Alice Honor Gavin’s work moves between fiction, critical theory, film and modern literature. Midland: A Novel Out of Time was published by Penned in the Margins in 2014 and subsequently shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize in 2015. Literature and Film: Dispositioned, a critical monograph on free indirect style in literature and film completed during an ICI Fellowship held between 2012-2014, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014. She holds a BA in English and History from the University of Oxford and completed her PhD within the multi-disciplinary programme of the London Consortium at Birkbeck. She currently teaches in the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester.
Her most recent publication is Uncommon Building (Spirit Duplicator, 2017), a collaborative exercise in speculative fiction as a methodology for thinking critically about urban politics and site. Additional writings on twentieth-century film and literature have appeared in journals such as Textual Practice and the Oxford Literary Review as well as zines such as The Modernist and All That Is Common.
ICI Affiliated Project 2017-18
At once pure pop fiction, a creative exercise in decomposition, and an experiment in literary theory, Never Was takes ostensible form as an experimental fantasy about the comeback of a star who never was, a member of a boyband that never existed. At the project’s heart is the character, or avatar, of ‘Fin’, whose story is narrated in the third person, but with no pronoun whatsoever, and whose ongoing insistence within the dissipating world of Never Was as such articulates the lived experience of a linguistic recess, a suspension of the pronominal prior to its negotiation. Less a developing character than a marked absence of backstory or recognizable causality, Fin is consistently and repeatedly unavailable within the narrative, with Fin’s lack of pronoun generating sentences in which Fin is simultaneously subject and object, everywhere on the edges of Fin’s own interiority.
Drawing together my previous critical work on free indirect style or discourse with my creative practice as a novelist, Never Was is additionally a means of thinking theoretically about literature, with Fin being a figure, of sorts, for the literary, as well as signal of the project’s wider interests in the relationship between both literature and sustainability, and literature and suspension. If literature is on the one hand the sustainability of sense – to the extent that a fictional world sustains a sense of its own temporal extension, before and after it (n)ever was – then literature is on the other hand sense’s suspension; if literature is forever inventing worlds (of sense), it is also the suspension of the world (of sense). Is it possible to write a novel without a world? What is the relationship between the novel and world-making more generally? These interests in turn inform the contours of the world (or non-world, or gone world) of Never Was itself, which combines a scenography of 90s new-build mansions and sinking cruise ships with the ordinary appearance of pterosaurs in order to adumbrate an already ailing fantasy, a landscape of disappointment, a lost dream, lived; not a wasteland so much as the epitaph for one.
Complementary Dispositions: Being Free Indirect in Literature and Film
ICI Project 2012-14
The free indirect disposition – a mode of being observable both in literature and in film – describes a form of intimacy that is also a distancing, or a position in the world that is simultaneously a dispositioning. In the case of literature, the text’s entry into free indirect style produces a flush of subjectivity that nonetheless fuzzes the definite location of any subject, attaching a detached or ‘unoccupied’ (as Ann Banfield puts it) perspective to thoughts that still feel intensely first personal. Two mutually exclusive points of view are here held in tension.
As soon as we become intimate with a character’s most intimate innervations, we find that character to be no longer quite herself – no longer quite alone nor quite all one with her thoughts. In placing the free indirect disposition in dialogue with the current ICI focus, this research intends to reveal its wider political and ethical possibilities, and to explore further its important inferences for our understanding of how we as humans inhabit both ourselves and our environment, our position in the world and our disposition towards it.