Subversive Form, Provocative Content and Truth at All Costs: Liberature of B. S. Johnson
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The purpose of this article is to approach extreme and subversive experience in B. S. Johnson’s novels. Johnson’s fictions and his critical writings raise the problem of the condition of contemporary literature and its claims to represent the truth about reality and human existence in the era of electronic media. His novels like The Unfortunates can be viewed as classic examples of a movement known as liberature: openly defiant and subversive literature which treats formal aspects of a literary work as at least equally important as the content. Experimental and subversive techniques used by Johnson in his novels are aimed at compromising the traditional narrative as incompatible and falsifying means of giving an objective truth. According to Johnson, the function of telling fictional stories has been taken over by cinema. Storytelling in a traditional understanding is lie-telling. The novel, instead of competing with cinema, should rather turn to its appropriate task: to tell about subjective experiences and mental conditions that fall outside attempts of cinematic representations. Traditional literary forms fail to represent a credible image of a flowing, unstable reality. Thus, the most urgent task for a writer is to work out new forms and techniques that would enable him or her to create literature which could claim the right to give a genuine representation of life and reality. This study aims to analyze experimental and subversive aspects of Johnson’s novels as well as techniques used by him to create liberature.
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