Dissertations@Portsmouth - Details for item no. 14384

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Gill, Jane Elizabeth (2023) The Kraken at the fin de siècle: an ecocritical reading of literary representations of giant cephalopods. (unpublished MA dissertation), University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth


In answer to Simon C. Estok’s request to theorise about ecophobia (which can be defined as fear of natural environments), Tom J. Hillard’s call to apply ecophobia to an analysis of gothic literature, and Emily Alder’s entreaty for an extension of nautical Gothic scholarship, this dissertation responds to all three with an exploration of the ways in which the Kraken archetype shapes and informs fin de siècle ecophobia.  Through an examination of the physical oceanic characteristics of depth, vastness and instability, I discuss the ways in which traditional Gothic tropes, including fear of the unknown, the uncanny, doubling, entrapment and dualism, can be transposed onto a nautical setting in ways that illuminate the attitude of humans to cephalopods specifically, and to non-human animals in general. These representations of Kraken archetypes were prominent at the fin de siècle as it was a period in which society questioned the place of humans on a global scale. An examination of representations of these sea monsters, following the discovery of a live one in the autumn of 1873, sheds light on the reasons for the ecophobia of Homo sapiens.

The research for this dissertation involved analysing primary sources including short stories, and one poem, featuring Kraken archetypes and other literary representations of cephalopods from Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Hope Hodgson, Wardrop Openshaw Muir, H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft, as well as press articles and other accounts of first-hand sightings of sea-monsters at the fin de siècle. By applying theory of dualism, the uncanny, monstrosity and doubling to these texts, I draw out firm suggestions that it is Homo sapiens and not the so-called sea monsters that are the true monsters of the Earth from an ecocritical perspective.

Course: Victorian Gothic - MA - P2927FTD

Date Deposited: 2024-02-22

URI/permalink: https://library.port.ac.uk/dissert/dis14384.html