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Abstract

Tom Crick, the narrator of Graham Swift’s Waterland, describes England’s Fenlands as the site of a struggle between water (mystical “Nothing”) and land (rational “Something”), a struggle that symbolizes the Enlightenment and the process of disenchantment. However, both the ecology of the fens, where water and land permanently coexist, and Swift’s language, particularly when describing land drainage, challenge the apparent water/land division and problematize the Enlightenment metaphor. Despite the narrator’s description of a dichotomy, Swift’s novel ultimately suggests a blurred, “muddy” line between the rational and the mythical, with neither completely distinct, let alone superior or triumphant. This paper was presented at the 2011 British Studies Student Symposium held at Birmingham-Southern College.

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