A Cycle of C-changes: a working model for the literary epiphany

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A Cycle of C-changes: a working model for the literary epiphany

Title: A Cycle of C-changes: a working model for the literary epiphany
Author: Schouten, Leonard Arthur
Issue Date: 2014
Keywords: literary epiphany
character development
rising and falling action
literature and psychology
Abstract: This thesis attempts to link certain aspects of literary analysis, i.e. character development and rising/falling action, to the phenomenon of the literary epiphany. After providing a general definition of epiphany and listing various types of literary epiphany, the thesis focuses on one specific type: the epiphany which comes after a prolonged period of mounting tension culminating in a personal crisis. A new working model is introduced: a logical progression of states of mind or being, moving towards an epiphany which has a lasting effect on the character. Though the visionary moment may be spontaneous, it does not occur haphazardly but rather is the result of a series of consecutive events which lead up to the point of epiphany. This progression can be perceived as an upward spiral representing a mental development towards a wider consciousness, a better understanding of the self and the other, and a greater degree of self-realization or self-actualization. In discussing the phenomenon of the epiphany, some indispensable links are made to the field of psychology, without straying too far from the literary implications. Thus, the literary notions of rising and falling action and character development are tied in to a dynamic rather than a static epiphanic model. It is noted that epiphanies are not an end in themselves, but rather an inherent part of the transitions in life. The thesis explores some of the theoretical background to the literary epiphany, as discussed by Morris Beja, Ashton Nichols, Robert Langbaum, Philipp Wolf, Christel van Boheemen-Saaf, and Wim Tigges. It also attempts to counter Paul Maltby’s postmodern critique and deconstruction of the epiphanic literary tradition. To support the thesis, the various stages in the progression toward epiphany are illustrated with developments in two works of primary literature: James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Far more succinctly, the proposed model is tested on key developments in three other novels: Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Walker’s The Color Purple. This thesis expresses a professed belief in the mental and moral evolution in man, based on a deep conviction that “truth will out” and that mankind is, in a moral sense, upwardly mobile. Character development is, in this model at least, a development for the better.
Supervisor: Tigges, Wim
Faculty: Faculty of HumanitiesResearch master thesis
Department: Literary Studies (Research master)
Specialisation: MA English Language and Culture
ECTS Credits: 20
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/28588

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