Science, magic and Ancient Egypt in late Victorian and Edwardian literature

Dobson, Eleanor (2014). Science, magic and Ancient Egypt in late Victorian and Edwardian literature. University of Birmingham. M.A.

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This thesis investigates the ways in which science and magic were brought together in fiction of the fin de siècle concerning ancient Egypt, in the works of popular including Bram Stoker, H. Rider Haggard and Marie Corelli. Notions of authenticity and artifice, fact and fiction, antiquity and modernity collided in the late nineteenth-century metropolis, where London’s academic institutions, occult organisations and theatrical exhibits of Egyptiana sat side by side. Writers who lived in this central hub are examined in relation to this unique geographical space that encouraged a sense of intimacy between these concepts. The influence of scientific discoveries demonstrated in the city’s lecture halls, including remarkable electrical phenomena, and occult undertakings such as Spiritualist séances, are traced within literature. Ancient Egypt, in this fiction, encourages a fusion of the two, lending an air of legitimacy to depictions of the supernatural, while projecting a sense of the alchemical and magical onto representations of cutting-edge science, including X-rays and radiation. In this way, literature with ancient Egyptian themes often reveals much about late nineteenth and early twentieth century ideas of fantasy and reality, as well as the present’s relationship to the past.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.A.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.A.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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