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Humanities 2018, 7(4), 105; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040105

Atoning for Nostalgia in Ian McEwan’s Atonement

1
Department of English Studies, Faculty of Languages, Université Jean Moulin-Lyon 3, 69008 Lyon, France
2
Institute for Transtextual and Transcultural Studies, Université Jean Moulin-Lyon 3, 69007 Lyon, France
Received: 15 September 2018 / Revised: 22 October 2018 / Accepted: 25 October 2018 / Published: 29 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Nostalgia)
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Abstract

Many critics have pointed out the ambiguities of Atonement, a postmodernist anti-nostalgic novel that brings to the fore all the traditional topoi of Englishness in order better to denounce them as sham. In Atonement, the nostalgic longing is linked to the desire of Briony (the protagonist/narrator) for a return to a state of innocence which, I will argue through a close analysis of the text and its recurring images, is as much an atoning for her crime as a longing to be at-one in a state of harmony. Literally utopian, this nostalgic longing appears as a fantasy of omnipotence by an immature ego. Yet Briony’s being born into a writer entails a facing of the other within the self, an atoning for her nostalgic bias, not by erasing it, but by acknowledging her full responsibility in it, a process the reader is also invited to go through. From a regressive quest, nostalgia thus turns into an opening to otherness and to new potentialities. The unbridgeable gap between nostalgic desire and its fulfilment is what fuels our longing, keeps us alive and allows for creation. View Full-Text
Keywords: nostalgia; Ian McEwan; Atonement; ethics; responsibility nostalgia; Ian McEwan; Atonement; ethics; responsibility
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Delesalle-Nancey, C. Atoning for Nostalgia in Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Humanities 2018, 7, 105.

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