Date of Award
Eleanor McNees, Ph.D.
Corpse, Death, Folklore, Ghost, Supernatural, Victorian
This dissertation explores representations of the human corpse in nineteenth-century British literature and ephemeral culture as a dynamic, multidirectional vehicle used by writers and readers to help articulate emerging anxieties that were complicating the very idea of death. Using cultural criticism as its primary critical heuristic filter, this project analyzes how the lingering influence of folklore animates the human corpses that populate canonical and extra-canonical nineteenth-century British literature.
The first chapter examines the treatment of the human corpse through burial and mourning rituals, as specific developments within these procedures provide interpretive windows into how the idea of death was quickly changing in nineteenth-century British culture. The second chapter engages representations of the human corpse as “subject” for study, especially as it figures within the contexts of body-snatching and human dissection. The third chapter explores specific nineteenth-century iterations of the ghost, as representing incorporeal extensions of the troublesome human corpse. The fourth chapter examines the uniquely Victorian literary and ephemeral figure of the ghost monkey; this entity, a reanimated, incorporeal specter of the human corpse from the “deep past,” occurs frequently in Victorian culture.
Ultimately, this dissertation hopes to show how representations of the human corpse in nineteenth-century British culture demonstrate, the persistent presence and influence of older, “exploded” folkloric beliefs, powerfully extant within a culture that frequently fought to marginalize them.
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Hoge, Charles, ""Undead Empire: How Folklore Animates the Human Corpse in Nineteenth-Century British Literature"" (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 292.
Received from ProQuest
British and Irish literature, Folklore, European history