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The abcanny politics of landscape in Lucy Wood’s Diving Belles

March-Russell, Paul (2017) The abcanny politics of landscape in Lucy Wood’s Diving Belles. Short Fiction in Theory and Practice, 7 (1). pp. 53-65. ISSN 2043-0701. (doi:10.1386/fict.7.1.53_1) (KAR id:64203)

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In a recent article on the eeriness of the English countryside, Robert Macfarlane juxtaposes an official version of English culture, which emphasizes heritage, progress and national unity, with the unofficial versions of ‘Englishness’ being offered by writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers that emphasize local differences, dispossessed peoples or communities, and historical decay or regression. These themes, according to Macfarlane, are mediated through preoccupations with violence, ruins and the uncanny – the revival of interest in Weird fiction writers, such as M. R. James, being exemplary. This article takes up but also expands upon Macfarlane’s argument by focussing on a recent text: Lucy Wood’s 2012 collection, Diving Belles. Of interest here is Wood’s use of the Cornish landscape that she invests not only with literal spirits and ghosts but also with a Weird-like sense of what China Miéville has termed the ‘abcanny’, such that her stories hover somewhere between the traditional ghost story, mundane realism and a peculiarly English variant of magical realism. Although there is little overt political content in Wood’s stories, this article argues that the abcanny form of her stories, whilst also contesting heritage-based representations of Cornwall, mediates the ambiguous relationship of Cornwall towards the English political heartlands. In this sense, then, Macfarlane’s argument can be helpfully developed since, whilst haunted versions of the English countryside can become assimilated into an official model of national heritage, the abcanny landscape remains estranged from such cultural and political appropriation.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1386/fict.7.1.53_1
Uncontrolled keywords: Lucy Wood, Cornwall, landscape, folklore, Robert Macfarlane, weird fiction
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Paul March-Russell
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2017 16:09 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:49 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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