Neophilia and nostalgia

The trouble with gentrification

in Mid-century gothic
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This chapter examines narratives about uncanny objects which disrupt private domestic space, focusing in detail on two novels: Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (1948) and Marghanita Laski’s The Victorian Chaise-Longue (1953).

Both authors were interested in a domestic gothic in which lost, dazed and traumatized characters must negotiate with the things they chose – or chose not – to surround themselves. Bowen’s novel – and the short stories she wrote concurrently and published as The Demon Lover and Other Stories (1945) – depict the domestic spaces of wartime as stripped of personality and affect, while the people who haunt them are made spectral by the abolition of the present tense in a city under aerial bombardment, which leaves only ‘a grinding-together of past and future’.

The abolition of temporal order inspired narratives about superannuated objects which push insistently through the membrane of linear time in order to trouble the present. Eerie antiques become reservoirs of authenticity and value, and Laski’s The Victorian Chaise-Longue is read as a critique of post-war gentrification, and the disruption of value and history that it entailed. The gentrified and haunted chaise longue weaponises its own narratological power, and the gothic intimacy it achieves attests to the change that took place in the relationship between women and things in the mid-century.

Mid-century gothic

The uncanny objects of modernity in British literature and culture after World War II

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