Elements of Parody in David Lodge's "Nice Work"

Seminar Paper, 1995

14 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1. Introduction: Defining Parody

2. Parodic Strategies in Nice Work

3. Foregrounding of the Victorian Novel
3.1 Exposing Narrative Conventions
3.2 Discussing the Victorian Novel

4. The Ambiguous Heroine

5. Poststructuralism in Nice Work

6. Nice Work as a Romance

7. A Balanced Pastiche

8. Parody as a "philosophic" Approach

9. Bibliography

1. Introduction: Defining Parody

When thinking about David Lodge and parody, Nice Work might not be the first novel that springs to mind. This is because the generally accepted conception of parody is that of an imitation of a model text, be it a particular piece of writing, the style of an author or the literary modes of a particular period, with the underlying intention of mocking and ironizing the target text. According to this, the natural association would be Lodge's The British Museum is Falling Down, with a slight deviation as far as the author's intentions are concerned. The concept of ridicule, which can be traced in most of the parodies in the history of this genre since Aristophanes, is not an inherent feature of parody. The mockery does not always go at the expense of the text parodied, as we can see in the case of The British Museum is Falling Down, which is rather a homage to the background texts. It is the issue of the "ethos of parody"[1], which can be ironic, ridiculing, didactic or reverential. This wide "pragmatic range of parody"[2] results from the ambivalent meaning of the Greek word 'para', which means both 'opposite' and 'beside'. Linda Hutcheon suggests that "it is this second, neglected meaning of the prefix that broadens the pragmatic scope of parody in a way most helpful to discussions of modern art forms (…).[3]

With this in mind, I shall approach Nice Work along the lines of Daniel Ammann's definition of parody as an "activation or flirtation with an intertext (...) sustained over longer stretches(...)"[4] as well as of Linda Hutcheon's statement that "parody(...) is a repetition with difference."[5] Defined thus broadly, it meets my conception of Nice Work as a non-standard parody. By this I mean that it is not a homogeneous rewriting of an original (with a "difference" , of course), as Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is a parody of the Gothic novel, neither is it a consistent mosaic of parodies mimicking the originals according to one principle as The British Museum is Falling Down does, and on that account it becomes a parody homogeneous on a higher level.

At its face value, Nice Work can be regarded as a straightforward realistic piece of narrative with a large number of comic elements, but only the most "innocent" of readers would settle for this assessment. The most conspicuous clues signalling that the text should not be taken for what it looks like at first sight, are the quotations from Victorian industrial novels serving as mottos for each of the six parts of the book. There are obvious parallels to be drawn between the strands of the plot of Nice Work and of the respective industrial novels. But does that imply that Nice Work is simply a parody of the Victorian industrial novel? I shall argue that Lodge's book is not a consistent parody of this genre as such if only because of the further targets of parodic treatment, these being the concepts of poststructuralist deconstruction and feminism. Another distinctive parodic strain running along the kind mockery of the (in the narrator’s words) "classic realist text, full of causality and morality," concerns the contemporary romance in the sense of a love story. Given this, I shall not discuss Nice Work as a parody, but I shall point out the parodic elements it contains. Finally, I shall try and work out a common denominator for these elements and find out whether there is a unifying principle in the parodic structure.

2. Parodic strategies in Nice Work

Being intertextual in nature, parody draws its force from comparing itself with other texts (a 'text' is to be understood here in its wider sense, including other than narrative texts as well). In the case of Nice Work, the strategies applied for this purpose are: establishing parallels on the content level and incorporating telling hints into the text (on different textual levels: author's note, comments of the intrusive narrator, dialogue), exposing the conventions of the model text, as regards the story as well as the narrative mode. On another parodic level which leans towards literary criticism, the contradictions of particular literary and philosophic concepts are exposed while confronting these with the occasional conduct of the characters who stand for them. The main rhetorical device parody makes use of is irony. In this novel, it is not so much the verbal irony occuring here and there in the form of antiphrasis, but the structural irony operating on a larger scale, where whole patterns and concepts become subject to ironical treatment.

3. Foregrounding of the Victorian Novel

3.1 Exposing Narrative Conventions

As a starting point for my examination I will také Chapter 2 of Part One because it introduces the two themes which play a major part throughout the novel: the Victorian novel and poststructuralism. The use of the two modes of writing, primary and secondary, which are furthermore contrastive in their underlying philosophic conceptions (one being very traditional, the other ostensibly progressive) as a foil for the story is in itself a source of irony.

The most prominent feature of this chapter is the stepping forward of the narrator. In Chapter l dealing with the main male character Vic Wilcox the narrator was present as an impersonal narrative instance telling the reader who Vic is and what he is doing at the moment. This way does not seem to be sufficient when treating the heroine and the change of the narrative mode signals that the story will concentrate on the female character in accordance with the conventions of the Victorian novel. I will examine the narrative conventions first; one such is the dialogue between the narrator and the reader, designed to reinforce the illusion that the reader is presented with a segment of reality, that he or she witnesses a true story. By the use of the pronoun ' we ' the reader is invited to take the privileged position beside the narrator; furthermore, the words 'leave', 'travel1, 'meet' suggest the reader's indirect participation in the action. In the effort to persuade the reader about the credibility of the story, the narrator of a realist text can relate the facts of the story to the extratextual "reality". Such a hint is dropped here when the narrator, speaking about Robyn's involvements, adresses the reader: "and in the Cambridge University Reporter for the 18th February, 1981,(...) you may find Robyn's impassioned plea (...)." (48 f.)[6] These devices contrast with the message of the Author's Note, where the reader is informed "that Rummidge is an imaginary city,(...) inhabited by imaginary people", that he will be presented only with "figments of the imagination" to quote from the Author's Note in Sm a ll World. The Author's Note is contradictory in itself since it adresses the "readers who have not been here before". The paradox of visiting an imaginary place is a kind of poetic licence often to be encountered in fairy-tales, but not in realist fiction. The contradiction outlined above shall puzzle the reader and question the concept of the willing suspension of disbelief taken for granted in classic texts (realist as well as romantic).

After the "condescending" 'we' (implying I, the narrator and you, the narratee), the narrator makes one more step forward and shows himself (or herself?) in full light: "rather awkwardly for me", "I will tell you" (39,41). Having thus offered his guiding hand , the narrator disappears behind the story and remains in the background for the rest of the novel so that the reader is left with the impression that the narrator's identification is only a mockery at the Victorian narrative instance. Another popular narrative convention which is played with in the first part of Chapter 2 and which does not occur later is the use of the author's comments on his heroine; they are separated from the narrative flow by brackets and thus become a sort of "asides" to the reader in a confidential tone. These comments point out Robyn's teaching habits and her philosophic views in particular, which are ironized by the narrator's (and author's?) obvious taking distance from them: "I shall therefore take the liberty of treating her as a character (...)" (41) says the narrator, showing disregard for Robyn's contempt of the concept of character.


[1] Linda Hutcheon: A Theory of Parody. London, Methuen, 1985, p. 55.

[2] Ibid, p. 50.

[3] Ibid, p. 32.

[4] Daniel Amman: David Lodge and the Art-and-Reality Novel. Heidelberg, Winter, 1991, p. 67.

[5] Hutcheon, work cited, p. 32.

[6] All quotes from Nice Work refer to the following edition: David Lodge, Nice Work, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1989.

Excerpt out of 14 pages


Elements of Parody in David Lodge's "Nice Work"
Technical University of Berlin
PS David Lodge
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
555 KB
Elements, Parody, David, Lodge, Nice, Work, David, Lodge, Campus novel, Linda Hutcheon
Quote paper
Barbora Sramkova (Author), 1995, Elements of Parody in David Lodge's "Nice Work", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/34139


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Elements of Parody in David Lodge's "Nice Work"

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free