Irish Protestantism and the Gothic novel.

SevenStars

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It occured to me today that greatest gothic novels were all written by Irish Protestants. Does anybody know if the reasons why have ever been explored? Also not only that but they all seem to have been written by Irish Protestants of Huegnot descent!

Its strange that even though our tourist industry claims Oscar Wilde it doesnt claim the Bronte sisters who's father came from County Down (their mother came from Cornwall...another celtic nation).
 


needle_too

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Wasnt the 'Gothic' novel just a reflection of scientific advance/ discovery?

I was under the impression that disease, in particular, was a big theme.

The reason Prods would have been involved....... well, perhaps they had better education and access to these discoveries?
 

Garibaldy

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There is a Bronte homeland sort of thing. Never been, but have seen the sign for it.
 

SevenStars

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There is a Bronte homeland sort of thing. Never been, but have seen the sign for it.
In county Down?

Its strange that the Irish tourist industry claims George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde but not them...
 

conservative green

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Strictly anecotal, but a friend of mine was chatting to one of the builders that renovated Bram Stoker's old house in recent years.

Allegedly they found 6 foot thick walls in the basement. :evil:
 

SevenStars

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Very interesting article, thank you.
Ive just glanced at but most of these novels were written by the minister/vicar class which was very different from the Ascendency class (infact I think a lot of the United Irishmen came from this class?). Also Presbyterians were oppressed by penal laws.....And most foreign Anglicans/Episcolians consider the Church of Ireland basically Presbyterian and with good reason (the C of I became the largest Reformed Church largely as a result of Presbyterians "taking the soup" in penal times).
 

Garibaldy

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Roy Foster's essay on Protestant Magic in his Paddy and Mr Punch mentioned in the article linked above would be of interest to 7 Stars and others interested in this.
 

d7bohs

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Also should mention Terry Eagleton's Heathcliff and the Great Hunger - from what i remember, it ties Bronte firmly to the Irish prod tradition, and basically sees Heathcliff as the 'return of the repressed' - certainly implicitly connected to the gothic.
 

Green eyed monster

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Also should mention Terry Eagleton's Heathcliff and the Great Hunger - from what i remember, it ties Bronte firmly to the Irish prod tradition, and basically sees Heathcliff as the 'return of the repressed' - certainly implicitly connected to the gothic.
Thanks for that, it is a very interesting read..

Link Heathcliff and the Great Hunger ... - Google Books.

I can see why people would see a comparison, Heathcliff is an abused peasant, sometimes described as a racial outsider (i think he was a gypsy) who manages to gain control of an estate and wreak revenge... There is a strong theme of class hatred and this is carried across in the novel using Heathcliff's extremely cold feelings towards some of the other characters (and their feelings towards him). It was unusual to see a novel that gave a major role to a low class outsider in that period.

Interestingly, it was also written in black 47.
 
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Malcolm Redfellow

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I have several of Eagleton's texts here, and must admit that I've never taken easily to them.

Let me here try out a couple of his thrusts and see how they go.

Here, for example, from page 278 of Heathcliff and the Great Hunger:
The 1830s and '40s in Ireland witnessed an accelerating decline of traditional popular culture, as a modern democracy began to take shape; yet 'Gaelic' culture was already from the eighteenth century a contradictory affair, as a politically self-conscious Catholic middle class itself took a hand in burying a traditional Gaelic order with its modernizing projects.
Eagleton footnotes that with a citing of Eamon O'Flaherty, Atavism and Innovation: Reflections on Culture and Nationality, in Irish Review, issue number 2 from 1987. (Any knowledge thereof?)

Well, perhaps so. I might humbly suggest that "Gaelic culture" was in any case very much a construct of the middle- and upper-classes: its true exponents were too involved in living it, to recognise that they were. Analogies, of different kinds, might be:
  • Monsieur Jourdain, Molière's newly-minted Bourgeois gentilhomme, taken aback by the discovery that he had, in fact, been speaking prose for forty years without realising it.
  • James Macpherson's invention of "Ossian" and the way the Edinburgh literati took to Burns, in effect kick-starting the whole "Romantic" movement.

Furthermore, the period of 1830-40 takes us through the start of the transport revolution (railways and steamers), via the Great Famine, and into the urbanised experience of the Industrial Revolution. Another way of looking at that is flight from the land and the exponential increase in emigration. We do not have reliable figures of the movement to the rest of the UK, but it must track with and greatly exceed that to the United States, which was just some 6,000 in 1816, 92,500 thirty years later but still before the worst impact of the Famine, and over 200,000 by 1851. All in all, a pretty deracinating process.

Eagleton (and I admit to being rather confused about where this is taking us) then quotes L.M.Cullen on Ireland as the last western European country to abandon the medieval world (from The Emergence of Modern Ireland 1600-1900, p.25]) but also as a society exceptionally open to and receptive of change [Cullen, p.135] which Cullen evidences with the readiness to abandon the Irish language.

None of that is directly relevant to the rise of the Gothic novel; but might suggest reasons why that literary phenomenon didn't emerge from the (Catholic) Irish tradition.

[At this point, I think I'll pause to refresh not just my thoughts, and then proceed to a further post.]
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Re: post @ 05:45 PM

I'll take a rain-check on that pledge to post further.

A kind soul has just provided me with the Eamon O'Flaherty essay, cited by Eagleton. I need to work on quite a dense piece of prose.

The revelation is therefore delayed.
 

Catalpa

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Strictly anecotal, but a friend of mine was chatting to one of the builders that renovated Bram Stoker's old house in recent years.

Allegedly they found 6 foot thick walls in the basement. :evil:
Many years ago (1972 IIRC) I remember reading a snippet in an evening newspaper about a group of workmen who were tasked with renovating a house in Dublin and refused to continue to do so

- they claimed strange things were happening within and it was haunted.

It was the old home of Sheridan Le Fanu....:eek:
 

TonyB

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I did a course on gothic literature way back in the mists of time during my degree...I remember that there was much commentary on hidden vices (homosexuality, atheism, and such things) and how the gothic novel addressed those things - the horror was not so much in the form of an evil externalised monster, but a realisation that our civil exterior masked an internal savage, something unholy, unchristian, and wrong. There was much gothic literature produced by other nations - like Poe's "The Gold Bug", Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde", and Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw".

That Irish Protestants had some disproportionate influence on the canon is indeed notable. Further, Irish Protestants have had a disproportionate influence on nineteenth and twentieth century literature generally. Whether the land inspires them, or perhaps their heritage (in many circumstances England (for the Southern Irish), or Scotland (for the Northern Irish)) has isolated or banished them, is difficult to say. These days, the tax incentives tend to attract many exiled literary Brits :)
 
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When you walk amongst the tombs and graves in the oldest part of Mount Jerome Cemetary it is quite easy to imagine the Victorian middle classes having al fresco lunches around the mausoleums of their dead ones, the black capes worn by some, the red covers which apparently was usual to drape over a flat tomb to form a table. I always thought this was where this gothic stuff came from. Used to love it. Terrified of it now though. I remember reading Dracula for the thousand time some years ago and having to throw it down the stairs before I turned the light off!
 

Cael

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It occured to me today that greatest gothic novels were all written by Irish Protestants. Does anybody know if the reasons why have ever been explored? Also not only that but they all seem to have been written by Irish Protestants of Huegnot descent!

Its strange that even though our tourist industry claims Oscar Wilde it doesnt claim the Bronte sisters who's father came from County Down (their mother came from Cornwall...another celtic nation).
A very interesting question, a chara. No doubt a lot of it had to do with the simple fact that Protestants would have been more educated in the 19th century and more in tune with European trends, but, that said, there could be a deeper reason also. After the Famine\Genocide of the 1840s, the old certainties of Protestant life in Ireland were under severe threat. It certainly didnt escape the attention of the more educated Protestants that the world they knew was coming to an end, but couldnt quite end. Is this not the very theme of the gothic? The undead. That who's time in this world has passed, but, for whatever reason, still must go on, unable to change. In Stokers Dracula, this theme of the absence of change is central. We are presented with the clearest possible contrast between the all incorporating science of the young men of London - and particularly the young blood of America - and the animal instinct of the undying vampyre (theirs is a science that can even incorporate the unscientific, i.e. the existence of vampyres.) We see the contrast between the rude vitality of the new, in opposition to the sublime beauty of the undying and unchangable past - but a past that can only subsist by sucking the blood of the present.
 

Cael

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