Throughout the nineteenth century, the term ‘uncomfortable houses’ was used to describe properties where restless spirits made life unpleasant for any living persons who tried to claim these supernatural residences as their own. This article uses the idea of ‘uncomfortable houses’ to examine how this ghostly discomfort related to larger cultural issues of economics and class in Victorian Britain. Authors such as Charlotte Riddell and Margaret Oliphant used the haunted house story as a means of social critique which commented on the financial problems facing many lower- and middle-class Victorians. Their stories focus on the moral development of the protagonists and reconciliation through the figure of the ghost, ultimately giving readers the happy endings that many male-authored ghost stories lack. Riddell‘s ‘The Old House in Vauxhall Walk’ and ‘Walnut-Tree House’ and Oliphant‘s ‘The Open Door’ serve as important examples of this ‘suburban Gothic’ literature.
This essay introduces this special issue on ‘Romanticism and the “New Gothic”’, which contains revisions of essays presented at a special seminar at the 1999 joint conferences of the International Gothic Association (IGA) and the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hogle argues that the ‘Gothic’ as a highly counterfeit and generically mixed mode in the eighteenth century was a quite new, rather than revived old, aesthetic which allowed for the disguised projection - or really abjection - of current middle-class cultural fears into symbols that only seemed antiquated, supernatural, or monstrous on the surface. Romantic writers thus faced this mode as a symbolic location where feared anomalies of their own moment could be faced and displaced, and such writers reacted to this possibility using some similar and quite different techniques. Post-Romantic writers, in turn, ranging from Emily Dickinson all the way to the writers and directors of modern films with Gothic elements, have since proceeded to make the Gothic quite new again, in memory of and reaction to Romantic-era uses of the new Gothic. This recurrent remaking of the Gothic comes less from the survival of certain features and more from the cultural purposes of displacing new fears into symbols that recall both the eighteenth-century Gothic and Romantic redactions of it. The papers in this special issue cover different points in this history of a complex relationship among aesthetic modes.
The criticism of Shelley‘s ‘The Triumph of Life’ now makes up a small library of its own, though the status of the poem as a fragment yet precludes any final closure of commentary. The article proposes that criticism of the ‘Triumph’ falls between two poles. One view, of which Paul De Man is representative, sees the Shelley of his final poem as mature, becoming skeptical of romantic uses of the language of the uncanny. The other, of which Ross Woodman is representative, sees him finally as a fascinated believer in the supernatural and transcendent. This paper argues that the poem might be better seen as a complex and subtle mixing of these two frames, a skeptical fascination that relies on Shelley‘s refined use of the Gothic mode in the poem. This unstable frame results in an evaluation of Rousseau‘s philosophy as a form of truth flawed by desire, and a counterfeit ghost of the originating ideas when it reaches the public sphere. Seen this way, Shelley places Rousseau‘s ‘shape all light’ within a pantheon of other great figures of world history as an idealist who was made into a gothic cult by those in power.
Unspeakability in Vernon Lee‘s Supernatural Stories
Vernon Lees supernatural fiction provides an interesting test case for speculations about the function of spectrality for women writers on the cusp of the modern era. This article argues that spectrality, in line with Julian Wolfreys’ theories about the ‘hauntological disturbance’ in Victorian Gothic (2002), is both disruptive and desirable, informing the narratives we construct of modernity. It traces the links between the ‘unspeakable’ spectral encounter and contemporary attitudes to gender and sexuality in stories in Vernon Lees collection Hauntings (1890), as well as her Yellow Book story ‘Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady’ (1897). The ghostly encounter is erotic and welcomed as well as fearful, used to comment on the shortcomings of heterosexual marriage and bourgeois life, though this often results in the troubling spectacle of the ravished, mutilated or bloody female corpse. Lees negotiation of unspeakability and the desire for the ghostly is compared to the more graphic depictions of the dead female in stories from E. Nesbits Grim Tales (1893). Representations of the female revenant are considered in relation to the psychoanalytic readings of the otherness of the female corpse put forward by Elisabeth Bronfen (1992).
The Lost Book Review of Norman
Macrae‘s Highland Second-Sight (1909)
Paul S. McAlduff and John Edgar Browning
Bram Stoker was no stranger during his lifetime to spiritualistic endeavors or esoteric
fancies. The proof of this claim lies unquestionably across his fictions, which are
cratered with Gothicisms from the supernatural and mesmerism to dark atmospherics and
ambiances, as well as, or especially, second sight, which is to say visions of the future
or the present seen from afar. This occultic power comprises the topic of a newly
discovered book review by Stoker reproduced within this article and entitled The Second
Sight. This book review is significant in a few crucial ways, most especially because it
is so far the only book review Stoker is known to have published, adding a new
bibliographical chapter to his already diverse writing career. Of equal import, however,
is the circumstance of his reviewing a work of esoterica like Norman Macrae‘s Highland
Second-Sight, making this discovery in many ways a valorization of the scholarly work of
Catherine Wynne and others who have treated of Stoker‘s predilection in his writings for
If the conventional critique of the Gothic explores the abnormal – the supernatural, taboo and fantastic – it may be said to be a ‘Gothic of the Deviant’. By contrast, the ‘Gothic of the Normal’ underlines anxieties regarding what it means to be normal, to be oppressed by social pressures. It highlights our unease within hegemonic structures as we observe characters ‘reading’ their situations normatively, to the extent that they are unaware of the dangers of the deviant, unable to ‘think outside the box’. Focusing on normative speech within ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, a story that follows a typical Poe structure of thesis followed by demonstration, a disjunction is evident between what is said by Montresor throughout the central narrative and its murderous context. The reader experiences what Leon Festinger calls Cognitive Dissonance – the struggle to hold two contradictory ideas relating to a single phenomenon simultaneously, resulting in a negative emotional state. Such failures of normative world views are apparent in the texts handling of speech interactions. At times either Montresor or Fortunato create a benevolent reality at odds with the actual situation; at others, both protagonists use identical vocabulary but with different conceptual understandings of what they are describing. Fortunato‘s screaming indicates a point where both characters share a reality beyond representative speech. The text is structured by its various verbalizations of ‘normality’, and the tensions between them.
In an age of Imperial confidence, the social rhetoric of Victorian Britain frequently manifested a perceptible unease when considering cultural problems within the home nation. The imagery of ‘darkest England’, dependant as it was upon a powerful colonialist discourse, authorised and transmitted a register of language whereby an internal Other might be configured as uncivilised, and thus capable of being subject to the explorer and the missionary. Much, of course, has already been written upon the Gothic possibilities of this phenomena which characterised an Imperial age which allegedly declined with the nineteenth century. No similar consideration, however, has yet been made of its continuation into the twentieth century, a progressively post-colonial era in which the Imperial (or Imperialised) Other, in consequence, functions differently. This article considers two Gothic short stories, one in a reprinted Edwardian collection, the other a component of an original collection, both of which were issued in volume form in the late 1940s. The two narratives examine classic ‘cultures-within-cultures’, pockets of resistance within the fabric of the Imperial nation, though in a cultural context radically different from their Victorian predecessors. Algernon Blackwood‘s ‘Ancient Sorceries’ (1908), published in the 1947 reprint of his John Silence, and L.T.C. Rolt‘s ‘Cwm Garon’ published in Sleep No More (1948) share a preoccupation with the casual, localised, travelling which has replaced Imperial adventure, and with the decline of identifiable Christian institutions and landmarks themselves the products of earlier missionary activity in a familiar, though threatening, European landscape. In both short stories a form of devil worship is enacted before the eyes of the traveller, and in a landscape which fascinates and somehow holds him. In ‘Ancient Sorceries’, where the Devil does attend the bacchanal, the protagonist is almost seduced into willing participation but, on evading the sexual lure of the sabbat, vows never to return. Rolt, writing after the recent horrors of the Second World War, discards the presiding Devil in favour of a mortal substitute, but still leaves open the possibility that, in Kilvert‘s words, ‘an angel satyr walks these hills’. Neither welcomed nor seduced by the satanic community, Rolts protagonist finds himself fascinated by the land, and thus drawn into unwilling participation. In colonial terms, these two narratives explore the frequently rehearsed dangers of ‘going native’ that lie at the core of, among other works, Kipling‘s ‘The Mark of the Beast’, Rider Haggard‘s She and Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness. A subject people is identified, but their strength either supernatural or merely cultural, the ability to preserve a distinctive and resistant way of life tests the limits of the perceiving power. These are, in a sense, Imperial fantasies for a post-colonial world, a reflexing of colonised culture back in upon the formerly colonising nation.
This collection of essays by scholars in Renaissance and Gothic studies traces the lines of connection between Gothic sensibilities and the discursive network of the English Renaissance. The essays explore three interrelated issues: 1. Early modern texts trouble hegemonic order by pitting the irrational against the rational, femininity against patriarchal authority, bestiality against the human, insurgency against authoritative rulership, and ghostly visitation against the world of the living. As such they anticipate the destabilization of categories to flourish in the Gothic period. 2. The Gothic modes anticipated by early modern texts serve to affect the audience (and readers) not only intellectually, but above all viscerally. 3. The Renaissance period can be seen as the site of emergence for the Gothic sensibility of the 18th century as it cultivated an ambivalence regarding the incursion of the supernatural into the ordinary.
How can historians make sense of visions, hauntings and demonic possession? Do miraculous events have any place in a world governed by cause and effect? This book examines the cumulative attempts of theologians, historians and psychologists to create a consistent and rational narrative capable of containing the inexplicable. It argues that the psychological theories we routinely use to make sense of supernatural experience were born out of struggles between popular mystics and conservative authorities. Its analysis of the Victorian disciplines of Christology, psychology and psychical research reveals how our modern concept of the subconscious was developed as a tool for policing religious inspiration. The book provides a fresh perspective for anyone interested in questioning the concepts that underlie historical writing and psychological thought today.
This book presents a wide range of previously unpublished works by Radclyffe Hall. These new materials significantly broaden and complicate critical views of Hall’s writings. They demonstrate the stylistic and thematic range of her work and cover diverse topics, including outsiderism, gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, the supernatural, and World War I. Together, these texts shed a new light on unrecognised or misunderstood aspects of Hall’s intellectual world. The volume also contains a substantial 20,000-word introduction, which situates Hall’s unpublished writings in the broader context of her life and work. Overall, the book invites a critical reassessment of Hall’s place in early twentieth-century literature and culture and offers rich possibilities for teaching and future research. It is of interest to scholars and undergraduate and postgraduate students in the fields of English literature, modernism, women’s writing, and gender and sexuality studies, and to general readers.