Locating the Gothic in British Modernity

BookLocating the Gothic in British Modernity

Locating the Gothic in British Modernity

Clemson University Press


May 1st, 2022



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The late-Victorian era has been extensively researched as a period of Gothic literature, and this study seeks to build upon this body of work by connecting the content of such studies to the early decades of the twentieth century, which are less often seen in terms of Gothic or supernatural literature. Beginning with the quintessentially urban Gothic space of fin de siècle London, as represented in classic texts such as Dracula and Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, the study proceeds to ask how the themes and energies which emerge in this moment evolve throughout the early twentieth century. In the ghost stories of authors like M.R. James, the Edwardian era witnesses an uncanny return to the rural English landscape, in which modernity encounters the re-emergence of suppressed fears and forces. After World War One, London again experiences a renewal of Gothic themes, with figures such as D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot representing the city as a stricken and desolate space, haunted by the trauma and ghosts of the recent conflict. That legacy of violence and loss is also evident in rural representations of place in the 1920s and 1930s, along with a renewed interest in supernaturalism and paganism found in authors like Sylvia Townsend Warner and Mary Butts. Ultimately, this study argues, this period of dramatic social and cultural change is shadowed by a corresponding evolution in Gothic literary representation, whether that is expressed through modernist experimentation or more conventional narrative forms.

Locating the Gothic in British Modernity is a scholarly achievement of great distinction, wide ranging, generously attentive to detail and genuinely manages to break new ground exploring this fascinating literary territory.’
Alan Price, Magonia Review of Books

'[Wiseman] reinvigorates discussion of the gothic in literature by showing its persistence from the late Victorian period into the modernist period... The writing is clear and purposeful throughout, rendering the book accessible to nonspecialists interested in 20th-century British literature.'
J. W. Moffett, CHOICE


Author Information

Sam Wiseman is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Erfurt and will be teaching at the university upon completion of this project. He has recently presented academic papers on M.R. James and Edith Nesbit, and is working on an article that will examine the role of tidal causeways in texts by Angela Carter, Susan Hill and Andrew Michael Hurley.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: Tracing the Modern Gothic9
1. The Strangely Mingled Monster: Gothic Invasions, Occupations, and Outgrowths in Fin de Siècle London21
I. Invading the Metropolis22
II. In Darkest England34
III. City of Nightmares46
IV. Half-town and Half-country58
2. The Old Subconscious Trail of Dread: Shadows, Animism, and Re-Emergence in the Rural World71
I. A Flare of the Pit72
II. The Whirlpool of Dreaming Life83
III. On the Borderlands of Fear92
IV. Counter-sites103
3. In the Black Ruins of the Frenzied Night: Spectral Encounters in Wartime and Postwar London117
I. A Richer Feast of Horror118
II. Hosts of Homeless Ghosts131
III. The Detested Habitation of the Dead140
IV. Grey Labyrinths149
4. From the Waste Land to the Dark Tower: Revitalizing the Rural Gothic in the Interwar Period161
I. Tales of Empty Houses162
II. Restoring the Ghostly Groves174
III. Dark Enchantments184
IV. Marshland and Granite, Heather and Stone195
Conclusion: Afterlives and Revenants of Gothic Modernity207