The Frame Function: An Inside–Out Guide to the Novels of Janet Frame

Jan Cronin

From Owls do Cry to The Carpathians, the novels of Janet Frame have challenged our understanding of what fiction does. The Frame Function is a guide for those who are intrigued, stimulated, sometimes baffled by Frame’s powerful novels.

In The Frame Function, Jan Cronin traces the operation of a prescriptive authorial presence within the novels to offer an engaging ‘inside–out’ guide to a great writer’s work. Drawing on Frame’s personal and professional correspondence and the dynamic between that Frame and the various Frames of the novels, Cronin explores key issues: Frame’s relationship with her readers; the nature of the ‘difficulty’ the novels present; and the questions of intentionality Frame’s work forces us to address. Each chapter offers readers a tour of one or more Frame novels: how they work; howFrame writes; and the impact these fundamentals have on readers interpreting and engaging with her work.

Readers of Frame’s books frequently sense the presence of some kind of puzzle to be solved but can’t quite distil its parameters. The Frame Function takes as its starting point this capacity of Frame’s texts to lure the reader into looking for solutions while simultaneously deterring such behaviour. In crafting a portrait of Frame’s compositional processes, Cronin provides new insights into the underlying relationship between prescriptiveness and elusiveness in Frame’s work.


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Jan Cronin is a senior lecturer in the Department of English at The University of Auckland. She completed a PhD on Janet Frame’s novels at the University of Leeds in 2004 and co-edited Frameworks: Contemporary Criticism on Janet Frame (2009). Jan Cronin undertook extensive research in Frame archives in the United States and Australia in 2007 and 2008.


May 2011, 228 x 152 mm, 232 pages
Paperback, ISBN 9781869404864, $49.99