New Article: ‘Haunted by Lenore’ in Gothic Studies Journal
One of the most exciting things as a researcher is seeing writing, long worked for behind-the-scenes, finally enter the world! I’m so pleased to share that my latest article, ‘Haunted by “Lenore”: The Fragment as Gothic Form, Creative Practice and Textual Evolution’, has just been published in Gothic Studies (the premiere journal in my field)!
This article germinated in research I did for my ‘Hellish Horses and Monstrous Men’ chapter (which I blogged about here), when I discovered the amazing story of social inspiration, influence, and even scandal that exploded around one particular Gothic ballad in 1796 (the height of the ‘Romantic Gothic’ period when society seemed obsessed with ghosts, goblins and all things terrifying).
‘Lenore’ is a German ballad originally written in 1773 by August Gottfried Bürger, and transported to Britain in the following decades. A gripping, fast-paced, ghoulish ballad about a soldier on horseback returned from the dead to carry his lover off into the night (and to her death, where they can be together forever), it sparked a sudden eruption of competition to translate the ballad into English in 1796, when at least seven different editions emerged.
Rather than separate translations of the same text, however, these different editions are all bound up in a complex social and intellectual network of haunting inspiration, influence and even scandalous competition, and the public loved to compare these different editions and determine whose was the most terrifying of the horrific bunch. So powerful was this phenomenon that it continued to haunt gothic literature for the next hundred years. Ever wondered where Dracula’s classic line “The dead travel fast” comes from? The answer is right here.
“For the dead travel fast”– Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897
My new article explores this incredible melting pot of gothic inspiration and textual composition, looking at the ways fragmentation operates not only as a popular Gothic form at the time, but also as a central part of Gothic creative practice and textual evolution. I explore how the ghostly remnants of other texts haunt and are resurrected within those that cannibalise their forebears, each one seeking to produce new and more terrifying meaning through such layering of spectral stories.
Here’s the abstract for ‘Haunted by “Lenore”: This article examines the processes of fragmentation and haunting surrounding the explosion of competing translations, in 1796, of Gottfried August Bürger’s German ballad ‘Lenore’. While the fragment has become known as a core narrative device of the Gothic, less attention has been paid to the ways that the fragment and fragmentation operate as dynamic, living phenomena within the Gothic’s central processes of memory, inspiration, creation, dissemination and evolution. Taking ‘Lenore’ as a case study, this essay aims to redress this critical gap by illuminating the ways that fragmentation haunts the mind, the text, and the history of the Gothic as a process as much as a product. It demonstrates that fragmentation operates along lines of cannibalism, resurrection and haunting to establish a pattern of influence that paves the way for modern forms of gothic intertextuality and adaptation. Importantly, it thereby locates fragmentation as a process at the heart of the Gothic mode.
This article forms part of the ‘Gothic and the Short Form’ special issue of Gothic Studies, edited by Jen Baker. The other essays examine topics ranging from music videos and comics to more traditional Gothic literature: explore the full contents here.
I hope you enjoy this article and the rest of the Gothic Studies volume, and I especially encourage you to read one of the ‘Lenore’ translations for some deliciously spooky fun!