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Haunting and Hauntology in Hilary Mantel's "Beyond Black"

Hutchings, Rory Michael (2019) Haunting and Hauntology in Hilary Mantel's "Beyond Black". In: GLITS 'Outsiders' Conference, 05 Jun 2019, Goldsmiths, University of London. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:91141)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)


Proceeding from Mark Fisher's work on Hauntology, this paper will explore how Hilary Mantel presents both the failure of late capitalist imagination and its nostalgic appropriation of the past in "Beyond Black" (2005). The novel follows Alison and her sidekick Colette as they travel London's commuter belt, performing their psychic roadshow and consoling their audiences with messages from the other side. The towns and villages Alison and Collette tour are populated by 'outcasts and escapees [...] limping from the cities', uncharitably described as places 'where nobody comes from'. It is then unsurprising that the audiences, modernity's flotsam and jetsom, attempt to access a meaningful past through the act of the medium.

It is apparent, however, that the reality of the afterlife is far darker than Alison allows her audience to witness. The dead do not exist, as Alison asserts, 'beyond geography and history' safely outside of the mortal realm. Rather they disrupt the present, often in malign and disturbing ways.

Mark Fisher's 'What is Hauntology?' suggests that a retreat into the past in the form of nostalgia is symptomatic of late capitalism's inability 'to conceive of a world radically different from the one in which we currently live.' We are haunted not by the past, but by a future that has failed to materialise.

This paper will argue that, rather than indulging the nostalgia of late capitalism, Mantel's novel counters and critiques this trend by exposing the consoling narratives of the medium. A sanitised form of history is presented, fuelling the 'inertia and retrospection' Fisher observes in late-capitalist cultural production. In "Beyond Black", the outsider is ultimately critiqued as an emblem and facilitator of postmodern apathy, the nostalgic hauntologies of modernity's outsiders are set against the truer malign haunting of the dead.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: Hilary Mantel, Hauntology, Mark Fisher
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Rory Hutchings
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2021 10:39 UTC
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2021 10:51 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Hutchings, Rory Michael:
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