Date of Award
While the relationship between Gothic motifs and anxieties about transgressive sexuality at the end of the 19th century is well understood, most of the scholarship written on this topic takes the idea of the supernatural for granted, or sees it as a way of establishing the links between monstrosity and sexuality. In this essay
I turn to the work of Arthur Machen in order to recontextualize the supernatural aspects of the late-Victorian Gothic literature in regard to the forms of credulity that inform the occult. While texts like Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) are anchored in the supernatural, they treat it merely as a literary device or pretext. By contrast, Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan (1894) provides a window into an almost forgotten aspect of literary history that helps us ground the ur- ban gothic and its anxieties about sexuality in an occult sensibility. Machen’s book Hieroglyphics (1902) outlines his poetics, which is heavily influenced by the occult, and will serve as a point of reference to understand the impact of the occult on his fiction writing. It is telling that in Hieroglyphics Machen also analyzes Stevenson’s
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and uses it as a way of distinguishing his own views on literature from prevailing norms. Against this background, The Great God Pan can be read as a revision of Stevenson’s novella, one that at- tempts to convey the genuine sense of ecstasy that, according to Machen, is the point of genuine literature.
Labenski, Sophie, "The City of Nightmares: Occultism, Ecstasy, and the Literature of Late-Victorian London" (2022). Comparative Literature M.A. Essays. 2.