Locations of Memory: A Psycho-Spatial Reading of Traumatic Landscape in Owen Sheers’ “Mametz Wood”

In: Reflective Landscapes of the Anglophone Countries

In this paper I discuss the mnemonic and intertextual associations of landscape. I return to the idea that place is imbued with articulated and unarticulated associations, personal or collective. Indeed, the perception of landscape is a complex interaction between several elements: the national imaginary or national desire, family memories, official ideologies or cultural myths. Working with the poem, “Mametz Wood” by Owen Sheers, I read landscape as psycho-semiotic, traumatised space invested with memory and desire. I draw on the work and reworking of Lacan, especially the idea of the symptom/“sinthome” as a knotting together of the imaginary and the symbolic in the real of desire. In Sheers’ poem the traces of the death drive are seen in a landscape that was once the site of the battle of the Somme in the Great War. In this paper I want to open up for discussion how psychoanalytic paradigms have unsettled the study of place by enabling a more nuanced and conceptualised discussion of the force of landscape to elicit emotions and meanings across sites of memory and mourning.