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‘The Erasures, the Silences Where There Should Have Been Evidence’: Dismantling Archived History and Dwelling Experience Within the Works of Hilary Mantel

HULATT, LILY,RUBY,MARGARET (2022) ‘The Erasures, the Silences Where There Should Have Been Evidence’: Dismantling Archived History and Dwelling Experience Within the Works of Hilary Mantel. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The thesis critically examines Hilary Mantel’s work and its interpretation of the past through literary depictions of dwellings and archives. This thesis explores the concept of the dwelling-as-archive which has the overlapping roles and functions of a domestic dwelling and a historical archive. This thesis investigates this concept as it appears throughout Hilary Mantel’s works. These dwelling-as-archives are also in-between places where memory and historical meaning slip or are hidden. This thesis claims that Mantel’s historical fiction writing is an affective response that questions the ways characters struggle to preserve historical documents in both dwellings and archives. The thesis’ historico-materialist focus on Mantel’s works and dwellings-as-archives argues for a re-historicisation of phenomenology which the thesis defines as a phenomenological approach grounded in historical awareness. Characters attempt to reconstruct an affective experience of the past through domestic objects and archives. The dwelling-as-archives are conceptualised as containers of memory. However, their status as in-between places mean archived objects are frequently hidden, slip, or are waiting to be discovered to re-experience the past. The thesis explores Mantel’s poetic dissembling of the borders between absence/presence, belonging/rootlessness, and private/public that helps expose possible lost historical meaning. The various sites of dwelling examined in this thesis are haunted by memory and the dead, with the inhabitants of such dwellings causing the decay of architectural structures and family homelife. This thesis then examines instances of inscription, intertextuality, and historiographic metafiction in a select number of Mantel’s novels to reveal the archive as an unstable product of familial, national, and institutional historical consciousness. The dwelling-as-archive is a hinterland through which Mantel’s imagination can reconstruct the missing gaps she finds in the historical record. This thesis contributes to a growing critical field of studies on Mantel’s works which includes Eileen Pollard and Ginette Carpenter’s Hilary Mantel: Contemporary Critical Perspectives (2018) and Lucy Arnold’s reading of spectrality and intertextuality in Reading Mantel: Haunted Decades (2019). Recent commercial and critical responses to the Wolf Hall Trilogy often do not recognise a literary career spanning twenty-five years from 1985. This thesis then investigates Mantel's specific challenges when (re)interpreting the past through her imagination and research, with the dwelling-as-archive often a background character in her character’s experience of dwelling and history.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Hilary Mantel, Dwellings, Domesticity, Archive, Historical Fiction, In-between Places, Historiographic Metafiction, thesis
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Oct 2022 15:21

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