A geometry of the imagination : Wilson Harris's Guyana quartet
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The purpose of this work is to convey an interpretation of Wilson Harris's first four novels as a complete text motivated and unified by self-inquest. This interpretation contains two major assertions: 1. a process of self-analysis underlies Harris's representation of the collective unconscious in Palace of the Peacock (1960), The Far Journey of Oudin (1961), The Whole Armour (1962), and The Secret Ladder (1963), collectively republished in 1985 as The Guyana Quartet. 2. Palace of the Peacock, as a single structure, and aspects of The Guyana Quartet as a unified text, exhibit similarities with specific Buddhist concepts. Analogy with a Buddhist text, the Gandavyuha, is useful for understanding the representation of the collective unconscious as a moral and metaphysical structure. The introduction includes an explanation of the novels as the author's personal allegory. This is foregrounded by an outline of Harris's personal experiences in the Guyanese jungle. In Chapter One, a reading of Palace of the Peacock is preceded by a comparison with Buddhist concepts used in this discussion. Chapters Two and Three focus on Harris's use of characters as masks to explore his actions within the fictional circumstances in The Far Journey of Oudin and The Whole Armour. In Chapter Four, the protagonist of The Secret Ladder, Fenwick, is interpreted as the culmination of self-representation in the preceding novels. He is a symbolic representation of the author discovering himself as an individual whose perceptions of political impasse in post-colonial culture unravel when he discovers the collective unconscious as the context of his psyche.