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    Locating the sympathetic insect: cultural entomology, Egyptianised gothic, and emotional affect in Richard Marsh's The Beetle

    Leaf, Janette Marie (2022) Locating the sympathetic insect: cultural entomology, Egyptianised gothic, and emotional affect in Richard Marsh's The Beetle. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Abstract

    Reactions to fictional insects affect actions towards insects in the real world. Reactions to real world insects inform interpretations of insects on the page. One feeds into the other. Authorial manipulation of insect imagery influences whether that process is beneficial or detrimental to the small creatures themselves and by extension to any persons they are called upon to represent. This thesis studies entomological rhetoric, acknowledging the negative and seeking the positive. It introduces insects as sentient creatures in a state of plight, assesses human responses to them, verbal and visual depictions of them, and dominant critical interpretations of them, and identifies an opportunity in late nineteenth-century fiction to expand scholarship by focusing on that location. Its key approach is cultural entomology, a praxis characterised by interdisciplinarity. Its methodology is to take a single text foregrounding an insect and examine it in several environments. The text is Richard Marsh’s 1897 The Beetle: A Mystery, written at the nexus of Beetlemania and Egyptomania. The novel’s eponymous, monstrous scarab functions as an ideological representation of a subdivision of the feminised Orient so that entomophobia becomes imbricated with xenophobia. This thesis draws in contemporaneous examples of Egyptian and entomological Gothic, art, material objects and museum culture, and explores direct evolution of The Beetle in its screen and stage adaptations and divergent afterlives in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and elsewhere. The purpose is to address the shifting impact on the perception of kinship and fellow feeling for the insect. Tracing a trajectory from natural history to horror to ecology, the rationale for ‘locating the sympathetic insect’ rests on the premise that experiencing sympathy is a prerequisite for the generation of a positive response to bugs translatable into globally and environmentally advantageous behaviour: an outcome potentially undermined by the Gothicised Beetle.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2022 11:45
    Last Modified: 27 Apr 2022 11:45
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/48122

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