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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 4. Mythical Worlds: Whit, Canal Dreams, and The Business

← 200 | 201 → CHAPTER 4


Looking back on her past life and considering her uncertain future, the protagonist of The Wasp Factory reveals an awareness of her former imprisonment in the “crippled” male body, which led to her confinement in the ritualistic order of her insular world. Her life lived between the moment of her “castration” and the discovery of her real sex follows the traditional Campbellian pattern of separation – initiation – return, culminating in the revelatory confrontation between the father and the daughter. The protagonist’s victory against her father’s manipulation marks at once her death and her regeneration, as the male hero dies and is simultaneously reborn as the heroine. In the end, Frank’s liberation involves a change in her perception of the world. Her imminent departure from the island indicates her return to the outside world of historical time and progression, from which she was once separated and which she has so far considered an exclusively male domain.

Following the example of the blueprint novel, in Whit, Canal Dreams, and The Business, space is semioticized exclusively from the perspective of female characters who embark on and variously realize the monomythic journey, traditionally associated with male heroes.1 This inevitably involves a clash between conventional notions of femininity and the androgynous quality of the three characters, who take up ← 201 | 202 → the roles of the pilgrim, the warrior, and the saviour, questioning the division male/female, and striving for the central role in the narrative. In contrast to the male characters described in Chapter 3,...

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