[ilds] [RG 2003 Justine 1.1 - 3]

James Gifford gifford at ualberta.ca
Fri Apr 6 12:17:11 PDT 2007

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2003 17:44:02 -0400
From: W.L. Godshalk
To: Anna Lillios 
Subject: AQ

Prompted by Charlie Sligh's posting, I want to recall Northrop Fry's
distinction between a linear reading and a global reading.  Fry suggests
that the first time we read a work, our understanding is linear -- one
thing at a time. We can't know (unless we are using Cliff Notes, of course)
what will happen next, and I suspect readers who claim that they can intuit
how a novel will end.

But after we have read linearly, Fry says, we can then read globally.  We
can note that the narrator asks, "Was it in this that Anthony heard the
heart-numbing strains of the great music which persuaded him to surrender
for ever to the city he loved?" (section 3) and that Durrell places his
translation of Cavafy's poem "The God Abandons Antony" at the end of the
Workpoints (page 252 in Faber's first edition). Antony's farewell to
Alexandria brackets the novel -- so to speak (as Durrell would say). We
can't know this until we have finished reading Justine.

So from a global perspective Charlie can write:

"Once readers have passed through the remaining text, I think,Darley's
choice may become more clear, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. This
name, Justine, consciously opens up a key point of valence--a specialized
point of poetic associations, an intersection
of meanings--in a novel wherein the reader learns to see names, events,
objects, personalities, and even perspectives as multivalent."

Like the images in a multiple mirror.

But from the linear perspective, we cannot know these things. We can ask,
"why this name rather than something else?" (as I recall Zizeck recommends
this question), but we are unable to answer satisfactorily.  But maybe
that's Durrell's game. Perhaps he wants us to be puzzled, to wonder about
Justine, to desire her -- or to desire to meet her (as Charlie hints).

I suppose we should note that Durrell quotes De Sade's Justine as one of
his epigraphs for the novel.  So when the narrator decides to name the
unnamed child "Justine," that decision is in the immediate context of De

>>From a linear perspective, Charlie writes: "the novel begins with a series
of absent, or undefined, names. Darley's name is not clarified until much
later; the 'Justine' for whom the novel is titled only coalesces gradually,
washing up wave by wave in suggestive memories."

Yes, good point, though I would change the phrase "absent . . . names" to
"present names and absent references."  In this case, the meaning of the
name demands presence.  We cannot know what is referred to by "Justine" in
the novel Justine until we finish reading it.  Nor can we speculate what is
meant by the name "Justine" in the Alexanderia Quartet until we have
finished reading it.

I wonder how Justine (Nessim's wife) will react to having Justine
(Melissa's daughter) running around the house.  Will mature Justine accept
young Justine as a replacement for her lost child?  Or will she be angry as

Bill Godshalk
*    W. L. Godshalk
*    Professor, Department of English              *
*    University of Cincinnati                                             *
*    Cincinnati OH 45221-0069                   *   Stellar Disorder
*    godshawl at email.uc.edu                                *

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