The Poetics of Re-Enchantment: Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Beginning of Spring

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The essay offers a reading of Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Beginning of Spring (1988) and relates it to the cultural conception of Modernity as an age of “disenchantment,” and to the potential contribution of the “subtler language” of literature (to borrow Charles Taylor’s phrase) to a “re-enchantment” of the world. Following a brief theoretical introduction of the concept of Disenchantment, as framed by Lukács, Weber, Taylor and, more obliquely, Roland Barthes, the essay offers a close reading of The Beginning of Spring. This novel, I suggest, encapsulates the tension between the “hermeneutics of suspicion” and the “hermeneutics of restoration,” initially coined by Ricoeur and more recently developed in the work of Eve Sedgwick and Rita Felski, and orchestrates the reading experience through its intertextual relations with Tolstoy, the subtle strategic navigation of the narrative between the register of the ridiculous and that of the Sublime, and the consequent shift from a mode of disenchantment to a poetics of re-enchantment. The closure of the novel may thus be read in the spirit of “restoration,” by no means simplistic or naïve, but clearly oriented in the direction of the Sacred.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCritique - Studies in Contemporary Fiction
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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