Twenty-First Century American Fiction Justin Pickard
With his claim that the uncanny 'can consist in a sense of homeliness uprooted, the revelation of something unhomely at the heart of hearth and home'
, Royle appears to be suggesting that – whateverFreud's concerns – the haunted house provides as strong a starting point for an analysis of the uncanny asany. Indeed, in a world where automata have been normalised as vacuum-cleaning trilobites, cremationincreasingly supplants burial, and most people would not know where to
looking for a waxwork to feeluncanny at, the (haunted) house remains a highly potent signifier. As Mieville explains;
'The house is sanctuary. The house is despot. The house is the repository of all that is socialand human. The house is animate, alienated dead labour, a product which spins forth'grotesque ideas'. These opposed conceptions coincide in one particular. The house is
Linking the 'the familial household to the nation'
,the concept of the domestic constitutes both in'opposition to everything outside the geographic and conceptual border of the home.'
Kaplan highlights theorigins of American domestic discourse, seeing it as fundamentally linked to the formulation of ideas of Manifest Destiny; a reverse-side to the coin of imperial assimilation. The home was to be a 'bounded andrigidly ordered interior (...) [existing in opposition] to the boundless and undifferentiated space of aninfinitely expanding nation.'
In the twenty-first century, notions of domestic insecurity, terrorism, andunchecked immigration are endemic to an America chafing against its own boundaries. Here, the hauntedmansions of the gothic novel unfold in all directions; metastasising their brethren in the cities, suburbia, andon the American frontier. Wherever we look, from
to the Department of HomelandSecurity, our gaze reconstitutes the domestic as tragic, culpable; heavy with secrets and ticking bombs.In this essay, I intend to interrogate the motif of the 'haunted domestic'. The heart of my thesis restsa close reading of a specific instance of haunting taken from Toni Morrison's 2008 novel,
To bolstermy argument, I will also be attempting to link the key case study with comparable examples from DeLillo's
. Taken as a composite, the uncanny – or uncanny-ish – elements of these
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), p. 8.11China Mieville, 'The Conspiracy of Architecture: Notes on a Modern Anxiety',
2 (1998), pp.25-26.12Amy Kaplan, 'Manifest Domesticity ',
70 (3) (1998), p. 582.13Ibid.14Ibid, p. 583.