Gothicizing Victorian folklore: Spring-heeled Jack and the enacted Gothic

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Abstract


This article focusses on the Victorian bogeyman, Spring-heeled Jack, as a historicised example of the Gothic and folklore’s cultural dialogue and divergences in nineteenth-century Britain. Variously described as a ghost, beast, or devil when he first terrorised Londoners in 1837-38, Spring-heeled Jack evolved from local folklore to press sensation to penny dreadful serials. These texts reworked his folkloric accounts through stories that were heavily indebted to earlier Gothic literature for many of their narrative tropes. The article uses this urban legend to explore what it terms the enacted Gothic; the eruption of folkloric and Gothic elements beyond the bounds of fiction and into Victorians’ everyday lives. While encouraging Gothic scholarship to engage with folkloric ‘texts’, it argues that we need to look beyond obvious similarities to appreciate important distinctions arising from their differing natures, cultural functions, and modes of storytelling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-30
Number of pages17
JournalGothic Studies
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • folklore
  • Spring-heeled Jack
  • Urban Legends
  • Penny dreadfuls
  • Enacted Gothic

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