A.S. Byatt and the Heliotropic Imagination
A. S. Byatt’s novel Possession: A Romance attracted international acclaim in 1990, winning both the Booker Prize and the Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize. In her long and eminent career, Byatt has steadily published both fiction and non-fiction, the latest of which has not, until now, been given full critical consideration.
Enter Jane Campbell’s new book, A. S. Byatt and the Heliotropic Imagination, a comprehensive critical reading of Byatt’s fiction from The Shadow of the Sun and The Game, published in the 1960s, to A Whistling Woman (2002).
The book begins with an overview of Byatt’s writing and, drawing on her interviews and essays, sets forth the critical principles that inform the novelist’s work. Following this introduction, a chronologically structured account of the novels and short stories traces Byatt’s literary development.
As well as exploring the ways in which Byatt has successfully negotiated a path between twentieth-century realism and postmodern experiment, Campbell employs a critical perspective appropriate to the author’s individualistic feminist stance, stressing the breadth of Byatt’s intellectual concerns and her insistence on placing her female characters in a living, changing context of ideas and experience, especially in their search for creative voice.
The scope of material covered in this study, combined with the authors erudite and sophisticated close readings of the individual texts, make this book an immensely valuable, indeed an indispensable addition to Byatt scholarship.- Alexa Alfer, Queen Mary College, University of London, UK
This book will take its place as one of the best – most measured, most insightful, most inclusive – studies of Byatt to have appeared so far.- Richard Todd, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
A frequent reviewer of Byatt's fiction, Campbell offers here one of the most comprehensive and valuable studies of Byatt available. ..Highly recommended.- Choice, March 2005
After the first two introductory chapters, Campbell . .. analyzes eight works in order of publication. Her own insights are both inspired and solidly defended, and when she draws on the ideas of other critics, she has been careful to avoid the ideas of scholars who bend Byatt's work to their own perspectives. A. S. Byatt and the Heliotropic Imagination is an outstanding study of one of the literary greats of our time.- Naomi Brun, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2006
Anyone attempting to explore Byatt's densely populated fictional worlds will be greatly appreciative of having this usefully organized and insightful critical study as a guide. ...Campbell. ..offer(s) insightful close readings. ...(and) the most complete analysis to date. ...Campbell concludes this fine study with an epilogue based on one of Byatt's poems that nicely draws a conclusion about `Byatt's engagement with process and multiplicity in language, in the experienced world and especially in the lives of women'' (270). Following this are two appendices offering additional information on Possession, valuable bibliographies and a detailed index. Besides being an enlightening piece of literary scholarship, Campbell's study is a pleasure to read in its own right.- Thelma Shinn Richard, Modern Fiction Studies
Based on original research, clearly structured, carefully written, and elegantly printed, A. S. Byatt and the Heliotropic Imagination is a major contribution on one of the most successful contemporary British writers. ... Campbell, now professor emerita of English at Wilfrid Laurier University, was among the first academic critics to give Byatt's writings serious consideration. This volume incorporates the earlier analysis into a comprehensive examination of Byatt's oeuvre down to 2002.- Arnd Bohm, The International Fiction Review, Volume 34, 2007