The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

The Figure in the Ground - Perception, Identity and Readerly Involvement in four Short Stories by Elizabeth Bowen


  • Lisa Larsson

Summary, in English

Using tools and ideas from narratology, reader-response theory and cognitive poetics, and focusing on the representation of perception, this essay studies identity in four short stories by Elizabeth Bowen: "The Demon Lover", "The Inherited Clock", "Dead Mabelle" and "Foothold". The supernatural or uncanny element in the stories is seen as part of a defamiliarizing strategy, one which invites and even induces an active reading. While investigating how the stories treat the subject of identity formation, particularly in terms of social codes in opposition to independent self-understanding and self-expression, special focus will be placed on how the texts guide readerly attention by foregrounding certain plot elements. It is argued that a conscious repositioning of attention, from the foregrounded "figures" in the text to the "ground" which contains them, allows for an analysis of the causes to the problems addressed in the stories. The introduction presents the methodological framework and structure of the essay. Each chapter begins with an examination of focalization in the story which focuses on how subjectivity is presented and complicated. The findings are then analysed against some of the salient features of the story, as well as how "gaps" and uncertainty open for and shape readerly involvement.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (one year)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Elizabeth Bowen
  • Identity in literature
  • Perception in literature
  • Foregrounding in literature
  • Cognitive Poetics
  • Narratology
  • Reader-response
  • English language and literature
  • Engelska (språk och litteratur)


  • Lennart Nyberg