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Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: gothic fiction

Victoria Holt – Mistress of Mellyn

Mistress of MellynMistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let’s see now…

Setting in a castle or large house — check
Said house or castle holds dread family secrets — check
Woman in distress — check
Woman is in awe of powerful, often tyrannical male — check
Male hero is of the Byronic variety, handsome, troubled — check
Strong, engaging emotions — check
Omens and portents — check
Strange events that appear as supernatural experiences — check

Yes, it all comes together. What we have here is a Gothic novel, by golly! And even though it wears its Rebecca and Jane Eyre influences proudly on its sleeves, this story holds it own quite well. The protagonist, governess Martha Leigh, isn’t the fainting, gasping maiden found in many other books of this kind. No, she’s more like Jane Eyre – a conscientious, somewhat knowing young lady who sees through flattery and devices for what they are. But like Miss Eyre of yore, Miss Leigh is still susceptible to being swept off her feet by the loving pronouncements of the towering Byronic hero.

There’s not a new idea anywhere to be found in this novel, but that’s really beside the point. It’s an enjoyable outing into the world of Gothic fiction and should please adherents of the genre, as well as those looking for a solid romance to bite into.

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Elaine Bergstrom – Baroness of Blood

Baroness of Blood (Ravenloft, #12)Baroness of Blood by Elaine Bergstrom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My, what a nasty piece of work is Baroness Ilsabet Obour. But she’s a complex and well-rounded nasty piece of work, which elevates this novel above popcorn level. More than most Ravenloft novels I’ve read, this one ascribes to many classic Gothic traditions, yet Ilsabet is imperilled not by a man, but by herself and her own courses of action. She is haunted – internally and externally, and throughout the length of the novel she vacillates and questions if what she’s doing is the wisest way, and in the conclusion, things get resolved in the poetic justice sense of resolution.

The novel is dark, make no mistake. There’s no light, joy or laughter anywhere here. It’s only the dumb and clueless secondary characters in this novel which stop me from awarding this five stars. Ilsabet is surrounded by idiots when her character cries out for effective foils and counters.

Still, this is one of the better Ravenloft outings.

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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.

References

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

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.

References
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.

References

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

P N Elrod – I, Strahd

I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire (Ravenloft, #7)I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire by P.N. Elrod
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A five star Dungeons and Dragons book? Yes, this is it. Everything clicked with this instalment – the narrative, the characterisations, the pacing, everything. Elrod’s erudite and understated style is a welcome change from the usual quasi-fanfic renditions some of these D&D novels are – hi Ed Greenwood!

Elrod makes Strahd incredibly three dimensional. He was a cipher in the previous books in this series where he featured – a bad Hollywood Dracula – but here? It’s incredible to watch his descent from determined and honourable soldier to self-serving and self-absorbed vampire. You almost sympathise with his plight – almost.

I, Strahd is a cautionary tale like no other, and if the rest of the Ravenloft franchise is half as good as this, then I’ll be happy to read them.

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J Robert King – Carnival of Fear

Carnival of Fear (Ravenloft, #6)Carnival of Fear by J. Robert King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 4.25 out of 5 but marked down a tad for routine characterisations.

What a pleasant little surprise this was. Of the six Ravenloft books I’ve read, this one was the icing on the cake so far, just edging out the first in the series . Of all of them, this is the one that actually delivered dark Gothic horror the best.

This is an effectively and chillingly nasty book, peopled with ugly characters (if a touch wooden) and a very ugly and unpleasant setting.

Some genuinely horrific things go on in this book, and that my friends, is what Ravenloft is meant to be about, no? The previous five books in this series flirted with the concept, sometimes dipped their toes into it, but this book is completely doused and drowned in it.

It’s not classic literature by any means, but it’s darkly entertaining and fast paced. Well done.

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Daphne du Maurier – Rebecca

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a masterpiece from start to end. Everything about this book worked – the pacing, the scenes, the characters, the dialogue, the whole lot. The suspense, the atmosphere, it all came together wonderfully. Not hard to see why this work is regarded as a classic in the English canon.

Minor quibbles – there’s a lot of repeated phrasing (mullioned windows, pits of my stomach) and the author starts far too many sentences with “I” or “She” but really, who cares? The power of this book overwhelms such pedantic nonsense. I love it – I haven’t read such a cracking book in ages.

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