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‘A slight lesion in the grey matter’: The gothic brain in Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan

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In Arthur’s Machen’s The Great God Pan (1894), a neurological experiment produces a demonic woman who brings about the mental, physical and social deterioration of almost all with whom she comes into contact. In this text, as in much of his other fiction, Machen characterizes the brain as an interstitial site between mind and body as well as a portal to supernatural forces, demonstrating an engagement with philosophical issues raised by nineteenth-century mental physiology and neurology. Through its portrayal of neurological theories and experimental practices, The Great God Pan demonstrates anxiety over the biological reductionism and materialism of late Victorian mental science, especially the threat to self-governance and the potential erosion of social stability occasioned by a lack of will or spiritual force guiding human thought and action.
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Keywords: Arthur Machen; The Great God Pan; Victorian horror fiction; cerebral localization; fin de siècle; neurology; shock

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Lethbridge

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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  • Horror Studies intends to serve the international academic community in the humanities and specifically those scholars interested in horror. Exclusively examining horror, this journal will provide interested professionals with an opportunity to read outstanding scholarship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including work conceived as interdisciplinary. By expanding the conversation to include specialists concerned with diverse historical periods, varied geography, and a wide variety of expressive media, this journal will inform and stimulate anyone interested in a wider and deeper understanding of horror
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