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Use Of Attics In Literature Essay

4393 words - 18 pages

The Phenomenology of Space--Attic Memories and Secrets

Since Gilbert and Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic, critics have assumed that attics house madwomen. But they use that concept as a metaphor for their thesis, that women writers were isolated and treated with approbation. In most literature, attics are dark, dusty, seldom-visited storage areas, like that of the Tulliver house in The Mill on the Floss--a "great attic under the old high-pitched roof," with "worm-eaten floors," "worm-eaten shelves," and "dark rafters festooned with cobwebs"--a place thought to be "weird and ghostly." Attics do not house humans (not even mad ones) they warehouse artifacts that carry personal and familial history--often a history that has been suppressed. And that history is what makes attics interesting.


Washington—Contractors installing ductwork in an attic found a suitcase containing the skeleton of a baby who apparently died more than 20 years ago.

[The police spokesman] said the blue suitcase appeared to be more than 30 years old. The skeleton which was wrapped in cloth, "appears to have been there quite a long time, in excess of 20 years," Eaves said. Police estimated that the baby was 1 or 2 months old at death.

The house was built in 1928 and was occupied by the same family until the mid-1990s. The last of four elderly sisters who lived there died in 1995 at the age of 102, and the house was sold five years ago

Houston Chronicle, Wednesday, February 17, 2001

In Suzanne Berne's A Perfect Arrangement (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Press, 2001), a pragmatic architect says "Attics are wasted space," but the family maid, with far more insight into human beings, responds, as I would: "Not psychologically."

A house with an attic seems to resonate for us with more meaning and significance than a house without one. Attics make us think of history, interesting artifacts, old toys, books, clothes, linens, jewelry, and other treasures—but, most of all, of deep, dark, and significant family secrets. It was in the attic of the house that I grew up in that, as a snooping teenager, I found the packet of letters from my mother to her first husband. Her FIRST husband. I had never dreamed that she had had but one husband--my father. And had I not ferreted out those letters, I probably still would not know. Then, that night, my father took me aside–I'm sure at my mother's urging–and confessed that he too had been married and divorced before he met my mother. Whether particular attics hide such secrets hardly matters. What matters is that psychologically we believe that they do. In fact, attics frequently house just the sort of information I unearthed–facts that one is too attached to to throw away, but which one very much wants to remain secret.

Before a discussion of attics can begin, it is essential to define what is meant by "attic" and to distinguish attics from upper rooms. Not all third floor spaces are attics, because...

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