Max Simon Nordau’s evocation of the spirit of the age at the end of the nineteenth-century caused a sensation when it was first published. He tapped into a rich vein of commentary in which cultural and moral criticism were intertwined, as the trial of Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde so poignantly demonstrates.
In 1936, György Lukács wrote of the “degradation and crippling under capitalism [that] is far more tragic, its bestiality viler, more ferocious and terrible than that pictured even in the best of these novels”. He was referring to modern realism, which, in his view, had “lost its capacity to depict the dynamics of life, and thus its representation of capitalist reality is inadequate, diluted and constrained”. The present study grapples with this vile bestiality, but examines its earlier manifestation in British texts between 1885 and 1900 — the period that saw the development of realism and its sister movement, naturalism, and which is most commonly described in literary and cultural studies as an “age of transition”.
This article explores the transmission of tales of the supernatural during the very long eighteenth-century (between c.1660 and 1832). When writing my last book, on the transmission of a specific tale of the conjuration of spirits over the same period, I became aware of a genre of publications on this subject which had not been studied. These are anthologies of supposedly true stories, usually relating to named people and places and sometimes dated, often each numbered separately, with relatively little discussion of their authenticity or significance, beyond perhaps a brief preface defending the reality of the world of spirits.
Vampires may very well be immortal. The question of if they exist in our physical world or not has no effect on their longevity and the role that they have played in literature and therefore, upon our society as a whole.
Spectrality has always been one of the most interesting and controversial subjects in literature and in a high- and lowbrow culture of any age. From antiquity to contemporary time, ghosts have haunted Western spaces of representation, giving voice to the anxieties and fears of different historical moments; a study of their nature and their meanings can, therefore, throw light on our understanding of changing cultural and social attitudes as partly depending on, reacting to, and coming to terms with what was perceived as disquieting and menacing at different times.
Many critics have seen literary history in terms of a multi-generational family of writers. In his ‘Anxiety of Influence’ (1997), for example, Harold Bloom alludes to Sigmund Freud’s notion of “family romance” (8) to describe later poets’ struggles with the influence of their powerful and famous precursors. According to Sigmund Freud (1909), “The liberation of an individual, as he grows up, from the authority of his parents is one of the most necessary through one of the most painful results brought about by the course of his development”. Yet, few critics have theorised the relationship between the different literary generations as cannibalistic. In this section, I will first discuss how the Victorian and the neo-Victorian can be seen as distended generations sharing the same ancestral background. In a later section, I will consider how members of later generations aggressively consume their ancestors in an attempt to fashion an independent identity.