Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: writing (page 1 of 3)

Honours critical review – gothic literature

An essay I did for uni

Review of Danielle Carr’s (2013) Master of Arts thesis Psychological Reflections on Post – Modernist Gothic Literature

The nature of my research is to place the traditional forms of Gothic and dark romantic literature in a contemporary Australian setting, taking the genres away from their archetypal settings of castles, mansions and inserting them into the everyday, workaday world of the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. Danielle Carr’s thesis is titled Psychological Reflections on Post – Modernist Gothic Literature and her research parallels mine as she explored the psychological themes behind Gothic and dark romantic fiction, and separated them from their settings, thus enabling Gothic and dark romantic fiction to be effectively placed in any location. Additionally, Carr’s research includes creative components integrated into the thesis, which is a strategy I will use in my own research.

In spite of the title of Carr’s thesis including postmodernism, there is actual little emphasis devoted to this artistic movement. On the contrary, in form and shape, Carr adheres to traditional narrative structures in her creative works, with clear beginnings and endings, and no unreliable narrator techniques are used. In fact, as Patricia Waugh states, modernism is a fiction of consciousness, where postmodernism is one concerning itself with the fictionality of a text (Waugh cited in Nicol 2009, p. xvii). So postmodernism as a literary style is less interested in the working of the psyche or the soul than it is on the nature of the very text itself, using this definition. Another definition is that postmodernism is a blending of all styles to deliberately defy classification (Abrams 1999, p. 168). There is none of this experimentation in the thesis as Carr concentrates altogether on the nature of the Gothic and the dark romantic being fictions about the conscious. She makes a distinction between Gothic and dark romantic literature, stating that the latter is a subset of the former (Carr 2013, p. 5) and quotes Poe’s Ligeia as a salient example. She suggests that the seminal difference between the two is that dark romanticism features visionary, poetical writing. However, the distinction is often blurred as Dinçer points out that both are fictions of dark dreariness, usually concluding in an unhappy manner (Dinçer 2010, p. 220).

The methods Carr used were composing three creative works of varying length, The Conservatory, Psychosis and The Lady of Tangiers, then writing an exegesis on each, with an eye to psychological theory and how it can be applied to Gothic and dark romantic fiction. Carr worked alone on this thesis and there is no acknowledgement to any other contributor apart from a bibliography listing her sources. Psychological Reflections on Post – Modernist Gothic Literature draws heavily on the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (Carr 2013, p.3), particularly Jung’s theories of Self and what Jung called the archetypes: psyche and soul (Stevens 1994) in which Carr identifies as being critically important to Gothic literature. She argues that the literature itself would be ineffective without psychological insight or the application of psychological theory. The literary symbolism in Jung’s theories has been utilised in Carr’s first creative work in the thesis, The Conservatory, is a short piece the author has constructed in a deliberately antiquated style. Within, Carr implements Jung’s archetypes and his theories on the mandala – the circle. The mandala, according to Jung, was emblematic of the what he termed the “psychic transformation” (Jung cited in Stevens 1994). Carr uses this symbolism in her short story to illustrate how a mental state can come full circle. The Conservatory also deals with the matter of the Faustian bargain, where the protagonist is searching for the elixir of youth. Carr cites Goethe’s work as being seminal to the Gothic canon (Goethe cited in Carr 2013, p. 13) and she has her protagonist seemingly forsake his life for the pursuit of the elixir.

In her second creative work, Psychosis, Carr again applies the psychological theories of Freud with regards to the repression of bad memories (Freud cited in Carr 2013, p. 27). In her creative work, Carr suggests that repressed memories are not a natural mental state and there had to be division between the conscious and unconscious. The character of Melinda in Psychosis is redirecting her suppressed memories into “anxiety hysteria” (Carr 2013, p. 28) which Carr suggests is a subset of psychoanalysis. The hidden or obscured memory aspect posits itself into Gothic literature in terms of the unstated or understated, which Carr exemplifies with her mentioning of du Maurier’s Rebecca (du Maurier 1938) in which the titular character is deceased but exerts a palpable and dark influence throughout the novel (Carr 2013, p. 5). So, Carr suggests that what is figuratively buried beneath the surface can be an effective ploy in Gothic and dark romantic literature.

Her third creative work, The Lady of Tangiers, is a novelette that draws upon Freud’s theories of the uncanny (Freud cited in Carr 2013, p. 49). Here, a unrequited love story is made ominous by the environment itself: the Sahara Desert. The visitors to this harsh land are a group of English aristocrats going for a sortie from the safer confines of the Moroccan city of Tangiers (or Tangier as it is more commonly known). Among the sands and the harsh winds, they encounter the supernatural and the romantic interest of the protagonist vanishes. Carr in her exegesis of this story makes comparisons with the colonial experiences of the British in Australia: the strangers in a strange land trope, thus shifting the genre of the story into the postcolonial. She states that Gothic fiction set in lands that have been colonised are by their very nature haunted (Mafe cited in Carr 2013, p. 50) which suggests that the land itself remembers or is capable of sentient deed. This is an important facet to my research as I intend to employ a similar methodology with my own creative work: imbuing the land itself with a slumbering malevolence.

Much of the thesis is a work of juxtaposition and intertextuality; comparing her creative works to previously published material and placing them into the Gothic and dark romantic canon. Interestingly, she makes comparisons between The Conservatory and previously published material insofar as stating that the garden is a place of innocence (Carr 2013, p.17) and that this innocence can be inverted by the application of Gothic and dark romantic tropes, especially those sourced from philosophical literature such as Jung and Freud. Thus, I feel that Carr is making a point here in her thesis that Gothic fiction is largely one of upending order and completion, and replacing it with disorder and unresolved issues. This is a crucial key in my own research as other works I have studied have drawn similar conclusions (Chudy, Cook & Costello 2010).

To summarise, Carr makes repeated references to psychology and symbolism and their importance in Gothic and dark romantic literature. There is stress made that these forms of literature depend heavily upon the usage of symbol and metaphor for their potency. Indeed, Carr draws a conclusion through exegesis and exposition that Gothic fiction would not work without such artifice. At its very core, both forms of fiction are works of psychology, where the fear and dread, or the sin and guilt, are sui generis. I do not believe that Carr has made a totally effective use of her fiction to convey the points she is making as all three works are in need of editing, as there are numerous phrasing and dialogue issues with them. Regardless, the core ideas are firmly there and the exegeses are sound, providing further avenues into deeper research. In summary, this thesis succeeds as an article of research into Gothic and dark romantic fiction, particularly in an Australian setting.


Abrams, M 1999, A Glossary of Literary Terms (7th ed.), Thomson Publishing, New York

Carr, D 2013, ‘Psychological Reflections on Post – Modernist Gothic Literature’, MA thesis, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria

Chudy, T, Cook, N & Costello, M 2010, A ‘ruined or fractured’ sublime: voice, identity and agency in reading and writing the gothic/noir in subtropical regional Australia, Strange Bedfellows: Refereed Conference Papers of the 15th Annual AAWP Conference, 2010

Dinçer, F 2010, The light and dark Romantic features in Irving, Hawthorne and Poe, The Journal of International Social Research, 3(10), pp. 218-224

du Maurier, D 1938, Rebecca, Victor Gollancz, London

Nicol, B 2009, The Cambridge introduction to postmodern fiction, Cambridge University Press, New York

Stevens, A 1994, Jung, a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford

One night at the table (play)

A play I did for uni


TRAVIS A welder by trade in his late forties, loves his
cricket and his footy. Working class traditionalist.

LISA His nineteen year old daughter, first year uni student
Progressive minded.


A dining room with a long oblong table in the centre. The table is set for a meal for two. A single fluorescent light on the ceiling. Sparse furnishings – some paintings of nature scenes on the walls, a wall unit with associated knick-knacks. There is a kitchen in the background.


It is dinner time. Light through kitchen window gives the impression of twilight.


AT RISE: (LISA is bringing two plates of food from the kitchen to the dining room table. TRAVIS is sitting at the table already, busy with a mobile phone.)

(Reaches table)
If I have to cook at Christmas, I’m gonna scream.

(still looking down at phone)
Hmm? Well, we can’t eat grass for Chrissy, can we?

No, but we can have something cold. You know? Salads, cold meat, rolls and stuff. We don’t need to cook. You’re too stingy to buy air-con for this place.

(looks up at LISA as she sets the plates down)
Stingy? You know how much a decent reverse cycle air-con costs? To say nothing of the power bill. So much for Tony nuking the carbon tax – freakin’ bills keep going up. Nothing’s getting cheaper.

(sits down)
More reason to have cold stuff. You don’t want high bills, then don’t make me cook at Chrissy. I buy cold stuff from Coles – coleslaw, green salad mix, mesclun and a bunch of sliced meat, and we’re good to go.

(shaking his head)
Bullshit. That sounds like a granny’s Sunday lunch at the nursing home.

Think of the environment, Dad. If I don’t cook at Chrissy, there’s less carbon polluting the air, making summer hotter. Everyone wins.

Except for me. I get rabbit food for Chrissy. (stops eating and glances at LISA) What the hell is a “mesclun?”

It’s NOT rabbit rood. Look, you don’t get enough vitamin C and iron, Dad. All that shit you eat for lunch now, pies and sausage rolls and so on. Unhealthy crap, every bit of it. Dr. Gordon at uni, he’s a geologist and he says that pies have thickener added to them to bulk them out. That stuff’s carcinogenic.

It’s what?

And you’re making me cook in forty degree weather. All because you won’t buy an air-con. Well, I’m bringing in that big fan from out in the garage and I’ll be gunning it all day if I have to slave away in there.

I don’t think it works.
(HE chews, and stares down at his food)
What’s this purple stuff?

It’s cabbage.

Purple cabbage? Really? I think you’ve added some of your Greenie chemicals to it. I’m gonna end up a socialist now, aren’t I?

(shakes head slowly)
Dad! It’s a cultivar of cabbage that’s purple. It’s the same damned thing as regular cabbage. Brassica oleracea, the cabbage of yore. Same stuff, trust me. Another teacher at uni, Professor Wilkins, he teaches calculus and says cabbage’s iron content is as good as spinach. There you go, an expert, so it’s good for you, green or purple.

You’re not making this shit for Chrissy, I can tell you that right now.

Shit? My cooking is shit?

(covers his mouth apologetically)
Well…no, just this cabbage.

But it’s still something I cooked! Me! Did you call mum’s cooking shit?

No. Of course not…um. I’m just saying I prefer cabbage that’s the right colour.

Try it.
(emphatically points at her father’s food with a fork).
Just give it a go. I bet you like it.

All right, it’s good.

Told you. We’re having it for Chrissy.

Yeah, but you gotta cook it, don’t you? Slaving away in the kitchen.

Boiling vegetables isn’t the same thing as roasting stuff in an oven. I can make cabbage, toss some salads together, some nice sliced meat, like ham, mortadella, pastrami, some hot English mustard, cranberry sauce. What do you think of that?


If I get all the meats and salad vegetables Christmas Eve, it’ll only take like ten minutes to sort out Chrissy lunch. There’s this guy in America, Doctor Oz, a world-famous medico. He says that doing things like slaving away in the kitchen isn’t a productive use of your time. He’s an expert on health, so he would know all about time and motion, right? Makes perfect sense to me.

Yeah, he sounds like a genius. Still don’t think it’s right not to cook for Chrissy. It’s a tradition, you know? We’ve been cooking big baked dinners and lunches for Christmas for donkey’s years. What would your mum think of not having a roast dinner for lunch? Think of what she’d say?

She’d say “buy a damn air conditioner, you cheapskate”

They cost thousands for a decent one. Already told you that. I’m not made of money so think of my bank balance, please.

Get a halfway decent one then. I’m still getting that fan out of the shed if you’re gonna make me cook.

It’s un-Australian not to have a roast at Chrissy. Like not having Coon in the fridge.

Plenty of Australians have salads and cold meals at Chrissy. Coon cheese is nasty, and it’s racist. Just ask that guy in Toowoomba.

(gives LISA a long, hard stare)
No true Australian has cold meals at Chrissy, Lisa. It’s completely not dinky-di.
(TRAVIS turns to the audience)
I just can’t understand it with her. This family has had Christmas dinners for ages, since I don’t know when. Nice, hot, big Chrissy lunches and dinners. Sometimes turkey, sometimes roast beef or ham, but I gotta say, I don’t care for turkey much. The Yanks love their turkey, but I reckon it tastes like old mutton. But either way, we don’t have cold stuff for Chrissy. I don’t care if it’s summer here and the wallpaper’s falling off the walls – it’s how we do things. How we’ve always done it. It’s our way and there’s no reason to change it. We cook for Chrissy. It’s too easy, you know? You don’t fix things that aren’t broken, and a good old fashioned Chrissy lunch, with ham, taters, asparagus and stuff is how it’s good. Not damned salad and sliced meat from Coles’ Deli. If you want that, have it for lunch some other day, but not Christmas Day. Traditions are traditions for a cause and there’s no godly reason to change them.
(turns back to LISA)
It’s not ridgey-didge, Lisa. It’s not what any true Australian would do.

I guess we’re not true Australians then. I’m embarrassed to be an Australian sometimes anyway, Dad.
(LISA turns to the audience)
People booing champion Aboriginal football players, our speaker of Parliament on the take and all that. Our manufacturing base is no more, everything has been outsourced or sent overseas. Everything! And people need to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution! Harmonisation of the people! Reconciliation. What Dad wants me to do is indicative of the old-ways zeitgeist. The woman cooks, the man sits and watches, goddamnit! If only Mum had stood up for herself more with him, but no…old school she was, pathological housewife, born female to be nothing else than a sow-breeder, kitchen slave and dogsbody. At least she had the sense to finally realise her place in life was tainted. I wonder if she’ll even call us this Christmas from wherever she is now. I just know Dad spoke shit about her cooking too. Well, no more!
(turns back to TRAVIS)
I’m gonna go get that fan. If it blows up then you watch – I won’t need to cook anything this Christmas.
(LISA gets up and EXITS through the kitchen)

(TRAVIS grunts and returns to his mobile phone)
I wanted to put ten bucks on that four year old I saw at Rosehill, whatever it’s bloody name was. How the hell do I place a bet again?…What do you mean, no credit? I just got paid yesterday…ah stuff it, I’ll go down to the TAB. Can’t beat the old way.

(LISA returns to the dining room, carrying a tall metal fan. She puts it in front of her father and plugs it in to a power point.)
Watch this thing conk out!
(SHE turns on the fan. It starts up smoothly, oscillating strongly.)

Looks alright to me. Look at it go. If it wasn’t gonna work, it would’ve stopped by now.

I thought you said this probably wouldn’t work? It looks like it’s never been used to me. Probably hasn’t been.

(another long and hard stare to LISA)
Are you gonna cook Chrissy lunch?

Hmm…yeah why not?

Good girl, I knew tradition would win out in this house…what’s a mesclun?

Honours coursework – annotated bibliography

Something I did for uni

Wells H 1894, The Red Room, The Idler, March 1896

H. G. Wells’ short story stresses that fear is an internalisation, and that hauntings exist only in the mind of those who take their fears with them to an ostensibly haunted location. This brief and seminal work is an important addition to the Gothic canon as for practically the first time in literature, there were no outward forces involved in the fear and horror experienced by the protagonist – no ghosts or phantoms.

This short story is useful to research as it much as a work on psychology as it is Gothic horror. The protagonist’s fears trump his reason and rationality, blinding him to the putative reality that there is nothing in the Red Room other than he himself. This inwardness and loss of control is integral to the Gothic genre as it is a fiction of emotion and solitude in the face of a frightening scenario.
This work is also relevant to my research as it demonstrates that fear, as an internalisation, is not limited to dungeons and mansions, in spite of the setting. It shows through narrative that the sensation of lonely fear is apt in any situation or environment, therefore it is an appropriate work for research and the purposes of intertextuality.

Turcotte G 1998, ‘Australian Gothic’, in Mulvey Roberts, M (ed), The Handbook to Gothic Literature, Macmillan, Basingstoke

Within this book chapter, Turcotte discusses that the innate nature of the vast Australian landscape had a daunting and oppressive quality to the European colonisers upon their arrival. Thus, Turcotte argues, this made the Australian setting ideal for Gothic literary works. This argument is tempered by the exposition of early literary failures to account for Australia’s Indigenous people, and as Turcotte states, the country was too new and immature for early writers to consider it in possession of a Gothic legacy.

This trend of ignoring the original inhabitants and their relationship to their land continued in Gothic literature, Turcotte points out, until fairly recently, with the advent of newer fictional approaches and thinking in the 1960s, namely in the works of Patrick White, Thomas Keneally and Frank Moorhouse.
Turcotte’s research is chronological and features mostly creative works, beginning with the earliest Gothic fiction by Barron Field in 1823 (a collected body of poetry) through to the writers emerging on the scene at the time this chapter was written (1998). It is useful and relevant to research as it gives a clear and concise chronological outline of Gothic fiction in Australia.

Dinçer, F 2010, The light and dark Romantic features in Irving, Hawthorne and Poe, The Journal of International Social Research, 3(10), pp. 218-224

Dinçer argues that American dark romanticism is a natural evolution from the literary Romantic movement that began in Europe in the 1820s. The author has chosen three seminal works of American dark romanticism specifically to illustrate this profession. While doing so, Dinçer delineates what he perceives to be the difference between light and dark romanticism. He states that Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle is an example of light romanticism; full of hope, light and colour. Dinçer cites Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as dark romanticism, due to the underlying and pervasive feelings of guilt and sin. The author also examines the various horror stories of Edgar Allan Poe and their themes of gloominess, fate and sad introspection.

This paper is of use to research as it clearly outlines the themes and moods that these three American authors used in their works. Dinçer argues that dark romantic fiction is one of bleak revelation, where new knowledge leads to grim realisation and the general atmosphere is one of brooding loneliness in mind and spirit. As such, this work will provide a valuable resource as to the methods employed in crafting dark romantic works.

Correa, D & Owens, W (eds) The Handbook to Literary Research, Routledge, London

The editors of this book have compiled a comprehensive resource on the various methods of literary research. The purpose of this book is to guide students and researchers through logical steps in methodology to produce accurate, concise and well-argued papers on any literary subject. The methods used by the editor include compiling a step-by-step approach to literary research, employing the talents of various authors across several different fields, including interdisciplinary work and editing texts.

Apart from traditional printed sources, this book also deals with the ever-growing abundance of research material that is available online, with strategies specifically written to best utilise the internet and electronic databases without becoming lost in the virtual world. The book is especially useful as it is a purposely written guidebook on research, and gives clear tools on how to plan and edit a thesis or paper, and strategies on presentations. It demonstrates methods and plans for proper and effective research and as such is both highly relevant and of great use.

Chudy, T, Cook, N & Costello, M 2010, A ‘ruined or fractured’ sublime: voice, identity and agency in reading and writing the gothic/noir in subtropical regional Australia, Strange Bedfellows: Refereed Conference Papers of the 15th Annual AAWP Conference, 2010

In this paper, the three authors demonstrate that the landscape and degraded environment of the Northern Rivers is a prime setting for Gothic literature. They draw upon their own experiences as residents in the area, as well as from Australian creative literature and non-fictional sources. In the paper, the authors draw the conclusion that Gothic literature is a work of unresolved emotions and unsettled relationships with their environments. Thus, the Northern Rivers, with its huge swathes of cleared forest, sundered Indigenous tenure and humid summer heat is a prime setting for Gothic literature.

This paper is of great benefit to research as it demonstrates that Gothic literature can exist and flourish beyond its traditional confines in European fiction. The authors cite a variety of Australian works (including their own) that ably show that Australian landscapes, and in particular, the subtropical regions, are choice places fertile with possibilities for Gothic fiction. The findings of the authors show that there is much yet to uncover in this genre and is ripe for further study. In summary, this paper is eminently useful for research as it explicitly demonstrates through exegesis and exposition that the Northern Rivers is a productive location for Gothic literature.

Hogle, J (ed) 2002, The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Literature, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

This book traces the history of Gothic literature from its early days in French and British writing to the modern postcolonial period. The editor has sourced different scholars whose specialities lay in differing eras and sub-genres of Gothic literature and has compiled a comprehensive chronology of the fiction. The underlying theme that the various authors have highlighted is humanity versus the unknowable. Common is the idea that foreign places and climates are as alien and oppressive to the newcomer as the darkest dungeon or dustiest mansion. This aspect is useful as it shows that Gothic fiction can readily transcend the oft-held illusion that it is about haunted castles and dungeons.
There is a chapter on postcolonial Gothic literature which deals with the literary theory concept of “Other” and how Europeans viewed their subjugated peoples and the landscapes in which they dwelt. This is of relevance to research as the Northern Rivers is a region that was inhabited (and still is) by Indigenous people and their cultures for many millennia before the advent of European colonialism. The sense of “Other” is strong in the region and this book, particularly the chapter on postcolonialism will be of tremendous benefit to research.

Dawson, C 2006, A practical guide to research methods, How To Books, Oxford

This book aims to guide a student through the research process using a chosen methodology. It is similar in scope to the Correa & Owens book annotated earlier, though it is directed at entry level and gives instruction in more basic English. The author presents the book in logical order, from what question is the researcher trying to answer through to ethic concerns in research. It differs also from the Correa & Owens book in that there are chapters on interviewing techniques and constructing questionnaires, with less emphasis on online research methodologies.

This work is not as useful as the Correa & Owens book as it lacks that book’s comprehensive treatment of research methodologies. It also places less stress upon traditional book and journal researching methods in favour of more interactive approaches such as focus groups and face to face interviews. However, it is a smaller and more compact volume than the Correa & Owens book and will have some use as an adjunct to that work.

Lovecraft H 1926, The Outsider, Weird Tales, April 1926

The Outsider has been interpreted as Lovecraft’s setting himself against the world, or placing himself beyond human company while obviously still desiring it. He is outside, but wishes to be within, among his fellow people, but it fated to be shunned or misunderstood. While this seminal short story is not often regarded as Gothic fiction, there exists within it many of the themes and tropes of the genre; loneliness, unease of mood, unresolved tragedy and a brooding melancholy air that pervades the story. The Outsider truly is a story about a human being totally and utterly alone, and this aspect gives it a weighty sense of darkness.

This story has great relevance and practical use in research as it is subject to varied interpretation with regards to Gothic fiction themes. It could be seen as a dream and or as allegory; a being that has spent an eternity existing in tedium suddenly sparked into some kind of existentialist motion and a search for meaning and truth.

Smith, A 2007, Gothic literature, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh

This book is an adjunct to the Hogle book mentioned previously. It differs from that work in many ways, not the least of which is its simpler English style and even stricter adherence to a timeline. The book begins with a multi-page chronology, listing what the author views as key works of Gothic fiction by year, both in novel form and those of shorter format. Using this tightly-formatted chronology, the author compiles a history of the fiction dating from the 18th century.

There is a preponderance of attention given to European and American works with little examined from elsewhere in the world, however, this book is also aimed at students researching Gothic fiction whereas the Hogle work is a more formal “reader’s companion”. This aspect makes it both relevant to research and of great use, and the amount of student resources included in the book make up for its shortcomings with regard to concentrating on American and European Gothic fiction.

Hawthorne, N 1850, The Scarlet Letter, Ticknor, Reed & Fields, Boston

This work by Hawthorne questions the basic nature of sin and guilt as well as one of the hallmark works of dark romanticism. The author sourced the basic ideas for this story from the events surrounding the Salem witch trials in 17th century New England and within he postulates that guilt and sin are concepts that can eat away at a person. It is also a work of redemption and rebirth, with the lead character attaining salvation by the story’s end. The Scarlet Letter is an integral work in the dark romantic canon, and demonstrates that darkness and danger lie within the psyche, in a framework of a society consumed with the expunging of sin and guilt.

This story is invaluable to research as it clearly shows through deed and narrative that guilt and sin are destructive forces to the individual as well as the society constrained by them. Additionally, there are themes of revenge and envy throughout, showing that these self-generated emotions are internalisations and can exist independent of the environment.

Honours proposal – Gothic fiction in a modern Australian setting

This is the honours proposal I did to get accepted into BA(Hons) this year.

For my honours year, I propose to both research Gothic fiction in a modern Australian setting and write a story in this genre. According to Gerry Turcotte, in the eyes of the colonial British, the Australian continent was a grotesque land, peopled by monsters, and was the dungeon of the world (Turcotte 1998). While this view certainly had racial undertones, it also accentuated a remote and sinister nature that the early colonisers would have felt. I wish to explore this remoteness in greater detail, employing the genre methods of Gothic fiction and dark romanticism. This fits in with the supervisor’s stated interest of the role of the Gothic in Australian fiction.

My aim with this research project is to explore the core concepts of Gothic fiction in a contemporary Australian setting, namely the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, in that behind the everyday world of the Australian twenty-first century, there is scope for the dark subtleties of the unknown and supernatural. There is also scope for exploration into the genre of dark romanticism made popular by the nineteenth century writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. According to one book, this genre is seemingly held in higher regard than Gothic fiction, as when Gothic literature is mentioned, there is a flippant tendency to classify it all as “ghosts, demons, trapdoors, castles” where works with a dark romantic theme such as Wuthering Heights or Absalom, Absalom! are held in higher regard (Thompson cited in Novak 1976, pp 516-517). Dark romanticism fictions are works of melancholy, loneliness, introspection, loss and so forth, and frequently depict outcasts from society (University of Delaware 2011).

For a previous undergraduate class, I wrote a 5000 word story conflating the Gothic and dark romantic genres, where I used two previously published works, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft and the Time Machine by H. G. Wells, as inspiration in a pastiche (Lovecraft 1926, Wells 1895, Booth 2016). The emphasis in my story was on the loneliness of the two characters and the innate loneliness of the worlds they found themselves in and there were additional questions raised as to character identity and love. So, I have a solid grounding in being able to produce creative works in these two genres.

My research therefore will be about bringing these two genres into a contemporary Australian setting. There is more than adequate potential for quality research here, particularly using Turcotte’s paper as an entry point, which will lead to contemporary works by Australian authors in this field, such as Helen Hodgman, Christopher Koch and Chloe Hooper, and beyond. With this, I believe that my story and exegesis will be well-placed in the realm of Australian Gothic fiction, and will add to it positively.

Booth P 2016, The Outsider and the Eloi, unpublished manuscript

Lovecraft H 1926, The Outsider, Weird Tales, April 1926

Novak M 1976, The Gothic imagination: Essays in dark romanticism (book review) , Nineteenth Century Fiction, 30(4), pp. 516-519

Turcotte G 1998, ‘Australian Gothic’, in Mulvey Roberts, M (ed), The Handbook to Gothic Literature, Macmillan, Basingstoke

University of Delaware 2011, Dark romanticism, University of Delaware Library, viewed 1 February 2016, http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/exhibits/romanticism/

Wells H 1895, The Time Machine, William Heinemann, London

Critical review – exegesis

An essay I did for uni. This is an exegesis for the story posted here.

My story is a pastiche of two separate previously published works, the novella The Time Machine by the English author H. G. Wells (Wells 1895) and The Outsider, a short story by the American author H. P. Lovecraft (Lovecraft 1926). The text I used for The Time Machine is the British Heinemann edition which differs textually from the American Holt edition (Bergonzi 1960).

The story is a pastiche in the sense that it imitates the style and form of these two stories, as well as the themes inherent in them (Greene et al. 2012). As such, it is also a work of writing back, a form of intertextuality. The moods I wished to convey in the story were alienation from society at large, sundered romance, and the deep oppressive landscapes that were common in Gothic horror fiction. With the 4000 word draft, I explored differing viewpoints, first and third person, and with Wells’ character of Weena I used both techniques, where for the Outsider, I remained in first person for his entire narrative.

One experiment I used was to convey Weena’s first person narrative in italics, but with advice from the assessor, I deemed this approach to be unsuccessful. Likewise, shifting tenses from past to present with Weena’s different viewpoints also did not work effectively in the story. I struggle with tenses in the course of my writing in any case, and this extra piece of literary flair added a level of unneeded complexity. So, in the final draft, I shifted all the tenses to past and removed the italics.

In creating the pastiche, I needed to look at what the strengths were of both stories. The Time Machine can be read as a socio-political discourse on the differences between the working class and the privileged who live off the former’s labour. The Outsider is a story that posits the existence of a lonely being, what English author William Hope Hodgson termed the “abhuman”, used first in Hodgson’s novel The Night Land to describe those who live in complete separation from normal human society (Hodgson 1912). This is to say the Outsider ordinarily dwells beyond all human contact and companionship, and indeed in Lovecraft’s story, when he encounters other people, they react in fright and flee from him as if he is something grotesque.

My Outsider was written with similar intent. He is a nameless entity who exists as an abhuman, separated from any lasting or meaningful contact. I stress meaningful here as his meeting with Weena is more enigmatic for him than any other emotional aspect in the end. He questions what and who she is, but eventually accepts she is something transient traversing his world. One of the keystone characteristics of Lovecraft’s writing was that he purposefully left many things unexplained, frequently using words such as “unmentionable”, “inexplicable” or “indescribable” (Smith 2011). Therefore the Outsider, what he is and what he may represent is mostly up to reader interpretation through allusion and mood, something I believe I have achieved with my story.

The character of Weena is not so nebulous. Wells describes her and her core nature solidly in The Time Machine and speculates on the evolutionary history of her race, the Eloi (Wells 1895). He depicts her and the Eloi as simple-minded hedonists however Wells goes beyond this modest type analysis with Weena once the Time Traveller rescues her. He states earlier in the novella that the Eloi have a distinct lack of interest in him after initial curiosity (Wells 1895, pp. 41-42) yet Weena remains a faithful companion until the end, sleeping in the crook of his arm.

This possibly indicates that the latent humanity in the Eloi has been awakened, and the desire for on-going love and attention goes outside of any hedonistic need. In several places through the novella, the Time Traveller puts Weena before more urgent concerns. In fact, one scholar suggests that Weena almost derails the novella (Sayeau 2005) by distracting the Time Traveller from his quest to restore his machine and leave her time.

Perhaps then Wells was inhibited by mores and self-censorship to want to go beyond the child-like clinging nature he imbued her with. I have gone some way to redress this lack of adult feminine character by giving Weena a voice. She is in love with the Time Traveller, whom she names the “Tall Man”. It is a new and wondrous experience to her and when the Time Traveller apparently abandons her in the forest fire, she feels heartbreak and rage at his supposed betrayal. She further laments that she and the Time Traveller never connected at a romantic level due to them misinterpreting each other.

Her character at this point ties in with that of the Outsider as they are both people who are figuratively and emotionally lost. One of the key points the assessor made with the draft was the two stories needed to be tied in together more effectively and with my edits for the final draft, I emphasised the abject loneliness each of the two characters felt trapped in dark worlds they did not understand. I stressed this characteristic as it is one of the hallmarks of Gothic fiction (Gamer 2006). Where the Outsider’s loneliness was something he knew he was fated to have, there was a momentary need for companionship when he saw Weena.

Her loneliness derived from being outside of her comfort zone, away from the river and the huge decrepit building she called home. In the Outsider’s world she had an opportunity to go somewhere else, a choice not possible to the Outsider. He understands then, or at least theorises, that his world and hers are polar opposites. Unlike the Time Traveller, the Outsider perceives Weena to be an adult and thinks of her as a woman by the story’s end. Accordingly, he believes his own world to be an invention of his psyche and Weena’s presence to be symbolic of things denied to him.

In summary, this story was difficult to write and revise as my sympathies lay with the character of Weena. There was no emotional detachment in her nature like the Outsider possesses. She is deeply emotional and empathetic, and readily hurt and confused by the new feelings the Time Traveller placed upon her. In the end they were not that dissimilar, as there was nothing else like them either in her world or his. They were both outsiders.


Bergonzi, B 1960, The publication of The Time Machine 1894-5, The Review of English Studies, vol. 11(41), pp. 42-51

Gamer, M 2006, Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception and Canon Formation, Cambridge University Press, UK

Greene, R,  Cushman, S,  Cavanagh, C, Ramazani, J, Rouzer, P, Feinsod, H, Marno, D & Slessarev, A (eds) 2012, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Princeton University Press, New Jersey

Hodgson, W 1912, The Night Land, Eveleigh Nash & Grayson, London

Lovecraft, H 1926, The Outsider, Weird Tales, April

Sayeau, M 2005, H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and the “odd consequence” of progress, Contemporary Justice Review, vol. 8(4), pp. 431-445

Smith, P 2011, Re-visioning Romantic-era Gothicism: An introduction to key works and themes in the study of H.P. Lovecraft, Literature Compass, vol. 8(11), pp. 830-839

Wells, H 1895, The Time Machine, William Heinemann, London

The 85000 word challenge

Over at the writing thread of the Whirlpool forums, a challenge was issued recently. Before the 31 March, 2016, the takers of the challenge are to write an 85000 word novel. I accepted the challenge, despite the fact I’m working on a couple of other stories.

When I write, I usually revise what I’ve written the next time I look at it. Not on this occasion. There’s minimal editing and I’m simply putting down whatever comes to mind, and going with the creative flow.

The story? Science fiction, and it’s based around an idea that I’ve had developing for some time. Several hundred years in the future, most people have left Earth for other worlds. Left behind were about 100 million people and they banded together to redesign the world in a self-sustaining ecological manner, and based their society on an anarchic meritocracy.

Through huge engineering projects, the old continents were broken up or shifted around, allowing for better oceanic flow, thus allowing the world’s land to receive more reliable (and higher amounts of) rainfall. Then the world was divided up into preserves for nature, called Greenbelts, which humans living in smaller regions surrounded by the Greenbelts.

The tale starts with a character called Jacqueline 5146 Advanced, who finds herself on trial for manslaughter and possession of alcohol and cocaine. She dodges the manslaughter charge, but isn’t so lucky in regards to the others as drinking booze and doing drugs are serious crimes in the future age that is dominated by logic and reason.

The trouble is, she was employed at the time by one of her world’s more influential people…and questions were asked: why did he have booze and cocaine? Some people are not happy about these polite enquiries and seek to eliminate anyone that knows anything. Including Jacqui.

Life has now become very interesting for Miss 5146 Advanced…(and yes, there is a perfectly logical explanation for her silly name.)

Once this tale is done, and I’ve edited it, I’ll put it up here.

Postmodernist structures in Australian fiction (essay)

An essay I did for uni.

My life as a fake

Australian author Peter Carey’s novel My life as a fake was first published in Australia in 2003 by Random House (Carey 2003). It is a take on the fake literary identity theme, with an author deliberately creating an identity for the purposes of fooling either the reading public or the literati. At its heart, it is a pastiche of the Ern Malley controversy which was a literary imposture from the 1940s; a case of two men wishing to debunk modernist poetry by proving that gibberish was not only publishable but widely admired (Nolan & Dawson 2004, p. x) and according to Nolan and Dawson, this controversy has remained the touchstone literary hoax in Australia (ibid), despite intervening hoaxes such as the Demidenko case.

Not only is it a creative comment upon literary hoaxes, but it is a work of intertextuality. My life as a fake references and pays homage to not only the Ern Malley hoax, but Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus (Shelley 1969) by having the invented character of Bob McCorkle take on a life of its own. As Kampmark states, the character Chubb did not expect his creation to come to life (Kampmark 2015) instead and like Ern Malley, McCorkle was devised to ridicule an object of torment. McCorkle, like Frankenstein’s monster, takes out its ire on its creator. At one point in the book, he kidnaps Chubb and takes him “quite far north” (Carey 2003 p. 76) and Chubb, understandably, fears for his safety. As an aside, the realisation of Bob McCorkle where he becomes an embodiment of Chubb’s innermost urges and desires pays homage to the Tibetan Buddhist concept of tulpa or “thoughtform” (David-Neel 1929) where through dint of extraordinary faith and belief, an independent emanation can arise from an individual and live their own life. Like McCorkle, the tulpa can also prove challenging to be rid of.

According to Ashcroft, Peter Carey has been fascinated by the concepts of “the narrative function of truth and the ambivalence of lies” his entire writing career (Ashcroft 2004, p28). My life as a fake is a prime exemplification of what is truth or lie. Throughout the work, much is made of whether the characters are living in the real world, or if they are figments. Even the embodied McCorkle may or may not have any real truthful presence. This takes the hoax of Ern Malley to a literary, logical conclusion – that McCorkle is as real as Ern Malley if the reader is willing to believe it., but subjectively real in Australian way. This, according to Ashcroft, is what binds both the Ern Malley experience and My life as a fake together. Right down to the almost shared characters of Vogelsang and Vogelesang, which was the spelling used in Carey’s book (Carey 2005, p56). Vogelsang was the name of the South Australian police officer involved in the prosecution for indecency of the two men behind the Ern Malley hoax (Ashcroft 2004, p. 30). There is something quintessentially Australian about poking fun at authority figures in strange or off-handed ways, especially when the lines between truth and lie become blurred or obfuscated. Ashcroft further states that while the oeuvre of Ern Malley has engaged critics and literary analysts, “his” work remains purely textual, and “demonstrates the textuality of all lives” (Ashcroft 2004, p31). This is a salient endorsement of intertextuality, and shows that no work of fiction can be readily digested in isolation. Later in his paper, Ashcroft suggests that Ern Malley has become as tangible in “his” own way as the character of Bob McCorkle from My life as a fake (Ashcroft 2004, p.32).

So, to summarise My life as a fake, it is both a work of intertextuality and the perception of truths. Using unconventional narrative techniques such as time jumping and pastiche, it is a knotty and thought-provoking take on one of Australia’s signal literary hoaxes. It certainly fits into the postmodernist canon, as it makes no attempt to conform to realism or employs linear narrative of any kind, and in fact, appears to utterly reject such forms. Also, it is a work of Australianness without ever resorting to jingoism, cultural cringes or being self-referential. To be sure, as one reads the novel, there is the sensation that it could not have been anything other than Australian.

The deadman dance

That deadman dance is the third novel by Perth-based writer, Kim Scott, a man who has Noongar heritage, one of the Indigenous peoples who inhabit the south-western corner of Western Australia (Scott 2010). Although as with My life as a fake this novel uses pastiche and time-jumping, the emphasis with That deadman dance is the personal, not abstract humour and homage. It is a work of idealism destroyed, of dreams and visions ruined by colonial rapacity. It reinvents in its own way, the European concept of “settlement” and redresses this word by presenting it from the critical eyes of those being settled. The title itself bespeaks Noongar belief – the white men are “dead men”, returned from the other world, where pale people are their ghosts or revenants. The character Bobby witnesses the white soldiers drill, giving rise to the “dead men dance” (Brewster 2011, p61), something that Scott himself stated in an interview was intentional (Brewster 2012, p.231)

Identity is one of the key concepts in That Deadman Dance. The initial us and them, colonial and native, becomes increasingly blurred as characters began to slide into and out of each other’s culture and lives, but in the finish it is clear an unequal power relationship occurs, a state that exists down to the present day. At the end of the novel, Bobby thinks he has won over the white man with his dance; the dance he thinks could go “around a spear and make a song to calm any man (Scott 2010, p394) but it bespeaks failure. Despite the best intentions of those who came before, the new relationship between white man and Indigenous Australian will be asymmetric, favouring the former heavily and this too has carried into the present day. As the band Goanna sang in their song Solid Rock in 1982:

Well they were standin’ on the shore one day
Saw the white sails in the sun
Wasn’t long before they felt the sting
White man, white law, white gun (Howard 1982)

That deadman dance does not present this conquest is such overly stark terms, though the net result is tragically the same. Instead, the novel is couched in a poetical postmodernist fashion that reads as a dream sequence in many places. The Noongar concept of family is distinguished from the British by the character of Bobby, who explains that the Noongar have a relationship not only with their fellow humans, familial or not, but with the land and the life that lives upon it. Thus, according to Brewster, there is deep sense of betrayal and melancholy when the Noongar divest themselves of their white man clothes, putting an end to cordial relations with the colonisers (Brewster 2011, p.67). Although key characters like Dr Cross made efforts to empathise and understand the Noongar, others like Geordie Chaine saw them as nothing other than savages. Chaine, for all his bluff amiability with Bobby, can never have friendships based upon parity, despite Bobby thinking of him as a babin, an “uncle-friend” (Scott 2010, p. 157).

The character of Dr Cross is cast as the idealist, according to Hughes-d’Aeth. With Bobby’s parents dead presumably from the tuberculosis or smallpox the British have brought with them, Cross stays on and plays the intermediary, making reparation for the British presence (Hughes-d’Aeth 2014). He is the mirror of Bobby, another idealist, and perhaps through the actions of both men, there could have been conciliation between the two cultures. Cross’s death effectively nullifies this early on into the novel though Bobby’s idealism persists.

To close, That deadman dance and My life as a fake are both works of Australian origin that concern Australia in markedly different ways. The latter is a novel of playful pastiche, contorting and rearranging narrative forms and truth perceptions into something definitely postmodernist; an abnegation of realism. That deadman dance is equally as postmodernist but engages in realism almost paradoxically. There is no doubt that characters within are real and not fallacious figments, and they are also living entities and not embodiments. It is writing back, a rejoinder to European history and tale-telling, and a redressing of misapplied conceptions and cherished European beliefs.


Ashcroft, B 2004, ‘Reading Carey Reading Malley’, Australian Literary Studies, 21(4), pp. 28-39

Brewster, A 2011, ‘Whiteness and Indigenous Sovereignty in Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance’, Journal of the European Association of Studies on Australia, 2(2), pp. 60-71

Brewster, A 2012, ‘Can You Anchor a Shimmering Nation State via Regional Indigenous Roots?’, Cultural Studies Review, 18(1), pp. 228-246

Carey, P 2003, ‘My life as a fake’, Random House, Sydney

David-Neel, A 1929, ‘Magic and Mystery in Tibet’, Dover, New York

Howard, S 1982, ‘Solid Rock’, audio recording, WEA Australia

Hughes-d’Aeth, T 2014, ‘For a long time nothing happened: Settler colonialism, deferred action and the scene of colonization in Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance’, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 2014, pp. 1-13

Kampmark, N 2015, ‘Monstrous (in)authenticity: Text and identity in Peter Carey’s My life as a fake’, Književnost i Kultura, (5)2

Nolan, M & Dawson, C 2004, ‘Who’s who?; hoaxes, imposture and identity crises in Australian literature’, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, pp v-xx

Scott, K 2010, ‘That deadman dance’, Picador, Sydney

Shelley, M 1969, ‘Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus’, Oxford University Press, Oxford

The Tempest and Caliban

Another essay I did for university, on the nature of the character Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest


The Tempest and Caliban

The Tempest was written in 1611 and is believed to be the last play William Shakespeare wrote, or wrote by himself. Unlike most of Shakespeare’s other works, The Tempest is not based on any one historical incident or previously published works. However, according to American scholar, Todd Borlik, The Tempest may derive its inspiration from the lost medieval narrative, the Life of Saint Guthlac (Borlik 2012). The 1609 shipwreck of the Sea Venture on Bermuda as recorded by author William Strachey (Strachey 1609) is possibly also a source for the play.

In 1603, James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I of England, and became James I of England. The period of his reign, 1603-1625, is known as the Jacobean era. During this time, England embarked on many foreign expeditions, not the least of which was the colonisation of Jamestown, Virginia, a locale originally inhabited by the native American Powhatan people. From the beginning there was an unequal partnership between the colonists and the native inhabitants. It is feasible that Shakespeare read of the Jamestown colony and its exploits and fictionalised them in The Tempest. Certainly, as Caliban states: “This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother, which thou takest from me” (1.2.331-332) is a clear sign for many that Caliban’s island was conquered by Prospero. Yet as Marshall suggests, Shakespeare would not have had any knowledge of North American slavery, since the first slaves were introduced in 1619, eight years after The Tempest was written (Marshall 1998). Was Shakespeare also egalitarian-minded enough to couch his putative disapproval of slavery in the artistic terms The Tempest presents? It is perhaps unlikely, as nowhere within the play is there any outward disparaging of the concept of slavery. On the contrary, Ariel and Caliban are both presented as if slavery is their natural condition.

With The Tempest, the character that seems to seize the most attention with scholars and critics is Caliban. This character, a slave that Prospero has bound into indeterminate service, has been subject to a whole array of interpretations, some ranging from nothing more than the monster Shakespeare overtly states he is, to representations of native people whose land and culture were usurped by European colonialism and expansionism. As Marshall also suggests, scholarship has been quick to make Caliban the “poster boy” for various racial and oppression issues around the world (Marshall 1998). Borlik also says that Caliban has mutated over the years in the eyes of the public and critics from being a grotesque to the stock character known as the “noble savage” (Borlik 2012).

It is not difficult to see why, at least at first glance, Caliban has been interpreted like this. He is the original and seemingly sole surviving non-spirit inhabitant of the isle and ostensibly its master and lord of all he saw before Prospero’s landfall. From the play, he lived in some variety of primal harmony with his island. Prospero’s arrival therefore must have been an irreversible and permanent upheaval, analogous to the upheavals native cultures underwent after European invasion. Although Prospero taught Caliban language (Prospero’s language), basic astronomy and some dietary niceties, Caliban’s return favour of teaching Prospero self-sufficiency on the island was rewarded was Caliban being placed into servitude. “Cursed be that I did so!” (1.2.339) were his bitter words of regret for teaching Prospero what he had. Now he finds himself a slave of the exiled Duke of Milan, relegated to flunkey or mere wood fetcher. To use common parlance, Caliban is now a second-class citizen in his own land – if he can be called a citizen at all. Parallels can be drawn here with the fate of many indigenous cultures around the world, including Australia’s own indigenous people, who up until 1967, were not even classed as Australians for census purposes.

In 1999, a performance of The Tempest directed by Simon Phillips opened in Brisbane. This performance was notable in that indigenous Australians from the Jagera Jarjum dance company performed many parts in the play, including the enslaved characters of Ariel and Caliban (Campbell 2004). Rather than a boat containing the usurping royalty of Milan and Naples, the boat that crashed on the shore in this version was a British ship echoing the events of 1788. Apart from the subjugated native people, the island was also inhabited by Prospero and Miranda: both white people of foreign extraction. Prospero, played by actor John Stanton, was rendered as a brutal tyrant who ruled the island with both an iron fist and an iron will (Campbell 2004).

This depiction reinforces the suffering and alienation the indigenous people of Australia experienced when their country was colonised, a fate they had no say in. As Campbell states in her review of the play, indigenous Australians have not only had to fight for their rights and heritage, they have also struggled to get their history told, especially by themselves (Campbell 2004). The Jagera Jarjum troupe were also aware of the innate power of performing arts as a vehicle for social and cultural change. By performing their rendition of what it essentially a European work of literature, they could not only get their story across, but perhaps instigate changes in the way mainstream society views them, and go to some length to redress shortcomings. As Campbell (2004) also states, the play was warmly received and it was performed in other venues at later times.

However, some feel that this kind of reading of Caliban as a dispossessed native is perilous. Edward Pechter suggests that the colonialist reading of The Tempest begs the question of critical interpretation rather than asks it (Pechter, cited in Robson 2009). This is to say, many who espouse such a textual reading actively believe it and consider it the default. Caliban was not some sort of devil-spawned monster: “a freckled whelp hag-born, not honour’d with a human shape” (1.2.419-420) but the representation of a subjugated or conquered indigenous person, culture and heritage forever lost. As Robson further suggests, there can be no neutral readings of The Tempest and no critic can read the play objectively (Robson 2009). So essentially, it will mean different things to each person who reads it. Robson also cites Ania Loomba, who states that the takeover of the island by Prospero and the subjugation of Caliban is “both racial plunder and a transfer to patriarchy” (Loomba in White, cited by Robson 2009) which is commentary on the island’s former ownership by Sycorax, a female character.

Is Caliban truly a native or indigenous inhabitant of the island? The play states that Sycorax is from Algiers or Argier to use 17th century naming – not the island. Caliban’s father is a devil or the Christian Devil himself, whose abode according to Christian tenet is everywhere. There is no doubt that Caliban was there first which is an important distinction but the play makes it clear that he himself is the son of a migrant. Also, these newer readings of The Tempest overlook or ignore salient points about the character of Caliban. He is a rapist – or at least wants to be – “O ho, O ho! would’t had been done! Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else this isle with Calibans.” (1.2.501-503). His desire for Miranda is quite gleefully admitted on his part.

Throughout the play, Caliban is frequently described in distinct quasi-human or non-human terms. The above-mentioned quote about him not being honoured with a human shape being one such instance. Additionally, many characters remark on his physical non-humanity. In the play, Trinculo and Stephano both refer to him as a monster and one of them confuses him for a fish. Borlik suggests that Caliban is an amalgamation of many legends from the Lincolnshire district of England; specifically he represents the Tiddy Mun, a fen-inhabiting monster that dwelled in the marshes (Borlik 2012). Caliban’s resentment of his plight may mirror that of the fen-dwelling people of Lincolnshire who were losing their land and traditions to reclamation schemes (Borlik 2012). In fact, the word “fen” is mentioned three times in The Tempest. It is therefore possible that Shakespeare is describing a marsh-dwelling bugbear out of legend.

The overarching themes of The Tempest are forgiveness and reconciliation. Despite being wronged and left for dead by usurpers, at the end of the play Prospero has abandoned all thoughts of revenge and retribution, and has forgiven those who overthrew him. Caliban has apparently been emancipated and his island is his own again. This theme is echoed in the aforementioned play by Simon Phillips, which stresses the need for healing between conqueror and conquered, coloniser and colonised (Campbell 2004). This is further reflected in the on-going culture of reconciliation in Australia. So, whatever Caliban’s ultimate or true nature, and whatever The Tempest was intended to mean, both character and play can be viewed as cautionary tales with a hopeful resolution.


Borlik, T, 2012, ‘Caliban and the fen demons of Lincolnshire: the Englishness of Shakespeare’s Tempest’, Shakespeare, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 21-51

Campbell, A, 2004, ‘The Tempest: Creating dialogue from points of difference’, Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 28, no. 82, pp. 15-24

Marshall, T, 1998, ‘The Tempest and the British imperium in 1611’, The Historical Journal, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 375-400

Robson, M, 2009, ‘Case Studies in Reading II: From Text to Theory’ in Hiscock, A & Longstaffe, S (eds), The Shakespeare Handbook, Continuum, London, UK

Strachey, W, 1609, The Historie of Travaile Into Virginia Britinia, public domain


Did Angela do good or bad?

This paper applies a number of ethical concepts to Angela’s actions in the documentary Catfish.


This paper addresses the question ‘what is your ethical evaluation of Angela’s deception of Nev in the film Catfish?’ Catfish is a documentary created by Nev Schulman,  Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost in 2010 that follows Nev Schulman as he begins an online friendship with a girl named Abby and culminates in a visit to Abby’s home in Michigan (Catfish 2010). Angela Wesselman-Pierce is Abby’s mother and this much was established by the documentary to be true. However, practically every other disclosure made by Angela prior to her meeting with Nev and sometimes during the meeting is an admitted fabrication on her part. This paper will examine Angela’s reasons for doing this from an ethical point of view.

Ethics is the philosophical branch that deals with the moral questions of right and wrong (Dupré 2013, p. 9). Dupré also states on that same page that ethics are by what we guide ourselves by, the principles that govern our lives and compel us to do right or wrong. So what principles guided Angela as she fabricated a welter of lies and misrepresentations to Nev? Using several of the numerous branches of ethics, there will be a step-by-step analysis of Angela’s deceptions and come to the conclusion that she has done net harm to herself.


Utilitarianism is the principle of providing the greatest amount of pleasure to the greatest amount of people (Bentham, as cited in Dupré 2013, p. 78), so how does this ethical theory apply to Catfish? Angela sees a photograph made by Nev, and paints a rendition of it, alleging it is the work of her daughter Abby. This is the initial contact made by Angela to Nev, then with Nev seemingly showing a greater interest in Abby, Angela creates a plethora of Facebook contacts including a fictitious older sister in Megan. At this stage, Angela and Nev are pleased by proceedings; both have benefitted from Angela’s burgeoning fantasy, with no harm yet to come. Angela has benefitted from knowing her respondent has developed an interest in the personae she has created, and Nev’s interest has been piqued by the introduction of Megan, an apparently young and attractive woman.

When Nev and Angela finally meet, it is clear that Angela was taken by surprise. Their pleasure has ended, and a new pain has begun. Nev has the pain of disappointment and a failed deceitful romance, and Angela has the pain of a destroyed fantasy and confabulation. Using utilitarian principles devised by Jeremy Bentham, we can readily ascertain that the resultant pain outweighs the pleasure both initially felt (Bentham 1907).  The good tendencies of Angela’s fantasy have unravelled and she is forced into creating more lies – she has uterine cancer – (Catfish 2010) and extending the lie of the Megan persona. Further, this pain is pre-existing as her child Abby is of the belief that Megan exists, so was the transient pleasure she derived from concocting personae and snaring Nev is a web of deceit worth it?

There is also the issue of her husband, who she has also deceived into believing she is deriving an income from the paintings and was unaware of the personae and staged romance. There was no net pleasure for him at any stage, only potential pain, in which the likelihood of that trickling down to Angela would be strong. In conclusion and in summing the component parts of her actions, Angela’s net result to herself using utilitarian principles is harm.


Deontology is the field of ethics that considers whether acts are intrinsically good or bad regardless of the consequences (Dupré 2013, p. 324). There is little doubt from evidence in the documentary that Angela was acting in nobody’s interests other than her own. The consequences of her actions became clear to her when Nev came to her place. Her lies and concoctions were unravelled and her involvement of unwitting family members (viz. Abby) in her fantasy is further evidence that she was heedless of where her actions led. Although she admits to Nev that she had considered ending the fantasy, she felt she had invested too much emotionally to quit (Catfish 2010). After Nev’s arrival, she confesses her sorrow for involving him but there is doubt as to the sincerity of this. This comes across as the guilt of the caught rather than the guilt of the remorseful.

Iain King in his 2008 book How to make good decisions and be right all the time suggests that people ultimately derive their choices from what they want to do and what other people want to do (p. 220). This is to say, that Angela, if she was acting from deontological principles, should have considered Nev’s needs and feelings when she was concocting her fantasy. While it could be readily argued she was catering to his baser desires, his other emotions and feelings were not taken into consideration. In this way, Angela has acted the same way as Plato’s Gyges (Dorbolo 2010). Substituting the social power Facebook has for the invisibility ring, Angela was able to enter Nev’s world, practically sight unseen, and involve him wholly in a realm of deceit.

Facebook was the ring and Angela used its power for fabrication, dishonesty and emotional deceit. Therefore, Angela has taken a path where she thinks she is doing good for all concerned, but in reality, is behaving in a self-serving and selfish manner which ultimately leads to hurt, disappointment and shame for her and it is wrong conduct.


Consequentialism is defined in one book as “do whatever has the best consequences” (Gensler 1998, p. 242). Probably without ever knowing of this ethical belief, Angela has certainly acted in this manner. Once she had Nev “hooked” into the Facebook personae she had created, the consequences for her actions were increasingly positive for her – until Nev caught up with her in person. As the fictitious world she had made for herself crumbled, Angela realised that the consequences were more serious and less playful than she imagined. People were hurt because of her actions, primarily herself. Nev’s attitude toward Angela (or her personae) shifted from love and desire to disappointment then pity. At the cessation of Catfish Nev states that he feels sorry for Angela.

Although consequentialism is considered the opposite of deontology (Alexander & Moore 2012) it is interesting to note that Angela applied both concepts positively throughout her charade, combined or in tandem. She genuinely thought she was benefitting herself and Nev by perpetuating the fantasy and at the same time she was oblivious of the teleological results of her actions. Did she take in the consequences of involving her true daughter Abby in her schemes? Or the consequences of being deceitful to her husband, her disabled step-children or anyone else in her life? Not before or during the fantasy, only post facto. Once Nev arrived at her house, it was over. The consequences of her deceitful behaviour were made clear and she felt remorseful, though as mentioned earlier, this was most likely as a result of being found out, rather than an assault of her conscience – especially in light of her further falsehoods with regards to cancer and the persona of Megan. So, it can be stated that Angela created her personae and her fantasy with little regard for the consequences.


To summarise, Angela deemed she was doing herself and Nev a net ethical benefit by instigating then perpetuating the personae and the fantasies. The reasons for her doing so go beyond philosophy into the realm of psychology and so will only be briefed upon. From deduction of her actions and words, it is clear Angela lives with a good deal of regret for what she considers a wasted or unfulfilled life. There are clear indications that she is inhabiting a “go-nowhere” existence and her own life has been put on hold to care for her husband’s disabled children. Perhaps then, this is what has driven her to concoct the elaborate fantasy of extended family and friend circles. Despite the pleasure she and Nev initially derived from this, when the reality became known, this same pleasure vanished and was replaced by at first more lies and contrivances, then a pitying remorse. Her ethical choices were shown to be injurious ones, to both herself and those around her.

With utilitarianism, there was pleasure and happiness granted by her actions to all the players until the truth was discovered then net unhappiness outweighed all else, to be replaced by remorse and pity. Therefore, from a utilitarian perspective, Angela has acted unethically. By deontological principles, Angela had only ever her feelings and pleasure needs foremost in her mind, and minimal emotional consideration for anyone else. While she may have considered what she was doing as a “good act”, her deceit and lies in the end provided no net benefit for anybody. Her actions were not overall “good acts” as they led to pain, therefore they were unethical from a deontological viewpoint. From a consequentialism view, her deeds were also unethical as the final consequences were not positive ones and left her in a more negative state than when she started, and left Nev in a likewise final negative state. In conclusion, Angela has behaved in an unethical manner.


Alexander, L & Moore, M 2012, ‘Deontological Ethics’, viewed 12 September 2015, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological/

Bentham, J 1907, ‘An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation,’ viewed 12 September 2015, http://www.econlib.org/library/Bentham/bnthPML4.html

Catfish 2010, DVD, motion picture, Supermarché/Hit the Ground, New York

Dorbolo, J 2010, ‘Plato: Ethics – The Ring of Gyges’, viewed 12 September 2015, http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl201/modules/Philosophers/Plato/plato_dialogue_the_ring_of_gyges.html

Dupré, B 2013, 50 ethics ideas you really need to know, Quercus, London

Gensler, H 1998, Ethics: A contemporary introduction, Routledge, New York

King, I 2008, How to make good decisions and be right all the time, Continuum, New York

In the Pyramid of Khafre (prose)

In the Pyramid of Khafre

I’m descending as fast as I can, while forty centuries look down upon me. This relentless stone claustrophobia drills inwards, oppressive and cold. There’s no heat in here and I can feel Khafre’s feet on the sandy floor as he comes for me.

Me. It’s about me. Ever since you abandoned me in this monument of the ancients, with its single interior chamber, two passageways and one sideways niche. There’s no you any more. Khufu, Khafre, Menkaure, mighty men of old, more mighty than the Nephilim, spinning about their heliocentric worlds of Ra.

So mote it be, as the skyclad wonders say. There’s nothing skyclad in here but arthropods and other non-vertebrate life. I’m dressed; I have to be. It’s cold here in Khafre’s monument to eternity, though the Black Land beyond rages with heat.

I’ve reached the innermost sanctum of Khafre’s mysterious structure, a gabled rooved space hewn from the obdurate bedrock and here too I must be obdurate. Khafre is behind me; a nebulous fetch out of megalithic history, false beard and uraeus a-flying.

I am a swine that’s been cast before diamonds, an abandoned entity in an abandonium and you are elsewhere, some place without a postcode, belirting me with your belirtings. Nothing can save me from the stout, vengeful pharaonic that slides through the gap in the old passage.

It’s a pleasant moment.

Plan of the pyramid of Khafre. Source: Wikipedia (public domain).

Plan of the pyramid of Khafre. Source: Wikipedia (public domain).

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