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Alison Milbank’s chapter on Gothic prose, ranging from Ann Radcliffe in the late eighteenth century to contemporary Gothic, shows how often language in these works verges on the inexpressible, reminding us that our rational understanding of human experience may only be partial. Language that superanimates the natural world, the frequent use of em dashes that gesture towards the unsaid, even the unsayable, grotesque and arabesque styles, and equivocal, combinatory techniques are all mobilised to create a set of effects that test the limits of our capacity for understanding.
Not simply the persistence of Greek and Roman comedy and tragedy, drama of the modern era had its rebirth in the liturgical performances within the church. Once the miracle and morality plays were moved out of the church, literally pro-fane, their secularized forms were soon suspected of degeneration, and the antitheatrical prejudice was promulgated. To control the possibly disruptive effects of the drama, censorship was introduced to spare leaders of Church or state from being maligned on stage. The Church of England may have been protected but Gothic melodrama found its villains and victims among the monks and nuns. Methodists, Quakers, Jews, dissenters, and nonconformists were targets for theatrical ridicule or abuse. Circumventing the proscriptions of the Licensing Act (1737), Shakespeare’s history plays provided a model for representing religious conflict on stage.
At the heart of Romantic supernaturalism was a newly ‘real’ or ‘material’ magic described by philosophers and aesthetic theorists including Friedrich Schlegel, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Théophile Gautier, Charles Nodier, and others. Rejecting the illusory marvels of the eighteenth century and recalling aspects of natural magic associated with Renaissance cosmology, Romantic fantasy reconciled science and enchantment, phenomena and noumena. This chapter explores how such a reconciliation happened, outlining the impact of post-Kantian Idealist thought, the role of pantheism, the social shifts initiated by eighteenth-century revolutionary and imperialist activity, and the emergence of Gothic culture. From these developments, a new magical mode emerged – a fantastic epistemology – with special implications for music. It allowed fairies to converge with insects, demons to merge into colonial Others, and supernatural spirits to enter the domain of the real. These ideas are fleshed out via close readings of Schubert’s Erlkönig, Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable.
This chapter provides a fresh, detailed and historicised account of ‘high’ Modernism and its relationship to the Gothic, c.1910–1936. It explores the various ways in which Modernist theories of the aesthetic – the novel, the short story, Imagist poetry – shaped Gothic Modernist representations. Many Modernists overtly despised dark Romanticism – Wyndham Lewis derided the ‘beastly and ridiculous spirit of Keats’ lines’ and Virginia Woolf was quick to dismiss ‘the skull-headed lady’ of the Gothic Romance. Instead, their work privileges an aesthetics of finitude and inference over any use of overtly supernatural machinery. ‘Modern’ accounts of psychology shape these representations of anxiety and entrapment but so, too, do authorial theories of the aesthetic. By reading the work of a range of important Modernist contributors, including Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, E. M. Forster and May Sinclair, this chapter suggests that the most enduring examples of Modernist Gothic are found in the mode’s representations of haunting, the unconscious and the dead.
Postdigital Gothic describes a mode of narrative and critical enquiry that evokes the unsettling nature of human and nonhuman actors interwoven within technological assemblages. This represents a turn away from the ‘Cybergothic’ fascination with the ghostly, immaterial aspects of digital media. Instead, Postdigital Gothic calls attention to hidden architecture undergirding the virtual. From sound and image compression formats to the secret algorithms that fuel social media, the digital realm is not an empty portal for ghosts, but rather a vault of manuscripts buried beneath familiar interfaces. The unspeakable manifests itself through the noise of computer glitches, compression artefacts and sonic disruptions. Those unwelcome disturbances signify our human entanglement with the nonhuman. This chapter begins and ends by highlighting cinematic examples of Postdigital Gothic narratives, first, in found footage horror, and then, in the computer screen horror movies Unfriended (2014) and Unfriended: Dark Web (2018). In addition to those readings of cinematic texts, a Postdigital Gothic interpretation of popular compression formats for music (MP3) and images (JPEG) suggests the usefulness of the Gothic as tool for understanding the interpretive work of machinic speech.
This chapter examines Gothic traditions in East Asian cinema, with a specific focus on films and popular culture from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong. The chapter explores key features of the East Asian Gothic mode: generic hybridity, mythology, morality and important historical moments in the Western reception of influential films. The central argument uniting the analysis of these three distinct national cinemas concerns the narrative and thematic meaning of the figure of the ghost. How are local audiences expected and invited to respond to these avatars of the deceased? What do they reflect from contemporary society, and how do they comment on the past? The ghost in many of these films is not only an object of fear (indeed, it is frequently not an object of fear at all), but also, with varying frequency, a lover, or a hero or a subject of profound pity and sadness. The evolving meaning of the ghost in films from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong suggests some ways that definitions and understandings of the Gothic should be reconfigured for a global media context.
When the Bush administration launched the War on Terror after the attacks of 9/11, Gothic responded through complex critiques of the discourses and the violence this entailed, but also by unapologetically energising the endeavour to maintain US global hegemony. Noting a number of geopolitical, economical and cultural similarities between late nineteenth-century Britain and the US at the turn of the millennium, this chapter observes that a dominant strand of American Gothic in the early twenty-first century is in fact effectively imperial. The chapter then discusses the interplay between what can thus be termed an ‘American Imperial Gothic’ and the post-9/11 period, paying particular attention to the ideological and affective work that Gothic performs. Located at the intersection between postcolonial and decolonial studies, and international relations and security studies, the chapter furthermore explores how a union of various entertainment corporations and government institutions is involved in the production and dissemination of often deeply reactionary Gothic texts. These rehearse racists and sexist tropes central to the neocolonial project, but also reveal how the anxieties always tied to vast imperial and capitalist projects rise to the surface during moments of sudden upheaval and transformation.
This chapter considers the ways in which Gothic as a mode interacts with queer history generally and with the history of AIDS and queer communities more specifically within late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century contexts. This chapter examines the elision of the histories of Gothic, AIDS and queer sexuality in four texts that marked different stages of the evolution of the AIDS discourse. The first half of the chapter focuses on individual and collective community trauma in the first decade of the AIDS pandemic as represented in Tony Scott’s 1983 arthouse vampire film The Hunger and Todd Haynes’s 1991 seminal New Queer Cinema triptych, Poison. The second half of this chapter considers the ongoing haunting from the first decade of AIDS trauma in the face of a devastating disease and the initial scapegoating of the queer community as the site of contagion. These hauntings are depicted in John Greyson’s 1993 AIDS musical satire, Zero Patience and Lilly and Lana Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski’s 2015–18 trans-genre television show, Sense8.
In the nineteenth century the corpse became central to medical education. In Britain, a growing number of private medical schools opened throughout the country, involving the rise of the demand for dead bodies. It is exactly around the same time that Gothic fiction was revamped and offered insights into the debates around medical practice and education. This chapter explores the links between the field of anatomy and the development of Gothic fiction in Britain in the nineteenth century. It points out how the Gothic dealt with medical practitioners’ treatment of the corpse and how Gothic narratives dramatised the tension between the stealing, cutting up, preservation, and exhibition of human remains in medical collections and the central part played by anatomical knowledge in medical science. By looking at texts by John Galt, Mary Shelley, and Samuel Warren, as well as Wilkie Collins and Robert Louis Stevenson, this chapter not only shows how literary texts capitalised on the Gothic paraphernalia to foreground the regulation (or lack thereof) of the practice of anatomy before the passing of the 1832 Anatomy Act, but also highlights how the Gothic enabled authors to record cultural responses to medical practice throughout the century.
Late-Victorian novelists responded variously to experimental physiology during a period of disciplinary upheaval in the mental sciences. In the 1860s, leaders in this field included polymathic philosophers such as Herbert Spencer and George Henry Lewes. By contrast, later researchers tended to be university-trained scientists using specialized techniques. In the 1870s, British neurologist David Ferrier and John Hughlings Jackson used clinical studies and controversial animal experiments to link parts of the brain with specific movements, emotions, and behaviors.
Some novelists reacted positively to these scientific developments. French naturalist Émile Zola embraced both evolutionary theory and experimental physiology, opining that novelists must ‘dissect piece by piece’ their fictional characters. Zola’s British admirers and imitators included George Gissing, George Moore, and Thomas Hardy.
Authors of genre fiction responded more ambivalently. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Grant Allen, and H. G. Wells favored literary forms that mimicked the scientific method. Wells’s scientific romances tested an imaginary hypothesis (say, human invisibility) against a series of controls, while Allen’s and Doyle’s detective fiction borrowed diagnostic techniques from Victorian medicine. Late-Victorian Gothic novels, meanwhile, explored anxieties accompanying scientific ‘progress’. Taken together, these examples suggest how Victorian fictions responded productively, if sometimes critically, to experimental practices.
“Shadows of Haiti” examines echoes of the Haitian Revolution in three texts from the extended Caribbean: Victor Séjour’s “Le Mulâtre,”, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda’s Sab, and Charles Chesnutt’s Paul Marchand F.M.C. After an overview of world-systems theory and an introduction to the historical context in which each of these texts is situated, this chapter compares the ways in which the potentially violent revolt of a mixed-race heterosexual male protagonist is neutered or silenced by the conventions of sentiment. Haunting all three texts is the dark shadow of the violent revolt in Saint-Domingue, enmeshed with the consequences of deadly family secrets related to race and violence. In “Le Mulâtre” and Sab, the male protagonist dies. In Paul Marchand F.M.C, however, the hero survives but is silenced and forced into exile in France.
This chapter explores the variety of genres within which Atwood has chosen to write about history, interweaving historical fact with imaginative rewriting and reinventing, with reference to her poems in The Journals of Susanna Moodie, her nonfiction essay “In Search of Alias Grace,” and her novels. The focus is on Atwood’s narrative art, with detailed analyses of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin. These novels with their splicing together of different genres (historical documentary, fictive autobiography, crime fiction, dystopias, Gothic) illustrate the multiple scripts and alternative perspectives through which history may be told, in Atwood’s reappraisal of Canada’s national history and heritage myths, as she reinterprets Canadian themes through her contemporary social, ethical, and global concerns.
This chapter draws parallels to the gothic trope that surrounded discussions on embryos in vitro in the 1980s as a frame of analysis that has grown in counter-response to law’s tendency to place entities either within the category of a ‘liberal, individual self,’ or outwith it (rarely in between). To explain, the gothic self is characterised by disorder, chaos, and dependency. It cannot be subsumed under the traditional ‘self’ that the law presupposes of its subjects. Further, within ‘the gothic’ lies the key concept of ‘monstrosity’, at the margins of what we deem to be human: ‘we stake out the boundaries of our humanity by delineating the boundaries of the monstrous’. While the gothic trope does not explicitly centre around ‘the in between,’ it is argued that we should see gothic entities as such, because of their common placement - legally, and sometimes socially - on the boundary between liberal, individualised human, and something akin to a science-fiction-esque ‘monster.’ The controversy that causes rhetorical parallels between new research and monstrous beings and mad scientists to be drawn is a major contributor to policy-makers reluctance to revisit the legal status of embryos in vitro.
The Human Embryo in vitro explores the ways in which UK law engages with embryonic processes under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (as amended), the intellectual basis of which has not been reconsidered for almost thirty years. McMillan argues that in regulating 'the embryo' – that is, a processual liminal entity in itself - the law is regulating for uncertainty. This book offers a fuller understanding of how complex biological processes of development and growth can be better aligned with a legal framework that purports to pay respect to the embryo while also allowing its destruction. To do so it employs an anthropological concept, liminality, which is itself concerned with revealing the dynamics of process. The implications of this for contemporary regulation of artificial reproduction are fully explored, and recommendations are offered for international regimes on how they can better align biological reality with social policy and law.
Sade was a reader, writer and critic deeply immersed in the prose fiction of his time. His own oeuvre brings together diverse traditions of storytelling ranging from anecdotes, whore dialogues and libertine novels to philosophical contes, sentimental fiction and the Gothic novel. While works such as Thérèse philosophe offered him a model for the 120 Days of Sodom and the Histoire de Juliette, Richardson’s Clarissa provided him with a template of virtue in distress which he would repeatedly exploit in novels ranging from Justine to his later historical fiction such as La Marquise de Gange. This chapter explores some of the key tropes Sade borrows from these antecedents, and the ways in which he recycles these tropes – often to very different ends – within a diverse novelistic corpus still viewed too narrowly by critics and publishers alike.
This chapter re-examines the idea that the development of the novel was hampered by politics during the French Revolution and that literary production was mediocre and ill-suited to the new social order. It studies the shift in the literary scene after the storming of the Bastille and the role of writers in regenerating the nation before considering the propagandistic works of republican writers during the radical phase of the Revolution. The death of the radical leader Robespierre in 1794 resulted in a clear shift in literary activity and prompted a move towards setting novels during the early 1790s which denounce the excesses of Robespierre and his supporters. The chapter places particular emphasis on the under-researched Directory period (1795-99) which is marked by a vogue for the Gothic and for fiction by and about émigrés.
While the naming of Caribbean works as speculative fiction has enabled the possibility of this regionally specific genre to take shape in the twenty-first century, there has been a long tradition of literary works that seek to represent alternative and multiple realities by fragmenting realist forms and employing the rich folkloric and spiritual traditions of the region. Figures such as the soucouyant and mermaid often symbolize gendered realities, the zombie represents psychological trauma, and spirits emphasize the continuation of the past in the present. Drawing on elements of fantasy, these works are thus often deeply informed by socio-political concerns and traumatic events, and arguably transform, rather than bypass, the historic character of Caribbean literature. Through the utopian/dystopian scenarios recognizable within speculative literature, readers are returned to the issues of memory, history and identity, while also pushing at the imaginative limits of community and embodiment in their creation of alternate possibilities.
This chapter, the second of two chapters focusing on the nineteenth-century prosthetic imagination, suggests that the Gothic tradition offers another way of thinking about the dead hand. It reads dead-handedness, or mortmain, as it runs through the Gothic novel of the period, from Shelley to Poe to Stoker, Stevenson and Wilde, to suggest that the Gothic offers an undertow to the work of the realist novel in transforming dead flesh into living being. The Gothic works against the realist novel, in is refusal of the animating work of narrative; but as the chapter reads this opposition, it suggests a shared investment, in both the realist and the Gothic traditions, in the tension between dead and living material, under the conditions produced by industrialisation, and by emerging information technologies.
This chapter explores the pervasive ways in which Gothic forces and affiliations appear in Dickens’s writings. The word ‘Gothic’ is rare in his work but an awareness of Gothic tropes, plottings and conventions is vital to understanding it. Gothic is used in highly innovative ways: to explore asymmetrical power relations of many sorts; to limit-test the idea of the ‘human’; and as radical social critique. The diabolical and uncanny are particularly powerful modes, and Dickens is pioneering both in his use of ‘virtual’ Gothic in A Christmas Carol and in the creation of ‘paranoid Gothic’ in the violent same-sex eroticism of Our Mutual Friend and theMystery of Edwin Drood. Gothic is also an essential component of such scenes as Miss Havisham’s resemblance to ‘waxwork and skeleton’ in Great Expectations and Fagin’s and Monks’s appearance at the sleeping Oliver Twist’s window. The chapter discusses a wide range of Gothic presences in these and other works, concluding with a discussion of Dicken’s remarkable late essay ‘Nurse’s Stories’ (1863), a complex ‘meta-Gothic’ reflection on uncanny repetition and its simultaneously comic and diabolical power in subjective experience and narration.
Horace Walpole is pivotal to the early Gothic Revival as the author of what has long been hailed as the first Gothic novel, and as the creator of the most influential of all early Gothic Revival houses. This essay explores his intuitively imaginative response to Gothic, and how his love of the decorative profusion and allusive richness that it could offer was played out in his novel The Castle of Otranto (1765) and his play The Mysterious Mother (1768) – as well as in in his ‘castle’ at Strawberry Hill. That house, with its subtle management of scale, colour and light, and in the suggestive riches of the collection it contained, created a heady mixture of fantasy and atmosphere, displaying an historically informed but archaeologically unrestrained imagination. These are qualities that it shared with Walpole’s Gothic fictions. There is hardly a feature of Gothic romance that does not appear in Otranto, and its gloomy castle, predatory patriarch and pursued virgin, along with the guilt-tormented Countess and evil friars of The Mysterious Mother, like the Gothic battlements and evocative interiors of Strawberry Hill, engendered a lasting and pervasive progeny.