What is "whole sight"?

Discussions relating to John Fowles' novel Daniel Martin.

What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Fri Jul 25, 2008 8:59 am

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Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.
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What do you make of Daniel Martin’s enigmatic first sentence? What is meant by "whole sight"? Is whole sight even possible? Also, what does "desolation" mean in this context, and "all the rest"? The rest of what? Is desolation the only alternative to whole sight?

These weren’t questions I was asking when I first read the novel 25 years ago. Instead, I was caught up in the plot, wondering how things would work out for Daniel and the other characters. It took me a while to realize how the book's opening philosophical premise is bound together with the ensuing narrative.

In Daniel Martin Fowles explores the concept of “whole sight” in a variety of ways. Sometimes he uses direct discourse. At one point the character Anthony tells Daniel,
"I'm still defeated by the conundrum of God. But I have the Devil clear."
"And what's he?"
"Not seeing whole."

From this we might infer that “seeing whole” can be linked to God, godliness, or the divine.

In the novel's last sentence, the narrator describes the book's first sentence as “impossible.” Here and elsewhere in the book, Fowles invites skepticism about the notion of whole sight. However, he’s not like some postmodernists, for whom skepticism about such things has become a dogmatic creed. (In 1979 Jean-Francois Lyotard defined postmodernism as an "incredulity toward meta-narratives." Since then, it seems that for many people incredulity or doubt toward meta- or "grand" narratives has hardened into prejudice, an unwillingness to engage.)

Between Daniel Martin’s first and last sentences, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Fowles was both inspired and haunted by the concept of whole sight. The book that flowed out of this concept--a book that he spent nearly six years writing, and that he hated to part with--invites us to be similarly inspired and haunted.

And also challenged, as the best literature can challenge and provoke us--to take more in, to see more penetratingly, more comprehensively. In a way that might be likened to Galileo's challenging the pre-Copernican world's way of seeing, Daniel Martin challenges and expands our present way of seeing.

My saying this comes only after 25 years of living with the novel's rich and complex inner life, contending with its ideas, and following up on its premises and references.

Much of the substance of “whole sight” emerges in Daniel Martin in dispersed or disguised form. This is witnessed in the novel’s gradual accumulation of sensory and experiential detail; in its complex system of echoes among recurring words, images, and themes; and in its fluid movement among a host of periods, perspectives, locations, and fields of knowledge. It’s as if Fowles devised a new kind of encyclopedia--not one that’s chopped up into alphabetically arranged entries, but one whose contents are integrated, vividly life-like, and ultimately spiritual in nature.

The secrets woven into this “spiritual encyclopedia” have kept drawing me back over the years. For me, the novel's intrigue is inexhaustible. I continue reading other kinds of literature, but Daniel Martin is the book that most thoroughly deepens and improves my ways of seeing.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this topic.

Last edited by drkellyindc on Wed Jul 30, 2008 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Fri Jul 25, 2008 8:25 pm

“Whole sight” is an elusive goal, perhaps an impossible one, as Fowles suggests; and yet it’s still one that he felt worth pursuing. The novel he built around this goal comes closer to achieving it than any other I’ve read.

One measure of the novel’s success in this area is the range of intellectual discourse it has inspired. Here’s a brief summary of some of the different analytical approaches taken in published articles and chapters about the novel. Scholars have described Daniel Martin alternately--

- in psychological terms, as a model for the process of individuation (Carol Barnum, 1988), and a model for the self successfully overcoming narcissism (Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, 1993);

- in sociological terms, as a model for overcoming objectified interpersonal dynamics (Thomas Docherty, 1981), and a model for the effort involved in any honest attempt to know another human being (Robert Alter, 1984);

- in historical and ideological terms, as a model for overcoming Western rationalism and patriarchal Christianity (Paul H. Lorenz, 1990), and a model for integrating individual experience and cultural history (David H. Walker, 1980);

- and in spiritual terms, as a model for passing through a wasteland with the seeds of sacred transformation (Jeannette Mercer Sabre, 1984), and of resurrection (Eileen Warburton, 1999).

Writing in The Journal of Religion (1979), Theodore Ziolkowski places Daniel Martin in the ethical self-questioning tradition of St. Augustine's Confessions.

Writing in Human Rights Quarterly (1982), David P. Forsythe uses an extended passage from Daniel Martin to summarize the conflict between economics and social justice in America.

In a book-length study on Fowles in the fields of neuropsychology and chronosophy (the study of time) (1984), H. W. Fawkner argues that the plots of Fowles’s novels are a step ahead of right/left brain research, and that reading Daniel Martin is like overcoming the limitations with which humans ordinarily perceive time.

Writing in Organization and Environment (2005), Thomas M. Wilson describes Daniel Martin’s rural chapters as embodying a “mature environmental aesthetic,” and the chapter “Phillida” as a loving portrayal of “the most desirable model for feeding the world into the foreseeable future.” (Wilson’s book The Recurrent Green Universe of John Fowles came out in 2006.)
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These scholars are all talking about the same book. Daniel Martin can be studied and discussed across the gamut of intellectual fields because these fields are vitally included in its frame of vision. As I’ll show in a later posting, the disciplines above represent only a fraction of those that Fowles engages in the novel.

A Google-Books search shows that Daniel Martin has also served as a touchstone in the fields of cancer treatment, family therapy, the literature of aging and mid-life transition, feminism and masculinity studies, education, communications, business and economics, travel and tourism, linguistics, music, and landscape architecture, among others.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Tue Jul 29, 2008 8:22 am

Taken together, the first and last sentences of Daniel Martin express a basic paradox about human existence: "whole sight" is unattainable, and yet it's vitally necessary for us to move toward it.

Arguably, whole sight is an evolutionary imperative, something stirring in all sentient life-forms, even if it can't be fully achieved. In his foreword to The Phenomenon of Man, titled “Seeing,” the French paleontologist and priest Teilhard de Chardin writes

. . . the history of the living world can be summarized as the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes within a cosmos in which there is always something more to be seen. After all, do we not judge the perfection of an animal, or the supremacy of a thinking being, by the penetration and synthetic power of their gaze? To try to see more and better is not a matter of whim or curiosity or self-indulgence. To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon everything that makes up the universe, by reason of the mysterious gift of existence.

I've re-read this passage many times since my undergraduate years. It's become like an article of faith to me.

Fowles admired Teilhard's work; the synergy between this passage and Fowles's concept of "whole sight" makes it easy to see why. Among other things, this passage helps me articulate what keeps drawing me back to Daniel Martin: the sense that "there is always something more to be seen" in its pages; that the "penetration and synthetic power of its gaze" is formidable and perhaps unrivaled; and that it has continued over the years to help me "see more and better."

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:33 am

What kinds of knowledge are needed in the quest for whole sight?

Fowles’s early journals show that he took on this issue as a personal challenge many years before he took it on as a literary challenge. This is one reason his novels give a sense of lived knowledge rather than of mere braininess or bookishness. Obviously he read a great deal, and kept a copious journal, but not at the expense of getting out and seeing the world, and mixing with a variety of people across many cultural divides.

By the mid-1960s he worked out philosophical aspects of the knowledge question in The Aristos; in the “New Education” chapter, for instance, he talks about how to promote a “truly synoptic view of human existence.”

With Daniel Martin he at last found an artistic form capable of supporting such a synoptic view. To get a more objective sense of how synoptic this novel’s view truly is, I recently began listing the various fields of knowledge it incorporates.

Below is the list of the fields I’ve located so far. Page numbers indicate where references appear in the 1977 Signet paperback. These number references aren't complete--in most cases I list only one or two representative instances.

Some of these references are primary or direct: for instance, Anthony Mallory does botanizing and ethical theory, one of the Herr Professor’s sons is an eye surgeon, and Mitchell Hooper is in computer science. Other references are secondary or indirect, brought in via metaphor and allusion. When Daniel says that he enters the movie world “like a foolish shrimp into a sea anemone” (142), the field of marine biology is invoked; when Daniel likens his Hollywood screenwriting to industrial-executive work--“maintaining the standard of a staple product” (198)--the fields of industry and corporate management are invoked.

I hope that people will see this list not as a clinical index but as a living constellation--a form of homage to the breadth and variety of human understanding, and to the novel in which these ways of knowing are integrated.

Accounting 148, 192
Advertising 412, 521
Aeronautics 5-6, 156, 328
Agriculture 1-10, Animal Husbandry 369, 372-375
American Studies 63, 74, 169, 250, 343, 446-468, 457, 537-541, Native American Studies 345, 353
Anglo-American Studies 20, 66, 68, 73-75, 138, 418, 460, 520-521, 584, 614, 662
Anthropology 36-37, 139, 242, 544
Archeology 90, 513, 515, 545
Architecture 90, 416, 427, 508
Art 285, 287-294, Aesthetics 204
Art History 114, 671-672
Astronomy, Aerospace Technology 88, 89, 289, 310, 420
Athletics 63, 81, 287
Biology 335, Marine Biology 142, Microbiology 581, 592, Anatomy 147, 169, Evolution 328, 562
Botany 70-71, 181, 191, 253, 304, 345, 361, Naturalism 71, 441
British Studies 70, 73-74, 80, 104, 131, 144, 158, 164, 166-168, 201, 211, 221, 227, 332-328, 353-357, 368, 419, 427, 437, 459, 529-530, 538, 545, 557-559, 589-590, 593, 609

Bureaucracy 81, 275, 365
Business and Industry 198, 412, Trade and Merchandizing 78
Carpentry 352
Cartography 443, Orientation 416
Chemistry 204, 630
Chronosophy (the study of time) 353, 421, 504, 560, 562
Communications, Mass Media 79, 418, 276-277, Publicity 36, 102
Computer Science 15, 284, 507
Crime 90, 631, Forensics 25, Terrorism 175, Prison 353, 362
Customs and Excise 183
Drama 193, 216, 220, 280, 353, Theater History 448, 615, Show Business 148, 296
Ecology 193, 434
Economics, Banking, Finance 166, 296, 413, 663, Leasing 148, Credit 183, Taxation 516, Charity 310
Education 19-20, 188, 411, Pedagogy 191, 594-595, Scholarship 358
Empiricism 46
Engineering, Design 184, Structural Engineering 537, 604
Entomology 351, 510
Epicureanism, Gastronomy 50, 114, 169, 550, 557, 596
Eschatology 77, 193-194, 596
Espionage 327
Ethics 58, 189, 218, 581, Ethical Theory 182
Etiology (the study of origins) 650, Gramsci epigraph
Family Dynamics 91-93, 148, 339-342, 420, Parenting 140, 283, 358-359, Marriage 185, 213, 215, 354-355
Fashion 19, 103, Style 593, Cosmetics 278, Etiquette 633, Taste 326, 472, 633
Feminism 233, 235, 411
Film 143, 170, Television 102, 104-105, 291, Animation 96
Fishery 13, 15, 559, Game Hunting 7-8, 71
Genealogy 77
Gender Studies 157, 253-254, 370-371, 470-471, 642, 648, Gay and Lesbian Studies 253, 370, 470-471, 509, 524-525

Genetics 283
Geography 652
Geology 146, 344, Petrology 344, 347, 387, Petrifaction 197, 360, Seismology 69, 99
Health and Medicine 77, 277, 411, 422, 577, Oncology 149, 160, 180, 182, Nursing 482, Surgery 104, 277, 411, 573, Eye Surgery 554, Herbal Medicine 345, Gynecology 556

Holocaust Studies 68, 81, 88-89
Home Economics 81-82, 364
Horticulture 82, Arboriculture 293, 420, 434
Human Sexuality 57, 94, 292, 348, 355, 382, 394, 396, 639
Humor 358, 359, 647, Irony 415, Puns, Wordplay 102, 193, Ludic Discourse, Nonsense 187, Political Humor 468, 498-501, Camp 73, 446

History 276, 453, Ancient 546-548, 20th Century 615, European 417, 620
Insurance 551
International Studies 527-529, 552, Diplomacy 20, 359-360, 402, 496, 576
Invention 221
Journalism 18, 102, 528
Labor, Corporate Management 198, 429, Unionism 327, Labor Relations 429
Landscaping 416
Law, Justice 181, 296, 335, 413, 418, Sentencing 192
Law Enforcement 25, 244-245, 668, Security 560
Linguistics 182, 289, Etymology 546, Translation 445, Semantics 74, 186, Rhetoric 421, 361, Dialects 4, Accents 139, 256
Literature 13, 89, 294, Literary Criticism 590, Narratology 634, Poetry 1, 77, 85, 368, 407, 658
Logic 149, 153, Probability 101, Game Theory 18, Gambling 327, 437
Magic, Legerdemain 562
Manufacturing 292
Marketing Research 429
Mathematics 532, Geometry 7, 55, 75, 189, Statistics 221, 538, 608-609
Mechanical Engineering 275, 304
Metaphysics 27, 217, 571, 609, 633
Meteorology 313, 455, Climatology 434
Middle Eastern Studies 498-500, 569, 575, 613-614
Military Science 27, 81, 150, 178, 211, 425, 495, Nuclear Testing and Warfare 119, 349-350, 645
Mineralogy, Crystallography 616
Multiculturalism 5, 7-8, 35-37, 68, 78, 247-248, 255-269, 355-356, 368-407, 558-559, 573-575, 579, African-American Studies 74, 79

Musicology 358, 389, 594, 600, 631, 654
Mythology 14, 565, Folklore 287-288, Fables 84, 255-269, Legends 216
Neuroscience 291
Oceanography 235, 352
Ornithology 542-543, Ornithomancy 350
Paleontology 328
Papyrology 516, Paleography, Egyptology 547, 556
Paranormal Phenomena 102, Telepathy 117, Second Sight 16, ESP, Astrology 101, the Supernatural 560, Witchcraft 563

Pedology, Pregnancy 109, 148-149, Childbirth 104
Pharmacology 195, 292
Phenomenology 651
Philosophy 71, 184, 191, 193, 208, 217-218, 410, Intellectualism 185, 188, Practical Philosophy 563
Photography 528, 654
Physics 615, Electrokinetics 161, Electromagnetism 652, Electrostatics 665
Political Science, Political Theory 207, 333, 417-418, 429
Popular Culture 143, 434
Pragmatism 540
Prospecting 168
Psychology 29, 188, 320, 441, Psychoanalysis 283, 295, 482 Psychopathology 646, Child Psychology 35, Altered States 143, 293, 570-571, 579

Publishing 271
Real Estate 100, 131, 137, 148, 223-224, 281, 295, 346, 484, 549, 656
Religion 75, 83, 116, Theology 182, Spirituality 101, 183, Mysticism 101, 293, 434, 560
Romance 370-401
Scales and Measurement 563
Science 362, Scientific Research (Field vs. Laboratory) 485
Semiotics (the study of signs) 90, 204
Sociology 235, 527-528, 652, Behavioral Codes 235, Etiquette, Manners 140-141
Surveying 360-361
Textiles, Weaving, Clothing Design 346, 352, 441, Shoemaking 15, 590
Total-consciousness Theory 353, 534, 551
Travel and Tourism 109-116, 343-346, 486-657
Urban Planning 343
Veterinary Medicine 326-327
World Exploration 208, 289
Zoology 7, 250, 348, 372, 417, 433, 650-653

This list includes over 100 fields. It offers clues about the range of Fowles’s knowledge, the extent of his intellectual curiosity, and the degree to which he took the concept of “whole sight” seriously. The entries help make the case that his inclusion of various fields was conscious and systematic rather than arbitrary.

Various objections may arise, though:

1) Is Fowles merely showing off? Is he engaging in a kind of intellectual one-upmanship over readers, regaling us with what we may not happen to know?

    As I see it, Fowles anticipated this response and included a creative rebuttal within the novel itself. He makes Daniel Martin much more about getting wisdom than about having received it it. He reveals the title character as a precocious adolescent clinging defensively to arcane knowledge about plants and animals (see 10, 91); Fowles could only do this if he was confident that the adult Daniel outgrew this tendency. The author shows Daniel at numerous points when he’s either baffled by the behavior of others, or disadvantaged by his intelligence, class, or maturity level.

    Further, the stage play that Daniel writes about his former Oxford friends turns into a humbling, decades-long lesson in how to avoid abusing his artistic and intellectual gifts. By the time Daniel turns to writing his own life story in middle age, he has acquired an authentic mastery--which is different from being a know-it-all or engaging in one-upmanship. He even takes us “backstage” as a narrator to show us how some of the levers work; and at several points he invites us to question his authority. In one moment Daniel's daughter Caro asks him why he knows "so much" about "everything" (284). Daniel tells her that much of his knowledge is based on reading, and he points out the difference "between truly knowing a lot and knowing a little about a lot." In his conversations with Jane, Daniel admits he "once got up American corporation law in two days. Enough to kid the public, anyway" (413). He goes on to say that the larger principle at stake is "a character's general plausibility as a human being," and that "Getting the details a bit wrong can even add to that." Passages like these involve more than just Fowles putting his cards on the table; they invite a playful approach to the issue of how art, knowledge, and authority are related.

2) Are these fields of knowledge brought in as a kind of literary stunt? Are they intrinsic to the story, or artificially imposed upon it? In other words, was this book’s epic inclusiveness created organically or cynically?

    I’ve found eight scholars who’ve likened John Fowles’s achievement in Daniel Martin to that of Marcel Proust in A la recherche du Temps Perdu. (The scholars are Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Ellen Pifer, Simon Loveday, James Acheson, Jacqueline Costello, David H. Walker, Robert Alter, and Raymond J. Wilson.) Their testimony should go a long way toward establishing that Fowles’s novel was composed organically, not cynically.

    In his celebrated review of Daniel Martin, John Gardner makes a distinction between “the symbolism that rises out of life itself” and “the symbolism imposed by the dogmatist who knows in advance what he will say.” He demonstrates that this novel’s symbolism belongs to the former category. Over the years, his case has been strengthened by scholars such as Susan Strehle Klemtner (1979), David H. Walker (1980), Katherine Tarbox (1988), and Paul H. Lorenz (1990).

    An analogous case could be made about Daniel Martin’s inclusion of fields of knowledge—and in fact, Fowles again embeds such a case in the novel itself. Through the characters and their interactions, he engages us in comparing various kinds of knowledge and their social impact. At one point, Daniel complains about an arrogant tutor he had at Oxford, whose knowledge of one of Daniel’s favorite authors, Robert Herrick, extended only as far as reading him, not living him (85). Much later, in the Egypt section, Daniel observes the contrasting styles of two tour-guides, and notes “the difference between mechanically repeated and lived knowledge” (546). At one end of Daniel Martin’s “lived knowledge” spectrum is the civilized and gracious Herr Professor, a world authority in his field, and someone whose company and views Daniel and Jane repeatedly seek out; at the other end is Jane’s adolescent son Paul, whose obsessive interest in a minor facet of English history makes him insufferable to be around.

    These characters and interactions do a good deal more than strengthen Fowles's credentials as a knowledge practitioner; they assist us as readers in our own approach to "knowledge management," and help illuminate the way toward the Herr Professor's end of the spectrum.

3) Does including all these fields of knowledge bog the book down? Did Fowles lose touch with the plot and characters, and let Daniel Martin become about everything and the kitchen sink?

    Once more, I see Fowles as having anticipated this objection and embedded his reply in the narrative. At one point, Daniel mockingly refers to his proposed novel as “just a ragbag of ideas that never got into my other work . . . potentially very tedious” (415). If we laugh at that line, it’s partly in recognition of how the book is not a tedious ragbag, though it did appear that way to some of the initial reviewers.

    Daniel Martin will inevitably seem slow or bogged-down to many readers, just as Moby-Dick did to many of its initial readers. However, those who are willing to give these novels an extra share of patience and attention will notice treasures that could not emerge through traditional linear plotting or cliffhanger pacing.

4) Does Fowles's all-inclusive approach in Daniel Martin sacrifice too much in terms of depth? Is 100-plus fields of knowledge too many to include?

    Admittedly, some of the fields listed above are incorporated thinly or negligibly. Although marine biology is technically included through the shrimp-and-anemone simile (142), it’s not the kind of reference that will excite most marine biologists.

    Fowles would agree that a great deal is lost in his approach; still, he has argued that such loss is unavoidable if one is using language in artistic ways. In the “Poetry and Humanity” section of The Aristos (chap. 10), he marks distinctions between science and art, and between how scientists and artists employ language. A key statement in this section: “Science is, legitimately, precision at all cost; and poetry, legitimately, inclusion at all cost.” Fowles doesn’t ask us to pretend that nothing is lost through his inclusive approach; rather, he asks us to consider whether something of greater importance might be gained.

    - - -

    There’s no simple answer to the question at the top of this post. Offhand, though, I can’t think of a better place to start answering it than to read Daniel Martin and The Aristos--and to follow wherever these books lead. Fowles does set the bar high on what an educated adult should know, and he’s not afraid of pointing out the gaps in someone’s knowledge (for example, see Daniel’s opinions about his daughter’s education, and that of the U.S. couple on the Nile cruise). However, he’s not setting up the fields of knowledge collected in Daniel Martin as a checklist of cultural literacy. Education for him is more about creating a rounded human being, and developing an ever greater sense of the richness of existence.

    This sentence is from the final page of Daniel Martin:
    It is not finally a matter of skill, of knowledge, of intellect; of good luck or bad; but of choosing and learning to feel.


P.S.—I'm sure that my list is missing a few fields. If you find more, let me know!
Last edited by drkellyindc on Tue Mar 24, 2009 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Fri Aug 15, 2008 9:34 pm

Below is a list of the historical figures referred to in Daniel Martin. I assembled it to give a further measure of how Fowles conceived the project of “whole sight.”

I looked up dates to satisfy my own curiosity, and to follow up on a hunch I’ve had about the novel. I knew without checking that it included a great many figures from England and the 20th century—this is to be expected in a novel that’s conceived as a portrait of that country and of that century. I also knew that the figures extend far back into history—the earliest, as I discovered, was Queen Hatshepsut from the 15th century B.C. (At the other end of the time continuum, some of the figures are still living today—among them, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Philip Roth, and Vladimir Ashkenazy.) However, the specific hunch I was pursuing had to do with how well the intervening periods were represented.

Bringing the dates together helps to establish the extent to which Fowles delved into his own country’s history, and the history of Western civilization, as he created the novel. (It’s amazing to think he did this without benefit of the Internet.) A few things can be extrapolated from the figures and dates listed below. If the life-spans of these figures were depicted on a 2600-year timeline stretching from the 5th century B.C. to the present, they would collectively occupy more than 80% of the timeline. (Not surprisingly, the figures become more sparse during the Middle Ages.) Making this list confirmed my hunch that the novel’s historical inclusiveness happened by design, and is a further outworking of the “whole sight” theme.

Fowles incorporates these historical figures like a master craftsman placing tiles in a vast mosaic. One can look at the mosaic close up, for detail, or from a distance, to notice a remarkable “whole-view” effect. Fowles seamlessly integrates even lesser-known figures such as Saint Simeon and William Langland, without giving the sense that he’s had to “reach” to get them in. I think it’s a major achievement to bring this many figures--representing the span of Western civilization--authoritatively into the same novel. What might have become an exercise in mere name-dropping or pedantry becomes in Fowles’s hands a vital articulation of the West’s rich cultural heritage. To my knowledge, no other work of literature achieves Daniel Martin’s degree of historical resonance and comprehensiveness.

I suppose that a stickler or literalist might ask, where’s Nietzsche on the list? Where’s Chaucer, Tennyson? Wouldn’t “whole sight” have to include them, and others as well? I think that Fowles's intellectual authority supersedes such questions. It's hard to imagine someone asking them after engaging with the novel. Creating a spiritual lineage of the West through the perspective of one fictional artist-hero is not the same as assembling a full set of encyclopedia entries devoted to “great men and women of history.” In this case, Fowles not only accomplishes the former task, but points out what's wrong with the latter one. Readers of Daniel Martin who may harbor interest in the cult of the personality, or the glorification of the individual, will have to contend (as Daniel does) with Jane Mallory's Marxist principles to the contrary.

James Aubrey’s reference guide and William Stephenson’s monograph on Fowles helped me identify some of the sources. Here are a few references that took a bit of sleuthing:

  • Tertullian is included because of his stamp on the phrase “credo quia absurdum” (“I believe because it is absurd”), which serves as a touchstone for the character Anthony and later Daniel.
  • William Blake is included because of a proverb from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, paraphrased in the chapter “Crimes and Punishments”; and because of the phrase “the worm in the rose,” in the “Tsankawi” chapter.
  • Dylan Thomas is included because of the “Fern Hill” echoes in “The Harvest” chapter, and because the term “green fuse” (describing the wall-carving of Isis and Osiris in the chapter “Barbarians”) alludes to the Thomas poem “The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower.”
  • Alfred Hitchcock is included because of Jenny’s reference to his famous likening of actors to cattle.
  • JFK and Marilyn Monroe are included because of this exchange between Jenny and Daniel in the final chapter:
    “I make a last phone-call and he’s too important now to answer.”
    “Wrong culture. You’ll never be Monroe. And fate settled that score.”

Although Fowles assumes a greater degree of cultural literacy in this work than in his previous novels, he didn’t make Daniel Martin into a game of hunt-the-reference. Recognizing the various historical figures isn’t required, but knowing about them (or finding out about them) will still add to the pleasure of reading. Fowles makes finding out about them seem like an enticing thing to do, rather than a duty.

He often includes a reference along with a definitive insight about what it adds. An example of this heuristic approach comes in the chapter “Pyramids and Prisons,” in a passage describing Ahmed Sabry, a satirical playwright in Cairo:
He had the born comic’s mastery of the deadpan face and there was now an increasing touch of Mort Sahl about him, as if the more his audience laughed, the more he gave up hope for the human condition. (498)

Here, the reference and gloss combine to provide a kind of history’s-eye view of the U.S. comedian Mort Sahl; readers are invited to find out more about him if they choose to.

In the essay “A Constant Reality: The Presentation of Character in the Fiction of John Fowles” (Novel 14:2, Winter 1981), Thomas Docherty argues that even if one doesn’t know some of the novel's historical names, their inclusion still adds to Daniel Martin’s realism. Docherty writes,
. . . the use of these names serves to blur the distinction between written fictional text and real history . . . . Fowles wants to create the illusion that his characters are as real as we who read—not just ‘like’ people we know, but of the same ontological status . . ..

So compelling is this realism, Docherty argues, that it sets up a relation of equivalence not only between the novel’s historical figures and its fictional characters, but between its fictional characters and those of us reading the novel. He asks,
Shall we doubt the reality of Daniel Martin? Shall we doubt our own?

I’ve found a total of 341 figures so far, 18 of which are prominent or recurring. Some of the remaining 323 I’ve listed by category: seven figures from ancient Egypt, seven figures connected to the Kitchener biography, 29 figures from popular culture, and 16 entrepreneurial figures. In the parenthetical material I’ve included dates, thumbnail sketches, and some of the novel’s cultural touchstones (like The Waste Land).


Prominent or recurring figures:

Beckett, Samuel (1906-1989, Irish writer, dramatist, and poet)

Eliot, T. S. (1888-1965, Anglo-American poet, dramatist, and literary critic, The Waste Land, “The Hollow Men,” Four Quartets)

Freud, Sigmund (1856-1939, Austrian physician and psychoanalyst)

Gramsci, Antonio (1891-1937, Italian philosopher, writer, politician, and political theorist; a founding member of Italy’s Communist Party)

Hardy, Thomas (1840-1928, English novelist, short story writer, and poet, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure)

James, Henry (1843-1916, American-born British author)

Kitchener, Herbert (1850-1916, British Field Marshall, diplomat, statesman, and national symbol during the early years of WWI)

Lawrence, D. H. (1885-1930, English writer, Sea and Sardinia, Etruscan Places, Mornings in Mexico)

Lukács, Georg (1885-1971, Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic)

Marx, Karl (1818-1883, philosopher, political economist, sociologist, political theorist, and revolutionary)

Nabokov, Vladimir (1899-1977, Russian-American novelist and short story writer)

Rabelais, François (c. 1494-1553, French Renaissance writer, doctor, and humanist)

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669, Dutch painter and etcher, “Self-Portraits”)

Scott, Walter (1771-1832, Scottish historical novelist, Ivanhoe)

Seferis, George (1900-1971, Greek poet and Nobel laureate)

Shakespeare, William (1564-1616, English dramatist and poet)

Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) (1694-1778, French Enlightenment writer)

Woolf, Virginia (1882-1941, English novelist and essayist, Mrs. Dalloway)


Addison, Thomas (1793-1869, English physician and scientist, described attributes of Addison’s Disease)
Alain-Fournier, Henri (1886-1914, French author and soldier, Le Grand Meaulnes)

Albicocco, Jean-Gabriel (1936-2001, French filmmaker, Le Grand Meaulnes, 1967)
Ali, Sultan Muhammad (A.D. 600?-661, 4th caliph of Islam)
Anonymous (8th c., Beowulf)
Anonymous (early 16th c., “O Western wind” lyric favored by Henry VIII)
Anonymous (16th c., “The Disdainful Shepherdess,” The Roxburghe Ballads)
Anonymous (1585-1616, “Why dost thou put thy confidence . . .,” The Shirburn Ballads)
Anouilh, Jean (1910-1987, French playwright, Antigone)
Arber, William (Editor of Hugh Latimer’s 1549 Sermon on the Ploughers)
Aristotle (384-322 B.C., Greek philosopher, student of Plato, teacher of Alexander the Great)
Arius (A.D. 250?-336, Alexandrian theologian; Arianism)
Arnold, Matthew (1822-1888, English poet and cultural critic, “The Scholar-Gipsy”)
Ashkenazy, Vladimir (born in 1937, Russian conductor and virtuoso pianist)
Ashmole, Elias (17th-c. English antiquary; Ashmolean Museum)
Aspasia (5th c. B.C. woman of Athens, noted for her beauty and intellect)
Ayer, Freddie (1910-1989, English philosopher, Oxford professor, and soccer enthusiast)
Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750, German composer and organist)
Bacon, Francis (1909-1992, English painter)
Balzac, Honoré de (1799-1850, French novelist)
Bates, Henry W. (19th-c. English naturalist; Batesian mimicry)
Baudelaire, Charles (19th-c. French poet and essayist)
Beaverbrook, William Maxwell Aiken, 1st Baron (1879-1964, Canadian-British business tycoon, politician, and writer)

Becket, Saint Thomas à (1118?-1170, English prelate, archbishop of Canterbury; murdered after opposing Henry II)

Benda, Julien (1867-1956, French philosopher and novelist, famous for his essay Trahison des Clercs, English translation The Betrayal of the Intellectuals)

Bentham, George (19th-c. English botanist)
Bergman, Ingmar (1918-2007, Swedish filmmaker)
Bewick, Thomas (1753-1828, English wood engraver and ornithologist)
Blake, William (1757-1827, English poet, artist, and mystic, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

Bowra, Cecil Maurice (1898-1971, English classical scholar, academic, and wit)
Brecht, Bertolt (1898-1956, German playwright and theater director, Mother Courage, Galileo)
Breughel, Pieter (1525?-1569, Flemish painter of peasant life)
Brontë, Emily (1818-1848, English novelist, Wuthering Heights)
Bullen, A. H. (1857-1920, English editor and publisher)
Buñuel, Luis (1900-1983, Spanish film director)
Bunyan, John (17th-c. English Christian preacher and writer, The Pilgrim’s Progress)
Butler, Richard Austen (“Rab,” 1902-1982, British Conservative politician, jealous rival of Anthony Eden, whom he called “the best Prime Minister we have”)

Butler, Samuel (1612-1680, English satirical poet)
Byron, George Gordon (1788-1824, English poet and object of cult worship)
Caesar, Julius (100-44 B.C., Roman military and political leader)
Carroll, Lewis (a.k.a. Charles Dodgson) (1832-1898, English author, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “Jabberwocky”)

Carter, Howard (1874-1939, English archeologist and Egyptologist, discovered King Tut’s tomb)

Cartier-Bresson, Henri (1908-2004, French photographer)
Casanova, Giovani Jacopo (1725-1798, Italian adventurer noted for his many affairs)
Cato (234-149 B. C., Roman statesman)
Cecil, David (Sheriff of Northamptonshire 1532-1533, three-time Member of Parliament)
Cervantes, Miguel de (1547-1616, Spanish novelist, poet, playwright, Don Quixote)
Cézanne, Paul (1839-1906, French painter)
Chateaubriand, François-René de (1768-1848, French statesman and man of letters)
Chauvin, Nicolas (soldier of Napoleon I, notorious for his attachment to the lost imperial cause, hence the term “chauvinism”)

Chopin, Frédérick (1810-1849, Polish composer and pianist who lived in France)
Churchill, Winston (1874-1965, British statesman and writer, two-time Prime Minister)
Cicero (106-43 B.C., Roman statesman, orator, writer; “cicerone”: knowledgeable guide)
Clare, John (19th-c. English poet)
Clifford, Rosamund (1150-c. 1176, English mistress of King Henry II, “The Fair Rosamund”)
Cocteau, Jean (1889-1963, French filmmaker)
Conrad, Joseph (1857-1924, English novelist, born in Poland)
Constable, John (1776-1837, English landscape painter)
Corder, William (tried and executed for the 1827 murder of Maria Marten)
Cotton, Charles (1630-1687, English poet and writer, translator of Montaigne)
Coué, Emile (1857-1926, French psychologist, proponent of optimistic autosuggestion)
Coward, Noel (1899-1973, English playwright, actor, and songwriter)
Craig, Gordon (1872-1966, English modernist theater practitioner)
Cromwell, Oliver (1599-1658, English revolutionary leader and head of the Commonwealth)

Dante (Alighieri) (1265-1321, Italian poet, The Divine Comedy)
David, Jacques Louis (1748-1825, French neoclassic painter, “Madame Recamier”)
de Gaulle, Charles (1890-1970, French general and statesman, president of France)
Delius, Frederick (1862-1934, English composer)
Descartes, René (1596-1650, French philosopher and mathematician)
Dickens, Charles (1812-1870, English novelist)
Diocletian (245-313 A.D., Roman emperor)
Dostoevsky, Fyodor (1821-1881, Russian novelist, Crime and Punishment)
Drake, Nathan (1766-1836, English essayist and physician)
Dreyer, Carl Theodor (1889-1968, Danish film director, The Passion of Joan of Arc)
Druce, George Claridge (1850-1932, botany editor)
Eden, Anthony (1897-1977, 1st Earl of Avon, longtime British Foreign Secretary, Prime Minister)
Edward VIII (Duke of Windsor) (1894-1972, second monarch of the House of Windsor)
Ellis, Samuel (18th-c. New Yorker for whom Ellis Island was named)
Erasmus, Desiderius (1466?-1536, Dutch humanist, scholar and theologian)
Falconetti, Maria (1892-1946, French stage and film actress, The Passion of Joan of Arc)
Fellini, Federico (1920-1993, Italian film-maker, Amarcord)
FitzGerald, Edward (1809-1893, English poet and translator of The Rubáiyát)
Flaubert, Gustave (1821-1880, French novelist, “Un Coeur Simple”)
Flaxman, John (1755-1826, English sculptor and draughtsman)
Forster, E. M. (1879-1970, English novelist, Howards End)
Gay, John (1685-1732, English poet and dramatist, The Beggar’s Opera)
Gayed, Nazeer (H. H. Pope Shenouda III) (born in 1923, Coptic patriarch of Alexandria)
Genghis Khan (1162?-1227, Mongol conqueror of central Asia)
Gide, André (1869-1951, French author, The Vatican Caves, acte gratuite)
Gladstone, William (1809-1898, English Liberal Party statesman and Prime Minister)
Godfery, Hilda (1871-1930, English botanical artist)
Goebbels, Joseph (1897-1945, German Nazi propagandist)
Goering, Hermann Wilhelm (1893-1946, Nazi leader, convicted at Nuremburg Trials)
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832, German poet and dramatist)
Goldberg, Johann Gottlieb (1727-1756, performer of Bach’s Goldberg Variations)
Goldsmith, Oliver (18th-c. Anglo-Irish poet and playwright, She Stoops to Conquer)
Goya, Francisco (1746-1828, Spanish painter, “Maya Desnuda”)
Greene, Graham (1904-1991, English novelist)
Greer, Germaine (born 1939, English feminist, author of The Female Eunuch)
Gurdjieff, George I. (1866?-1949, Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher)
Hall, Radclyffe (1880-1943, English poet and novelist, author of the lesbian classic The Well of Loneliness)

Handel, George Frideric (1685-1759, German-born English composer)
Hays, William Harrison (1879-1954, instituted U.S. Hays Office in 1922)
Heath, Edward (1916-2005, English Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974)
Hemingway, Ernest (1899-1961, U.S. novelist and short-story writer)
Henry VIII (1491-1547, King of England, second monarch of the House of Tudor)
Heraclitus (5th-c. B.C. Greek philosopher; Fowles’s model for The Aristos)
Herrick, George (1591-1674, English poet)
Hesse, Herman (1877-1962, German novelist in Switzerland, The Glass Bead Game)
Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945, Austrian-born Nazi dictator of Germany)
Hitchcock, Alfred J. (1899-1980, British-born filmmaker and producer in Hollywood, pioneer in genres of suspense and psychological thriller)

Homer (c. 8th century B.C., Greek epic poet, The Odyssey)
Hooker, Sir William (1785-1865, English botanist)
Ibsen, Henrik (1828-1906, Norwegian dramatist, Hedda Gabler, When We Dead Awaken, Ghosts)

Isherwood, Christopher (20th-c. Anglo-American novelist)
Jacobsen, Arne (1902-1971, Danish architect and designer, exemplar of “Danish Modern”)
James I of England (1566-1625, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland)
James, William (1842-1910, American psychologist and philosopher)
Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826, American statesman and 3rd President, author of the Declaration of Independence)

Jesus of Nazareth
Joan of Arc (1412-1431, French heroine, burned at the stake for witchcraft)
John the Baptist (died c. 30)
Johnson, Lyndon Baines (1903-1973, U.S. President)
Johnson, Samuel (1709-1784, English writer and critic, “Dr. Johnson”)
Jonson, Ben (1572?-1637, English dramatist the poet)
Joyce, James (1882-1941, expatriate Irish writer)
Jung, Carl (1875-1961, Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist)
Junius (pseudonym of 18th-c. English political writer)
Juvenal (A.D. 60?-140, Roman satirical poet)
Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804, German philosopher)
Keaton, Buster (1895-1966, U.S. comic film actor)
Keats, John (1795-1821, English Romantic poet, “Ode to a Nightingale”)
Keble, John (19th c. Oxford Movement leader)
Kemp, John (c. 1380-1454, Archbishop of Canterbury, Oxford’s Kemp Hall was named
after him)

Kennedy, John Fitzgerald (1917-1963, U.S. President)
Kennington, Eric (1888-1960, British artist and sculptor; commissioned to create a statue
of Thomas Hardy, which was unveiled in 1931 in Dorset county)

Kernberg, Otto F. (born 1928, Viennese object-relations psychiatrist)
Kierkegaard, Søren (1813-1855, Danish philosopher and theologian)
Klee, Paul (1879-1940, Swiss abstract painter)
Knox, John (1514-1572, Scottish clergyman, founder of Presbyterian Church)
Krupskaya, Nadya Constantinovna (1869-1939, Russian Bolshevik revolutionary, Lenin’s wife)
Kurosawa, Ikira (1910-1998, Japanese filmmaker, Ikiru)
La Bruyère, Jean de (1645-1696, French essayist and moralist)
Laclos, Pierre Choderlos de (1741-1803, French playwright, Les Liaisons Dangereuses)
Langland, William (1330?-1400?, English poet, Piers Plowman)
Latimer, Hugh (16th-c. Bishop of Worcester)
Lawrence, T. E. (1888-1935, British adventurer and writer, called Lawrence of Arabia)
Lenin, Vladimir Ilych (1870-1924, Russian leader of the Communist revolution of 1917, premier of the U.S.S.R. from 1917 to 1924)

Leoncavallo, Ruggiero (1857-1919, Italian opera composer, Pagliacci)
Lévi-Strauss, Claude (born 1908 in Belgium; French social anthropologist)
Lowry, Malcolm (1909-1957, British writer, Under the Volcano)
Manet, Édouard (1832-1883, French impressionist painter)
Mann, Thomas (1875-1955, German novelist)
Mantegna, Andrea (1431-1506, Italian painter and engraver, “St. Sebastian” 1456-1459)
Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976, Chinese Communist leader, Chairman of the PRC)
Marcel, Gabriel (1889-1973, French philosopher, Christian existentialist)
Marcuse, Herbert (1898-1979, German philosopher and sociologist, One-Dimensional Man)
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793, queen of France 1774-1792)
Marten, Maria (died 1827, murder victim in the William Corder case)
Mary (mother of Jesus)
Mayhew, Henry (19th-c. journalist and sociologist, founder of Punch Magazine)
Mikoyan, Artem, and Mikhail Gurevich (1905-1970 and 1893-1976, Soviet creators of the MiG jet fighter plane)

Mitford, Nancy (1904-1973, English novelist and biographer)
Molière, J. P. Q. (1622-1673, French dramatist)
Monroe, Marilyn (1926-1962, U.S. film actress and pop icon)
Montesquieu (1689-1755, French social and political philosopher)
Montgomery, Bernard Law (1887-1976, field marshal, Viscount Montgomery of Alamein)
More, Sir Thomas (1478-1535, English lawyer, statesman, author, Utopia)
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791, Austrian composer)
Mulholland, William (1855-1935, Water-services engineer for whom Mulholland Drive was named)

Mumford, Lewis (1895-1990, U.S. historian of technology and science)
Murdoch, Iris (1919-1999, English writer, born in Ireland)
Mussolini, Benito (1883-1945, Italian dictator, Fascist prime minister of Italy, “Il Duce”)
Nasser, Gamal Abdel (1918-1970, president of Egypt, president of the United Arab Republic)
Nelson, Admiral Horatio (1758-1805, English admiral, leader at Battle of Trafalgar)
Newman, John H. (19th-c. Oxford Movement leader)
Nixon, Richard (1913-1994, two-time U.S. President, resigned office in 1974 under threat of impeachment)
Nureyev, Rudolph (1938-1993, Soviet-born ballet dancer)
Oates, Lawrence Edward Grace, Captain (1880-1912, English Antarctic explorer, died heroically on R. F. Scott’s last expedition)

Omar Khayyám (1048-1123, Persian poet and mathematician, The Rubáiyát)
O’Neill, Eugene (1888-1953, U.S. playwright, Mourning Becomes Electra)
Orwell, George (1903-1950, English writer, 1984)
Osborne, John (1929-1994, English dramatist, Look Back in Anger, The Entertainer)
Ouspensky, Peter (1878-1947, Russian philosopher, proponent of Gurdjieff’s ideas)
Palladio, Andrea (1508-1580, Italian architect)
Palmer, Samuel (1805-1881, English landscape painter and etcher)
Parker, Dorothy (1893-1967, American poet, short story writer, critic, and satirist)
Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662, French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher)
Pascal, Gabriel (1894-1954, Hungarian film producer of G. B. Shaw plays)
La Pasionara (Dolores Ibárruri) (1895-1989, Spanish political leader)
Perrault, Charles (1628-1703, French author, laid foundation for fairy tale genre)
Pilate, Pontius (1st c. A.D., Roman procurator who condemned Jesus to be crucified)
Plantegenet, Henry (King Henry II) (1133-1189, first of the House of Plantagenet to rule England)
Plato (427?-347? B.C., Greek philosopher)
Poe, Edgar Allen (1809-1849, U.S. poet, “The Raven”)
Pope, Alexander (1688-1744, English poet, An Essay on Criticism)
Pound, Ezra (1885-1972, U.S. poet, lived 35 years in Italy)
Quarles, Francis (1592-1644, English poet, Emblems)
Queen Victoria (1837-1901, the monarch for whom the Victorian Era is named)
Queen Zenobia (3rd c. A.D., Palmyra)
Racine, Jean Baptiste (1639-1699, French poet and dramatist, Phèdre)
Raleigh, Sir Walter A. (1552?-1618, English statesman, explorer, and poet; beheaded)
Ray, Satyajit (1921-1992, Bengali Indian film director)
Recamier, Jean-Françoise (Madame) (1777-1849, Frenchwoman, leader of literary and political circles)
Renoir, Pierre-Auguste (1841-1919, French impressionist painter)
Restif de la Bretonne (1734-1806, French novelist, Monsieur Nicolas)
Richardson, Samuel (18th-c. English novelist, Clarissa)
Richter, Sviatoslav (1915-1997, renowned Russian pianist)
Robespierre, Maximilien (1758-1794, a leading figure in the French Revolution)
Roth, Philip (born 1933, U.S. novelist, Portnoy’s Complaint)
Rousseau, Henri (“The Douainier”) (1844-1910, French post-Impressionist painter in the naïve or primitive manner)

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1712-1778, French philosopher and literary figure)
Sadat, Anwar (1918-1981, president of Egypt 1970-1981; assassinated)
Sahl, Mort (born 1927, U.S. comedian and actor)
Saint Germain (496-576, bishop of Paris, founded St. Germain-des-Prés)
Saint John (A.D. c. 6-c. 100, one of the 12 Apostles and four Evangelists)
Saint Sebastian (died A.D. 288?, Christian martyr of Rome)
Saint Simeon Stylites (A.D. 390?-459?, Syrian monk and preacher)
Sartre, Jean-Paul (1905-1980, French philosopher, playwright, and novelist)
Saul of Tarsus (Apostle Paul) (died A.D. 67?)
Scott, Robert Falcon (1868-1912, English naval officer and Antarctic explorer)
Shaw, George Bernard (1856-1950, English dramatist and critic, born in Ireland)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley (1751-1816, English dramatist, The Rivals)
Siddons, Sarah (1755-1831, English actress, renowned for tragic portrayals)
Sitwell, Sir Osbert (1892-1969, English poet and essayist)
Smiles, Samuel (1812-1904, Scottish author and reformer)
Snow, C. P. (1905-1980, English novelist and physicist)
Socrates (470?-399 B.C., Athenian philosopher and teacher)
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1918-2008, Russian dissident writer, exiled in 1974)
Spengler, Oswald (1880-1936, German philosopher and The Decline of the West)
Stakhanov, Alexei (1906-1977, Soviet coal miner, icon of Stakhanovite movement)
Stalin, Joseph (1878-1953, Soviet Communist Party leader)
Stuart, Charles (King Charles II) (1630-1685, return to England in 1660 heralded the Restoration)
Sturges, Preston (1898-1959, U.S. screenwriter and film director, Sullivan’s Travels)
Swift, Jonathan (1667-1745, Anglo-Irish satirist and essayist, Gulliver’s Travels)
Sydow, Max Von (born 1929, Swedish actor)
Tati, Jacques (1907-1982, French comic filmmaker, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday)
Tertullian (155-222 A.D., early Christian church leader and author)
Thomas, Dylan (1914-1953, Welsh poet)
Thoreau, Henry David (1817-1862, U.S. naturalist and writer, Walden)
Thucydides (460-395 B.C., Greek historian and author)
Tolkien, J. R. R. (1892-1973, English writer, poet, philologist, Lord of the Rings)
Tolstoy, Leo (1828-1910, Russian novelist)
Tudor Family (Descended from Owen Tudor, ruled England 1485-1603)
Tynan, Kenneth (1927-1980, influential English theater critic and writer)
Ulbricht, Walter (1893-1973, Chief of State of E. Germany from 1960 to 1973)
Ustinov, Peter (1921-2004, English actor, writer, humorist, dramatist, and raconteur)
Utrillo, Maurice (1883-1955, French painter, specialized in cityscapes)
Valentino, Rudolf (1895-1926, Italian actor, sex symbol, and early pop icon)
Van Dyck, Sir Anthony (1599-1641, Flemish painter)
van Eyck, Jan (died c. 1441, Flemish painter, “The Arnolfini Portrait”)
Vermeer, Jan (1632-1675, Dutch Baroque painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of ordinary life)

Virgil (70-19 B.C., classical Roman poet, The Aeneid)
Waugh, Evelyn (1903-1966, English novelist, Brideshead Revisited, A Handful of Dust)
Webster, John (1580-1634, English Jacobean dramatist, The White Devil)
Weekley, Frieda (1879-1956, wife of D. H. Lawrence)
Welles, Orson (1915-1985, U.S. filmmaker, Citizen Kane)
William of Wykeham (1320-1404, Bishop of Winchester, founder of Winchester College and of Oxford’s New College)

Wilson, Harold (1916-1995, prominent post-war British politician, two-time Prime Minister)

Wordsworth, William (1770-1850, English Romantic poet, “Intimations Ode”)
Zhdanov, Andrei A. (1896-1948, under Stalin, administered purge of Soviet art)

Ancient Egypt:

Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C., Greek king of Macedon, founder of Alexandria)
Cleopatra (69-30 B.C., queen of Egypt, paramour of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, “the Barge-Borne Queen”)

Nefertiti, 14th c. B.C., queen of Egypt and wife of Ikhnaton
Ptolemy dynasty (ruled Hellenistic Egypt from 323 to 30 B.C.)
Queen Hatshepsut (fifth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt, reigned B.C. 1479-1458)
Ramses II (born c. 1303 B.C., third Egyptian pharaoh of the 19th dynasty)
Tutankhamun (1341-1323 B.C., Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty)


Baring, Evelyn (1841-1917, 1st Earl of Cromer, British statesman and colonial administrator)
Botha, Louis (1862-1919, Afrikaner, first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa)
Curzon, George Nathaniel (1859-1925, Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary)
Gordon, Charles George (1833-1885, British Army officer and administrator)
Khedive (title used by the Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt and Sudan)
Marchand, Jean-Baptiste (1863-1934, French soldier-explorer)
Shafir, Ibrahim (Muslim religious leader, contemporary of Anwar Sadat)

Popular Culture:

Bardot, Brigitte (born 1934, French actress, model, and sex symbol)
Bogart, Humphrey (1899-1957, U.S. film actor)
Brando, Marlon (1924-2004, U.S. stage and film actor)
Cagney, James (1899-1986, U.S. film actor)
Connors, Jimmy (born 1952, U.S. tennis star)
Disney, Walt (1901-1966, U.S. film producer and pop entrepreneur)
Durbin, Deanna (born 1921, Canadian singer and Hollywood actress)
Flynn, Errol (1909-1959, Australian-born Hollywood film actor)
Frost, David (born 1939, English satirist and T.V. presenter)
Gleason, Jackie (1916-1987, U.S. comedian and actor)
Goldwyn, Samuel (1879-1974, U.S. film producer)
Grable, Betty (1916-1973, U.S. movie star and pop icon)
Hayworth, Rita (1918-1987, U.S. movie star and sex symbol)
Henty, George Alfred (1832-1907, English novelist, writer of historical adventure stories)
Hilton, James (1900-1954, English novelist, Lost Horizon)
Johns, W. E. (1893-1968, English pilot and adventure writer, creator of Biggles)
Lake, Veronica (1922-1973, U.S. film actress)
Lerner, Alan Jay, and Frederick Loewe (1919-1986 and 1901-1988, legendary Broadway musical duo, Camelot)

Matthau, Walter (1920-2000, U.S. film actor)
Newman, Paul (born 1925, U.S. film actor)
Ray, Nicholas (1911-1979, U.S. film director)
Reed, Talbot Baines (1852-1893, English writer who specialized in boys’ school stories)
Ripley, Robert (1890-1949, U.S. cartoonist, entrepreneur, and amateur anthropologist, creator of Ripley’s Believe-It-or-Not)

Robbins, Harold (1916-1997, bestselling U.S. author)
Robinson, Edward G. (1893-1973, Hollywood actor, born to Jewish family in Bucharest)
Shrimpton, Jean (born 1942, English supermodel and actress)
Twiggy (a.k.a. Leslie Hornby) (born 1949, English supermodel, actress, and singer)
Warner Brothers (Harry 1881-1958, Albert 1884-1967, Sam 1887-1927, Jack 1892-1978, film studio founders)

Entrepreneurial figures:

Benz, Karl (1844-1929, engine designer and auto engineer, regarded as the pioneering
founder of German auto manufacturer Mercedes-Benz)
Campari, Gaspare (19th c. inventor of the bitters liquor)
Chevrolet, Louis-Joseph (1878-1941, Swiss-born American race car driver and co-
founder of the Chevrolet Motor Car Co.)
Claridges (luxury hoteliers in London)
Dubonnet, Joseph (original seller of wine-based aperitif, est. 1846)
Ford, Henry (1863-1947, founder of Ford Motor Co., whose British subsidiary
manufactured the Cortina)
Guinness, Arthur (1725-1803, Irish brewer, founder of Guinness Brewery)
Heal, Ambrose (1872-1959, developer of British department store Heal’s Inc., est. in 1810 by John Harris Heal)

Hilton, Sr., Conrad (1887-1979, U.S. hotelier, founder of Hilton Hotels)
Michelin, André (1853-1931, French industrialist who founded Michelin Tyre Company with his brother Édouard)

Porsche, Ferdinand and Ferry (founded German auto company in 1933)
Renault Family, French automakers, company founded in 1899
Rolls, Charles Stewart (1877-1910, and Frederick Henry Royce, 1863-1933, co-founders of Rolls-Royce British auto company)

Rothschild (Château Lafite) (French banking family, owners of long-established winery estate)

Taittinger (famous French producers of champagne, business founded in 1734)

Last edited by drkellyindc on Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:48 am, edited 5 times in total.
Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:43 pm

Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Sat Aug 16, 2008 12:14 pm

As a follow-up to the last posting--

If there are any historians of post-war England out there, here’s a reference I haven’t located yet. It’s part of the exchange between Daniel and Barney Dillon in the chapter “Hollow Men.” They're discussing a columnist and television personality who's just entered the restaurant where they're having lunch. Despite his reservations about the man's career, Daniel suggests that he has achieved at least the outward appearance of success:

[Daniel:] “But he hasn’t done too badly out of it?”
[Barney:] “Oh sure.” Once again he was dry. “The best we have.”
[Daniel:] I smiled; and wondered whether that famous putting-down Barney had just appropriated, of a bad prime minister by a jealous rival, was not the single most English remark of the postwar years; behind all our discourse, and well beyond the political.”

If you know who either the prime minister or the rival are, send me word. Thanks!

- - - - - -

Postscript, 9 Sept. 2008

A research assistant at the British Library in London helped me locate this reference.

British Conservative politician Richard Austen Butler (1902-1982), more familiarly known as "Rab," was passed over twice for the premiership, although he served in 1962-1963 as Deputy Prime Minister. The press came to relish his laconic, often ambiguous observations, known as "Rabbisms." In Daniel Martin Fowles refers to the most famous of Rab's equivocal remarks, made in reference to Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who is ranked among the least successful British Prime Ministers of the 20th century. Here is Anthony Howard's account of Rab's remark in "RAB: The Life of R. A. Butler":

In a phrase that went round the world, [Rab] described Eden as "the best Prime Minister we have." In fact, it was not a comment he volunteered but one he had foisted on him. At Heathrow Airport, after the flurry caused by the newspaper headlines of that morning [about the prospect of Eden leaving office], Rab found himself accosted by a reporter from the Press Association who proceeded to put a succession of questions to him. The last one simply asked for his assent to the proposition that Sir Anthony is "the best Prime Minister we have"--something that Rab hurriedly, if unwisely, gave.

Due to his being overlooked for this office, Rab himself was later dubbed "the best Prime Minister we never had." He is among the subjects considered in the books "The Uncrowned Prime Ministers" (D. R. Thorpe, 1980) and "The Lost Leaders" (Edward Pearce, 1998).

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:16 am

Here’s a counterpart to the historical figures list above: 186 figures from myth, legend, literature, folklore, and popular culture. Again, James Aubrey's reference guide helped me verify some of these.

Cleopatra and a few others cross over from the previous list, qualifying as both historical and legendary.

There’s a high degree of craft and daring involved in how Fowles brings ghosts, angels, dragons, and Cheshire cats into his realistic novel. He shows no strain joining the two worlds. For example, the chauffeur Labib is introduced as a man whose “real religion” is the car he drives; thus it seems only fitting when, during an extended absence from his vehicle, he’s described as “a centaur who had lost his body.”

The legendary underpinnings of Daniel Martin are part of its vital nerve center: a driver likened to a centaur; a writer likened to a vampire sleeping “with a slaked smile”; sisters standing "hand-in-hand, like a pair of sea-nymphs"; a dog described as “hyper-alert and Argus-eyed”; and a woman described as withdrawing “into the gnomic and sybilline.” When Parson Martin makes a joke about his son’s sulking, he alludes to two legendary figures (Prodigal Son and gargoyle): “I have lost a son. But I have found a gargoyle.” These references tend to add either irony or pathos (or both, as in the parson's comment); in each case, though, a hidden vitality and depth is glimpsed below the novel’s surface detail.

This holds true even when the reference is made to point out a fake depth, as when Daniel suggests that Caro is unable to see through the tragic-clown Pagliacci face that he imagines Barnie uses with her in private.

It amazes me to think of all the traditions, backgrounds, and cultures represented here. This grouping is like a constellation or galaxy—a tribute to the human imagination and its legacy.

Some of the references are introduced with a whisper. For instance, in the final paragraph of “Beyond the Door,” Fowles quietly turns the title of a Matthew Arnold poem into a verb. Writers of narrative, he says, do not drive
down the freeways of determined fact, but drift and scholar-gipsy through the landscapes of the hypothetical, through all the pasts and futures of each present.

Arnold’s 1853 poem “The Scholar Gypsy” tells the story of a brilliant but poor Oxford student—

Who, tired of knocking at preferment’s door,
One summer morn forsook
His friends, and went to learn the gypsy lore,
And roamed the world with that wild brotherhood,
And came, as most men deemed, to little good,
But came to Oxford and his friends no more.

As Fowles uses it, “scholar-gipsy” is an evocative term, and stands alone even without the poem. But it deepens the passage to know the parallels between Daniel’s journey and that of the Arnold poem’s hero.

This list, and the others in my previous posts, may help to suggest some of the novel’s underlying wealth and vitality. For me they also resonate with the passages where Fowles speaks about the internal life of writers. In the “Tsankawi” chapter, Daniel describes himself as
fundamentally an observer and storer of correspondences—like some iceberg, with nine tenths of what really pleased and moved me sunk well below the understanding of the people I moved among, and however intimately.

I know the list below may look like another mere procession of names. But to readers familiar with the novel, I think it can also be seen as a canopy of stars surrounding the scenes and characters; or alternatively, as part of the inner subterranean “nine tenths” that Daniel speaks of as what really pleases and moves him.


Adam and Eve
Alexander Portnoy (Philip Roth’s novel Portnoy’s Complaint)
Amazon (female warrior in Greek mythology)
Antigone (Jean Anouilh’s play)
Apostles and Elders
Argus (giant with a hundred eyes, from Greek legend)
Atropos (Greek and Roman mythology)
Augeas, king of Elis, whose stable is cleaned by Hercules
Aunt Sally (from the British pub game)
Benjamin (Genesis: Jacob’s youngest son)
Biggles (RAF pilot in W. E. Johns novels)
Bluebeard (Perrault’s tale)
Bumble (Dickens’s Oliver Twist)
Cain and Abel
Candide and Cunégonde (Voltaire)
Canio (Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci)
Cassandra (Trojan prophetess)
Ceres (Roman mythology, goddess of agriculture)
Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane)
Cheshire Cat (Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
Christian (John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress)
Cinderella and a fairy godparent
Circe (enchantress from Homer’s Odyssey)
Cleopatra, a.k.a. the Barge-borne Queen
Clio and Thalia (Greek muses)
Corsair (privateer, pirate)
Daimon (Greek mythology)
Damocles (courtier in ancient Syracuse)
Darby and Joan (old married couple from 18th-century song)
Delilah and Samson
Dombey (Dickens’s Dombey and Son)
Doctor Pangloss (Voltaire’s Candide)
Don Juan
Don Quixote
Eumenides (ancient Greek goddesses of vengeance)
Fanny Price (Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park)
Felicite (Gustave Flaubert’s “Un Coeur Simple”)
Femme fatale
Gadarene swine
Geoffrey Firmin (Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano)
God; Holy Spirit; Holy Trinity; God of Methodism
Godot (Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot)
Good Samaritan
Goose that lays the golden egg (fairy tale)
Grasshopper and ant (from Aesop’s fable)
Gulliver and the Lilliputians (Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels)
Hamlet (Shakespeare)
Hedda Gabler (Ibsen)
Heathcliff (Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights)
Hetairai (concubines in ancient Greece)
Hieronymo (T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land)
Horus (sun god in Egyptian mythology)
Humpty Dumpty (nursery rhyme)
Indian sage
Indolence and Sloth (Bewick print in anthology of Gay’s Fables)
Isis and Osiris
Jack and Jill
Jesus Christ and the woman taken in adultery
Job, Job’s comforter
Jonathan Doe (novelty volume: The Life and Times of Jonathan Doe)
John the Baptist
Joker (Tarot)
Joneses, The
KGB man
King Arthur
King Solomon, Solomon’s carpet
Knight and damsel
Laius (husband of Jocasta)
Lovelace and Clarissa Harlowe (Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa)
Lydia Languish (Sheridan’s The Rivals)
Macbeth (Shakespeare)
Madame Sosostris (Tarot/T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land)
Madonna (mother of Christ)
Mameluke (Egyptian military class from 1250 to 1517)
Marmaduke (see The French Lieutenant’s Woman, chap. 38)
Midas, a king of Phrygia (Greek mythology)
Minerva (Roman goddess)
Minnesota Fats and Fast Eddie Felson (The Hustler)
Monk and Nun
Monsieur Nicolas (Restif de la Bretonne)
Monster (as in a bestiary)
Mother Courage (Bertolt Brecht play)
Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse (Jane Austen’s Emma)
Mr. Specula Speculans (caricature of Daniel, in the style of La Bruyère)
Mr. Stratis Thalassinos (poetry of George Seferis)
Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf novel)
Mrs. Gamp (Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit)
Nimrod (Genesis: son of Cush; a mighty man and hunter)
Orpheus and Eurydice
Phaedra (a.k.a. Phèdre; drama by Racine)
Philemon and Baucis
Phillida, the disdainful shepherdess (anonymous 16th-century ballad)
Piers Plowman (William Langland)
Plebeian, Proletarian
Portia (Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice)
Prodigal Son (Biblical parable)
Prometheus and Hercules
Pythia (prophetess of Apollo at Delphi)
Regency rake (from English history, 1817-1820)
Robin Hood, Sheriff of Nottingham, Abbot
Romeo and Juliet
Saint Peter and the Pearly Gates
Satan; Satanic Majesty; the Devil
Scarlet Woman of Babylon (Book of Revelation)
Scholar Gypsy (Matthew Arnold poem)
Sibyl, Cumaean Sibyl
Sick Man of Europe
Sidney Carton (Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities)
Simple Simon (nursery rhyme)
Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night)
Tartuffe (Molière’s play)
Tess Durbeyfield (Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles)
Thane of Glamis (Shakespeare’s Macbeth)
Three Blind Mice (nursery rhyme)
Three Wise Men
Tiresias (blind soothsayer in Greek mythology)
Tony Lumpkin (Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer)
Torero (bullfighter)
Ulysses (Homer’s epic)
Venus (Roman goddess)
Vestal virgin
Vittoria (John Webster’s The White Devil)
Wilfrid of Ivanhoe (hero of Walter Scott’s novel)
Zuleika (Persia)

Last edited by drkellyindc on Tue Mar 24, 2009 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:39 am

Anyone else out there have Olympics fever?

I got to thinking: What place do sports have in Fowles’s vision of “whole sight”? In a holistic novel such as this one, sports are no more avoidable than any other aspect of existence. Assembling the list below confirmed for me how resourceful Fowles was at including a range of athletic activities, either directly or through metaphor.

He often uses sports to advance character. Caro’s adolescent passion for horse-riding and gymkhana becomes a recurring metaphor as she faces up to adult challenges (and to challenging adults). We learn a good deal about Daniel’s father through how he rides a bicycle (91-93); about the film producer David Malevich through how he plays tennis (295-296); and about Jane’s son Paul through how he plays table tennis (316-318).

In one scene from the “Compton” chapter, a game of snooker (a variant of pool) sheds insight not so much on the two characters playing, Andrew and Daniel, but rather on their gender. Where the women need no such pretext, the game enables these two men to talk more easily about Caro, who is Daniel’s daughter and Andrew’s stepdaughter:

As we played we got through a little conversation about Caro, and I guessed he had picked the game as a convenient way to say casually, between strokes, what might have been more awkward face-to-face: his liking for Caro, concern for her; which gave me my chance to thank him for having been such an excellent stepfather. He won that first frame rather easily, and though I won the next, I suspect it was only because he let me. (317)

Sports sometimes help secure the novel's sense of place. The first scene set in Oxford finds Daniel and Jane punting on the River Cherwell; another key moment finds the four central characters swimming off the coast of Italy at Tarquinia. Late in the novel, the Hotel Zenobia at Palmyra is described as “bizarrely like the jerry-built 1920s clubhouse of some impoverished golf-course” (624). No one is seen golfing there, and the hotel never really was a golf clubhouse, but the reference is pungent even so.

Page numbers refer to the 1977 Signet paperback.


Athleticism 63
Sportsmanship 287

Archery 192, 661
Baseball 538-539, 540-541
Bicycling 3, 91-93, 377
Boating and Sailing 100, 431, 493, 570, Paddling 39, Gondola 19
Boxing/Fighting 280
Bullfighting 366, 552
Cricket 83, 123, 336, 537
Croquet 123
Dance 115, 370, 412, 453, 552
Equestrian/Horse-riding/Gymkhana 119, 123, 127, 132, 238, 280, 311, 316
Fencing 181, 200, 202, 251, 275, 316, 338
Fishing 13, 15, 559
Football 83, 316
Golf 144, 190, 624
Hockey 371
Hunting 71, 336, Hare-and-hounds 326, 327
Jousting 155
Pool/Snooker 246-247, 316-317
Punting 19-24
Racing 49, 343, 480
Rugby 467
Skiing 422
Soccer 217
Surfing 47, 99
Swimming 115, 459, 466, 558, 639
Table tennis/Ping-Pong 316-318
Tennis 89, 123, 295-296, 370, 412, 457, 466
Tightrope-walking 485
Tobogganing 427
Tug of war 241, 340
Walking 316, 325, 428, 433-434, 613, 648, Strolling 492, Marching 94, 558, 648

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Wed Aug 27, 2008 12:14 pm

Below is a counterpart to the sports list in my last posting, and another dimension of “whole sight” in Daniel Martin. This list focuses on leisure pursuits and “ordinary life.” The items listed here are not remarkable in themselves, but taken together, they serve as a stabilizing and grounding force in the novel—a middle range of human experience between the novel’s high and low ranges of experience.

Fowles’s fiction takes us to the extreme poles of experience: the depths as well as the heights; Mount Parnassus as well as the valley of death; whole sight as well as desolation. Fowles knew that for these extremes to be effective, they needed to be counterbalanced by everyday realities and concerns.

This is witnessed, for instance, in how he conceived his characters. In The French Lieutenant's Woman, Sarah Woodruff is as tragic and enigmatic as figures in literature come; but we also see her doing something that no high-Victorian heroine ever was shown doing--eating a meal, "and without any delicacy whatsoever" (Chapter 36).

Similarly, Jane Mallory serves as the high "tragedy queen" in Daniel Martin (650); she's as sophisticated as heroines come--ambassador's daughter, gifted actress at Oxford, former Catholic, widowed mother of three, a "highly principled lady Marxist" (520), an emblem of Daniel's conscience (286), an idealist who sees the world through "truth-seeking" eyes (484), is full of self-disappointment (430), has "no hope for herself, but would not accept hopelessness in anyone else" (421), and so on. And yet she's not so rarefied and "heavy" that she can't also be described as a clown (652), and do things that no other heroine of her kind, from Phaedra through Anna Karenina, Hedda Gabler, and Isabel Archer, can do with impunity: things like put her feet up on the settee to relax her varicose veins (411), speak about needing to use the toilet (578), and be seen engaging in sexual intercourse (640-641). To me this kind of detail gives her greater fullness and dimension as a character, and makes her more sympathetic and memorable. Obviously, social and literary codes prevented writers such as Henrik Ibsen and Henry James from referring to such things. It's also important to note that these writers broke new ground in their day, and helped lay the foundation for heroines such as Jane Mallory. But now Sarah Woodruff and Jane Mallory are models that future writers must try to improve on.

Counterbalancing extremes is also witnessed in how Fowles conceived individual scenes. For instance, the Tarquinia night-bathe scene comes as a magnificent epiphany for Daniel, but for his friend Anthony it appears to be “no more than a faintly embarrassing midnight jape” (116). Similarly, Daniel sees the ancient pueblo site of Tsankawi as transcendent and redemptive, “a sustained high note, unconquerable”; but for his film-world friend Abe, the region triggers irrational fears and a volley of defensive wisecracks (346-347). (It could be said that these scenes need Anthony and Abe's presence as much as the dreamer Don Quixote needed his earthbound Sancho Panza.)

In a parallel way, one of the bleakest moments for Daniel, at the end of the chapter “North,” is measured in terms of its terrible distance both from the Eden-like splendor of Kitchener’s Island, and from the peace and solitude of Daniel’s familiar country home at Thornecombe (614-615). In this moment Fowles shows the high, middle, and low ranges of human experience as intimately interrelated.

Some other writers try to reach Parnassus but falter because they don’t anchor their vision enough in ordinary human concerns; still others get stuck in ordinary concerns and never make it to Parnassus.


Alcohol (see below)
Betting, gambling 247, 326-327, 316-317, 437, betting odds 18, eternally optimistic amateur gambler 602, throw of the dice 434, football pools, lottery 316

Bill of health 130
Bird-watching 349, 417, 563
Boy Scouts 454, 531, good deed for the day 453
Business jargon, stock share-prices 100, expense-account life 270, 613
Card-playing 214, 253, 345, poker 143, bridge 214, 298-299, three-card trick 276, trump 146, 345, 420

Charity 453-454, contribution to the local priest 34
Checks and credit: who picks up the check at dinner 40, credit cards in lieu of cash 183, post-dated check 584

Chess 34, 178, 255, 270, 453, 634
Children (and the childlike moments of adults): tiny child’s scream 8, praised child 16, small boy, frightened and excited and trying to be “mature” 35, little girl’s fear 40, children looking at their parents for guidance in their own reaction 313, treats 257, 452, reading to a child at bedtime 85, intolerable spoilt child 179, boys’ bedroom 221, with head bowed, like a disobedient child 239, small girl wanting to be held 470, lonely clinging child 471, children testing their parents’ indulgence, and secretly want to fail and be disciplined 503, spoiled child deprived of a toy 615, bored child 620, disobedient schoolgirl awaiting further reprimand 628, small girl facing up to adult reason 653

Circus 278, tightrope 485
Clock: turn a clock back 15, dysfunctional clock 38, stopped watch 611
Clothing: cord trousers, thick leather belt, Aertex shirt 2, straw hat with heart’s-ease tucked in the black band 2, 363, fashions in 1959 vs. 1977 19, army-surplus denim trousers, polo-necked sweater, peasant skirt, fishnet tights 19, indigo kimono 11, blazer 41, studious informal 41, 103, purple baize butler’s apron 82, blue silk dressing-gown 179, pale chinos and shirt, pink headscarf 347, moccasin 347, swimming-slip 463, ballet slipper 518, underpants 183, slip showing beneath a skirt 491, Empire black dress 497, leisure-era clothing 515

Club 489, veterans’ club 157, golf-course clubhouse 624
Collecting: objects 517, gewgaws 409, green stamps 183
Conventional roles 162, 217, 306, 420, 531, ordinary civility 313
Crossword puzzle 72, anagram 17, jigsaw puzzle 339
Cul-de-sac 112, streetcorner 416, forked roads 450
Dancing 115, 266, 370, 412, 453, 552
Day-tripping 39
Den 362, drawing-room 583
Diary 216
Dinner party 217, 330-332, men discussing politics after dinner over brandy 332-336, Lebanese dinner-party in Cairo 497-502

Dog-races 261, 269
Driving: bad gear-change 119, green light 459, tailgate 462, freeways 251, traffic snarl-up 63-64
Encyclopedia 261
Farmers’ Market 250, the taste of fruits and vegetables 250, fruit-machine 317
Filling in a wet afternoon 84, 527
Flower-arranging 204
Food and food preparation 211, 364, recipes 250, 285, butcher 585, gutting fish 15, the art of the hamburger 471, the land of fries and burgers 35, processed cheesecake 36, picnic 72, 654, soup 357, tea 362, Frozen Wing 314, beef marbled with fat 512, chips-and-vinegar 256, mustard 317, condiment 366, salt 366, pepper 495, saccharine 174, eggshell 571, banana-skin 609, coffee-cup grounds 203, airline food 486

Games 27, 81, 191, 287, 519, game rules and prizes 277-278, psychology game 267-268, hide-and-seek 213, 466, backgammon 635-637, Aunt Sally (pub game) 277

Gardening 449, kitchen-garden, plant-growing and animal-tending 82, seed planted 63, fussing with a plant 322, pruning 79, plant disease 188, 304, plants as children 365, caring for plants and flowers 366

Garment district 346, tailor’s dummy 359
Gossip 42, 102, 122, 364, 367, 480, 538, gossiping old backyard mum 269
Gourmets with a Michelin guide 114, Blue Guide 486-487, travel guide-book 635-636
Hobby 33, hobby-horse 357, teaching a grandmother to suck eggs 330
Holiday camp 325, old person’s home 325, seaside hotel, country hotel 316, country pub 33

Home design and repair: roofing 322, 325, remodeling 362, carpentry 352, carpeting 135, 406, 628, linoleum 370, lattice 648, crossbeams and girders 604

Horse-riding 99, 316
Hostel 100

Household items: mirror (looking-glass) 53, 63, 221, 429, 637, hardness of mattresses 212, locked cupboard with one key 213, pot and kettle 271, lantern 6, ashcan 242, vase, mantelpiece 249, hearth 41, cupboard 219, frosted glass 228, frying-pan 229, tin mug 596, water-jar 513, snip-snap of scissors 329, glue 385, sponge 250, ragbag 415
suitcase 33, 99, 614, umbrella 93, birdcage 384, pocket calculator 614, needle 102, twine 387, elastic 103, canopy 386, 395, furniture 589, rocking-chair 423, cushions 467, hanging portrait 408, detergent counter 412

Hygiene: Dettol (mouthwash) 34, 659, glycerine drops 66, shaving 529, barber 144, wash hair 495, blue rinse 496, indigestion powder 285, icepack 467, menstruation 41, 391, contraceptive 12, 394, bathroom 405, 467, toilet 84, 192, 277, 578

Jokes 252, 346-347, in-jokes 72, political jokes 499, practical jokes 210, joke-book 468, anti-PC humor 468

Juggling 297
Knot-making 324
Letter-writing, postcards 495, 533, 583, 660, dear-john letter 410, telegram 224, 241
Love feast 235
Matchbox top 297, sides of breakfast-cereal packets 288
Mechanical canary 244
Motor vehicles: Parson Martin’s Standard Flying-12 91, Caro’s Mini 118, coach-and-four with a posthorn (at Andrew’s 21st birthday party) 123, Daniel’s Volvo 311, tractor, Rolls Royce 314, Cortina (Nancy Reed and her husband) 404, tractor 434, Steve’s Porsche 467, taxi 502, Mercedes (in Beirut) 613, Labib’s Chevrolet 617, Volkswagen 617, army truck 622

Movie-going, theater, museums, exhibitions, concerts 194, sneak preview 259, kids’ films 135, afternoon TV serials 288, wax museum 600, watching television 265, cinema still 654, post-film conversation 42

Music: piano-playing 206, 599-601, oboe 62, violin 247, harp 580, lute 142, scarlet-uniformed local band 123; popular music: radio 216-217, tune on transistor 434, jukebox 524, car radio, American music 618

Newspapers and magazines 102, 103, 106, 276-277, 614, Isis (Oxford literary magazine) 102, student newspaper column 102, London Times 36, Country Life, Daily Telegraph 162, Good Housekeeping 88, Paris Match, Private Eye 479, chapter one in a women’s magazine story 422

Orchid-hunting 70, 71, 191
Paddle-boating on a lake 39
Painting and engraving 206
Papier mâché 495
Parcel delivery 179, old split parcel with 50,000 knots 34
Parenting: U.S. Jewish or working-class father 131, child held papoose-style 354, Mothers’ Union 369, mothers faced with preposterous ideas from their offspring 423, Daniel’s issues with Caro 148-149, 273, 283, Jane’s issues with Paul 219, 339, 358-359, 361

Party 255, tennis-party 89, concert party 256, cabaret, fancy-dress gala 552, famous ball for Andrew’s 21st birthday 123

Pets 259, 314, dogs and cats 82, old farm dog 137, old dog-bone 568, dog dragged toward a kennel 337

Picture-taking 528, 551, family snapshots 90, silhouettes and miniatures 408
Playground 247
Protection society 355
Real estate lot 346, flat-leases 656, estate agent with a rich client 36
Restaurants 270-278, posh-lousy eating-place 37, the Randolph (downtown Oxford) 160-164, expensive Italian restaurant (Oxford) 164, 197-204, Italian restaurant near Caro’s London flat 478, “hideous” restaurant at Aswan’s New Cataract Hotel 585

School: kindergarten 348, boarding school 389, boarding-school for upper-class fools 99, prep school 218, home-work 358, school report 375, exams and games 287, school outings 266, waiting outside the headmaster’s study 179, small boy accused of cheating by a headmistress 582, schoolgirl 39, 344, schoolgirls dream of winning Wimbledon or dancing with Nureyev 412, “A-for-apple” 250, high school 466, drama school 31, two girls in a school dormitory 467, student revolutionary 413, sitting in the first row at a lecture 188, term paper 536, history cram course 453, arts graduate 413

Roam the countryside 82
Second-class train ticket 448, cinema ticket 266
Sex manual 94
Shopping 584, 612, for antiques 307, 408, for souvenirs 511-514, shopgazing 613-614, supermarkets 251, health-food store 39, antiquarian bookshops 83

Singing 34, 584, hymns 85, folk-song, folk-poem 369
Smog, sprawl 251
Smoking 88, 153, 199, 209-210, 264-265, 291, hand-rolled cigarette 4, Woodbines 4, cigarettes 245, 363, 406, 616, cigar-smoke 295, tobacco pipe 551, pot 445, 452, 463, 470, 474

Stargazing 524
Tourism, package travel, sightseeing, luxury cruise 506-590, discount air-fares 423
Toys 185, 265-266, 493, dolls 35, 37, 265, doll’s house 364, puppet 293, jack-in-the-box 7, Chinese box 443, child’s play 130

Traditional gentleman friend 454, male elbow-nudging 493
Wedding ring 487, 505, silver comb 419
Zoo 250

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

As an add-on to this list, the following one deals with alcohol and its consumption, and helps show how Fowles uses drinking habits to further our sense of character, setting, and period.

References to alcohol in Daniel Martin

Year-old homemade apple cider, on which Daniel at 15 gets “slightly drunk” (1942 Devon harvest) 4
Applejack, distilled in Thornecombe Woods by "Babe," according to local rumor 6
Rotgut 7
Whisky and water (1974 Los Angeles) 11-12
“Dettol” (Jenny's nickname for Laphroaig) 34, 659
Andrew Randall's two gold-foiled-necked bottles of champagne, one opened, the other suspended in the River Cherwell by string (1950 Oxford) 21

Jane throws the unopened champagne bottle in the river 26-30, 47-48, 420
Andrew’s whisky flask 24-25
Daniel is drunk at Claridges Hotel in London (Jenny’s account of their first meeting) 31-32
Tankard of ale 33
Two fingers of straight whisky (after the call from Oxford to Daniel in L.A.) 48, 51
Scotch (Daniel and Barney’s flight to London) 105, 107-108
Wine (Tarquinia) 115
Endless champagne and Andrew drunk throughout (Andrew’s 21st birthday party) 123
Whisky (gift to Daniel at Caro’s flat) 122-124, 127, 129
Sadistic drunkard (Andrea’s husband Vladislav) 151
Daniel’s spontaneous gift of champagne for Andrea’s birthday 152
Campari, Scotch (Daniel and Jane’s pre-dinner drinks at the Randolph) 160
Sherry (Daniel in Anthony’s hospital room) 180, 188
Armagnac (Jane and Anthony’s house) 206
Scotch 207
Jane asks for tea after hearing about Anthony’s death; Daniel suggests she needs “something stronger” 209

A magnum of Taittinger champagne (Andrew’s gift on arrival in Oxford after Anthony’s death) 232
Two double gin and tonics (Barney in the “Hollow Men” chapter) 270
Wine 271
Brandy 277
Drinks after weekend guests arrive at Compton 314
Burgundy (Miles Fenwick’s drink at the Compton dinner-party) 331-332
Decanter of port (men’s after-dinner discussion at Compton) 332
Margaritas (Tsankawi) 345
Ben’s rotgut, Saturday night drinking and drunkenness 364-365
At Thornecombe, drinks for Nancy (Dubonnet) and her husband 405
Bourbon (Daniel’s gift to Ben) 408
Whisky (Daniel and Jane’s fireside talk at Thornecombe) 414-415, 419, 422
“Dutch courage”: whisky and water (Daniel needs liquid fortitude before inviting Jane to Egypt) 422
Drinks at Kate’s parents’ house in Bel-Air 467
Tequila concoction 469
Steve rooting about in the icebox for a special beer 471
Daniel and Jane share drinks at the Cairo hotel bar 491
Drinks in Daniel's cabin at the start of the cruise 517
Pre-prandial drink 533
Rare claret (Herr Professor’s memory) 557
“Château Lafite in a tin mug” (Daniel’s term for Jane’s teaching French grammar and literature) 596
Brandies on the terrace at Aswan 599, 610
Two double Scotches on the rocks (Daniel nurses his alienation at an American-style bar at Aswan) 614-616
Thin local beer at Hotel Zenobia (Palmyra) 626, 635
Draught Guinness and Glenlivet (Jenny and Daniel at London pub) 658-659

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Mon Sep 01, 2008 9:39 am

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
. . . or all the rest is desolation.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What does desolation mean in this context? What does “all the rest” mean? How is desolation related to whole sight?

Daniel Martin’s opening line is poetic and enigmatic and needs to remain so, but there are still insightful ways of talking about it.

“All the rest is desolation” carries undertones from Shakespeare: the last line Hamlet utters, prior to his death at the end of the play, is “The rest is silence.” Such connections prevent Fowles’s sentence from devolving into a simple binary choice between equally weighted entities. Think how much would be lost if the line read, “Whole sight; or desolation.”

The preceding Gramsci epigraph cues us to read the opening line as involving a spiritual cycle. At the risk of flattening the language on both sides, one might spell out this link by merging them: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and whole sight cannot be born; in this interregnum many varieties of desolation appear.”

Similary, the George Seferis poetry that precedes the opening line suggests that the tension between “whole sight” and “desolation” can only be resolved in the form of a story: “Then he told me the story of his life.”

So far on this thread I’ve shared lists connected with the theme of whole sight: comprehensiveness, plenitude, inclusiveness. And yet whole sight cannot really be grasped apart from its contrary principle of desolation. What follows here is a list I compiled over 20 years ago, of the novel's references to various forms of desolation. It’s selective and incomplete, but may help to convey some of the substance and texture of how Fowles conceived the absence of whole sight.


Empty: space 76, field 8, 9, rooms 137, 603, farm 362, marriage 126, stages 12, church 140, 190, chairs 524.

Emptinesses of widowhood 204, empty-headed little nit 483, a huge emptiness like blank paper 623

Wasted: time, effort 12, journey 278, footage 41

Hollow: shell 105, behavior 612, men (the chapter “Hollow Men”), career 430, ambition 174

Career and marriage deformation 186

“Doubts and disillusions, grasped-for apples turned to wax, dreams become ashes” 108, shored fragments and ruin 13

Driving through nothingness 628, the real nothingness of many lives 628, stepping into nothingness 601, a lump of bronzed nothing 615, having everything likened to having nothing 448, “the same boring and dusty journeys to nowhere for nothing” 592

The sudden loss of a first youthful romance (Daniel and Nancy, 401-402), the decline and loss of relations among close friends (the Oxford quartet, 171-178), the withering of several marriages (Daniel and Nell, Jane and Anthony, Barney and Margaret), and the end of a promising career in drama 177

A life not worth having 250
Existence as a waiting-room for a train that will never come 545
“Typical bourgeois arrivist, futile, useless, artificial books” 534
The dead real world 73-74, the world gone black and vulgar 609
Art as absurdly elaborate and futile insurance against the unknown 550-551, rubbish for the masses 494

An enormous dungheap of empty words and tired images 277
A society drifting slowly downstream into oblivion 416
Movies no one even remembers anymore 13, a film without vision 476, an audience of no one 277, a stage set eternally without a playwright 625, a short-lived theatrical fad dispatched into a deserved oblivion 615

The scattered, veiled debris of a lost civilization 637, a world that became lost ruins in a lost desert 650, a wasteland 638

A luxurious and inhuman cell 616, the stale paradise of California 434, oppressive and elephantine architecture 508

The edge of a limbo nearest to a hell 621, the huge graveyard of a dead city 624, a dead landscape 433

Stock compliments 405, stock intensifiers 437
Straining at intellectual gnats and swallowing emotional camels 185
“As chlorotic as a plant denied sufficient light” 188
A stench of stagnancy 25, a desire for stasis 504
A drab grayness hanging over buildings, people, shops 621
The blindness of evolution 346, countless anonymous generations 361, the tyranny of the stupid 500, 503

A happy blindness to reality 501, a mannered obliviousness to ordinary reality 448
A conspiracy of the humorless against laughter 500
Façade of interest 588, trivially tritely solicitous 486, an interest in gewgaws patently exhibited only to fill a vacuum 614, retreating into the mundane 225

The deserts in a marriage 420, a ludicrous emotional no-man’s land 567, agapicide 140, frozen distance 602

A condemned man’s distress 610, hypnotic solitude and monotony 623, impotent despair 401, angry despair 501, soul caught between anger and despair 637, petrified in sullenness 649

A woman who had "essentially never quitted the shallow, well-heeled 1920s of her youth" 421
A monumental waste of effort and money 592, the appalling wastage, indifference, cruelty and futility of evolution 346

The glamorization of the worthless 278, 280, gaudy tat 514
Accidie, powerlessness, the deadweight of inertia 596
A canceled possibility 609, a missed opportunity 268
A bitterly cold, inhospitable, menacing environment 623, a deserted blind crossroad 435
Fundamental futility 279, 500
A chorus of alien, demanding voices 488
Mindless clicking of a camera 528
Barrenness of infertility, childlessness (Ben and Phoebe 363, Andrea 156, Marcia and Mitchell Hooper 538)

The exorcism of Miriam and Marjory by the written word as "a vain and empty thing" 268
The memory of the Nile’s hundreds of generations, “cutting the individual down to less than the tiniest granule of sand in an endless desert” 527

Poverty of nuance 74
Dan’s dislocation, blackout: “nothing existed except as a record of another pair of eyes, another mind; the perceived world was as thin as an eggshell, a fragile painted flat, a back-projection . . . and behind, nothing. Shadows, darkness, emptiness” 571

The dark silence of the Nile: endless, indifferent, like time itself 504
Arriving at a doubly empty flat 476
Strange vacuous eyes 21
Jane and Nell’s mother: an elegant cipher 360
Dan’s attack of the traditional 20th-century nausea: “the otherness of the other. Everything was other: one’s faults, one’s situations, one’s blindnesses, weaknesses, sullennesses, boredoms. They stood as unpossessed, as alien, as indifferent as the tired furniture in a tired room” 589

A white elephant 296, 576, et al
Dan’s gaze at the evening sky on the Nile cruise: “the night, the stars, the onwardness, were somehow depressing now; monotonous, meaningless” 524

- - - - - - - - - - -

The word “nothing” is itself an important recurring word in the novel. Some of these instances include the following page numbers: 5, 73, 74, 95, 118, 152, 155, 175, 182, 204, 212, 238, 250, 277, 278, 311, 353, 356, 361, 378, 388, 400, 411, 433, 435, 440, 445, 460, 461, 464, 471, 475, 492, 511, 518, 521, 522, 531, 545, 548, 564, 568, 571, 587, 588, 590, 601, 606, 608, 614, 623, 631, 633, 635, 642, 651, 654, 665, and 667.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Connected with the theme of desolation in the novel are tragic aspects of the title character. I list these partly because some people might otherwise find it difficult to identify with a character who is privileged in so many ways—with money and time to spare, an interesting career, an enviable girlfriend in Los Angeles, and so on. (See Daniel's own defense of why he chose to write his life-story in a "true-to-life" form, rather than to laden himself with extra disadvantages: 430-432.)


- Bitter and repressed childhood (9-10, 71, 87, 91-92, 401, 585)

- Painful excommunication and 16-year estrangement from his close circle of Oxford friends (175-178, et al)

- Missing his artistic potential: “I should have tried to be a serious playwright” (629); instead, as a “dialogue installer and repairman” in Hollywood (32), Daniel feels he is “peddling opium to the intellectually deprived” (595)

- “. . . a component of sadness in Daniel’s happiness: he was a solitary at heart, and that must always cripple him as a human being” (450); “like some iceberg, with nine tenths of what really pleased and moved me sunk well below the understanding of the people I moved among, and however intimately” (352)

- “. . . barred from living life as it was meant to be” (596)

- Plagued by his compromises: “The compromises of his life seemed to lie on him almost physically, like warts” (598)

- Losing Marjory and Miriam, who “make missed opportunities eternal,” and teach Daniel “a lasting lesson” on the limitations of his class, his education, and his kind (268-269)

- “. . . excluded, castrated by both capitalism and socialism, forbidden to belong . . . spurned by one side for not feeling happier, despised by the other for not feeling more despair” (615)

- Exile: in his mid-teens, “inscrutable innocent, already in exile” (10); in middle age, “as if I was totally in exile from what I ought to have been” (14); “deeply divorced. Homeless, permanently mid-Atlantic . . .” (33); “lost . . . eternally separate” (244); “. . . someone in permanent flight from his past” (630, 282, 293, 420, 504, 567)

- At Tsankawi, feeling professionally “like a man in prison,” and sensing, in his dealings with Jenny, her limited respect for what he calls “the lost civilization of me” (354)

- Distance from his young-adult self—from what Jane refers to as “That lovely innocent young man I knew at Oxford” (566)

- Being at cross-purposes with his daughter Caro over a variety of issues (121): over his having left her out of his career, and having stayed in California longer than he intended (101, 283-284), over the fate of the London flat where she lives (100, 223-224, 278-279, 281, 295, 476), and over her relationship with Barney (126-132)

- Being professionally implicated with Barney in the communications industry; “feeling a pervasive cancer at the heart of one’s world” (277)

- A precarious sense of self-worth: male company “threatened his always precarious sense of uniqueness” (253), feeling deserted by Caro at the flat: “No one loves me, no one cares” (279)

- Self-doubting, poor at relationships, haunted by whether he can ever escape what he is (284)

- The futility of his chosen profession: seeing art as “absurdly elaborate and futile insurance against the unknown” (550-551); at Tarquinia, receiving “a clear sense of the futility of the notion of progress in art” (114); in front of the Rembrandt self-portrait, recognizing “the inadequacy of genius before human reality” (672)

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Sun Sep 07, 2008 9:28 am

This passage is taken from Realism in Our Time (1964) by Georg Lukács, the Hungarian critic whose writings Daniel reads during the trip to Egypt. It offers a helpful way of distinguishing between what "whole sight" is (or can be) and what it is not (or cannot be):

The ideal of totality in art can never, of course, be more than a guiding principle, applied to a particular segment of life; it can never be more than an approximation to totality. . . . Lenin demanded a similar dialectical conception of totality in regard to science: "A problem can only be fully understood when all its aspects, all its implications, all its determinants, have been established and examined." This demand applies even more to literature, where the achievement of depth, of intensive totality, always has priority over mere extensive totality.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Sun Sep 07, 2008 8:51 pm

In Daniel Martin, the move toward “whole sight” involves integrating numerous pairs of opposites: objectivity and subjectivity, male and female, anima and animus, past and present, first- and third-person narration, and so forth. Fowles’s achievement in this regard has inspired a great deal of published commentary over the years. In this posting I draw together as many of the strands of this commentary as I can. By doing so I hope to make this commentary more widely and conveniently available, and to heighten awareness of its cumulative impact.

In the first section below, I present 40 Fowles scholars in alphabetical order, along with a brief account of the paired opposites each one explores in Daniel Martin, either in list or quotation form. In the second section I present quotations from five of the novel's original reviewers. I close with a passage from Eileen Warburton’s biography.

There's healthy disagreement among the scholars represented here, some of whom take each other to task. Brooke Lenz and Randy Svoboda both argue that what Ina Ferris sees as “contradictory” in the novel is actually synthesized by Fowles at a higher level. Some of the later critics, such as Lance St. John Butler, help to place the work of earlier scholars in perspective. Daniel Martin ultimately resists whatever unified explanatory system (including existentialism and postmodernism) you might want to impose on it, although this has taken a while to register.

I find particularly moving the commentary (by Nicholas Delbanco, Brooke Lenz, Lance St. John Butler, Randy Svoboda, and the reviewers John Gardner and Paul Gray, among others) suggesting that with Daniel Martin Fowles was able to surpass his previous achievements. They confirm for me that looking carefully at the major novels in sequence involves the thrill of witnessing a new evolutionary threshold of awareness—still hidden from view for most of humanity—emerging through the observable maturation of a master writer’s career.

Some of the most obvious paired opposites are missing from this list: good and evil, for instance. Clearly, Daniel Martin is not conceived as a Manichaean face-off between the forces of Good (light, God, spirit) and Evil (darkness, Satan, matter).

This roundup is by no means complete or perfect, and I welcome additions and suggestions. I may add some entries later. What inspires me about this grouping is the chance to see in one context corroborating evidence about the extraordinary range and integrative force of Fowles’s achievement in Daniel Martin.


Robert Alter
Daniel Martin and the Mimetic Task,” 1981

Alter’s essay explores these paired opposites in Daniel Martin:
artifice + mimesis
fiction + what we experience as moral agents outside the fictional world

Sample quotation:
. . . for Fowles the evident artifice of the novel is there to serve the end of mimesis, of recovering with deepened insight, as art can do, what we experience as moral agents outside the fictional world. Daniel Martin, in other words, is a fictional character and would-be novelist to boot, but the long effort he needs to make in order to see who Jane is resembles . . . what most reasonably reflective people have to undergo in trying honestly to know someone else.

Carol Barnum
Essay: "John Fowles's Daniel Martin: A Vision of Whole Sight," 1981
Book: The Fiction of John Fowles: A Myth for Our Time, 1988

Paired opposites:
ancient mythic quest + modern archetypes
journey from the angst of contemporary existence to a blossoming relationship
anima + animus
(with reference to T. S. Eliot) The Waste Land + Four Quartets
(with reference to Dante’s epic Divine Comedy) Inferno + Paradiso

Sample quotation:
From the wasteland scene of “The End of the World” through the regenerative ritual of the chapter “The Bitch,” the novel moves to “Future Past,” the title of the last chapter of Daniel Martin as well as the unifying vision of Eliot’s Four Quartets. It is a chapter that brings about the reconciliation of opposites, points Daniel on the path his quest will take in the future and provides the novel with the comic, affirmative ending that had been prophesied.

Patricia Beatty
"John Fowles's Daniel Martin: Poetics of the Now," 1982

Sample quotation:
In Dan's search for his true past and future, he has come to see that they are in fact his present. This present involves "the imagining of the real and the realizing of the imagined," that is, a constant creative tension between quotidian reality and authorial imagination.

Robert J. Begiebing
Toward a New Synthesis: John Fowles, John Gardner, Norman Mailer, 1989

Paired opposites:
metafictional technique + substantive moral concern
Isis + Osiris

Sample quotations:
Few fiction writers in England or America have met the challenge of “nonreferential” contemporary fiction and theory in such a head-on manner as John Fowles. One would be hard put to find another major British writer who is so dextrous in his use of metafictional and fabulative technique, yet who is so determined to attach technique to the moral dilemmas and choices in our world.

. . . To take a later example of inward education through quest, Dan and his past lover Jane will discover in Daniel Martin (1977) on their journey—another quest for wholeness of vision, life, moral awareness—that the modern man or woman is ever forced to move into some retreat or domain, some forest of the mind, some (once sacred) territory where the hero, a kind of latter-day Robin Hood in flight from the vanities of science and modern life, finds the ancient rituals of self-transformation. This later novel is Fowles’ journey to Egypt, his own retelling of the Isis-Osiris myth, which again opposes the merely playful, the timely, the conventional, the pretended, the merely formalistic, to the moral, the timeless, the risky, and the genuine. Likewise, the moral problem before the hero and heroine is to reconcile their past, present, and future into a timeless whole reflected by the few transcendent moments recalled during the story.

. . . Fowles extends the alienation of Marxism beyond the economic and working class levels to include the political and cultural, the intellectual and the artist. This extension of alienation is what Dan (like [Nicholas] Urfe) experiences and works through . . ..

. . . In this novel Fowles emphasizes more emphatically the dangerous insufficiency of existential freedom. Such freedom is no longer enough; it is too exclusively obsessed with personal destiny. It is our obsession with personal destiny in all its forms that Fowles now argues is guaranteed to make us “stink in the nostrils of history.” The wholeness Fowles seeks, however, is still best sought through art by the individual imagination. It is in the voyage into self, through the vehicle of art (here the book that Dan is writing and we reading) that one discovers the unity that reality seldom provides, but in which one also discovers relationships and responsibilities beyond the self.

Peter Brandt
"Somewhere Else in the Forest," 1996

Paired opposites:
private and public forms of commitment
free will + compassion
male + female
animus + anima
first- + third-person narration
past + present tenses
Dan’s + Jenny’s perspective
realism + experimentalism

Sample quotation:
Dan and Jane complement each other, representing two halves of “whole sight”: private and public commitment; free will and compassion; male and female; animus and anima. The novel can be seen as Fowles’s own attempt at “whole sight”: first and third person narration; the past and the present tenses; Dan’s and Jenny’s different perspectives; realism and experimentalism.

. . . the published version of the privately imagined world can never fully render the original vision in the writer's mind and even a novel which attempts "whole sight" can never truly capture what inspired it, but "only give metaphors that indicate it" ("On Writing a Novel" 284). So perhaps the happy ending for Dan lies not only in the reunion with Jane, but also in the fact that his novel will never be written, can never be written, that the last sentence he has found is indeed "impossible," and that the achievement, in art as in life, lies eternally in the future. And what of his "ill-concealed ghost"? He is at peace with his muse? Perhaps it is just a truce? Perhaps his happy ending lies in the knowledge that his first sentence is as "impossible" as Dan's last, that "whole sight" is not a consummation but a task to be undertaken again, an endless pursuit, so that the novel, for himself as well as for the reader, "is only the spoor, the trace of an animal that has passed and is now somewhere else in the forest."

Robert Burden
“The Novel Interrogates Itself: Parody as Self-Consciousness in Contemporary English Fiction,” 1979

Paired opposite:
freedom of choice + determinism

Lisa Colletta
"The Geography of Ruins: John Fowles's Daniel Martin and the Travel Narratives of D. H. Lawrence," 1999

Sample quotation:
In the chapter appropriately named “The River Between,” Dan begins to see a way of reconciling the dualities of existence that have kept him from “whole sight.” From Professor Kirnberger, Dan learns of the ancient Egyptian concepts of ka and ba, or the dual nature of the human soul. . . . to be whole [the soul] must be dual and must include not only the physical and spiritual aspects of the individual but also the separate and communal aspects of existence. He concludes that instinct and intellect, artist and scientist, “would-be ambition” and “would-be selflessness”—all are equally insufficient in themselves.

Jacqueline Costello
"When Worlds Collide: Freedom, Freud, and Jung in John Fowles's Daniel Martin,” 1990

Paired opposites:
Jungian + Freudian approaches
fiction and reality
self and culture

Sample quotations:
“Whole sight” presumes the possibility of total consciousness posited by Jung, which is, of course, categorically opposed to Freudian theory. Moreover, Dan credits the natives of Tsankawi in New Mexico with “a totality of consciousness that fragmented modern man has completely lost.” Such eclecticism attempts an impossible marriage, yet Dan’s “integration” at novel’s end appears to be just that—a banishment of the unconscious itself.

Despite the distractions created by Jungian suppositions imposed on a Freudian edifice, Fowles does attain some resolution of the primary problems Daniel Martin addresses as he refines the relationship between fiction and reality, self and culture. Here even the concept of self, the idea of characters isolated in their own bodies and minds, like actions confined to a single place and time, is fundamentally fictive. Here individuals are inseparable from society, art, and language . . ..

Lucy S. Cromwell
University of Michigan dissertation: “Whole Sight”: A Structural Study of John Fowles’ “Daniel Martin,” 1981

Paired opposite:
Isolation + belonging

Nicholas Delbanco
"On Daniel Martin," 2001

Paired opposite:
post-modern + traditional

Sample quotations:
. . . there’s a literally breath-taking range of rhetorics and points-of-view—various ways of saying and seeing. This accumulation of styles, moreover, does not feel fragmented or disjunct; prismatic, rather, so that we end with a sense of sustained consideration, a multi-dimensional view. These strategies are devoted to “whole sight.”

. . . Fowles weds, in short, the way of seeing of a romantic fable to the world-view of the realistic novel—and the resulting “whole” has been composed of fragmentary-seeming but cohesive parts.

Ronald C. Dixon
Postmodern Fiction: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide, ed. Larry McCaffery, 1986

Sample quotation:
. . . the book is less traditional than it seems: Fowles skillfully juxtaposes chapters that counterpoint one another, and he juggles both time sequences and narrative perspectives to mirror his protagonist’s fragmentation.

Thomas Docherty
"A Constant Reality: The Presentation of Character in the Fiction of John Fowles," 1981

Paired opposite:
(with reference to the theologian Martin Buber): “I-It” versus “I-Thou” interpersonal dynamics

Sample quotation:
. . . the whole of Daniel Martin is the attempt to explain and to demonstrate the necessity of understanding the novel’s enigmatic opening sentence: “Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.” The reader is given such sight by Fowles’ manipulation of narrative viewpoint; the characters in their voyage toward both self- and other-discovery, in fact progress towards the capacity for this kind of sight or relation with extension and other people. The Sartrean position leaves us with Anthony’s definition of the Devil: “Not seeing whole.” Seeing only surfaces is the essence of the pornographic, and one of the basic patterns to be discerned in the fiction of John Fowles is that of the path from the reifying stultification of the Buberian “I-It” relationship to the life-giving whole sight necessary to the healthier adoption of the “I-Thou” relationship.

H. W. Fawkner
The Timescapes of John Fowles, 1984

Paired opposites:
left brain + right brain
past, present, and future
time + timelessness
subjective + objective
the separations between narrator and character, and between author and narrator
present progressive of film + present eternal of the novel
America’s fictive future + England’s fictive past
Dan’s consciousness of self + Jane’s consciousness of society

Sample quotation:
The novel ends where it begins and begins where it ends . . . Thus there comes a point in the critical understanding of Daniel Martin where these superimposed temporal and fictional layers coalesce, beginning with the moment of Simon Wolfe’s transformation into Daniel Martin, which automatically extends as a transformation of Daniel Martin into John Fowles. The final outcome is a work of art in which the unreality of dimensional fragmentation is so strongly felt that we accept the creator’s own conception of “an eternity of presents.” The novel (Daniel Martin/“Simon Wolfe”) exists as proof of the artist’s (John Fowles’s/Daniel Martin’s) successful conquest of time. (p. 45)

The metaphysical tetrad of the past retrospective, the present progressive, the present eternal, and the future inceptive, becomes an effective temporal paradigm for a comprehensive artistic vision defying the linearity of past-present-future. . . . We encounter a set of parallel dualisms which interpenetrate to form the complex fabric of the novel. As human experience is filtered through the code sequences of this new conceptual suspension we glimpse various tensions: the present progressive of the film versus the present eternal of the novel; the temporal escape of America into a fictive future versus the temporal escape of England into a fictive past; Dan’s consciousness of self through contemplation of the past versus Jane’s consciousness of society through contemplation of the future. (p. 47)

Ina Ferris
"Realist Intention and Mythic Impulse," 1982

Paired opposite:
social realism + mythic impulse

Thomas C. Foster
Understanding John Fowles, 1994

Paired opposites:
realism + metafiction
chapter 1: Hardyesque setting, dialogue and action told in a cinematic style
dichotomy between a Hollywood-based fantasy existence and an English-based responsibility and rootedness
New World conversations with Jenny versus evasive Oxbridge conversations
Tsankawi + Palmyra
the novel’s two main subplots (the romantic and the artistic) are ultimately united

Sample quotation:
Dan’s struggle toward becoming a novelist has been a struggle to understand human beings in their wholeness; as a beginning, he must understand Jane in her wholeness. If Jane’s acceptance of him is tentative and provisional, he must learn to live within its limits. He finds that the emotional life between people is untidy but that untidiness is not terminal, as he seems to have believed before, when he has wanted simplicity in relationships. Jane is teaching him complexity, and perhaps an appreciation of complexity.

Adrienne K. Gardner
U. Texas-Austin dissertation: John Fowles: The Inward Journey, 1987

Paired opposites:
Isis + Osiris
scientific + emotional reality
“mere journeying transit” + magical moments of transcendence
bonne vaux scenes (Tarquinia, Tsankawi, Phillida) + scenes in the everyday world where Dan must learn to live
Compton (artificial upper class life) + Tsankawi (natural beauty and simplicity)
“the river between” as the Taoist “way to wisdom” or “middle road”
yin + yang, assertive + receptive, masculine + feminine
the goal of Taoism + the goal of Jungian psychology
Jung’s four psychological types (Jane’s feeling and intuition + Dan’s logic and sensuality)
time + memory
Einstein + Freud
horizontal + vertical modes of perception

Sample quotations:
Daniel Martin has to be apprehended in the same way one views a panorama; the reader has to turn all the way around, slowly taking in both the big picture and the little details, before he gets a feeling for what Fowles was doing in this novel.

. . . Daniel Martin is a creation myth—the birth of an artist—told on many different levels: the archetypal, an ancient myth of death and rebirth; the personal, the history of one man with its intertwined filaments of time past, present, and future; the cultural; the psychological; and the aesthetic.

. . . Fowles’s view of reality is essentially dualistic; he would say “schizophrenic.” His understanding of the self denies the possibility of wholeness—harmony—except as a tensional balance between two opposing forces; like a Bach fugue, the harmony in Fowles’s universe is that of counterpoint.

. . . having tasted paradise [in the novel’s first chapter, “The Harvest”], the artist-god ejects his younger self (and his reader) from Eden; the rest of the novel is an attempt to recover that bliss.

. . . Dan is the partial everyman searching for “the way to wisdom”: tao de ching. Jane is his other half. Dan and Jane approach this middle way from opposite directions (as should be expected, given Fowles’s dualistic view of life). However, they do not merely represent yang and yin, the assertive and receptive or masculine and feminine responses to any situation. They also represent the connection that Fowles sees (as did Jung) between the goal of Taoism and that of Jungian psychology.

. . . By the end of the novel, Fowles wants the reader to integrate the fragments of Dan’s past and his present into an artistic, cohesive whole—and then go and do likewise in his own life. The circular form of the novel symbolizes the psychic unity it enjoins.

. . . in the alternation between horizontal and vertical modes of perception, [Fowles] has tried to prepare the reader psychologically to achieve transcendence: to link ka and ba, the surface and the deep structures, to achieve one of those timeless moments when personal and ritual memories resonate. When faced with that puzzling sentence on the last page of the novel, the reader is challenged to go further, to make the connection that will make the novel whole.

Susan Louise Helgeson
University of Louisville dissertation: Readers Reading John Fowles’ “Daniel Martin”: An Experimental Study of Reading as a Composing Process, 1981

Paired opposite:
innocence + decadence

Susan Klemtner
"The Counterpoles of John Fowles's Daniel Martin,” 1979

Paired opposites:
“change and difference” + “unchanging sameness”
movement of the first two chapters: past to present, day to night, Devon countryside to Hollywood cityscape, exterior to interior, natural to artificial, harvest labor to language games, looking forward to looking back, the boy’s “natural and promising world” to the man’s “artificial and compromised one,” past/present/future conjoined in the first chapter to a “limited” and “closed” sense of time in the second chapter
Dan + Jane (representing male/female and other archetypal opposites)
ka and ba
Dan-experiencing + Dan-narrating

Sample quotations:
In Daniel Martin (1977), John Fowles generates matter and manner out of oppositions like those between the perspectives of Dan and Jenny, the politics of right and left, first and third person, past and present, ka and ba. Even material some reviewers object to . . . may be justified as parts of Fowles’s encompassing dualistic scheme. These oppositions begin with the first sentence, a remarkable anticipation of the novel: “Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.” Posing an either/or choice, the statement divides these two alternatives into apparently irreconcilable poles, but Fowles eventually links his counterpoles, so that the desolation of Palmyra produces whole sight in Daniel Martin, and whole sight yields a compassionate understanding of desolation.

. . . Nowhere in Fowles’s fiction . . . are thematic oppositions so successfully reflected and enriched by narrative design as in Daniel Martin. Several sorts of antitheses govern the novel . . .

. . . As [Dan’s] sense of the opposition between his past and present dissolves in a final understanding of their unity, so does his “split personality” finally merge into wholeness. The last eleven chapters of the novel, presenting the trip to Egypt and return, use only the third person. Dan’s confrontation with subjectivity and his assimilation of his past in the middle of the novel allow his assumption of a more honest objectivity at the end. . . . In its progressive movement toward a perspective that fuses the subjective and the objective, the narrative itself mirrors the narrator’s growth toward “whole sight.”

. . . The oppositions of form which permeate Daniel Martin serve thematic purposes as well: they emphasize alternative choices, with the characters’ relative freedom to make them, and develop the notion that “whole sight” entails a perception of both pole and counterpole.

Günther Klotz
"Realism and Metafiction in John Fowles's Novels," 1986

Paired opposites:
metafictional style + realist content
disruption + integration

Sample quotations:
The contradictory character and the historical dimension of society are kept in the reader’s mind. Daniel Martin opens with a disruption of harmony: a Nazi bomber spoils the pastoral scene, the death of a rabbit ends Daniel’s boyhood dreams.
. . . Since Fowles believes that his present society is in a bad state and that man can improve society, it is only natural that he will try to make his art contribute to that consciousness that man should do so. Such an intention . . . requires fictional strategies of integration, or, more precisely, strategies of laying bare the process of integration analytically.

. . . In Daniel Martin the outstanding defamiliarizing technique is the alternation of first person and third person narrative. It keeps the reader aware that what he reads is the story of events prior to the hero’s writing of an autobiographical novel and, at the same time, it is the novel already written. It directs his attention to the problems of objectification, of being the subject of a situation or its object, of being a fiction-maker blind to himself or a character as seen from people—that is, as part of a community. What seems to be a matter of literary point-of-view becomes an issue of truth about man’s movements in time and space, in history and society. By these defamiliarizing techniques Fowles initiates the readers to a critical attitude towards their own perceptions, an attitude the value standards of which are determined by the degree of artistic, scientific and/or social creativity applied.

. . . Fowles, in his novels, enacts a reversal of the noveau and postmodernist relation to reality. He applies metafictional devices for his realist purposes. Even the way he interrupts the narrative for his reflections is instrumented as a technique to promote the reader’s totality of consciousness.

. . . Fowles is a magical entertainer projecting images of life that probe reality deeper than any surface realism or naturalism which exposes social evils and hopes for a therapeutical effect. His is a dialectical view of society and of art the phantastic and imaginative narrative crystallizations of which take us out of fashions of despair.

Ben Knights
Writing Masculinities: Male Narratives in 20th Century Fiction, 1999

Paired opposites:
the reader’s experience of being “a model Oxford student” versus the novel “preempting the academic critic” by having Anthony represent Oxfordian sterility, the Pluto of Jane’s underworld, commit suicide
the boundaries between Daniel’s own identity and his subject matter, and his efforts at border control

Gray Kochhar-Lindgren
"Rewriting Narcissus: Art and the Self in Daniel Martin," 1993

Sample quotations:
Art, in other words, acts to move Martin beyond a narcissistic point of reference and to mediate between Daniel’s private world and the more encompassing realities of temporality and intersubjectivity.

. . . That first sentence, “Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation,” is impossible for the reason that none of us can know the fullness of insight to which the sentence points. The fantasy of “whole sight” lies too close to Narcissus’s fantasy of omnipotence. And yet, Daniel Martin does attempt a version of whole sight, for Daniel and Jane open themselves to the knowledge of each other, and the private world of the interior self makes a truce, however uneasy, with the public world of politics and history.

Brooke Lenz
John Fowles: Visionary and Voyeur, 2008

Paired opposites:
male and female ways of knowing and being
Daniel’s perspective + Jenny’s contributions
Daniel’s frame of values + Jane’s frame of values

Sample quotations:
. . . Dan ultimately validates Jenny’s oppositional perspective by allowing her not only the final word on Tsankawi, characterizing her comment on that trip as a “bullseye. Where it was aimed,” but also an authorial voice in what is otherwise a novel exclusively composed from Dan’s dominant perspective. This retrospective acceptance of Jenny’s insights provides one of the most sincere illustrations of Dan’s commitment to whole sight in the novel, since integrating Jenny’s contributions into his text requires Dan to grant her character an authority that challenges his own. Moreover, Jenny’s contributions transform Dan, if only for three chapters and a few occasional comments, into a reader forced to confront his own representation in someone else’s text.

. . . Although conventional in its faith in the romance narrative, Dan’s perspective nevertheless functions in critical opposition to Jane’s self-protective, subjugated perspective. Indeed, his intervention rescues her from permanent alienation by restoring balance to her consciousness and allowing her to transcend her resignation and despair.

. . . Integrating Jane’s right feeling into his own ways of knowing and being, Dan finally learns to appreciate disorder and complexity in relationships, to choose the real over the archetypal. Through the communication and connection of their differently oriented but similarly situated perspectives, Jane and Dan achieve whole sight, envisioning a renewed existence as committed lovers, liberal activists, and experimental narrative artists—and Dan’s “impossible” novel finally begins with the line he imagines as its last sentence.

. . . More convincing than Nicholas [Urfe, the protagonist of The Magus] . . . Dan successfully integrates women’s ways of knowing and being into his evolving text, creating a prismatic rather than fragmented narrative that integrates multiples modes of perception.

Paul H. Lorenz
"Epiphany among the Ruins: Etruscan Places in John Fowles's Daniel Martin,” 1990

Paired opposites:
women + men
masculine fire + feminine water
Isis + Osiris
sacred + secular
body + spirit
Indo-European barbarians versus earthly ancient Europeans

Sample quotation, dealing with the novel's first chapter (Devon harvest disrupted by warplane):
This image of the warrior disrupting the world of the farmer, of the values behind the sword contending with the values of the plowshare, is the continuation of a conflict which can be traced back at least as far as the Indo-European invasion of Europe.

Simon Loveday
The Romances of John Fowles, 1985

Paired opposites:
“Dan as an individual” + “the history of his time”
“the split between the nineteenth and the twentieth century . . . between the lost certainties of the Victorians and Edwardians . . . and the laid-back confidence of the generation of Jenny, Caro, and Roz”
the artistic conflict between Daniel Martin and his fictional counterpart Simon Wolfe: will the hero of Daniel’s projected novel be Daniel or his counterpart Simon? And does Daniel’s life, with its “almost uninterrupted good fortune,” qualify for artistic treatment?
public life + private life
literal versus metaphorical virginity

Sample quotations:
. . . Dan is blessed by almost uninterrupted good fortune. As his idea for a novel starts to take shape he foresees a conflict between his happy circumstances and the unhappy ending which he feels obliged to provide.

. . . Whatever the views of his creator, Dan retains a stubborn belief that public decisions must spring from private convictions. This emerges in two principal ways. The first is Dan’s decision to write about himself . . . The second is the way in which Jane’s political aspirations, a recurrent theme in the latter half of the book, can only be realized when her personal life is fulfilled.

Ellen McDaniel
Purdue dissertation: Dark Towers, Godgames, and the Evolution Toward Humanism in the Fiction of John Fowles, 1979

Sample quotation:
. . . “Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.” This judgment, delivered by the novel’s narrator-protagonist, posits two poles of existence, two ways of living life. One pole is morally correct—that is, life-affirming. The other is immorally (or amorally) wrong and life-denying. “Whole sight” is the metaphor for Fowles’ moral vision of a life-affirming “citadel of humanism” in the world. “Desolation” describes a world devoid of humanism, a world commonly known in this century as the “wasteland.”

Barry N. Olshen
John Fowles, 1978

Paired opposites:
surface realism + ritualistic and mythic overtones in the first chapter
the contrast between the overtones of the first chapter and the glib social posturing of the second chapter
the novel’s arc of development from fragmentation to integration
Fowles’s handling of elements in Daniel Martin, as contrasted with his earlier fiction: in Olshen’s view, Daniel Martin presents Fowles’s first middle-aged protagonists and his first mature hero; his first treatment in which sexual love is demoted so that the focus can broaden to other kinds of love; his first substantive treatment of familial love, and of the bonds between children and parents; his most compassionate book; Daniel Martin represents Fowles’s long-awaited dream of treating an entire generation in a novel, and of making a definitive portrait of Englishness

Sue Park
"Time and Ruins in John Fowles's Daniel Martin," "John Fowles, Daniel Martin, and Simon Wolfe," 1985

Paired opposites:
past + present + future
the last sentence joined to the first
verbal echoes
movement from innocence and youth toward knowledge and age

Sample quotations:
In Daniel Martin Fowles is a storyteller, a creator of characters, a scene painter, a philosopher, a technical experimenter, a wielder of literary allusion; additionally, he is a literary theorist, presenting dramatically rather than directly a theory of fiction that encompasses both artist and audience.

“Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation,” Fowles writes, and initiates the attempted achievement of that whole sight through an examination of all the days of Daniel Martin. The [first] chapter is a beautifully detailed recreation of a day in Dan’s youth, a summer day some thirty years before the present of the novel. Its opening paragraphs are written in the past tense . . .. Then, for four paragraphs, the verb tense is present . . .. A brief section using future tense follows.

This first chapter prefigures the total work’s concern with time. “Whole sight” demands an examination of past, present, and future, and the novel continually moves back and forth in time, a kaleidoscope of scenes from the life of Daniel Martin. . . .

The novelist’s preoccupation with time, then, is evidenced by his use of schematic elements such as fractured chronology, shifting verb tenses, and the recircling at the end back to the beginning. More subtly a part of the pervasive time motif is setting, particularly the ruins of long-dead civilizations. . . . Fowles takes . . . three settings—ruins of civilizations from different continents and different centuries—and weaves them together as integral parts of the “whole sight” search. . . Besides interlacing the three with allusions, verbal echoes, and direct references, Fowles develops a progression of mounting force. . . . This incremental pattern parallels a movement from innocence and youth toward knowledge and age.

Claude Prévost
“De la Tragédie Anglaise: A propos de Daniel Martin, de John Fowles,” 1993

[This is loosely translated from the French]

The novel’s title may put one in mind of 19th century novels whose main character’s name serves as the title--Tom Jones, David Copperfield, Jude the Obscure, and so on. Does this suggest a simple return to the 19th century novel? The plot does in fact cover three decades of English life, its descriptive scope is enormous, and its geographical and social terrain are both immense: Daniel Martin is all at once a novel of education, a novel of morals, and a novel of travel. However, the narrative points of view vary: the events do not solely regard Daniel but also his girlfriend Jenny, his daughter Caroline, his ex-wife Nell, and his ex-sister-in-law Jane. Even Daniel’s perspective is split from the first chapter between the perspectives of “I” and “he.”

. . . The Dan who says “To hell with cultural fashion” is still an apprentice who has not yet achieved this cultural break, although his setback may only be temporary. As for John Fowles himself--he’s fond of playing games. It’s not by accident that we watch Daniel marvel at passages of Georg Lukács consecrating Thomas Mann, or claiming the brilliant stylists Henry James and Vladimir Nabokov among his literary forebears. But Daniel Martin also resembles great intellectual adventures like Mann’s The Magic Mountain (1924) and Doctor Faustus, which belong to the tradition of the thinking person’s novel. For giving this polyphony all the space it needs, it’s clear that Fowles gives this novel the dimensions of an epic. Does this mean he was following the path of Lukácsian “grand realism”? The development after this book, with Mantissa, with A Maggot, suggests otherwise. It would be wrong to imprison Daniel Martin in that framework. Just because someone is highly regarded as a novelist doesn’t exclude the possibility that he has the narrative technique qualifying him as “modern.” But Fowles uses this technique with considerable subtlety, incorporating the earlier tradition into his novel with economy and without artifice, like a heritage perfectly mastered.

Carol French Richer
Purdue dissertation: Continuation and Innovation in the Contemporary British Novel: The Reflexive Fiction of Margaret Drabble, Iris Murdoch, and John Fowles, 1985

Paired opposites:
(location) rural Devon + urban Hollywood
(nationality) English + American
(perspective) objective + subjective
content + form
realism + reflexivity
stasis + change
tradition + innovation

Sample quotations:
. . . the form of Daniel Martin is both realistic and reflexive, traditional and postmodern. Thus, Fowles realizes and fulfills his stylistic “quest” in Daniel Martin in much the same way that his character, Daniel Martin, creates an integrated self through the events and experiences of the novel: both are able to achieve “whole sight” by linking apparently irreconcilable poles, by uniting past and present, and by coming to terms with stasis and change.

. . . Fowles uses setting in Daniel Martin to depict another form of “whole sight,” again realized through the confluence of apparently irreconcilable opposites . . .

. . . Daniel Martin is John Fowles’s most successful work of art to date because this novel merges content and form, realism and reflexivity, stasis and change, tradition and innovation. Although the work exemplifies a number of postmodern and metafictional techniques . . . it does so at the service of realism, to define character, delineate place, establish temporality, and achieve an authentic narrative voice. Fowles uses . . . reflexive techniques in Daniel Martin to accurately and realistically depict one man’s struggle to achieve wholeness in the midst of the fragmentation and contingency of the late twentieth-century, both personally and through the medium of art.

Jeannette Mercer Sabre
"The Sacred Wood in Three Twentieth-Century Narratives," 1984

Paired opposites:
private + public
community + individual
nature + humanity

Sample quotation:
In the transitory nature of the private retreat and the return to the daily world, the narrator suggests that the two worlds complement each other. This relationship is represented in the two ideal landscapes of the initial chapter. The rich texture of the scene of the men harvesting the wheat and the communion of the folk under the trees is an ideal image of the community of men in harmony with nature and each other. Juxtaposed with this ideal landscape is the private one in the beeches of the marly combe to which Dan retreats and experiences being, alone. The realization of the dependency of the two ideal worlds is contained in the narrator’s opening words, “Whole sight, or all the rest is desolation.”

Lance St. John Butler
"John Fowles and the Fiction of Freedom," 1991

Paired opposites:
existentialism + poststructuralism
writing that celebrates freedom + writing that questions whether we are free

Sample quotations:
[Fowles] belongs to the generation most profoundly influenced by Existentialism . . . The author’s self, always closely bound up with that of his hero-surrogates in Fowles, seems to be exploring Existentialist choices in an early work such as The Magus, but by the time we reach Daniel Martin, that self has itself come to seem part of the problem of fictional creation. We are not dealing with self-obsession but rather with the position of the Postmodern/Poststructuralist author for whom the problem of writing is that he is at once all-powerful (the ludic God, the magus) and indeterminable (the blank space, the “Urfe”—private code, as Fowles has indicated, for “earth”).

. . . Fowles may have set out to write the fiction that celebrated or explored freedom, but he has stayed to demonstrate the other sense of the expression “the fiction of freedom.”

Mahmoud Salami
John Fowles's Fiction and the Poetics of Postmodernism, 1992

Paired opposites:
first- and third-person voices
subjectivity + objectivity
novelistic and cinematic forms of representation

Sample quotation:
. . . Daniel attempts to rearrange, reorganize, and reassemble the fragmentation of his own self through the use of both first- and third-person voices as a means of reconciling subjectivity and objectivity in his narrative reconstruction. Also, the novel’s unique quality lies in the way it foregrounds the contrast between the novel as an ideal and fluid form of representation and the film as a fixed and deficient one.

Randy A. Svoboda
U. Iowa dissertation: Between Private and Public Space: the Problem of Writing Personal History in the Novels of Lessing, Lawrence, Joyce and Fowles, 1995

Paired opposites:
public + private
mythic + historical
tradition + experiment
existentialist humanism + the fragmented subject of postmodernism
hermeneutics of suspicion + hermeneutics of restoration
personal history + post-individualistic experience
looking glasses of psychology and sociology

Sample quotations:
By combining perspectives, and translating from the vocabulary of one into another, Daniel can unite private and public, inner and outer, mythic and historical, etc.

. . . If Jungian psychoanalysis provides the totalizing perspective in The Magus, in Daniel Martin there is a panorama of totalizing perspectives that coalesce to create a kaleidoscopic glimpse at the personal history of Daniel Martin. In the latter novel, the Jungian superstructure of The Magus yields to Marxism, Freudian psychoanalysis, environmental determinism, existentialism and a host of other foci that offer totalizing viewpoints.

. . . Whether Daniel Martin subverts realist or modernist premises, its originality lies in an ability to combine totalizing perspectives, and thus, as [Mahmoud] Salami says, to reconcile subjective and objective aspects of the title character’s reconstruction of his own history.

. . . Daniel begins his personal history with an uncompromising belief in totality. . . the litmus test of experience gradually erodes his belief.

. . . Even if [French psychoanalytic theorist Jacques] Lacan is correct in maintaining that the self is a childhood delusion, knowledge of one’s possible identities may lead to biological, ecological and historical connections. Daniel Martin reads almost as a direct confirmation of this premise, for Daniel’s ideal of whole sight is finally admitted to be a delusion. Yet Daniel finds a union of public and private space through memory that leads to the promise of a fulfilling relationship.

Katherine Tarbox
The Art of John Fowles, 1988

Paired opposites:
cinema vision + novel vision
time + timelessness
Yin + Yang
love + death
trivial + profound
Tsankawi (creativity, nobility) + Palmyra (destruction, decadence)
symboliste perception of reality + cubiste perception of reality

Sample quotation:
Dan’s attempt to see whole is mirrored in the technique of the last section, with the unions of “I” and “he,” of showing and telling, of silence and speech, of past and present.

Barbara Temple-Thurston
"Time: The Tensional Nature of Reality in John Fowles's Daniel Martin," 1984

Paired opposites:
chaos + order
individual + society
determinism + free will
life + death
stasis + motion

Sample quotation:
The first sentence of Daniel Martin—“whole sight; or all the rest is desolation”—embodies Fowles’ vision of reality. The whole, for Fowles, is erected out of the Blakean conflict of a myriad of irreconcilable polarities, or opposing factions, and it is from this struggle that all vitality and action emanates. Man’s very existence, according to Fowles, and the basic function of art spring from the eternal conflict between chaos (matter) and order (form). In Daniel Martin Fowles leads the reader through countless polarities: the individual and society, determinism and free will, life and death, stasis and motion, and affecting all others, objective and time. These polarities exist, in turn, not separately, but are interwoven by Fowles into a complex pattern of time and space that becomes the key to understanding his vision of reality.

David H. Walker
"Subversion of Narrative in the Work of André Gide and John Fowles," 1980

Paired opposite:
“. . . a myth integrating individual experience and cultural history”

Sample quotations:
. . . the sustained third-person account of his trip to the Middle East with Jane, the embodiment of “right feeling”--an important concept in the novel--seems to denote precisely the achievement of a perspective from which these events conform to a meaningful pattern--they attain the objective status of a myth integrating individual experience and cultural history. Hence we may read symbolic implications into the trip up the Nile, the river of life . . .

. . . the multiplication of complementary perspectives achieves precisely that wholeness of vision which is the author's aim.

David H. Walker
“Remorse, Responsibility, and Moral Dilemmas in Fowles’s Fiction,” 1986

Paired opposites:
remorse versus freedom
Daniel’s urge to self-fulfillment + his responses to moral and social obligations
the “crime” of Daniel’s play The Victors (winter 1956-57) versus his long-delayed reconciliation with Anthony (winter 1974)
Daniel’s disconnected social life after leaving Oxford versus his social reintegration on returning there decades later
Daniel’s taking responsibility for the past + his assuming responsibility in the present
Jane’s toying with the impossible dream of a Rabelaisian innocence and exemption from consequence versus the disastrous results of her doing this: public and private remorse, emotional sterility and social despair

Sample quotations:
The narrative of Daniel Martin demonstrates that the interaction within a couple is bound up with, while it can correct and clarify, the moral dilemma of remorse versus freedom. Thus the humane dimension of a lived relationship replaces the clash of abstract principles, beyond which the previous novels had not ventured.

. . . inspired by the appropriately “remorseless” eyes of the Rembrandt self-portrait, [Dan is enabled] to set about redefining the opposition between remorse and freedom in terms of a more truly humane set of parameters: “No true compassion without will, no true will without compassion.”

Eileen Warburton
“The Corpse in the Combe: The Vision of the Dead Woman in the Landscape of John Fowles,” 1999

Paired opposites:
Jane symbolizing both corpse and original girl, mother and child, life and death
Palmyra/“The End of the World” + “The Harvest”/the sacred combe

Sample quotation:
Symbolically, [Jane Mallory] has been both corpse and original girl. Now, as she removes her wedding ring (symbol of her underground marriage) and leaves it on the surface of that bleak, hopeless place, she reveals a band of pink new flesh around her ring finger, a circle of bright infant flesh about the bone—both mother and child, life and death, writing and written, past and future. The circle of rebirth emblazoned in the flesh of the beloved woman is also, we have seen, the language of the novel brought full circle. Embracing her with the vision of “whole sight” empowers the writer (Daniel Martin or John Fowles) to turn his “impossible last” unwritten sentence into “his own impossible first,” the opening sentence of the novel itself. As he magically and silently recalls the words, “Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation,” Fowles re-turns to the beginning, to the rich green world of “The Harvest,” to the sacred combe of his childhood, to the perpetual present of the written word.

Raymond J. Wilson III
“The Secret Place of Literary Creativity in John Fowles’s Daniel Martin: A Phenomenological Perspective,” 1997

Paired opposites:
dis-place-ment versus a restorative internal sense of place that inspires creativity

Sample quotation:
In the context of “place,” for Fowles’s narrator, “the Robin Hood—or greenwood—myth changes from merely symbolizing folk-aspiration in social terms to enshrining a dominant mental characteristic, an essential behavior, an archetypal movement (akin to certain major vowel-shifts in the language itself) of the English imagination,” says Daniel. The exterior place evokes the inner place where the writer experiences deeper unity of all that western culture splits apart. By finding the right interior place, the literary artist, in a sense remembers the original unity.

Thomas M. Wilson
"Post-Pastoral in John Fowles's Daniel Martin," 2005
The Recurrent Green Universe of John Fowles, 2006

Paired opposites:
pastoral + post-pastoral
past + present
intellect + feeling
soul + body

Sample quotation:
. . . the novel is not straightforwardly nostalgic, and neither does it completely abrogate the value of the trope of an Edenic moment in the context of Daniel Martin’s life. In outflanking the dangers of sentimentalising rural life while at the same time not ignoring its poetries and valuable rituals, Daniel Martin warrants the title post-pastoral . . . a work with a mature environmental aesthetic.

. . . Whole sight is, in the novel, finally both an integration of one’s past into one’s present, and a form of seeing inclusive of both intellect and feeling, soul and body, for the rest of the living world.

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E. S. Duvall
Atlantic, October 1977:
. . . Fowles has come close to succeeding in his admittedly impossible goal: "whole sight," a completely rounded portrait which balances intellectual and emotional truths. Filled with stunningly beautiful writing and an exacting intelligence, Daniel Martin is a novel of rare integrity.

Clifton Fadiman
“Book-of-the-Month Club News,” on Daniel Martin as the October 1977 main choice

Paired opposite:
intelligence + sensibility
There are hardly any shock effects (though there is one orgy scene) and little flaunting of the cape of the author’s ego; only the clear reflection of a temperament in which intelligence and sensibility constantly correct and control each other. The narrative moves us about in time and setting; we are shifted among the tenses; we move, sometimes in the run of a single sentence, from first to third person and back again. The central character writes films. For him the scenes of the past often fall into cinema patterns, so that at times it is the camera rather than the pen that composes. But none of it is gimmickry; the jigsaw pieces inexorably move to a perfect fit. In the end we have absorbed into ourselves as much of the whole sight of a complex human being as perhaps we can receive.

John Gardner
“Saturday Review,” Oct. 1, 1977
[At Palmyra]. . . bad emotion and bad philosophy have reduced antiquity to “its constituent parts.” Jane and Daniel—modern humanity—have lost the ability to see life whole. Like Rome and the Orient, like male and female, reason and emotion, opposing principles must marry. And in a sense, miraculously, in the waste of Palmyra, Jane and Daniel do.

Maxwell Geismar
“Newsday,” Sept. 11, 1977

Paired opposites:
19th century vigor + 20th century sophistication
the styles of Franz Kafka and Thomas Mann
“The novel is dead,” we have been saying mournfully during this whole period and longer; and here comes a born-and-bred Englishman to proclaim that the novel lives again in all its full-blown splendor, an Englishman who combines 19th Century vigor with the utmost of 20th Century sophistication. . . . [Daniel Martin] goes almost everywhere—in human emotions, intellectual discourse, philosophical disquisitions, societal analyses, and all the rest. The virtue of this novel is really that no short essay or review can possibly encompass either its literary and artistic range or its readability, and Fowles’ technical skill is so remarkable that in one scene he can touch on all these fictional extremes and different dramatic personae. To paraphrase the Hungarian literary critic Lukacs whom Fowles is fascinated by, Daniel Martin is a combination of Kafka and Thomas Mann; but it is far closer to Mann and the realist tradition of the novel that acknowledges angst but affirms life.

Paul Gray
“Time,” Sept. 12, 1977
In The Collector, The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Fowles kept fun and philosophy in separate compartments. The narrative sleights of hand in these novels could be explicated in the classroom; the books could also be enjoyed—for their tight plotting and pervasive eroticism—straight off the drugstore rack. Daniel Martin is altogether more austere; its story cannot be pried loose from its philosophical attack on one of the modern age’s sacred tenets—“that only a tragic, absurdist, black-comic view . . . of human destiny could be counted as truly representative and ‘serious.’”

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Eileen Warburton
Fowles had begun [Daniel Martin] “in the spirit of my own sickness,” thinking to focus it on “futility,” on “the failure of a generation as the failure of evolution—a temporary misadaptation.” He had rehearsed this theme in writings all the way back to the 1950s. But . . . Daniel Martin also became a book about recovering the past through the imagination. Indeed, as the two themes intertwined, Daniel Martin became a novel about how the imaginative recovery of the green past—childhood, parents, beloved landscapes, youthful friendships, and early romantic loves—could finally redeem the man of that futile generation from his heartsickness and sense of failure. . . . Time remembered, the past recovered, allowed a future of wholeness and authenticity to emerge.

Last edited by drkellyindc on Sat Nov 22, 2008 10:32 am, edited 2 times in total.
Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:43 pm

Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:00 am

Few authors rival the depth and breadth of Fowles’s knowledge of the animal kingdom. He put that knowledge to use in a uniquely comprehensive way in Daniel Martin--resulting in a veritable Noah’s Ark of animal references.

I don’t expect anyone to look up these references one by one in the 1977 Signet paperback. But I do hope that readers peruse this list and marvel at its range and diversity.

The hedgehog has only one mention in the novel, but Eileen Warburton makes a convincing case in her biography for its being a totem animal for Fowles (see p. 331 and p. 345).

Fowles brings some of these references into the novel directly, others by way of metaphor or proverb. Each of these references contributes to the novel’s underlying vitality; taken together, they comprise a further aspect of the author’s conception of “whole sight.”


Ant 286
Ape 42, 255, 430, 551, 637, 655
Baboon 551
Badger 431
Bantam 202
Bat 517
Bear 247
Bee 79, 350, 369, 372, 510, 543
Bea-eater 508
Bird 10, 33, 37, 67, 157, 242, 244, 289, 293, 344, 349-50, 384, 372, 392, 417, 456, 496, 508, 542-3, 545-6, 564-5, 569-70, 572, 593, 610, 621, 648, 653

Bluebird 347
Boar 289
Brontosaurus 328
Bull 366, 661
Bulldog 55
Buzzard 352, 388, 456
Camel 75, 185, 623
Canary 244
Cat 79, 82, 100, 263, 324, 468, 479, 484
Chicken 369, 372, chick 468, 470
Chimpanzee 79
Chipmunk 344, 350
Cow 13, 86, 90, 147, 153, 156, 316, 369, 374-5, 388, 397, 406, 433, 457, 474, Holstein, Freisian 406

Crane 610
Crocodile 558-9, 566
Crow 161, 225, 308, 433, 456
Curlew 425
Dog 7, 82, 84, 137, 207, 261-2, 269, 314, 329, 407, 538, 568, 635-7, 640, 650-3, hound 327, Irish setter 314, 325, beagle 123, Welsh collie 137, puppy 315, 650-3

Donkey 489, 526, 530, 595
Dove 407, 456, 563
Dragonfly 24
Duck 105, 234, 542, 621, 628, pintail 542, mallard 542, pochard 542, teal 542, 621
Eel 341, 419, 425
Egret 522, 542, 564
Elephant 155, 296, 362, 428, 508, 569-70, 576, 593
Falcon 542, 551, 570
Fish 13, 106, 198, 274, 559, 570
Flea 17, fly 90, 388, 510, botfly 5
Flicker 344
Fox 326
Frog 510, 524
Gazelle 66, 574
Gnat 185
Goat 256, 358
Goose 137, 152, 181, 542, 558, Egyptian goose 542-3
Grasshopper 286, 319
Greyhound 7, 650
Gull 610
Hawk 65, 351-2, 511, 542
Hedgehog 431
Hen 28, 372
Heron 542
Hoopoe 289
Horse 1, 3-6, 17, 107, 247, 247, 252, 323, 325-6, 338, 357, 393, 480
Jackal 636
Junco 350
Kestrel 551
Kingfisher 347
Kite 496, 570, 572
Lamb 326, 623, 626
Lapwing 360-1, 542, 621
Lark 647
Leech 102
Leopard 462
Lion 331, 350, 529, 541
Lizard 388
Maggot 25, 55
Magpie 456
Mole 215
Moorhen 24
Moth: Tiger Moth 91, Jersey Tiger 91
Mouse 328
Mule 212, 449, 649
Nuthatch 10
Osprey 570
Ostrich 333
Owl 426
Ox 9, 86, 357, 377, 526
Parrot 543
Peacock 529
Pheasant 5-6, 163, 434, hen pheasant 7
Pig 137, 255, 259, 268, 268, 327, 329, 369, 374-5, 459, 468, 521, 662, swine 331, 595
Pigeon 5, 397, wood-pigeon 10, 433, 667
Piranha 496
Pony 318, 371
Quail 67, 252
Rabbit 6-10, 26-7, 347, 369, 379, 397, hare 327
Rat 156, 281, 343, 372-4, 454, 457, 461, 480, 492, 629
Raven 6, 349-51, 353, 569, 648
Rhinoceros 443
Robin 563
Roebuck 289
Salmon 271-2, 666
Sandpiper 604
Scarab (dung beetle) 511-2
Scorpion 348, 551, 570
Sea anemone 142
Seal 94, 497
Shark 256
Sheep 24, 181, 326, 407, 469, 509, 623, ewe 326-7, 623
Sheepdog 379
Shrimp 142
Snake 92, 551, rattlesnake 348, serpent 348, 636
Spider: black widow 348, tarantula 348
Spur-winger plover 542
Squirrel 364, 667
Sucker 363
Swallow 542
Swift 542
Teal 621
Termite 106
Tern 570
Thrush: bluethroat 563
Toad 295
Tortoise 656
Towhee 344
Trout 7
Viper 53
Vulture 496
Wagtail 542
Warbler 572, 610, sedge-warbler 22
Wasp 67
Wolf 17, 138, 244, 485, 510
Wood pigeons
Woodlark 91, 375
Worm 351


Animal (generic) 250, 277, 289, 291, 323, 326, 366, 370, 386, 417, 431, 476, 496, 504, 535, 543, 615, 632, 634, 641, 644, 651

Amoeba 592
Beast 120, 253, 331, 431, 623
Bilharzia (parasitic worms) 496, 527
Biped 652
Bug 538
Centaur 627
Creature 607
Insect 90, 381
Livestock 544
Mongrel 261
Monster 54, 328, 539
Organism 116
Parasite 550
Pariah 626, 633
Pet 329
Runt 118, 314, 326
Spore 451

Named animals:

“Loony”: Rhode Island red hen at the Reeds 372
“Captain” and “Sally”: Lewis’s horses in “The Harvest” 1-6
“True”: Welsh collie at Thornecombe 137

Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:43 pm

Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Tue Sep 23, 2008 6:56 pm

I've expanded the “integrated opposites” list that I originally posted on Sept. 7. I especially recommend checking out the new entries on Robert Begiebing, Adrienne Gardner, Brooke Lenz, Claude Prévost, and Randy Svoboda.

I can’t speak highly enough of Svoboda’s 1995 dissertation, which is available on-line through major university libraries. His theoretically informed reading of Daniel Martin is deft and illuminating. I also appreciate the case he makes for shifting the scholarly world's focus on interpretive suspicion to an emphasis on restoration (see pp. 270-1).

Svoboda's case finds parallel in Robert Begiebing's 1989 book Toward a New Synthesis: John Fowles, John Gardner, Norman Mailer. Begiebing makes a valiant call for a new moral and intellectual order in the aftermath of the 20th century’s various disruptions and upheavals. His epigraph, from Betty Jean Craige’s book Relativism in the Arts, is worth taking to heart:
Our relativist minds made by a relativist world make a relativist world. And there is no Truth in us.

This is one of Fowles's great achievements--that he moves past a relativist worldview and still finds credible truths left to be spoken.

I translated a few passages from an article on Daniel Martin by the French scholar Claude Prévost. I’m keen to access other non-English writings about Fowles. Does anyone out there read German? I'd like to know more about the 1997 article by “M. Loschnigg” in the journal Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik (Volume 22, issue 2, pp. 271-4). Also, Gerd Bayer's 2004 book was written in German, although its title is English--Greener, more mysterious processes of mind. (What a great way to describe "the Fowles effect"!) I'd love to know even the gist of Bayer's argument.

The new book by Brooke Lenz, John Fowles: Visionary and Voyeur, has a feminist outlook. I initially found the chapter on Daniel Martin joyless and reductive, but it picks up when Lenz writes about Jenny and Jane.

Adrienne Gardner’s 1987 dissertation, also on-line, is steeped in Jungian thought, object-relations theory, and Taoism. In my view its best material on Daniel Martin comes on pp. 142-212.

My list still has some omissions—including Susana Jaén Onega, William Stephenson, Peter Conradi, Pamela Cooper, K. A. Chittick, Robert Arlett, Eleanor Wymard, Randolph Runyon, John B. Humma, Robert Huffaker, Carol Ward, Bruce Woodcock, Ishrat Lindblad, P. J. Boomsma, and Kerry McSweeney. I may add some or all of these in later postings.

Among other things, the list I’ve collected of integrated opposites in Daniel Martin allows for a deeper appreciation of one of the novel’s Gramsci passages. In the chapter “Beyond the Door,” while Daniel waits in Jane and Anthony’s living room, he notes a marked passage in Jane’s copy of Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci:
The philosophy of praxis is consciousness full of contradictions, in which the philosopher himself, understood both individually and as an entire social group, not merely grasps the contradictions, but posits himself as an element of the contradiction and elevates this element to a principle of knowledge and therefore of action.

Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:43 pm

Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:30 pm

The Indian-British author Salman Rushdie refutes the premise of Daniel Martin’s first sentence, but it appears doubtful whether he read past that point in the novel. Here are two excerpts from his essay “Imaginary Homelands,” about Indian writers living in England, in the 1991 book Immigrant Fictions:

John Fowles begins Daniel Martin with the words: “Whole sight: or all the rest is desolation.” But human beings do not perceive things whole; we are not gods but wounded creatures, cracked lenses, capable only of fractured perceptions. Partial beings, in all senses of that phrase. Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved; perhaps it is because our sense of what is the case is constructed from such inadequate materials that we defend it so fiercely, even to the death. The Fowles position seems to me a way of succumbing to the guru-illusion. Writers are no longer sages dispensing the wisdom of the centuries. And those of us who have been forced by cultural displacement to accept the provisional nature of all truths, all certainties, have perhaps had modernism forced upon us. We can’t lay claim to Olympus, and are thus released to describe our worlds in the way in which all of us, whether writers or not, perceive it from day to day.

. . . whatever technical solutions we may find, Indian writers in these islands, like others who have migrated into the north from the south, are capable of writing from a kind of double perspective because they, we, are at one and the same time insiders and outsiders in this society. This stereoscopic vision is perhaps what we can offer in place of “whole sight.”

A number of responses come to mind:

-- “Stereoscopic vision; or all the rest is desolation.” Doesn’t have the same ring. Rushdie’s comments help me realize that part of the appeal of “whole sight” is its poetry and its ability to inspire.

-- Rushdie treats Fowles’s opening sentence as static and monolithic—it’s as if Fowles were sitting in a judges’ box, alternately holding up signs saying “whole sight” and “desolation.”

However, I see the “whole sight” sentence as fluid and enigmatic, both in itself and in how it’s employed in the novel. Having stated the theme in the first sentence, Fowles proceeds to develop, engage, question, and even mock it in the ensuing pages; and then startlingly declares it “impossible” in the last sentence. Rushdie treats as one-dimensional something that, in my view, actually has four or more dimensions.

-- Rushdie also seems to literalize what Fowles means by “whole sight,” assuming it to be open-ended and non-situated, without a specific social and historical context--what Donna Haraway has described as the “god trick of seeing everything from nowhere.” Brooke Lenz defends Daniel Martin against such charges in her new book on Fowles. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter titled “Whole Sight; and Desolation: Situated Knowledges in Daniel Martin”:
. . . Dan’s novel so thoroughly establishes the factors that have endowed him with a dominant discursive position and so self-consciously deconstructs those reifying factors that it transcends the tone of didactic omniscience on which Nicholas [Urfe, the narrator of The Magus] relies. . . . Painstakingly concerned with exploring the intersections of the various social, historical, political, philosophical, epistemological, and ontological systems that specifically situate an individual man, this novel makes a stunning case for standpoint theorists’ claim that all knowledge is indeed situated and partial.

-- I realize that Rushdie is merely using a sentence from Fowles’s novel to make his own point, and that he’s not really critiquing Daniel Martin. But it still reflects poorly on Rushdie as an author that he apparently hasn’t read the novel he’s snubbing, and that he would refute one of its premises merely to make his own point.

-- Had he read further into the novel, Rushdie would have encountered the specific “scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved” that inform Daniel’s life and outlook. At one point Daniel himself says that he disowned the world of his childhood for a long time because he saw it as “freakishly abnormal” (89). He goes on to say, “But I see it now as no more than an extreme example of the general case.” Rushdie’s remark about scraps and dogmas seems to support the opposite view: that of valuing one’s personal past specifically because it is freakishly abnormal. He seems to devalue the human tendency toward generalizing and making patterns and connections. (Even Rushdie exhibits this tendency toward generalization by affirming the provisional nature of all truths and all uncertainties.)

A second perusal reveals what is conspicuously lacking in Rushdie’s “scraps and dogmas” list: great ideas and art, philosophy, systems of thought and feeling--a host of things which are also a part of human efforts at self-understanding, and which make meaning a somewhat less shaky edifice than Rushdie suggests.

-- Rushdie implies that being “wounded,” “cracked” and “fractured” is all that humans have ever been, and all they will ever be. Even if this were true, it leaves out the possibility of aspiring to something better, or imagining something better. If we are so cracked and wounded, definitively and beyond repair, what gives us our sense of this condition, and our longing and will for something different?

In photography as in life, we see a cracked lens and we want to fix it. Metaphorically speaking, if your “lens” is cracked a little differently from mine, together we might get a better sense of what a non-cracked lens would look like.

-- An alternative to fixing the lens would be to sit around philosophizing and grieving about how cracked and fractured things are. And if one engages in this pursuit with dedication, before long cracks and fractures are all one is capable of seeing. As an example: after you read T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" for the first time, you're likely to see everything around you in terms of fragments, and to regard as naive anyone who sees things differently. But even Eliot finally came to a place in his life where he was willing to see things again in terms of full circles and completed journeys (see Four Quartets).

The urge toward wholeness and reconciliation occur periodically, both within humans and between them, even if the results fall short of the imagined ideal. In the novel Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson writes, "there is a law of completion, requiring that everything must finally be made comprehensible. . . . What are all these fragments for, if not to be knit up finally?”

-- Of his fellow contemporary writers Rushdie says, “We can’t lay claim to Olympus . . ..” Is this the new decree from Olympus: that Olympus does not exist and that writers are “no longer sages dispensing the wisdom of the centuries”? Does this, in a subtle way, excuse writers from the task of mining the distant past for what clues it offers to the present? When Rushdie asserts that we are “thus released to describe our worlds in the way in which all of us . . . perceive it from day to day,” he seems to advocate a narrow empirical approach (“if I can’t see it, it mustn’t be true”) that has no use for the past, either as literature or as history. Rejection of the past is regarded now as one of the main failings of both existentialism and postmodernism. Fowles goes to special lengths to illustrate this, knowing it’s one of the hardest lessons for modern women and men to learn. At Oxford, on the day of the Woman in the Reeds, the characters Daniel and Jane believe they can step outside of history; it takes them half a lifetime to recover from this notion.

-- I’m concerned about what writers become once they decide they are definitely not sages. Sages, mentors, gurus: once we banish them from the room, who is left, and what is there to guide them? Banishing sages may be a sophisticated postmodern impulse, but to me it looks suspiciously like an abdication of the basic duty writers have to teach. The usual justification for such banishment is that the universe is an epistemologically unsturdy place, and Wise Men have lost their way. But when you’ve heard this argument enough times, you may begin to wonder where its authority comes from. Has banishing mentors been well-considered, or is it merely a trendy post-sixties thing to do, right in line with not trusting anyone over thirty? The human need for mentors persists, and if they are absent as characters and narrators, readers will tend to transfer the function of mentors onto the nearest author.

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