Where Home is Hell: Grapholects of the Apocalypse

In literature, the use of dialect, or its written form, grapholect, is primarily used to represent how someone speaks, conveying where characters come from, while also playing into negative stereotypical socio-linguistic biases. This article will consider “A Story of the Days to Come” (1899) by H. G. Wells, and Riddley Walker (1980) by Russell Hoban, written nearly one hundred years apart but similarly utilising British working-class dialects to graphically convey their degraded post-apocalyptic wastelands. Read in relation to Freud’s The Uncanny (1919), and discussions about veiling and unveiling in Jane Marie Todd’s “The Veiled Woman in Freud’s ‘Das Unheimliche’” (1986), I contend this persistent linguistic device is more than simply a trope to illustrate the futuristic ‘homes’ in which their stories are set, but rather that the use of grapholects, used in opposition to, or instead of, standard English, lifts the veil to an unhomely (unheimlich) knowledge; that the use of our home languages excises us from civil society, resulting in such homes becoming hellish wastelands and our voices the waste itself. Wells chooses to discard and bury these once-familiar languages within standard English, returning his characters, and readers, to civilisation; whereas, in Hoban, primitive first languages return to the reader like revenants in an estranged, disfigured form, and endure. Both methods invite the reader to consider again what this apocalypse of language reveals about the nature of class and society, and themselves within it.

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Netflix Dramedy After Life and the Uncanny Nature of Grief

The concept of das unheimlich (Jentsch 1902), or the uncanny, is applied to the phenomenology of grief and the manner loss transforms a person’s familiar life-world into an uncertain and unfamiliar space. Discussion of the collision of the foreign (emptiness and absence) with the familiar (conjugal material objects and spaces) as a dimension of grief has been infrequent and unsystematic. This article argues that this understanding of the uncanny is commendably conveyed by the Netflix grief-comedy or dramedy After Life, written by, and starring Ricky Gervais. The UK series focuses on the anguished existence of a widower as he endures the perpetuation of his life without his wife. Characterisation of bereavement, as the experience of having someone “suddenly ripped from one’s life-world” (Dubose 1997: 368), is obscured in After Life by the continued presence (and digital afterlife) of his wife via ‘home videos’ and the video diaries she secretly recorded whilst dying. The dead’s continued presence throughout After Life reflects wider trends for the dying turning to digital services such as Safe Beyond to leave ‘date messages’ (birthdays, or anniversaries) or ‘event messages’ (weddings, graduations) that will continue to insert the physically departed into the lives of loved ones at key intervals of life. This paper explores the manner in which After Life serves to reflect on both the transformed experience of spaces in mourning and how screens contribute to the uncanny nature of grief.

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‘Stop All The Clocks’: Elegy and Uncanny Technology

I examine subjective representations of time and space in elegy from the 17th century to the 21st century, focusing on how ordinary objects affect the elegiac environment. I argue that the defamiliarising of technological devices by the elegist creates uncanny sites of contact with the world of the dead. Using elegies by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, W. H. Auden, Sylvia Plath and Anne Carson, among others, I demonstrate a persistent motif of technological devices and scientific imagination in the genre. Stopping a clock interrupts the passage of time. Photographs create a static space where the past is present. The telephone allows connection to the dead. Studying the effects of these devices allows the interrogation of a critical narrative of shift from nature to science in the elegiac tradition, and the associated shift from healing to hopelessness, and emphasises the uncanny element of elegy and its impact on the space and time of mourning.

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