, of works in the form of variations, in the form of the collage.
As a conclusion, taking into consideration both literary theories of Bakhtin and Lodge, this study will discuss the British author's trilogy from the perspective of "double-voiced" novels, where one easily can detect the use of "decrowning doubles" or sideward glances" that Bakhtin noted in Dostoevsky's fiction, where "everything (â€¦) lives on the very border of its opposite" (Problems, 176) Lodge's fiction is one of structural, thematic, semantic and intertextual doublings, echoes and mirror reflections; a fiction which simultaneously undermines and endorses; a fiction at once academic and accessible, referential and self-relexive, British and American, Anglo-liberal and postrealist.