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David Lodge: Nice Work

English seminar group presentation.

Grace Hetherington

on 14 February 2011

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Transcript of David Lodge: Nice Work

David Lodge: Nice Work 1988
Sunday Express Book of the year. Overview
Managing Director of an engineering company, Vic and University Lecturer Robyn encounter each other through a government scheme to bring together the practical with the academic. After a number of initial disputes, their interaction reveals their weakenesses and through these weaknesses grows a realtionship. Biography
David Lodge, born in South London, 1935.
Roman Catholic upbringing.
Attended and gained a BA (hons) at University College London and Phd at University of Birmingham.
Teached in both California and Birmingham until retiring to write full time in 1987.
Nice Work is the final installment of his campus trilogy, with Changing Places (1975) and Small World (1984).
Life experiences reflected in his work
Fictional Birmingham 'Rummidge'.
'Euphoria State' in Changing Places (based on Berkely, California). Contextual Factors:
Reflects events and attitudes of 1980s society.
Examples: Race, gender, equal rights.
Theme of gender in 1980s politics. Second Wave
Feminism is displayed in the character of Robyn.
Themes of Literary Semantics= Robyn portrayed with a 'Thatcher-esque' mentality. Lodge, "Somewhat disillusioned with what was happening in literary theory, particularly the debate about structuralism versus deconstructuralism". "Marxist feminists explain the condition of women partly in terms of capacity of employers to use them as the 'reserve army' of labour". "Why can't you people take things at face value?"
You= everyone?
You= women? "In her second year, she was recklessly promiscuous, and in her third she met Charles".(p.42)
Showing the difference of Robyn to other women early on in the novel. When Robyn takes the job at Rummidge University.
"To Robyn it seemed a providential opportunity to make another-this time decisive- break with Charles" (p.58)
Friends with benefits scenario. Charles finishes with Debbie.
"I wonder whether it isn't time we bowed to the inevitable, and got married" (p. 375-376)
Robyn, headstrong that she is, decides this is the end of the road and never responds to Charles' letter= representing the power of the independent woman. Robyn has a male perspective on certain things:-
relationships and sex
"I don't want you to be my mistress, i want you to be my wife." (p.301)
Have Vic and Robyn switched stereotypical roles of men and women?
Vic acts like a love sick puppy, emotional after sleeping with Robyn.
Robyn on the other hand, does not care for Vic in that way. Robyn compared with Marjorie.
"She always kept herself in the background." (p.236)
Marjorie is portrayed as a 'weak woman' as opposed to Robyn
who has taken on male qualities in order to be a 'stronger woman'.
Lodge's influence from the victorian novel:
"Opens in the purest Victorian fashion by indicating the spatio-temporal setting and introducing the hero and his several worries on a gloomy winter morning." Vic= no nonsense.
"You know who you are: it's all on file
at Division." (p.17)
Comparision to George Orwell's '1984', robotic and emotionless character controlled by the government and monitored harshly. Vic's marriage to Marjorie.
Seems to keep her 'happy' with material objects.
Still has 'feelings' for Marjorie as can be seen when he reminisces
how "it was her dimples that first attracted Vic to Marjorie twenty-five years ago."(p.23) Sexuality
Lodge, "Sexual experience [being] an area that really distinguishes man from animals on one hand and machines on the other."
Marjorie tries her best to reignite the spark in the bedroom with Vic depsite going through the early stages on the menopause. Vic's view of Robyn-
"gently sloping breats and the profile of a pink nipple." (p.166)
Robyn is almost a 'teenage fantasy' to Vic, the prelude to their sexual encounter causes "hallucinatory" (p.289) atmosphere, resulting in Vic feeling more youthful than ever. Witnesses adultory between two colleagues.
Vic is hypocritical of their "hanky-panky between married folk" (p.231) but
because he regards as what he has with Robyn as not just sex, but love. Conclusion.
Inversion of gender roles, highlighed in different attitudes towards
sex and further feelings between Robyn and Vic.
Robyn desribes LOVE to Vic "It's a bourgeois fallacy." (p.293)
More lax attitudes to sex are normally associated with men.
An example being Brian Everthorpe who has an adulterous affair and also the factory
workers who ogle their 'pin-ups'.
Derogatory references to women such as 'dolly'. Robyn=allusions to many victorian industrial novels.
A huge point of intertextuality.
Differences from tradition, for example, Robyn is a working woman, an intellectual.
Nice Work disagrees with the idea of women as subservient to men. Lodge uses the ideology of the victorian novel, including expectations of society and gender roles, turning it on its head.
Normally in a victorian novel, one would expect horrible consequences to ungodly actions such as adultery, and this is shown by when Vic loses his job. This idea of consequence is usually applied to women, for example
Thomas Hardy's character of Tess in Tess of the d'Urbervilles dies when she kills Alec, her husband.
Vic describes Robyn in such a way that the reader places no fault on her.
Like Hardy creates sympathy for Tess by using ethereal descriptions of her, Vic refers to Robyn as a "goddess." (p.302) Gender role reversals in Nice Work.
Vic's transformation compared to 'Daniel Derronda', patriarchial and materialistic society-like Vic in the beginning.
Lodge's decision for Vic to never finish Eliot's work can be seen as the idea that Vic will go back to the traditional male gender role.
Thus, righting the inversion, and reverting back to the ideology of the victorian novel.
Full transcript