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Scientific experimentation in George MacDonald’s ‘The History of Photogen and Nycteris’

This chapter examines the implications of theories of Darwinism and degeneration on concepts of child rearing. These theories and concepts are explored in relation to George MacDonald’s short fantasy tale ‘The History of Photogen and Nycteris’. The chapter argues that the tale functions as a conceptual space through which to explore the ramifications of degeneration and evolution as MacDonald understood them. This is achieved by focusing on the child-rearing practices used on two children, Photogen and Nycteris, who are placed within engineered environments to influence their development. The tension between scientific expectations of the children’s behaviours, and their actual behaviour as they engage with the world using their imaginations, provides a basis from which MacDonald critiques scientific approaches to child-rearing.

in In the company of wolves
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Death, grief and bereavement in wartime Britain

The introduction argues that death is central to warfare. Demonstrating that a variety of factors, including the dominant emotional economy of the war years, have meant that the dead of Second World War Britain have been largely absent from the cultural memory of this conflict, it goes on to explain why it is important to write the history of death, grief and bereavement in wartime. It sets out the numbers of the dead, considers how they died, and provides an overview of the ways that the state attempted to manage wartime death. The chapter discusses the power of emotions in wartime, focusing on the disruptive potential of grief, and places this within a brief discussion of the ‘history of emotions’. Finally it sets out the three key arguments of the book, and provides a brief introduction to the themes of each chapter.

in Dying for the nation
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Shakespeare and the supernatural

The introduction constitutes a comprehensive overview of the field of Shakespeare and the supernatural, covering terminology, historical ideas surrounding magic, witchcraft, ghosts and demonology, responses to the supernatural in the space of the theatre, and the ways in which Shakespeare’s work is located between discourses of enchantment and emerging scepticism. It also highlights the porous boundaries between ideas of nature, the preternatural and the supernatural. Providing relevant contexts for the issues explored in the book, it outlines the volume’s five key themes: the supernatural and embodiment; haunted spaces; supernatural utterance and haunted texts; magic, music and gender; and present-day transformations. The introduction also presents a summary of the contributions by each of the authors and explores the dialogues that open up between the various chapters.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
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This chapter introduces and defines the concept of ‘Nordic Gothic’ as fiction produced in the five nation states of Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and in the regions claimed by these nations. The chapter observes that the geographical and linguistic borders that these states denote have changed greatly during the past 200 years, and that this has been important to the rise of Gothic. The introduction furthermore notes that, since the 1990s, there has been a significant Gothic boom across several media in the Nordic region. It is argued that this boom needs to be understood both in its relation to other regional contexts and in relation to the concept of Nordic Noir. Finally, the introduction describes some of the work that has been done on Nordic Gothic and provides the reader with an outline of the chapters that follow.

in Nordic Gothic
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From preternatural pastoral to paranormal romance
in In the company of wolves
Nordic Gothic and transcultural adaptation

This chapter investigates the two most influential examples of contemporary Nordic Gothic, Lars von Trier’s TV series Riget and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Låt den rätte komma in and its Swedish film adaptation together with the American adaptations of these Nordic works: Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital (ABC 2004) and Matt Reeves’ Let Me In (2010). The chapter first briefly discusses Gothic TV and TV horror and outlines how von Trier, King and Lindqvist have moved between different media. It then goes on to examine some differences between the Nordic and American productions that are related to Gothic humour. In terms of setting, the American adaptations are placed in small American towns rather than the central locations constituted by the Danish capital in Riget and the Stockholm suburb in Låt den rätte komma in. Whereas the American adaptations thus pertain to King’s brand of small-town American Gothic, the Nordic works can be seen as a kind of urban Gothic. The settings, the chapter suggests, also make visible ideological differences between the Nordic Gothic works and the American adaptations.

in Nordic Gothic
Wolf behaviour becoming wolfish nature

Wolves have always generated strong emotions of admiration and fear in people. For some they are revered as powerful hunters while they are reviled by others as intruding and unwanted predators. A general theme in this chapter is that the behaviour of wolves, particularly their hunting and predation, is not simply regarded as a natural and necessary part of their social ecology, but it is construed, and differently perceived, by different groups of people, as a moral ecology, and the human judgements of that ecology construct wolves. A specific theme in the chapter will be how the werewolf emerged, and was given shape, from concerns about wolves themselves.

in In the company of wolves
Ariel’s alchemical songs

This chapter explores the connection between music and alchemy in The Tempest by developing an alchemical interpretation of Ariel’s songs. Ariel–Mercurius is the alchemist Prospero’s attendant spirit, without whom the great work cannot take place. His role as chemical spirit recalls Ficino’s spiritus, whose nature is similar to that of musical sound: it is thanks to his Orphic music that most of the characters on the island are led on the path to spiritual purification. Four of Ariel’s five songs contain alchemical allusions: ‘Come unto these yellow sands’, ‘Full fathom five’, ‘Earth’s increase and foison plenty’ and ‘Where the bee sucks’. The settings of ‘Full fathom five’ and ‘Where the bee sucks’, attributed to Robert Johnson, are shown to enhance the chemical meaning of the lyrics. Even though musical magic is occasionally ironised, Ariel’s songs all partake of the idealising current of the play: they adumbrate the chemical wedding of Ferdinand and Miranda, Alonso’s regeneration and Ariel’s well-deserved freedom. They therefore strengthen the case for The Tempest as an alchemical palimpsest.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Wagner the Wehr-wolf, Sweeney Todd and the limits of human responsibility

This chapter explores the relationship between early nineteenth-century werewolf fiction and the changing legal codes that governed the circumstances under which a criminal might be found ‘not guilty by virtue of insanity’. Before the institution of the McNaghten rules, criminal responsibility could be evaded only if the criminal ‘doth not know what he is doing, no more than an infant, than a brute or a wild beast’. This chapter argues that the werewolves that appear in the fiction of the period, who are often outlaws or madmen or both, function as symbolic representations of the pre-McNaghten criminal lunatic whose threatening otherness is manifested in their bestial nature, and whose proper home is in the forested wilderness. The serial killers of the early penny bloods, conversely, speak to the new anxieties created by the post-McNaghten popularisation of notions of ‘moral insanity’, according to which the criminal lunatic may look and behave exactly like everyone else, enabling them to prey with impunity upon the inhabitants of the new cities of the 1830s and 1840s.

in In the company of wolves
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Nordic Gothic traces Gothic fiction in the Nordic region from its beginnings in the nineteenth century with a main focus on the development of Gothic from the 1990s onwards in literature, film, TV series and new media. The volume gives an overview of Nordic Gothic fiction in relation to transnational developments and provides a number of case studies and in-depth analyses of individual narratives. The book creates an understanding of a ubiquitous but hitherto under-researched cultural phenomenon by showing how the Gothic narratives make visible cultural anxieties haunting the Nordic countries and their welfare systems, and how central these anxieties are for the understanding of identities and ideologies in the Nordic region. It examines how figures from Nordic folklore and mythology function as metaphorical expressions of Gothic themes, and also how universal Gothic figures such as vampires and witches are used in the Nordic context. The Nordic settings, and especially the Nordic wilderness, are explored from perspectives such as ecocriticism and postcolonialism and subcategories such as Gothic crime, Gothic humour, troll Gothic and geriatric Gothic are defined and discussed. Furthermore, the phenomenon of transcultural adaptation is investigated, using the cases of Lars von Trier’s Riget and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Låt den rätte komma in, two seminal works of contemporary Nordic Gothic.