PJAS 12 Spring-11

Elżbieta Horodyska
Heterotopic Domestic Spaces in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 12 (Spring 2018) pp. 153-167


This essay proposes to read Marilynne Robinson’s 1981 novel Housekeeping as a depiction of an imaginary journey that the protagonists undertake in search of habitable domesticity adaptable to change. In a sequence of stages, the house, physically and symbolically, undergoes radical transformation from a solid edifice, firmly rooted in cultural and societal structures, into a mobile Foucauldian heterotopic space (a ship), where boundaries between the inside and the outside, nature and civilization, place and placelessness, presence and absence collapse. Each stage of the transformation is linked to a hero who interacts with the spaces of the house creating, in each case, a unique interconnectedness reminiscent of Bachelard’s poetics of nests and shells. I argue that the tension between permanence and transience in the novel is resolved in the bond which the two main characters forge in the course of their journey.

Keywords: Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping, Gaston Bachelard, Michel Foucault, heterotopia, Leo Marx, pastoralism, transience

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.12/1/2018.11

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