In Gothic Returns, I take as my subject the literal and metaphorical returns of the dead in Wilkie Collins’s The Haunted Hotel and The Woman in White; Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, The Uncommercial Traveller, and The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices; Émile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise; and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. I argue that these returns of the dead are a symptom of and a response to the influence of Darwin on the Victorian Novel, and that they situate plot and multiplot in a new relation. It is my contention that the Victorian novel internalized from Darwin a sense that origins are fundamentally uncertain, and in this way evolved as a field of narration in which multitudes of different stories vie for authority: the novel, if you will, as a survival of the fittest narrative. In this context, the returns of the dead, live burials, and other hauntings that constitute the multiplots of gothic fiction are evidence of the paradoxical survival of stories that have not in fact survived the novel’s internal struggles. In Our Mutual Friend, The Postscript in lieu of Preface is one such return. In The Haunted Hotel, the incineration of a manuscript that reveals the identity of a murderer is another example in which one plot fails to exterminate another and is in turn haunted by it.


Department Store Person Narration Female Voice Great Expectation Domestic Sphere 
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© Eleanor Salotto 2006

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  • Eleanor Salotto

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