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Elizabeth BowenTheory, Thought and Things$
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Jessica Gildersleeve and Patricia Juliana Smith

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474458641

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474458641.001.0001

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Elizabeth Bowen on the Telephone

Elizabeth Bowen on the Telephone

(p.182) Chapter 11 Elizabeth Bowen on the Telephone
Elizabeth Bowen

Andrew Bennett

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter proposes that telephones are critical in the plotting of most of Bowen’s novels, as well as in some of her stories. Bowen’s plots are often organized around the telephone and around telephone calls in a way that would have been inconceivable at the start of the twentieth century. Making a telephone call in Bowen can be seen as an ideal version of speech and even as an ideal model for literature itself, precisely because the telephone generates a sense of immediacy and unmediated presence while at the same time marking absence. At the same time simple object and eerily human, the uncanny telephone in Bowen suggests that communication is what her writing, and what literature more generally offers while at the same time contesting, displacing, and resisting it. Bowen’s work thereby challenges our very understanding of how literature as a form of communication between author and reader can be said to work.

Keywords:   Elizabeth Bowen, Objects, Telephone, Literary theory

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