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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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The analysis contained in this book reveals that there exists a drive among Banks’s characters to perceive, interpret, and thus (re)construct the world in accordance with their personal worldviews. Such an individual mediation can be attributed to three major reasons. Firstly, the act of forwarding one’s own world-picture functions as a medium of escape from the outside world which is frequently seen by the character as a negatively marked space – hostile, disintegrated, suffocating, exhausting, chaotic, immoral, etc, creating instead a space which yields to individual control. Secondly, by semioticizing “objective” reality into idiosyncratic world models, the characters can familiarize or domesticate the surrounding world in order to make it more meaningful or comprehensible, or to ensure their own place within its borders. Thirdly, the act of subjective mediation is used to manipulate other characters and the fabric of the perceptible reality in order to achieve one’s own ends, or challenge (usually in some radical way) an unsatisfactory vision of the world. These three functions, three intentions on the part of Banks’s characters, are visible in various degrees in each of the four spatial models, sometimes in combination, at other times with a discernible predominance of one particular function.

In the blueprint novel, The Wasp Factory, all three functions appear simultaneously and can hardly be distinguished as separate motivators. Frank withdraws from the frightening and hostile outside world, which he blames for his emasculation, into the refuge of his own insular realm. His self-devised substitute identities let him...

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