Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Committee Chair

Niemeyer, Paul J.


By examining A. S. Byatt’s Possession, we can see that Byatt is showing the limitations of postmodern thought in examining historical works of literature, particularly in regards to women writers. The focus of this paper is on the novel’s critique of modern critical theories that conceptualize the text as being impossible to define or understand. This paper argues that Byatt satirizes her postmodern scholars to demonstrate the deficiencies of certain postmodernist principles such as the death of the author and the complete nullification of intended meaning and implicit truth. In order to show how Byatt satirizes the postmodern scholars in the novel, the scholarly characters’ analyses are discussed and revealed to be incorrect. This work discusses how the scholarly characters’ postmodernist approaches result in nothing more than inaccuracies and endless deconstruction. Their approaches, in turn, leave them feeling powerless and deem them incapable of understanding even themselves. The process the characters must go through to discover the inaccuracies of their assessments and overcome their misguided notions is also described. The intent of this thesis is to show that although the novel satires academic study and critical theories by contrasting different views of the Victorian writers being studied—views which are all incomplete until the researchers share their work with each other and let go of their own biased view—rather than altogether rejecting that truth is attainable, Possession counters postmodernist failings with a solution that involves a collaborative effort and utilizes a recursive and circular method of discovering meaning as opposed to an isolated and linear approach. Consequently, this paper contends that it is not until all of the contemporary scholars collaborate and reevaluate certain postmodern viewpoints that postmodernist deconstruction ends in totalizing reconstruction and the rebuilding of the Victorian works in the novel. This paper also contends that Possession culminates in hope, both for its scholarly protagonists and for its postmodern readers.