Fantastic Beasts and Where to Print Them: Mapping Monsters in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers

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Abstract

Harpies roaming Spain, mud-vampires in Texas, man-eating plants in Madagascar, sea-serpents off Norway: while we might expect to find monsters of this nature in medieval and early-modern print culture when the uncharted edges of maps still bore illustrations of mythological creatures and warnings that “here be dragons,” surprisingly reports about preternatural creatures and unusual happenings continued to be published in nineteenth-century newspapers. This paper explores “weird news,” press representations of monsters, mythical creatures, and other preternatural phenomena in the nineteenth-century press, with a focus on both the monster and its location in each of the articles discussed. The paper maps or “re-maps” the locations of the monsters in these digitally sourced articles to identify three key areas where the majority of monsters were supposedly found according to this genre of journalism: in areas of interest to the British Empire, frontier zones within western nations that might cause anxiety, and at sea. The paper argues that racial, imperial, nationalistic and scientific ideologies are expressed in how these locations are exoticised, rendered uncanny or otherwise transformed into fantastic and Gothic spaces. In relating the Imperial and Nautical Gothic to “weird news,” this paper also serves as a rebuttal to the notion of disenchantment proposed by Max Weber.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)135-146
Number of pages13
JournalVictorian Popular Fictions Journal
Volume1
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019

Keywords

  • monster
  • newspapers
  • journalism
  • Victorian
  • nineteenth century
  • supernatural
  • gothic
  • imperialism

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