The Electric: a novel and critical commentary investigating narrative disruption in sign language, cinemagoing, and trauma

Hogan, Edward (2018). The Electric: a novel and critical commentary investigating narrative disruption in sign language, cinemagoing, and trauma. PhD thesis The Open University.



The Electric is a multi-protagonist novel charting the radiating effects of a death on three generations of a family in East Sussex. The accompanying critical commentary analyses the impact of interdisciplinary research on the creative process, showing how the novel engages with and reflects narrative disruption – a common theme of research in the fields of British Sign Language, cinemagoing, and remembered trauma.

The novel is comprised of two interwoven time-frames. Through the middle part of the twentieth century, Daisy, unhappy in her marriage to an ambitious policeman, takes solace in cinema, and a correspondence with a former soldier from Canada. In the late 1990s, Linda, Daisy’s daughter, and Lucas, her deaf grandson, are still struggling to reconcile themselves to Daisy’s death, which had occurred a decade before. The two narrative strands circle each other, around the traumatic ‘gap’ caused by Daisy’s death. This structure, with its absences, repetitions, and disconnections, reflects the narrative disjunctures faced by the characters.

Each chapter of the critical commentary deals with a separate element which disrupts the novel’s narrative and characters, namely: the effects on memory of relearning a forgotten language; the impact of cinemagoing history on the shape of the novel; and the attempt to articulate remembered trauma. It describes the search for an apt form for these representational challenges. The commentary is also preoccupied with how interdisciplinary research – in such areas as language loss, psychoanalysis, ethnography, and oral history – can shape the content, form, and methodology of a novel.

The novel’s original contribution lies in its representation of dormant memories awakened by Lucas’ relearning of a manual language, and in its structure – which is based on the ‘rolling programmes’ of the mid-twentieth century picturehouses. As a whole, the thesis expresses a way of thinking about the relationship between novelistic form and interdisciplinary reading.

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