Novel: The High Lonesome. Critical Essay: The dispossessed self – how formative treatments of place explore the human interior from Pope’s Grotto to Palestine.
Date: 24 May 2021
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy in Creative Writing
Novel: The High Lonesome. Daniel is lonely, repressed, and 33: the same age as Jesus, people keep reminding him. Ostensibly poised for a dry research trip to investigate slavery’s effect on religion’s global evolution, he is about to escape his dismal London life and encounter the wild new possibilities of America’s Deep South. In ...
Novel: The High Lonesome. Daniel is lonely, repressed, and 33: the same age as Jesus, people keep reminding him. Ostensibly poised for a dry research trip to investigate slavery’s effect on religion’s global evolution, he is about to escape his dismal London life and encounter the wild new possibilities of America’s Deep South. In truth, though, some darker, invisible pull is at work inside Daniel. He is speeding involuntarily towards his American fate. The High Lonesome follows Daniel’s pursuit of a strange obsession with some half-remembered ‘Other’, a ‘double’ torn from him in an obscured corner of childhood. Bea, a girl he meets in a Louisiana graveyard by a chicken processing plant, leads him North, to the snake-handling and strychnine-drinking churches of Pentecostal fundamentalism in the Appalachian Mountains. Critical Essay: This essay uses Alexander Pope’s grotto as a template with which to explore formative treatments of place in three contemporary novels. Austerlitz (Sebald), Mornings in Jenin (Abulhawa) and Frankenstein in Baghdad (Saadawi) use place to question and reinterpret senses of the self within our perceived physical contexts, and demonstrate ways in which place can lend new significance to reality itself. Each of these progressively fundamental, paradigmatic challenges is set in a real, geographical location that has been robbed of permanence, substantiality or protection, and questions whether it is possible to reject and replace the fixed, entrapping nature of our physical circumstances. I will show how these formative approaches to place explore the possibility that our notions of essence or significance can be found housed within ephemeral, or transient contexts, as antidotes to our usual perceptions of more tangible or physical embodiments of meaning. Pope’s grotto, central as it is to my remembered childhood landscape, interweaves the essay as an instigator and ghostly extender of this formative tradition, and is shown to serve as an influence on my own novel writing process.
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