The fictionalisation of reality in the pre-war novels of Jean Giono
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis examines the fictionalisation of reality as a creative response to the human condition in novels selected from the prewar writings of Jean Giono where, through an emerging portrait of the artist/poet as healer, the author explores the contention that the power of the creative mind has the strength to master reality. Across these early works, we will identify the permanence of an inner tension between "reality" and the "dream" within the human mind, as Giono' s characters struggle with the uniqueness of their position in a seemingly alien universe. The dream arises from a desire for unification with the rest of the natural world, while reality must acknowledge that humankind is excluded from such a union on account of its specificity. The analysis will uncover Giono's ongoing attempt at achieving a solution to the existential problem facing humankind through a marriage of human creativity with the power of the cosmic forces, expressed through the spoken/written word. Through the subjective imagination of his emerging poet-protagonists, the author celebrates and endeavours to sustain an illusory external world of contrasts which challenge everyday perspectives but which are also striking in their interdependence. The inherent duality of the poetic metaphor, with its two domains of reference, makes it the keystone of a cosmos which is composed of a series of binary oppositions. By its very analogous nature, metaphor reveals an underlying interconnectedness to the vastness of the universe which is a persistent theme in all art - the revelation of universals. For Giono, the strength of the natural life force correlates to a force of poetry that is capable of releasing humans from the servitude of ordinary life by introducing them to a universal world that holds more ontological truth than the restrictions of an immediate, apparent reality.