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Considering the characters in Julian Barnes’s novel sequence “Talking It Over” and “Love, etc.” from the perspective of comic drama invites us to notice that they are controlled by “humors,” and that comedy often arises from their mechanical inelasticity. It is not primarily the grip of market and patriarchy that strangles their agency, though critics have helpfully identified these as factors, but that the characters are subject to their own neuroses in ways that make it impossible for them to engage in love relations as autonomous persons. While the sequence ends with a dark picture of love and marriage, humor confirms the absurdity of their behavior and directs us to recognize what the characters are unable to: the necessity for emotional autonomy in the open-ended love relations that characterize modernity.
|Keywords:||Julian Barnes, “Talking It Over,” “Love, etc.,” Comic Novel, Comedy of Humors|
Professor of English, Arts and Humanities Division, Babson College, Babson Park, MA, USA
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