‘Haunting Beyond the Outer Eye: Catherine Crowe’s Vision of the Unseen’

Heholt, Ruth (2014) ‘Haunting Beyond the Outer Eye: Catherine Crowe’s Vision of the Unseen’. In: ‘Sights and Frights: Interdisciplinary Conference on Victorian Visual Culture, Horror and the Supernatural’, Jone 2014, University of Sussex.

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Abstract / Summary

In 1848 Catherine Crowe wrote The Night Side of Nature a book detailing ghost sightings and experiences of hauntings from ordinary people. Crowe suggested that seeing ghosts involved a different type of vision to the accepted one. Outer vision is faulty according to Crowe and she wrote: ‘what we call seeing is merely the function of an organ constructed for that purpose in relation to the external world: and so limited are its powers, that we are surrounded by many things in that world which we cannot see without the aid of artificial appliances’ (Crowe, 1848: 27). What might be seen as objective, empirical vision is flawed and there are very many things we cannot see. Crowe believed that ‘In the spirit or soul, or rather in both conjoined, dwells, also, the power of spiritual seeing, or intuitive knowing; for, as there is a spiritual body, there is a spiritual eye’ (26). For Crowe, the rational, objective type of vision most often associated with the masculine and the scientific is not the only one; there is a different sort of vision that is predicated on intuition, experience and involves in-sight. This paper examines Crowe’s ghost stories specifically in relation to the Victorian gender politics of looking and vision. Crowe was deeply critical of the institutions and performances of Victorian masculinity and her ghost tales champion the marginalized – women, the ‘weak’ and animals. Her radical re-view of what can and cannot be seen suggests a collective blindness that can only be banished by an opening up to the wonders and horrors, uncertainties and threats of the unseen. I will argue that Crowe was an important figure in the vanguard of Victorian visual politics; eccentric (mad?) and often ridiculed but insightful and visionary.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Writing & Journalism > Literature
Courses by Department: The School of Writing & Journalism > Journalism
Depositing User: Ruth Heholt
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2015 13:45
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 16:06
URI: http://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/1536

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