chapter  7
13 Pages

Gothic Returns in the 1890s

At the end of the nineteenth century familiar Gothic figures-the double and the vampire-re-emerged in new shapes, with a different intensity and anxious investment as objects of terror and horror. Recurrent since the late eighteenth century, doubles and vampires made an impressive reappearance in the two major Gothic texts produced in the period, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Dracula (1897). Though harking back to Romanticism, it was in the context of Victorian science, society and culture that their fictional power was possible, associated with anxieties about the stability of the social and domestic order and the effects of economic and scientific rationality. Earlier nineteenthcentury concerns about degeneration were intensified, not in relation to cities and families, but in the different threats that emerged from them, threats that were criminal and distinctly sexual in form. In scientific analyses the origin of these threats was identified in human nature itself, an internalisation that had disturbing implications for ideas about culture, civilisation and identity, as well as a socially useful potential in the process of identifying and excluding deviant and degenerate individuals. The ambivalence towards scientific issues led, in the fiction of the period, to strange realignments of the relationship between science and religion, a relationship shaped by spiritualism and the continuing popularity of the ghost story.