French Studies Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2002






Textual Practice


Within the narrative poetics of the archaeological find, accounts of the discovery of beautifully preserved Iron Age bodies in the peat-bogs of Northwestern Europe constitute a particularly complex, well-defined and resonant subgenre. A reading of the genre’s founding text, P.V. Glob’s The Bog People, reveals a repertoire of tropes and topoï that will inform subsequent fictional treatments of bog body finds. Arguing that the poetic specificity of the bog body lies in its extraordinary capacity to abolish temporal distance and mediate between past and present, this essay seeks to define the figure as a special kind of chronotopic motif, or mnemotope: a site of temporal compression, a space in which one time comes alive within another, manifesting the presence of the past. Fictional texts by Margaret Atwood, Anne Hébert and Margaret Drabble provide the focus for an analysis of the complex exchanges, both narrative and symbolic, mediated by the mnemotope in the memory work of cultures and individuals.

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