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"Treating the Literary Literally:" The Reflexive Structure of Flann O’Brien’s ... - page 10 / 50





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layer, how they are affected by the structure and their effect on it, is also included. I treat each layer separately, with a chapter devoted to each of the four layers. This study’s aim is to go beyond what many critics have already; while they have touched on different structural elements and the uses of characters by both O’Brien and his author characters, I am not aware of any study devoted solely to this subject, nor of one that follows the structure through the novel from the frame narrative to the final narrative. Cohen’s study is the fullest to date of the intricacies of O’Brien’s reflexivity; his work, however, can certainly be extended in a number of directions. Cohen’s interests are external to the novel. His is a fine analysis of the relationship between O’Brien and the novel, clearly demonstrating aspects of O’Brien’s life as the narrator’s source material. The examination of the other author characters is limited, however, and the reflexive elements mentioned are only those that connect to O’Brien.

I intend to complement Cohen’s remarks by remaining inside the novel, exposing the connections between each author character’s narrative. By not limiting my discussion to the instances in which O’Brien is involved, the gaps in Cohen’s study may be filled. My division of the narrative structure coincides with Cohen’s, but my treatment of the connections between the manuscripts and author characters is more thorough. Cohen’s focus is on the creation of At Swim- Two-Birds, attempting to find source material for various characters and scenes. I focus on these same connections, but not only those between O’Brien and At Swim-Two-Birds’ characters. Cohen keeps pulling his examination back outside the novel to focus on O’Brien, but my study remains within the structure, attempting to display the extent of these connections. This is an endeavour yet to be undertaken, to my knowledge. It may serve as a useful reference for those who appreciate O’Brien’s command over a novel that appears so haphazard in its construction, elaborating, finally, a comprehensive account of At Swim-Two-Birds’ reflexive structure. apRoberts asserts that one "needs a good grip on the framework of the structure of Swim to steady oneself through the labyrinth" (77). This is intended to provide that "good grip" for anyone attempting to fully understand At Swim-Two-Birds.


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