Ballard's Story of O: ‘The Voices of Time’ and the Quest for (Non)Identity

Wymer, Rowland (2012) Ballard's Story of O: ‘The Voices of Time’ and the Quest for (Non)Identity. In: UNSPECIFIED UNSPECIFIED. ISBN 9780230278127

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Abstract

‘The Voices of Time’ is the key work from Ballard’s early period, prefiguring the tone and narrative direction of the ‘disaster’ novels and eloquently articulating one of his lifelong preoccupations – the search for identity in a changing environment. At one level the story is a poetic meditation on time and death, an evocation of change and degeneration on a cosmic scale which recalls such works as Spenser’s ‘Mutabilitie Cantos’ or Donne’s ‘The First Anniversary’. Like Donne, Ballard employs up-to-the-minute scientific rhetoric to reinvigorate and revalidate a very traditional lament about the inevitability of decay. Such a lament is also present both in ‘classic’ science fiction texts such as The Time Machine or John W. Campbell’s ‘Twilight’ and in important ‘New Wave’ stories like M. John Harrison’s ‘Running Down’ or Pamela Zoline’s ‘The Heat Death of the Universe’. However, Ballard’s handling of this theme acquires some of its uniqueness from the fact that he was strongly interested in the ideas of both Freud and Jung. Consequently, the protagonist’s quest for identity within the ceaseless flow of time can be read with equal ease as a successful process of Jungian individuation or as a disastrous surrender to the Freudian death drive. At the heart of the story is what Rosemary Jackson has called the ‘goal which lies behind all fantastic art . . . the arrival at a point of absolute unity of self and other, subject and object, at a zero point of entropy’. Whether this ‘zero point’ represents a completion of self or a loss of self, whether the ‘O’ is full or empty, becomes impossible to say, as is also the case with Pauline Reage’s erotic classic The Story of O, which Ballard greatly admired.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: Citation: Wymer, R., 2012. Ballard's Story of O: ‘The Voices of Time’ and the Quest for (Non)Identity. In: J. Baxter and R. Wymer, eds. 2012. J.G. Ballard: visions and revisions. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Ch. 1., pp.19-34..
Faculty: Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences
Depositing User: Mr I Walker
Date Deposited: 20 May 2013 14:54
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2016 12:50
URI: http://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/292422

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