Uncanny New Worlds in Harriet Prescott Spofford’s “D’Outre Mort” and “The Black Bess”
Michaela Keck examines the weird in two short stories by nineteenth-century author Harriet Prescott Spofford. More specifically, Keck’s chapter focuses on the protagonists’ ill-fated attempts at joint homemaking in increasingly domesticated and technologically manageable spaces on the one hand, but still terrifying environments on the other. The chapter demonstrates that, historically and discursively, the protagonists’ weird experiences occur at the intersections of gender, empire, and nature, as well as gender, technology, and medical science respectively. Aesthetically and stylistically, Spofford imbues the worlds of her fictitious characters with a baroque vitalism and more-than-human agency, which draws on yet also undermines Romantic notions of transcendence and highlights moments of existential crisis.
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