Reciprocal Haunting: Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy

Karen Patrick Knutsen

Reciprocal Haunting: Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy

2010,  205  pages,  paperback,  29,90 €,  ISBN 978-3-8309-2295-7

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Pat Barker’s fictional account of the Great War, The Regeneration Trilogy, completed in 1995, won wide acclaim and established her as a major contemporary British writer. The trilogy conveys a sense of reciprocal haunting; the past returns to haunt the present, but the present also haunts Barker’s vision of the past. This haunting quality is developed through an intricate pattern of intertextuality. This study offers a reading of trauma, class, gender and psychology as thematic areas where intertexts are activated, allowing Barker to re-accentuate stories of the past. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s concept of discourse and Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of dialogue, it focuses on the trilogy as a link in an intertextual chain of communication about the Great War. Knutsen’s reading shows that the trilogy presents social structures from different historical epochs through dialogism and diachronicity, making the present-day matrices of power and knowledge that continue to determine people’s lives highly visible. The Regeneration Trilogy regenerates the past, simultaneously confirming Barker’s claim that the historical novel can also be “a backdoor into the present”.