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|Uncanny water : entangled bodies of water in fictions of the Northern Atlantic littoral
|Rae, Caroline Emily
|My thesis calls for representations of the Northern Atlantic Ocean that offer a nuanced understanding of this ocean as a body of water upon which myriad other bodies depend. The anthropogenic climate emergency is stressing the urgent need to centre the oceans in our collective consciousness so as to ensure their – and, by extension our – continued survival. Representations of the Northern Atlantic have been regulated and controlled by western nations who have utilized it to further the interests of capitalism and colonialism. Reorienting ourselves toward this space, so as to better care for it, requires representations that are not based upon human mastery and power – but how can this be done without claiming to speak for the nonhuman and in ways that acknowledge our own situated and contingent position as humans? I assert that littoral fictions provide a means through which the ocean can be imaginatively salvaged. I identify an area I term the “Northern Atlantic Littoral”, namely Eastern Canada and the western Atlantic coast of the U.K. Fictions from these rural, liminal littoral communities offer embodied representations of the Northern Atlantic Ocean based in lived experiences and cultivate understandings of this space as complex and nuanced, and the liminal position of these spaces make them ideally placed to negotiate the borders between habitable and unhabitable spaces, and the limitations of knowledge that run alongside this. I offer “uncanny water” as a conceptual tool for reading these oceanic fictions of the Northern Atlantic Littoral. I identify resonances between the uncanny’s continuing referentiality and the notion that feminist transcorporeality interrelates the subject into networks of materiality which extend across time and space in unknowable ways. Both transcorporeality and the uncanny work against the conceit of the individual through the dissolution of boundaries, and, crucially, both require a suspension of assumptions of the self as whole, discrete and impermeable. I assert that uncanny water engages in processes of mimesis that work to actively reveal the sense of mastery and control implicit in dominant epistemologies of the Northern Atlantic Ocean, before then transforming this into a more relational and generative understanding of bodies as implicated in the being and becoming of others. In creating uncanny moments of displacement and uncertainty, these fictions harness the affect produced to reveal human/oceanic interconnections and foster a sense of responsibility and compassion toward the ocean. Uncanny water is consequently a particularly potent literary tool for destabilizing anthropocentric privilege, and I assert that iterations of uncanny water can create a transoceanic milieu that shifts constructions of subjectivity away from national and terrestrial boundaries to one more akin to the fluid and relational nature of bodies of water.
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|School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics
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