Humors, Neuroses, and Falling in Love in Julian Barnes’s Talking It Over and Love, etc.

By Kathleen A. Kelly.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic Free Download

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

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 9, pp.179-192. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 796.002KB).

Prof. Kathleen A. Kelly

Professor of English, Arts and Humanities Division, Babson College, Babson Park, MA, USA

Dr. Kelly is Professor of English at Babson College. She received her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, and she teaches and publishes in both literary studies and the theory and pedagogy of writing. She has published articles on Bakhtin’s theory of genres and the poetry of John Donne and Andrew Marvel, and she is co-author with Janis Forman of “The Random House Guide to Business Writing.” Her current literary research focuses on the contemporary novel.


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