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In: Investigating Understanding
In: Investigating Understanding
In: Investigating Understanding
In: Investigating Understanding
In: Investigating Understanding
In: Investigating Understanding
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Abstract

Pierre Loti (1850–1923) was one of the most famous writers of his time, achieving an international fame that has decreased, however, since his death. Whereas he became renowned for novels and travelogues retracing his trips around the world, the naval officer was also one of most important autobiographical writers of his generation. The importance of privacy in his writings is crucial and opens up a new perspective on the narrative of sensibility. This chapter demonstrates Loti’s intertwining of material culture and literary production and focuses on two aspects of his life and work: first, it explores his habit of collecting memorabilia of various kinds during his trips in distant countries as well as in the very familiar surroundings of his home-town. The chapter examines the way he used to preserve these objects through desiccation (if organic), then wrapping, labelling and storing. In this respect, his lavish house in Rochefort can be considered not only as a brilliant demonstration of Belle-Epoque decoration but also as a vast archive. The chapter concludes by examining the relationship between these preserved objects and his writings, which eventually both aim at avoiding the fading and inevitable disappearance of the past.

In: The Cultural Construction of Hidden Spaces
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Abstract

This contribution offers an unlikely comparison of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments (2019), a contemporary text of a near-future dystopia in North America, and James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), an early nineteenth-century text presenting a manuscript unearthed in the Scottish Borders. In both fictions, the protagonists, steeped in an intrinsic and perverted Puritan tradition, are objectively unsympathetic, yet compelling. Each is crafting a memoir, with urgency and in dangerous conditions, and hiding it with care and cunning. The testaments in Atwood’s novel are discovered in a future time and examined by specialists, who react to them with various levels of credence, insight and sympathy; doubt, ignorance and hostility. The essay is interested in the fictional memoir as artefact: how it is created, how it is preserved, and how its new custodians perceive and present it. It explores how the confessional mode provides a container for the authenticity and integrity of self, while focusing on elements that threaten those memoirs with disintegration. These are material (for example, the Scottish testament rots in the grave) and non-material (as in the clumsy reception of the testaments by future academics). As thoughts are written, hidden, embalmed, preserved, excavated, and damaged, the vulnerability of memoir as hidden artefact emerges.

In: The Cultural Construction of Hidden Spaces
Author:

Abstract

In India, there has been a common practice since ancient times of having hidden compartments in wardrobes, bookshelves or even in jewellery. Be it the ring with a secret compartment holding poison belonging to a queen or the specially designed clothes of today’s female students which are used to hide cribs in the examination hall, the existence of the hidden compartments tantalises us with the possibility of a space within a space – something akin to the Foucauldian heterotopic space containing an anomalous hidden chamber. Possessing the knowledge of this space endows one with power, a power often associated with having a secret. The essay is a blend of semi-empirical and semi-historical research, where the second part throws light on the two specific elements involved in the story of the hiding places: (i) the element of the forbidden, since these spaces enable women to procure what is otherwise prohibited; and (ii) the element of agency or authority that these spaces provide to the women unbeknown to their opponents. The survey, conducted among selected contemporary young Indian women (aged 18–35), indicates how agency lies in the precariousness of this storage, as its discovery would mean disaster but its very existence suggests some form of liberation.

In: The Cultural Construction of Hidden Spaces

Abstract

Performance magic in the Victorian period was dangerous, exclusive and naturally relied heavily upon concealed spaces and clothing. The late nineteenth century, however, saw an increase in the marketing of performance magic towards women, particularly through the popular press. Articles such as the ‘Conjuring for Ladies’ (1889) series sought to amend the gender imbalance seen in both conjuring as a profession and as a hobby for pleasure. In terms of costume, however, female magicians both amateur and professional were at a disadvantage in regard to the hidden apparatus inherent in male magicians’ clothing. Men had many options for assisting with tricks, such as rigged waistcoats fitted with a profonde, a hidden back pocket depicted in Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin’s Card-Sharpers (1891) as an essential mechanism to assist with card tricks, which women were unable to utilise due to its traditional attachment to a waistcoat. This chapter explores conjuring’s complicated relationship with concealed spaces during the nineteenth century by focusing upon these examples of pockets and the later legacy of conjuring ephemera primarily as symbols of gender divisions within the profession. It then registers ways in which the dangerous world of professional magic could, nevertheless, penetrate domestic space by giving an account of an antique chest lined with publicity materials for the magician Mr Moon.

In: The Cultural Construction of Hidden Spaces