Sublime panic: reassessing Arthur Machen's gothic fiction of the 1890s
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 02:25 authored by Erin Corderoy
This thesis demonstrates the way in which Arthur Machen’s Gothic stories in the 1890s: TheGreat God Pan, The Three Imposters, The Inmost Light, The Shining Pyramid and The Red Hand, destabilise reality and subjectivity. Read through the hermeneutic of the postmodern sublime it will be shown that one of the reasons Machen’s stories have resisted definition and are attributed to several various modes and styles is because they are experimental, avant- garde works that consistently disrupt the formation of absolutes such as reality or subjectivity. Machen’s 1890s stories and non-fiction also suggest a hermeneutic that is compatible with the deconstructive project and with a sublime reading that encounters the formless content. This reading is supported by the work done in the twentieth century by Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Derrida whose theorisation of the sublime as a hermeneutic demonstrates a way to read ‘formlessness’ and by way that texts both suggest and embody instability. Machen’s stories direct readers to read beyond the forms of the literary construction in a way that is consistent with ideas of the world as text and intertextuality in which all texts and signifiers speak to each other through a network of continuous construction and deconstruction. This network of meaning destabilises absolutes such as reality and subjectivity. Using techniques such as metatextality, deferred symbolism, intertextuality and recursion Machen’s works contribute to the way we understand nineteenth century conversations about epistemology, subjectivity and the place of science and the arts within those conversations.