Nothing but a Pack of Cards: Semi-fictitious Persons and Flopping Jellyfish in Elizabeth BowenEnglish Faculty Research Publications
AbstractTaking the wildly conflicting critical evaluations of Elizabeth Bowen's final novel, Eva Trout, or Changing Scenes (1969) as its starting-point, this essay argues against 'interpreting' both the novel and its 'monstrous' heroine in conventional representational terms, to argue, instead, for an appreciation, or experience, of both novel and protagonist as instantiations of a process of becoming along Deleuzian lines. Rather than seeing Bowen's final novel as a (failed) attempt to do what the Anglo-Irish writer's previous work would have suggested this text to do as well, the novel and its eponymous heroine are approached as Bowen's rigorously ethical effort to, first, obviate the opposition between living and writing, and second, to show, rather than claim, that art and life are indissolubly connected. Drawing on both Gilles Deleuze's notion of the 'traitor-prophet', whose function is to call both the world of dominant signification and the established order into question, and on Deleuze's counterpart Flix Guattari's concept of the work of art as an activity of 'unframing', the article ultimately suggests that the novel's effect, beyond representation and, indeed, through its own and its protagonist's language, is the 'undoing' of the reader, opening up a realm of virtual becoming that is neither reassuring nor to be captured in the chains of signification.
Citation InformationRenée C. Hoogland (2011) ‘Nothing but a Pack of Cards’: Semi-fictitious Persons and Flopping Jellyfish in Elizabeth Bowen, Women: A Cultural Review, 22:1, 1-14, DOI: 10.1080/09574042.2010.488374