Home > Catalogo > English Literature > 2 | 2 | 2015 > Late Victorian Modes of the Aesthetic Impure

Late Victorian Modes of the Aesthetic Impure

The Strange Case of Arthur Machen

Gilles Menegaldo    Université de Poitiers, France    



Gilles Menegaldo, Professor, University of Poitiers Abstract Late-Victorian Modes of the Esthetic Impure: The Strange Case of Arthur Machen In his fiction (novels and short stories), the Welsh fin de siècle writer Arthur Machen tends to feature various forms of transformations/mutations of the body, often associated with transgressive practices (scientific or occult experiments) implying some form of moral deviation or perversion in relation with forbidden knowledge. In The Great God Pan set in London, Machen stages one of these uncanny experiments, the mating of a young girl with the God Pan which brings to the world a feminine incarnation of evil who leads her many suitors to suicide. In The Three Impostors, a novel or rather a loosely connected collection of stories, the author emphasizes the way in which the supernatural encroaches upon the empirical world. Various modes of body hybridity and physical and mental degeneracy are foregrounded, but the description of these devolution processes generates a strong feeling of fascination mingled with a sense of horror and abjection, thus illustrating the notion of esthetic impure which may be considered at various levels: in the diegetic universe, as an ethical issue, but also as a generic/textual one. The city of London itself appears as a cosmopolitan, hybrid, labyrinthine locus, invested with beauty and sublimity but also with decadence, moral corruption and archaic, primitive forms of behaviour. The text itself evinces a certain form of impurity because of its hybrid status and its use of various genre conventions at time verging upon parody or pastiche.

01 Dicembre 2015

Keywords: Arthur MachenHybridityDecadenceMetamorphosis

Copyright: © 2015 Gilles Menegaldo. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.