Martin Danahay (Brock University)

Posted on Friday, March 5th, 2010

‘Locating Mr. Hyde or, a Gothic Gnome in Cyberspace’

Mr. Hyde has always been a tricky fellow to locate. He is a protean and transgressive figure who defies boundaries. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) people who see Hyde cannot find words to describe him making him a mystery that provokes investigation. As Mr. Enfield says “he is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why.” Not only is he difficult to describe, the effort to determine his exact location is key to the mystery in the text. Is he a resident of Dr. Jekyll’s house or is he a disreputable denizen of Soho? What is his class status since he has the appearance of a gentleman and the manners of a lout and occupies such different spaces in London?

In adaptations of Jekyll and Hyde ever since the cipher of Mr. Hyde has been used to represent a wide range of cultural anxieties. “Jekyll and Hyde” has now become part of everyday language and this paper analyzes references to “Jekyll and Hyde” on the World Wide Web in relation to Stevenson’s original story. The Web has made Mr. Hyde a global reference and it has now become even harder to “locate” him in time and space. After following references to Mr. Hyde for over a year thanks to Google alerts, it has become clear to me that the protean Gothic Gnome can erupt anywhere on the globe, from North America to Australia, from North Korea to South Africa, in short in any country where English is spoken. He seems most at home in professional sports where he frequently appears on teams and makes them lose games in mysterious circumstances, but he can also be found in murder trials, coverage of the financial crisis and descriptions of disgraced politicians.

This paper argues that new interdisciplinary methods a re needed to “locate” the elusive Mr. Hyde in cyberspace though analysis of RSS feeds, Google alerts and web sites. How do we analyze the references to “Jekyll and Hyde” on a global scale on the ever expanding internet? The difficulty of “locating” Mr. Hyde that was such a hallmark of the Gothic Gnome in the original story has been increased exponentially by his eruption into cyberspace. The idea of “place” is problematic in cyberspace which is simultaneously nowhere and everywhere. How do we “locate” Mr. Hyde in cyberspace?

Categorized as Abstracts

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