Double Coding in John Banville’s ‘Mefisto’ (1999)




double coding, John Banville, the Faust legend, Mefisto


The present paper examines how John Banville creates a peculiar version of the Faust legend in his novel Mefisto (1999) through the use of double coding. The term is frequently used in postmodern art, especially in literary theory and architecture. The idea consists of the possibility of sending two opposite or even multiple messages at once. Mefisto presents a fertile ground for the analysis of the way double coding might operate in a work of postmodernist fiction. Moreover, it has been one of the most challenging contemporary interpretations of the Faust legend for critics and, therefore, the present analysis has more specific relevance for those who are already taking interest in Banville’s oeuvre and/or in the Faust legend. For those who are yet to discover Banville, the article may serve as a short introduction to his idiosyncratic artistic style and peculiar means of expression. The ensuing analysis of double coding in Mefisto has the task of demonstrating that both a metanarrative appeal and a quotation/irony combination are clearly detectable in the novel. The aspiration is also to stress that Eco’s approach to the definition of double coding is more in-depth and more relevant for literary theory or postmodernism than Jencks’s one.

Author Biography

Mihails Čebotarjovs, Tallinn University

Mihails Čebotarjovs (MA in English Philology) is currently a PhD Student at Tallinn University. His research interests include narratology, English and Irish literature, John Banville’s oeuvre.


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[Online 1] Available from [Accessed on 19 September 2022].




How to Cite

Čebotarjovs, M. (2023). Double Coding in John Banville’s ‘Mefisto’ (1999). Baltic Journal of English Language, Literature and Culture, 13, 35–47.