Adolescent Occultism and the Philosophy of Things in Three Novels
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Shirley Jackson’s 1962 We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Iain Banks’s 1984 The Wasp Factory and Sonya Hartnett’s 2009 Butterfly are novels separated not only by decades, but by distance being produced in the United States, Scotland and Australia respectively. Despite this, each of these texts depicts a young adult in a mimetically recognisable world struggling to reconcile their intuitive occultism with that world. The mediation of magic through assemblages of charged objects creates a philosophy of things – modelling in intuitive and narrative terms the essence and nature of objects familiar from the philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin. As such, the supernaturalism of Iain Banks, Shirley Jackson and Sonya Hartnett’s narratives implicates their readers – breaking the boundaries of fiction to comment on the material world itself, not through analogy or metaphor but through direct modelling of the potential power and worth of things.