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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 5. Apocalyptic Worlds: A Song of Stone, Complicity, and Dead Air

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In the blueprint universe of The Wasp Factory, the protagonist inhabits an island which still bears traces of the cataclysmic events of World War II – bunkers, shells and unexploded bombs, which turn its grounds into a post-apocalyptic space. However, the island is also an arena for another war, namely Frank’s war against nature, which is fought locally but ceaselessly, without pity or remorse. On the one hand, the war-torn landscape of the island is a mirror image of the psychological landscape of the hero, which has been turned into a wasteland in the wake of his personal catastrophe. On the other hand, it is also representative of Frank’s body, which has become a scarred and ravaged battlefield of the war waged by his scientist father against Frank’s biological sex.

Seen in this light, The Wasp Factory ushers in another set of novels in which the apocalyptic functions as the dominant factor of semiotic mediation both with respect to the public semiospheres in which the characters are immersed and to the inner landscapes of their private worlds. The apocalyptic appears here in different manifestations: as a war cataclysm putting an end to society, the individual, and the very text in A Song of Stone; as the ideology of selfishness and exploitation which wreaks havoc on personal memory and the country’s social and economic structure in Complicity; or as a terrorist attack which brings into focus the emotional wasteland of the media society in Dead Air, while also dramatizing Baudrillard’s...

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