Posts Tagged ‘Novels’

Vampiric Delights

2 March 2010

By Christina Morin

I began to emerge last week from the enervating fug of research funding applications that has literally engulfed me since early December. Physically, I escaped relatively unscathed; mentally and intellectually, however, I was reduced to a fraction of my former self. In terms of my long abandoned leisure reading, I knew now was not the time to embark on War and Peace. So, instead, I picked up a collection of short stories I’d been meaning to read for a while, The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre (Oxford UP, 1997). An assortment of Gothic short stories published in a variety of British magazines during the first half of the nineteenth century, Tales of the Macabre definitely suited my inert post-funding-application despondency and lack of attention. Short enough to read in a bus journey to town, and dark enough to satisfy the most pessimistic, recession-obsessed mind, the tales in this collection are definitive examples of the Gothic short story tradition in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. These short stories often merged with, or later became, full blown novels, suggesting the fluidity of borders during the Romantic period between genres such as the ‘novel’ and the ‘short story’, while also highlighting the continued, cross-generic appeal of the Gothic mode. Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’ (1819), originally published in the New Monthly magazine, for instance, was penned alongside Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and, in ‘introduc[ing] the vampire into English fiction’, as the editors, Robert Morrison and Chris Baldick argue, undoubtedly influenced countless novels and short stories to come, including Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) and Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Read More

Evelina! Evelina!

26 January 2010

By Christina Morin

As I was reading Frances Burney’s Evelina (1778), it became pretty clear to me why critics of the developing novel in the mid to late eighteenth century were so concerned about its potential effect on the impressionable minds of young women. Concerned that the imaginative, if not entirely implausible, narratives of the novel as a genre would prompt young female readers to ‘dream impossible dreams’, so to speak, many eighteenth-century critics condemned novels as ‘unsafe’ and ‘unsuitable’ for female consumption. Such anxieties were, in many instances, linked to ideological concerns about patriarchal order and the prescribed private and domestic role of women in society. Novels, it was understood, frequently urged women to consider entering into the public realm, thereby vitally disordering society as a whole. At the very least, novels such as Evelina, it was thought, could prompt women to desire things they shouldn’t want, things that they really had no right desiring in the first place. Take Lord Orville – the impossibly handsome, polite, and gentlemanly hero of Burney’s novel.  Had I been, like the novel’s eponymous heroine is supposed to be, a penniless orphan, I feel sure I would’ve dreamt day and night about a rich nobleman falling in love with me and soliciting my hand in marriage, all the while knowing I was simply a genteel country bumpkin with no money, connections, or resources to bring to the match.  Of course, I’d probably also fantasise about being revealed as the rightful daughter and heiress to a rich, ex-profligate desirous of repenting for the mistakes of his past (i.e. deserting my mother, burning their marriage certificate, denying they had ever married, and dooming me to a life of poverty and dependence.) These things happen every day, right?! Read More

An Epic Read?

25 November 2009

Contributed by Christina Morin.

On my way to a conference last month, I found myself with a bit too much time in the airport and nothing better to do than wander about Duty Free and find myself something to read on the flight. Accordingly, I popped into the nearest Hughes and Hughes for a bit of a browse, overpriced latte in hand. I was looking for something light to read – not as light as the gossipy rags stocking the magazine rails (though I have been known to buy those from time to time, all the while insisting that I never usually read them!) but certainly nothing as heavy as the research monographs I’d packed in my bag, just in case. As it happened, I was in luck; after passing by the latest Martina Cole and Cecilia Ahern offerings, I lighted upon what I thought was a perfect medium between the two extremes of light and heavy reading: John Mulcahy’s 2009 novel Union. I had read briefly of the book’s publication earlier and was delighted to see a fictional attempt to deal with the Anglo-Irish Union (1801) – an absolutely central event in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Irish social, political, and cultural history which, oddly, has very rarely provided the background for popular, historical fiction. Credit is certainly due to Mulcahy for attempting to recover, in an entertaining but educational manner, this important event to a general reading audience.

Published within the last few months, Union has an impressive list of politicians, historians, and writers gracing its back cover with exuberant words of praise. Patrick Geoghegan, for instance, is credited with hailing the novel as ‘[a]n unconventional love story [… that] captures brilliantly the chaos and intensity of the 1798 Rebellion, the passing of the Act of Union, and the doomed heroism of Robert Emmet’. Mulcahy’s novel, as you’ll deduce from Geoghegan’s comments, is concerned with more than just the immediate period surrounding Anglo-Irish Union. Instead, it attempts to capture the decade or so leading up to and following Union, gesturing towards the political and emotional fervour that surrounded all three events that Geoghegan mentions.

I suppose I should’ve been clued in to Mulcahy’s rather more far-reaching intent than his title suggests when I saw the novel’s cover- Read more

Film Review: Dorian Gray

22 September 2009

Contributed by Ann Downey

Dorian GrayDorian Gray is director Oliver Parker’s third foray into adaptation of a work by Oscar Wilde. In 1999 he directed An Ideal Husband and three years later followed with The Importance of Being Ernest, for both of which he wrote the screenplay. The former, starring Cate Blanchette and Rupert Everett, was a more successful film than The Importance, which lacked the crispness and pace of the more successful adaptation of 1947 starring Michael Redgrave and an unforgettably acerbic Lady Bracknell in Edith Evans.

Wilde’s novel has been filmed at least twenty times, the most famous being that of 1945, winning the Oscar for cinematography. The most recent, in 2006 was set in New York. The horror aspect was foremost in the 2005 version called simply Dorian. This current is the fifth film based on the novel since 2000. Before that television adaptations were more common, with versions in 1973, 1976 and 1983. The only feature film made since the 1945 version was that of Massimo Dallamano in 1970 starring German actor Helmut Berger. It was filmed more than five times in the decade before 1920 in German and French versions. This would not be unusual as at this time filmmaking was in its infancy and literature of every sort was mined for stories. These films could be as short as ten minutes, though by 1915 the full length feature had matured. Less than 15% of these early films survive.

Dorian Gray suffers from some of the faults of Parker’s Ernest; an uneven pacing and misjudgements in exposition but is redeemed by an excellent central performance from Ben Barnes.

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A couple more favourites…

12 August 2009

Contributed by Christina Morin.

Eighteenth-century novel

Last month Christina Morin gave us her recommendations for the eighteenth-century novel. Here are a few additions to her favourite novels from history:

A couple more suggestions for these long (rainy!) summer days:  Regina Maria Roche, The Children of the Abbey (1796): Copies of Roche’s fantastically convoluted Gothic novel are few and far between, but if you have access to a good research library, you’re in luck. Otherwise, a quick trawl on the internet will turn up quite a few late-nineteenth century editions from America – a find in and of itself! Once you have the novel in your hands, I can guarantee that you won’t want to let go of it, as this ‘amazingly durable’ novel – as Ian Campbell Ross has called it – is a fascinating combination of the Gothic and the national/regional more commonly associated with Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson, and Charles Robert Maturin. Read More

Tackling the eighteenth-century novel

29 June 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

hogg canongateLast July when I finaly submitted my PhD I found myself with a long list of ‘to do’s. Things that I had put off over the previous four years with the iron clad excuse ‘I’d really like to but I’m writing a PhD- I will do it when I finish’ now piled up in front of my eyes. Last summer while attending the annual Eighteenth-Century Ireland Conference I was inspiried by some of the papers given by scholars of English to become more familiar with the cannon of eighteenth-century novels and added this to my ‘to do’ list. I will have to admit that when I started this I was a bit unsure of how far I would get but I knew that I was certain to progress further on this then my ‘start jogging’. I decided to try moving alphabetically through and I have reached ‘h’. Ok- I haven’t quite completed the task at hand while writing this, and I have to admit my head has been turned by other books, I am currently reading Joe Queenan’s Closing Time, but half way through my task one book in particularly, James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, I was prompted to write this post. Read More