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Fantastic Islands

  • Timothy C. Baker
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Part of the The Palgrave Gothic Series book series (PAGO)

Abstract

As much as the recurrent trope of the found manuscript has been used to foreground questions of authenticity and individual identity, as discussed in the previous chapter, it has also been used to address much broader issues of history and communal memory. To a certain extent, this may seem self-evident; as Jan Assmann notes, while language is considered as present communication, text is always ‘constituted on the basis of prior communication. It always involves the past.’1 Texts, Assmann argues, allow for the development of cultural memory, as opposed to communicative or bonding memory: texts encompass not only the knowledge required for practical living, but also ‘the age-old, out-of-the-way, and discarded’ (27). While Assmann focusses on normative and formative texts (that is, texts that codify social behaviour, such as wisdom literature, and texts that formulate a culture’s self-image, such as myths and sagas), the novels examined in the previous chapters indicate that any text may be culturally formative. Robertson’s Testament of Gideon Mack, for instance, highlights the extent to which formative texts such as Scott’s novels relate to both individual and cultural memory, while Gray’s Poor Things suggests that inauthentic or fictive texts may be just as relevant to the establishment of cultural identity.

Keywords

Previous Chapter Night Waking Cultural Memory Dead Child Death Drive 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Jan Assmann (2006) Religion and Cultural Memory [2000], trans. Rodney Livingstone (Stanford: Stanford University Press), p. ix.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The found manuscript can also be used to represent scientific discoveries, pointing not to the past but the future. Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Horror of the Heights’ presents ‘the extraordinary narrative which has been called the Joyce-Armstrong fragment’, found in a field and covered with blood, which recounts the experience of an airman at the previously unreached height of 43,000 feet, where he encounters strange air serpents and monsters, leading to his death. Arthur Conan Doyle (1922) Tales of Terror and Mystery (London: John Murray), p. 11. The manuscript is a conduit between the mundane and the scarcely imaginable.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    David Punter (1996) The Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day, 2nd ed., 2 vols (London and New York: Longman), vol. 2, p. 187.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Marshall Brown (2003) The Gothic Text (Stanford: Stanford University Press), p. 110.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
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  6. 6.
    Jacques Rancière (2004) The Flesh of Words: The Politics of Writing, trans. Charlotte Mandell (Stanford: Stanford University Press), p. 100.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    As Fredric Jameson argues, islands present ‘the ultimate rebuke of the centred subject and the full deployment of the great maxim that “difference relates”’. Fredric Jameson (2005) Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London: Verso), p. 223.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Kate Atkinson (2000) Emotionally Weird (London: Doubleday), p. 10.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Tzevtan Todorov (1973) The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, trans. Richard Howard (Cleveland and London: The Press of Case Western Reserve University), p. 33.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gillian Beer (1990) ‘The Island and the Aeroplane: The Case of Virginia Woolf’, in Nation and Narration, ed. Homi K. Bhabha (London and New York: Routledge), pp. 265–290, p. 271.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    J.M. Barrie (1942) The Plays of J.M. Barrie, ed. A.E. Wilson (London: Hodder and Stoughton), p. 1104.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    R.D.S. Jack (1991) The Road to the Never Land: A Reassessment of J M Barrie’s Dramatic Art (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press), p. 170. In his preface to R.M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island, Barrie argues that to be born ‘is to be wrecked on an island’.Google Scholar
  13. Quoted in Peter Hollindale (1995) ‘Introduction’, in J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan and Other Plays, ed. Hollindale (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. vii–xxv, p. xxi.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    As the visitor whose texts are positioned throughout the project explains: ‘Speaking from the point of view of an Islander, which I now regard myself to be, there are two states: the Island and Triangleland. The term Triangleland refers to the character of the tourists, their apparent desire to label and classify everything and their complacency in their ability to do so. The first thing they will ask is, “What is the name of the island?” This appears an absurd and irrelevant question, for it is akin to asking, “What is the name of everything?” or, “What is Tom’s name?” Being the continent from which all the other islands in the archipelago are isolated it is the archetype and as such does not require a name.’ Charles Avery (2010) The Islanders: An Introduction (London: Parasol unit/Koenig Books), p. 103.Google Scholar
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    Judith Wilt (1980) Ghosts of the Gothic: Austen, Eliot, and Lawrence (Princeton: Princeton University Press), p. 295.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Louise Welsh (2010) Naming the Bones (Edinburgh: Canongate), p. 4.Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    In Galford’s novel, the island of Cailleach (‘the outermost island of the Utter Utter Hebrides’) is the setting for a clash between a pre-Christian, matriarchal religion and Christian patriarchy. Ellen Galford (1986) The Fires of Bride (London: Women’s Press), p. 5. The novel shares a number of tropes with Naming the Bones, such as the conflict between archaeologists and humanities scholars. It falls especially close to Welsh’s novel when Maria Milleny imagines her trip to the island as a ‘gothic thriller’, where she ‘is lured to the island by Catriona on behalf of a select circle of upper-class Scottish satanists’ (31). Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer’s novelisation of The Wicker Man, similarly, is set on Summerisle, ‘the farthest west of the Outer Hebrides’.Google Scholar
  18. Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer (2000) The Wicker Man (London: Macmillan), p. 13. In both novels, the island’s remove from mainland culture permits a rediscovery of pre-Christian (and ultimately post-Christian) ritual.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    Hogg relates his mother’s disdain for Scott’s Minstrelsy in Familiar Anecdotes of Sir Walter Scott, where she argues ‘there war never ane o’ my sangs prentit till ye prentit them yoursel’, an’ ye hae spoilt them awthegither. They were made for singing an’ no for reading; but ye hae broken the charm now, an’ they’ll never be sung mair’. James Hogg (1999) Anecdotes of Scott, ed. Jill Rubenstein, The Stirling/South Carolina Research Edition of the Collected Works of James Hogg, vol. 7 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), p. 38.Google Scholar
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    In Heaney’s poem, the line reads ‘darkened combs’. Seamus Heaney (1975) North (London: Faber), p. 38. David Punter uses the poem to discuss the problems of writing about terror, arguing that Heaney ‘reminds us of a danger’ found in Romantic-era Gothic, notably in Burke, of voyeurism and what he calls ‘futuristic necrophilia’. David Punter (1998) Gothic Pathologies: The Text, the Body and the Law (Basingstoke: Macmillan), p. 83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 22.
    Sarah Annes Brown (2012) A Familiar Compound Ghost: Allusion and the Uncanny (Manchester: Manchester University Press), p. 6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 23.
    Bodies of Light, a companion novel focusing on May’s sister Ally, introduces their father as interested ‘in absences, in what is no longer there. Hauntings, reverberations, shadows; the real stories, he reiterated, begin after the event.’ Sarah Moss (2014) Bodies of Light (London: Granta), p. 2.Google Scholar
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    Sarah Moss (2011) Night Waking (London: Granta), p. 23.Google Scholar
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    Carolyn Steedman (2001) Dust (Manchester: Manchester University Press), p. 166.Google Scholar
  25. 27.
    Ellen Moers (1976) Literary Women (New York: Doubleday), p. 255.Google Scholar
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    Nancy K. Miller (1986) ‘Arachnologies: The Woman, the Text, and the Critic’, in Miller (ed.), The Poetics of Gender (New York: Columbia University Press), pp. 270–95, p. 278.Google Scholar
  27. 30.
    Margot Gayle Backus argues in her study of Anglo-Irish Gothic, for instance, that child sacrifice ‘dramatize[s] the contradiction’ between individual autonomy and ‘a covert system of intergenerational transmission’. Margot Gayle Backus (1999) The Gothic Family Romance: Heterosexuality, Child Sacrifice, and the Anglo-Irish Colonial Order (Durham and London: Duke University Press), p. 142.Google Scholar
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    Christopher Fynsk (2000) Infant Figures: The Death of the ‘Infans’ and Other Scenes of Origin (Stanford: Stanford University Press), p. 50.Google Scholar
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    Maurice Blanchot (1995) The Writing of the Disaster, trans. Ann Smock, new ed. (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press), p. 67.Google Scholar
  30. 34.
    As de Man reads ‘A slumber did my spirit seal’, Wordsworth charts a temporal sequence from error to death and then to an insight into the human predicament: ‘This is possible within the ideal, self-created temporality engendered by the language of the poem, but it is not possible within the actual temporality of experience. The “now” of the poem is not an actual now, which is that of the moment of death.’ Paul de Man (1983) Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism, 2nd edn (London: Methuen), p. 225.Google Scholar
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    Fredric Jameson (2013) The Antinomies of Realism (London: Verso), p. 28.Google Scholar
  32. 37.
    Jean-Luc Nancy (2008) Corpus, trans. Richard A. Rand (New York: Fordham University Press), p. 5.Google Scholar
  33. 38.
    Roland Barthes (1975) The Pleasure of the Text, trans. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang), p. 64.Google Scholar
  34. 39.
    Jeremy Tambling (2001) Becoming Posthumous: Life and Death in Literary and Cultural Studies (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), pp. 137, 140.Google Scholar
  35. 41.
    Jacques Derrida (1996) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press), p. 11.Google Scholar
  36. 42.
    See Eric Savoy (2010) ‘Literary Forensics, or the Incendiary Archive’, Boundary 2, 37.3, 101–122, p. 113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 45.
    Jacques Derrida (1995) Mal d’Archive: Une impression freudienne (Paris: Galilée), p. 1. My translation.Google Scholar
  38. 47.
    Alice Thompson (2002) Pharos (London: Virago), p. 1.Google Scholar
  39. 49.
    In Jodey Castricano’s study of Derrida and Gothic, he coins the term ‘cryp-tomimesis’ to describe a writing that is based both on encryption and the crypt itself, which disrupts the relation between inside and outside. Jodey Castricano (2001) Cryptomimesis: The Gothic and Jacques Derrida’s Ghost Writing (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press), p. 6. Although Castricano does not specifically address Archive Fever, this dual sense of the crypt is very much at play in both that text and Pharos. As Derrida himself argues elsewhere, the crypt cannot be seen as a natural place, but as ‘the striking history of an artifice, […] a place comprehended within another but rigorously separate from it’.Google Scholar
  40. Jacques Derrida (1986) ‘Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok’, trans. Barbara Johnson, in Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, The Wolf Man’s Magic Word: A Cryptonymy, trans. Nicholas Rand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), pp. xi–xlviii, p. xiv. As such, it invites the questioning of the relationship between place and history that occupies Thompson’s novel.Google Scholar
  41. 51.
    Jacques Derrida (2006) Geneses, Genealogies, Genres and Genius: The Secrets of the Archive, trans. Beverley Bie Brahic (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), p. 18.Google Scholar
  42. 53.
    Alice Thompson (2013) Burnt Island (Cromer: Salt), p. 51.Google Scholar
  43. 54.
    Monica Germanà (2010) Scottish Women’s Gothic and Fantastic Writing: Fiction since1978 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), pp. 154–155.Google Scholar
  44. 56.
    Linda Dawn Tym (2011) Forms of Memory in Late Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Scottish Fiction, Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Edinburgh Library, p. 127. Tym’s work, while focusing on Abraham and Torok, takes a much broader look at the relation between Thompson’s novel and psychoanalytic theory.Google Scholar
  45. 57.
    Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok (1994) The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis, ed., trans., and int. Nicholas T. Rand (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press), p. 171.Google Scholar
  46. 61.
    Sarah Dunnigan (2011) ‘Alice Thompson’s Gothic Metamorphoses: The Allusive Languages of Myth, Fairy Tale and Monstrosity in The Falconer’, Gothic Studies, 13.2, 49–62, p. 49. The phrase is taken from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 65.
    Jess Richards (2012) Snake Ropes (London: Hodder & Stoughton), p. 68.Google Scholar
  48. 66.
    Alan Warner (1998) These Demented Lands (London: Vintage), p. 169.Google Scholar
  49. 71.
    As Derrida argues, ‘a written sign carries with it a force that breaks with its context, that is, with the collectivity of presences organising the moment of its inscription. This breaking force [force de rupture] is not an accidental predicate but the very structure of the written text’. Jacques Derrida (1988) Limited Inc, ed. Gerald Graff, trans. Samuel Weber (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press), p. 9. These Demented Lands, and especially Callar’s letter at the novel’s end, precisely exemplify the notion of a written sign that is not, and cannot be, enclosed by context.Google Scholar
  50. 75.
    Ruth Parkin-Gounelas (1999) ‘Anachrony and Anatopia: Spectres of Marx, Derrida and Gothic Fiction’, in Peter Buse and Andrew Stott (eds), Ghosts: Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, History (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 127–143, p. 138.Google Scholar
  51. 76.
    Richards, Snake Ropes, pp. 331, 342. Likewise, at the end of Cooking with Bones one of the two central sisters, Maya, discovers that she is a ghost: ‘The people who can see me now are those who deeply want to believe in an afterlife. They don’t realise I’m dead, and still see whatever they want.’ Jess Richards (2013) Cooking with Bones (London: Hodder & Stoughton), p. 367.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Timothy C. Baker 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy C. Baker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AberdeenUK

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