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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 3. Community Worlds: The Crow Road, The Steep Approach to Garbadale, Espedair Street, and Stonemouth

← 142 | 143 → CHAPTER 3


In The Wasp Factory, Frances Cauldhame becomes a victim of her father’s scientific experiment, as a result of which she grows up believing she is male. The father’s manipulated version of domestic history, in which Frank suffered emasculation at the age of three, conditions his daughter’s gender identity to the point of disturbance. The character’s separation from her own past translates into Frank’s detachment from her female self, which combined with the complex of flawed masculinity, consequently gives rise to a life of seclusion and egocentricity, her “literal cutting off” from community (183). It is only after her father’s revelation of the truth that she is ready to acknowledge the fact that an individual existence can be made truly meaningful only within the larger context of human interrelationships. The protagonist’s anticipated departure from the island which has been her home signals a possibility of a shift of Frances’s perspective from egocentric to heterocentric, and thus also the possibility of her reintegration into the community of Selves in relation, a dynamic which Banks fully explores in his later novels – The Crow Road, Espedair Street, The Steep Approach to Garbadale, and Stonemouth.

Although the return to the fellowship and mutual affection of communal existence motivates many characters in Banks’s novels, the four texts selected for discussion in the present chapter display two important common features: first, they all deal with the concept of community as related to the space of the family; secondly, they all highlight and variously develop the...

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