This book addresses the intriguing incongruity between naming Charles Robert Maturin as a 'well-known' author of the Romantic period and the lack of any real critical analysis of his works in the past thirty years. The central thesis of the book is that Maturin's novels provide the key to a new understanding of Irish national fiction as a peculiarly haunted form of literature. Specifically, it argues that Maturin's too often overlooked body of fiction forcefully underscores the haunting presence of the past and past literary forms in early nineteenth-century Irish literature. It is a presence so often omitted and/or denied in current critical studies of Irish Romantic fiction. The book represents a project of ghost-hunting and ghost-conjuring. It investigates the ways in which Maturin's fourth novel attempts to build on the ruins of the Irish nation by describing the fissures produced by religious sectarianism in the country. The book makes use of the rarely consulted correspondence between Maturin and the publisher Archibald Constable. It does this to emphasise the manner in which Maturin's completion of his novel, Melmoth the wanderer was at all times crowded by, and, indeed, infiltrated with, his work on competing texts. These include books of sermons, Gothic dramas, short stories, and epic poems interspersed with prose narrative.
A vital issue in discussing distinctive group shows has been to explore how 'Northern Irish art' has emerged in dialogue with international art during the post-Troubles period. This book concentrates on the social and political developments pertinent to a study of post-Troubles art. It makes an effort to weave together fundamental background details on the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement with questions regarding the political and theoretical framing of this process of negotiation. Diverse local outcomes of the Agreement are nonetheless acknowledged: from ongoing political problems caused by the ambiguities and inconsistencies of the accord, to material manifestations of 'peace' in the built environment. The book presents thoughts on how 'Northern Irish art' of the post-Troubles era might be critically approached and appraised in light of broader contemporary conditions. It takes the 2005 exhibition of art from Northern Ireland at the Venice Biennale as the departure point for an extended examination of how the representation of 'local' concerns is shaped in relation to wider cultural and economic forces. Much of the book concentrates more directly on the manifold forms of 'ghost-hunting' undertaken by artists during the post-Troubles period. Several significant works by Willie Doherty are singled out for close-reading: photographic series and film narratives that are powerfully undecidable and uncanny in their oblique, unnerving evocations of the landscapes of Belfast and Derry. The book also discusses the haunted spaces of Doherty's practice by reflecting on artists' approaches to time and history.
. A great
deal of art during this period has required returning to the neglected histories of
particular places. It has been an art of compulsive repetition that at times resembles the types of wayward ‘ghost-hunting’ identified by Hal Foster as central to
the work of artists from other parts of the world such as Tacita Dean and Joachim
Koester – artists who, Foster writes, are ‘drawn to blind spots in which the turns
that history has taken, and might still take, are sometimes revealed to us’.10
Foster’s use of the anachronistic and
overlap to some extent and points of similarity can be identified, even if these do not exhaust the works’ meaning. In Dean, Koester and Green's work similar elements of archive theory are picked up and processed, despite the artists’ different foci and interests.
Research metaphors: ghosthunting and detective work
In ‘Archive Fever’ and in a subsequent lecture, Jacques Derrida described the act of archiving as storing elsewhere, in an ‘exteriority’, that transforms the document and separates it from its lived history. The
literary dead’ ( 2008 : 51). This proliferation of historically fixated cultural
forms ‘quest[ed] for intimacy with the dead’ more
generally (Westover, 2012 : 8), engendering
what Paul Westover has nicely called ‘Necromanticism’,
‘a complex of antiquarian revival, book-love, ghost-hunting, and
monument-building that emerged in the age of revolutions and mass
British travel and tourism in the post-imperial world
Parliament House, or the regal mass
of Victoria Memorial Hall. The elegant white spires of St
Andrew’s Cathedral is today crudely dwarfed by a huge
hotel and a shopping complex called Raffles Plaza.
So coming back to look for
Conrad’s world I wondered: ‘Have I come
ghost-hunting too late?’ 44
Spectres of Maturin; or, the ghosts of Irish Romantic fiction
understanding of early nineteenth-century Irish
fiction, this book is driven fundamentally by Maturin’s ghost. As
such, it seeks to fulfil a Derridean inheritance by ‘bear[ing]
witness’ to Maturin’s all too frequently ignored legacy. 12 In this sense,
this book represents a project of ghost-hunting and ghost-conjuring. By
extension, it is, in essence, a textual séance – a space and
time in which the ghosts of
notion of ‘spectrality’ when summarising Dragan Kujundzic's text in the anthology (Merewether, ‘Introduction: Art and the Archive’, p. 15). Hal Foster quotes Koester's own description of his work as a form of ‘ghost-hunting’ (Foster, ‘Blind Spots’, p. 213). See also Connarty and Lanyon (eds), Ghosting .
Another indication of Foster's strong position in this field is that the inaugural issue of the online Mnemoscape Magazine was
For further analysis see Anna Bocking-Welch, ‘Ghosthunting: amateur film and travel at the end of empire’, in Martin Farr and Xavier Guegan (eds), The British Abroad Since the Eighteenth Century, Volume 2 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 214–231.
YFA, CJCC, Charles Chislett, ‘Air Cruise to the Lebanon, Syria and Jordan’, Rotary in the Ridings ( c .1964), p. 15