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Characters in Literary Fictions


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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Charles Williams’s Shadows of Ecstasy: Cognitive aspects of character interpretation



If, generally speaking, the novels of Charles Williams (1886-1945) have won little critical appreciation—to say the least1, it is even more so with his first one. The book, written in 1925 and originally entitled The Black Bastard, was rejected, revised, and finally published in 1933 as Shadows of Ecstasy (Hadfield 1983: 81; 92-93). Many a scholar observes that the novel stands apart from Williams’s other fictional works, characterisation being one of its principal shortcomings. Thus, for instance, Humphrey Carpenter notices the author’s aversion to describing the characters (1999: 124), Don D. Elgin writes about Williams’s “unclear attitude toward his characters” and their being “ultimately contradictory” (1985: 122), Thomas Howard suggests that “[if] you want the subtleties of a Henry James novel then you cannot have your characters lined up holding placards the way they do in Shadows of Ecstasy” (1983: 36), while Stephen M. Dunning associates “[t]he greatest difficulty in coming to grips with what goes on in the novel” precisely with the characters, “who appear and disappear without any apparent pattern” (2000: 19)2.

Since it is impossible to fully investigate the problem of characterisation in a novel within the limitations of an article, my aim is humbler. I ← 95 | 96 → intend to address certain theoretical questions associated with character-building and character-interpretation with reference to Ian Caithness, whom critics regard as a “minor” or “secondary” figure in Shadows of Ecstasy. My chief concern will be the role...

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