Arthur Machen: Critical Essays offers a study of the works by Arthur Machen (1863-1947), the Welsh writer who has attracted a cult following for decades, especially among fans and scholars of weird fiction and Gothic studies. These essays take readers into different areas and address several topics in Machen's literary production: the literary, the artistic, the scientific, the religious, the socio-cultural, and the personal. The twelve chapters constituting the volume examine the representation of human beings in the writer's works and their relationship with the surrounding environment, whether it is the omnipresent London or the mysterious, menacing nature. The contributors also interpret Machen's writings through a series of disciplines and academic theories that were contemporary to the writer (such as paleontology and medicine) and demonstrate how he was influenced by the scientific discourses of his time and reproduced them in his works. The last section of the volume considers Machen's interest in the occult and mysticism and the religious themes present in many of his works.
Antonio Sanna is a support teacher in Sassari, Italy.
Introduction: Arthur Machen: His Life, His Works, and His Critics
Part I: Human Beings and Their Environments
Chapter 1: ‘A London cognita and a London incognita’: Contesting London in Arthur Machen’s The London Adventure, or the Art of Wandering
Amanda M. Caleb
Chapter 2: The Problem of Agency in Arthur Machen’s The Terror
Chapter 3: Heterotopic Spaces in Machen’s Fiction
Chapter 4: Dead Matter: Posthumanism and Stones
Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns and Emiliano Aguilar
Part II: Darwinism and Degeneration
Chapter 5: Fear and Fossils: The Legacy of Arthur Machen’s ‘Little People’ Stories
Justin Phillip Mullis
Chapter 6: ‘Dissolution and Change’: Reading The Great God Pan as Monstrous Adaptation
Chapter 7: Lucian’s Ornaments in Jade: Symbolist Decadence in Arthur Machen’s Prose Poetry
Chapter 8: ‘A Substance as Jelly’: Helen Vaughan as Infectious Pathogen in The Great God Pan
Loredana Salis and Laura Mauro
Part III: Spirituality
Chapter 9: ‘[A] mystic, ineffable force and energy’: Arthur Machen and Theories of New Materialism
Chapter 10: Occult Investigations in Arthur Machen’s Detective Stories
Chapter 11: Through the Ancient Wood: Envisioning Apophatic Mysticism in A Fragment of Life
Chapter 12: A ‘Miracle’ In No Man’s Land?: Arthur Machen and the Angels of Mons
Andrew R. Lenoir
Although praised by many, including Stephen King, Arthur Machen’s work remains a niche interest (with some exceptions) largely overshadowed by work of other late-19th- and early-20th-century writers of the supernatural and gothic. In the introduction to this book Sanna provides a thorough introduction to Machen’s life and work. This is followed by a dozen careful essays grouped into three sections: “Human Beings and Their Environments,” “Darwinism and Degeneration," and “Spirituality." Two of Machen’s most familiar texts, The Great God Pan and “The Bowmen,” are treated in separate essays, but the volume is more valuable for the discussions of Machan’s less-known work—his detective stories, his prose poetry, and some of his other novels... Sanna’s own contribution, “Heterotopic Spaces in Machen’s Fiction,” invokes Foucault in a sophisticated treatment of alternative worlds. Although Machen died in 1947, this collection leaves one with the sense that he was well rooted in fin de siècle decadence.
This rich and wide-ranging collection reveals the complexity of Arthur Machen’s life, his ideas, and his writing. The contributors to this volume provide significant insights into Machen’s interests in archaeology and antiquarianism, materialism and medicine, spiritualism and the occult. Perhaps especially, there is much to learn here about Machen’s relationship to place: how he excavated London’s out-of-the-way passages and Wales’s mystical hills to prise out secret histories and hidden lives. Arthur Machen: Critical Essays will appeal particularly to those interested in gothic literature, fantasy and horror, decadence, and Victorian and Edwardian culture.
All Machen scholars will be delighted with this critical collection. Not only do these lively essays add to the understanding of Arthur Machen's unique literary accomplishments, they can be read, and enjoyed, and appreciated by all with interests in supernatural fiction. Best of all, their diverse critical viewpoints and conclusions show that Machen's writings remain alive and vital in the 21st century.