Edgelands in fiction: works on the wild side

From blasted heath Yorkshire moor, the whole island of Ireland ghost estates, Annemarie Neary traces the evolution of the wilderness in fiction Annemarie Neary: the financial crash of 2008 offered surprising gift the writer the edge of every town Wild places have hosted literary psychodramas ever since Lear took the heath. The buttoned-up Victorians loved a wilderness – the wilder the better. These places were essential attribute of the Gothic, the terrain of the unquiet soul. Dante Gabriel Rossetti referred the moors above Haworth, paraphrase him slightly, as “Hell…(with) English names”. Britain’s National Trust acquired Slepe Heath in Dorset, the supposed inspiration for Thomas Hardy’s Egdon Heath, its spokesperson characterised the place in terms of atmosphere – it was, he said, “a place lose yourself in”. Losing yourself is, of course, the whole point of fiction. And if the writer is aiming destabilise readers, conjure a sense of dissonance and unease, where better take them than a wild place? The 19th-century Irish Gothic writers made the supernatural a proxy for all manner of unnameable terrors, a feature of some recent fiction with a ghost estate […]

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