Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation argues that Victorian novelist and statesman Edward Bulwer-Lytton develops a rhetoric of the supernatural in his three occult novels, Zanoni (1842), A Strange Story (1862), and The Coming Race (1871). Bulwer’s rhetoric allows his characters and his readers to access transcendental aspects of human knowledge, leading to a form of self-actualization. In this way, Bulwer situates knowledge of the spectral as non-materialist form of self-help.
Each novel engages in a dialectical framework in its course toward absolute knowledge, pitting the reader’s expected knowledge of the supernatural against the limited perspective of an inadequately experienced narrator. I use Jane Bennett’s phenomenology of enchantment, coupled with Charles Taylor’s concept of self, o tease out the language Bulwer’s characters use to describe the spectral. Bulwer thus emerges as a bold experimenter in his manipulation of his readers’ mode of experiencing the world through supernatural means and, in addition, offers a deliberate counter to the increasingly capitalistic mode of self-help as popularized in the mid-nineteenth century. Thus, I position this triad of novels as offering a counter to the telos of monetary gain as “self-help” that persists in the twenty-first century.
Urban, Eliza Dickinson, "Ghost Writing: Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Occult Novels and the Rhetoric of Spectral Phenomenology" (2020). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 5167.
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