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Dark Side of the Moon: Dickens and the Supernatural

Soumya Chakraborty, Jadavpur University

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Abstract

Quite overshadowed by Dickens the social reformer and Victorian England’s most popular and prolific author, lay Dickens a man fascinated with the occult and the supernatural, a practitioner of mesmerism, a believer in the pseudo-science of phrenology, a man so obsessed with the Gothic that time and again he registered a covert, symbolic re-emergence of it throughout his works. Dickens harboured a lifelong attraction towards the supernatural, evidenced in his childhood fondness for the weekly magazine The Terrific Register, dealing with themes of ghosts, murder, incest and cannibalism, and in the several ghost-stories interspersed throughout the corpus of his work. Deeply involved in the 19th Century debates over the existence of spirits and the veracity of ghost sightings, Dickens oscillated between faith in the existence of the other-worldly and scepticism. Always concerned with the psychological aspect of the supernatural, Dickens’ work shows a constant engagement with the eerie, the uncanny and the grotesque. This paper attempts to explore not only the evolution of the theme of the supernatural in Dickens’ works but also his changing attitudes towards it.

Tipu Sultan and the Politics of Representation in Three 19th Century English novels

Ayusman Chakraborty, Jadavpur University, India

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 Abstract

Tipu Sultan was the ruler of the native state of Mysore. His fierce opposition to British rule in India earned him unrivalled notoriety in England. Colonial writings usually portray him as a cruel tyrant who tortured Indians and Englishmen alike. This article studies the representation of Tipu Sultan in three nineteenth century English novels – The Surgeon’s Daughter by Sir Walter Scott, Tippoo Sultaun: A Tale of the Mysore Wars by Captain Meadows Taylor, and The Tiger of Mysore by G. A. Henty . In these works, Tipu is painted in an extremely unfavourable light. Arguing that the politics of imperialism influences such representations, this article tries to show how the depiction of Tipu as a monstrous villain served to justify British rule in India. These novels seem to suggest that the British deserve credit for rescuing Indians from such egregious villain. The article also focuses on politicization of Tipu’s dead body. Colonial art and literature constantly return to the scene where Tipu’s body is discovered by his enemies. This article argues that colonial imagination converts Tipu’s corpse to a ‘grisly trophy’ which becomes a sign of British triumph over Oriental despotism.

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