Material guilt : the body as conscience in British fin-de-siécle Gothic novels.

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This thesis examines two fin-de-siècle Gothic novellas—Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), their depictions of the physical and sensual body as integral to morality, and the role of sacramentalism suggested thereby. In the first body chapter, I consider Stevenson’s Strange Case, which portrays Jekyll and Hyde as possessing a single material body despite Jekyll’s purported immaterialism and denial of the body’s physicality. Sharing a material body, they also share a single identity and moral conscience, tying Jekyll inextricably to the deeds of Hyde. In the second body chapter, I present Wilde’s Dorian Gray as exploring the necessity of the body’s physical senses and embodied suffering for the integrated moral life and the integral potential of sacramentalism. Bringing these arguments together, I conclude that the fin-de-siècle is marked by anxieties surrounding the moral body and by advocation for the integration of the material and sensual body within the practice of moral theology, potentially via renewed emphasis on sacramentalism.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Sacramentalism. Embodiment. Moral conscience. Physiognomy. Materialism. Senses.