Landscapes of memory: the cartography of longing

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University of Alabama Libraries

Landscapes of Memory: The Cartography of Longing examines three disparate twentieth century writers--Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, and Virginia Woolf--who use similar fictive strategies for the reclamation and revision of the past. The term "landscape of memory" refers to and draws upon Freud's topology of the mind as a conceptual model--his depiction of the ego as a psychic space that incorporates lost loves mirrors the function of a landscape of memory--both are psychic spaces, constructs of the imagination, and enclosed topographies for the perpetuation of relationships with places and people from the past. A study of the elaboration of human longing, this dissertation explores the age-old desire to resurrect beloved people and places we have lost to time, confirming the notion that literature, from antiquity to modernity, contains a quest for the reclamation or recuperation of something or someone lost to time or death. Virginia Woolf, Marilynne Robinson, and Toni Morrison all utilize a confluence of landscape and memory to bridge this gap between material and immaterial dimensions in order to resurrect the dead and to rewrite the past. Discussion of the performative nature of memory, landscape, and language, as well as the quest for the lost beloved in literature is included with analysis of the use of elegiac writing and narratives of mourning by Woolf, Robinson, and Morrison as fictive strategies for such reclamations. Individual chapters are prefaced with autobiographical and biographical material as a lens for the performative nature of memory and landscapes in their fiction, while the rest is explication of textual landscapes and charting the topology of memory in selected texts.

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Modern literature, English literature, American literature