Invisible World Disclos’d: or, An Universal History of
Apparitions, &c. (1727; by Defoe himself), make clear a
serious ‘theologico-propagandic’ purpose which is absent
from the line of supernatural fiction beginning with The Castle of
Otranto in 1764. And yet, as Coleman 0. Parsons (1956) has
shown, apparition narratives provided a stepping-stone from a largely
oral and popular culture of ghost
Supernatural beliefs have been vital to Scottish cultural development. In the early modern period, the Kirk played an all-important role in parish life, schooling the Scots on how to interpret the invisible world. Theologians and philosophers mused about the nature of God’s providence and the wiles of the Devil. Folk tradition peopled the landscape with fairies and nature spirits. The witch trials displayed the very real consequences of belief systems that would later be reframed as fantastical. This book analyses the Scottish supernatural between about 1500 and 1800. Drawing together an international range of scholars with expertise in history, ethnology and literary studies, it explores the diverse ways in which Scots understood and experienced magical beings and extraordinary events. There are chapters on trance experiences, spirit-guides, angels, preaching on the supernatural, political prophecies, providence, astrology, Second Sight and the Enlightenment’s encounter with the paganism of classical antiquity. The book’s historical material is framed by two literary chapters: one on the ‘elrich’ supernatural in the poetry of the early sixteenth century, and one on the political supernatural in the poetry of the eighteenth century. Overall, the book examines the cultural function of supernatural beliefs, and assesses how these beliefs evolved amid the upheaval of the Reformation, political and religious revolution, the emergence of the Enlightenment and the beginnings of romanticism.
Ed Cameron‘s essay offers a Lacanian interpretation of the development of the eighteenth-century Gothic novel. Tracing the movement from Horace Walpole to Ann Radcliffe and Mathew Lewis, the essay argues that the Gothic supernatural machinery figures that which is immanent yet inaccessible to the narrative structure. Reading the supernatural as a literary delimitation of the excessive enjoyment of the Lacanian symbolic order, Cameron illustrates how the different manner by which each novelist relegates his or her specific use of the supernatural corresponds to different psychoanalytically recognized psychopathological structures.
In a footnote to his 1919 essay, ‘The Uncanny’ (‘Das Unheimliche’), Freud perfunctorily reports a strange encounter with himself. While he was traveling by train, a mirrored door in his compartment swung open, whereupon Freud was confronted with a distasteful-looking stranger intruding into his private space, a stranger whom he momentarily recognized as a reflection of himself.2 If we use Freud‘s own analysis in ‘The Uncanny’, derived from Otto Rank‘s work on the double, the power of this disconcerting episode could be attributed to the adult fear of the double, transmogrified from the animistic or childhood projection of a friendly double, another self who served as a protection against danger or death, into a fearful emblem of ones own mortality in the more repressed adult mind.3 That is, in our early state of primary narcissism we familiarize the strange world around us by projecting outward versions of ourselves; however, as adults who have discovered that we are not the source of all being, the unexpected appearance of an alternate self is initially frightening and unrecognizable. Freuds initial impression of himself as an alien intruder is uncanny because the scene is suffused with a supernatural aura and recalls him to a primary narcissistic fear. A double is a distorted version of a being already in existence, thus engendering the fear that the double is the real, original self who has come to take our place. Or, as Françoise Meltzer has noted, ‘the double entails the seeing of self as other, and thus forces the admission of mortality’ (229). Unexpected sightings of doubles in adulthood also confirm the validity of the sensation evoked by the super-ego which oversees and watches the self as it engages in worldly transactions. Seeing double may support the paranoid suspicion that an individual is actually two people, one divided against the other. As Rank demonstrates in his study, the double, as an emblem,of the soul, carries both a positive and negative valence. On the one hand our existence is confirmed by seeking reflections, versions of ourselves in mirrors, photographs, offspring, etc., yet if we are taken unawares by a double, we quail from it as a supernatural visitant. Thus the unsolicited sighting of a double, an embodiment of unsurmounted supernaturalism, marks the eruption of the uncanny into everyday life.
environment in colourful detail. There was no expectation that its fairies should be taken seriously. But the poem may have echoed genuine folkloric stories, and this may have been one reason for its success. There was nothing innately incredible in a world of magical possibilities.
For early modern Scots, supernatural forces were real and present. People disagreed about how these forces might manifest themselves, but throughout the period from 1500 to 1800 there were men and women who might perceive the supernatural in a whirlwind, or a dream, or the shimmer of a
this widespread Scottish interest in antiquity, one that has been almost entirely forgotten: the fascination with pagan religious beliefs in supernatural beings and phenomena. It takes as its focus the writings of the many educated Scots who delved into the ancient past, seeking to explain the pagans’ conceptions of divinatory oracles, divine power and the invisible world of the afterlife.
Their investigations concentrated primarily on Greek and Roman beliefs. The verses of Pindar and Horace, the epics of Homer and Virgil, the philosophy of the Presocratics and
The sun had clos’d the winter-day ,
The Curlers quat their roaring play,
And hunger’d Maukin taen her way
To kail-yards green,
While faithless snaws ilk step betray
Whare she has been. 1
The loss of light begins and ends this chapter. It proposes that the use and embodiment of the supernatural in eighteenth-century Scottish verse holds to the key term and opaque conjunction ‘as if’. It proposes that the idea of the supernatural allowed people in eighteenth-century Scotland to wrestle with the idea of a new and elusive descriptor
During the early modern period in Scotland, as in Europe and beyond, the concepts and symbolism of astrology were tightly woven into the prevailing world view. Astrology can be defined as any theory, practice or belief that draws inferences from, or parallels between, events and patterns in the sky and events and circumstances on earth. Its use of the sky – the ‘heavens’ in contemporary parlance – meant that it linked the supernatural and natural worlds.
There was scarcely an aspect of contemporary life that astrology did not inform. Its imagery was found in
The Role of Danger in the Critical Evaluation of The Monk and The Mysteries of Udolpho
L. Andrew Cooper
Gothic Threats argues that eighteenth-century British critics based their judgments of Gothic fictions on the fictions apparent capacity to help or hurt social order. If, like Matthew Lewiss The Monk, a novel seemed to corrupt the young, erode gender norms, encourage heretical belief in the supernatural, or foment revolution, critics condemned it. If, like Ann Radcliffes The Mysteries of Udolpho, a novel that seemed to fight against such threats, critics gave it the highest praise. This politically-determined pattern of “aesthetic” evaluation helped to establish the Gothics place in the hierarchy of high and low culture.
Del Principe argues that a compelling historical and political vision of post-unification Italy lies beneath the preternatural façade of Ugo Tarchettis Fantastic Tales, and that the authors transgressive approach to social realism is a reflection of the vast, cultural transformations of the period. Del Principe proposes correlations between sexual and political realms surfacing in Tarchettis narrative as indicators of mutating class structure and emerging capitalism. An examination of spatial allegories engages a discussion of psychic and physical modes of hysteria and xenophobic reactions that stem from the nationalistic fervor of post-unification Italy.