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Redemptive Landscape in Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness

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Title: Redemptive Landscape in Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness
Author: Dickey, Lauren Smith
Advisor: Finley, C. Stephen
Department: Haverford College. Department of English
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2010
Abstract: British author Rose Macaulay sets her 1950 novel The World My Wilderness in London, summer 1946. After World War II, London is in the process of recovering from the Blitz, a series of attacks that left thousands dead and over a million homes damaged or destroyed. Main characters Barbary, age 17, and Raoul, age 14, have moved to London after spending seven years in Collioure, a fishing village in the south of France. Barbary and Raoul are little accustomed to the order and restrictions they find in London after having spent their childhoods without much regulation or direction, playing in the scrubland and on the seashore, associating with members of the French Resistance, or Maquis. The two attempt to replicate their former habits by exploring the ruins left by the Blitz. The World My Wilderness follows Barbary and Raoul as they dwell within a ruined business office and the shell of St. Giles Cripplegate Church, encountering others on the margins of society who seek refuge in the ruins. “Redemptive Landscape in Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness” focuses on the physical spaces depicted in the novel and how they enable Barbary to heal from the trauma of her wartime experiences. The landscape is much more than a setting or a background. The ruins, because they have neither been repaired or razed, become oases of wilderness in the city, supporting more than 150 species of plants and animals that had not been seen in London in years. Within this wilderness, Barbary finds a place that resembles her beloved Collioure. Barbary’s feeling more comfortable in the ruins, her place of homesteading, falls under what place theorist Edward Casey, in his book Getting Back Into Place: Towards a New Understanding of the Place-World, calls the structure of “habitat-habitus.” In this phenomenon, “by the time we end and linger in a certain place, that place has become a habitat for us, a familiar place we have come to know (or to re-know).” The ruins, because they are initially familiar and eventually a constant dwelling place, take on the feeling of home, a place seen “at once for a first and for a second time.” Her adventures in the ruined landscape around St. Paul’s Cathedral, though a homesteading, are “in effect a homecoming, a coming home to the habitualities of the place and the habitudes of its history.” The specific place allows Barbary to remember, reconsider, and come to terms with her past. Barbary's past is rife with trauma, including memories of her rape by a German soldier and her ambiguous involvement in the Maquis drowning her stepfather. By dwelling in the ruined spaces of London, Barbary thinks more about mortality and hell, fearing the consequences for her actions. The landscape itself is what encourages Barbary to finally speak and confess to her mother about her role in her stepfather's drowning. Her redemption and subsequent promised return to France would not be possible without the healing power of place.
Subject: Redemption in literature
Subject: Macaulay, Rose, Dame. World my wilderness
Subject: Macaulay, Rose, Dame -- Criticism and interpretation
Access Restrictions: Open Access
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Dickey, Lauren Smith. "Redemptive Landscape in Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness". 2010. Available electronically from

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