English Literature student Lauren Findlay reports on the latest Gothic literature events from Speke Hall, Liverpool.
In partnership with their ‘Romance and Revival: the Gothic at Speke Hall’ feature, Speke Hall have partnered with Manchester Metropolitan University to deliver a series of lectures on the Victorian Gothic. The lectures, running until July 5th, explore different aspect of the Gothic in Victorian literature including Gothic interiors, Gothic acoustics, and the poetics of Gothic space.
The lecture I attended on Thursday 1st March entitled ‘The Haunted House: Ghost Stories by Victorian Women Writers’ was delivered by MMU’s Dr Emma Liggins, focusing on female writers and their mode of Gothic writing. In the opening of her lecture, Liggins quoted famous US abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, who called Speke Hall a ‘standing romance’ when she visited in 1853. Stowe’s quote created a link between the Hall and the other literary haunted houses in the lecture. Liggins also drew on the context of the Gothic in the Victorian era, linking the rise in Gothic fiction to fluctuating religious beliefs, a fascination with spiritualism, and the Victorian cult of mourning.
Liggins stressed that this form of the Gothic drew on Victorian concerns about, and had a particular resonance for, women. Drawing on critics such as Kate Krueger and the idea that Victorian women writers used everyday, ‘normative spaces as sites of crisis’, Liggins discussed the relationship between women and the Gothic. Women, she argued, were often associated with insanity and the uncanny, making them a form of ghost, either invisible in Victorian culture or becoming a more threatening power.
Beyond the lecture itself a meal was served to the guests beforehand in the Hall’s restaurant and the lecture was followed by a discussion with Dr Liggins and the attendees about the importance and the limitations of the ‘female Gothic’.
As a literature student studying Late-Victorian Gothic, I found the connection between women writers and the haunted house to be of particular significance for my own interests in Gothic fiction. Speke Hall’s series of talks offers a great opportunity to think about the relationship between authors, characters and the Gothic spaces they interact with.