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Title: The maritime supernatural of Frederick Marryat, William Clark Russell and William Hope Hodgson
Author: Jonk, Gerarda Dorothea Mezina
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 1214
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2017
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The ambition of this project is to demonstrate the cultural and literary importance of the maritime supernatural of nineteenth century literature. Addressing literary manifestations of the experience of being haunted at sea, I both expand and adjust the work of key scholars of maritime literature and history, who prioritize adventure narratives over the supernatural and focus on what they argue is the “real” experience and impetus of sea-faring, ranging from labour to adventure to empire-building. However, ghosts, legends and the supernatural are equally indispensable to the “real” experience of sea-faring. This thesis traces the maritime supernatural as a response to the anxieties arising from the imperial, religious and technological formations of the nineteenth century. Chapter one constructs a theoretical framework based on shipboard life and labour and the uncanny. Working within this frame, chapter two considers three key elements of the maritime supernatural – supernatural actor, haunted space and haunting environment – demonstrating the particular ways in which this literary genre overturns maritime lore and challenges norms and conventions. This leads to analyses of works of three popular sailor-authors, Frederick Marryat (1792-1848), William Clark Russell (1844-1911) and William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918). These three authors, well-known in their own time, are now often overlooked in studies of maritime literature, mostly because their narratives do not have the literary quality of canonical works. However, their contemporary popularity does not only indicate their writings resonated with their audiences; their apparent lack of literary quality highlights the immediacy of their concerns. Frederick Marryat’s The Phantom Ship, serialized between 1837 and 1839, seizes the supernatural element in order to interrogate Christianity. After a hiatus in the mid-nineteenth century when no new maritime supernatural narratives were published, William Clark Russell essentially revived the genre with The Death Ship in 1888. Russell’s nostalgic tale both expresses a longing for the past and anxiety for the future of shipboard labour. By the early 1900s, William Hope Hodgson’s early weird fiction gives a new spin to the genre, remythologising the sea into modern tales that reflect contemporary crises of maritime representation. This draws to a conclusion that complicates the notion of the maritime space as unproblematic site of nostalgia, modernity, religion or empire, and shows that a serious consideration of the maritime supernatural genre enriches the current discourse of maritime literature.
Supervisor: Jones, Stephanie ; Brown, Daniel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available