Repetition and Eternity: The Spectral and Textual Continuity in Michèle Roberts’s In the Red Kitchen
The nineteenth century offers a captivating reservoir of topics for contemporary novelists engaged in the process of recreating and re-imagining the Victorian world, among which are: religious angst and the dilemmas of science; the impact of the Industrial Revolution; emerging discourses of sexuality, illness, and medicine; the mysteries of the Victorian underworld; nineteenth-century technology; and women’s emancipation. It thus seems logical that a significant part of what constitutes a Victorian zeitgeist, that is the Victorian interest in the paranormal — mesmerism, spiritualism, telepathy, or hallucination — has also found its way onto the pages of the neo-Victorian novel. Practices of spiritualism and mesmerism, and other psychic phenomena have entered the nineteenth-century plotlines of contemporary historical fiction. Novels as diverse as A. S Byatt’s Possession (1990) and Angels and Insects (1992), Michèle Roberts’s In the Red Kitchen (1990), Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs (1997), Sarah Waters’s Affinity (1999), Colm Tóibín’s The Master (2004), or Julian Barnes’s Arthur and George (2005), to name just a few — all, in one way or another, employ the themes of spiritualism and haunting. Yet, the haunting presence of ghosts or mediums in this type of historical novel serves purposes beyond merely satiating current tastes or fashions.
KeywordsMaster Narrative Eternal Life Textual Continuity Psychic Phenomenon Authorial Voice
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