Volume 8, Issue 1
To buy print copy of issue:
Editors’ Note, by Leah Richards and John R. Ziegler (7-8)
Monsters at the End of the World: Mary Shelley’s Complex Apocalypticism in The Last Man, by Catherine Alber (9-34)
Abstract: By introducing a devastating crisis into an already complex domestic political drama in her third novel, The Last Man (1826), Mary Shelley entwines politics with pestilence in a complicated dance, in which the political interrogates the pestilential and vice versa. Like her influences William Godwin and Thomas Malthus, the novel grapples with the question of how humanity’s future would be shaped by apocalyptic events. Some critics have read The Last Man as an argument in favor of Godwinian millennialism, but Shelley subverts the Godwinian ideal by introducing monster tropes in the forms of both the plague and her protagonist, Lionel. Others claim that Shelley sides with Malthus since the nascent republicanism of her future England is superseded by a catastrophic and thence Malthusian decline leading to the extinction of humankind. I argue, however, that Shelley’s employment of monster tropes allows her novel to interrogate and complicate the competing visions of the future of humanity posited by her father and his rival. Indeed, whereas Godwin is perhaps too idealistic, and Malthus too pessimistic, Shelley prefers to investigate a more realistic assessment of human nature, that of contradiction and inconsistency. In doing so she demonstrates her own political acumen and pragmatism.
Keywords: Mary Shelley, William Godwin, Thomas Malthus, plague literature, apocalypticism, abhuman, monster
“The Great Mother Look”: Harrowing Hell in Blackwood’s “The Damned,” by Kirk R. Swenson (35-59)
Abstract: In “The Damned” Algernon Blackwood repurposes the traditional ghost story to critique the psychopathology of religious dogmatism, reconceptualizing Hell as an apotheosis of the alienation and othering spawned by exclusionary beliefs. The story’s setting, a maledict estate known as The Towers, is perched over a spectral abyss where the psycho-social impacts of religious intolerance, particularly the exclusivist doctrines of evangelical Christianity, assume disturbing forms, demonstrating Blackwood’s mastery of S. L. Varnado’s concept of the “negative numinous.” While exposing the patriarchal nature of religious dogmatism, the story also critiques the physicalist bias of secular epistemology by ironizing the first-person narrator, Bill, whose doctrinaire positivism gratifies his sense of male authority while blinding him to the supernatural forces threatening The Towers. Ultimately, Bill serves as a foil for his sister, Frances, who offers a welcome counterpoint to her brother’s blinkered vision through her affiliations with the New Woman and feminist thought. As a compelling character who proves instrumental in saving the imperiled estate, she enriches the story’s timely critique of religion gone awry with an alternative spiritual vision reflective of early twentieth-century feminism.
Keywords: chthonic, empiricism, numinous, phallogocentric
The Devil Went Down to Norwich: In Defense of the Existence of Medieval Horror, by Gina Brandolino (61-88)
Abstract: In her late fourteenth-/early fifteenth-century book, Julian of Norwich vividly describes a diabolical attack that she endures on what she believed was her deathbed. This harrowing scene is rarely discussed by scholars and has never been identified as an example of horror, partly because few medieval scholars have shown interest in or knowledge of the genre, partly because of the axiomatic notion that the genre’s point of origin is the Enlightenment. By exploring similarities among encounters with the devil in Julian’s text and two iconic modern examples of horror, the films Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, I demonstrate that Julian’s account is best understood as horror, and that recognizing it as such amplifies other priorities in her text. More generally, I argue that identifying other medieval texts that participate in the genre will enrich not only those texts but also horror, which has a longer history than is usually acknowledged.
Keywords: devil, medieval, horror, Julian of Norwich, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby
Who’s Buried in Rebecca’s Crypt? The Existential Specter in Daphne du Maurier, by Blake Allmendinger (89-102)
Abstract: While acknowledging the influence of the Gothic romance and the Victorian novel on Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, this article considers the unexplored influence of contemporary philosophy, specifically existentialism, on the author’s best-known work. An existentialist interpretation of Rebecca enables the reader to glean additional insights into the novel, proposing answers to questions that the author leaves unresolved.
Keywords: Daphne du Maurier, Jean-Paul Sartre, Gothic romance, Victorian novel, existentialism
The Ghost as Psychological Disturbance: The Supernatural in Knut Hamsun’s “Damen fra Tivoli” and Arne Dybfest’s Ira, by Lisa Yamasaki (103-117)
Abstract: In the late 19th century, many Scandinavian writers focused on the psychological oppression of women through the examination of topics such as gender roles in marriage and women’s sexuality. Both Knut Hamsun and Arne Dybfest were more interested in the expression of psychological depth than in the direct social commentary of many of their peers, and both describe women’s trauma through reference to the supernatural. Hamsun’s short story “Damen fra Tivoli” (“The Lady of Tivoli”) and Dybfest’s novel Ira express the psychological tension that women endure in traumatic familial relationships and show how trauma renders them ghostlike.
Keywords: trauma, Knut Hamsun, Arne Dybfest, ghosts, motherhood, psychoanalysis
“Goggle-Eyed Gobbledygook,” “Ozark Howler Apocrypha,” and “Howladdendum,” by Mark Spitzer
Abstract: “Goggle-Eye Gobbledygook,” “Ozark Howler Apocrypha,” and “Howladdendum” are excerpts from Cryptozarkia, a bestiary of freaky Ozark hybrid studies forthcoming from Cornerstone Press in West Plains, Missouri. The cast includes hoop snakes, wampus cats, man-eating gator gars, bogus Ozark howlers, the mythical blue humans of Blowing Cave lore, the last rampaging American wild man, the notorious marauding Mexican crab tick, and much, much more. Via the avant-garde approach of investigative poetics, monster-spelunker Mark Spitzer hunts these enigmas down, interviews authorities, cites folklore and history, and boils down fact and fiction for the amusement of both skeptics and true believers. The result is a vivid, scholarly mosaic of how and why imaginations create mashups of the natural world gone crypto.
Keywords: cryptozoology, folklore, Ozark howler, fish tales, apocrypha, Ozarks
Book Reviews (137-156)
Choose PDF with all reviews from the print version or click on individual reviews for web versions
Monstrous Forms: Moving Image Horror across Media, by Adam Charles Hart, reviewed by Geneveive Newman
Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers: 1852-1923, edited by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger, reviewed by Rebecca Soares
Mountain Witches: Yamauba, by Noriko Tsunoda Reider, reviewed by Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.
Pamela Colman Smith: Artist, Feminist, Mystic, by Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, reviewed by Jill O’Connor
The Female Fantastic: Gendering the Supernatural in the 1890s and 1920s, edited by Lizzie Harris McCormick, Jennifer Mitchell, and Rebecca Soares, reviewed by Elizabeth Foley O’Connor
Household Horror: Cinematic Fear and the Secret Life of Everyday Objects, by Marc Olivier, reviewed by Zachary Sheldon