Topography and the Comic Gothic Turn

  • Avril Horner
  • Sue Zlosnik


In this chapter we shall look at how the relationship between place and identity is explored in comic Gothic writing. As we saw in Chapter 3, both Trilby and Nightwood focus on Paris as an arena in which the potentially hybrid identities of late modernity can be ambiguously played out. Both glimpse the rural as a peripheral alternative to the metropolis. In Trilby, true to an English cultural and literary heritage in which the country house and the countryside are indicative of tradition, Little Billee’s family home in Devonshire is associated with the conservative values of rural England. In Nightwood, the rural is represented by Nora’s rambling estate in North America that has been in her family for two hundred years and which, ‘a mass of tangled grass and weeds’, contains ‘its own burial ground, and a decaying chapel’ (p. 77). It is here that Robin’s peculiar communion with a dog takes place, man’s best friend, as it were, becoming woman’s. The first two novels we explore in this chapter continue this tradition of setting the countryside against the city in a binary opposition. Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust (1934), moving between London, a large country house and the wilds of the Brazilian jungle, is a bitter and satiric vision of life in the twentieth century, whereas Stella Gibbons’s Cold Comfort Farm (1932) is a more benign novel that uses burlesque and parody to critique fictional representations of the rural.


Burial Ground Veterinary Surgeon Waste Land Protestant Work Ethic Late Modernity 
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© Avril M. Horner and Susan H. Zlosnik 2005

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  • Avril Horner
  • Sue Zlosnik

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