1st Edition

The Late Victorian Gothic
Mental Science, the Uncanny, and Scenes of Writing

ISBN 9781138261372
Published November 24, 2016 by Routledge
196 Pages

USD $59.95

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Book Description

Examining the automatic writing of the spiritualist séances, discursive technologies like the telegraph and the photograph, various genres and late nineteenth-century mental science, this book shows the failure of writers' attempts to use technology as a way of translating the supernatural at the fin de siècle. Hilary Grimes shows that both new technology and explorations into the ghostly aspects of the mind made agency problematic. When notions of agency are suspended, Grimes argues, authorship itself becomes uncanny. Grimes's study is distinct in both recognizing and crossing strict boundaries to suggest that Gothic literature itself resists categorization, not only between literary periods, but also between genres. Treating a wide range of authors - Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Du Maurier, Vernon Lee, Mary Louisa Molesworth, Sarah Grand, and George Paston - Grimes shows how fin-de-siècle works negotiate themes associated with the Victorian and Modernist periods such as psychical research, mass marketing, and new technologies. With particular attention to texts that are not placed within the Gothic genre, but which nevertheless conceal Gothic themes, The Late Victorian Gothic demonstrates that the end of the nineteenth century produced a Gothicism specific to the period.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; (Ghost)writing Henry James: mental science, spiritualism and uncanny technologies of writing at the fin de siècle; Sensitive to the invisible: photography and the supernatural in the Holmes stories, Arthur Conan Doyle's spiritualism and Francis Galton's composite portraits; Identities and powers in flux: mesmerism, hypnotism and George Du Maurier's Trilby; Ghostwomen, ghostwriting; Case study: Vernon Lee, aesthetics and the supernatural; Balancing on supernatural wires: the figure of the new woman writer in Sarah Grand's The Beth Book and George Paston's A Writer of Books; Postscript; Bibliography; Index.

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Hilary Grimes is an independent scholar living in Massachusetts, USA.


'Grimes’s analysis of Kipling’s Wireless with its use of the telegraph, automatic writing, and the possible channeling of the spirits of John Keats and Fanny Brawne is particularly intriguing and provides a historic link to contemporary gothic texts that use technology, such as the Internet and cell phones, as a conduit into the spirit world. Summing up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.' Choice 'The Late Victorian Gothic provides an interesting and detailed investigation of issues like spiritualism, mental science, hypnotism, which have lately been at the core of a renewed attention by Victorian literary critics. Such topics are well contextualized in the late Victorian social scene and actively linked to its multifaceted cultural dynamics... useful text for specialists in the field, as well as an enjoyable and valuable source for those who would like to extend their knowledge about late Victorian literature and culture'. Rivista di Studi Vittoriani '... lucid, smart and concise.' Victorian Studies ’...succeeds in revealing the interconnections between science and the supernatural in writings (both scientific and literary) in the 1880s and 1890s.’ The British Society for Literature and Science 'Hilary Grimes offers a valuable contribution to the recent growth of scholarship on the supernatural and spiritualism in the Victorian period generally and as it manifests in literature. Any scholar of the fantastic working in the late Victorian period should find this book a worthwhile read.' Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 'Grimes [offers] some interesting new readings of previously maligned literature. The book's discussion of how the supernatural and science were linked in scientific and fictional literature of the last two decades of the nineteenth century is undeniably its strength.' Supernatural Studies