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Mummy Knows Best: Knowledge and the Unknowable in Turn of the Century Mummy Fiction

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This article argues that the figure of the reanimated mummy, which appeared with increasing frequency in imperialist adventure fiction as the nineteenth century drew to a close, is the quintessential monster of imperial gothic. The sudden interest in a figure that some would describe as a fundamentally flawed monster (perhaps because it is simply too unambiguously dead) at this moment of turn-of-the-century fears of dissolution, degeneration and loss of control signals, I argue here, a profound anxiety about the epistemological underpinnings of the imperial project. In these stories, reanimated mummies move easily out of their stable positions as artefacts or relics and enter into the Western symbolic order as acting subjects (however conditionally) and as terrifying rivals for epistemological supremacy.
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Keywords: Empire/imperialism (British) in literature; epistemology; fin-de-sicle/turn-of-the-century fiction/culture; gothic/horror fiction; mummies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Mount St. Vincent University.

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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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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