Hollow (a novel), and, 'I do not think it is the end quite yet': The Uncanny Return of the Past

van Kesteren, Amy (2021) Hollow (a novel), and, 'I do not think it is the end quite yet': The Uncanny Return of the Past. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

Hollow is a story of loss and the uncanny reappearance of the dead. It begins when Isabelle, the novel’s narrator, encounters the ghost of Freddie, a boy she met when she was fourteen years old. Now, at the age of twenty-four, Isabelle recalls the summer she knew Freddie, spending days with him at the staithe beside the river in the small market town where she lived with her mother. Shifting back to the early days of their friendship, it becomes clear that Isabelle’s mother – along with the older generation of the town - disapprove of Freddie and his young mother. What also becomes clear, in the movements between past and present tense, is the haunting nature of memory, as brief glimpses of Isabelle’s adult life suggest that something terrible will happen to Freddie.

Reflecting on the creative development of the novel’s themes, my essay, I do not think it is the end quite yet: The Uncanny Return of the Past, explores the relationship between the Gothic and the uncanny at the intersection of loss and resurrection. In this essay, I will suggest that the Gothic, in its set of conventions, is a genre that speaks of loss, while the uncanny negotiates the return of the loss – whatever it may be – through resurrection, repetition, re-creation. When faced with loss in Gothic fiction, the uncanny experience finds its place in the return. In this essay we will witness loss in many forms – in the loss of place, the loss of self, the loss of a loved one in death. And we will see these losses returned to us, as the Gothic and the uncanny meet: the re-creation of place in fiction, the reconstruction of the self, the return of the dead to reside again amongst the living. In dealing with these losses and their returns, I will discuss my novel, Hollow, and the way the writing process, the life experiences lent to it, and the losses and returns featured in the story all call attention to the relationship between the Gothic and the uncanny.

In Chapter one, How it Began: Crafting Uncanny Spaces, I will suggest that the experience of writing Bungay – the place I spent my adolescence and the place I have used to inspire the landscape of my fiction – relies on blurring, on the suspension between reality and fiction. I will detail the ways in which this writing process demonstrates the relationship between the Gothic and the uncanny in the constant tension between the loss of place and its uncanny reconstruction in fiction.

Chapter two, Uncanny Recurrences, is divided into two sections, each addressing the loss and reconstruction of the self. The first section, Repeat After Me, will address the unusual circumstance of finding myself reflected in my fiction as a result of the life experiences I have lent to my protagonist. In dealing with Gothic loss and the uncanny, I will suggest that this time, the return comes before the loss, that the experience of finding myself uncannily reconstructed in fiction signals the loss, or the unstable sense of self. The second section, The Figure of the Ghost: He does not get on with being dead, also demonstrates the loss and the return of the self, this time with focus on the novel’s characters. We witness Isabelle’s experience of loss as a double loss, and in this section, we see the way Gothic loss and the uncanny find their places in my novel. In the figure of the ghost, we witness a double loss returned: we see at once the return of Freddie and the reconstruction of Isabelle, as she returns as something other.

At the end of this essay, I return to my mother’s house. I return to Bungay. In the final chapter, The Uncanny Return, I stand on my mother’s doorstep and I reflect on the ideas raised in this essay. I reflect on the Gothic losses that have been returned to us, and the way the uncanny finds its place in these returns. I stand on the unstable ground between absence and presence, loss and return, and consider how each case affects my return to Bungay.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Legendre, Thomas
Green, Matthew
Subjects: P Language and literature > PR English literature
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Item ID: 65154
Depositing User: Van Kesteren, Amy
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2021 04:41
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2021 07:13
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/65154

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