Статья 'Типология готических новелл Джозефа Шеридана Ле Фаню ' - журнал 'Litera' - NotaBene.ru
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Typology of Gothic novels by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Kurkina Nadezhda Valer'evna

Postgraduate student, Department of Foreign Literature, N. I. Lobachevsky National Research Nizhny Novgorod State University

603000, Russia, Nizhny Novgorod region, Nizhny Novgorod, Bolshaya Pokrovskaya str., 37

kurkina-nadya@mail.ru
Men'shchikova Mariya Konstantinovna

Doctor of Philology

Professor, Department of Foreign Literature, N. I. Lobachevsky National Research Nizhny Novgorod State University

603000, Russia, Nizhny Novgorod, Bolshaya Pokrovskaya str., 37

menshikova4@yandex.ru

DOI:

10.25136/2409-8698.2023.11.68964

EDN:

JBBVRX

Received:

13-11-2023


Published:

22-11-2023


Abstract: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu is one of the most prominent representatives of the ghost story genre. His works were widely popular not only during the years of their publication, but also many years after. The subject of research in this article is the problem of creating a genre typology. Based on the material of Gothic novels (collections "Purcell Papers", "In a glass darkly", etc.) by the British writer of the XIX century Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, the question of the optimal typological criterion is considered, which would allow creating an objective typology, the application of which would be possible when studying the works of other authors of Gothic minor prose of the second half of the XIX – early XX century. The methodological principles underlying this study take into account the achievements of cultural-historical, comparative, and structural-descriptive approaches. The novelty is associated with the absence of such a typology of Le Fanu's short stories, as well as with the fact that researchers prefer the novel form in the writer's work. However, this typology makes it possible to clarify some aspects of the development of Gothic minor prose both in the works of Le Fanu and in the works of other writers of this period. In addition, the typologization of Le Fanu's Gothic novels allows us to trace in more detail the change in the figurative system of Gothic short prose. Conclusions made as a result of the study: the objective typological criterion can be considered the specifics of the narrator's attitude to the category of the supernatural. Based on this criterion, the classic Gothic novel, the "scientific" Gothic novel, the humorous Gothic novel, the socio-psychological Gothic novel, the folklore-mythological Gothic novel are distinguished in Le Fanu's work.


Keywords:

english gothic novella, genre typology, gothic novella, narrator, supernatural category, gothic, novella, ghost stories, the Victorian era, cycle

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, 1814 - 1873) - one of the outstanding authors of the Victorian "ghost stories" (ghost stories), his works were highly appreciated both at the time of publication and decades later, having influenced the development of Gothic literature in the XX century.   The creative heritage of the British author has repeatedly become the subject of attention in literary studies. Among which, of course, it is necessary to highlight the works that correlate with our research. Here it is worth highlighting the dissertation of N.V. Vodolazhchenko "The Poetics of Gothic short stories by J. S. Le Fanu: on the example of the cycle "In a Foggy Mirror" (2008) [1], where the author examines the poetical originality of J.S. Le Fanu's short stories. Sheridan Le Fanu. A.I. Khotinskaya in the article "Transformation of the image of romantic love in the novels of J.Sheridan Le Fanu's "The House by the Church Fence" and "Uncle Silas" (2016) notes Le Fanu's appeal to the artistic experience of Gothic and chivalric novels [10]. The well-known modern researcher of English Gothic minor prose A.A. Lipinskaya in the article "About rats and people. The Boundaries of Humanity in S.L. Werner's cycle "Skaven Warriors" (2020) refers to the image of Carmilla from the novel of the same name by J.Sheridan Le Fanu [7]. The work of Le Fanu and his contribution to the development of Gothic literature became the subject of analysis in the works of E.P. Zykova ("Sheridan Le Fanu and the development of the Gothic novel in English literature of the XIX century") [3], A.A. Timofeeva ("Strategies of interlanguage transmission of linguistic means of expressing the concept of "supernatural" (based on the story of J.Sh.Le Fanu "Carmilla" and its Russian-language versions") [9], A.A. Goltseva ("Chapelizodsky cycle of Gothic works by J. S. Le Fanu") [2], etc. One of the biographers of the writer William J.McCormack highlights the work of the writer in the context of the Irish cultural background of the XIX century in the work "Sheridan Le Fanu and Victorian Ireland", and Hyun Jun Lee in the article "Merged forever": desire, subjectivity and the threat of rejection in "Carmilla" by Sheridan Le Fanu" refers to the novel "Carmilla", where he explores the embodiment of the sensual side of life [6]. American literary critic, professor, and publicist Jack Sullivan emphasized that Le Fanu is indeed a key figure in the development of the "ghost story" genre, and his influence on the development of the genre is undeniable [13]. Ivan Melada, the author of a monograph on the work of Sheridan Le Fanu, in turn believes that the writer succeeds in small prose better than novels (although the writer himself considered the novel "The House by the Cemetery" to be the pinnacle of creativity), since it is in short stories that Le Fanu manifests himself as a talented storyteller capable of captivating the reader [12].  

Thus, it should be noted that despite the interest of researchers in the work of J.S. Le Fanu, the writer's novels or individual, most famous short stories, such as "Carmilla", are mainly the subject of research, as well as literary critics pay attention to the influence of  individual elements of the author's poetics on the works of other writers or, on the contrary, consider the texts of Le Fanu through the prism of typological genre characteristics of Gothic literature as a whole. 

Consequently, the appeal to the question of typologizing the Gothic novelistics of J.S. Le Fanu remains open at the moment.

The question of the typological criterion in modern genealogy always remains relevant, since it is on its objectivity and integrity that the creation of a universal typology depends.  Despite the unconditional possibility to classify Gothic stories from the point of view of formal features, in our opinion, a typology based on a criterion based on the specifics of the narrator's understanding of the supernatural category, central and fundamental in Gothic literature, looks more appropriate and complete, while its substantive and formal elements could change over time.. So, based on this criterion, we can propose the following typology of Gothic novels by J.S. Le Fanu.

The first should be the type of classical Gothic novel. It is most genetically related to the poetics of the classic Gothic novel. The narrator considers the supernatural here as existing on a par with the material objective world, often opposed to it and therefore invariably frightening. The narrator and (or) the heroes of such short stories do not question the reality of the mystical events happening to them. The Gothic atmosphere into which the reader is immersed is created by Gothic topos: castles, ruins, cemeteries, gloomy descriptions of nature; typical Gothic elements, motifs and images that are not subject to parody (meeting with a ghost, the motive of mystery, hidden treasure, etc.). Since the poetics of this type of novella is obvious, we will list only those works by Le Fanu which can be attributed to him: "The Artist Schalken" (Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter), "The Dead Sexton" (The Dead Sexton), etc. In the perspective of extending this typology to the works of other authors, we will give several similar examples: E. F. Benson "In the glow of the fireplace" (Between the Lights, 1912), E. Dunsany "Thirteen at the Table" (Thirteen At Table, 1916).

The next type that can be distinguished is a "scientific" Gothic novel, such texts as "Green Tea", "A Room at the Flying Dragon Hotel", "Judge Harbottle", "A close friend", etc. can be attributed here..

By "scientific" here is meant an attempt to rationalize the narrator of events that seem mystical. For example, through the prism of the perception of events by Martin Hesselius, the narrator in a number of short stories, the supernatural is explained through a medical approach. The interest in the psychological aspects of human life, as well as the desire to combine the mystical, the unreal with the psychic and social, should be considered one of the features of the Gothic novel, especially in the second half of the XIX century.

Thus, in the novella "Green Tea" and "A Close Friend", the author explains the reason for the mystical events by some insanity, mental illness. In the prologue of the novella "Judge Harbottle", the author already gives a scientific justification for the events of the story, where Dr. Hesselius diagnoses the main character of the narrative: "insanity, catalepsy, as well as obsession" [8. P. 602].

"Judge Harbottle" is an invariant of Le Fanu's earlier work – "A story about some strange incidents in an old house on Onger Street" (1853), from which only the image of the sinister judge remains. The story was first published in January 1872 . In the London literary monthly "Belgravia", the collection "In a dim glass" was included with some changes: the figure of Martin Hesselius connecting the narrative was added, a breakdown into chapters, additions in a number of some episodes [8].

This novel is also interesting as a prototype of Judge Harbottle: perhaps Le Fanu makes a reference to the infamous George Jeffries, the chief judge of England and Wales in 1683-1685, who handed down hundreds of death sentences to the rebels, which is why he was nicknamed the "hanging judge". Le Fanu draws clear parallels between Jeffries and Harbottle, for example, both were particularly sadistic in the execution of the sentence, were eloquent and did not know pity for the condemned. The main narrative describes an incident that happened to Judge Harbottle, who enjoyed the fame of the most ferocious and unjust judge in all of England. One day he was supposed to try a certain Lewis Pineveck, a former grocer, and at the same time the judge became aware that a certain secret society, which took the name of the Supreme Court of Appeal, intended to try Harbottle himself.

At first glance, this is a typical Gothic story about retribution from higher powers: the author uses all the attributes of a Gothic plot — a supernatural phenomenon (the persecution of a judge by the ghost of an unjustly executed), a frightened witness who ran to the narrator, and the terrible secret of a gloomy house. Le Fanu adds to the description of the judge's mansion such Gothic features as dusty small windows, insufficient lighting, black stairs, an intimidating exterior facade of the house, mentions a mirror as a possible portal between worlds. The author also unfolds the narrative not only in the space of the judge's house, but also in a fantastic space – the courthouse, where the mystical trial of Harbottle takes place. Parallels are colorfully drawn with the mystical double of the judge himself – a two-time judge, who had a similar manner of conducting a trial: "... who endlessly harassed him with ridicule and drove him into trembling with a thunderous voice, was an exact copy of him, only doubled in size. And the crimson color of the ferocious face, and the eyes burning with malice – everything became twice as expressive" – [8. p. 623].  Harbottle is given the same cruel sentence as he once did to all his prisoners and is imprisoned in hellish fetters, and the judge wakes up from a burning pain in his ankle, but later refers to gout. The same attempt at a rational explanation of what happened can be observed in Charles Dickens in "A Christmas Carol in Prose", when Scrooge also convinced himself that what he saw was rather a sign that "he ate something wrong."

After that incident, the judge began to fade slowly – he lost all his former energy, he began to be tormented by fear and despondency, he fell into apathy. The novel ends with him committing suicide – he is found hanged in his own house. No signs of a struggle were found, no one heard cries for help.

The novella "The Room at the Flying Dragon Hotel" resembles a Gothic adventurous detective story rather than an ordinary supernatural story. The story of the ardent romance of the protagonist (Beckett) with the mysterious countess is complemented by various attributes of the Gothic: the secret of a certain room in which people disappear, descriptions of ancient streets with dilapidated Gothic churches, descriptions of a dusty large mirror, the protagonist's trip to an ancient cemetery – thus, the author also uses these elements to create a Gothic atmosphere. Le Fanu destroys this atmosphere through the simplest explanation of the whole story that happened to the main character. Beckett becomes a victim of fraudsters, and the whole "secret" turns out to be only their deliberate manipulation. In these novels there is a kind of rational voice, as an attempt to explain the world around us. However, this is not the position of the author himself, in short stories of this type there is always a pronounced narrator, separable from the personality of the author.  Here we can mention a number of works by other authors that have features of this type: "An Extraordinary Case from the life of the late Henry Harris, Doctor of Divinity" (A Singular Passage In The Life Of The Late Henry Harris, Doctor In Divinity, 1845) by Richard Barham, "Face to Face with Ghosts" by Edward George Bulwer- Lytton.

In the work of J.S. Le Fanu, a type of humorous Gothic novel can be distinguished.

This variety includes the writer's early works, for example, the short story "The Ghost and the Croaker", which is included in the collection "Purcell's Notes". The author uses the popular technique of the "animated portrait" in a comic way, used, for example, in Walpole's "Castle of Otranto". Le Fanu adds wit and humor to the novel with the help of the ridiculous appearance of a ghost, whose purpose is not to frighten an uninvited guest, but to sip a glass of whiskey. The ghost's order to set his sprained ankle adds more comedy. Also, almost all the short stories from this collection can be attributed to this type, with the exception of "A strange incident from the life of the artist Schalken". For example, in the novel "The Drunkard's Dream", the story is about a drunkard who saw hell under the steps of his own staircase; the hero was found dead in three days of absence, his wife hurries to get married with another before the onset of lent, and the priest is called to expel the "ghost" who arrived at the wedding; in the old gander, according to a local specialist in "gastronomy" (in fact, "astronomy"), the spirit of the deceased peasant has moved in – a complete mess is going on, and the reader no longer even pays attention to the Gothic entourage.

Also this type includes the novella "The Dead Acolyte", where along with the traditional Gothic sound, Le Fanu adds subtle humor. For example, this is manifested in the reason for the ridiculous death of the acolyte Toby Crook: a bell fell on him, which he wanted to steal and sell. The style of narration itself adds to the atmosphere of the narrative frivolity and lightness, a lot of colloquialisms, particles, conjunctions, interjections are used. It is worth clarifying that these humorous novels are not a parody of Gothic, such as Jane Austen's novel "Northanger Abbey", and Thomas Peacock's even more witty work "The Abbey of Nightmares". Due to some plot elements and the very nature of the narrative, the very atmosphere of fear and horror is removed from the supernatural category. In this context, we can also recall Oscar Wilde's "Canterville Ghost".

Also, in our opinion, the type of folklore-mythological Gothic novel should be singled out separately. The writer was greatly interested in Irish folklore and the plot of such stories, which made up a significant layer of works in his work. So, we can consider Le Fanu's favorite plot to be the motive of kidnapping / meeting a person with the other world / creatures. The supernatural is depicted here through archaic mythological roots, archetypal images, references, thus a special image of the supernatural is born.  We distinguish these novels into a separate category, because they define the category of the supernatural through the accentuation of the Irish national cultural code.

To this type of texts we can include the short stories "Laura the Bell", "The Child who was taken away by fairies", "The White Cat from Drumganniol", in which Le Fanu most fully reflected Irish folk beliefs, the local flavor of Irish villages, the magical beauty of the nature of Ireland.  The landscape and setting in Le Fanu's works are deeply symbolic, as well as these descriptions of nature are reflections of Irish historical realities. The surrounding reality in the writer's Irish short stories reminds of the country's past, majestic and sublime, which turned out to be almost forever lost. In the Irish works of Le Fanu, not only the desire to actualize the historical problems of his homeland is expressed, but also the Ireland that causes pride and admiration is shown.

A separate subtype, perhaps, should be distinguished here as a vampiric Gothic novel, given the interest of modern culture in the topic related to vampires.  J.S. Le Fanu stands at the origins of the formation of such literature, his novella "Carmilla", in turn, influenced Bram Stoker, as well as the work of F.M. Crawford "For blood is Life" (For the Blood Is the Life, 1906). Since this work of J.S. Le Fanu has been given considerable attention in literary studies, and we also turned to the analysis of this novel in our article (N.V. Kurkina "Transformation of elements of the poetics of the Gothic novella by J. Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla" in the 1972 film adaptation"), then we will allow ourselves to omit her analysis here.

Finally, the interest should be noted  Le Fanu's approach to the psychological aspects of human life, as well as to social topics relevant for his time, such as marriage of convenience, the problem of alcoholism among the lower strata of the population, the problem of corruption and crime, greed, unequal social status, problems related to gender – all this makes it possible to identify the type of socio-psychological Gothic novel. These include the novels "Squire Toby's Will", "A page in the history of a family from County Tyrone", "A room in a hotel...", etc. The supernatural in this type of short stories may appear not for the sake of its image, but as a technique that focuses attention on socio-psychological aspects.  Also, the supernatural here is more connected not with external eventfulness as such, but with the cultivation of a tense psycho-emotional atmosphere.

Thus, in this paper, approaches to the creation of a typology of small Gothic prose by J.S. Le Fanu are outlined and a working typology is proposed that can be developed and continued.  Gothic novels by J. S. le Fanu can be typologized based on the specifics of perception and depiction of the supernatural category, and we propose to distinguish: a classic Gothic novel, a "scientific" Gothic novel, a humorous Gothic novel, a socio-psychological Gothic novel and a folklore-mythological Gothic novel.

It should be noted that a number of short stories by J.S. Le Fanu combines features of several types, with the dominant features of one of them, for example, such works as "Carmilla", "The Artist Schalken", "Laura the Bell", "Stories of Loch Gur", etc. can be called.

In addition, the typologization of Le Fanu's Gothic novels allows us to trace in more detail the change in the figurative system of Gothic short prose: heroes who are overtaken by generic curses are replaced by heroes who are trying to understand the nature of the supernatural, or heroes for whom the supernatural is the fruit of mental illness. Female characters deserve special attention, for example, the charming vampire Carmilla or the Countess from the "Hotel Room...", who is endowed with the features of a Gothic male villain, which makes her a real femme fatale, unlike the gentle Rosa Velderkaust ("The Artist Schalken") and sensual Laura ("Carmilla"), who are still they remain within the framework of the classic Gothic heroine.

In conclusion, it should be emphasized once again that the proposed typology of J.S. Le Fanu's short stories can be supplemented and applied not only to the work of the writer in question, but also in general to the analysis of the complex of English Gothic short stories of the turn of the XIX-XX centuries.

 

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The version of the work submitted for publication is focused on the designation of the typology of Gothic novels by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. It should be noted that this author attracts researchers, but this thematic grade has not yet been fully considered in the mass of critical sources. The author of the article notes that "Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, 1814-1873) is one of the outstanding authors of the Victorian ghost stories, his works were highly appreciated both at the time of publication and decades later, influencing the development of Gothic literature in the 20th century. The creative legacy of this British author has been the subject of attention in literary studies more than once." However, a number of points are open, therefore, the work complements a full-fledged cross-section of the assessment of the work of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. The material is competently compiled, theoretical, practical and analytical inserts are syncretically combined in the text. The author does not exclude a proper comment on the course of scientific narrative. For example, "it should be noted that despite the interest of researchers in the work of J.S. Le Fanu, the writer's novels or individual, most famous short stories, such as Carmilla, are mainly the subject of research, as well as literary critics pay attention to the influence of individual elements of the author's poetics on the works of other writers or, conversely, consider Le Fanu's texts through the prism of typological genre characteristics of Gothic literature in general. Therefore, the appeal to the issue of typologizing the Gothic novelistics of J.S. Le Fanu remains open at the moment." It seems that with such an organization of work, the material can be used both in the study of the history of foreign literature and literary theory. Alternatively, "the type of classic Gothic novel should be designated first. It is most genetically related to the poetics of the classic Gothic novel. The narrator considers the supernatural here as existing on a par with the material objective world, often opposed to it and therefore invariably frightening. The narrator and (or) the characters of such short stories do not question the reality of the mystical events happening to them. The Gothic atmosphere into which the reader is immersed is created by Gothic toposes: castles, ruins, cemeteries, gloomy descriptions of nature; typical Gothic elements, motifs and images that are not subject to parody (meeting with a ghost, the motif of mystery, hidden treasure, etc.)", or "in the work of J.S. Le Fanu, one can distinguish a type of humorous Gothic novel. This variety includes the writer's early works, for example, the short story "The Ghost and the Croaker", which is included in the collection "Purcell's Notes". The author uses the popular technique of the "animated portrait" in a comic way, used, for example, in Walpole's "Castle of Otranto". Le Fanu adds wit and humor to the novel with the help of the ridiculous appearance of a ghost, whose purpose is not to scare an uninvited guest, but to sip a glass of whiskey. The ghost's order to set his sprained ankle adds more comedy. Also, almost all the short stories from this collection can be attributed to this type, with the exception of "A strange incident in the life of the artist Schalken", etc. The article is constructive, the author's point of view is objectively manifested, no serious factual shortcomings have been identified. I think that the topic has been fully disclosed, the goal has been achieved. In the final section, the author notes that "in this work, approaches to the creation of a typology of small Gothic prose by J.S. Le Fanu are outlined and a working typology is proposed that can be developed and continued. Gothic novels by J. S. le Fanu can be typologized based on the specifics of perception and depiction of the supernatural category, and we propose to distinguish: a classic Gothic novel, a "scientific" Gothic novel, a humorous Gothic novel, a socio-psychological Gothic novel and a folklore-mythological Gothic novel." The main requirements of the publication are taken into account, the methodology is maintained within the framework of the current highway. The list of sources includes different types of publications. I recommend the article "Typology of Gothic novels by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu" for publication in the scientific journal "Litera".
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