The architectural uncanny
Family secrets and the Gothic in The Birds of the Innocent Wood and Remembering Light and Stone
in Deirdre Madden
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This chapter probes Deirdre Madden’s subtle and self-reflexive deployment of Gothic tropes and themes in The Birds of the Innocent Wood and Remembering Light and Stone. It inspects too her affinities with what has been dubbed the female Gothic. Haunting is a central trait associated with the heroines of these texts, their families, and their social and sexual relationships. In particular, the Gothic manifests itself in the form of family secrets and of the uncanny spaces occupied by the protagonists, which have double aspects and are unhomely abodes. The secrets that dog the characters are never fully unlocked and exert their troubling force by persisting in later generations and countermanding the heroines’ attempts to evade them. The Irish lake-land terrain in The Birds of the Innocent Wood and the split and contrary facets of the Umbrian town, S. Giorgio, in Remembering Light and Stone concretise the unsettling sense of spectral worlds that subtend the everyday. Even though Madden’s figures are beset by the uncanny and feel dislocated as a result, they themselves act as disturbing and alienating presences. They are caught up in realities that are full of doubles and troubling mirror images, but they too bring disequilibrium with them. The compulsive and repetitive cycles linked with the Gothic are allayed to a degree by the conclusion of these novels. Yet they are never fully banished, as the uncanny is an ineluctable feature of existence for Madden’s characters.

Deirdre Madden

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