Paisley Mann’s article “Memory as ‘Shifting Sand’: The Subversive Power of Illustration in George Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson” explores the unreliability of memory in Du Maurier’s novel, which follows the life of its eponymous hero Peter Ibbetson. In this autobiographical fiction, Ibbetson claims and attempts to prove that he can telepathically communicate with The Duchess of Towers, also known as his childhood friend Mimsey, through dreams. Mann’s research examines Du Maurier’s accompanying illustrations, supposedly provided by Ibbetson, through the lens of the unreliable narrator. Multiple illustrations are provided for each memory, initially at the time of first remembrance, and then again when Ibbetson and Mimsey travel through their memories together. These illustrations do not match and these irregularities, Mann claims, “suggest a connection that Peter fails to recognize” (177). Mann gives historical context for her interpretation, reminding her readers that Frances Power Cobbe insisted that the mind and, by association, memory is merely “safe for an hour from obliteration or modification, after being formed” (162). The narrative loses almost all stability, Ibbetson suffers a mental break after he is charged with murder and sentenced to death.
It was her work with DuMaurier’s Trilby that brought Ms. Mann to her current work on verbal and visual representations of Paris:
Paisley Mann received her Bachelor and Master of arts in English at the University of Victoria. She now attends the University of British Columbia where she is working on her Doctorate in English. Her current dissertation examines Paris and its representation in the culture and literature of the Victorian Age. Ms. Mann’s “Memory as ‘Shifting Sand’” can be found in the Victorian Review‘s Spring 2011, issue 37.1.
– Sabrina Schoch and Constance Crompton