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Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik

A Quarterly of Language, Literature and Culture

[Journal of English and American Studies]

Ed. by Butter, Michael / Eckstein, Lars / Frenk, Joachim / Georgi-Findlay, Brigitte / Herbst, Thomas / Korte, Barbara / Leypoldt, Günter / Reinfandt, Christoph / Stefanowitsch, Anatol

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Volume 62, Issue 4


‘The Saving Power of Hallucination’: Elizabeth Bowen’s “Mysterious Kôr” and Female Romance

Laura Lojo-Rodríguez
  • Corresponding author
  • Departamento de Filoloxía Inglesa e Alemá, Facultade de Filoloxía, Campus Universitario Norte, Avda. de Castelao, s/n, E-15782 Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña), Spain
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Published Online: 2014-11-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zaa-2014-0044


This article discusses Elizabeth Bowen’s appropriation of a traditionally male-addressed literary genre, namely, of what Elaine Showalter has termed “male romance,” which Bowen radically reformulates in order to foreground the complexity of female subjectivity and sexuality against a backdrop of war. In her short story “Mysterious Kôr” (1945), Bowen both draws and departs from Henry Rider Haggard’s prototypical male romance She: A History of Adventure (1887) not only by intertextually incorporating Haggard’s literary landscape in her story, but also by inserting contemporary assessments of Haggard’s novel – most notably those of his friend and admirer Andrew Lang in his sonnet “She” (1888). Like Haggard and Lang, Bowen produced “Mysterious Kôr” in years marked by a profound sense of crisis and disenchantment which, in Bowen’s case, was enhanced by the horrors of the Blitz War in London. Haggard, Lang, and Bowen articulate their respective narratives as a literary response to such disenchantment, shaped as a quest-myth of ‘re-enchantment’ which departs from a civilization on the verge of collapse to a mythical destination. However, Bowen is also careful in articulating difference from Haggard’s male narrative and Lang’s appreciation of it: Departing from many of these writers’ literary motifs, Bowen produces a female version of an imaginative escape which entails a woman’s experience of war, and her mental strategies to preserve sanity.

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About the article

Corresponding author: Dr. Laura Lojo-Rodríguez, Departamento de Filoloxía Inglesa e Alemá, Facultade de Filoloxía, Campus Universitario Norte, Avda. de Castelao, s/n, E-15782 Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña), Spain, e-mail:

Published Online: 2014-11-26

Published in Print: 2014-12-01

Citation Information: Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Volume 62, Issue 4, Pages 273–289, ISSN (Online) 2196-4726, ISSN (Print) 0044-2305, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zaa-2014-0044.

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