Research, progress, Bosch

Yesterday, for the first time in months, felt like ideas were coming together. I used the mind-map and added to it as I was reading, and there was a moment when I realized that the importance of the trains (at least part of the importance) is that they are more important in the scenes than the architecture surrounding them. I haven’t yet done a lot of reading about architecture in the Gothic genre, but I know it’s very important in the genre (castles, labyrinths, etc.) Both books do include Gothic architecture and a focus on it, but in these specific scenes the trains are more important, and the trains are linked to ghosts. I think that’s going to be valuable, because ghosts (I have found, in my reading, because that’s a thing I have been doing – YAY!) are often linked to anxieties about place. So what does it mean that these ghosts are linked to moving places? There’s something there.

I also had the delightful realisation that Iain Sinclair’s novel is a Heironymous Bosch painting in novel form – the same frenetic activity, the same layered metaphors – and that the conversion just didn’t work out very well (in my opinion, others disagree).

This morning I’ll be meeting with Dr. V regarding this paper, which is due today and still not written. At least I’m making some progress, finally.

Added to the annotated bibliography:

Matless, David. “A Geography of Ghosts: The Spectral Landscapes of Mary Butts.” Cultural Geographies 15.3 (2008): 335-357. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.

Mary Butts shows up repeatedly in Downriver, introducing herself in the quote “Blot out the landscape and destroy the train – Mary Butts” (loc 3461) and then revealing herself to be Edith Cadiz, the ghost on the train. References to Mary Butts are throughout the chapter that I’m focusing on, including references to her own writing and her pseudonym Soror Rhodon. This article offers and overview of Mary Butts’ life and writing, and introduces the idea of spectral geographies, which I think is relevant to both Neverwhere and Downriver. I need to read the article a few more times before I really understand what’s going on with spectral geographies and psychogeographies, but I do feel like it will be important. Additionally, Matless says, “If the spectral, the magical, the demonic, the psychic carry a family resemblance which can lead to their being lumped together from without on a common cultural ground, they are often furiously demarcated from within” (337). I see links to Jessica’s reaction to the homeless people in Neverwhere, where Jessica (representing London Above and the “from without”) while Richard, foreshadowing his time in London Below, sees each person as an individual and is therefore able to see where they are good and where they are evil (the “furious demarcation”).

Emilsson, Wilhelm. “Iain Sinclair’s Unsound Detectives.” Critique 43.3 (2002): 271-188. Web. 4 Nov. 2012.

“In addition to flaunting the unsound nature of his sleuths’ motives and methods, Sinclair reports their experiences in an experimental style that guarantees mystic opaqueness” (271). I appreciate this article for offering the phrase “mystic opaqueness” which is more generous than the “pretentious impenetrability” that I was going with. This article also introduces the idea that metaphysical detective stories (as both Downriver and Neverwhere may be) “contribute to an understanding of postmodernism” (272). Emilsson talks about readers of “serious writing” (272), and discusses Sinclair in terms of his “highly elliptical and allusive style” (273). This supports my developing theory that Gaiman’s iteration of contemporary Gothic is populist and Sinclair’s is (some word that means elitist but doesn’t have the same judge-y overtones). It is particularly useful to have an article that is adamantly in favour of Sinclair’s style, because it gives me a different perspective and some language to use about the novel.

Promising leads:

Bonnett, Alastair. “The Dilemmas of Radical Nostalgia in British Psychogeography.” Theory Culture Society 26.45 (2009): 45-70. Web. 9 Jan. 2013.


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