This essay reads A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book in the context of Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” to argue for the sophistication of Byatt’s aesthetic in light of ongoing debates about Byatt’s status as a contemporary British author. The essay employs Foucault’s description of the mirror as heterotopia to discuss art’s “form” and art’s relationship to artist and reader in Tennyson and Byatt. In focusing on the creative act itself and its impact on the lives of many of the novel’s major characters, The Children’s Book illuminates the complexities and moral dimensions of Byatt’s own writer’s aesthetic, a subject Byatt has explored in previous works of fiction and nonfiction. In demonstrating narrative’s potential dangers, Byatt’s novel tacitly offers a response to poststructural and cultural criticism of her fiction as essentialist and reactionary, even as it admittedly leaves the contradictions of her aesthetic unresolved.


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pp. 318-342
Launched on MUSE
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