The supernatural fourth dimension in Lucas Malet's The Carissima and The Gateless Barrier

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Lucas Malet (Mary St Leger Kingsley) was a celebrated fin-de-siècle author whose two gothic novels, The Carissima: A Modern Grotesque (1896) and The Gateless Barrier (1900) employ the contrasting conventions of the ‘male’ and ‘female’ Gothic respectively. This chapter argues that the reason for this stylistic divergence can be found in Malet’s hitherto overlooked engagement with contemporary occultist notions of a supernatural fourth dimension, which proliferated in late-nineteenth-century scientific, spiritualist and theosophical thinking. Her novels, I suggest, operate as two poles of a dialectic that explores Malet’s ideas about the potential physical and psychological conditions required to access a higher spiritual dimension, with results that produce the divergent impulses of ‘Lewisite’ and ‘Radcliffean’ Gothic. Malet’s stylistic choices and engagement with the Gothic, therefore, indicate more than a mere dabbling in a popular genre. Instead, the Gothic provides Malet with an avenue through which to explore some of the most contentious and exciting scientific, philosophical and spiritual notions of her day.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave handbook of steam age gothic
EditorsClive Bloom
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783030408664
ISBN (Print)9783030408657
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • supernatural
  • ghosts
  • Victorian Gothic
  • Victorian Literature
  • Literature
  • fin de siècle
  • women and literature
  • women's writing
  • fourth dimension
  • gothic
  • Gothic fiction
  • female gothic
  • nineteenth century
  • literary criticism
  • paranormal
  • Space
  • Lucas Malet
  • Hyperspace


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