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Mediating the World in the Novels of Iain Banks

The Paradigms of Fiction


Katarzyna Pisarska

This book offers a detailed analysis of all mainstream novels of Iain Banks. It explores the question of mediation, the process of a semiotic (re)construction of the world on the part of Banks’s characters, with reference to the four directions of fictional worldmodelling, i.e. the four types of relationship between the individual and the world established by the author’s first novel, The Wasp Factory. In order to give justice to the extremely eclectic novelistic production of Iain Banks, the analysis of fifteen of his novels contained in the present study employs diverse interpretative «tools», fusing elements of various methodologies: structural-semiotic analysis supplemented by a mythographic approach along with psychological and gender specific theories.
Mediating the World in the Novels of Iain Banks: The Paradigms of Fiction thus develops a critical paradigm capable of uniting the extremely versatile mainstream production of this Scottish writer.
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Chapter 2. Alternative Worlds: Walking on Glass, The Bridge, and Transition

← 90 | 91 → CHAPTER 2


In the blueprint novel, The Wasp Factory, the protagonist sees himself as bestriding the boundary between two distinct worlds – the alien and dissatisfying world of the public semiosphere, which other people regard as reality, and his own imaginary kingdom, which for him possesses the status of actuality in relation to the secondary order of the so-called real world. In contrast to the world of the mainland, in which he is but a crippled teenager forced to conceal his existence, the parallel dimension of his masculine fantasy becomes the theatre of Frank’s heroics and indubitable power, contesting the mimetic prison of his disability. The split of the character’s world into the real and the imaginary, the phenomenal and the fantastic, which complies with G. Gregory Smith’s postulate of the syzygetic nature of Scottish literature, is consequently followed and further developed by The Factory’s “alternative” offspring – The Bridge, Walking on Glass, and Transition.

All of the works mentioned above contain in their respective fictional universes both the worlds semioticized by the characters as so-called empirical reality (which is empirical for them, even if it seems surreal or fantastic to the reader), and the worlds in which the laws of mimesis, as recognized by the characters, are variously disturbed or undermined. The two types function side by side, either as parallel dimensions, between which the characters travel back and forth adjusting themselves to the laws governing each world (i.e. effecting a translation between distinct spaces of signs, or semiospheres), or as...

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