Desperatly Seeking Watson

Listen to The FrankenPod episode; Desperately Seeking Watson

It’s 1881 and 2010 the toll of the war in Afghanistan is being felt by returning veterans who are struggling to find their place within a society that has no frame of reference for their recent experience. One of the more disenfranchised of these returning veterans is one Doctor John Watson, a medical man who is suffering physically and psychologically due in large part to an injury he sustained to his shoulder/leg. He has no real home, no real family or friends. He is a man adrift waiting for the nearest high functioning sociopath to sweep him off his feet and into an implausible mystery.

Tonight we are talking about the character that his own creator resented, the man who popularised a fallacy about deductive reasoning, the frequent ejaculator Sherlock Holmes. 

Actually, I lie Watson is the frequent ejaculator that was rude of me.

Just a warning, this is NOT going to be a comprehensive exploration of holmes, we’re probably going to do other holmes episodes at some point, and I know that there will be people who know far more about Sherlock Holmes  listening to this, so I can only apologize for any inaccuracies and omission, and I extend an open invitation to come on the podcast and share your knowledge.

For this month’s episode, I read A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Brent watched the 2010 episode of BBC’s Sherlock and the unaired pilot.

Full disclosure, I have viewed the BBC Sherlock on numerous occasions, probably more often than I have read the story, but it’s pretty close. This is the story at the very beginning, the story in which Watson meets Sherlock, their eyes meet and a marketable franchise is born.

John Watson served in the Second Anglo-Afghan war. So the bulk of my information about this comes from the story itself and reading an article on garenewing.co.uk. Definitely not knowledgeable about war history so please bear that in mind. The conflict lasted for 2 years from 1878 to 1880

John Watson is said to be in Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as an Assistant Surgeon. He was playing catch up of a kind, I’m sure that’s the technical term, and when he arrived at Bombay they were already in Kandahar. Then getting attached to another unit called the Berkshires. It’s after this that he goes to into the battle of Maiwand and incurs the injury and PTSD that he will be dealing with when he meets Holmes. He cites his orderly Murray as being instrumental in his survival after being wounded by a bullet.

Turns out that some war history research types have basically said nope, wrong place wrong time no Murray to nearly all of this, and have gone about systematically providing the actual information associated with Arthur Conan Doyle’s assertions and I just wanted to point out that we live in a world where someone bothered to do that and it’s beautiful and the internet is just swell sometimes. You can find that info here 

Also, Holmes says in his whole showing off how brilliant he is that he can tell all of the things about Watson including that ‘He has just come from the tropics’ which is bullshit because Afghanistan isn’t in the tropics so suck on that Sherlock.

In the novel, we meet Gregson and Lestrade who Holmes says try jealousy to outdo each other and are rivals on the police force. 

 

The emphasis on the ring is in both the novel and television show In the novel it is because it is the proof of the injustice and cruelty of the victim to the woman that is at the centre of the mystery.

Rache is German for revenge and Jefferson Hope adopts the use of this term and the crime scene as it is the modus operandi of a criminal in the United states that baffled the police and he hoped that he could utilize the same pageantry to throw off Scotland Yard.

There is a similar murder weapon, the two pills and the gun to enforce the choice.

The victims are Stangerson and Drebber. Drebber took the pill choice, stangerson attacked Jefferson Hope and so Hope had to stab him.

The cabby is still the murderer and he is about to die from an aneurysm in the aorta

Part two is very strange, we find out about Jefferson Hope’s motivation for murdering the two men. I’m going to do a bare-bones summary are you ready. There is lots of Mormon hating coming up:

John Ferrier and a tiny 4-year-old Lucy are dying of thirst and starvation on the plains of Utah, they were part of a larger group including Lucy’s parents, but they are the only two left alive. They are rescued by a large caravan of Mormons headed by real-life Mormon leader brigham young, who basically says that he will only save them if they follow all the tenants of the Mormon faith. John Ferrier Does pretty well out of the situation when they get to the ‘promised land’ he gets a portion of land and becomes very wealthy. He adopts Lucy and years pass with her growing up in a super creepy male gaze montage. She goes out one day on horseback and some shit goes down and she is rescued by Jefferson hope, who falls in love with her. He kind of proposes and then goes away for a job. Meanwhile Brigham young tells John Ferrier that Lucy will have to marry a Mormon dude or John Ferrier will be killed and lucy forced into matrimony. She has two to choose from, Drebber or Stangerson, both of whom are already in polygamous relationships They give them 30 days to comply, like some sort of weird notice to vacate and John Ferrier sends for Jefferson Hope to see if he can come and help. He turns up just in time in a weird face planting and crawling along the ground type situation which is ridiculous and I have a quote

They go on the run. But the Mormons catch up and while Jefferson hope is away from Lucy and killing John Ferrier and abducting lucy. Lucy dies not long after being forced to marry Drebber and so Jefferson Hope goes seeking revenge, even after Drebber and Stangerson go to England. And so that is the motivation of Jefferson Hope. He knows one of them killed John Ferrier and they forced Lucy into a marriage that was the apparent cause of her death. The ring at the crime scene is Lucy’s.

This is the point where I need to talk about the representation of Mormons. It’s pretty brutal, the taking of Lucy by force and the way Christianity is held up as the ideal and Mormonism is seen to be criminal and debauched is bad enough, but Conan Doyle attributes awful behaviour to real live people apparently based on sensationalised reports of the time that demonised the Mormons. As an atheist, I don’t think it’s fair for me to make value judgements about anyone’s religion, but the portrayal was so bad that apparently, Arthur Conan Doyle extended a personal apology to Brigham Young.

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10 Romantic Gothic Stories You Should Read Before You Run Hysterically Into the Moors Never to be Seen (Alive) Again

As I was looking for resources through the hit and miss machine that is Google, I kept coming across goth dating sites… this is not relevant, I just thought you should know the level of people in pseudo-Victorian garb staring whimsically off into space that I had to endure to research this was relatively high compared with other topics I have written about.

Romanticism and the Gothic overlap so much that it is probably easier to define was isn’t Romantic Gothic and it might take less time. So rather than go over a definition of Gothic Romanticism that is so similar to the millions of others out there, not to mention our introductory episode, I thought I would give you a list of a few of my favourite stories that deal in Gothic Romanticism that we haven’t covered on The FrankenPod podcast:

 

Poe_rue_morgue_byam_shaw.JPG
Byam Shaw‘s illustration for Poe‘s The Murders in the Rue Morgue in “Selected Tales of Mystery” (London : Sidgwick & Jackson, 1909) on the page to face p. 284 with caption “The sailor’s face flushed up; he started to his feet and grasped his cudgel”

The Murders in The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe (1841)

Falling into the category of both the genius detective (pre-Holmes I might add) and urban gothic, and with at least one very clear example of gothic excess (that is the fate of the victims in the story and their killer). Dupain is a delight and in my opinion far more likeable and intriguing than his successor Holmes.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue is as much fun as you can possibly have with a corpse shoved up a chimney.

Available for free at Project Gutenberg as part of  The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Part 1

There is also an excellent dramatisation of Murders in the Rue Morgue that was released as part of The Rivals Audio drama on BBC Radio 4 with the eternally adorable James Fleet inserted into the narrative as Inspector Lestrade, who is an Arthur Conan Doyle creation. The thread of the series is that Lestrade, of Sherlock Holmes fame, is basically offering examples of detectives who are better than Holmes, and Dupain played by the incomparable Andrew Scott is his first example.

 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

This was the first gothic novel I ever read and it has a very special place in my heart to rival Frankenstein. Pop culture has entirely ruined the ending for new readers unless they are 10 like I was. If you do let a 10-year-old read it, maybe go for a kid’s edition to minimise nightmares. Still worth a read despite the spoilers. Doubling you guys! More Doubling!

Available for free at Project Gutenberg 

 

Stoker_-_Dracula,_Sonzogno,_Milano,_1922.djvuDracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

I know that there are other vampire stories that pave the way to Dracula (some of which we will talk about on the podcast), but none of them quite achieve the drama and the sense of formidable invasion the way the Bram Stoker does. He has brought together a lot of ideas surrounding vampires and made them into an incredibly compelling novel that still holds up. It is also insanely problematic as most novels of its time are so easily outraged should tread carefully as with all these books really.

Available for free on Project Gutenberg

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)

Another childhood favourite of mine of which you are less likely to know the big twist. And you know what, like a lot of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels even if you have read it, the solutions are either so complicated and outlandish or unexpectedly pedestrian that the reader often has difficulty recalling the exact circumstances of the crime and the solution to the riddle. But that is a genius detective novel for you, their leaps of inductive reasoning (not deductive as any first-year critical thinking student will tell you) are incredibly entertaining but often don’t stand up to scrutiny. A fantastic story though, possibly the best in the Holmes canon.

Available for free on Project Gutenberg

 

Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

Du Maurier, I would hazard to say is one of the great geniuses of gothic romanticism. Often eclipsed by her predecessors, the Bronte’s (for there are more than cursory similarities) she crafts books that paint a bleak, yet compelling picture of the world surrounding a young girl who is generally a damsel in distress. Her damsels in distress are often isolated without a clear ally. She uses tropes artfully, without letting them becomes cliches, and creates a few new narrative devices that will be deployed often and with great enthusiasm by her successors.

Available to buy at The Book Depository

 

Moonstone_novel_-_frontispiece
Frontispiece illustration from the book, The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

This is stretching the definition of gothic I know, and most people would turn to Collins’ other, more conventionally romantic gothic novel The Woman in White. I am ashamed to say I haven’t read it yet. The Moonstone is part detective novel, part romance, part scathing indictment on contemporary society and colonialism.

Available for free at Project Gutenberg

 

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)

Yes, Jane Austen. This is possibly one of the most cleverly crafted gothic novels and yet, it started life as a parody of one of the most influential stories of gothic romanticism of its time; The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Catherine Morland, the hero of the piece, encounters many tropes of gothic fiction, but they are all overcome with a practicality and wit that is so uniquely Austen.

Available for free at Project Gutenberg

 

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1862)

We could easily call this sensation fiction narrative a proto-detective novel. If the style of dress and manner of speech were 70 years in the future you could easily see this novel fitting in with the detective noir genre. There is double-crossing, murder, mistaken identity, a femme fatale and private investigator of a kind.

Available for free at Project Gutenberg as part of The World’s Greatest Books Volume 2

 

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (1848)

If you are going to read a Bronte novel, might I humbly suggest this epistolary novel by possibly the least appreciated Bronte aside from Branwell? There are remarkably less awful people who you are supposed to sympathise with and decidedly less harmful relationships. It’s not a hugely popular opinion but I’ll take Anne Bronte over her sisters (and obviously Branwell) any day.

Available for free at Project Gutenberg

 

 

Chronicling the links between potential tangents and my slow/rapid? descent into madness.The-FrankenPod

Bats Optional – What is Gothic Literature?

Disclaimer:

I am not an expert and feel free to correct me (nicely) on any of this. The podcast is an evolving beast and I will happily revisit any of the ideas and texts we look at.

This is taken from this week’s episode of The FrankenPod.

Listen via youtube 



Before our podcast release next week I thought it might be a good idea to have a bit of a chat about Gothic literature and what exactly that entails. I am not assuming that everyone knows or doesn’t know about the gothic genre and this certainly won’t be a deep dive because I am simply not qualified. This is just to define the parameters of the initial genre we will be focusing on with Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

First up we need to acknowledge that the gothic genre is super problematic. There are stories that give a strong voice to people of all shapes, sizes, gender identifications, sexual orientations and nationalities but this progressiveness is a pretty recent development. Gothic literature can be racist, homophobic and is frequently classist and misogynist. Whilst we could dismiss these issues as being products of the time in which they were written I think it is important that we are aware of the problems in the things we love and to acknowledge them. The only way we can move forward is to understand the issues of our past. Frankenstein is classist, misogynistic and racist. It is my favourite novel of all time, but I completely acknowledge it’s flawed.  


Let’s get into my barebones overview of Gothic Literature.


Particularly popular in the 18th and 19th century, Gothic literature typically draws on a spectre of evil

Stamps_of_Romania,_2004-044
By Post Of Romania

from the distant past that threatens to reach forward and destroy the present. Bram Stoker creates a particularly threatening creature who oozes ancient evil in Dracula. With vampire myths existing in every culture, some tied to the bible, some tied to ancient Egyptian mythology Bram Stoker had a wealth of ancient evil to draw from. His Count is descended from Attila the Hun and himself is a spectre of ancient or at the very least medieval evil, being virtually immortal. He has been around for centuries, but in Stoker’s narrative, he ventures into Victorian industrialised society to act all creepy around the ladies of London.


The Corruption of the Innocent 

The predatory sexuality of Dracula is one of the most blatant examples of the corruption of the innocent, a trope that is revived again and again. He preys on young vulnerable and virginal women in the same way that monsters of his kind will again and again in the novels we cover. But the innocent does not have to be a young virginal woman. The good Doctor Jekyll is corrupted in The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the innocent Dorian is corrupted by his own vanity, Sir Henry and a supernatural lack of accountability, but in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is usually a girl or a woman who gets shortchanged. Even in contemporary gothic tales, the innocent vs. the beast is trotted out regularly, look at Buffy and Twin Peaks. I promise this will not become a Twin Peaks podcast but that won’t be the last reference to the series.


Locked Doors and Secret Passageways

Often gothic literature features mysterious castles, decrepit houses or monasteries. Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto (1764) is commonly cited as the first gothic novel, which is a whole ridiculous story that we will get to in another episode. The Castle of Otranto has a lot of the features that would come to be prevalent in the gothic novels that would come after it; an old castle, a family curse, the corruption of the innocent, the supernatural and the sublime.

 


The Other Goths

The word Goth does allude to a mysterious Scandinavian people who come into the verifiable historical record suddenly in the first century A.D. and this part of the story I am horrifically underqualified to talk about, even more than everything else I have been talking about. If you know a lot about the Goths, the Visigoths or the Ostrogoths please get in touch. Absolutely willing to revisit this! All I know is that as a teenage goth it was a source of very real and deep disappointment that the goths were not pale skinned eyeliner wearing robed people with black hair lounging about nonchalantly waiting for The Cure to be formed. 


Dramatic Architecture

The Gothic became a pejorative term that was used to dismiss architecture as ugly or barbaric which is a little harsh not to mention more than a touch racist. I also know basically nothing about this aspect of the gothic so again… if you know your way around gothic architecture please get in touch. Gothic literature has a lot more to do with the emergence of the goth subculture as we know it today than the Germanic Goths and gothic architecture.


This architectural notion of the terrible, dramatic and brutal has carried over into the gothic as it pertains to literature. With gothic plots being frequently brutal and dramatic in their content. Gothic literature also blurs the lines between the natural and the supernatural. 


The Indefinable Threat

The gothic does not require a ghost or a ghoul but needs an analogous threat. In fact, some of the most ambiguously supernatural gothic novels are the most troubling. Oscar Wilde’s protagonist does not have to wrestle with a literal physical monster, but with his own bargain with a malevolent force and we never conclusively find out if the governess of Henry James’ Turn of The Screw (1898) is actually experiencing a haunting or a psychotic break.


Popular_Detective_August_1935
By Published by Beacon Magazines, Inc. – Scanned cover of pulp magazine, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9849556

Detective Fiction

Stemming from the romantic supernatural gothic novel is the detective novel which dabbles in the macabre and the mysterious. These stories might start with a supernatural interpretation, as in the Sherlock Holmes novels, and a shown by the genius detective to be wholly natural, however improbable. The blurring of the gothic and the detective novel is particularly prevalent in The Hound of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, in which we get an appearance of the moors which feature so heavily in gothic fiction, they are like naturally occurring labyrinthine castles full of mystery and unpleasant surprises.


Gothic Film

The gothic film genre is closely tied to horror as it often features a lot of evil, death and destruction, however, it is also closely tied to the genre of period drama as the movies that draw inspiration from the classic gothic novel often keep their narratives within the same time and space as the original narrative. Most of the films we will focus on will have a Victorian or Vintage flavour, but the neo-gothic and gothic noir film has moved the gothic movie into the city and the modern world so there is a rich vein, no pun intended of material to work with.


So what makes Frankenstein gothic? 

Well aside from the cliché that it happened on a dark and stormy night. Victor Frankenstein is beholden to a deep ancient desire to create life from whole cloth. The Doctor’s drive to emulate god has a lineage tracing back to ancient Greece. Mary Shelley even renders the curse of the doctor explicit in the title of the novel Frankenstein, or the modern-day Prometheus. The Prometheus myth is a huge thing to unpack so I might have to do that another time. The creature of the novel is not born of God, so while he is a creature of science and consequently science fiction he is also a supernatural innocent that seeks to find his way in the world. There is the corruption of the innocent, death and the fall of a great noble family.

So what do you ideally need for a gothic novel or film? Not all novels will have all these but these are the factors to look out for…


Trick_photo,_decapitated_man_with_bloody_knife,_holding_his_head_(2720790706).jpg
By George Eastman House – https://www.flickr.com/photos/george_eastman_house/2720790706/, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53600367

The Gothic Text Wish List

□ Death

□ Mystery

□ A Haunting

□ A Curse

□ A Challenge to the conventional

□ An Artefact imbued with magic or supernatural properties

□ The Corruption of the innocent

□ Creepy architecture

□ Preferably a labyrinth of some kind

□ And an Ancient Evil

*Bats and ambiguous shadows optional


I’ll see you next week with Brent to compare the 1931 movie Frankenstein and the 1818 novel in which we officially apply the concepts of galvanism to the unsuspecting creature that is our podcast. 


How could this possibly go wrong?


You can watch the fall out from this act of hubris in real time @thefrankenpod on twitter and thefrankenpod.wordpress.com has all the resources I was diligent enough to include.


In the meantime hit up Project Gutenberg and Librivox for a free copy of Frankenstein and any other gothic tales in the public domain.


Resources

  • Smith, Andrew. Gothic literature. Edinburgh University Press, 2007.
  • If you want to find books over 100 years old or thereabouts you can probably find it on Gutenberg Project Free Books outside of the Public Domain on Project Gutenberg
  • My copy of many gothic texts discussed are drawn from: A Gothic Treasury of the Supernatural: The Castle of Otranto; Frankenstein: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; The Picture of Dorian Gray; Dracula; The Turn of the Screw” 1981
  • Other research is drawn from the Macquarie University and Jstor
The feature image, which was originally posted to Flickr, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 17 August 2008, 12:59 by Yuriybrisk. On that date, it was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the license indicated.

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