Existential precursors and contemporaries in Banville's Alex Cleave trilogy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


A chapter examining the influence of Freud in Banville’s oeuvre but as the title suggests it is more Freud the philosopher than the psychologist that is discussed. Freud’s ideas are shown to have many parallels with fellow philosopher-psychologists; namely Kierkegaard, Heidegger and most importantly Nietzsche. The existential motifs common to these thinkers are explored – the questioning of rationality as a determinant for people’s behaviours with the novel notion of the unconscious, the personal as well as the moral desire to interact with other people and how this is often reduced or debased to egotistic pleasures, the role of bad faith and inauthenticity as a fact of human personality. The paper goes on to argue that Banville’s engagement with contemporary moral philosophers such as Midgley, Gaita and John Gray emphasizes the ethical turn in Banville’s post-millennial work that holds existential philosophy itself at fault for questionable behaviour in relation to sex and power. Many of Banville’s male characters are erudite figures able to quote the names discussed in the paper and yet have little to no moral compass. The philosophical precursors that both Banville and his narrators are fond of are shown to be culpable, if only through the implications of their ideas, in the morally dubious actions of Banville’s characters.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJohn Banville and his Precursors
EditorsPietra Palazzolo, Michael Springer, Stephen Butler
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781350084537, 9781350084544
ISBN (Print)9781350084520
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 11 Jul 2019


  • existentialism
  • Kierkegaard
  • Heidegger
  • Nietzsche
  • Freud


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