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What lies beneath: orthodoxy and the occult in Victorian literature

Webb, Jessica 2010. What lies beneath: orthodoxy and the occult in Victorian literature. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the relationship between orthodox Christianity, quasi-religious movements, pseudo-science and the supernatural in both a pre- and post-Darwinian world, tracing it through fiction and non-fiction, and in novels, novellas and short stories by canonical authors Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, by the lesser known writers Catherine Crowe, and Arthur Machen, and in the non-Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Across this variety of literary forms, these very different authors all engage with the supernatural, with quasi religious creeds and with pseudo-science. Chapter One focuses on the presence of the supernatural and the spirit world in Edward Bulwer Lytton's Zanoni (1846), and The Haunted and the Haunters; or the House and the Brain (1859), Catherine Crowe's The Night-Side of Nature (1848), and Charles Dickens' Christmas stories. Chapter two explores George Eliot's use of superstition and medieval and Jewish mysticism in The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Daniel Deronda (1876), before considering Thomas Hardy's Anglo-centric approach to similar issues in The Return of the Native (1878), and "The Withered Arm" (1888). Chapter three discusses the late nineteenth century interest in spiritualism, Egyptology, and ancient religion as represented in Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan (1894) and Arthur Conan Doyle's "The King of Thoth" (1890) and "Lot No. 249" (1894). Overall, the thesis is concerned with the way "rational" Victorian society is constantly undermined by its engagement with the supernatural: the nineteenth century desire for empirical evidence of life after death proves, paradoxically, Victorian irrationality

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2017 15:27
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/55460

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