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Competing Narratives in Julian Barnes’s Arthur and George


Lucian Blaga University, Sibiu



The generic hybridity of Julian Barnes’s Arthur and George heralds the tensions between its competing narratives and the attendant value systems. While the narratives’ contest for ethos status is suggestive and celebrative of the fluidity of truth, it is the modes, definition and role of fiction, I propose, that hold centre-stage position in Arthur and George, reinstating a classical opposition, fiction vs. reality, with ethical implications. This article is an attempt to approach the various modes of knowledge and of representation at play in Barnes’s novel with the critical instruments made available by recent developments in rhetoric-oriented narratology. By investigating the persuasive valences of competing stories, I aim to reconcile the rhetoric of narrative with a wider understanding of narrative as a category that is fundamentally relevant to the constructions of reality that we operate in our effort to make the world of experience comprehensible and containable.


Keywords: Julian Barnes, Arthur and George, narrative, generic hybridity, rhetoric, identity, Englishness, vision


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