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Re-imagining the 'Dark Continent' in fin de siècle Literature

Robbie McLaughlan

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Maps the fin de siècle mission to open up the 'Dark Continent'

Although nineteenth-century map-makers imposed topographic definition upon a perceived geographical void, writers of Adventure fiction, and other colonial writers, continued to nourish the idea of a cartographic absence in their work. This study explores the effects of this epistemological blankness in fin de siècle literature, and its impact upon early Modernist culture, through the emerging discipline of psychoanalysis and the debt that Freud owed to African exploration. The chapters examine: representations of Black Africa in missionary writing and Rider Haggard's narratives on Africa; cartographic tradition in Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections; and mesmeric fiction, such as Richard Marsh's The Beetle, Robert Buchanan's The Charlatan and George du Maurier's Trilby. As Robbie McLaughlan demonstrates, it was the late Victorian 'best-seller' which merged an arcane Central African imagery with an interest in psychic phenomena.

Key Features:
  • Opens up the 'dark continent' and its literary, historical and theoretical manifestations
  • Argues for an anticipation of a modernist aesthetic suggesting an unexplored relation between fin de siècle sensation literature, in particular mesmeric fiction, and psychoanalysis
  • Diverges from established colonial histories by drawing on an archive of special and neglected material

About the Author

Robbie McLaughlan is an Affiliate at the University of Glasgow. He is working on the historical points of intersection between culture and psychoanalysis.

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