What is "whole sight"?

Discussions relating to John Fowles' novel Daniel Martin.

Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:10 am

Here's an exchange about the length and inclusiveness of Daniel Martin. The first message is from a retired political science professor who was reading the novel for a book club, and who read an essay I wrote about the book. (She did go on to complete the novel.) The second message is my response.

I read about 240 pages of Daniel Martin when your essay on the book was emailed to me. So my reactions are based on 240 pages of the book itself and then your essay. It's not that I disagree with what Fowles has to say about philosophy, psychology, ethics, education, literary practice, etc. What disturbs me is his attempt to put it all in one book. I guess I would prefer to have an attempt to deal with ALL OF LIFE not be placed in the format of a novel, but to be handled in a series of separate books or essays on the various subjects covered. It's as though Fowles were cooking a giant stew with a little of everything thrown in. I'd rather keep the foods separate as I eat them. It's a matter of preference.

I've read several reviews of Fowles's work written at the time of his death which praise his innovative style of writing. I did read The French Lieutenant's Woman long ago and my memory is that I enjoyed it. You obviously have gotten a lot out of reading Daniel Martin over the years--starting, if I remember correctly, when you were 23. So far, the book just doesn't grab me. Maybe if I had read it for the first time when I was young . . ..

Thanks for engaging with Daniel Martin and for taking the time to respond in writing.

I hear that you found the first 240 pages difficult to organize as a reading experience. For myself, elements such as the Tarquinia episode, Jane's psychological intrigue, the revenge play Daniel writes and Anthony's response to it, and the hospital conversation between Daniel and Anthony--all of these and others were rich and captivating enough to sustain me through the first half. Each paragraph provided an idea or turn of phrase that got me thinking, even if I initially disagreed with it.

I'm curious whether you may have had a similar objection to other examples of the epic as a genre (e.g., War and Peace, Paradise Lost, Divine Comedy--other attempts to express "all of life" in a unified artistic statement). A certain kind of writer is not satisfied with anything less than an epic scale. The big challenge is finding an adequate structure. For me, Daniel Martin and Moby-Dick are alike in this regard--they have a mysterious structure that continues to intrigue me and foster new insights years after I first read them. I knew from The French Lieutenant's Woman that Fowles was able to write a tightly plotted romance, so I was willing to grant that he was suspending the rules in Daniel Martin for a reason. I think he saw in advance its potential for coming across merely as a "giant stew" (in your phrase)--he even has his hero self-mockingly refer to the novel at one point as "just a ragbag of ideas that never got into my other work . . . potentially very tedious." I think it took daring on Fowles's part--as well as a clear awareness of how the novel transcends this description--for him to say that.

To me, challenging art often takes a while to organize or "metabolize." For instance, Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" sounded riotous and unmusical to listeners who were accustomed to Beethoven and Brahms, but now has joined the symphonic repertoire.

If you choose to complete the book, I think that as a scholar of political science you'll find the Egypt section, with its analysis of representative Western "tribes," especially absorbing.

Thanks again for writing and for your frankness.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:19 pm

Here’s an extension of my earlier posting, with treatments of eight more scholarly articles or chapters on Daniel Martin. The material here represents writings by Robert Arlett, Patricia J. Boomsma, K. A. Chittick, Robert Huffaker, Kerry McSweeney, Susana Onega, Randoph Runyon, and William Stephenson. In the next several weeks I'll be looking at some of the remaining published works, by Gerd Bayer, Peter Conradi, Pamela Cooper, John Humma, Ishrat Lindblad, Carol Ward, and Bruce Woodcock.

In this posting and my earlier one, I've limited myself to the arguments for Fowles's integration of opposites; I've steered around the arguments against. Later I'll write a few general words about the latter. My sense is that history and subsequent scholarship have shown many of the arguments against to be ill-founded.

Warning: there are a few plot spoilers here.


Robert Arlett
“In Penelope’s Arms: From Lyric to Epic in Daniel Martin,” from Epic Voices: Inner and Global Impulse in the Contemporary American and British Novel, 1996

Paired opposites:
Daniel as public figure and as private man
Jenny McNeil (Calypso) + Jane Mallory (Penelope/Athene)
Old British Empire versus new American Empire
the global situation and its shaping of individual existence
Daniel’s educated dialect versus the natural Devon dialect (in the first chapter)
lyric voice + epic posture
integration of Daniel’s past and present selves
Daniel the narrator + Daniel the subject
narrative + the process of the novel’s creation
confusions of contemporary existence versus the final one-third of the novel, providing the secure overview of the traditional novelist
the initial childhood camera’s eye versus the mature, whole, and steady sight of the master artist

Sample quotations:
. . . the mirror obsessed narcissist at Oxford . . . gives way to a humanistic maturity where will is tempered or coupled with compassion. Thus a new kind of “whole sight” is established as Dan, in the novel’s final chapter, identifies with Rembrandt’s self-portrait where the eyes of the artist look out at the world with a balance of inner and outer understanding. . . . Daniel, mature enough to achieve his novel, offers the first words of Daniel Martin to Jane in the book’s penultimate sentence. The lyric voice gives way to a more epic posture as the narrative moves about the globe only to arrive at its own lyric beginning back in Devon.

. . . the condition of modern man is a fissioned consciousness resulting from the sudden cultural leaps of the twentieth century . . . The last two centuries have been confounded by abrupt transformations of existence, and Dan’s generation has been especially dislocated by that sudden cultural change, one of the “most abrupt . . . in the history of mankind,” which followed the Second World War.

. . . The novel’s ultimate gesture is to achieve that simultaneously inner and outer posture of Rembrandt’s self-portrait—certainly a condition far different from contemporary anxiety and fragmentation. The danger is that obedience to the demands of the traditional novel will overcome what Dan has associated with successful art: “the breaking of established codes.” . . . Daniel Martin attempts, to a greater degree than other contemporary epics, to work through and to overcome its own initial dissonance . . ..

Patricia J. Boomsma
“‘Whole Sight’: Fowles, Lukács, and Daniel Martin,” 1980-1981

Paired opposites:
Dan’s pleasure-based life + Jane’s dogma-based life: equally inadequate
Dan’s pessimism versus his lack of concrete reasons for despair
Dan’s novel as a socialist project, one which rejects both angst and the subjectivist worldview
the Herr Professor’s life as a scholar versus his passive collusion in Hitler’s Germany
transcendent experience: the Herr Professor and the wall painting in the rock tombs at the Kobbet el Hawa cliff; Daniel’s encounter with Etruscan art and the night-bathe at Tarquinia

Sample quotation[s]:
Whole sight contains willed compassion: the self-knowledge necessary to freely choose; the recognition of relationship which makes compassion (to sympathize with, to suffer with) possible.

. . . Whole sight, like Lukács’ totality, puts individuals in the middle of historical process, a process which by its nature cannot be fixed and can therefore at times be misinterpreted.

. . . Fowles shows Dan moving from the perspective of isolation and the helpless fear that feelings of isolation breed to an affirmation of life in choosing to perceive the world wholly. With this perception comes freedom, self-knowledge, and responsibility . . .

. . . One of Lukacs’ criterion for art is that, while the characters must be seen in the midst of historical process, the great author must have some vision of the whole (preferably a Marxist one) which directs his choice of technique. Both the structure and point of view of Daniel Martin emphasize changing perspectives. The structure builds on the shifting perspective of scenes which focus on the past, follow plot time, or appear written by someone who knows the effects of what happens. The point of view of the narrator moves between the third person Dan the author to the third person Dan the participant as well as to Dan in the first person. Fowles is not being simply experimental; these shifts in time and point of view contribute to the philosophical framework of “whole sight” by placing Dan in the context of his and his culture’s past and by showing Dan’s shifting view of himself.

K. A. Chittick
“The Laboratory of Narrative and John Fowles’s Daniel Martin,” 1985

Paired opposites:
story + philosophy, narrative as “logic”
artist + bricoleur
two types of exegesis: descriptive + the logic of storytelling
noumena + phenomena

Sample quotation:
By the standards of a world which is suspicious of closure in any form, the traditional story which, once embarked upon seems to demand narrative fulfillment, becomes a culturally inappropriate vehicle for thought. It tends to betray the needful skepticism of the emotions that sets the modern enquiry in motion. But Daniel Martin and the book bearing his name reject this fashionable philosophy of despair. Whatever the propensity of the character of Daniel Martin for the trappings of inauthenticity, the autobiography Daniel Martin affirms utterly the faith in narrative to work out the problems presented without betraying the seeker of a faith. There can be few better definitions of humanism than this.

Robert Huffaker
John Fowles, 1980

Paired opposites:
father’s orthodoxy versus son’s rebellion
the princess figure who fascinates (i.e., Jenny) versus the real woman who is chosen (i.e., Jane)
Dan’s socialism versus Kitchener’s imperialist-militarist nationalism
Kitchener’s politics as a war hawk versus his English love of nature and solitude, embodied on Kitchener’s island, his retreat on the Nile
“The Orchard of the Blessed” versus “The End of the World”
complexity of feeling versus “the tyranny of the stupid” and ancient megalomania
time versus eternity
nature over artifice
looking for versus looking at

Sample quotation:
Daniel Martin is an affirmation of several kinds. Its hero reconciles several long-standing alienations: from nature, from the woman he should have married, from his past, from his Englishness, and from artistic freedom, to mention several. By embracing these aspects of his being which he has disregarded so long, Dan is finally admitting the knowledge he has repressed, or else is finally resolving to act what he knows . . ..

. . . And as he has always done with orchids, Dan will look for human reality, not merely at it. He is committed to the “WHOLE SIGHT” of the sentence he has devised to end his novel but with which Fowles has begun this book instead. It is no wonder that Jane laughs at Dan’s irony about ending the novel he will never write. The greatest irony lies in that “never,” because in one sense he wrote this one; in another he is writing it; in another he will write it. In still another dimension, John Fowles, “Dan’s ill-concealed ghost,” wrote this novel, and it is Elizabeth Fowles who laughs in her kitchen at his “flagrant Irishry.”

Kerry McSweeney
"Withering into the truth: John Fowles and Daniel Martin," 1978

Paired opposites:
unknown/known, past/present, creativity/quotidian, freedom/inauthenticity, aesthetic/existential
the art of the film versus the art of the novel

Susana Onega
Form and Meaning in the Novels of John Fowles, 1989

Paired opposites:
real + imaginary
written + unwritten
(chapter 1:) concreteness of time and place + everrecurrence and atemporality
Daniel Martin’s narration + his protest at the end that he hasn’t written it yet
Dan-narrator’s awareness versus Dan-character’s awareness; Dan-narrator’s omniscience versus Dan-hero’s lack of insight
“real” and “fictional” Daniel Martin; John Fowles as the novel’s “real writer” as well as its fictionalized “cardboard narrator”
Daniel as a combination of author, narrator, character . . . and reader (of Jenny’s contributions)
Daniel’s paradoxical journey physically forward and psychologically backward
the dislocation/unsteadiness/overlapping of levels in the first 35 chapters versus the stable, consistent point of view of the last 11 chapters
the mythical landscape of the 1st chapter versus the fake world of the 2nd chapter
Daniel’s view and opinions (in the first three chapters) versus Jenny’s view and opinions (in the fourth chapter)
paradoxical elements provoked within Daniel by Nancy and other women: a combination of erotic and religious feelings with guilt and the need to lie
Jane and Nell as partly English, partly American; Andrea as half-English and half-Polish
Jane as two people, a younger and an older self
Daniel’s last unwritten sentence versus John Fowles’s last written sentence
potential + actual
ontological + fictional
“what might have been” + “what has been”

Sample quotations:
Daniel Martin acquires a circular structure in which the real and the imaginary, the written and the unwritten, the actual and the potential, merge. Thus, Daniel Martin’s ever-changing identity as author, narrator, character, and reader, metaphorically expressed in his university nickname, “Mr. Specula Speculans,” a man of infinitely mirrored faces, function as an apt metaphor for the novel’s radical message that literature engulfs reality, while the structural complexity of the novel, the alternation of narrators and the blurring of the ontological, the narrative and the diegetic* levels, the mise en abyme** structure of the novel within the novel, all point to the basic nature of this reality as complex and many-sided.

* diegetic: the telling or recounting of a story’s events, as opposed to the showing or enacting of them
** mise en abyme (from the French, meaning “placing into the abyss” or “placing into infinity”): an artifact that bears its own miniature. The term originates in heraldry with the coat of arms. In literature, the “mise en abyme” is a type of inset story which encapsulates some aspect of the main story. In Daniel Martin, the chapter "Tsankawi" serves as a “mise en abyme” of the entire novel, by conveying in miniature form Daniel’s relationship to art and to the novel he is writing.

When, in “The Harvest,” Dan-narrator puts his hand in the pocket of Dan-hero, he not only expresses empathy with the latter, shows the narrator’s capacity to intervene in the past, by altering the lived facts according to his whim, or emphasizes the difference in reflection between hero and narrator, but he also proves that it is possible to destroy the convention that requires the narrative level and the story level to be separate. As the hand of the narrator slips into the pocket of his character, the narrative and the diegetic levels merge, character and narrator coalesce, the “flesh and blood” and the “cardboard” Daniel Martin fuse by virtue of a metalepsis into a unique person, both ontological and fictional, acting as the living icon of what is to come: a circular novel, with no beginning or end, of endless potentiality, in which author, narrator, and character are both one and many, both different and the same, simultaneously real and unreal.

. . . For all the apparent promise of eternal future harmony with which the novel ends, its structural circularity establishes a vicious circle of infinite possible “variations” in which Daniel Martin’s last unwritten sentence becomes John Fowles’s last written one. Both the potential and the actual, the written and the unwritten, the ontological and the fictional, “what might have been and what has been point to an end, which is always present.”

Like the paintings of the primitive Egyptians, both Daniel Martin’s unwritten and John Fowles’s written novels are full of repetitions, involutions, false endings, and multiple parallelism. One, as unwritten, can only offer open potential endings; the other, neatly circular, leaves the hero at the end of his quest, with a promise of lasting happiness. Whether we choose to believe that the promise eventually becomes an actuality, or whether we don’t, will wholly depend on our own imaginative response, on the kind of ending we ourselves might be ready to accept.

Randolph Runyon
Fowles/Irving/Barthes: Canonical Variations on an Apocryphal Theme, 1981

Paired opposites:
love + passion (in relation to Jane)
in Bach’s Goldberg Variations: syncretism, theme + variations, the keys of G major + G minor
diversity + unity, the river between (for the reader of FLW, The Ebony Tower, and Daniel Martin)

William Stephenson
John Fowles, 2003

Paired opposites:
whole sight as a combination of philosophy and actual seeing
Bildungsroman (novel of education) + “an account of the development of one generation of Oxford graduates”
Dan as self-chronicler + the narrator of a historical trend
English self-ignorance + the self-knowledge made possible by exile

Sample quotations:
Fowles’s term for an existentially authentic vision of the self and the world has shifted from phos [a term from The Magus]—a quality inherent in certain privileged environments, which has the power to transform the viewer—to whole sight, a way of seeing the environment that comes from within the viewer, and is cultivated through the study of philosophy as much as through actual seeing.

. . . Dan moves on from the existentialist autobiographical template established by Nicholas Urfe [hero of The Magus]; he becomes not only the chronicler of the key scenes of his own development, but the narrator of a historical trend, the rebirth of the novel in the celluloid world.

. . . The displaced Englishman in Fowles’s novels . . . is a character poised on the threshold between two mental spaces: the typically English self-ignorance that uses metaphors to hide any mental content by calling it something else; and the potentially terrifying realm of self-knowledge, gained with the appropriation of a foreign identity, that offers existential freedom and the possibility of personal growth.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Mon Nov 03, 2008 9:50 am

Daniel Martin is full-bodied not only in the ordinary sense but in a uniquely literal sense as well.

Below is a list of aspects of the human body found in the novel. In itself, the list is unremarkable. However, if these individual references are seen in context, and the list is seen in connection with the other lists on this discussion thread, a fuller sense of what Fowles achieved in his “whole sight” project emerges. Viewing the lists together, it becomes clearer that they’re part of a strategic epic design, and not a matter of coincidence or a mere bi-product of the book’s length. To me it’s no contradiction to say that they emerged organically as the novel was written and revised, and that there’s also a principle behind how they’re included.

Given that Fowles was aiming for “whole sight,” he was obliged to include all aspects of the human body—including those that are deemed vulgar (“the naughty bits,” as Monty Python calls them). Fowles didn’t have the luxury that some other refined or “high-art” practitioners have of avoiding the vulgar aspects altogether. Consequently, his novel brings “vulgar” and “refined” elements into a compelling new hybrid.

During one moment in the chapter “The Umbrella,” Fowles puts the issue of “vulgar” vs. “refined” directly on the table. While snooping in his father’s study one day, the young Daniel finds a book by the 17th-century poet and clergyman Robert Herrick. The book happens to fall open to a coarse epigram and Daniel sees the word “fart” in print—a word which he “had hitherto imagined was something one only giggled over, out of reach of adult ears, at school” (84). However, he soon finds that Herrick’s sensibility is far from adolescent; as the story continues, Herrick assumes a special place in Daniel’s development as a writer. Beyond the personal lesson that Daniel gains, the Herrick story may also be read as Fowles's caution to readers not to judge too quickly something that may initially seem coarse or unrefined.

Fowles is among the rare serious artists—Shakespeare also comes to mind—who can redraw the lines between refined and vulgar tastes, and between highbrow and lowbrow art. He was able to bring elements such as a pornographic “blue movie” into the plot of The Magus; a drunken men’s-club revel and visit to a brothel into The French Lieutenant’s Woman; and a Bel-Air ménage-à-trois (“A Third Contribution”) and a frankly described episode of teenage sexuality (“Phillida”) into Daniel Martin.

On a closer look, Daniel Martin breaks down the refined/vulgar separation in smaller and subtler ways as well. The following quotation is from a lunch meeting between Daniel and film-producer David Malevich; the passage uses indirect discourse to list reasons that Malevich wants to film a Kitchener project. Notice the human-body reference and how it adds an element of earthiness without sacrificing tact or violating diction:
. . . despite Vietnam there was a considerable latent nostalgia in the States for imperialism, and especially when someone else could be seen to be doing the imperializing; then there was the war stuff, the other famous historical figures who could be pulled in by the hair of their armpits, the political intrigue, the exotic locations. (297)

At the micro level, the reference to armpit hair in this sentence helps to undercut the potential snob factor of the term “famous historical figures”; at the macro level, it also augments the novel’s treatment of aspects of the human body.

A related example comes earlier in the novel, during the night-time scene in Tarquinia, Italy, where the quartet of friends from Oxford goes for a swim:

. . . we undressed, pairing off by sex, not marriage. I saw the two girls wade in, then both turn and call to us. They stood hand-in-hand, like a pair of sea-nymphs, in the starlight. For a moment I wasn’t sure which was which, though Jane was an inch or two taller than Nell. I was thinking, He’s never seen Nell’s breasts and pubic hair before.

She said, “Oh they’re hopeless. They’re shy.”

In the work of a lesser writer, the reference to Nell’s pubic hair would either be avoided or fumbled. In Fowles’s hands, the reference is seamlessly included in a passage that accomplishes several things: it brings Daniel, Anthony, and Nell individually and vividly into the scene; it gives us a palpable sense of some of the underlying dynamics among the quartet; it reminds us of the sexual history between Daniel and Jane; and it serves to illustrate a behavioral gap between the sexes.

Recurrently in the novel Fowles was able to make so-called vulgar elements serve an elevated purpose. Leave it to him to see a connection between romantic love and the forming and discharging of pus (“suppuration”) (267); to make an epithet involving men’s genitalia (“Balls”) into a punning reference to a book by Herman Hesse (The Glass Bead Game) (191); and to liken social freedom in today’s world to a central organ attacked by cancer (277). Fowles’s mind was working at an extraordinary degree of artistry while he composed this novel, but at one level, his arriving at these metaphors (pus, balls, organ) brought the simple pleasure of his being able to cross three things off his list.

I realize that this issue won’t preoccupy readers encountering the novel for the first time; still, I feel it’s important to advocate for the pleasures to be had in re-reading and re-engaging the book. As many years as I’ve had to absorb Daniel Martin and its wisdom, I still find that its “whole sight” dynamic is almost literally fantastic—that is, beyond my powers of description. It’s no wonder to me that Fowles (in the chapter “The Sacred Combe”) likens the artist’s perspective to that of a divine creator.

Fowles used the unique series of challenges he was faced with in Daniel Martin to his advantage, creating a fictional world that has (for me at least) more credibility and more resonance than any other world in print. I imagine that his self-created imperative to express “whole sight” in fiction must have been maddening at times; but I look at the results and I think, whatever it took on his part was worth it. As I've said before, at certain moments during the period from October 1972 to May 1977, the years he devoted to writing the novel, I think he must have been the happiest man alive.

Page numbers refer to the 1977 Signet paperback. The number references aren’t complete--in most cases I list only a few representative instances.


Ankle 588
Arm 2, 115, 217, 382, 390, 395-6, 640, forearm 16, 389
Armpit 391, armpit hair 297
Back 217, 379, 382, 385-6, 389-90, 393, 396-7, 470
Balls 191
Blood 211, 391
Body 23, 115, 147, 267, 400, 463, 470-1, 639-42
Bone 65, 366
Brain 273, 341, mind 180, 639
Breast 13, 115, 381, 390-1, 395-6, 398, 400, 465, tits 144, 391
Buttock 23, bottom 398, arse 331
Cheek 179, 220, 380, 387-8, 405, 464, 503, 513
Chest 387, 552
Chin 386, 388
Cunt 551
Ear 17, 515
Elbow 380, 388-9, 467
Eye 162, 381, 388, 393, 400, 405, 513, eyelash 256, 381, 388, eyelid 488-90, eyebrow 329, 381, eyerim 395
Face 115, 273, 383, 395-6, 641
Finger 17, 19, 383, 505, 546, 548, 657, forefinger 465
Foot 115, 264, 380
Hair 18, 404, locks 32
Hand 14, 115, 179, 384, 390, 393, 503, 643-4
Head 115, 271, 273, 392, 513, 639
Heart 269, 471
Heel 371
Hip 643
Joint 215
Knee 15, 23, 387, 395
Knuckle 425, 524
Lap 178, 383
Leg 23, 264, 404, 518
Limb 404
Lip 16, 391-3, upper lip 249
Liver 416
Loins 396, 503
Moustache 32
Mouth 23, 191, 381-2, 387, 392, 513
Muscle 3
Navel 391, 524
Neck 396, 463, 524, 639, scruff of the neck 332
Nipple 390, 465
Nose 23, 215, 639, nostril 13
Organ 277
Penis 388, prick 12
Pubic hair 115
Pus 267
Semen 388
Shoulder 13, 387, 389, 405, 470
Skin 13, 248, 389, 470, 644, flesh 124, 272, 403, 463
Spine, vertebrae 389, coccyx 615
Sternum 144
Stomach 391, 398, 470, 642
Teeth, 378, tooth 404
Thigh 385, 388
Throat 563, gullet 4
Toe 380, 394
Tongue 380, 388, 396
Vein 232, 455
Waist 115, 385, 387, 391
Whisker 232
Womb 15
Wrist 375

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:45 pm

Here are five more entries to my earlier postings on paired opposites in Daniel Martin. The material here represents writings by Peter Conradi, John B. Humma, Ishrat Lindblad, Raymond J. Wilson III, and Bruce Woodcock.


Peter Conradi
John Fowles, 1982

Paired opposites in Fowles's novels:
- authenticity + artifice
- capturing/seducing the reader + betraying/liberating the reader

Sample quotations:
[Fowles] is a paradoxical figure: a didactic and coercive libertarian; an evolutionary socialist profoundly committed to the values of a Romantic individualism, which his existentialism is called upon to validate; an apologist for the female-principle much given to imagining the sexual exploitation and salvation of women . . .

. . . Closure, illusionism, and a hierarchy of discourse figure in a recent critical work as the defining characteristics of classic realism . . . Fowles's novels show disturbances in all three areas.

. . . Fowles’s commitment, however, has always been to a view of fiction as humanly accountable, as “a marvelous changer of human sensibility,” and it is relevant here that recent narratological theory has tended to distinguish the question “who speaks?” from the question “who sees?” –- a distinction sometimes lost in the Anglo-American emphasis on seeking answers only to the first question.

. . . Fowles . . . has declared the intention to reach all constituencies, and mediate, in his chosen terms, between the Few and the Many. It is an accommodation which, for all its worthy messages of comfort, has not been attempted without a certain cost.

John B. Humma
“James and Fowles: Tradition and Influence,” 1984
(This article focuses on Fowles’s literary career as a continuation and extension of moral concerns articulated by Henry James)

Paired opposites:
- pagan vitality versus calculating reason
- intellect (Daniel’s father and Anthony Mallory) versus intuition (female characters)
- authenticity, “the chance of a new existence” versus "the failure to feel and the failure to do"
- emotions + moral sensibility
- realism + self-conscious modernism
- Fowles as religious + humanist
- the higher culture of taste, intellect, and morality set against the background of a much lesser one
- the world of received ideas versus the world with a fairer and much tougher reality

Sample quotations:
. . . the treatment by both Fowles and James of the connection between the artist’s emotional self and the moral stuff of his writings reflects the sense of both writers that the two aspects –- the emotions and moral sensibility –- are in a larger view inseparable. Thus the moral act –- the act of choosing –- depends upon “the amount of felt life concerned in producing it.”

. . . [Fowles’s] effort to find relations between the inner and outer worlds, his sense of civilization as the always emerging outcome of moral event, places him squarely in the line of [Jane] Austen, [George] Eliot, and James. . . . Finally then, in these authors, feeling, moral choice, civilization are one. Acting what one knows, provided native intelligence supports the knowledge, is the basis of civilization and is the highest and sternest morality. . . . Fowles through his appreciative references to writers like James and Austen and Eliot . . . creates the sense of a solid moral tradition working within his own writing, one in fact which lends its presence to the civilization which is the fiction itself –- and helps shape it for the reader.

Ishrat Lindblad
“‘La bonne vaux,’ ‘la princesse lointaine’ -– Two Motifs in the Novels of John Fowles,” 1978

Paired opposites:
- experimental narrative form + the tradition of realism
- strengths of the Victorian novel + technical virtuosity
- appeal to both literary scholars and general readers
- the chaste and wise Diana-like figure (Jane) + the sensuous Venus-like figure (Nell)
- “collector and creator, the two classes into which Fowles divides mankind”
- the artistic imagination (Daniel) + the spirit of scientific enquiry (Anthony)
- looking at orchids (Anthony) + looking for them (Daniel)
- Anthony’s logic versus Jane’s intuition
- essence + phenomenon
- the novel's last sentence + its first sentence: the desire to achieve “whole sight”

Sample quotations:
During the past fifteen years, John Fowles has firmly established his reputation as one of the most noteworthy writers in Britain today. Unlike a great many of his compatriots, Fowles experiments with narrative form, yet unlike a great many contemporary French and American novelists, he is firmly entrenched in the tradition of realism that has long been the hallmark of British fiction. Thus admirers of the great Victorian novel find enough of characters, plot, setting and theme to satisfy their requirements, while lovers of technical virtuosity find sufficient to meet their demands as well. This gift of reconciling apparently incompatible demands is also reflected in the way his work appeals to both literary scholars and general readers.

. . . Fowles . . . explores the two methods of approaching reality [collector and creator] without making [a] mutually exclusive . . . division.

. . . The “essence” and the “phenomenon” that Daniel is here thinking about are once again the two methods of art and science. It is therefore highly significant that the conclusion that Daniel comes to suggests a synthesis of the two: “Mankind may think there are two poles; but there is, morally as magnetically, only one in the geography of the mind’s total being; and even though it is set in an arctic where no incarnate mind can exist.” This suggests a possibility of a resolution of the old dichotomy, and the importance of this realization is underlined by the fact that the sentence Daniel formulates as the last one for the novel he is going to write is also the first one of the book Daniel Martin: “Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.”

Raymond J. Wilson III
“Overcoming Reification in Daniel Martin: John Fowles’s Response to Georg Lukács,” 1995

Paired opposites:
- Thomas Mann (social sanity) versus Franz Kafka (morbidity)
- artistic choice versus demonic enslavement
- struggle, hope, and social reformation versus “the power of the underworld”
- accepting angst versus struggling against it
- the prevailing ideology versus “generating one’s own words”
- living in a reified culture versus overcoming reification
- the Tsankawi shards to Jenny (cheap gifts) versus the shards to Daniel (his own “lost civilization”)
- the relationship between Daniel and Jenny versus the one between Daniel and Jane
- Daniel failing to act upon his passive knowledge about Jane (while they were at Oxford) versus succeeding in his project of regenerating himself (in Egypt and Palmyra)
- the jargon of Lukács versus the humanist behind the jargon
- Brecht versus Lukács on Thomas Mann
- Daniel reading Lukács versus Jane reading Lukács
- hopes, wishes, ideas, and inner resolve versus the act of choice that reveals a person’s character
- Daniel tacitly accepting that his life course was beyond his ability to shape versus struggling against despair to make a good life with Jane

Sample quotations:
The problem of angst (alienation, nausea, etc.) and the decision either to accept it as reality or to struggle against it takes a variety of forms in twentieth-century fiction. In Fowles’s text we see an individual such as Daniel Martin pursuing an adult life of freedom but feeling after twenty years that his actions, driven by forces beyond his control, have landed him in a trap. Consider here, as well, [Saul] Bellow’s Herzog . . . Bellow, even while brilliantly exploring the irony of Moses [Herzog]’s situation, does not provide a means for overcoming the trap: mere delay until the probem disappears on its own. . . In The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing also explores how the seeking of freedom leads an individual, in this instance a writer [Anna], into a trap. . . . [However,] Lessing—like Bellow—does not provide a viable means for overcoming the trap. We see a marked contrast in Fowles’s text. What Fowles proposes in Daniel Martin, at least by implication, is a “formula” for gaining the insight needed to overcome angst such as Herzog’s and Anna’s—to fight (could it even be to win?) the battle presented in Mann’s fiction.

. . . Daniel’s move away from cinema and toward textual fiction may indicate his first step away from what Fowles calls the trap. . . . Daniel has come to appreciate a need to generate his own words—his own text. It is his study of [Georg] Lukács later in the novel that will show Daniel a possible way to claim his own words away from the prevailing ideology.

. . . Jenny is personally blameless, but her relationship with Daniel, especially its patterns of recrimination, illustrates how difficult it is for those living in a reified culture to overcome reification. But then there is the relationship between Jane and Daniel. . . . . Significantly he sees in her a person whom he “can’t dismiss, place, reify.” Jane presents conundrums to him that he dares not ignore; she is a creative catalyst.

. . . For the regenerating Daniel, Lukács represents an “emotional attempt to see life totally,” again a significant comment since the opening words of Fowles’s text are “WHOLE SIGHT; OR ALL THE REST IS DESOLATION.” Unexpectedly impressed by Lukács, Daniel sees both “his own being as a writer” and his “world-view” enlarged and redefined. For both of these changes he can, in no small part, thank Jane.

. . . In the very book that Jane has given Daniel, Lukács warned against merging abstract and concrete categories and thus making the mistake of seeing solitary human beings, incapable of meaningful relationships, as “reality itself.” Making that mistake would be to turn all of reality into a novel by Kafka, whereas Lukács believed that Mann was, by far, the more realistic novelist because his texts neither denied the existence of nightmare episodes nor made such episodes the whole of reality.

Bruce Woodcock
Male Mythologies: John Fowles and Masculinity, 1984

Paired opposites:
- political + personal redemption
- “female” values transposed into a form of communism
- men’s relation to the values contained in feminism and the politics of change
- Daniel’s novel versus Fowles’s novel
- male capitalist ethic (Daniel) versus redemptive left-wing Communist Party sympathies (Jane)
- the chinese-box effect of the book: John Fowles writing about Daniel Martin writing about fantasies of the lost woman
- Daniel’s problem: nausea about his involvement in the film world versus his incapacity to escape it
- brittle surface versus hollow interior
- Daniel’s view of the Cockney twins versus Jenny’s view of them
- unresolved ambiguity among various narrative perspectives: “I” versus “he” versus Dan versus Fowles
- Daniel’s contending with both his father and his mother
- Daniel rejecting and paradoxically adopting his father’s position
- Parson Martin’s suddenly ending Daniel’s relationship with Nancy Reed, and Daniel’s response to it: a “castration crisis” serving also as a confirmation of male identity and the desire to wield power
- Daniel’s confrontation of Kitchener (paradoxically representing Britain’s history of imperialism, Daniel’s own father, and Daniel’s drive for power)
- the book as Daniel supposedly sees it versus the book as it is to be read
- Daniel’s struggle to escape from imposing the pattern of patriarchal roleplaying: Fowles shows how contradictory such a struggle by a male author is
- Jenny as the “imagined” versus Jane as the “real”
- Daniel the character versus Daniel the author versus Fowles the author
- how Daniel views relationship versus how Jane does
- Daniel’s outward liberalism in regard to Jane versus the inward male conservatism of the 1970s
- Jane’s political leanings versus Daniel’s involvement in business, power, and male values

Sample quotations:
. . . Fowles exploits to the full the notion of the book as Dan’s own construction, effectively attempting a totalized account of the social and historical processes impinging on this individual psyche. In this sense, the book is an unearthing of the reasons for Dan’s present self, an archaeological investigation of his identity as a man. This is quite literally so since the method of the narrative is to interleaf sections from different parts of Dan’s life, showing them like accumulated strata beneath the contours of his psychological landscape. This methodology is presented as Dan’s own choice of narrative mode in his turning from the illusory world of film to the novel as a truer medium for composing experience.

. . . The novel, then, presents itself as Dan’s attempt to analyse and reconstitute himself, to lay the ghosts of this past. The intercutting of time and narratives is the filmscript writer’s method of creating his own bildungsroman [novel of self-development] through montage and collage. It also represents Dan’s commitment to escaping the world of the camera and the script, of surface appearances and “lying” in favour of the Gramscian apprehension of totality, the “whole sight” advocated in the very first sentence of the book and impressed upon him by Anthony as the only salvation. This commitment is also his rejection of his previous involvement in the manipulations of capitalism and male power, and the dominant narrative mode of neo-Lukácsian social realism demonstrates an engagement with the “real” which becomes an important thematic element. Despite the Chinese-box overlap, Fowles’s adoption of Dan as surrogate author allows him a detachment through which he can analyse the very contradictions which he himself is subject to as a male writer, seeing the process of writing and self-analysis as part of the problem he wishes to specify. This procedure is one of the book’s main achievements but it is not without its difficulties.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Sun Nov 16, 2008 12:39 pm

How do geography, nationality, and ethnicity figure into Fowles’s conception of “whole sight”?

Two lists below provide a shorthand answer. The first list gives a chapter-based guide to the novel’s geographic settings. The second list indicates the book's references to other nationalities and cultures. Depending on your outlook, you might look at these lists and point out which countries are missing; alternatively, you might notice how vast a terrain Fowles manages to cover, and how much more geographically and culturally inclusive this novel is than 99% of other books.

Numerous scholars have written about the significance of place in Daniel Martin (Lisa Colletta, Anna Cichoń, Mahmoud Salami, Michael O. Bellamy, Susana Onega, Jeannette Mercer Sabre, and Thomas Wilson, among others). In the essay “The Geography of Ruins: John Fowles’s Daniel Martin and the Travel Narratives of D. H. Lawrence,” Lisa Colletta writes,
. . . more than any other writer since Lawrence, Fowles . . . uses the spirit of place to explore questions of identity and to map the terrain of twentieth-century psychological and political consciousness.

As a subtle example of this “mapping,” ecocritic Thomas Wilson points out that the castor-oil plants in the garden outside Jenny’s Los Angeles apartment (“Games,” p. 11) are native to India and southern Africa, but not to California, and so they add to the feeling of artificiality and rootlessness in the L.A. setting.

Fowles also pays close attention to where people are from—geographically as well as ethnically. Daniel Martin’s characters are vividly individualized, but they also serve an ambassadorial function, revealing aspects of the countries and ethnicities they represent. A few examples:

    Early in the novel, Fowles sets up cross-currents between Daniel’s Englishness and Jenny’s Anglo-Scottishness. Their being fellow-Britishers gives them an increased solidarity in Los Angeles, but as their personal differences emerge, so do their ancestral ones. At her most heartbroken moment in the book, Jenny considers what knowing Daniel has cost her:
    We were both cowards. You’ve corrupted me terribly in some way, perhaps the way the English have always conned the Scots. Suggesting your way is somehow subtler, more sophisticated, works better in the end, and our silly Gaelic honesty is just provincial. (356)

    Another example comes during the gala cabaret evening in the novel’s Egypt section. When the English and American couples end up watching the festivities instead of participating, the narrator invites us to see their behavior as representing “a solid Anglo-Saxon front of refusal to conform to the nonsense around them.” (552)

Taking all such references into account, Daniel Martin becomes a kind of late-20th century global positioning system, with especially sharp readouts on England and the U.S. The novel sends its deepest roots into the hero’s native country: with material on England's past and present, its urban and rural life, its language and dialects, its politics and arts, its broadest historical movements and minutest social gestures, Daniel Martin amounts to one of the most fully realized national portraits in the country's history. It is also the book in which Fowles at last found the ideal format for sharing his views about the U.S. (His earlier effort, "America, I Weep for Thee," is an unpublished diatribe.) Direct comparisons between England and the U.S. recur throughout the novel (see p. 20, 66, 68, 73-5, 131, 138, 164, 169, 188, 204, 217, 250-1, 295, 329, 418, 460, 520-1, 537, 584, 585, 614, and 662). In my view, Daniel Martin’s critique of American manners and mores is on a par with Alexis de Tocqueville’s (Democracy in America)—although I find Fowles’s approach wittier and more absorbing.

Beyond this, Fowles’s incorporation of traits, sensibilities, and wisdom from around the world was not merely a matter of filling up a literary passport, or of getting in exotic scenery. Rather, it reflects his larger interest in assessing cultural vitality and creating a balanced and representative portrait of a global ethos. The portrait is clearly more Western than Eastern, and is somewhat dated at this point; however, it has more to say about the relative strengths and weaknesses of national identities, and more conviction in saying it, than a whole raft of more recent books about globalization.

Page numbers refer to the 1977 Signet paperback.


England (chapters 1, 3, 6-20, 22-27, 29-33, 35, 46)
United States (chapters 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, 21, 28, 34)
Italy (chapter 11)
Egypt (chapters 36-43)
Lebanon (chapters 43-44)
Syria (chapters 44-45)



Armenia 101
Brazil 224, 246
Canada 371
China 201, 224, 335, 443
Czechoslovakia 507, 528, 531, 547-8, 567
Denmark 158, 474
Egypt (in addition to the Cairo and Nile chapters) 422-3, 430, 435, 439-40, 442, 447, 450-4,481-2, 484-5, 619-20, 630, 633, 646, 648, 668

Finland 408
France 58, 60, 89, 123, 146, 156, 162, 205-9, 211, 213, 223, 225, 289, 454, 473-4, 476-81, 489, 491-2, 496-8, 506, 509-10, 524-5, 527-9, 531-2, 536, 546, 551-3, 558, 567, 573, 584, 587-8, 593, 595, 615, 617, 620, 625, 628, 635, 655

Germany 81, 148, 267, 276, 291, 309, 336, 495, 499, 507, 511, 515-7, 542-50, 553-61, 571, 600, 612, 614, 617-8, 631, East/West Germany 558, Teutonic 508

Greece 82, 85, 206, 261, 343-4, 485, 527, 546, 550, 563
Holland 137, 422, 452, 502, 672-3
Hungary 415, 487, 533-4
India 228, 291, 443, 462
Ireland 429, 658, 673, Irish-American 460
Israel/Palestine 298, 460, 499, 554-5, 575, 618
Italy (in addition to the chapter “Tarquinia”) 24-5, 54, 67, 75, 206-7, 225, 227, 235, 314, 318, 350, 385, 405, 443, 460, 482, 509, 537, 578, 580-1, 584, 612, 620, 628, 637, 639-40, 645-8, 655-6, 660

Japan 11, 430, 528
Jordan (623)
Lebanon (in addition to chapters 43 and 44) 497, 501, 519, 541, 581, 584, 612, 656
Mexico 434, 469
Mongolia 296
New Zealand 327
Norway 280
Nubia 553, 580, 592, 604
Panama 515, 543
Persia 21, 627
Poland 63, 150-1, 153, 156-7, 468, 507
Prussia 558
Russia 38, 41, 52, 54, 160, 201-2, 285, 410, 415-8, 491-2, 496, 535, 537, 552, 558, 574, 584-5, 599-600, 620, 636, Slavonic 601

Saudi Arabia 299
Scotland 34, 226, 356, 528, 619, 659, Scottish Highland 16, 18, 48, Gaelic 356, Anglo-Scottish 39, Orkney Islands 76

Siberia 281
South Africa 168
Spain 67, 159, 168, 170, 343, 412, 434, 572, Canary Islands 425
Sweden 147, 291
Switzerland 530
Syria (in addition to chapters 44 and 45) 431, 541, 581, 592, 611, 613
Thailand (Siam) 267
Turkey 59, 515, 546, 620, 635
Ukraine 248
Vietnam 37, 297, 538-40
Yugoslavia 297

Other geographic terms and world tribes:

Europe 335, 344, 417, 460, 487-8, 497-8, 539, 557, 573, 581, 585, 600, 613, 620, Continent 133, 174, 405
Eastern Europe 506-7, 527-8, 535, 546, 552-3, 584, 599

Celtic 5, 81, 358
Scandinavia 614, 619
Viking, Saxon 232, Anglo-American/Wasp 64, 329, 347, 468, mid-Atlantic 33, Anglo-Saxon 53, 81, 143, 209, 251, 506, 524, 552, 558

United Kingdom 142, Wales 137
Mediterranean 617, Levant (Eastern Mediterranean) 497
Rural-Tory 99
Cockney 255-6, 258, 404
Jewish 67-8, 131, 143, 247-8, 298, 347, 500, 503
Gentile 248
Middle East 618, Arab 299, 494, 500-3, 511-5, 551, 573-4, 618, 620, 625-6, 637, 647, 649, United Arab Republic 488

Assyria 552
Coptic 544
Balkan 5
Gypsy 6-8, 553
Fellaheen 496, 521-2. 526-7, 536, 543-5
Peasant 306, 325, 327, 449, 540, 559
Eskimo 299
Third World 536
Empire 311, 450-1
Africa 526, 600, 613, French Africa 558
South America 224, Amazon 90, 369
Eastern and Western civilization 335, 540, 557, 561-2, the Orient 497, 613, 637
Holarctic/Northern Hemisphere 349
Tropic of Cancer 551
Asia 540
Cornish 372
Bedouin 563, 586, 623-4
Cossack 248
New England 67, 111, 170, 218-9, 296, 637, Midwest 75, 169, 519, West Coast 105, 144, 214, 250, 460, 617, 656, 658, 667, Southwest 69, “Tsankawi,” East Coast 94, 169, 250, 296, 460, 521

Native American 49, 83, 344-8, 354-5, 469
Pueblo 344, 361, 654
Navaho 408
Seminole 347
Mayan 545
Etruscan 114, 116, 227, 344, 537, 549
Minoan 344, 537, 549
Antarctica and the North Pole 652
The South Pole 299
Pacific Ocean 539
Atlantic Ocean 142, 33

Last edited by drkellyindc on Tue Mar 24, 2009 6:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Tue Nov 25, 2008 8:40 pm

Here are four more entries on paired opposites in Daniel Martin, representing writings by Michael O. Bellamy, John Haegert, Carol Ward, and Eleanor Wymard. As my note below indicates, I feel divided about Haegert’s essay.


Michael O. Bellamy
“John Fowles’s Version of Pastoral: Private Valleys and the Parity of Existence,” 1979

Paired opposites:
- the numinous world of the pastoral as paradoxically both “intensely private and enclosed,” on one hand, and public and democratic, on the other
- Daniel’s nostalgia for his pastoral youth versus Nancy Reed’s contentment in leaving it behind
- the Devon dialect of the first chapter versus the language of the rest of the book
- a class- and language-based separation between Daniel and the other Devon locals
- in the opening chapter, the machine (the German war plane) versus the garden (the Devon countryside)
- the pastoral mode (“The Harvest” and “Phillida”) versus “a more radical myth of death and rebirth” (Palmyra)
- at Palmyra, the dog’s distraction behavior versus Jane’s distraction behavior
- the personal past of the narrator + the public past of history

Sample quotations:
Although the pastoral scenes in his fiction are most obviously influenced by Hardy and Lawrence, John Fowles provides a larger context for understanding his fictional use of this mode in Daniel Martin (1977). . . . . Two seemingly contradictory feelings characterize this numinous world: on the one hand, it is intensely “private and enclosed”; on the other, the green world is public and even democratic, insofar as it evokes the “mysterious yet profound parity in all existence.”

. . . The discrepancy between the private-aristocratic and the public-classless aspects of the pastoral experience is typical of what Fowles, in his book The Aristos (1964), refers to as his “polar view of life.” Whether the terms are the Aristos (the few) and the many, the complex and the simple, or art and nature, reality is always characterized by a basic ontological tension. One of the most illuminating ways to study Fowles’s preoccupation with these polar tensions is to observe the ways they are explored through his return, “again and again in one form or another,” to the pastoral mode.

. . . Even in the opening chapter, in which we see “Danny” as just one of many workers participating in the harvest, his language sets him apart from the others.

. . . Daniel Martin’s climactic trip to the Near East with Jane Mallory can be seen as thematically representative of Fowles’s attempt to go beyond the pastoral mode to a more radical myth of death and rebirth.

. . . both The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Daniel Martin are conspicuously about what the past has to do with the future. The last chapter of Daniel Martin, “Future Past,” whose title refers to the various time continua of literary experience, is concerned with the artist’s role of both preserving and re-assessing the past, whether “the past” entails the personal ordeals of the narrator or the public significance of history.

John Haegert
“Memoirs of a Deconstructive Angel: The Heroine as Mantissa in the Fiction of John Fowles,” 1986
(Haegert’s main argument: “Despite their shadowy elusiveness . . . the characters of Jane and [The Magus’s] Julie are inevitably bracketed both by their subservience to the plot and by their purely ‘catalytic’ role in the hero’s development.” Haegert suggests that Fowles liberates himself from this pattern in Mantissa (1982), by creating a heroine who avoids being either a “catalyst,” a function, an agent, or a muse. Although I remain unconvinced by his main argument, I find the introductory material quoted below unusually well-written and insightful.)

Paired opposites:
- Jane versus Daniel
- Daniel’s “aimless American present” versus “the richly formative years of his English youth”
- Jane as “erotic challenge” + “a powerfully subversive force”
- reality as “the bland nonentity of stereotype” versus reality as a mystery tied to “the Sacred of earlier religions”
- the Fowles protagonist as an ideological captive versus the Fowles protagonist alerted and open to reality as “an infinitely pluralistic affair”

Sample quotations:
To the extent that Jane transforms the hero’s consciousness in Daniel Martin, she repeats the “catalytic” role enacted by nearly all of her predecessors in Fowles’s fiction—that of luring the male protagonist toward the complete vision urged in the novel’s opening sentence: “Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.”

. . . Insofar as Jane Mallory imposes an imperative of complete vision on Daniel Martin, she participates in a pattern of strategic mystery and melodrama that has become the virtual hallmark of the Fowles heroine.

. . . For Daniel Martin, middle-aged British film writer living in Los Angeles, Jane is a “catalytic” agent in at least two senses: first, she is a reminder of the past and of all he has lost in the way of false hopes and broken promises in the ontological wilderness of southern California; but second, she portends a final possibility of existential risk and choice leading to personal renewal. In her very opposition to Dan and all he represents, she embodies a still vibrant alternative, an alluring otherness “inherently and unconsciously dissolvent” of all the archaeological layers of later identities that have come to separate him, in his aimless American present, from the richly formative years of his English youth. In short, Jane is both an erotic challenge and a powerfully subversive force.

. . . By her sovereign refusal to be reified by time, Jane is a constant reminder to Daniel Martin that his own identity is unfinished, that his “other” self rooted in the past is neither dead nor vanquished but only in eclipse, immanently present within an unpatterned chaos of possibilities.

The role of woman, then, in Fowles’s fiction is inseparably linked to the abiding sense of mystery that is “the driving force at the heart of [his] creation.” Fowles has often been celebrated for his brilliance as a fantasist or fabulist; but it is important to recognize that this brilliance . . . is not ornamental, as some have suggested, but the necessary instrument of a serious ontological enterprise: to rescue reality from the bland nonentity of stereotype and from the reifying rush of time by reshaping objects, places, relations, psychological states, through the arresting power of metaphor and melodrama, so that they acquire a mystery often associated with the Sacred of earlier religions.

. . . Rather than being the ideological captive of some unitary plot or system (one’s own or someone else’s), the ideal reader of Fowles—like the typical Fowles protagonist—is someone who, having been stunned by the sheer multiplicity of available plots, is newly alert and open to further narrative possibilities. Thus the dazzling alternation of endings in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Conchis’s endlessly proliferating “godgame” in The Magus, even the ceaseless flurry of multiple recollections and anticipations composing the densely woven plot of Daniel Martin are all designed to express Fowles’s firm conviction that reality, literary and otherwise, is an infinitely pluralistic affair that brooks no certain boundaries or preestablished limits.

Carol Ward
“Movie as Metaphor: Focus on Daniel Martin,” 1987

Paired opposite:
- the aesthetic properties of film versus literature

Sample quotations:
As one of the highest forms of human art, the novel . . . can conquer time by encompassing all time, melding tenses into a timeless unity that constitutes artistic whole sight. . . film’s visual portrayal of reality does not allow the human depth or subjectivity that are possible in fiction.

. . . In the surface of the novel Fowles creates a rich symbolism, exploiting the metaphoric nature of language to its fullest. Through the complexity of this symbolism, Fowles probes Daniel’s inner reality, exploring qualities that would escape the superficial, visual nature of the commercial cinema.

. . . Although it also inspires terror, the freedom of the artist in the novel ultimately reaffirms the writer’s humanity as he participates in self-analysis and discovery.

. . . With his English gift of language (which “always means more than it says”) and his meticulous narrative parallelism, Fowles successfully exploits film art as a metaphor to describe the real dilemma of the individual/artist in an image-ridden media society and reaffirms the moral/aesthetic superiority of the written word.

Eleanor Wymard
“New Version of the Midas Touch: Daniel Martin and The World According to Garp,” 1981

Paired opposites:
- the disintegration Daniel experiences versus the conscious decisions he makes, which finally bring him peace and happiness
- Daniel Martin is more sophisticated in outlook than the novels of Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, and Charles Dickens; by the same token, its hero doesn’t strut his superiority as Joycean artists do
- the secure world of the Victorian narrator versus the fragile and threatened planet of Daniel Martin
- the freedom to experience not only despair but also new strength
- comic spirit versus existentialist nausea

Sample quotations:
Although the “life-world” of Garp and Daniel Martin is, indeed, very different, both [John] Irving and Fowles, in a current sense, are absorbed in the mission of the artist to extend the range of human sensibility.

. . . Although Fowles and Irving are writers in the old-fashioned sense, Austen, Trollope, and Dickens seem amazingly innocent by comparison. But, as artist protagonists, T. S. Garp and Daniel Martin also forsake the bold posturings of the Joycean artists who strut their superiority to the rest of creation.

. . . The literary triumph of Garp and Daniel Martin is not, simply, that they are bestsellers. Rather, these two novels . . . reveal the complexity of human existence from the generous perspective of comedy. . . . For Daniel Martin, comedy is the natural expression of an artist committed to the reality that a character in crises has the freedom to experience not only despair but also new strength. In neither novel does the comic rhythm nullify the terror of living or blot out of consciousness the fact of dying. Although Fowles and Irving do not step beyond the fact of physical death, each challenges readers to a sacred appreciation of this time and space.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Sun Nov 30, 2008 8:56 am

Repeated words and images act as connective tissue in Daniel Martin, linking the various elements of “whole sight.”

At the minutest level of language use, Fowles invests certain words—“green,” “innocent,” “impossible,” “world”—with a special magnetic charge. In the more than 40 instances of the word “green,” for instance, the term takes on a wide array of its dictionary senses (e.g., flourishing, youthful, inexperienced, unripe, immature, fresh, naïve, envious) and poetries besides these. A woodlark’s song is described as having a “core of green”; an island as having a “liquid green peace”; music as being “green-gold”; and an ancient wall-carving as having a “green fuse.” In “The Sacred Combe,” the term “greenwood” takes on a mythic aspect (288). Near the end of the chapter about Daniel’s sexual awakening at age 16, the narrator writes, “Ban the green from your life, and what are you left with?” (406) In this cross-linking of biology and philosophy, the word “green” is promoted into a noumenal force of nature. The cumulative effect of these references is twofold: the term “green” is revealed in a holistic way, and greenness (more intensely than other colors) becomes a key component of the novel’s “whole sight.”

Another term, “flight,” begins in the literal realm with Daniel’s trans-Atlantic journey back to England, and moves into the metaphorical realm as Daniel considers the various non-physical flights he’s taking in his life.

A number of scholars have described the repetition and interweaving of elements in the novel, referring to it variously as “recurrence” (Susan Klemtner), “verbal echoes” (Sue Park), or “a substructure of coincidence, correspondence, recurring events, motifs” (Katherine Tarbox). Another term for this effect is “Proustian,” and indeed at least eight scholars have referenced Marcel Proust in their analysis of Daniel Martin. (The scholars are Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Ellen Pifer, Simon Loveday, James Acheson, Jacqueline Costello, David H. Walker, Robert Alter, and Raymond J. Wilson.)

Below is a partial listing of recurring words and images in Daniel Martin.
None of the entries are complete: perhaps someday a real concordance of the novel will be done via computer. Page numbers refer to the 1977 Signet paperback. I include chapter references when the word is included either in the title or figures prominently into the chapter.


5, 10, 33, 37, 67, 91, 157, 242, 244, 289, 293, 344, 347, 349-52, 384, 372, 384, 392, 417, 425-6, 456, 496, 508, 542-3, 545-6, 564-5, 569-70, 572, 593, 610, 621, 648, 653

168, 245, 384, 531, 615, et al

5, 10, 45-6, 77, 157, 160, 188, chapter 19 (“Beyond the Door”), 268, 278, 323-4, 346, 397, 403, 508-10, 517, 540, 572, 586, 588, 613, 616, 634, 637, 641, 648

7-8, 82, 137, 261-2, 269, 314, 337, 568, 626, 633, 636-7, 640, chapter 45 (“The Bitch”), 650-5

16, 18, 51, chapter 5 (“The Door”), 97, 179, chapter 19 (“Beyond the Door”), 213, 431, 490-1, 524-5, 567, 606, 644

10, 61, 73, 108, 165, 251, 325, 344, 370, 383, 390, 398, 415, 434, 460, 471, 485, 492, 569, 590, 593, 608, 624, 629, 641, 643-4, 646

306, 385, 489, 583, 592, 598, 613, et al

60, 153, 176, 258, 269, 272, 281, 414, chapter 32 (“In the Orchard of the Blessed”), 431, 439, 509, 527, 554, 610

10, 14, 293, 524, 613, et al

chapter 7 (“Passage”), 63-4, 75-6, 99, 101, 293, 524, 567, 581, chapter 42 (“Flights”), 608-9, 612-3, 628, 630, et al

35, 46, 74-5, 207, 250, 277, 293, 300, 324-5, 334, 412-3, 429, 431, 451, 521, 535, 539, 548, 551, 558, 562, 600, 606, 612, 615, 648-9

chapter 2 (“Games”), 27, 81, 146, 186, 190-1, 193, 257, 267-8, 278, 287, 316-8, 327, 334, 337, 350, 354, 397, 445, 470, 477, 519, 523, 551, 607, 635-7, 662

73, 84, 143, 176, 195, 297, 590, 672

chapter 2 (“Games”), 11, 46, 48, 77, 102, 137, 140, 179, 266, 286, 310, 438, 367, 406, 414, 419, 421, 427, 431, 491, 503, 505, 521-2, 559, 586, 604, 608, 612, 620, 636, 651, 667, 673

4, 5, 10, 12, 71, 91, 136, 141, 197, 263, 288-90, 292, 298, 341, 344, 362, 381, 384, 387, 406, 425, 434, 450, 459, 477, 485, 489, 492, 508, 527, 543, 570, 572, 584, 593, 610, 613, 638, 641, 655

64, 83, 94, 189, 352, 361, 371-2, 380, 397, 420, 436, 447, 567-8, 586, 590, 607, 631, 634, 649, 660, 673

10, 62, 121, 143, 176, 184, 189, 192, 198, 214, 235, 248, 256, 263, 309, 347, 364, 391, 393, 400, 413, 439, 443, 452, 471, 474, 503, 509, 515, 541-2, 557, 566-7, 596, 616, 618-9, 622, 634, 642

55, 59, 73, 201, 254, 420, 500, 597, 612, et al

11, 46, 53, 98, 122, 221, 254, 292, 431, 441, 590, 597, 614, 634

6, 9, 57, 71, 166, 189, 283, 286, 289-90, 319, 330, 344, 346, 362, 370, 384, 389, 391, 416, 419, 437, 444, 471, 549, 562, 593, 613, 623, 634, 649, 651, 672

9-10, 70-2, 181, 191, 197, 312

431, chapter 36 (“Pyramids and Prisons”), 576, 606, 612, 631, et al

Right Feeling
30, 47-8, 51, 73, 201, 231, 437, 441, 575, 596, 604-5

494, 508, 568, 622-3, 645, 650-1

14, 41, 47, 132, 137, chapter 14 (“Breaking Silence”), 141, 179, 221, 255, 287, chapter 26 (“Rituals”), 352, 430, 472, 504-5, 608, 633, 663-4

5, 15, 41, 45, 47-8, chapter 14 (“Breaking Silence”), 139-40, 143, 169, 176, 184-5, 196-7, 199, 200, 203, 207-8, 213, 216, 219, 284, 318-9, 322, 331, 340, 346, 348, 361, 381, 388-9, 393, 396, 398, 400, 410, 412, 420-2, 430, 435-6, 444-6, 455, 468, 470-1, 473-4, 476, 503-4, 508, 517, 519, 522-4, 531-3, 540, 560-1, 564, 568, 579, chapter 41 (“In the Silence of Other Voices”), 583, 587, 595, 597, 601-3, 606, 610, 613, 623-4, 626-7, 631, 633, 635-6, 638, 642, 644, 647-8, 650, 661, 665, 667

48, 51, 89, 160, 189, 193, 243-4, 250, 268, 278, 304, 334, 346, 352-3, 362, 395, 421, 441, 491, 504, 526, 544, 546-7, 549, 560, 562, 583, 611, 635, 639, 672, et al

chapter 3 (“The Woman in the Reeds”), 115, 142, 428, 431, chapter 33 (“Rain”), 490, 492, 504, 508, 517, 522, chapter 38 (“Nile”), 526, 535, chapter 39 (“The River Between”), 564, 583, 585, 593, 597

5, 48, 74, 180, 204, 217, 221-2, 267, 276, 288, 300, 321, 324-5, 336, 338, 341, 366-7, 373, 377, 382, 384-5, 404, 428, 437, 447, 451, 456, 467, 473, 478, 480-2, 489, 492, 500, 502, 509, 527, 531, 537, 540-2, 555, 571, 590, 593, 595, 597, 612-4, 617, 619, 626, 628-9, 634, 654, 667

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Sun Apr 26, 2009 8:54 am

The various lists I’ve posted in this discussion forum help to support Fowles's “whole sight” premise; however, posting them isn't without risk. Among other things, the lists may make Daniel Martin seem less artistic and more scientific or even clerical. (I have an image of Noah strolling through his crowded ark with a clipboard, checking off items one by one.) If this novel includes so many facets of existence in an A-to-Z fashion, one might ask, what prevents it from turning into a mere catalogue—an impressively comprehensive catalog, but a catalog nonetheless? How can it stay vital and lifelike, more than the sum of its multitude of parts?

Fowles anticipated such concerns, and embedded his response within the novel itself. In this passage from the chapter “Nile,” Daniel airs his judgment about the failures of ancient Egyptian art; the passage also serves as a disguised invitation from Fowles to the reader to consider how Daniel Martin fares in this regard:

There was such an obsession with multiplicity at Abydos and the other places they saw on the succeeding days; with numbers, with lists, with never using one when you could use several. Somewhere behind the Egyptian pantheon he detected a mathematical, possession-cataloguing super-god with a profound horror vacui or more exactly, horror uni. (537)

Reading this passage in connection with the lists I've posted, one may wonder:
    - could Daniel Martin, with all its multiplicity of species, historical figures, and so on, be based on the author's “obsession” rather than on his genius or generosity of vision?
    - does its author in any way resemble a “possession-cataloguing super-god” with a profound horror of the void?
    - despite all the rave reviews, does this novel amount to a kind of literary version of “he who has the most toys wins”?
The fact that Fowles indirectly invites these questions is a good sign that he trusts readers to answer in the negative. It also helps to remember that his first published novel concerned a pathological collector: presumably, Fowles couldn’t have written about Frederick Clegg without a healthy distance on the man’s pathology. Also, in Daniel Martin’s final chapter, Fowles mockingly likens Daniel to another pathological collector, the legendary Bluebeard. These amount to clues, not a conclusive proof that Fowles avoids partaking of the ancient-Egyptian outlook he derides. To me, the most extensive proof lies in Daniel Martin itself, and in the kinds of readership and scholarship it has inspired.

During the same "Nile" scene, Dan further elaborates his dissatisfaction with ancient Egyptian art:
It reeked from the calculated precision, the formal, statuesque coolness of their paintings and sculptures. They had somehow banned personal sensibility, affection for life, all impulsive exuberance, all spontaneous exaggeration and abstraction. (537)

Here again, Fowles is implicitly asking us to challenge Daniel Martin (and other art) on these same criteria. He’s saying, does this novel strike you as overly calculated or formal? Coolly statuesque? (The questions are inherently risky, and some of Fowles’s earlier work may not stand up to them as effectively as Daniel Martin does. For instance, the film version of The French Lieutenant’s Woman struck some critics as overly cool and calculated. Watching the film a second time, Fowles wrote in his journal that it was “somewhere empty at the heart, perhaps reflecting a fault in the book” [Journals, vol. 2, 266].)

In drawing attention to art that bans spontaneity and exuberance, Fowles indirectly promotes these as traits that art should aspire to. Personal sensibility, affection for life, impulsive exuberance, and spontaneous exaggeration and abstraction: frankly, I can’t think of a book that embodies these traits better than Daniel Martin does.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Sun May 03, 2009 12:51 pm

Here are two more entries on paired opposites in Daniel Martin, representing writings by Linda Hutcheon and Stephanie Fish Pace. I quote at length from Pace’s dissertation (available on-line) because I think the material warrants it.


Linda Hutcheon
Foreword to Pamela Cooper’s 1991 book The Fictions of John Fowles: Power, Creativity, Femininity
(On feminist grounds, Cooper posits The Ebony Tower as the high point of Fowles’s career. This segment is from Cooper’s advisor Linda Hutcheon, who wrote the book's foreword.)

Paired opposites:
- the Fowles creator figure as tyrant/liberator, master/slave
- British tradition of liberal humanism + current gender/class issues + postmodern reflexivity

Sample quotation:
In Fowles’s world, creator figures can be both tyrants and liberators, masters and slaves. Fowles’s consistent ambivalence is one of the reasons he can and does end up being the darling (or the bane) of what seem like mutually incompatible camps of readers. He seems in tune with the liberal humanist values of the British tradition (such as a belief in the individual creative imagination and ethical responsibility); at the same time he is exploring more current and problematic issues of class and gender, while deploying what are considered postmodern narrative and linguistic strategies of reflexivity. His novels have always openly challenged notions of genre, narrative authority, textual singularity, and closure.

Stephanie Fish Pace
University of Utah dissertation, 1980: Expanding Horizons: Character in the Contemporary Novel
(Pace’s analysis focuses on three novels: John Gardner’s Nickel Mountain, John Fowles’s Daniel Martin, and Patrick White’s Eye of the Storm)

Paired opposites:
- ordinary life + sacramental moments + moments of horror and banality = concrete experience of affirmation and creativity in contemporary terms
- “complexity with clarity”
- courage as vulnerability in the tradition of western mythology
- Dan/Jane
- man/woman
- on the road to Palmyra: bleakness in nature versus bleakness in Dan’s heart
- Dan’s feeling of emptiness without Jane versus her sense of his “privileged despair”
- the importance of a single life versus the importance of society at large
- discoveries of courage in human relationships versus a culture of narcissism
- articulating the journey versus taking it
- the rhythm of furthering alienation versus the astonishing presence of grace
- Dan and Jane’s privileged egotism versus their vulnerability, and Palmyra’s desolation
- creatureliness + worth
- the demand for attention + the need for comfort
- sentimentality + tragic awareness
- egotism + nobility
- the hero’s awareness of epiphany versus the world’s struggle to obliterate it

From the dissertation's abstract:

The characters [in these novels by John Gardner, John Fowles, and Patrick White] are discussed from the point of view that the felt-experience communicated through an image of man in literature is qualitatively different than that communicated by theology, philosophy, or the social sciences. When that felt-experience is true to the sense of life as it is normally lived, and when that experience at the same time invests ordinary life with sacramental moments as well as moments of horror and banality, then the way is open to concrete experiencing of affirmation and creativity in contemporary terms.

The novel is the most appropriate art form to convey a contemporary image of man for several reasons: its bulkiness is its strength when one of its primary functions is seen as imitating the rhythm of life one actually lives; it takes the spaciousness of a novel to represent the nuances, paradoxes, and ambiguities inherent in the process of being fully human; finally, the novel’s density functions well to suggest the means whereby modern man encounters his destiny: to live a life of consciousness in a spectrum of experience where, in the words of Georg Lukàcs, “a glimpse of meaning is the highest life has to offer.” Exegesis of each novel is begun from the point of view that, rather than being an imitation of the muddiness of everyday life, a serious novel is an attempt to apprehend the “complexity with clarity” which characterizes great literature.

The understanding of courage embodied in each novel’s central character is a contemporary translation of a mythology of heroism latent in western culture from its beginnings: the mythology, dramatized most fully in the Old and New Testaments and in Shakespeare, that heroism is at bottom the courage to be vulnerable.

From the dissertation's 6th chapter, on Daniel Martin:
[Warning: plot spoilers ahead. This segment deals with the conclusion of the novel.]

The drive to the ruins of Palmyra after Dan’s night of “abominable alienation” in Lebanon offers an objective correlative for Dan’s fear of journeying further in loneliness. Like the heath in [Shakespeare’s play] King Lear, nature at this point in the novel reflects the naked dreariness in Dan’s heart . . . The bleakness seems to draw Dan and Jane closer. Dan tries to make her believe in the emptiness of his life without her; she, however, voices the challenge implicit in the attempt to characterize Daniel Martin as a serious protagonist: should his “privileged despair” be paid much attention? The answer is yes if Dan’s liberation has importance beyond the single life to a society at large. It is the challenge that must be faced if the [Henry] Jamesian drama of minutely-detailed discoveries of courage in human relationships is seen as essential in the recovery of a culture charged with narcissism. Dan is maudlin, and Jane is self-righteous, but both of them ring true to contemporary states of consciousness which must be seen as redeemable if our culture takes recovery seriously.

The tone of the novel becomes more and more intense as the importance of the journey builds. Illusions of comfortable friendship drop away, and Jane and Dan confront each other. He accuses her of assuming—understandably—that, as with everything else, he would be “in flight” with her. His words, however, have a directness and a clarity which they have not had before; the forcefulness of his will is new and demands attention. . . .

Dan’s self-consciousness about the nature of the journey he’s on is the perfect touch: twentieth-century consciousness can regularly articulate mysteries of the psyche intuited in preceding centuries only by rare minds. But articulating the journey isn’t taking it, and, as Fowles makes clear, taking it is essential—and ultimately surprising. . . .

[On the morning tour of the Palmyra ruins:] In this scene between Dan and Jane, Fowles captures the miraculous nature of a shift from the rhythm of furthering alienation to the astonishing presence of grace. . . .

The flood of emotion released in Jane by her identification with the desolation of Palmyra and the hopelessness of the pups’ existence could come across as a cheap and easy climax to a journey concluding in self-pity. But it doesn’t. The foundation for the symbolism dramatically connecting nature’s helpless creatures and man has been carefully and effectively built. The characterizations of Jane and Dan have been sufficiently complex; it is impossible to deny legitimacy to either their vulnerability or their need for relationship. In spite of their often dreadful and privileged egotism, it is impossible to discount the meaning of their turning to each other in a place of such desolation. Thus it is possible to recognize both creatureliness and worth, the demand for attention and the need for comfort in these most stereotypical examples of the “Me” generation. With Dan and Jane, Fowles succeeds in representing the coexistence of sentimentality and tragic awareness; by doing so, he suggests that human nature is most fully encompassed by an ability to hold awareness of both our egotism and our nobility in the mind at once—recognizing the former without discounting the latter. . . .

In both King Lear and Daniel Martin, the surrender to vulnerability gives birth to an imperative for love which seems capable of enduring great strain. However, one essential difference between Shakespeare’s world and Fowles’—as Lukàcs points out—is that the tragic hero dies after his “brief and crucial” epiphany, whereas the novel’s hero has to integrate the awareness of epiphany with a world which will struggle to obliterate it. . . .

. . . Daniel Martin finally creates in the relationship between man and woman the possibility of affirmation which John Gardner asks of contemporary literature in his book On Moral Fiction: a myth that society can live by instead of die by. The effect of that creation is incalculable.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Wed May 27, 2009 7:32 am

"Whole sight" as a form of transcending personal bias

John Fowles was able to transcend many of his personal biases in Daniel Martin. As I see it, this novel has a more humane and tolerant outlook than its author did. This is not a matter of hypocrisy on Fowles’s part; it has much more to do with the nature of art, and the nature of Fowles’s art in particular.

Evidence of Daniel Martin’s being more humane than its author is found by comparing the novel with material in Eileen Warburton’s biography, and in the author’s journals. (A caveat: as Journals editor Charles Drazin points out, the sentiments Fowles expressed in his journals can’t be taken as directly indicating his public or official views about various subjects. I'm using his journal entries here for the sake of convenience.)

Art has the capacity to provide a humanizing multiple perspective, and Daniel Martin has more of this capacity than any other example of art I know. How does this work? Often in Daniel Martin, an initially severe judgment will give way in later passages to a more rounded and humane view. On returning to Oxford after many years away, Dan delivers a jeremiad against the place (“. . . Not a city, but an incest”) (158). The next day, though, he admits to having made a “too easy first sentence upon Oxford and its modes and mores” (231). Our sense of Oxford in the novel is further conditioned by the physical and social descriptions of the city--the sights, sounds and textures in the chapters set during Dan’s student days, and in the contemporary scenes at the Randolph Hotel ("Rencontre"), the hospital where Anthony and Dan meet ("Catastasis"), the Italian restaurant ("Jane"), and inside Jane and Anthony’s house ("Beyond the Door" and "Webs"). A full portrait emerges from all these elements taken together. Fowles’s artistry permits a new kind of hybrid to emerge, with a greater degree of discipline and order than is possible elsewhere. In his journals and his nonfiction, judgments and impressions come out in a more haphazard and diffuse way.

What follows is a series of contrasts between the world according to John Fowles as it appears outside Daniel Martin, and the world according to John Fowles as it appears inside Daniel Martin.

    In The Aristos Fowles comprehensively dismisses prayer as “that most odious of concealed narcissisms” (110). In the Palmyra section of Daniel Martin, Dan is made to wait for Jane during a critical scene, and later asks her, “What took you so long?” She replies, “When I was a Catholic, we used to call it praying.” The narration continues: “But there was a smile in her eyes and mouth, and he smelled perfume as well, a more secular vanity” (639). In both references the intellectual stance toward prayer remains the same, but in the novel it comes out with more tenderness and humanity.

    Samuel Beckett and artistic pessimism.
    Fowles’s journal entry of 23 March 1975 (Journals II: 178) disparages the career of French playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett on philosophical grounds. The entry closely resembles Anthony Mallory’s stance on Beckett in Daniel Martin. In the novel, however, Anthony’s position is slightly undercut by Jane’s suggesting that it’s rote and rehearsed, like a favorite peeve (“And Beckett was duly cursed,” 198). It’s further supplemented by Daniel’s sympathetic view at the end of “Webs,” where Beckett is credited with glimpsing “the loneliness of each, the bedrock of the human condition” (244). The full portrait of Beckett in the novel includes two later references (429, 628). In sum, the novel presents a serious philosophical challenge to Beckett’s worldview, yet not without recognizing the humanity of Beckett’s art.

    In 1989 Fowles sent a bitter and despairing “death of nature” polemic to the Friends of the Earth environmental collective (see Journals II: 411). However, in Daniel Martin he offers a portrait of the earth that faces up to the worst possibilities but also celebrates the earth’s great fecundity, and reminds us of how enviable it is to be alive on such a verdant and life-sustaining planet (see my “Why now” discussion thread).

    Human nature.
    On the day that Ronald Reagan was elected President of the U.S., Fowles wrote in his journal, “There is no hope for the Western World, it lies self-betrayed by its own stupidity and greed” (II: 249). Years later he again describes the world as “blind, foolish, greedy for its human part” (II: 353). In Daniel Martin he acknowledges the “greedy and stupid” aspect of humanity, and yet he manages to integrate it into a larger, more generous and hopeful worldview (see especially the end of the chapter “Beyond the Door”).

    Style over substance/the “visual revolution.”
    In The Aristos, Fowles describes a new kind of post-war intellectual who is chiefly interested in the arts, but whose “world is bounded by colour, shape, texture, pattern, setting, movement,” and who is “only minimally interested in the properly intellectual (moral and socio-political) significance of events and objects." Fowles continues, "Such people are not really intellectuals, but visuals” (211). Fowles makes further reference to the “visual revolution” in his journals, terming it a “disease” (II: 167). Daniel Martin addresses this trend in a more humane and well-rounded way. Its portrait of the French journalist Alain Maynard includes this line: “Like most well-educated young leftists, he retained an unhealthy respect for style” (529). However, this is but one trait in a mostly positive portrait that includes Alain’s combination of Gallic charm and cynicism (529); his “half-mocking, half-tender manner beloved of the males of his race” (531-2); and his public, somewhat teasing flirtation with Jane (532, 553). Fowles's portrait of Daniel permits an even more extensive view. In his adolescence and early adulthood, Dan is overly invested in surfaces and externals, more an aesthete than an artist. However, over the course of the narrative, through painful lessons he gradually arrives at a mature and informed outlook involving depths and essences. Among other things, the portrait of Dan provides hope that a young person with superficial tendencies may eventually outgrow them.

    Reading and literacy.
    In his journal of 27 October 1974 (II: 166-7) and elsewhere, Fowles expresses dismay at the decline of reading and book-reviewing in England. Daniel Martin reserves some of its strongest indignation for the communications industry (“Hollow Men”), and its role in increasing the “speed of forgetfulness” (277). However, Fowles remembers to treat his characters humanely regardless of whether they are well-read. Dan feels disappointment about Caro’s not being college material, and not reading books, but the two of them have a teasing way of dealing with this difference between them (284). Elsewhere, the Cockney character Miriam even gets in an affectionate dig at the expense of Dan’s penchant for reading: “‘It’s ’is books. ’E loves ’is books’” (269).

    Will power.
    Fowles’s later journal entries are marked by statements such as, “I dither endlessly, without will of any kind” (II: 314); “The gardens—all gardens—near dead of thirst; and we near dead of lack of will, inability to do anything” (II: 406). Daniel Martin also acknowledges how people periodically get stuck or lose a sense of purpose or motivation, but its more fundamental mission is to reveal a broad range of willed human behavior in a number of spheres of activity. Think, for instance, of the young Dan trying to figure out Nancy Reed; his fury at his father and his father's God (401-2); the ferocious desire to succeed he feels as a young artist (87); the struggle he undergoes in middle age to find an adequate way of expressing his life-story; and his extensive efforts to understand Jane, at Oxford and later; and of all the other characters and their motives. The novel’s commitment to will and its development is encapsulated in the line, “No true compassion without will, no true will without compassion” (672).

    Fowles never became a biological father, and he strongly resisted the prospect of becoming stepfather to Anna Christy, his wife Elizabeth’s daughter from another marriage. Many readers of the Eileen Warburton biography have a difficult time with this issue; others see it as a strategic sacrifice Fowles made on behalf of his art. In Daniel Martin, Fowles had the honesty to portray the artist-hero as a “lousy father” (230); it’s clear that Dan has an intensely selfish side, “ready from the beginning to murder an unborn infant rather than leave his smallest desire unsatisfied” (168). And yet, despite the ways that Dan neglects Caro in her formative years, their relationship does have its breakthroughs, and a tenderness gradually emerges between them, just as it eventually did between Fowles and Anna.

    In his journals Fowles makes this blanket judgment: “The egocentricity, willfulness, of modern children is terrifying; refusing anything they don’t, or think they don’t, like” (II: 332). He also expresses great joy and satisfaction on other occasions at the chance to spend time with his stepgrandchildren and other youngsters. A more well-rounded and illuminating view is offered in Daniel Martin, which shows the first portraits of children and adolescents in Fowles’s fiction. Daniel’s youth in Devon county is depicted with unusual sensitivity and acuity in “The Harvest,” “The Umbrella,” and “Phillida.” In the character of Paul Mallory (Jane and Anthony’s son), Fowles creates a humane, three-dimensional portrait of a child who is both egocentric and willful. Paul is described by his own mother as a “horrid little monomaniac” (219). However, because of what we know about his parents and their marriage, and because of Jane’s concern for him and Dan’s ability to break through to him, Paul becomes a believable figure in whom readers can invest pathos and concern.

    Fowles had gay friends and acquaintances, although some of the things he wrote about gay people in his journals (II: 379, II: 409) may make one wonder what degree of real understanding or compassion he had for them. A more inviting and even courageous picture emerges in his fiction. In the decades after Joseph Conrad and Thomas Mann, Fowles was one of the first male heterosexual novelists to include homoerotic undercurrents in his heroes (see The Magus, chapter 8, and Daniel Martin, 253, 370-1). The author’s early notes for Daniel Martin reveal a character named John Fowles who is a homosexual novelist and bookseller. The most prominent gay couple in Fowles’s fiction appears in the Nile section of Daniel Martin: a French art critic and his much-younger Italian boyfriend, known respectively by the nicknames “Barge-borne Queen” and “Carissimo.” Although they aren’t major figures, at the end of the chapter “Barbarians” the narrator permits a glimpse of a conflict between them, and the hint of a deeper reality than the one caricatured by Dan and Jane.

    In his journals Fowles occasionally expresses anti-Semitic views, often in a self-mocking way, as of one who knows better (for instance, see his 20-21 October 1988 entry, II: 378). In the novel he presents a more well-rounded portrait of Jewishness (with an emphasis on American Jewry) through numerous cultural reflections, and through the character of Abe in Los Angeles.

    Amid the turmoil surrounding the fatwa against author Salman Rushdie over The Satanic Verses, Fowles wrote in his 14 February 1989 journal, “Everyone falls over themselves to avoid the truth: that most Muslims are very primitive people and can’t be treated as sophisticated ones” (II:395). By contrast, Daniel Martin humanizes the Middle East by presenting a range of locals in the Egypt section, including Copt and Muslim characters, and an affectionate portrait of the Islamic boatman Omar (570, 579-80). When Jimmy Assad’s wife tells Dan how frustrated she is that her female peers in Cairo are not really emancipated, despite how much they wish to appear that way (501-2), something much more humane and empathetic is happening than when Fowles summarily writes off the Muslim world in his journals.

This list could continue: Middle-East relations, Oxford intellectualism, U.S. culture, women's lib, Conservative philosophy, suburbia, rural life, religion, and so on. What I hope these entries reveal is the conscious and systematic way that Fowles approached his self-created task in Daniel Martin: to provide as capacious and “whole-sighted” a view of life on earth as possible. Because he held himself to this task over enough years of his maturity as a writer, he was able to craft a worldview that can withstand close scrutiny and be held to an unusually high standard. It supports a magnanimity of spirit that very few humans (Fowles included) are capable of sustaining for long in daily life.

Transcending personal bias is a human imperative; art is one of the best fields in which to explore and elicit it; and Daniel Martin is the best example of it I've found so far.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Fri May 29, 2009 6:50 am

Below are two further descriptions of integrated elements in Daniel Martin. Robert Begiebing and Robert Burden both place Fowles in an international context with other writers. Despite their differing take on postmodernism, both scholars are closely related in affirming Fowles’s extraordinary powers of synthesis. I excerpted Begiebing’s work earlier in this thread; the excerpts here are from his book’s conclusion.


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

Paired opposites:
- rejecting the post-modern tendency to separate art from life
- vitality and entropy
- erosions of personal identity versus the battle against these erosions
- unconscious mind + conscious, rational mind
- restoring depth to surface, connection to discontinuity, and mystery to life
- consciousness and cosmos
- postmodern metafiction and experiment + psychological and spiritual depths, and the secular commitments of the classical, romantic, and modern literary heritages

Sample quotations:
If the enlightening magicians of their prototypical texts connect Fowles, Gardner, and Mailer in the ways we have seen, we also know that there are deeper connections. The most important connection is not the metafictional apparatus nor the epistemological speculations found in their work. The more fundamental connection is their rejection of the post-modern tendency to separate art from life. Each of these novelists has been determined to move the novel into less hermetic, more inclusive definition of our secular responsibilities as artists and as human beings. By their attempt to move beyond the passive acceptances of determinism and hermeticism, beyond the small affirmations of quietism, they have dared—even if they have failed at times—to move themselves and us through fiction toward new challenges for consciousness.

Out of their dialectics of varying constructive oppositions, of vitality and entropy, these three authors have sought to create a novel that replenishes experimentation and speculation with life, that replenishes consciousness with history and ethics. They hope, furthermore, to renew the battle against all the erosions of personal identity. They would restore a fictional and philosophical activism against all the controls and mechanisms of totalitarianism, the insanities of history, the disintegrating terrors of the abyss. The magicians’ masques, tests, and tales are for both reader and apprentice-hero “therapeutic” structures derived from the heroic quest for enlarged consciousness. The central quality of enlarged consciousness is metaphorical vision—“whole” vision of the relationships between things. This is not simply a rational vision; it is an act of unconscious mind informing and enriching conscious, rational mind, restoring depth to surface, connection to discontinuity, and mystery to life. . . . all three compare fiction to dream, and all three work more in the romance than the realistic tradition. Through their uses of fantasy, experimentation, and speculation, they respond to the hermeticism and attendant anxieties in their time. Through elements of romance and metafiction they seek to lessen, rather than enlarge, the gap between consciousness and cosmos. (128-9)

. . . We have seen that Fowles, Gardner, and Mailer see symbolic action and their story-telling magicians in this activist, heuristic, and antinomian sense. Symbolic action is, for example, precisely what Fowles means, especially when he describes fiction as “a kind of landscape a reader enters to learn something about life,” and, therefore, to become in turn a creative, rather than deadening, force within it.

. . . [Fowles, Gardner, and Mailer] are contemporary Anglo-American novelists who have been engaged in the process of seeking a new synthesis—not a “post-modern art,” but a genuinely catholic, “secular” fiction. For while connecting art and life, while using some of the fabulative and technical experiments and moods of post-modernism, and echoing its epistemological concerns, these three novelists in particular have also refused to reject the psychological or spiritual depths as well as the secular commitments of our classical, romantic, and modern literary heritage. (133-4)

Robert Burden
John Fowles, John Hawkes, Claude Simon: Problems of Self and Form in the Post-modernist Novel, 1980

Paired opposites:
- Dan’s selfishness + his mature attempts to understand himself
- a portrait of a man, a “portrait of an age,” and “a view of man”
- fragmented self + the quest to constitute a comprehensive identity
- the attempt to see life totally versus the impossibility of doing so
- aesthetic + ethical
- the concerns of art + the concerns of life
- realism + mystery, rationalism + the unexplained
- order and form versus chaos and confusion
- theoretical discussion + narrative of events
- past + present + future
- Daniel as author + Daniel as protagonist
- the narrative imagination versus the chaos of life’s perceptions

Sample quotations:

  • On the question of the self in Daniel Martin:
The post-war “Oxford” generation is characterized as essentially egocentric, concerned narcissistically with self to the total exclusion of otherness. Daniel Martin himself is preoccupied with his apparent inability to transcend the bounds of his own selfishness. This novel is a record of his mature attempts to understand himself. But also it is a portrait of an age, and a view of man . . . .

. . . Man became obsessed with self, and with personal identity. This concern is fundamental to Daniel’s narrative. For in his quest to constitute a comprehensive identity for himself, he realizes the fragmentation that the past has effected on being. How indeed can the narrator hold together a unified sense of being, when the self is dispersed into multiple selves? Such recalcitrance problematizes his characterization of identity. He is reduced to being “a psychic investigator who began his inquiry by requesting a service of exorcism that, if it worked, would leave him no ghost to inquire about” (431). The failure of his bid for the reality behind the mask explains the enigmatic opening line of the novel. For even Daniel’s humanism, his “emotional attempt to see life totally, in its essence and its phenomena” (534), is atrophied by the impossibility of “seeing whole.” The multiple sequences of scenarios that make up the past, and the sets of personae which substitute for real selves, deny “whole sight.” The total perception, and the unification of being, is an impossible ideal.

  • On structure and interpretation in Daniel Martin and other fiction by Fowles:
Anomaly, mystery, enigma: the play on the inquisitive relationship of reader and protagonist to such knowledge-demanding properties is fundamental to the structure of narrative in the novels and stories of John Fowles. The highly defined lacks energy . . . The case for the energy-giving presence of enigma in the novel is clearly stated in Daniel Martin: “. . . there are some people one can’t dismiss, place, reify . . . who set riddles one ignores at one’s cost . . . This psychologically obscure creature [Jane] belonged, or had grown to belong, to another art, another system, the one he was trying to enter” (441). The energy contained in mystery is poured into whoever seeks an answer to it. These are the wise words of the magus, and they emphasize the compelling nature of the storytelling aspect of narrative which John Fowles and his surrogate authors manipulate. Realism is always threatened by a “quantum of mystery,” rationalism by the unexplained.

. . . The relationship between the aesthetic and the ethical, art and life concerns, in Fowles’s work is comprehensible at this level, as protagonists attempt to give order and form to the chaos and confusion which results from their confrontations with unusual and extreme experiences.

. . . The massive intrusion of theoretical discussion into the narrative of events in Daniel Martin enables modes of understanding through the meaning-potential of art, the novel, and Dan’s characterization of his self and the age in which it had its origins and in which it acts now.

. . . John Fowles’s articulate narrators know that the novel is one of the essential modes of our apprehension of reality. . . . The narrative imagination manifests itself in Fowles’s works, either through storytellers who appear at moments in the text . . . or through the whole narrative grounded in the “autobiographical” story of one man’s life.

. . . The novel, Daniel Martin, consists of the discovery of the self in the past, and the explanation of present time and present identity by their causal relation to the past, and all facilitated by Dan’s distantiation of the real authorial self from characterised selves. Daniel Martin becomes the author of his own protagonist. By the end, he is able to realize a destiny for himself, create his own life for the future.

. . . The narrative imagination understands that story gives both order and meaning to the chaos of life’s perceptions.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:34 am

On Fowles's open endings and forked paths

Open endings in Fowles’s novels allow readers to supply a story’s finishing touch. At the end of The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, readers are left to decide between two basic outcomes: do Nicholas and Alison resume their relationship or not; do Charles and Sarah start a life together or not. FLW is further complicated by a “false” ending in chapter 44, and by other factors, such as the narrator’s declaration in chapter 32 that Ernestina “must, in the end, win Charles back from his infidelity.” The amount that’s been written about various endings in both novels indicates that Fowles did a good job of making readers care about his characters and their fate.

Although Daniel Martin’s final sentence does constitute a kind of open ending, it doesn’t involve what most readers would call a major plot point. Fowles found other ways to affirm a sense of openness in Daniel Martin. In lieu of an open ending, he integrated multiple possibilities and forked paths into the narrative as it unfolds.

Here are a number of examples of this:
    [warning: spoilers ahead]

  • Early in the novel, as he ponders whether to fly overseas to see Anthony in Oxford, Dan has a scriptwriter’s sense of possibilities opening up. As readers we can almost see a curtain rising on the stage of future action. Fowles fashions this as an archetypal moment; it remains so even after Dan makes his decision:
    And he waits, he sees, already, as he sometimes does at the very early stages of a new script, permutations, forks, openings to exploit. (47)

  • Fowles tells us how Dan’s parents first met, but he leaves open the matter of how they came to know each other more intimately, and how they surmounted various barriers to get married. Dan says the answer is shrouded in secrecy and that he “can’t imagine what happened”; yet he still supplies two plausible scenarios, and allows them both to play in our imagination:
    . . . some kind of secret I have never quite pierced lay over her. . . . I can’t imagine what happened, whether in some innocent village way she trapped my father, or whether it was a case of two profound sexual timidities, a scholarly and a genteel, taking refuge in each other’s arms. (78)

  • Dan has a moment of anxiety as his meeting with Anthony in Oxford approaches. As readers we see another glimpse of Dan’s scriptwriter imagination; along with him we’re allowed to consider a range of possible outcomes of the visit. I think this passage also offers a glimpse into how Fowles’s mind worked:
    The meeting began to loom large. It was not that I couldn’t imagine what might happen, be said and felt. As at so many potentially fraught junctures in my life I could invent too many variations, almost as if I lived the event to its full before its limited reality took place. (138)

  • The chapter “In the Orchard of the Blessed” culminates in what Dan refers to as “the most important decision of his life.” But he doesn’t spell out the decision in so many words, either here or later. Instead, he alludes to reasons for not doing so. The book in fact fully supports two solutions to the question of what his decision is, and entrusts them to our imagination:
    And then, in those most banal of circumstances . . . he came to the most important decision of his life. It did not arrive . . . as light came on the road to Damascus, in one blinding certainty; but far more as a tentative hypothesis, a seed, a chink in a door; still to be doubted, neglected, forgotten through most of the future of these pages. However, Dan wishes, for reasons of his own, to define it as it was to grow . . . (431)

  • In the chapter “Rain,” set at Thorncombe, a wave of happiness comes over Dan as he listens to Mozart in his workroom. The pleasure derives from his having several intriguing developments in his life playing out at the same time. At this moment, the fact that none of them is fully resolved yet brings him satisfaction rather than anxiety. Readers are invited to find similar satisfaction in noticing various plot threads not yet resolved:
    He needed complexity, multiple promise, endless forked roads; and simply, at this moment, felt he had them. Just as the green-gold music had, beneath the balance, the effortless development and onwardness, its shadows, so also was there a component of sadness in Dan’s happiness . . . (450)

  • The events described in “A Third Contribution” (457-472) don’t specifically involve Dan, yet the fact that Jenny wrote them down and sent her account to him does. Beginning with the first three words (“Written in anger”), the depiction of Jenny’s apparent sexual liaison with her co-star Steve and his friend Kate serves as a way for Jenny to assert a new kind of independence from Dan. After receiving it, Dan tells Jenny he doesn’t believe the account is factual (473); however, privately he suspects that “something more than she was alleging had happened” (476). Jenny’s verbal statements about the contribution, during her phone call with Dan, are similarly unreliable (473-5). A further wrinkle is added through Dan’s having the final editorial say-so about the entire novel’s contents: he may or may not be misrepresenting Jenny’s account. Given that Jenny apologizes about “all the crossings-out and alterations” (472), we know at the very least that Dan has cleaned up the manuscript. What actually took place between Jenny, Steve, and Kate; at what point the narrative shifts from fact to invention; and why Jenny chose to write and send the account—all of these remain open to reader interpretation. Jenny brings out several of these layers of doubt near the end of her account:
    Dan, writing this down has exhausted me almost as much as taking part in it would have done. I know it’s a mass of contradictions. You’ll probably know what it really means better than I do. It’s taken two long evenings and a whole day and I’m sorry about all the crossings-out and alterations. And bad taste. But not sorry you may not know whether I’m pretending it hasn’t happened or pretending that it has. (471-2)

  • During the Nile-cruise cabaret evening, Dan and Jane leave the commotion and engage the Herr Professor in discussion on the sun-deck at the aft of the ship. Their conversation covers a range of stories and issues, and explores many forms of separation—between East and West Germany, between Germany and England, between husband and wife, between father and son, and between freedom and its opposites. The Professor ends the conversation by dividing the world into two nations, separated by what he calls “the river between.” What the two nations are, and what hope they might have for meeting in the river between them, are left open (by the Herr Professor and by Fowles) for audiences to determine:
    “There are many languages on this planet. Many frontiers. But in my experience only two nations.”

    In the silence, they heard the faint continued throbbing and pounding of the drums from the forward lounge; and knew he did not mean East and West, and even less his Germany, or their England. (560-1)

  • Dan is left with unresolved feelings after an intimate discussion with Jane on Kitchener’s Island. He describes his quandary both in personal and in artistic terms, by suggesting multiple outcomes and “endings.” His mentioning these narrative “roads not taken” gives them a certain reality, even though they’re left to our imagination:
    . . . he felt strangely purposeless, and he almost shook himself physically. . . . the real scenario that was haunting him was not Kitchener’s, but his own. He was approaching a fork, the kind of situation some modern novelists met by writing both roads. For days now he had been split, internally if not outwardly, between a known past and an unknown future. (579)

  • Following his discussion with Jane on their third visit to Kitchener’s Island, Dan has a compounded sense of unreality and irresolution. The question he asks himself in this passage heightens our sense of Dan’s inner disquiet; it also reminds us that, for him and for the novel we are reading, there is no foregone conclusion:
    He had a return of the sense of unreality, of being outside himself, that seemed to have infected him since their arrival at Aswan; only this time it was more or less conscious and strongly tinged with fatalism. He even asked himself--do I really want this resolved? (595)

  • During a fraught conversation in which he broaches the matter of a possible future together, Dan is set back by Jane’s response. However, his active imagination gives him the freedom to see there are other ways of feeling besides disappointed. The passage underscores the wisdom of “seeing alternative presents,” and spells out several of them:
    It was not that her initial reaction was unanticipated, though he felt some of the disappointment of the eternally optimistic amateur gambler faced with the realities of probability; . . . Yet his old capacity for seeing alternative presents helped. She had not been shocked, not walked away, not laughed; but sat and waited. (602-3)

  • After broaching the topic of his future with Jane, Dan is left to reflect that there can be a kind of consolation in her refusal. His suggestion to Jane can still have a life of its own, even if it remains an imagined reality that they both briefly considered and decided against:
    He experienced a strange conflict of feelings—like some equation too involved for his knowledge of emotional mathematics to solve. . . . Perhaps it was best as it was, left a secret between them, a canceled possibility. (609)

  • As Jenny parts from Dan in their last exchange in the novel, Fowles characterizes the novel’s main “road not taken” in an interestingly tentative way. Some part of Dan’s psyche is suspended between choosing Jane and not being yet ready to part with Jenny. Feminists might see this as an aspect of chauvinism in Dan, but I think it can also be seen as a way of acknowledging the deeply conflicted nature of what happens “under the radar” in human subjectivity:
    . . . for the briefest second he was allowed to hold her against him; then she was walking away. He stood watching her, feeling obscurely tricked, even in some way hurt that it had been her decision—which told him that it had been one that still, somewhere deep inside himself, he had not absolutely taken. (671)

To me, all this supports the idea that in a Fowles novel “whole sight” (or a more complete form of sight) emerges through active reader interaction. It’s also consistent with the notion that whole sight is ultimately unreachable. Though Fowles resolves the fate of the hero and heroine in Daniel Martin, he preserves the element of mystery in the novel in other ways. I think this element is a strong part of Fowles’s sensual and intellectual appeal as a writer.

Mystery, or unknowing, is energy. As soon as a mystery is explained, it ceases to be a source of energy.
--Fowles, The Aristos

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Wed Jun 10, 2009 9:13 am


The posting above about open endings and forked paths led me to a few further thoughts. It seems to me that after mastering the open ending in The Magus and FLW, Fowles was looking for creative alternatives to this method in Daniel Martin. Evidence of this appears in the places I listed above, and in at least two other places I can think of: in the novel's beginning-and-ending dynamics, and in the opening of its second chapter.

Beginning-and-ending dynamics

One could say that Daniel Martin begins seven times and doesn’t have a final sentence.

The seven beginnings:

    1. Epigraph by Antonio Gramsci

    2. Poetry by George Seferis

    3. First sentence by Fowles, serving as the novel’s philosophical cornerstone: “Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.”

    4. 1942 Devon countryside harvest scene (“The Harvest”)

    5. 1974 Los Angeles interior scene between Dan and Jenny (“Games”)

    6. 1950 Oxford punting scene with Dan, Jane and other students (“The Woman in the Reeds”)

    7. 1974 epistolary account written by Jenny (“An Unbiased View”)

The actual last sentence of the novel points back toward the first sentence—“Whole sight”—and declares it “impossible.” Instead of ending, the novel loops back on itself, creating what one writer has likened to a Moebius strip.

The opening of Daniel Martin's second chapter

After mastering the open ending in earlier novels, it must have been a special satisfaction for Fowles to write an open beginning in Daniel Martin’s second chapter. If you look at the chapter “Games” closely enough, you can extrapolate one or two lines back from where the chapter begins, with Jenny and Dan engaged in a dialogue-in-progress. (This qualifies as another form of the games signified by the chapter’s title.)

Here are two possible opening lines, followed by the actual beginning of the chapter:

[Jenny:] “Why don’t you write a memoir?”
[Dan:] “I don’t have enough material for it.”
[Jenny:] “You do.”
[Dan:] “No.”
[Jenny:] “But you must do.”
He smiles in the darkness.
[Dan:] “Jenny, in writing there aren’t any musts.”
[Jenny:] “Then can.”
. . .

Grasping the implications of open beginnings in a career of famous open endings made me laugh. The irony is delicious. I can imagine Fowles chuckling to himself about this, and there's a pleasure in knowing that he knew readers would one day catch on to it as well.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:29 am

Synthesizing the past + pioneering a new future

Looking back on the list of paired contraries that various scholars have found in Daniel Martin, another pair comes to mind: the novel serves as both a tribute to, and critique of, the Western tradition.

On one hand, Daniel Martin celebrates the breadth and variety of the West’s cultural and intellectual tradition (it alludes to 327 historical figures from a span of 35 centuries, etc.); on the other, it points out limitations and flaws in this tradition, with an aim toward generating new priorities and strategies for the path ahead.

This passage is from the preface to Richard Tarnas’s The Passion of the Western Mind. If Fowles had read this, I think he’d concur that it expresses an important aspect of why he wrote Daniel Martin:

How did the modern world come to its present condition? How did the modern mind arrive at those fundamental ideas and working principles that so profoundly influence the world today? These are pressing questions for our time, and to approach them we must recover our roots—not out of uncritical reverence for the views and values of ages past, but rather to discover and integrate the historical origins of our own era. I believe that only by recalling the deeper sources of our present world and world view can we hope to gain the self-understanding necessary for dealing with our current dilemmas. The West’s cultural and intellectual history can thus serve as a preparatory education for the challenges that face us all. . . .

Today the Western mind appears to be undergoing an epochal transformation, of a magnitude perhaps comparable to any in our civilization’s history. I believe we can participate intelligently in that transformation only to the extent to which we are historically informed. Every age must remember its history anew. Each generation must examine and think through again, from its own distinctive vantage point, the ideas that have shaped its understanding of the world.

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Re: What is "whole sight"?

Postby drkellyindc on Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:04 am


Following up on the last post, I want to explore some of the method behind Fowles’s critique of the Western tradition in Daniel Martin.

The last part of the chapter “The River Between” finds Jane and Dan in close conversation with the Herr Professor near the stern of the Nile-cruise ship. During their talk, the Herr Professor brings a number of serious charges against their English heritage--its stiff decorum, its impracticality, and its limited notion of freedom. In this conversation England is termed "the Sick Man of Europe." However, it's no accident that during this conversation, the other European representatives aboard the ship are engaged in dancing and reveling at the evening’s gala cabaret, and are not privy to the Herr Professor's views. It is to Dan and Jane’s credit that they seek out his more rarefied company and patiently listen as he chastises their culture; doing so toughens and fortifies them for the journey ahead. Though they haven’t yet put Syria and Palmyra on their travel itinerary, this conversation establishes that their moral constitutions are sturdy enough to face the challenges they will soon find there. The trip to Palmyra will require them to let go of all remaining false comforts and illusions. By submitting to the Herr Professor’s dissection of their national identity, they are vetted for the journey and earn their right of passage.

In the Syria and Palmyra scenes, Fowles draws together many of the threads he has laid out in the novel, and treats them with new urgency. In the following passage from the chapter “The End of the World,” the setting is the Crusader fortress in Syria known as the Krak des Chevaliers, built in the year 1031. (For an image of the fortress, see the wikipedia entry under "Krak des Chevaliers.") The fortress is a brief stop during Jane and Dan’s trip to Palmyra:

They hardly listened anymore to the guide; were far more aware of a kind of quixotic English rightness in being at this monument to primitive power politics and human greed at this totally unsuitable time of year. Europe, out of gear since the beginning; one’s permanent inner exile from its endless historical errors.

Looking at some of the keywords in this passage—

    inner exile
    historical errors

--one can see that Fowles correlates them in various ways throughout in the novel. Three examples of this include 1) the discussion at the end of “The River Between,” 2) the Krak des Chevaliers scene above, and 3) the first chapter of the novel (I underline the keywords for emphasis):

    1) During the Nile-cruise discussion mentioned above, the Herr Professor speaks about his inner exile from Germany’s historical errors; as the talk continues, he compares the national character of England and Germany in the context of Europe after WWII.

    2) At the Krak des Chevaliers, Dan and Jane are reminded of their long inner exile from Europe’s historical errors, and find that their English heritage offers a strange kind of refuge. However, it is a chastened Englishness that they find refuge in, since it has successfully passed through the checkpoint guarded by the Herr Professor. It is an Englishness purged of affectation--they no longer have the option of playing “Little British” (520), or of resorting to the other ways Dan has devised of putting on Englishness as a social mask (see 33, 73).

    In Syria, Dan and Jane's nationality helps them make sense of an otherwise unnerving encounter with the Crusader fortress. Instead of being merely alienated from the fortress, their English background enables them to affirm a certain strange "rightness" in the situation, despite its bleakness. This and other passages suggest that they've worked through alienation and begun to locate its opposite. The passage also comes as a tiny further indication that Dan, earlier described as "permanently mid-Atlantic" and "semi-expatriate," is by degrees becoming reconciled with his homeland.

    3) The impact of the passage above (“Europe, out of gear since the beginning . . .”) is heightened because of the way Fowles has patiently developed its themes. He introduces the four elements above in the novel’s opening chapter, “The Harvest.” There, the year is 1942, and Europe is plunged in its most grievous historical error of the 20th century. Daniel is an English lad of 15—“inscrutable innocent, already in exile”—whose tranquility during a Devon-county August harvest scene is shattered by the appearance of a German combat plane flying overhead, seemingly poised to destroy him.

Fowles’s artistry establishes a kinship between these three moments, though they’re separated by hundreds of pages (in the novel) and by more than three decades (in the novel’s chronology). At age 15 Dan viscerally senses the problem of Europe’s being “out of gear,” but has to wait many years before he can fully grasp and articulate it. In short, Fowles’s critique of the West in Daniel Martin begins at the gut level, and expands to include the mind and heart.


If Fowles was only aiming for critique, Daniel Martin would be a lesser book than it is. Through his artistry and his intellectual fairness he shows us myriad ways in which Europe is not "out of gear." He brings the positive side of Europe’s culture and legacy to life in a variety of ways—by engaging Jenny’s Anglo-Scottish roots and Andrew’s Anglo-Saxon roots; by celebrating the ancient Etruscan and Minoan cultures; by using physical settings in England, Italy, and Spain; and by selecting characters and cultural touchstones that vividly dramatize Europe’s heritage. Such characters include the Mallorys’ French au pair Gisèle; Andrea, with her Polish background; and the English, French, German, and East European passengers on the Nile cruise.

As for cultural touchstones, Fowles brings in scores of English references, as well as a truly cosmopolitan array of elements drawn from elsewhere in Europe. These include George Seferis’s modern Greek heritage, Georg Lukács’s Hungarian heritage, Rembrandt and Vermeer (Holland), Joyce and Beckett (Ireland), Mozart and Freud (Austria), Bergman (Sweden), Breughel and Van Dyck (Flanders), Carl Dreyer (Denmark), Francisco de Goya and Luis Buñuel (Spain), Homer, Plato, Thucycides, and Socrates (ancient Greece), Carl Jung (Switzerland), John Knox (Scotland), Bach and Thomas Mann (Germany), and Andrea Mantegna (Italy). (For a more complete listing, including non-European references, see my postings above.)

It’s worth reiterating that in Daniel Martin the element of critique is not limited to Europe, but is arguably global in its reach, and goes further than that. Dan describes the ruins at Palmyra as belonging to a reality beyond geopolitical markers: “. . . so apt, so stripping of the outer world, so crying the truth of the human condition.” In the climactic scene there, the phrase connected with the sound the puppies make, “an unhappiness from the very beginning of existence,” cues us to see things no longer in terms of critique but of a tragic aspect of existence itself--a mysterious unrest at the heart of matter, from before recorded time. The symbolism works here because it is supported so carefully, and in such detail, by the other layers of time and civilization in the novel. Moreover, the “unhappiness” is finally not tragic but generative and beautiful, because we see it transformed into something else. It is powerful enough to reach past everything that is halted inside of Jane—and by extension, everything that is halted inside of contemporary women and men. In the ruins at Palmyra, Fowles isolates and distills the force that drives existence forward.

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