Literary Architecture, Dwelling and the Return-Home in the Works of Rachel Seiffert

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


British writer Rachel Seiffert (1971- ) has received critical attention for her award-winning novel The Dark Room (2001) and has won several literary prizes. Her latest novel, A Boy in Winter (2017) appeared on The New York Time’s Notable Book list and was nominated The Time’s Book of the Year. Yet despite an evidently growing reputation, there have been few scholarly studies, and these have almost exclusively approached her work through Holocaust, trauma and post-memorial discourse to the exclusion of other areas of interest, which would align her with a wider array of contemporary writers who pose questions about the modern human condition and reflect socio-political issues, such as identity and borders, globalization and environmentalism, displacement, physical and philosophical homelessness, placelessness and existential anxiety. The present thesis takes a multi-disciplinary approach, examining her fiction prinicipally through philosophical, sociological and literary frameworks, with emphasis on Heideggerian concepts of dwelling and place, Bachelard’s poetics of space, Ellen Eve Frank’s Literary Architecture, and concepts of place. These well-known yet largely disregarded theories within literary criticism enable a more profound reading than hitherto, highlighting the significance of community and place, ecology and the fundamental interdependence of humanity with each other and the universe. The overriding claim is that Seiffert’s work distances itself from the meaninglessness and pessimism of postmodernist literature and may be placed within reconstructivism in its emphasis on organicist, humanist values as a possible solution to the modern condition. The reconciliation between philosophical and sociological frameworks permits the conclusion that the texts analysed in this thesis speak to a way forward, a philosophical return-home and to dwelling-well that embraces community, family and tolerance towards to the Other, existential authenticity, sensitivity to the natural environment and to the simple everyday experiences and objects that make up human existence.
Date of Award26 Oct 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAndrew Monnickendam Findlay (Director)

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