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May SinclairRe-Thinking Bodies and Minds$
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Rebecca Bowler and Claire Drewery

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474415750

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474415750.001.0001

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Architecture, Environment and ‘Scenic Effect’ in May Sinclair’s The Divine Fire

Architecture, Environment and ‘Scenic Effect’ in May Sinclair’s The Divine Fire

(p.98) Chapter 5 Architecture, Environment and ‘Scenic Effect’ in May Sinclair’s The Divine Fire
May Sinclair

Terri Mullholland

Edinburgh University Press

Published in 1904, The Divine Fire was May Sinclair’s third novel and the one that was to make her name. Ironically, as Suzanne Raitt notes, ‘The novel which made her both famous and relatively wealthy [is] a critique of the bookselling industry in which she was now earning her living’. Sinclair’s novel is, in fact, an astute engagement with the commercialisation of modern life and consumer culture. In this chapter I examine how Sinclair uses carefully staged representations of architectural space in order to highlight the play between illusion and reality, exterior and interior, and the commercial versus the domestic. Throughout The Divine Fire Sinclair wants us to look beneath the surface of her textual realism, to realise that what is seen should not necessarily be believed. Sinclair was writing at a time of rapid change, and in her use of the imagery of modernity – the commodities, the dazzling lights, the decor – Sinclair reveals society’s growing obsession with surface illusion and ‘the new’. But alongside this, Sinclair also reveals an alternative world that holds art, and the spiritual values it represents, in high esteem; a world she hopes can survive the bright lights of commercialisation now dominating modern life.

Keywords:   commercial, modernity, consumer, bookshop, boarding house, commodities

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