The Postcolonial Gothic: Towards an Exploration of this Theory through Selective Readings of John Banville’s Kepler and Ghosts and Mary Morrissy’s Mother of Pearl.
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The title of this thesis points to an ongoing dialogue between the Gothic and the postcolonial within the space of the novel. In reality however there are a variety of other exchanges that continually intersect with the postcolonial and the Gothic, informing both in divergent and yet surprisingly complementary ways. The exchanges I am alluding to contemplate such notions as the way a dialogue with stone can illuminate both the postcolonial and the Gothic from a feminist perspective in Mary Morrissy’s Mother of Pearl (1997). They question how air, fire, water and earth manifest themselves in the novels in a way that expresses both the postcolonial and the Gothic as mutually transformative locations. They imagine how geometry might offer itself as an imaginative device in this exchange of ideas. An opening premise, one that will be explored in detail throughout the thesis, is that they each participate through an engagement with metamorphosis. Both writers engage in a form of elemental philosophy that is compellingly evident in the three novels I have selected for exploration. The four elements of air, fire, water and earth, those ‘hormones of the imagination’ (Bachelard: 2002, 11), are constantly transforming themselves. In the novels they manifest in their own elemental metamorphoses as breath, tears, sweat, soil, rain, wind, stone, sunlight, flesh and much more. Geometrical patterns find almost endless multiplicity in nature and are revealed in the novels in numerous ways, for example in the complex frame for Kepler (1981), or inscribed in the soil in Ghosts (1993) as a journal of the past, and in the river that divides the city in Mother of Pearl. Even the music that flows through each novel, whether it be howling, music from the earth or Pythagorean music of the spheres, forms geometric lines that translate a variety of alliances. All three novels reveal air as a dynamic and transformative cartography that expresses itself as a creative force, or as a powerful carrier of memories, or even as breath which seeks to viii transform received notions of creation myths. To envisage the air as an empty space is to underestimate its rich texture. This thesis explores these affective connections with John Banville’s complex tender mapping, and with Morrissy’s cartography of breath showing how it creates intersections between howling, insects and stone. Stuart Aitken, emphasising the importance of such cartographies, says that ‘[t]he notion of a tender mapping is hugely appropriate to moving in and beyond imperial cartographies of today (Aitken: 2009, 1). The act of reading itself also comes under scrutiny within the cartography of affects as a potentially Gothicized and embodied act of touch. Michel de Certeau anticipates this idea by embracing the elemental and spectral music that is implicated within reading, calling it ‘a wild orchestration of the body’ (de Certeau: 1984, 175). Reading for de Certeau creates its own affective mapping as a ‘network of an anti-discipline’ (de Certeau: 1984, xv), thus becoming unruly and audacious rather like the Gothic. To expand upon these ideas I am utilizing theorists who engage in their own distinct elemental philosophies namely, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Luce Irigaray, Hélène Cixous, Gaston Bachelard, Rosi Braidotti, Michel de Certeau, and Friedrich Nietzsche. They each provide an inventive vocabulary that articulates how the elements operate as imaginative tools within the postcolonial Gothic dialogue, serving to show the respective efficacy of each theoretical location in seeking to transform the way we see the world.