Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return

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The main purpose of the essay is to ensure that the department can identify those students who may require additional assistance with academic writing skills. Material from the procedural essay may be re-visited in either one of the January essays or the dissertation.

Module summary

It is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. The title topic of the essay, like the title topic of all assessed work for the degree, is left open to the individual student. Modify Direct Edit. Speedier means of travel and communication — carriages, letters, steamships, trains, telegrams — enable Carmilla and Dracula to infiltrate English homes and transform men and women.

Following independence in the Irish novel in general oscillated between realism and modernism, except for the supernatural, big house black comedies of Bowen and her fellow Anglo-Irish writer Molly Keane — who wrote big house gothic and uncanny novels into the s and s. In the s Ian Cochrane, E.

Kennedy, John Banville, Patrick McCabe and Jennifer Johnston began using big houses and gothic devices in their fiction, showing that Bowen is an important link between Anglo-Irish gothic, modernism and Irish writers today. Heather Ingman argues that The Last September with its archetypal big house, its insular family seemingly cut-off from the real world around them , and complex portrayal of women, politics and desire is central to critical re-examinations of the Irish national tale post-independence I would add that Bowen is re-working gothic conventions within the cultural context of the Anglo-Irish war.

However she sees this fragmented state of Bowen criticism as a positive. Laird closes her own appraisal with a reference to The Last September and its burning finale. She cuts to the heart of modern concerns about identity, repression and the role of art in exorcising personal and cultural trauma.

Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return

As such, his peculiarities are infinite She was a descendant of a Cromwellian settler. The first Bowen in Ireland fought for Oliver Cromwell; and in payment Cromwell awarded the Bowens land in Cork that had belonged to a defeated Catholic-Irish gentleman Despite the fact that three hundred years had passed, Bowen acutely felt that the memories of the s were still alive in Ireland and were being fought out in the War of Independence Due to the War of Independence, the twenty-year-old Bowen was sent away to Italy and then went on to a literary life in London and Oxford.

The Last September is set in Cork between September and February , during the most ferocious stage of the War of Independence and the burning of the big houses. The action happens in one week, but the use of gothic and modernist narrative devices disrupt the linear realist present and impose instead a cyclical-historical-mythological time that is associated with Irish Catholicism and the rebel tradition. Danielstown is threatened by the Irish countryside, which remembers Irish history and camouflages the republican gunmen.

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The gunmen close in on the house, turn it into a battleground and finally burn the big house — marking it as a contested space for revolution and the birthing of post-imperial independent Ireland. Sheridan Le Fanu was an important literary influence, but so too was Virginia Woolf. Bowen was equally concerned with Irish history and the position of women in modern life. She explores the cultural fall out from the post-world-war-I revolutionary sexual politics — thereby making The Last September a novel which resonates beyond Ireland to explore broader literary and social revolution of modernism and modernity sweeping Ireland, Britain, Europe and America.

Bowen represents Danielstown and the Irish landscape as two female presences confronting each other: from this trope of the big house as a beleaguered female Bowen develops her second gothic theme. She interrogates bourgeois anxieties surrounding female sexuality and mobility.

While some critics argue that Danielstown is the central character in the novel, others argue that Lois is the central character and that the novel explores career opportunities for young women, against the backdrop of the War I would suggest that the novel does not have a central character. The motorcar contains a new breed of landless Anglo-Irish aristocrats who have lost their ancestral home and thereby their place in the world:.

Up among the beeches, a thin iron gate twanged; the car slid out from a net of shadow, down the slope to the house. Behind the flashing windscreen Mr and Mrs Montmorency produced — arms waving and a wild escape to the wind of her mauve motor-veil — an agitation of greeting. They were long-promised visitors. They exclaimed, Sir Richard and Lady Naylor exclaimed and signalled: no one spoke yet. It was a moment of happiness, of perfection Wells-Lassagne Shannon.

L'Irlande et l'Europe, sous la direction de Christophe Gillissen. Upon closer analysis, it becomes clear that Ireland serves as both impetus of the action and the means by which to analyze London society in particular. Through this juxtaposition, the author gives new meaning to Ireland's place in an increasingly chaotic Europe, and to the author's own Irishness as she contributes to the tradition of the European novel. One of the significant changes in Bowen criticism in the past few years is the new emphasis placed on Bowen as an Irish writer or rather as an Anglo-Irish writer ,.

There are two "Irish" novels, The Last September and A World of Love, that take place exclusively in Big Houses, but they are very much in the minority among her 10 novels. How, then, can one explain the author's insistence on her Irishness? The two novels we have chosen to examine, The House in Paris 5 and The Heat of the Day 6, may very well contain clues allowing us to answer this question. The first, written in , tells the story of an illegitimate child, Leopold, who has come to the eponymous house in Paris to meet his English mother.

The flashback is introduced not as an authorial representation of the past, but as a perfected portrayal that Karen might give if she were capable of speaking freely to her child. The flashback ends with a repetition of the announcement that his mother is not coming, and the third section of the novel shows Ray, Karen's husband, who has come in her stead, deciding to take Leopold back with them unbeknownst to his wife. The protagonist, Stella, is approached by a mysterious figure by the name of Harrison, who tells her that her lover, Robert, is in fact a traitor.

He offers to save him if she agrees to become his mistress instead. Studies often compare the heroine to Hamlet, since she finds herself unable to make a decision either to tell her lover of the accusation or to give. In the central chapter of the novel, Stella makes a journey to Mount Morris, the Irish Big House that has been unexpectedly left to her son Roderick by a distant relative, and must come to terms with her own Anglo-Irish past.

It is upon returning from this voyage that she asks Robert about the truth of the accusation, thus precipitating his eventual confession and his death he attempts to escape the authorities by either jumping or falling from the roof of Stella's apartment -whether it is a suicide or an accident is never made clear to the reader.

In both novels then, though the Irish setting could not be said to predominate, it is conspicuously juxtaposed with the primary settings of London and Paris. From a purely structural standpoint, these Irish episodes are central : Stella's voyage to Mount Morris takes place in Chapter 9 out of 17, at the very midpoint of the novel, and Karen's voyage to Rushbrook, an Anglo-Irish community near Cobh, opens Part Two of the three parts.

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Thus it seems clear that the author's decision to represent Ireland is not fortuitous 8, but must be significant both to her depiction of Ireland, and to that of London and Paris. In order to analyze this phenomenon more closely, we will first examine the implications of the double or triple settings in these texts : does juxtaposition necessarily mean opposition? We will then examine the particularities of the depiction of Ireland in comparison with the other settings, before broadening the analysis to consider the wider repercussions of the co-existence of rural Ireland and urban Europe in Bowen's two novels, both from a political and from a literary point of view.

The term "juxtaposition" which figures in the title of the article is voluntarily neutral : it simply implies the concurrence of settings, rather than any necessary contrast or clash.

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Of course, the presence of two or more settings necessarily invites the reader to compare them, and when they are ostensibly so different from one another, the reader's reaction is understandably to consider those of Europe as being in opposition to Ireland's Big House. Both are urban centers, where the majority of the action takes place, while Rushbrook, where Karen visits her aunt and Anglo-Irish uncle, is characterized by rural living and an apparent lack of action a fact underlined by her perception of the trip to Ireland : "When she got home they would ask : 'Well What was it like?

The impression that Ireland is isolated from this parallelism, and thus "stands alone" in the novel, is reinforced by Karen's lack of interaction with others while there : she is described as walking alone in a countryside empty of people, and it is the landscape, rather than the people, that holds center stage. The Heat of the Day juxtaposes Mount Morris, the Irish Big House, with London during and after the Blitz, and the contrast is just as stark : we again have the difference between a city and a rural location, with the implied association of the calm of country life and the activity of the urban setting, but this difference is exacerbated by the political situation of World War Two.

London is not simply a bustling capital, but a city at war and under siege, while Mount Morris is not just the country, but a neutral country, defying ties with Britain in its refusal to enter the war. The relative calm and isolation already found in The House in Paris has also become more radical 9 : the house the heroine visits is not just quiet, it is empty, its previous owner having passed away, and its future owner, Stella's son Roderick, having enlisted in the army.

The plot of the novel also seems to emphasize the difference between the two : whereas most of the narrative takes place in London, where the frenetic action of the Blitz and the suspense of the spy plot unfold, Stella goes to Ireland to settle affairs for the upkeep of her. This apparent disparity between the Irish setting and its European counterparts would seem to imply that Bowen saw the two as completely separate, and situated Ireland in the margins of Europe just as it is seemingly marginal in the novels.


Nonetheless, to assume that these locales are simply to be contrasted is to misread Bowen 's texts. Indeed, despite apparent differences, the author makes a concerted effort to link the European capitals and the Irish countryside. The link is first and foremost verbal : in her opening descriptions of the capitals and in the opening of the central section in Ireland, lexical similarities make it clear that what may appear very different is not, in fact, so dissimilar.

Thus, in The House in Paris, the incipit describes the young Henrietta arriving in Paris to spend the day at the Fishers' house before going on to meet her grandmother in the South of France. Her perceptions of the arrival are surprisingly similar to Karen's first impressions of Ireland upon arriving by ferry :.

In a taxi skidding away from the Gare du Nord, one dark greasy February morning before the shutters were down, Henrietta sat beside Miss Fisher. HiP, p. They crossed the river while Miss Fisher was speaking. In a sort of slow flash, Henrietta had her first open view of Paris -watery sky, wet light, light water, frigid, dark, inky buildings, spans of bridges, trees. This open light gash across Paris faded at each end. HiP, pp. The sun brightened the vapoury white sky but never quite shone : both shores reflected its melting light.

The ship, checking, balanced uncertainly up the narrowing river, trees on each side, as though navigating an avenue, leaving a salt wake. House asleep with their eyes open watched the vibrating ship pass. Our introductions to Paris and to Ireland begin with a voyage, emphasizing the very foreignness of the locales for the English characters arriving there, and their disorientation is echoed by that of the means of transport, whether it be the taxi skidding and swerving or the ship's uncertain balance. Likewise, the character's attentiveness to the scenery is clearly one-sided in both instances : the early-morning arrival means the first impression is of a landscape still dormant.

In Paris, sky and water are indistinguishable, and the light is liquid, a vocabulary that reappears in the description of the landscape itself "inky buildings" , while the gash of light makes the whole visible.

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In Ireland, the daylight is present, but the ship leaves a "dark streak" in its wake, while the sky and light are again described in terms reminiscent of water "vapoury", "melting light" , and the similes used to describe the voyage are urban "as though navigating an avenue" or European "like a hill in Italy faded". Finally, the descriptions imply that whatever lies ahead, extricating oneself will be difficult or impossible "Every hill [ A comparison of the incipit of The Heat of the Day and its description of Mount Morris yields similar results.

However, this novel also uses other means to strengthen the link between London and Ireland. The passage immediately preceding Stella's arrival in Mount Morris makes use of what could be called a "verbal dissolve" : while in the cinema this implies that one image fades out while another fades in, often using similar images that blend into one another, here Bowen uses repetition to replace one setting with another. The passage begins with Stella and Robert speaking about her trip to Mount Morris, and ends with the first description of Ireland :.

Floods enough to have washed most bridges away. There was no bridge for a mile up or down the river from Mount Morris.

Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return
Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return
Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return
Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return
Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return

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