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Title: Reading the entranced mind : late Victorian popular fictions of race
Author: Sharma, Niyati
ISNI:       0000 0004 9355 268X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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The thesis examines why and how late Victorian popular writers repeatedly evoked the racial ‘other’ while depicting states of unconsciousness. In novels by Edward Bulwer Lytton, Grant Allen, Marie Corelli, Florence Marryat and Devkinandan Khatri, characters in a state of trance either enter an oriental psycho-geographical space or morph into a ‘primitive,’ ‘savage’ alternative version of themselves. The thesis demonstrates that through such moments of entrancement the novels conceptualize distinctive notions of the unconscious and racial ‘other’-ness, often imagining a complex relationship between the two. Moving away from the dominant Freudian approach to the unconscious, I trace a fictional history of the psyche through a survey of lesser-known fiction. Influenced by a range of psychological, religious and philosophical discourses, these works treat an altered state of mind as a condition for imaginative creativity. A racial logic underlies the understanding of the creative unconscious: most of these novelists saw an ‘oriental’ frame of mind as a vital aid to accessing states of trance and imagination. An examination of the significance of the racial ‘other’ in novelists’ artistic credo reveals the heterogeneous ways in which they imagined and identified with the ‘other’ in their narratives. While they all regarded imagination as a function of the unconscious, most also considered reading as an activity that could induce entrancement. The thesis considers how, by inviting or inducing readerly entrancement, authors attempted to shape the reader’s psyche in keeping with their idea of a racially evolved or regressed mind. In the introduction, I lay out the broad argument and the scope of the thesis. Thereafter, chapter one reads the representation of the quasi-oriental Vril-Ya in Edward Bulwer Lytton’s satire The Coming Race (1871) against his conception of the creative unconscious. The chapter argues that, unlike Lytton’s other romances, this novel depicts a perverted unconscious incapable of imaginative ideation. Chapter two looks at Grant Allen’s Kalee’s Shrine (1886), an ‘imperial Gothic’ novel that documents his engagement with the evolutionary anthropological theory of unconscious organic memory. In contrast to other Gothic novels, Allen’s novel reveals not so much an anxiety about the ‘other’ as a desire to establish a connection with the colonized ‘other.’ Chapter three focuses on Marie Corelli’s Gothic romance Ziska (1897), in particular, her portrayal of a Christianized state of enchantment. The chapter argues that Corelli’s fixation with Christianity produces an orientalist novel that is curiously indifferent to the embodied experience of race. Chapter four examines how Florence Marryat’s Blood of the Vampire (1897) portrays a racial hybrid equipped with malignant unconscious powers. The chapter contends that Marryat’s novel sensationalizes the fear of the psychologically intrusive but unfeeling ‘other’ with the aim of preserving ‘wholesome’ British values of sympathy in the reader. Chapter five turns its gaze to the Indian writer Devkinandan Khatri’s Hindi romance Chandrakanta (1888) which treats trance states as undermining the development of a ‘conscious’ Hindu nationalist identity. I end the thesis with a Conclusion that briefly discusses the urgency of understanding the complexities of inter-racial mental connection within contemporary debates on cultural appropriation and representation.
Supervisor: Ratcliffe, Sophie ; Small, Helen Sponsor: Felix Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature