This article examines the effects of distracted sight, peripheral objects and hazily-perceived images in the ghost stories of M. R. James. It argues that the uncanny illumination produced by the accidental glance in his tales bears affinity with many Gothic narratives, including those of E. T. A. Hoffmann and Margaret Oliphant. James‘s work has often solicited only a casual look from critics, yet his exploration of the haunted edge of vision not only grants his work a hitherto neglected complexity, but also places him firmly within the Gothic tradition.
Unlike Romantic authorship, the Gothic author has long been identified with unoriginality. A foundational moment in this association can be found in the reception of the original Gothic plagiarist, Matthew Lewis. Critics not only condemned Lewis for apparently usurping other authors property in The Castle Spectre but also did so by casting him as his own usurping villain. This parallel between Gothic conventions and critical language suggests that the Gothic might have played a crucial role in the history of our concepts of intellectual property, and particularly in the development of the now-familiar figure of the criminalized, and vilified, plagiarist.
This essay examines The Lair of the White Worms cultural logic, its mobilization of that dense network of specific historical references - to mesmerism, physiognomy, alienism, degeneration, and theories of race - which underlies so much of Bram Stoker‘s output. It is argued that Stokers last novel can serve as a kind of summa for Stoker‘s entire oeuvre, casting a retrospective eye over precisely those ethnological concerns that had animated his writings from beginning to end. For, in Stoker‘s imaginary the monstrous is always inscribed within a topography of race that his novels at once challenge and confirm by bringing pressure to bear on the whole scientific project of a general anthropology at its most vulnerable point: the distinction between the human and the near-human, between the species form and its exceptions.
Through the prisms of psychoanalysis and narrative theory the article addresses the concepts of temporality and transgenerational phantom in Elizabeth Gaskells Gothic piece ‘The Poor Clare’ (1856). Gaskells text, which revolves around an ancestral curse, is but a loose repetitious narrative characterized by the circularity of its structure and tone – its end casting one back into its middle – with its narrator narrating the past locked into the present, which is completely determined by the future, by the curse to be fulfilled. Narration becomes unsettling and obsessional, revealing the texts shared phantoms/foreign bodies as these implicate the characters and the narrating persona in a complex web of unconscious identifications and psychic splits, eventually coming to congeal around the biblical prophecy: ‘the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children’. In being reiterated throughout, the cryptic and (encrypted) words reaffirm both the efficacy of the curse –which always already doubles back on the one that has hurled it – and the texts playing out of desire and trauma, thus rendering the celebrated subject of the Enlightment both an ailing subject and an alien to itself.
1748, a plaster cast being acquired at the time by Joseph Greene, then Master of the Free Grammar School in Stratford.
Another authorised casting was made in 1815, this latter occurrence being reported by a correspondent to the Gentleman's Magazine .
At least one unauthorised casting is also supposed to have been taken from the head in the nineteenth century, and this alleged event was fictionalised in 1851 by Wilkie Collins (1824–89) in the sentimental Christmas
the poem is a spoof, yet the accompanying instructions cause unease: many of them, such as the casting of ‘the grit haly watter’ (19) and the incantatory words to be spoken to the spirit to discover whether it is of God’s law or the Devil’s (48–60), parody real religious ritual. A darker undertow thus remains, despite the humorous ‘patter patter’ (20) of pseudo-erudition, of the surreally persistent presence of the ghost, his marriage to ‘the Spenyie fle’ (87) and the mention of their unlikely progeny, ‘Orpheus king and Elpha quene’ (93). Teasingly, this last
become involved in casting spells and raising spirits to answer questions. At first ‘they blindlie glorie of themselves’, but then find they have become ‘bond-slaves to their mortall enemie’ and receive ‘the horrors of Hell for punishment thereof’. 34
Declaring judicial astrology unlawful, and linking it with the diabolical, implied more than a stern rebuke to its practitioners. Shortly after the Reformation, in 1563, the Scottish Witchcraft Act was passed. Julian Goodare has pointed out that the ‘vane superstitioun’ mentioned in the Act was not false and ignorant
of pious Scots. The judge and statesman Archibald Johnston of Wariston took a particularly keen interest in discerning the divine will. He made routine decisions by casting lots, appointing providence as his guide. In diary entries from the 1650s he gratefully acknowledged God’s assistance in matters such as letter writing, public speaking and curtailing his arguments with his wife. 35
Providence offered comfort in the face of adversity. Wariston declared that God had given him ‘out of his loving, indulgent, bountiful, merciful providence ane extraordinar great
Chronicle , 13 January 1824 pp. 2–3 at p. 3, col. 3. Thurtell's wish was not granted, for despite no facial cast being obtained, Madame Tussaud's was to exhibit his waxwork well into the twentieth century. See Stephen Carver, The 19th Century Underworld: Crime, Controversy and Corruption (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2019), pp. 17–18. The prohibition upon any reproduction of the cast does not appear to have been enforced, as a copy was presented to the Phrenological Society by James de Ville (who attended the casting) on 5 February 1824. See: Anon. ‘Article XVIII
From Mary Shelley and Sir John Franklin to Margaret Atwood and Dan Simmons
how the lost
Franklin expedition has been repeatedly turned into a topos of textual
haunting, casting a disturbing light less on the past than on present
decay, pollution and global warming. Evolving from a cliché and a
myth, the Franklin story has turned into an ecoGothic paradigm.
exploration as a monstrous venture
The representation of the Arctic was