The Still Life in the Fiction of A. S. Byatt
This book explores the ways in which English writer A.S. (Antonia) Byatt's visual still lifes (descriptions of real or imagined artworks) and what ... Show synopsis This book explores the ways in which English writer A.S. (Antonia) Byatt's visual still lifes (descriptions of real or imagined artworks) and what are termed 'verbal still lifes' (scenes such as laid tables, rooms and market stalls) are informed by her veneration of both realism and writing. It examines Byatt's adoption of the Barthesian concept of textual pleasure, showing how her ekphrastic descriptions involve consumption and take time to unfold for the reader, thereby highlighting the limitations of painting. It also investigates the ways in which Byatt's still lifes demonstrate her debts to English modernist author Virginia Woolf, French writer Marcel Proust, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of nineteenth-century Britain. A number of Byatt's verbal still lifes are read as semiotic markers of her characters, particularly with regard to economic status and class. Further, her descriptions uniting food and sexuality are perceived as part of her overall representation of pleasure. Finally, Byatt's employment of vanitas iconography in many of her portrayals of death is discussed showing how her recurring motif of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" teases out the still life's inherent tension between living passion and 'cold' artwork.