Neil Hultgren
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Automata, plot machinery and the imperial Gothic in Richard Marsh’s The Goddess
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This chapter analyses Richard Marsh’s 1900 novel The Goddess in relation to the late-Victorian imperial Gothic mode of writing. It suggests that Marsh’s novel demystifies the occult and supernatural aspects of the imperial Gothic through its depiction of a mechanical goddess. Marsh’s goddess is notable because she is not a supernatural being but an automaton, an example of ‘clockwork machinery’ set in violent motion by the novel’s criminal antagonist. Marsh’s novel looks back to Tipu’s tiger, a late-eighteenth-century automaton from Mysore, India, which enacted the death of an Englishman by a tiger. Marsh recalls Indian violence against the English through a fictional reimagining of the tiger, a familiar museum piece, as a goddess. The exposure of the goddess’s machinery is a shocking aesthetic strategy that strips the imperial Gothic of its veil of mysticism and, through a negotiation of the plot machinery of the fantastic, interrogates imperial Gothic conventions.

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