(Published in 2022)
As the chilly orange dusk of October settles, we prepare for the annual battle against Modern Halloween. The Church has celebrated those in heaven (All Saints, November 1) and the souls of the faithfully departed (All Souls, November 2) since the latter half of the first millennium. Around these dates emerged various practices, many of which have become attached specifically to the eve of All Saints, “All Hallows Eve” or “Hallowe’en.” In fact, today’s celebration of Halloween is a brew concocted in the American melting-pot, combining early medieval Irish Catholicism with mid-medieval French Catholicism and throwing a smattering of late medieval English Catholic repression for added flavor.
(Published in November, 2021)
My introduction to the Paris Morgue came late one night after teaching the last of four classes studying The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. In one of the final chapters of the novel, the hero, Walter Hartright, recounts his visit to the Paris Morgue where he identifies the body of the villain of the novel. The loud conversation of a crowd of visitors, describing the deceased, catches his attention. One student asked: “Was visiting the Paris Morgue ‘a thing’?” I replied that it was probably a question of identification of the anonymous corpse, and the large crowds described by the hero were a result of the physical peculiarities of the dead man. The question stuck with me, however.
(Published in October, 2021)
During the late seventeenth and eighteenth century, a major outbreak of vampiric hysteria exploded across Eastern Europe. Documentation of purported vampiric incidents was erratic and hysterically exaggerated. This great vampire fright came upon the heels of a substantial panic over Satanism, particularly in France. Fortune-tellers, alchemists, and witches were on the rise.
For many, this is baffling. Should not vampire hysteria have arisen during the so-called “dark ages”, when illiteracy was rampant, and the medieval Church, with her sinister Inquisition, preyed upon the credulity of the masses?...
(Published in September, 2021)
With the publication of my first Gothic novel, A Bloody Habit, I foisted upon the Order of Preachers a fictitious history and the work of battling outrageous preternatural threats. While I commit similar presumption toward the Order of Friars Minor in Brother Wolf, readers will note that my stake-toting Dominicans return and are deeply embroiled in this adventure as well. Even as the characters of Gothic novels insist that the plot is a matter of life and death, readers could react in horror and call it utter rubbish, the sort of thing concocted in the fertile mind of a presumptuous, flippant laywoman...
(Published in September, 2021)
“But isn’t the connection of Milton and horror novels too esoteric for a coffee mug?” I was admiring promotional merchandise for my new novel, Brother Wolf, when my husband shocked me with this mild question. In my imagination, the shade of John Milton haunts the Gothic tradition, a disapproving grimace upon his ghostly face. He has just cause for his disapprobation; the genre in part arose from the determined misreading of his greatest work, the epic poem Paradise Lost (1667)...
(Published in September, 2021)
“He’s obviously a werewolf.” That was the unanimous opinion of the university students with whom I attended a performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of The Woman in White fourteen years ago. As I prepare to teach the novel to homeschooling high schoolers, I have found myself pondering this theatrical experience anew. In that summer of 2007, it did not matter what I attempted to explain about the sensation novel genre, about its half-sister genre the Gothic (where werewolves properly belong), or about the moral and social context of the novel. Those students insisted the werewolf hypothesis was the only one that would satisfy their expectations. They were, of course, disappointed...
(Published in August, 2021)
“…the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many…” — J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring. “Mommy, can Smeagol be saved?” Our eldest daughter asked this question during her introductory reading of The Lord of the Rings. The discussion of this important point drew in my husband. I attacked the question from the literary side, he from the philosophical. Our discussion culminated in a lengthy lecture, complete with charts sketched on the chalkboard, drawing in Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dickensian murderers, addiction, and werewolves (a popular topic in our home because of my new Gothic novel, Brother Wolf). The result was an illuminative exploration of the moral life and its significance in classic (and not-so-classic) literature...
(Published in July, 2021)
The cover of Brother Wolf drew together the inspiration and enthusiasm of three people: the novel’s author, Eleanor Bourg Nicholson, celebrated liturgical architect and artist Matthew Alderman, and Chrism Press graphic designer Rhonda Ortiz. Their shared vision emerged from several basic points, reflecting the novel’s plot and central characters, as well as its forerunner: Eleanor’s A Bloody Habit...
(Published in 2021)
Teaching Jane Austen to high school homeschoolers is a delightful and enlivening experience. In addition to eagerness and enthusiasm, the students bring hearts relatively free of suspicion and agendas. They do not come determined to read post-Christian sensibilities into emphatically Christian texts. I do find, however, that some time must be devoted to negotiating deeply-infused egalitarian principles. We cannot merely dismiss the social hierarchy of Regency-era England as “un-American”; we must be able to recognize the way in which the society worked and, to the best of our abilities, value all that is good in its structure. Jane Austen’s Christian Aristotelianism demands that the hierarchy operates on terms of responsibility and virtuous relationship...
(Published in 2018)
As our neighborhood fills with jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and even a creepy graveyard, “teen vampire lit” conversations aren’t far behind. “Have you read the Twilight books?” “What do you think of the Vampire Diaries series?” These are two shy questions I hear often from high schoolers to the tune of giggles in the background from other girls. I do try to be diplomatic in my response. But as a reader, writer and teacher, I find nearly every modern representation of the vampire nauseating and lame. Even full of novacaine, I’d find Bela Lugosi’s Dracula more interesting than Edward Cullen...
(Published in 2009)
Poets, as a class, are business men. Shakespeare describes the poet’s eye as rolling in a fine frenzy from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, and giving to airy nothing a local habitation and a name, but in practice you will find that one corner of that eye is generally glued on the royalty returns. –P. G. Wodehouse
Everybody–and his Aunt Nellie–has a novel stashed in a desk somewhere. Most of them are pretty dreadful, some are rather good, and a few are moderately brilliant. Nearly all of them will never be published and those that are will not necessarily include the good or the brilliant...
(Published in 2009)
From Disney movies to the most recent bestseller, children are born to escape the confines of familial failure. No hero is worth his salt unless and until he casts off the shackles of parental mismanagement. Or so we are often told. Traditionally, the trajectory of the heroic quest has been the . . .
(Published in 2008)
In November 2007, the National Endowment for the Arts published a report titled To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence . Building on its earlier research, in Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America (2004), the 2007 report provided, in the words of NEA chairman . . . .
Copyright © 2021 Eleanor Bourg Nicholson - All Rights Reserved.
Cover image by Matthew Alderman (in author's private collection).
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