Joseph Sheridan LeFanu

Michael H. Begnal

1971
83 pages
ISBN 0-8387-7766-X
Contemporary Irish Writers

Joseph Sheridan LeFanu is another outstanding contribution to the Irish Writers Series. These monographs have been designed to treat in individual volumes the significant Anglo-Irish writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. These studies will prove helpful to literary scholars and to students of literature. When complete the series will constitute a significant history of modern Anglo-Irish literature, encompass discussions of more than 50 writers.

The present study is a critical evaluation of LeFanu both as a novelist and an Irish man-of-letters. For many years Sheridan LeFanu has been praised as a creator of suspense and of the supernatural, and it is true that a good part of his work is squarely in the nineteenth century Gothic tradition. His tales represent his fascination with horror and brutality, a fascination that continues throughout his writings. Rarely are we granted glimpses of hope or happiness. But the scenes of violence and even occasionally of grotesquerie are not intended to hold the reader's attention for their own sake or on their own fantastic merit. Rather, they are meant to inject a note of realism to bring home the immediacy of what each tale is attempting to convey. Dr. Begnal here defines what the Gothic or supernatural was to LeFanu and how he influenced the writing of such tales as Stoker's Dracula.

But LeFanu was author also of poems and some fourteen novels, and it is time that his works were reassessed in light of the whole corpus. In this monograph he is shown as a student of social ills attempting to get at the heart of the illness plaguing the society of his day, as well as a master at the creation of supernatural event and narrative.

About the author:

Michael H. Begnal was born in Washington, D. C., and received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. An Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Penn State University, he is married and has two sons. He has published extensively in the James Joyce Quarterly, A Wake Newslitter, Eire-Ireland, Conradiana, Journal of Modern Literature, and Western Humanities Review.

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