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Characters in Literary Fictions

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Edited By Jadwiga Wegrodzka

The book focuses on the category of character in fiction. It provides a general outline of different approaches to literary character followed by nineteen essays on individual authors from Conrad to Coetzee, on various genres from utopia, fantasy and gothic fiction to academic novel, and on characters’ extra-textual contexts from intertextuality to history and autobiography.
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Sister Helen”: A functional approach to the literary character

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ANDRZEJ ZGORZELSKI

Literary character appears to be one of the most complex and difficult textual relationships to analyse. Moreover, although numerous studies on the topic have been presented, it seems that their interpretative results have not yet been most illustrative or outstanding. If I were asked to undertake the challenge of such a demanding analysis, I would be bound – as in the case of all other aspects of the literary text – by some elementary methodological precepts that I have been taught by Russian Formalists, by the Prague School structuralists (not to be mistaken with French structuralism represented by Tzvetan Todorov, Claude Lévi-Strauss and others), and finally by semioticians from the Tartu school of semiotics. In my opinion these assumptions ensure the only consistent and logical paradigm of literary study in general and are also applicable to the particular aspect of the literary text that we recognise and refer to as a literary character.

To begin with: I have been taught to view a literary character as a textual phenomenon woven from an intricate network of sign relations, which exists only within a given utterance, within the text subjected to observation and interpretation. Such a perspective defines the basic directive of my scrutiny: to discover how this phenomenon reveals itself, how a given literary character “is made”. In the broader context of humanist endeavour my aim is to understand how “beauty” comes into being – the aesthetic value being the paramount feature of literary art....

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