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The Cottage by the Lough in Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic: Between Finite andInfinite

By Marie MIANOWSKI

Abstract

International audienceMy paper will focus on the representation of the cottage by the lough in Colum McCann’s latest novel published last May. While the narrative mixes the storylines of real-life characters and fictional ones as they voyage across or fly over the Atlantic ocean between 1845 and 2012, it also comes back regularly to a key place: a family cottage by a lough, south of Belfast, between 1929 and 2012. While pointing out how this cottage operates as a specific lifeworld shared by an entire family over four generations, this paper will also examine what it reveals about space, place and movement in Colum McCann’s fiction in the light of Tim Ingold’s work on the history of lines (Lines: a brief History, Routledge, 2007). Moreover, for the first time in McCann’s fiction the general movement is one of return to Ireland. But in TransAtlantic place is not imbued with any nostalgia or grieving for a pastoral golden age. My contention is to show that Colum McCann’s writing creates lifeworlds not to make the apology of the past or pine over loss, but on the contrary to tell stories about what it means to be inhabiting the present moment and to be a contemporary writer. In this sense Colum McCann’s fiction echoes what Georgio Agamben defines as ‘kairos’, or seized time, embodied in the characters’ relationships to space as they gesture and leap forward into the future. As paradoxical as it seems, in zooming recurrently on the cottage by the lough, McCann proves he is an utterly contemporary writer, able to ‘dip his pen in the obscurity of the present’ (Agamben, “What is the contemporary?”, Stanford U. Press, 2009)

Topics: place, landscape, Colum McCann, life-world, space in-between, phenomenology, [SHS.GEO]Humanities and Social Sciences/Geography, [SHS.MUSEO]Humanities and Social Sciences/Cultural heritage and museology, [SHS.HIST]Humanities and Social Sciences/History, [SHS.LITT]Humanities and Social Sciences/Literature, [SHS.PHIL]Humanities and Social Sciences/Philosophy, [SHS.ART]Humanities and Social Sciences/Art and art history, [SHS.ARCHI]Humanities and Social Sciences/Architecture, space management, [SHS.ANTHRO-SE]Humanities and Social Sciences/Social Anthropology and ethnology, [SHS.RELIG]Humanities and Social Sciences/Religions, [SHS.SOCIO]Humanities and Social Sciences/Sociology
Publisher: HAL CCSD
Year: 2018
OAI identifier: oai:HAL:hal-01913593v1
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