'We are seeing the past through the wrong end of the telescope': time, space and psychogeography in Castle Dor

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Castle Dor (1962) offers a different model of history and place to that explored in du Maurier's other works, in particular her Cornish novels. Whereas her novels have often been criticised for employing a nostalgic view of history that sees the past as irretrievably lost, in Castle Dor time is intimately connected to space, aligning the novel with two critical treatments of time and space. The first, contemporary with du Maurier's work on the novel, is the situationist theory of psychogeography: the study of the effects of spatial environment on emotion. Similarly, in Castle Dor, characters' actions are motivated by a history embedded in their environment. The ambiguous politics of psychogeography-in one respect a radical manifesto of subverting bourgeois uses of space, but in another a conservative stance that denies the possibility of historical change-are similarly reflected in the tension in du Maurier's work between liberal transgression and reactionary nostalgia. Reading Castle Dor in the context of psychogeography also allows for a reconsideration of the place of du Maurier's fiction in literary history, not merely as popular romance, but rather as an antecedent to later psychogeographic fictions by D. M. Thomas and Iain Sinclair. The second treatment is Anne McClintock's postcolonialist theory of 'anachronistic space', the argument that movement over the space of empire is also a movement back in time. The article considers the uses of Cornwall as anachronistic space, in particular in the climactic scenes where past and present become confused, and time is mapped directly onto space. Ultimately, du Maurier's collapsing of the distinction between time and space (following Doreen Massey's analysis of the rhetoric of time as active and space as passive) can be seen as a challenge to similar constructions of gender, which have depended on this mode of binary division.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-73
Number of pages17
JournalWomen: A Cultural Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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