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William Hope Hodgson's borderlands: monstrosity, other worlds, and the future at the fin de siècle

Alder, Emily



William Hope Hodgson has generally been understood as the author of several atmospheric sea-horror stories and two powerful but flawed horror science fiction novels. There has been no substantial study analysing the historical and cultural context of his fiction or its place in the Gothic, horror, and science fiction literary traditions. Through analysing the theme of borderlands, this thesis contextualises Hodgson’s novels and short stories within these traditions and within late Victorian cultural discourse. Liminal other world realms, boundaries of corporeal monstrosity, and the imagined future of the world form key elements of Hodgson’s fiction, reflecting the currents of anxiety and optimism characterising fin-de-siècle British society.

Hodgson’s early career as a sailor and his interest in body-building and physical culture colour his fiction. Fin-de-siècle discourses of evolution, entropy, spiritualism, psychical research, and the occult also influence his ideas. In The House on the Borderland (1908) and The Night Land (1912), the known world brushes against other forms of reality, exposing humanity to incomprehensible horrors. In The Ghost Pirates (1909), the sea forms a liminal region on the borderland of materiality and immateriality in which other world encounters can take place. In The Night Land and The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’ (1907), evolution gives rise to strange monstrous forms existing on the borderlines of species and identity. In Hodgson’s science fiction—The House on the Borderland and The Night Land—the future of the earth forms a temporal borderland of human existence shaped by fin-de-siècle fears of entropy and the heat-death of the sun. Alongside the work of other writers such as H. G. Wells and Arthur Machen, Hodgson’s four novels respond to the borderland discourses of the fin de siècle, better enabling us to understand the Gothic literature of the period as well as Hodgson’s position as a writer who offers a unique imaginative perspective on his contemporary culture.


Alder, E. William Hope Hodgson's borderlands: monstrosity, other worlds, and the future at the fin de siècle. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 27, 2010
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords fin de siècle; gothic, William Hope Hodgson; spiritualism; monstrosity; science fiction
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