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11 - The Italian Gothic Film

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2020

Richard J. Hand
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
McRoy Jay
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
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Summary

To try and synthesise all the explicit and implicit definitions of what con-stitutes ‘the Gothic’ would make one as insane as Ambrosio in Lewis's The Monk (1796) or one of Poe's narrator/protagonists. Gothic at once refers to a very definite set of creative choices and expectations, while it also can, seemingly, refer to anything with a graveyard or a cobweb in it. Baldick and Mighall (2012) noted how the term has become so overextended as to render it almost completely meaningless: so that anything vaguely scary or sensational is labelled as Gothic (280). Botting (2008: 12) noted, citing Levy, such a proliferation [of different kinds of Gothic] … threatens to gothicise the entirety of human experience. The word becomes meaningless if it can refer to anything. I have no doubt that many of the articles published in this volume proffer better definitions than I could hope to articulate, so I defer to them. In lieu of a proper definition of the Gothic, I will fall in with Gilda Williams (2014: 412) who simply identifies the Gothic as anything which depicts a lurid interest in the macabre: ‘works typically featuring skulls, gore and other “spooky” iconography’. Later on, Williams (417) focuses her definition slightly, seeing the Gothic ‘as a synonym for the aesthetic of the dark, the grotesque, the macabre and the supernatural’.

Work on Gothic film tends to suffer from a similar epistemological malady which attempts to keep the definition open until it becomes almost synonymous with the entire horror genre itself. Consulting Halberstam (1995), Hervey (2007), Hopkins (2005), Kay (2012), Morgan (2002), Aldana Reyes (2014) and Spooner (2006), few could give a concrete definition of what Gothic film actually was. Many of the scholars just noted contain their research by looking only at specific film adaptations of a priori Gothic literary texts, suggesting that Gothic film is an adaptation of a particular Gothic novel. Worland (2014) provides a useful overview and contextualisation distinguishing between Universal Pictures’ cycles of Gothic horror in the 1930s and 1940s, the British Hammer Gothic movies from the 1950s through the 1970s, the Roger Corman-directed Edgar Allan Poe adaptations of the early 1960s and, albeit only slightly, the Italian Gothic films I will be discussing here.

Type
Chapter
Information
Gothic Film
An Edinburgh Companion
, pp. 155 - 169
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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