Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Persse’s misreadings—his failure to understand that the meanings that he believes he discovers in the world are, in fact, the result of the interpretive choices he makes unthinkingly—provide but one example of the ways in which Lodge’s semiotic theme manifests itself in Small World. What Lodge posits is not, as Persse would have it, meaning, but instead possible meanings, decidedly comic open-endedness and tolerance that are entirely in keeping with the theory of the critic Mikhail Bakhtin, who has perhaps most influenced Lodge’s thinking over the years he was writing Small World. The global novel that Lodge creates reflects what Zapp calls “the global campus” of photocopiers, long-distance telephone calls, jet travel, and international conferences, which in turn serve as the most overt manifestation of what Bakhtin calls “carnival freedom,” that is to say, the dialogical bringing together of different social types, genres and subgenres, voices, discourses, and so forth, in an effort to undermine the authority of all forms of monological seriousness, of the univocal word. In Small World, Lodge incorporates, often parodically, a multiplicity of dialogized elements, from letters, pantomimes, conference papers, popular romances, and Romantic poetry to Marxist, structuralist, and deconstructionist jargon, playing each against the others, allowing none to have the final word. Nothing in Small World is without what Bakhtin terms its...

(The entire section is 524 words.)