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.
Shakespeare and the supernatural explores the supernatural in Shakespearean
drama, taking account of historical contexts and meanings together with
contemporary approaches to these aspects in performance on stage, screen and in
popular culture. Supernatural elements constitute a significant dimension of
Shakespeare’s plays, contributing to their dramatic power and intrigue: ghosts
haunt political spaces and psyches; witches foresee the future; fairies meddle
with love; natural portents foreshadow events; and a magus conjures a tempest.
Although written and performed for early modern audiences, for whom the
supernatural was still part of the fabric of everyday life, the plays’
supernatural elements continue to enthral us and maintain their ability to raise
questions in contemporary contexts. The collection considers a range of issues
through the lens of five key themes: the supernatural and embodiment; haunted
spaces; supernatural utterance and haunted texts; magic, music and gender; and
present-day transformations. The volume presents an introduction to the field,
covering terminology and the porous boundaries between ideas of nature, the
preternatural and the supernatural, followed by twelve chapters from an
international range of contemporary Shakespeare scholars whose work interrogates
the five themes. They provide new insights into the central issues of how
Shakespeare constructs the supernatural through language and how supernatural
dimensions raise challenges of representation and meaning for critics and
creators. Shakespeare and the supernatural will appeal to scholars, dramatists,
teachers and students, providing valuable resources for readers interested in
Shakespeare or the supernatural in drama, whether from literary, historical,
film or performing arts perspectives.
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.
Supernatural phenomena in Shakespeare's plays are frequently embodied: they take a physical shape onstage with characters such as the Weird Sisters in Macbeth or Ariel in The Tempest , or with apparitions and ghosts as in Richard III , Hamlet or Julius Caesar, or they appear through portentous signs which work like props, either through staging effects (thunder and lightning), or by oral reports, with talk of ‘horrid sights seen by the watch’ ( Julius Caesar, 2.2.16) such as those recounted by Calphurnia in my epigraph. Despite their uncertain origins, these
Double Ariel in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest
Anchuli Felicia King
The relatively recent accretion of this varied body of writing into the unified field of ‘puppet theory’ has a new challenge in considering how this ancient form, which for centuries has been harnessed for spectacles of the mythic, magic and supernatural, might exist in dialogue with contemporary digital technologies.
In his chapter for the 2001 anthology Puppets, Masks and Performing Objects , Steve Tillis argues that the question of what constitutes ‘live’ puppetry has been largely overshadowed by technological
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
The highly popular American fantasy detective serial Supernatural (filmed in British Columbia, Canada) 1 has generated a good deal of interplay between production elements, intertextual connections and fans. Supernatural ’s positioning of characters ( mise en scène ), the show’s reliance on other texts such as literary or film narratives that become part of a particular Supernatural episode or story arc, and the role of fans and consumer culture help create a permeable boundary between fact
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