Human and the animal in Victorian gothic scientific literature
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/12/2100
McKechnie, Claire Charlotte
This doctoral thesis examines the role of animals in nineteenth-century science and Victorian Gothic fiction of the latter half of the century. It is interdisciplinary in its exploration of the interrelationship between science writings and literary prose and it seeks to place the Gothic animal body in its cultural and historical setting. This study is interested in the ways in which Gothic literature tests the limits of the human by using scientific ideas about disease, evolution, species confusion, and disability. In analysing the animal trope in Gothic scientific fiction, this thesis conceptualises the ways in which the Gothic mode functions in relation to, while setting itself apart from, contemporary scientific theories about humankind‘s place in the natural world. Chapter 1, 'Man‘s Best Fiend: Evolution, Rabies, and the Gothic Dog‘, focuses on the dog as an animal whose ability to carry and communicate deadly diseases to humans exemplified the breakdown of the animal-human boundary. I read late-nineteenth-century vampire and werewolf narratives as literary manifestations of social hysteria associated with dogs and rabies. In Chapter 2, 'Shaping Evolution: Amphibious Gothic in Edward Bulwer-Lytton‘s The Coming Race and William Hope Hodgson‘s The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”, I examine the role of the frog in Victorian science as the background to Gothic fiction‘s portrayal of the Gothic body as an amphibious being. The next chapter explores the spider‘s function in Victorian natural history as the background to its role as a protean and unstable Gothic trope in fiction. Chapter four, 'Geological Underworlds: Mythologizing the Beast in Victorian Palaeontology‘, looks at ways in which the dinosaur in science influenced the literary imaginations of Gothic writers Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Machen, and Bram Stoker. Under the title "Monsters Manufactured!": Humanised Animals, Freak Culture, and the Victorian Gothic‘, the final chapter concludes the study with a discussion of freak culture, making key links between unusually-shaped people in society and human/animal hybrids in the Gothic fiction of H. G. Wells, Richard Marsh, and Wilkie Collins.