Egypt as the ancestral home of humanity in Algernon Blackwood’s works: On the issue of the limits in Gothic fiction

Abstract: 

The article is devoted to the issue of the limits in gothic fiction. Some of Algernon Blackwood’s ghost stories and his novel “The Wave” are quite special in this respect. They share the interest in the supernatural typical of British ghost stories and preserve some of their characteristic features, however, they are based on different ideas, probably borrowed from occult teachings and scientific theories popular in those days, such as a comparative analysis of myths and rites and Sigmund Freud’s psychology. Blackwood’s stories show considerable interest in ancient Egypt as the ancestral home of humanity, however in a metaphysical sense: the ancient civilization appears as a mighty force that still exists and can claim human souls through dreams and visions. This corresponds to certain tendencies found in Victorian and Edwardian literature on Egypt, unlike ghost stories, which often show Egyptian mummies and other artefacts as dangerous “invaders” from another world (the concept of strangeness, or otherness, is essential for a ghost story). What is more, Blackwood’s Egypt is ambivalent rather than hostile, and the characters’ comeback can make them happy. This case does not correspond to the common image of Egypt characteristic of British gothic fiction. It can be understood as a result of introducing the author’s occult and scientific ideas into this highly traditional type of literature. Such precedents are a good reason to ask the question about the limits of a ghost story as a genre.

Key words: 

ghost story, otherness, occult teachings, literature on Egypt, limits of a genre.

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