I recently did a presentation on Dorothy Macardle’s Dark Enchantment for my Irish Literature class. To be honest, I chose the novel because it sounded cool and mysterious. When I finished the novel, I was worried I chose wrong. Not only was it not the seductive story of my imagination, but it was actually virtually impossible to find academic sources which discussed the novel directly. This was because the book had been out of print until 2019, when it was picked up by Tramp Press in their Recovered Voices Series.
While I was frustrated at the complication this fact added to my assignment, I was more interested in the work Tramp Press were doing to revive voices lost in the Irish canon. I had heard of the publishing house before but wasn’t aware of this particular project. I’m glad I chose this awkward novel, because it allowed me to come across the work that Tramp are doing. Marcardle was a voice that was lost to time. She was removed from the literary canon because of her gender and experimental take on storytelling. These features do not make her irrelevant in Irish literature, but rather a refreshing contrast to the more popular, mostly male, authors highlighted in the 20th Century Irish period.
You can read more about the work Tramp press do on their website: https://www.tramppress.com/about/. The guardian did a piece on the women who run the company, and their stance on sexism in the publishing industry: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/28/sexists-need-not-apply-publisher-refuses-to-look-at-manuscripts-addressed-to-dear-sirs. I commend the work these women are doing in diversifying the Irish canon, and look forward to seeing what they come out with in the future.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) is often critically interpreted as a commentary on repressive Victorian society. The ‘good’ Jekyll feels the pressure to conform to rigid social expectations, and proceeds to ‘act out’ in the form of Hyde – the beastly, murderous alternative personality who begins to take over Jekyll’s life.
Another, perhaps more literal reading of the text explores the idea of Jekyll and Hyde as an early interpretation of someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Here, we see two or more alternative identities existing in one body. The study of this condition began in the Victorian period; Stevenson is known to have had in interest in it. April Edwards goes into further detail on this in her blog Victorian Science Fiction: https://blog.uvm.edu/scalexan-vsf/the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/our-critical-review/
The problem with this interpretation is that it feeds into the negative stigma already surrounding DID. Representation of DID in literature and media is welcome (about 1-3% of the population live with it, which is a substantial amount). Issues, however, arise in the tendency to misrepresent the disorder, especially in a Horror and Science-Fiction context.
The idea of the evil alternative identity spawned in Jekyll and Hyde has permeated many popular culture representations of DID since, the most well known example being that of the 2016 movie Split. The un-tameable beast often depicted in media has become a trope that many assume actually exists in people with DID. This unfounded fear represented onscreen leads to the stigmatization and ostracisation of real people living within the DID community.
While I can accept that the Victorian’s may have been ignorant to the psychological roots of the disorder, I do not agree that modern artists have the right to perpetuate the stigmatization of DID for the sake of a horror trope. Robert Louis Stevenson may not have known better, but after 130 years you would think we should.
If you’d like the learn more about reactions to Split from the DID community, I’d recommend checking out the DissociaDID System’s video on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7InIpe88eoQ