Master of Arts (MA)


Brenda Ayres

Primary Subject Area

Literature, English; Literature, General


Corelli, Dorian Gray, Dracula, Fin de Siècle, Gothic, Victorian


The lengthy Victorian period, extending from 1832 until 1901, was a time of cultural turmoil. New scientific discoveries were being made daily, and Christianity was forced to deal with issues of Darwinism, occultism, and growing disbelief in God. By the start of the fin de siècle, God was an impartial deity sitting on His almighty throne, and man was nothing more than a highly evolved animal. The church, both Catholic and Anglican, did not exist to lead man toward salvation, but existed because of a dated adherence to cultural tradition.

No one genre captured the religious upheavals of the age better than did the Gothic novel. With its intrinsic fascination with the supernatural and the unexplained, the Gothic novel proved to be an excellent platform for authors to air their beliefs about rising spiritualism, Catholicism, and aestheticism in a predominantly Anglican country. Through the analysis of Marie Corelli's Vendetta!, Bram Stoker's , and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, three of the most popular novels of the fin de siècle, a better picture of the religious opinions of England's literary elite can be drawn, along with suppositions about the popularity of such novels in a faith-starved culture.