Keith M.C. O‘Sullivan 1
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  • 1 University of Aberdeen
His Dark Ingredients
The Viscous Palimpsest of Charles Maturin‘s Melmoth the Wanderer
in Gothic Studies
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Charles Maturin‘s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) is often considered the last major work in the corpus of Romantic-period Gothic. This paper draws upon that text and Maturin‘s correspondence, especially his sermons, in which the author incarnates a rich matrix of dichotomies, to offer a reading of the subtle metatextual and autobiographical qualities of the novel. Maturin‘s conflicted identity as clergyman and literary parvenu afford understanding of the nature of, and challenges posed by, this complex work. Like Maturin‘s preaching, Melmoth bears witness to and sympathy with its time. Yet it also bears the imprints or multiple scripts of historical and psychological forces contributing to its formation. Ostensibly a Gothic romance engaged with the dialectic of high Romanticism, it is shown to be a self-reflexive text, with ambivalence towards its own literary form. The plethora of tales within Maturin‘s novel represent an attempt to convey and self-validate a fabric of a created national history, but Melmoth is shown to both use and indict the ideological structures that it has employed to create its own texture. It is suggested that detail of torture and anatomisation of belief represent an unconscious self-dramatisation.

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