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Additional info for A.S. Byatt: Critical Storytelling
It is at this juncture – a juncture explored again and in much greater detail in Byatt’s The Virgin in the Garden (1978) – that the argument between Oliver and Henry in The Shadow of the Sun finds its most obvious historical anchor. In the mid-twentieth century, the presumed split between Romanticism and Victorianism still dominated critical discourses at a conceptual level and F. R. Leavis and T. S. Eliot were alive and well. qxd 24/09/2010 13:23 Page 20 20 A. S. Byatt modernism nor Romantic or Victorian models were ultimately capable of healing the rift between ‘thought’ and ‘experience’, ‘words’ and ‘things’, the question of where contemporary fiction and its criticism were going to go from here was a difficult one to ponder.
Qxd 24/09/2010 13:23 Page 39 Writing the contemporary 1111 2 3 4 5111 6 7 8 9 10111 11 2 3111 4 5 6 7 8 9 20111 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30111 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 40111 39 workers and their lives and interests more akin to Tawney’s work in the potteries.
Before subtopia got it, before concrete and corrugated iron and diesel fumes, before London and Birmingham and Manchester started putting out feelers towards each other and spreading smoke further than that’ (SS: 31), is, of course, in many ways a deeply Platonic stance to take. Yet aesthetic Idealism is not what primarily motivates Oliver here. qxd 24/09/2010 13:23 Page 16 16 A. S. Byatt to launch an explicit attack on both the sujet and the conditions of production of Henry’s work as a writer and the social responsibility that, for Oliver, ought to go with it: ‘don’t you feel, sometimes, that this is a bit thin, now, you must know what I mean – that it’s not what’s important now?