The Good Doctor Hesselius: Le Fanu’s invisible narrator and the framing of In a Glass Darkly from Gothic to sensation fiction

Evans Abbott, Caroline Corinne (2019) The Good Doctor Hesselius: Le Fanu’s invisible narrator and the framing of In a Glass Darkly from Gothic to sensation fiction. MRes thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In a Glass Darkly (1872), composed of five previously-published short stories, is the final fiction published before the death of Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (b.1814) in 1873. It is framed by the fictional, late Doctor Martin Hesselius, a “metaphysical physician” whose unique experience of the early Victorian era darts between experiences of the occult and the scientific. Accompanying these stories, five corresponding prologues written by the Doctor’s former assistant describe the relevance of the story to follow and often, its significance to the late Doctor’s work. Current critical conversation surrounding Hesselius borrows from established critical authors in identifying the Doctor’s role as a framing device to the narrative. Scholarly voices have also explored Hesselius’s role in bringing reader closer to experiencing desired authorial effect. Le Fanu’s literary legacy is most often placed in discussions of the Gothic, but critical voices have also argued for the consideration of Le Fanu’s “Green Tea”, included as the first chapter of In a Glass Darkly, as a piece of Sensation Fiction, prompting the need for consideration of Le Fanu’s relationship with genre beyond a single example. Where other considerations of Le Fanu’s work regard the role of biographical and historical context, there is a void in current study which would see this established knowledge applied to Hesselius’s significance to Le Fanu’s late work, genre studies, and Doctor’s relationship with reader. Most importantly, Le Fanu’s implementation of Hesselius as a framing device is in dire need of critical reanalysis. The scope of critical work including discussions of Le Fanu’s relationship with genre – specifically, Sensation Fiction and the Gothic – suffers from this deficiency. Hesselius, too frequently regarded as the near-invisible narrator must instead be considered as a character, implicated in the story he posthumously tells, in order for a critical audience to inform their understanding of his framing relationship to genre and the Victorian reader. This research argues that critical discussions concerning Le Fanu’s methods of framing have not considered this coexistence of genre which, I further argue, is present in In a Glass Darkly. This research will examine Hesselius’s role in the framing of In a Glass Darkly in historic and literary context, arguing that Le Fanu’s use of the Doctor supports a coexistence of genre, and that Hesselius effectively bridges the gap between these genres. Further, I identify and analyse a key mode by which Le Fanu supports Hesselius’s role in framing genre, evidencing a consideration of genre synchronicity which examines Hesselius’s parallel role in establishing a relationship with the Victorian reader and imposing the desired effect of the author. Through examining these voids via close reading – including analysis of its prologues and with a weighty focus on “Green Tea” – this research aims to evidence the validity and necessity of a closer consideration of Hesselius in making critical arguments pertaining to the stories within In a Glass Darkly.

Item Type: Thesis (MRes)
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, narrative framing, genre gaps, sensation fiction, Gothic horror, gender and sexuality, In a Glass Darkly, Carmilla, Green Tea, Justice Harbottle, Victorian, time, medical humanities.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Creasy, Dr. Matthew and Jenkins, Professor Alice
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Ms Caroline Corinne Evans Abbott
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-31008
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2018 11:32
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2020 22:21
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.31008

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