Brendan McNamee is Lecturer in English at the University of Ulster. He earned his Ph.D. at that university. Dr. McNamee is the author of The Man Who Lived in Sorcy Wood, and he has published essays on a range of writers, including W.B. Yeats, Sean O’Casey, Philip Larkin, Francis Stuart, Elizabeth Bowen, and John Banville.2006 0-7734-5543-4
John Banville’s protagonists long for a sense of completion that neither their own psyches nor the phenomenal world can satisfy. The novels, as works of art, enact a literary analogy of this tension by displaying elements of realism and postmodernism together: while they are written with an intense care for mimetic detail, they clearly accept the postmodern position on the inability of language to apprehend reality. Tensions of form and tensions of content are thus inextricably entwined to produce fictions that evoke an indefinable otherness while yet remaining firmly grounded in quotidian reality.
This reading is traced through four main themes: elucidation of the symbiotic link between the terms “significance” and “meaning”; the idea of the divided self; the centrality of conflict; and the way in which all of these themes, filtered through the author’s unique style, show how Banville’s oeuvre can be seen to form a cultural and psychic bridge between mysticism and postmodernism. Banville’s art portrays human consciousness in its perennial bind of being forever trapped in language and forever yearning to make language coincide with its silent other.