Complexity group

Discussions relating to John Fowles' novel Daniel Martin.

Complexity group

Postby drkellyindc on Tue Oct 07, 2008 3:36 pm

I'm starting another Daniel Martin reading group, this time in connection with the national Plexus Institute. You don't need to be a Plexus member, nor to have read the novel, to join the introductory call on Oct. 17. If you're interested, email me at and I'll send you the phone number and access code. At the end of the Oct. 17 call, those who want to journey through the book in a series of five teleseminar discussions will arrange the best time and dates. There's no cost for any of the sessions other than making a long-distance phone call, and buying the novel if you participate in the follow-up calls.

Here's the announcement:

Bringing people together in conversation


Friday October 17, 2008

1:00-2:00 P.M. Eastern Time

"Complexity in the John Fowles Novel Daniel Martin"

and the beginning of a discussion group

Join us!

Guest: Kelly Cresap, Ph.D.

Kelly Cresap, Ph.D., author, public speaker, humorist, and former NPR commentator, has spent years studying the 1977 John Fowles novel Daniel Martin, and the rich and layered complexity of its writing and story development. Dr. Cresap earned his doctorate in English literature at the University of Virginia; his 2004 book Pop Trickster Fool: Warhol Performs Naivete examines archetypes in the life of pop artist Andy Warhol.

Daniel Martin is the story of a creative man re-examining his life in middle age. A phone call draws Daniel away from his job as a Hollywood screenwriter to the hospital bedside of his long-estranged best friend in Oxford. This meeting in turn awakens in Daniel a series of feelings and connections he has spent many years neglecting. The journey back to England involves Daniel's piecing together elements of his past, and ultimately serves as the occasion for him “to discover what had gone wrong, not only with Daniel Martin, but his generation, age, century.”

Although a critically acclaimed bestseller and Book-of-the-Month Club main selection when it was published, Daniel Martin is more thoughtfully paced than Fowles’s earlier novels, The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman. It has taken scholarship some time to catch up with the novel’s many facets and layers, and particularly its enigmatic first sentence—“Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.” 31 years after Daniel Martin first appeared, research in a variety of fields now helps us fully appreciate what Fowles meant by “whole sight,” and why it is especially relevant in an age of postmodern fragmentation. Here are some of the ways scholars have configured Daniel Martin:

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

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

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

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

Human Rights Quarterly used an extended passage from Daniel Martin to summarize the conflict between economics and social justice in America (Forsythe, 1982); in the fields of neuropsychology and chronosophy (the study of time), one scholar wrote that reading this book is like overcoming the limitations with which humans ordinarily perceive time (Fawkner, 1984). More recent scholarship has mined the book for its “mature environmental aesthetic,” finding in one of its chapters a loving portrayal of “the most desirable model for feeding the world into the foreseeable future” (Wilson, 2005).

The novel has also served as a touchstone in the fields of cancer treatment, family therapy, aging, gender studies, education, communications, business and economics, travel and tourism, linguistics, and music, among others.

In a provocative posting on why the novel matters today, Dr. Cresap writes,
Daniel Martin is layered and capacious enough to include a vast range of paradoxical realities about life on planet Earth; and yet it's also cohesive and unified enough to bring them together into one holistic vision . . . Because Fowles holds these and other paradoxes in tension in Daniel Martin, he creates the possibility for others to do so as well; and this strenuous ‘holding-in-tension’ becomes a spawning ground for new, more complex forms of feeling and knowledge, new spiritual content, and new sources of action.

If you are intrigued by this journey into complexity and the novel, get the book and enjoy the adventure with other Plexus members. Dr. Cresap and those interested will decide on further times and dates to continue the exploration of how complexity operates in this book, and how this book can galvanize those working in the complexity field.

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Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:43 pm

Re: Complexity group

Postby drkellyindc on Sun Oct 19, 2008 1:30 pm

I greatly enjoyed the chance to discuss Daniel Martin last Friday during our introductory Plexus Institute call. For anyone who'd like to participate in the new Plexus-based discussion group, you're more than welcome! Info is below. There are no prerequisites other than reading the book--you don't need to be a Plexus member, nor to have participated in the Oct. 17 call, to join us. Contact either me ( or Prucia Buscell ( for the phone number and access code.

Our phone sessions are set for 8:30-9:30 p.m. Eastern U.S. time on alternate Mondays beginning Nov. 10. (We'll skip the Dec. 22 call due to the holiday season.) Here's our reading schedule:

1. Nov. 10, Chapters 1-14 ("The Harvest" through "Breaking Silence")

2. Nov. 24, Chapters 15-26 ("Rencontre" through "Rituals")

3. Dec. 8, Chapters 27-35 ("Compton" through "The Shadows of Women")

[Holiday season]

4. Jan. 5, Chapters 36-46 ("Pyramids and Prisons" through "Future Past")

5. Jan. 19, Wrap-up call: weaving threads together

Plexus Institute:
"fostering the health of individuals, families, organizations, and our natural environment by helping people use concepts emerging from the new science of complexity"

Francis Hopkinson House
101 Farnsworth Avenue
Bordentown, New Jersey 08505

Phone: 609-298-2140

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

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