Possession By A. S. Byatt: Summary

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Possession by A.S Byatt was published in 1990. It chronicles the story of two young scholars Maud and Roland Mitchel who uncover a hidden affair between two previously unconnected Victorian poets. The novel is comprised of a number of diary entries, letters and poems granting the reader a unique insight into the lives of the characters. The novel also makes use of various styles of narration, duality of tales, a number of narrative voices and a combination of contrasting literary genres in order to achieve the desired effect. This essay endeavours to explore the connections between female sexuality and women’s writing in Possession. Molly Hite wrote that the female body “becomes a text that must be read in order to be dismantled and reassembled by an emergent female aesthetic” (123). With this in mind, the essay will carefully analyse three of the major female characters featured in the novel, Val, Christabel and Maud. Each character will be individually examined with particular attention to her writing and to what extent her sexuality impacts upon her publications in the male dominated academic realm.
Val occupies perhaps the least influential
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In addition to challenging literary boundaries, the novel illustrates to the reader that Christabel also challenged sexual limitations of her time by living with her partner Blanche Glover for many years, resulting in the modern assumption that she was a lesbian. Furthermore, upon consummating her relationship with Ash, it was made apparent that she understood her own body and would not solely adopt a passive role in their love-making “delicate skills, such informed desire, and yet a virgin” (309). Hence, it is possible to deduce that Christabel’s writing and her sexuality as a woman were deeply

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