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The daemonology of unplumbed space : weird fiction, disgust, and the aesthetics of the unthinkable Newell, Jonathan

Abstract

“The Daemonology of Unplumbed Space: Weird Fiction, Disgust, and the Aesthetics of the Unthinkable” explores the aesthetic and metaphysical significance of disgust in weird fiction. Beginning with the weird’s forefather, Edgar Allan Poe, the study traces the twisted entanglement of metaphysics, aesthetics, affect, and weird fiction through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, considering along the way the myriad attempts of authors such as Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and H.P. Lovecraft to stage encounters with the unthinkable. Drawing on recent philosophical efforts to reinvigorate metaphysical thought – including speculative realism and new materialism – as well as affect theory, the dissertation argues that in contrast with earlier Gothic writers, whose focus on sublime aesthetic experience reified the importance and power of the human subject and entertained fantasies of spiritual transcendence, authors of weird fiction exploit the viscerality of disgust to confront readers with the impermanence and instability of a subject polluted by nonhuman forces which seep into it from the world around it. In doing so, weird fiction helps us to think about the nature of this queasy, nonhuman world, to glimpse an existence beyond the world merely as it appears to us. By investigating the intertwinement of the aesthetics of disgust and metaphysical speculation about the nonhuman world, the dissertation expands our understanding of weird fiction and the study of affect in literature. It thus contributes to a growing understanding of weird fiction as more than a pulp, essentially commercial genre, rather interpreting the weird as literature of ecstatic yearning for a non-anthropocentric reality, literature which dwells on questions of being, becoming, and the ultimate nature of the universe.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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