By exploring how laughter is represented in Kipling‘s ghost stories this article attempts a re-evaluation of how colonial and postcolonial identities can be theorised within the Gothic. Laughter, and the disorientation that it provokes, is accorded a Gothic function that destabilises images of colonial authority.
Smith argues that the medical memoirs of Sir Frederick Treves can be read as a Gothic narrative. Treves failure to account for Joseph Merrick (aka ‘The Elephant Man’) in scientific terms is supplanted by an attempt to plot Merrick in relation to literary forms, such as the Gothic. Additionally, Treves uses the Gothic in order to suggest the fears of incarceration and threatened male violence felt by an apparently neurotic woman. It therefore becomes possible to read Treves‘ memoirs as a document which reveals both the particular flavour of the Gothic discourse at the end of the nineteenth century and as a critique of medical practice.
Modernism, Romance and the fin de siècle: Popular Fiction and British Culture, 1880-1914 by Nicholas Daly; Victorian Gothic: Literary and Cultural Manifestations in the Nineteenth Century edited by Ruth Robbins and Julian Wolfreys
That colonialism has associations with eighteenth century humanism is not a controversial claim. The eighteenth century with its fascination with how the subject knows has a central place in Foucault‘s account of the rise of the human sciences in The Order of Things. More recently Leela Gandhi has explored how the virtual construction of subjectivity in the eighteenth century was closely associated with the conceptual formulation of humanity. In these humanist constructions the human became defined by its relation to the non-human in a process where ideas about racial difference were used to form the hierarchies in which subjects were racially located. For Foucault, in the eighteenth century, the subject becomes both an object of knowledge (one that is understood ‘scientifically‘) and a subject who knows one that is interpreted `metaphysically`). This apparently scientific reading of the ‘objective status‘ of the subject reflects on the construction of race as an indicator of Otherness. The wider claim made by Leela Gandhi is that this position has a vestigial presence in much of todays `science‘. It is this correlation between race and certain pseudo-scientific taxonomies relating to race which underpin, in the nineteenth century, those theories of degeneration that attempted to account for perceptions of imperial decline, and it is these ideas that influenced Stoker‘s writings. Most notably Dracula has received considerable critical attention on the novels reliance on a model of degeneracy that articulates contemporary anxieties relating to criminality and race; this common view of Dracula is one that associates the Other (the vampire) with theories of degeneracy. The novel is also, arguably self-consciously so, about knowledge. The oddly unheroic pursuit of the vampire hunters is apparent in their search through documentation in order to develop an explanatory theory for vampirism. It is this pursuit of knowledge which is also to be found in A,Glimpse of America (1886) and The Mystery of the Sea (1902). Knowledge as knowledge of the national and/or racial Other is the central issue to which Stoker keeps returning.
Smith explores how Stoker‘s novel raises some complex questions about love through its use of a male love-struck narrator, who appears to be caught in a Female Gothic plot which casts him as its hero. In the novel ‘love’ becomes increasingly sinister as it turns into a destabilising and dangerously irrational emotion that ultimately aligns love with feelings of justified horror. Jewel (1903, revised 1912) thus develops a male reading of a Female Gothic plot in which the idea of female empowerment becomes defined as horrific. However, this idea of a pathologised love, Smith argues, is not unique to Stoker and can be linked to Freud‘s account of love, which reveals how issues relating to male authority appear within psychoanalytical debates about emotion at the time.
This book is a study of constructions of masculinity in a range of medical, cultural and Gothic narratives at the fin de siecle. The final decades of the nineteenth century provide a particularly complex set of examples of how the dominant masculine scripts came to be associated with disease, degeneration and perversity. The book first outlines the theories of degeneracy, explaining how they relate to masculinity. It then charts an alternative British tradition of degeneracy as this British context provides a more immediate background to the case histories that follow. The book presents a close reading of Sir Frederick Treves's Reminiscences; Treves's memoirs focus on the issues confronted by doctors working in the late Victorian period. The Whitechapel murders of 1888 are then discussed. The book focuses on how and why the medical profession became implicated in the murders. The murders also suggested the presence of a demonic, criminalised form of masculine control over the East End. Continuing with its focus on medicine, the book discusses medical textbooks on syphilis in the 1880s and how they responded to a shift in attitude towards attributing responsibility for the spread of syphilis. An examination of how London appears as a gendered space in the work of male authors such as Thomas De Quincey, and Charles Dickens, and later Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, is presented. Finally, some aspects of Oscar Wilde's trials are also examined as well as a range of his writings.
This book examines the British ghost story within the political contexts of the long nineteenth century. By relating the ghost story to economic, national, colonial and gendered contexts it provides a critical re-evaluation of the period. The conjuring of a political discourse of spectrality during the nineteenth century enables a culturally sensitive reconsideration of the work of writers including Dickens, Collins, Charlotte Riddell, Vernon Lee, May Sinclair, Kipling, Le Fanu, Henry James and M.R. James. Additionally, a chapter on the interpretation of spirit messages reveals how issues relating to textual analysis were implicated within a language of the spectral.
The focus in this book is on how the dead and dying were represented in Gothic texts between 1740 and 1914 - between Graveyard poetry and the mass death occasioned by the First World War. The corpse might seem to have an obvious place in the Gothic imaginary but, as we shall see, the corpse so often refuses to function as a formal Gothic prop and in order to understand why this occurs we need to explore what the corpse figuratively represented in the Gothic during the long nineteenth century. Representations of death often provide a vehicle for other contemplations than just death. A central aim of this study is to explore how images of death and dying were closely linked to models of creativity, which argues for a new way of looking at aesthetics during the period. Writers explored include Edward Young, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, James Boaden, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Henry Rider Haggard, Bram Stoker and Arthur Machen.
This chapter explores why so many fin-de-siècle Gothic novels conclude on
equally complex, if different, forms of suicide, including Wilde's The
Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), Machen's The Great God Pan (1894) and
Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). The chapter
argues that, as in Jekyll and Hyde, images of the self-destructive self
should be seen within the context of models of social self-destruction found
in theories of degeneration. The writings of Edwin Lankester and Max Nordau,
in particular, suggest that society is prone to self-destruction when it
becomes overly refined and collapses back on to itself. Images of the body
thus need to be related to wider issues of the body politic. However, this
chapter argues that the fin-de- siècle Gothic does not simply replicate the
terms used in theories of degeneration but rather scrutinises how images of
wealth, cultural refinement and class-bound models of ‘civilisation’ lead to
Gothic representations of self-destruction that strangely liberate the
subject from the demands of the ostensibly degenerate body. The chapter
outlines how the death of the body becomes, in suicide, an act of agency in
which the self is able to transcend its corporeal limits and gain access to
a higher spiritual realm.
Daniel Pick's authoritative study of theories of degeneration and their historical contexts, Faces of Degeneration charts the development of such theories from the 1840s to the end of the First World War. David Punter has noted how Gothic narratives such as Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde indicate the presence of an anxiety about colonial decline. The analysis of Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde addresses the permeability that existed between fictional, and supposedly 'scientific' notions of the unstable, often hybrid, male subject. The chapter explores how the following British commentators responded to some of the ideas about masculinity and nation: Samuel Smiles, Charles Kingsley, Edwin Lankester and Otto Weininger. Siobhan B. Somerville argues that in sexology racial identifications were mapped on to sexual orientation. This was done so that the 'blackness' or 'whiteness' of a subject was correlated to the levels masculinity or femininity exhibited by the subject.