Throughout this wonderful year, every second thought has drifted towards the inevitable gauntlet through which every prospective academic must run before they can claim the ultimate prize of a Master’s Degree: The Dissertation. I have made no secret of the fact that I hold a special sympathy for all things Gothic and have done since childhood. My first book collection consisted of the works of R.L. Stine; through mass consumption of every horror film produced, I discovered the classic myths of Stoker, Shelley, Stevenson, etc.; acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of horror film history, and the works of King and Lovecraft are well known to me. My proudest moment as an American was discovering that Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent Price shared my nationality (I had always assumed that they were British because every artist I admired tended to come from this side of the pond). I have puzzled and pondered over the potential subject of this dissertation to the very edge of sanity and after much consideration I have made my choice among the worthy contenders. But first, here are some honorable mentions:
4-Charlotte Brontë- An obvious choice, I grant you, but given my complete adoration for Jane Eyre and the tremendous amount of research I had already completed for my Brontë module in the autumn, my heart naturally yearned to know more. Therein lies the problem: unless I succeeded in uncovering a previously uncredited manuscript, there is very little room for new research and I detest the thought of retreading old ground. And though my love for Charlotte and her work transcends time, the ground of Brontë academia is a veritable canyon filled with echoed opinions.
3-Wilkie Collins- I’d never read anything by Wilkie Collins before coming here and went absolutely bonkers for The Moonstone. I will confess that my greatest motivation in choosing Collins’ work was the prospective thrill of discovering each new story and enjoying a literary journey that offered as much pleasure and excitement as only a child can experience. However, while browsing through the list of past MA dissertations, I learned that Wilkie Collins has featured at least once a year for the last five years so poor Wilkie had to be sidelined this year.
2-Elizabeth Gaskell- Of course, the name of Elizabeth Gaskell is well known among students of literature, but did you know that she wrote ghost stories? Quite good ones, actually. It is not an impossibility that I may return to it in future, but the winner is…
1-Sheridan Le Fanu- I first discovered the work of Sheridan Le Fanu as a by-product of my obsession with Peter O’Toole, who starred in The Dark Angel, a television adaptation of Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas. While waiting for the DVD to be released, I decided to read the book and was horrified, both by the inventive twists of the narrative and the fact that Le Fanu had escaped my notice for so long. Uncle Silas is an exceptional work of fiction that I would not hesitate to add to a curriculum of classics as it is well deserving of a place among the greatest in Gothic literature. When one of his short stories featured in the Neglected Victorians reading group, I was surprised to learn that very little criticism has been directed at Le Fanu’s work which is surprising considering how prolific an author he was. And so with my essays safely put to rest, I can dedicate my mind, body, and soul to as complete an understanding of the work of Sheridan Le Fanu and the development of Irish Gothic literature as is possible. For all intents and purposes, I consider myself married to my dissertation and, having already delved into his world of visions and mysterious strangers, I am a paranoiac mess and I am loving every minute of it.
Music: “Orinocho Flow”- Enya
Book: In a Glass Darkly– Sheridan Le Fanu
Film: Vampyr (1932)