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This is the first edited collection of essays which focuses on the incest taboo and its literary and cultural presentation from the 1950s to the present day; it considers a number of authors rather than a single author from this period. This study discusses the impact of this change in attitudes on literature and literary adaptations in the latter half of the twentieth century, and early years of the twenty-first century. Although primarily concerned with fiction, the collection includes work on television and film. This collection will enhance the growing academic interest in trauma narratives and taboo-literature, offering a useful contribution to a fast-evolving field of artistic criticism which is concerned with the relationship between social issues and creativity. Authors discussed include Iain Banks, A.S. Byatt, Angela Carter, Simone de Beauvoir, Ted Hughes, Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan Iris Murdoch, Vladimir Nabokov, Andrea Newman and Pier Pasolini and Sylvia Plath.
This chapter will be twofold. Firstly an examination of the narrative place
of incest within both Murdoch’s and de Beauvoir’s work and questioning the
role of the ephebophilic attitudes of the central male characters to the
younger, less experienced Julian Baffin (The Black Prince, 1973) and
Nadine Dubreuilh (The Mandarins, 1954). Both of these texts are
informed by philosophical idea of the virtuous and it seems clear that
Murdoch takes much from de Beauvoir’s earlier novel. The structure of
Murdoch’s work is far more relaxed and this is clearly seen in the style
that Murdoch presents us with the sexual relations of the characters whereas
de Beauvoir’s work aims to bring the reader to a better understanding of the
underlying existentialist position. Is love debased by both Murdoch and de
Beauvoir via the taboo of incest to heighten the eventual outcomes of the
respective novels or does it form a signifying position that point us toward
a new moral reality that developed after the Second World War?
Little work has been produced relating these two authors to the other and a reassessment of their work is both timely and necessary.
Using Carter’s textual relationship with Saussure and Derrida as a starting point, this chapter will examine the writing of two other “literary” female authors and their narratological engagement with incest and difference with regard to Derridean différance. This will include a discussion of A.S. Byatt’s writing of incest and the assertion of familial class difference in Morpho Eugenia (1992). Similarly in Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (1962), there is also a social and cultural hierarchy of difference, which is expressed through the telling of incest. By linking the difference of both the incestuous and the separateness of the notebooks a reading of transcription will suggest that incest does not only fill the abject space but comes perilously closer to home.