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Chapter 11 - ‘The diabolical eloquence of horror’: Maturin’s Wanderings

from Part III - Reputations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Claire Connolly
Affiliation:
University College Cork
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Summary

Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) stands as one of the great works of gothic literature in the nineteenth century. However, it was also linked by many of its early reviewers with a wider style of Irish prose connected with legal and political oratory. Maturin’s six novels and three plays return to an ironic juxtaposition between heightened rhetoric and the banality of modern life. Carceral institutions and individual neuroses are the true sources of horror in his work. While there are supernatural evils and events, more often characters are ground down by modern tedium or its obverse, religious fanaticism. His work is populated by wanderers and exiles, figures burdened with either too much sensibility or too little. These de-territorialised anti-heroes appeared in a historical moment when modern ideas of nationalism were finding literary expression across Europe, and his work remains troubling in its disruption of such national imaginings.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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