Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman

I have decided that I can use this blog to also write about my Masters research, since this is an important aspect of my ‘teaching identity’, anyway. I am currently in the process of completing a Master of Arts (Creative Writing) at Monash University. It will be interesting to see if blogging about my masters begins to shape my writing process in any way.

Until now, I have held my cards pretty close to my chest in relation to my Masters- I don’t like to talk about it much, with people other than ‘kindred spirits’ anyway, because any discussion ends up feeling quite inadequate:

“So, you’re doing a masters, wow, that must be a lot of work. How many classes do you have to go to? None? Oh, good, that’s not too bad then. And half of your thesis is fiction? So you just have to write a few stories? Cool! So what’s your thesis about, anyway?”

And that’s when I have to draw a deep breath and try to ‘sum up’ in a concise and effective manner two years of research and writing. It always ends up sounding, to my ears at least, kind of lame and inadequate even though I know that it’s not that at all. I really hate the question, “What is your Masters about?” And yet, I still ask other people who I know are studying similar questions. I should know better.

Anyway, I’m just about to start reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles. Has anyone read it? According to my masters supervisor it’s a travesty that I haven’t read it before now. I was urged to read it by two different people, in two different conversations, for two completely different reasons, so I guess I’d better get on with it! One of them was my supervisor, Chandani Lokuge, and the other the brilliant Jennifer Strauss.

One of my stories centres around the image of a woman looking out to sea (three women, actually, for different reasons) which is of course the central image in Fowles’ novel. The image took flight in my story quite serendipitously, which is always interesting, but has therefore added to my reading list! John Fowles has described the way that his novel ‘grew’ around this image:

“The novel I am writing at the moment… started four or five months ago with a visual image. A woman stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea. That was all. This image rose in my mind one morning when I was still half-asleep… The woman had no face, no particular degree of sexuality. But she was Victorian; and since I always saw her in the same static long shot, with her back turned, she represented a reproach to the Victorian age. An outcast. I didn’t know her crime, but I wished to protect her. That is, I began to fall in love with her.”

-“Notes on an Unfinished Novel”, John Fowles

Ooh, now I’m intrigued. I’d better start reading. The opening chapter bodes well:

“But where the telescopist would have been at sea himself was with the other figure on that sombre, curving mole. It stood right at the seawardmost end, apparently leaning against an old cannon-barrel up-ended as a bollard. Its clothes were black. The wind moved them, but the figure stood motionless, staring, staring out to sea, more like a living memorial to the drowned, a figure from myth, than any fragment of the petty provincial day…”

1 comment:

Scott said...

Ah, I so know what this weird research explanation thing is! Lately though, I have been getting better at doing the 15 second sound bit thing - perhaps a subject in marketing should be complusory for all researchers?

I've never read 'FLW' but like you have heard people talk about it forever. Keep us all posted.