Blackwater Park and the haunting of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White
in EcoGothic gardens in the long nineteenth century
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In his depiction of Blackwater Park in The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins uses the Gothic to suggest that the more-than-human world is neither passive nor necessarily benign, but active in its own right. With its stifling trees and sinister lake, Blackwater Park exerts an agency all of its own. As such, it suggests a form of ecoGothic, in which human narratives are haunted by the possibility of an agential materiality. With its emphasis on the performative intra-action of matter and discourse, Karen Barad’s concept of agential realism suggests a new way in which to evaluate this Gothicised depiction. Using agential realism as a framework, this chapter discusses the nineteenth-century ‘improvement’ of parks and estates, and their subsequent neglect, a neglect which at Blackwater enables the more-than-human world to reassert itself; it returns to haunt those with whom it intra-acts. At the same time, however, the power of that world to haunt Collins’s characters reflects its subjugation, even its withdrawal, as theories of hauntology underline. Gothic tropes and forms are, in part, a manifestation of this troubling persistence of a repressed agentiality.

EcoGothic gardens in the long nineteenth century

Phantoms, fantasy and uncanny flowers

Editor: Sue Edney

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