The Suspended Island: Dislocation and Disinheritance in the Post-War Gothic
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Much of the literature of the early post-war period (1946-1966) was characterised by an interest in fictitious places. Popular landscapes ranged from exotic corners of the known world and fantasy planets to post-apocalyptic civilizations and projected dystopias. Within the gothic, several sub-categories determined by location and landscape – including ‘suburban gothic’, ‘Southern Ontario gothic’, and even ‘Tasmanian gothic’ – also emerged. This thesis proposes a new category, which comprises works set in and defined by ‘the suspended island’. The suspended island refers to a specific type of psycho-geography characterised by identification with the concerns of a specific time or historical period; in this instance, the spatial anxiety and social dislocation of the immediate post-war period. Suspended islands feature in such novels as Lord of the Flies (1954), Island (1962), and The Magus (1966), as well as in the present novel, Silent Noon: a book about outsider characters and their relationship with the un-spaces and anti-places they inhabit, alter and try to flee. In all these works, a sense of suspended time and displacement resulting from historical trauma combine to render the island a spatial and temporary no-man’s land. Most feature the archetype of a stranded outsider encountering an island madman. Hauntings, both real and metaphorical, abound. Ultimately, escaping the purgatorial world of the suspended island means finding a way out of the shadow of ‘big’ history. As this investigation will demonstrate, this can present as much a challenge for the author as for his characters. Meeting this challenge has been a process led by creative exploration and by consideration of works written during the early post-war period – many of which are characterised by themes of memory, guilt, adolescent disinheritance and contested ownership of recent history.
PhD in English