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John Banville’s The Sea and Anne Enright’s The Gathering are bereavement stories in which the death of a loved one reactivates memories of painful events. Since it cannot be rationalized by a traumatized mind, the haunting presence of the past can be articulated into ghosts, monstrous shapes and mythical creatures. In the imagery of both Banville’s and Enright’s novels, spectres can turn into uncanny narrative monsters or fear-inspiring oneirical figures. As memories turn into spectral or mythical manifestations, at once real and imagined, present and absent, undercurrents of Gothic fiction seep through both novels. Drawing on the interpenetrations between trauma theory, bereavement theory, Derridean hauntology and memory studies, I suggest that Enright and Banville subvert the codes of traditional ghost stories, giving a psychological turn to their (sometimes) mock-Gothic novels. It appears that the only way of liberating the mind from the terrifying hold of those ghostly shadows might be to give a concrete form to these threatening shapes. The narrators’ ghostly testimonies or confessions, with their faint religious undertones and (dark) humour, thus constitute an attempt to ward off the evil spell of painful, uncertain memory. Both novels fashion unsettling fictions in an attempt to verbalize anguish, thus questioning the possibility that ghostly dread might be tamed by those creations.
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