Annual SCIBS Hallowe’en Gothic Bible Lecture Dr Madeline Potter (York)


Event details

Monday 31 October 2022
Free but pre-booking required.
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‘Et Homo Factus Est’: Monsters, Mothers, and Diabolical Incarnation in Bram Stoker and Arthur Machen

In Arthur Machen’s novella ‘The Great God Pan’, a Latin inscription reads: ‘Et Diabolus incarnatus est. Et homo factus est.’

As Richard Lockhurst has noted, it is a ‘blasphemous rewriting’ of the Nicene Creed, which proclaims Christ to be the Incarnate God, born of the Virgin Mary. Beyond its language, steeped in blasphemy, how does Machen’s novella reverse theologies of being? Placing the concept of monstrous birth at the centre of Machen’s theology of horror, this lecture explores how the figure of the mother, Mary, and her satanic offspring, Helen Vaughan, seeks to destabilise the ontological distance between human and the divine.

In weaving in pagan elements with his theological investigation of demonic ontologies, Machen imagines a chthonic, grounded, theology which uses the monstrous as a way of narrowing the gap between the world of humans and the world of the beyond. This lecture will uncover how Machen’s materialising, Incarnational theology of the demonic is representative of fin-de-siècle depictions of monsters as counter-embodiments of divine truths, casting the grotesque mother as a bridge between the natural and the supernatural, as demonstrated by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, where, I argue, the Count himself emerges as a demonic mother-figure.

Both Machen and Stoker’s demonic mothers ultimately side-step the theological problem of analogia entis – the doctrine that although humans share in some of God’s qualities, the difference between creature and creator is ultimately greater than any similarity. Drawing on Kristeva’s account of Biblical dietary prohibitions as means of upholding and enforcing this separation, I argue that both Machen and Stoker render the mother monstrous in attempts to transgress prohibitions in view of imagining the creator and the creature as sharing in the same flesh, ultimately casting the demonic as a tool for embodied divine knowledge.

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