Volume 7, Issue 1

(Spring/Summer 2021)

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Cover image: "Plague Trio," by IrenHorrors, used under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Editors' Note, by Leah Richards and John R. Ziegler (7-8)

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"I Had Painted Her Old and Vulgar": Empathetic Aesthetic Contemplation and Female Agentive Haunting in Vernon Lee's "Oke of Okehurst," by Ka Yan Lam (9-31)

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Abstract: This essay offers a gendered, psychoanalytical reading of the supernatural story “Oke of Okehurst; The Phantom Lover” by Vernon Lee, drawing on Lee’s insights into psychological aesthetics in terms of the empathic forces in art contemplation and her individualized, female voice. The haunted qualities of the portraits arouse the Freudian uncanny, and empathetic aesthetic contemplation involves aesthetic responses to the artwork in the narrative. The frame-tale structure is significant in that it creates a scenario for the painter’s contemplation of his own drawings and allows for comparison of his relationships with the four sitters. The possible psychological harm that resulted from the accusation of artistic ineptitude makes apparent the sexual charge inherent in the return of his repressed desire to revive his own reputation. His desire for vengeance is read in tandem with the sexual drive operating through a focalization of a male painter who has trouble drawing a female subject. A re-examination of the power struggles regarding gender and sexuality places Lee’s impressionistic approach to empathy within the larger framework of the sexual politics adopted by female writers on art and history who struggled for recognition among the male-dominated British aesthetic circle.

Keywords: aesthetics, art contemplation, empathy, “Oke of Okehurst,” psychological haunting, Vernon Lee

Antagonistic Nature: The Loss of Anthropocentric Authority in Eco-Horror of the 1970s and 80s, by Matthew Jones (33-47)

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Abstract: Ecological concerns and anxieties stemming from the effects of environmental damage became readily apparent within the North American consciousness starting in the post-World War II era. These fears manifested themselves in a variety of ways including the birth of a cycle of environmentally conscious horror films showing up on cinema screens beginning in the 1970s. This essay will examine how an important yet largely critically overlooked group of ecological horror films of that cycle transcend surface-level environmental concerns for the expression of deeper collective fears stemming from the potential loss of what will be referred to as anthropocentric authority. This concept revolves around humankind’s collective perception of dominance over the natural world. Four films will serve as case studies for this project: Frogs (1972), The Food of the Gods (1976) and Food of the Gods II (1989) and Alligator (1980). These texts will be read through the lens of oppositional representations of the uneasy relationships between humanity and nature. This approach will allow a proper exploration of the films’ articulations of a non-human agency, an anthropomorphized and intelligent nature with seemingly sentient human motives expressed in premeditated vengeance.

Keywords: anthropocentric authority, collective fears, eco-horror, non-human agency

Contagion Cluster

Monsters and Microbes: Evolving the Human in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and M. R. Carey’s Hungry Plague Novels, by Rhonda Knight (50-72)

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Abstract: This essay reads Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954) and M. R. Carey’s Hungry Plague Novels (2014, 2017) through the posthumanist theory of Donna Haraway and the monster theories of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Patricia MacCormack. In order to demonstrate changing conceptions of the human/monster binary, it traces the ways these novels provide a useful analysis of this sociologically-constructed border. Matheson and Carey explore the transformation from human bodies into monstrous bodies through infections by naturally-occurring micro-organisms. These authors focus on the scientific etiology of monsters rather than their supernatural roots. Through the act of biological transformation, these monstrous bodies evolve into posthuman bodies that can express a new physiology of Homo sapiens. Matheson and Carey examine how these posthumans create their societies as echoes of previous ones by embracing the stories and myths of their human predecessors.

Keywords: Carey, Matheson, monsters, posthuman, zombies

Clinical Vampirism: How Disease Fails to Explain Vampirism, by M. T. Bennett (73-94)

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Abstract: Humans seek to understand the unfamiliar. There are many attempts to explain supernatural phenomena, especially the vampire myth. Scientific explanations for vampires are often riddled with falsehoods and flaws. These pseudoscientific claims can have negative impacts. They may stigmatize people who suffer from very real debilitating illnesses, perpetuate false medical folklore, and taint scientific truth. The best way to correct this is by developing an understanding of these diseases and how these explanations are false. Written by a medical student, this article illustrates the flaws in scientific explanations for vampirism and how they may cause poor consequences.

Keywords: clinical vampirism, medicine, misinformation, pseudoscience, vampire

Inoculation and Contagion: The Absence of Vaccination in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, by Octavia Cade (95-111)

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Abstract: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) treats vampirism as an infectious disease. It describes how the private infection of an individual can, over time, result in a risk to public health as vampirism spreads throughout a population. It is curious, then, especially as two of the main characters are medical doctors, that Dracula does not engage with the idea of potential immunity to this contagion, either by vaccination or by other methods of inoculation. Certainly, readers would be, at the time of publication, more than familiar with this medical practice. The Compulsory Vaccination Act of 1853 required individuals to be vaccinated against smallpox to ensure sufficient immunity within the general public, and vaccines for both cholera and rabies had been recently developed. Yet even with this pre-existing context, the potential for immunity against vampirism is roundly ignored within the text. A possible explanation for this absence lies in the presentation of vampirism as a metaphor for syphilis, a contagious disease which—during Stoker’s time and even today—one cannot be vaccinated against.

Keywords: disease, immunity, inoculation, syphilis, vaccine, vampirism


Book Reviews (113-133)

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Spirit Matters: Occult Beliefs, Alternative Religions, and the Crisis of Faith in Victorian Britain, by J. Jeffrey Franklin, reviewed by Jongkeyong Kim

The Mummy (Devil’s Advocates series), by Doris V. Sutherland, reviewed by Thomas Wilson

Spectral Characters: Genre and Materiality on the Modern Stage, by Sarah Balkin, reviewed by Heather Kelley

Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability, by Elizabeth B. Bearden, reviewed by Emily Price

Eco-Vampires: The Undead and the Environment, by Simon Bacon, reviewed by Annegret Märten

The Cultural Construction of Monstrous Children: Chapters on Anomalous Children from 1596 to the Present Day, Simon Bacon and Leo Ruickbie (eds.), reviewed by Sean Ferrier-Watson