“Representation and Evolution of the Monster and Monstrosity in the Late Victorian and Early Edwardian Gothic Novel”
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In their origin, monsters are signs of difference and a warning. As the embodiment of difference, monster stands as the signifier of the other, demarcating those whom societal norms deem dangerous or deviant. Providing a contrast by which the human can define itself, the monster is an essential figure in the dialectic relationship of the self and other, acting as a mirror to humanity. Warning against a myriad of dangers, it is the manifestation of historically and culturally conditioned fears. Accordingly, monsters embody a variety of fears threatening self-identity and society, corresponding to the changes in different periods and their consequences in time. In this light, the late Victorian and early Edwardian Gothic fictions are significant in their abundance of monsters. Looking at four manifestations of the monster at the end of the nineteenth century, this study aims to evaluate the Victorian monster and the ways it changes in tandem with the historical background, which created the impetus in the evolution of monstrosity. Reading the monster as a cultural category, this dissertation traces the changing forms of monstrous representation in Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Florence Marryat’s The Blood of the Vampire (1897), and Walter de la Mare’s The Return (1910). Arguing that over the course of the nineteenth century, Gothic monsters shifted from tangible, external forms of monstrosity to an invasive, inherent danger capable of transforming both the individual and social body, this study concludes with a monster that evolves into a complete loss of selfhood. In this sense, this dissertation aims to unfold how the ideals and fears of a society are mirrored in the representations of otherness, and their evolution through the changing forms of monsters, in relation to the socio-cultural, political and literary circumstances.