Pat Barker, war trilogy, eye, ocularity, transgression, power relationshipts, panopticon, cultural theory, structuralism
In 1991, British novelist Patricia Barker published Regeneration, the first of three novels that portrayed the exploits of both factual and fictional characters during the darkest days of WWI. Barker's Eye in the Door (1993), followed by The Ghost Road (1995) for which she won the Booker Prize for Fiction, completed the series that explored the effects of combat on the human psyche. What emerges as a dominant feature of Barker's war novels is her depiction of the ocular sense. Reminiscent of Orwellianism, Barker's texts contain a seemingly ubiquitous ocular presence. For example, neurasthenic patients are scrutinized by army psychiatrists, objectors and subversives are spied upon or imprisoned so that their activities may be observed, and combatants are faced with the challenge of reconciling the horrifying events they have witnessed in combat. This study investigates the role and importance of Pat Barker's depiction of eyes and visuality in her war trilogy. The overreaching goal of the thesis to examine Barker's aestheticized notion of ocularity. It is my aim to come some conclusions about how vision / ocularity signal the emergence of a few central themes in the texts such as power relationships, objectification, exposure and the transgression of boundaries. The social and linguistic theories of Michael Foucault, Roland Barthes, Georges Bataille, Martin Jay and others who have addressed the themes of perception and ocular symbolism will be introduced into my discussion with the aim of providing a theoretic foundation to many of my assertions. Chapters will begin with an interpretation of a piece of theoretical writing by one of these authors followed by an analysis of Barker's texts that incorporates the major tenets of that theory. These tenets will serve as a basis to my discussion and it is my hope that, through the creative application of theoretical writing, I will address a number of aspects of Barker's work, especially in relation to her ocular imagery, that that have thus far gone unexplored.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Hammond, James, "Eyes In The Text: Surveying The Ocular Aesthetic In Pat Barker's War Trilogy" (2005). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 564.