Show Less
Restricted access

Dreams, Nightmares and Empty Signifiers

The English Country House in the Contemporary Novel


Urszula Terentowicz-Fotyga

Dreams, Nightmares and Empty Signifiers is the first study of contemporary literary representations of one of the most iconic topoi in English literature and culture – the country house. The book analyses nine contemporary novels, including Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, by situating them in a broader context of manorial literary tradition. Analysing the different traditions of the novel of manners, gothic fiction and postmodern metafiction, the book identifies three principal variants of the manorial topos, which expound the country house as the locus of varied, often contradictory meanings.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

CHAPTER NINE: An Artificial Place on an Artificial Island: Ian McEwan’s Atonement


Chapter NineAn Artificial Place on an Artificial Island: Ian McEwan’s Atonement

Ian McEwan’s Atonement, published in 2001, was generally greeted as a literary masterpiece. Like The Remains of the Day the novel promptly made its way into the English literary canon and its status was consolidated by a quick and successful film adaptation (Schiff). After the scandalizing short stories and early novels, Atonement marked a new phase in McEwan’s career and this new phase had much to do with a new relation to literary tradition. In this “highly literary book,” Hermione Lee wrote in her review of the novel, “historical layers of English fiction are invoked and rewritten. […] Atonement asks what the English novel of the twenty-first century has inherited, and what it can do now” (Lee H 16). While most critics and reviewers shared Lee’s view, they differed as to what “historical layers of English fiction” Atonement invokes and rewrites, as the plethora of intertextual references found in the novel is indeed remarkable and ranges from William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen to Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov and Margaret Atwood (Finney, Hidalgo, D’Angelo).32 The interpretations of McEwan’s highly intertextual, self-conscious narrative also varied. While some found in the novel exemplary, open-ended postmodernist metafictionality, repudiating “the simplified wish fulfilments of classic realist fiction” (Finney 81), others argued that the novel “passes through modernism and postmodernism to return to the ‘Great Tradition’ of English novelists,” pitting the legacy of English empiricism against “the dangers of relativism and self-delusion...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.