[Conference Home Page]
"'Anything Dead Coming Back to Life Hurts': 'Rememory' and the Ambiguous Nature of Storytelling in Toni Morrison's Beloved"
While Toni Morrison is not usually classified as a Gothic writer, she uses several Gothic conventions in her novel Beloved (1988) to call attention to the horrors of slavery. As a result of the unspeakable and transgressive system of slavery, Sethe murders her daughter to protect her from returning to a life without freedom. The daughter, however, once murdered, suffers from a different kind of slavery: as a ghost who must haunt her mother, specifically, and the community, collectively, until the horrors of the past are "rememoried." Some obvious Gothic conventions Morrison employs in Beloved include the presence of the supernatural, transgressive acts from the past that revisit the present (though Morrison puts an interesting spin on the Gothic mantra: "the sins of the father are revisited on the children" when she embodies the sin in the child who then haunts the mother), multiple narrators and narratives, confusing temporal and geographical shifts, and psychological and physical degeneration. The Gothic convention that interests me the most is that of narrating identity. Like many characters before her in Gothic works, including Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, "The Yellow Wall-Paper," and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, to name only a few, Sethe attempts to narrate her story and her identity after the ghost transforms into her baby daughter "all grown up." Before this transformation, Sethe appears content to remain independent of the community around her, intent on "beating back the past." The more Sethe represses the memories of slavery, however, the more her identity fragments. With the arrival of Beloved, Sethe has a reason to live and tell her story and she initially appears to be on the road to psychological recovery as the result of narrating her self. Due to the ambiguous ending, which can be read positively and negatively, Setheís fate at the end of the novel, after the exorcism of Beloved, can be read in two ways: she will join the community and go on living or she will give up and expire in the same bed where Baby Suggs died. In my paper, I choose the latter outcome, arguing that as an example of fin-de-siecle Gothic in which certain conventions are heightened to an extreme, Beloved reveals how the "talking cure" convention breaks down at the end of the century; Setheís act of narration ultimately leads to greater identity fragmentation rather than healing.
Back to Top of Page
"Postcolonial Gothic and the Short Fiction of Rosario
The academic fields of gothic and Postcolonial studies are
generally considered disparate at this time and yet, there is
an excitingly undeniable, though little explored, connection
between the two. As Judie Newman suggests, in one of the very
few articles proposing a 'Postcolonial Gothic' mode of writing,
'Gothic motifs are exceptionally prevalent in postcolonial fiction,
even from diferent locations' (1994, 85). The 'Postcolonial Gothic',
currently existing on the margins of literary study, demands
new and dynamic academic approaches. It is, therefore, the intention
of my proposed paper to discuss but a few of the infinite and
innovative possibilities this line of academic research holds
for both Gothic and Postcolonial studies.
I interrogate a recent tendency to recuperate American nationalism via readings of nineteenth century gothic narratives. Contemporary literary criticism presumes that American gothic novels dissipate the uneasiness and violence in which they trade by folding these disruptions into a containing national narrative. Thus the gothic sutures the national text--indeed, to push the point, the vitality of the nation depends upon the continual eruption of the gothic. While I draw on this alliance of gothic novels and American nationalism, I argue that contemporary readings of nineteenth-century gothic novels cannot (and perhaps should not) be so thoroughly invested in nationalism . Because American writers borrow the highly generic gothic form from Britain,their works cannot be read as symptomatic of and working toward a distinctly American nationalism. More significantly, gothic texts complicate our recent emphasis on nationalism by placing their action outside of the nation (Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym) or by insisting on maintaining a regional geography that remains importantly distinct from the national geography (Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables and "Alice Doane's Appeal").
"Charlotte Yonge's Gothic Murder"
Charlotte Yonge is generally considered by critics to be the exemplar of conservative Victorian domestic fiction, representative of the middle class reaction to nineteenth century upheavals. Yet, it is possible to see in Yonge's seemingly settled and staid position the kind of paraxodical thinking that finds expression in the tense and unsettled Gothic mode. And indeed, Yonge does seem very much at home writing in the genre. Her immensely popular novel, The Heir of Redclyffe (1855), though largely a novel of middleclass domestic life, the story of a noble, Christ-like character and his influence on a Victorian family, reveals a debt to the Gothic tradition.
An even more striking and sustained invocation of the Gothic narrative, still couched within a conventional Victorian narrative of domestic life, may be found in Yonge's later novel Chantry House (1886), less well-known today than Redclyffe. this Gothic text, Yonge constructs a vehicle suited to her reconciliation of conflicting narrative strategies, a text that evokes the typical Gothic struggles in order to settle them. In faithfully evoking all the Gothic conventions (murder, appropriated property, the besieged woman, dark family history, feuding families) in Chantry House, Yonge paradoxically constructs a safe, comfortably familiar, re-enactment of the mode, that allows her to endorse her conservative world view. Yonge thus succeeds in appropriating a typically unstable mode, a mode whose power derives from its instability, for stable ends.
In this, Yonge taps into a central paradox of the Gothic: the essential narrative strategy of this shocking and suspenseful mode is internal and external repetition. Horrifying and excessive though the tropes may be, the very nature of their unchanging repetition contains and dissipates their impact. One of the great pleasures of reading the Gothic derives from the paradox that Burke uncovers when he points out that sensations of pain and danger, when distanced by art, result in the pure delights of the sublime. Yet Yonge's narrative demonstrates that the comforts of the Gothic, providing the reader with safe frissons of horror in a comfortably familiar setting, can be taken to the extreme of denaturing the sublime.
The disabling of the conventions in Chantry House renders this Gothic text susceptible to the totalizing stability of the moral plane, the plane, upon which all dynamic struggles are deconstructed. In this, then, Yonge adds a new dimension to the Gothic text. While conventional Gothic texts struggle between the demands of reason, articulated through the imperatives of law, and the demands of imagination, articulated through the subversions of fantasy, Yonge's text subsumes the two poles on the moral plane.
Rather than struggling to resolve the question of whether possession of Chantry House will be legally effected or dispossession imaginatively accomplished, Yonge's text posits the moral synthesis that will erase all questions of possession or dispossession, of reason or imagination.
Yonge's morality, in incorpating conflicting planes within the totalizing plane of Christian morality, lends an atypical solidity to the closure of her Gothic narrative. The moral plane becomes the totalizing plane on which all struggles and tensions are synthesized and subdued. This results in a closure that, while perhaps more pleasantly comfortable and more morally satisfying, is ultimately less dynamic than that of the typical disruptive Gothic text. Yonge discovers a way to successfully subdue all Gothic struggles and, in doing so constructs a narrative that fixes and kills the power of the genre. The Gothic is defined by the failure or refusal of the Gothic narrative to sustain the stability that most narratives endorse. In positing a plane where all struggles end, Yonge drains her Gothic narrative of its essential tension. Yonge succeeds in producing a text that heralds the death of the vibrant and complex Gothic mode, a death that is, ultimately more horrifying than anything found in Walpole or Reeve.
"'Master of my Fate': Characterization of the Heroine
in Gothic Plays"
Angela, the young heroine in Mathew "Monk" Lewis's play The Castle Specter, has been abducted by the mysterious Earl of Osmond. Imprisoned in her chamber, Angela muses over her instinctive dread of the Earl:
...his strange demeanour!
Yes, in his brow is written
Some scholars have argued that Gothic novels are particularly valuable for the study of Women's History because the genre traditionally has been associated with women.(4) Although acknowledging that the Gothic novel is not "social reality" but is "first and foremost a literary form," Kay Mussell in "But Why Do They Read Those Things," argues that such literary forms are "created by social realities and by social values," and so Gothic novels offer a rare opportunity "to see literature and the world through the eyes of a woman."(5) If such opportunity is offered by the novels, how much more could Gothic plays reveal. Unlike novels, plays require a number of people to come together at a specific place and time to view living actors; therefore plays are more social and more public. Plays must represent the mainstream of social acceptance even more than the novels. Portrayal of women in these plays may reflect society's view of their roles during the critical time in the history of the United States.(6) The most popular of these plays present clearly similar views of the heroines and their expected attitudes and behaviors.
"The Malthusian Gothic"
This paper considers what gothic fiction does for a readership who enjoyed tormenting themselves with what Thomas Malthus called "the principle of population." I am especially interested in tracing the shift from the production-sided nightmare of biological reproduction that shapes Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) to the consumption-sided figure of the vampire that haunts late nineteenth-century gothic (e.g., Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1897) and imperial romance (e.g., H. Rider Haggard's She, 1887). The question is why, over the course of the century, Max Nordau's classic description of "degeneration" replaces overpopulation as the prevailing cultural phobia of Western Europe.
"In the Gothic Gaze: Utopia and Dystopia in Goth Photography"
The contemporary "Goth" youth subculture emerged
from the UK punk scene in the early 1980's. By mid-decade Goth
had crossed the global ponds and become an international youth
subculture, with Goth scenes in cities all over the world. Sever
Goth "zines" (small-run, low-tech, low-to-no-profit
subcultural magazines) began publication in the late 1980's,
reflecting a renewed interest in Goth music and an expanding
Gothic sensibility among young people. In part due to technological
advances, the number and quality of these zines increased substantially
in the early 1990's, and included several near professional-quality
publications, including Carpe Noctem, Blue Blood, Propaganda,
Ghastly, and Dark Angel. Although there is no precise
cultural equivalence between the Goth subculture and the literary
gothic, their "famil resemblances" are clear.
"Gothic Cathedral or Ruined Tower: Coleridge's Aesthetic Ideology in Biographia Literaria"
Much of the powerful imagery of greatest poems Samuel Taylor
Coleridge's early years, poems such as "The Rime of the
Ancient Mariner" and "Christabel" depend upon
the dark psychological energy he found in the supernatural and
the Gothic, but Coleridge's later years, his turn to a markedly
conservative ideology and a more orthodox theology, show him
anxious about the ideological implications of Gothic aesthetics.
Nowhere is the site of this struggle more dramatically set forth
than in the last chapter of the first volume of Biographia
"Redefining Genres, Gender Roles, and the Future: Mary Shelley's Valperga"
Departing from the brilliant fantasy of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley applies many of that earlier work's central concerns to Valperga, which at first glance seems to be primarily a historical romance. But the author's established command of gothic elements also infuses this later novel, in which she invokes and then redirects such important conventions as the castle, the "damsel in distress," and the handsome, heroic male love interest. By purposely blurring the generic boundaries between gothic and historical romance novels, Shelley creates a provocative formal hybrid that revises Scott's treatment of gender roles, ethnicity , religion, and imperialism in Ivanhoe, published four years earlier. Whereas Radcliffe and other female gothic novelists often used the impregnable -.and inescapable -castle as a profound symbol of the enforced domesticity that most women endured, Shelley here uses the citadel of Valperga as a metaphor not for entrapment but rather for the exclusion of women from the political process, of the female perspective from the world of government. Euthanasia, the novel's heroine, is ultimately destroyed by her attempts to gain power and use it justly. The benevolent, feminized vision she brings to medieval Italy's struggles to unify and liberate itself indicates a kind of wish fulfillment on Shelley's part, a suggestion of how politics ought to function: through an inclusive dialogue that rejects gender as a criterion of worthiness. Shelley's main male character, Castruccio, is finally revealed to be destructive, vainglorious, and completely victimized by the male patriarchy that has deformed him. He does not save Euthanasia from her distress, but directly contributes to her death. In fact the actual male "hero" in the novel is an anti-hero by the standards of conventionalgothic and romance fiction: Guinigi, a friend of Castruccio's father and a renowned warrior, has renounced his martial past to live as a peasant, has literally turned his sword into a plowshare. After Castruccio becomes his ward, Guinigi seeks but fails to liberate the younger man from his dreams of military conquest, battlefield glory, and material wealth. And Castruccio's embracing of those false values leads not only to his own but also to his society's destruction. In its transgression of generic boundaries, Valperga posits an implicit critique not only of patriarchal oppression but also of the burgeoning empires and recalcitrant monarchies of early 19th-century Europe. Thus Shelley directs supposedly "light" fiction towards a deeply serious goal: the limning of alternative artistic and ideological paths for the novel- and for civilization. Valperga shows that the same destructive values that produced Castruccio also produced Napoleon. Nearly two centuries later, we have come to know all too well the litany of Castruccio's other ideological descendants: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Amin, Hussein, Milosovic. Shelley's hybrid of gothic and historical romance novel seeks nothing less than to offer us alternative ideals by which we can attempt to ensure, in the new millenium, that this catalogue of infamy has no future additions.
"The Cage of Obscene Birds"
I propose to discuss how the writers of the antebellum American slave narratives-who as Blacks often endured the role of Other in Gothic writing--attacked institutionalized slavery by frequently using Gothic conventions to revise the myth of the 19th century, "moonlight and magnolias" Southern idyll. By doing so the narrators were able to establish a common rhetorical ground with their readers, and able to powerfully signal to their readers the moral degradation intrinsic to slavery itself.
In writing about slavery and the plantation myth, the historian Francis Gaines pointed out that it was a "curious result" that the "two opposing sides of the fiercest controversy that ever shook national thought agreed concerning certain picturesque elements of plantation life ." I suggest that the "picturesque" quality of the plantation gained currency in North and South because it fulfilled the American Garden myth, bringing an ordered, graceful and benevolent world out of the wilderness.
Slave narrators, however, were privy to a plantation life that no white writer would ever see. They frequently complained how easily those who toured the plantations were fooled by the appearances of the plantations. But if the South presented a pleasing surface, the narrators knew that a substantial evil lay beneath that gilt. They fill the narratives with images of disguise and deceit, of uncertain appearances and transmogrifications. A crucial point of attack for the narrators is the concept that what matters to slaveholders is the "mimic state," the state of appropriate appearances.
Consequently, the Gothic's often uneasy and uncertain relationship between the real and the fantastic, and between perception and phenomenological truth, serves as an effective narrative trope for many of the narrators. It is also a trope that would have been available to the narrators through their abolitionist amanuenses.
Specifically I will focus upon three elements of the slaveholding South-all of which intertwine-that become reconfigured into Gothic narrative: the Southern landscape, the plantation, and the slaveholders. Also, while a number of narrators use, to different degrees, Gothic modes of expression, I plan to focus primarily on three writers: Frederick Douglass (especially his 1855 narrative, My Bondage and My Freedom), Harriet Jacobs and Charles Ball.
The narrators looked out at a Southern white civilization, holding unquestioned power over the land and what could be done upon that land, and saw not order, but a place where the archetypal metaphors of the demonic were brought to life. By revising that myth of the Southern garden the narrators positioned themselves as antagonists towards, and observers and critics of, that white civilization that created and sustained the myth. The narrators were able to bring the world of slavery and white civilization into the sphere of their own imaginations.
Thomas Hardy's little-read novel, A Laodicean, offers a surprisingly resonant evocation of one of the great intellectual dilemmas of Victorian Britain, the burden of its own artistic inheritance, and provides an example of the structure of feeling in which Gothic architecture was involved during the nineteenth century. When the hero makes his first appearance, he is sketching a medieval church. At the time Hardy published this novel, in 1881, George Somerset's pastime would have been a respectable one, even a middle-class cliché. As we learn early on, George is a "Laodicean": he is struck by too many things, he is highly educated and even talented, but he remains unformed by his still limited experiences and uncommitted to any particular aesthetic doctrine or more conventional faith. Hardy describes him as having "more of the beauty-if beauty it ought to be called-of the future human type than of the past" (8). An aspect of this future life will be-is-indecision resulting from excessive introspection: George "had suffered from the modern malady of unlimited appreciativeness as much as any living man of his own age" (12). To be modern, perhaps, means seeing-and enjoying-too much, because one has too much access to everything: sights and ideas, past and future. One either wanders in the wilderness of styles, or one makes a choice and becomes eclectic.
At the center of this novel is a thirteenth-century castle, which entrances both George and its ultra-modern railway heiress, Paula Power. Indeed, Hardy suggests, Paula is in danger of losing herself there entirely. The magic of the castle affects her deeply, so much so that her Baptist minister fears she is losing her faith under the influence of medieval Catholicism. George associates her with "the march of mind-the steamship, and the railway, and the thoughts that shake mankind" (92)-but she tries to separate herself from that influence, to find out what she will become herself. The question of exactly how to do this would have been vital for Hardy's contemporaries, both those working in the architectural profession, and those simply caught up in its romance. What was understood in Hardy's day as a choice between modernity and debased or distorted tradition was at first perceived only as a choice between different pasts.
In this novel, Hardy has depicted quite vividly the dilemma facing artists and non-artists alike in all fields of production (and consumption) in the nineteenth century; nowhere, however, was the situation more desperate and more debated than in architecture. In the first part of this paper, I consider arguments made by the opponents of eclecticism against mixing or using diverse historical styles (Gothic in particular), while in the second half, I will review statements made by the proponents of Gothic revivalism who saw eclecticism as the only way forward. John Ruskin, whose writings on architecture had such a major impact on the development of this debate, appears throughout as an ambivalent figure, who on the one hand wants to reject eclecticism because it is immoral and on the other hand wants the spiritual comfort that eclecticism provides.
'fcuk' might look like a misprint, and it certainly plays upon a degree of dyslexic misrecognition, but it is merely the inoffensive brand name of the UK division of a well-known clothing company, a name proudly emblazoned across the front of many a t-shirt. The name often has another noun attached, 'fcuk fashion' being one of the most popular slogans. The sentiment, in its simultaneous disavowal and endorsement of consumer culture, has a doubleness that sends irony into a Schlegelian spin or a Baudrillardian nosedive, its vulgar declaration of transgressive defiance no more than a marketing ploy signalling difference only to incorporate it, annoucing rebelliousness just to sell it, encouraging heterogeneous expenditure in order to homogenise it.
Hence 'fcuk gothic': a paradigmatic post-ironic statement for our 'Gothic times' (as Angela Carter called them), the disavowal and promotion of the virally proliferating hybrid genre indicates not only a change in reception and valorisation but manifests wider cultural transformations. Gothic, it seems, a hinge in the movement from modernity to post- or hypermodernity, displays its darkly reflective cultural function as a site of 'extimacy' (Lacan). A taint of negativity blotting the enlightened image of modernity from the eighteenth century, Gothic forms and fictions agglomerated the necessary antitheses allowing positive cultural values to be differentiated and asserted. Gothic, however, once providing the stain (in a Lacanian sense) of Culture, is no longer suppressed: it is ex-pressed in the spread of cultures associated with postmodernism to signal the virulent return of consumption, waste, luxury, sensation and the prevalence of desiring and performative, liminal and plural identities. Horror is for sale. 'Vampires r us', as contemporary versions of the figure suggest. And vampires can be cyborgs, too, as Gothic heads in curiously post-human directions, to leave the subject of modernity, in horror, lost and incoherent (Polan) in the procession of technologised images.
The cultural significance of Gothic has changed. But it remains strangely doubled in its effects: on the one hand it manifests the process that entwines all beings and meanings in the 'hell of the same' (Baudrillard), recycling stories and images at the end of history. On the other hand it retains a disturbing charge and glowers with a almost lost potential for violently restoring cultural borders. Amid the various circulations of gothic images in books, on film, tv and video, in fashion, music and numerous lifestyles, a 'want' of horror is manifested: a site or figure of extreme horror is demanded to restore symbolic limits and boundaries, to arrest the seemingly endless flows of images, goods, desires in which everything, otherwise, is absorbed and ironised ... the supermassive black hole of horror.
Fred Botting, Keele University
"Only The Dead Can Dance: Gothic Choreographies of Mortality"
In the medieval French Danse Macabre, skeletons who represent
death (or rather Death) present themselves to a wide range of
people, from popes to farmers, and dance them into their graves.
The bodies of these people are stolid, lumpen, enervated; the
bodies of the skeletons - the dead - conversely, are agile, flexible,
joyously expressive. In this tradition, which I want to suggest
is foundational to contemporary gothic aesthetics,
"ANYWHERE, U.S.A.: Canadian Gothic and the Cult of Emptiness"
In her 1998 story, "Death by Landscape," Margaret
Atwood describes Canada as "nowhere definite," which
can, therefore, "be anywhere." Canadian cities are
internationally recognized as doppelgänger sites of American
culture (Vancouver was never identified as such during the time
The X-Files was shot here), and Canadian actors, after
vowel correction, slip easily and gratefully into the American
media as body doubles, minor characters, and bland news announcers.
I propose that in a country which functions as a cipher for American
culture, it becomes necessary to embrace emptiness. By embracing
the lost, the transformative, the emptied body, the surface,
the "foreground," as Atwood describes it, postmodern
Canadian Gothic forges a place for itself distinct from American
Gothic, obsessed with the family, and British Gothic, obsessed
with class. Postmodern Canadian Gothic is preoccupied with the
transcendent possibilities of emptied or wounded flesh. Thus,
it is no surprise that within the same year (1996), Canadian
artists gave the world an empathic necrophiliac (Kissed,
dir. Lynne Stopkewich), affect-less car-crash wound fetishists
(Crash, dir. David Cronenberg), and the sexually ambiguous
persona of Marilyn Manson ("The Beautiful People" and
"Tourniquet" dir. Floria Sigismondi). This paper will
demonstrate that Canadian Gothic is distinct in that its doppelganger
status has allowed it to embrace and even celebrate its lack
"The Gothic Nation in Hyperspace"
This paper addresses the surprising coming together of pop-cultural threads that results when the World Wide Web, as a means to communication and community across temporal and geographical borders, encounters a subculture tracing its descent to the late-eighteenth-century medievalist vogue contemporaries knew as "Gothic." In it I offer a detailed examination of online communities and syllabi created by "net.goths": wired participants in what online historian Pete Scathe calls "the goth. . . subculture" who are also fans of the corresponding "musical movement." Net goths have enthusiastically embraced the technology of the World Wide Web, forging ties in real-time and virtual community across vast distances of time and space. Yet their online participation is also characterized by a broad-based interest in interlocking notions of (national) history and (cultural) tradition. Net.goth materials trace the origins of the subculture to Horace Walpole; they write gothic characters into Monty Python sketches using techniques adapted from slash fiction; they create elaborate colour-coded family tree structures to delineate and narrow down the lineages of fashion, art, and music; they use a graphical map of the globe (medieval in appearance; centred on Europe) as a navigation aid in locating fellow net goths. It would be possible to argue that these materials are attempts to contain, to hold back, the potential the Internet holds out for creating postnational, postspatial communities that simultaneously escape the grasp of global capitalism. I want to suggest, instead, that net.goth nostalgia for an English, "gothic" past highlights the fictionality and contingency of that past even as it highlights a hole in the Web that badly needs repair. As much as the national communities it sometimes replaces, the Web fails to account for the breadth and depth of bodies and bodily agency.
I contextualize my discussion by summarizing two moments in the debates on the "public sphere" where a limited, synecdochic embodiment of communities encounters the formless, borderless, but purely theoretical state in which the world's public speaks for itself. While it is theorized as a borderless, inclusive field of "culture debate," the public sphere is perpetually haunted by synecdoche-the trope that smaller groups use when they convincingly claim to be just representations of larger ones. Thus in early nineteenth-century Europe, according to Jürgen Habermas, "the identification of the public sphere in the political realm with that in the world of letters" meant that the limited group of property owners who belonged to the former could claim for their ideas the generalized status of "public opinion." In a state of "free commerce," such owners could believe, a "res publica phaenomenon. . . could actualize the res publica noumenon" only in the minds of participants who have faith that their own theoretical freedom of thought necessarily accords with the economic interests of their class and their nation. Not least because of the postspatial and postnational organization of participants and of information made possible by its electronic roots, the Internet has long held out the promise to overcome the stubbornly theatrical, national, propertied character of what Nancy Fraser calls "actually existing. . . democracy," in which synecdochic "strong publics" or representative bodies make decisions for the "weaker publics" they sample and embody. But the popularity of the Internet has also brought warnings about the disappearance of embodied representations of the public sphere, or "real communities," for which cultural critics have become nostalgic to the extent that the Internet has taken on public status. These warnings run parallel to the discourse on globalization, in which the decline of the nation-state is lamented as part of a critique of global capitalism.
I will be suggesting that such recent cultural critical warnings, with their nostalgic longing for the local, the real, the embodied, and at times the British-imperial, often call for a version of the local and the "real" that never existed. That is, they are usefully read through Habermas's critique of the bourgeois public sphere of the nineteenth century. Yet the kinds of local publics adduced by critics of global media and global capitalism can also be read, through the most apparently nostalgic net.goth materials, as explicitly fictional and flawed. In combining their expert, enthusiastic use of World Wide Web technology with internally flawed, exaggeratedly artificial versions of the print-based and theatrically-embodied national cultures it supersedes, net.goths generate internal critique of the Web while making clear that SOMETHING is missing. As participants in the nations whose cracks they depict on the Web, they use the Web as a way to criticize the nation-state, and, perhaps, a way to open it up as well. Both portions of their online cultures-which might be construed as a popular dialectical critique of the global and local, the bodiless electronic and imperfectly embodied worlds they depict-mark the place of that SOMETHING MISSING, which is needed to replace the contingent and false embodiments of past (national) communities and supplement the electronic limits of the present.
"Singularity and Community: Edgar Allan Poe's 'Al Aaraaf' at the Boston Lyceum"
[B]ehind the theme of the individual, but beyond it, lurks
the question of singularity. What is a body, a
face, a voice, a death, a writing-not indivisible,
Edgar Allan Poe's "Al Aaraaf" (1829) and especially his late recitation of this long poem at the Boston Lyceum (1845) offers an alternate approach to commonplace approaches to Poe's use of the Gothic. The poem itself is probably the earliest aestheticist document in American letters, proposing and enacting a sort of beauty for its own sake that precedes Ralph Waldo Emerson's distinctly more optimistic version of aestheticism. The recitation of the poem in Boston-which, as Kent Ljunquist has shown, outraged Poe's Boston audience-indicates the latent political implications of Poe's Gothic flight from deity and flirtation with oblivion. "Al Aaraaf" proposes an antithetical approach to the idea of community-one that interrogates dominant American notions about individuality and the role of art in society.
My discussion of the relation between singularity and community in Poe draws on Jean Luc Nancy's The Inoperative Community and Giorgio Agamben's The Coming Community. "Al Aaraaf" explores the possibility and necessity of singularity between lovers in relation to a failed notion of redemption. My approach to this possibility is informed by Agamben's sense of "the becoming singular of the universal." Agamben introduces this transformation in terms of the beloved:
Love is never directed toward this or that property of the loved one (being blond, being small, being tender, being lame), but neither does it neglect the properties in favor of an insipid generality (universal love): the lover wants the loved one with all of its predicates, its being such as it is. (Agamben 1,2)
In "Al Aaraaf" this form of attention to the beloved involves a form of annihilation of the world that is perhaps simply oblivion-a becoming singular of the universal. It is this movement or gesture that Poe's later recitation of the poem in Boston seems to forefront.
The oblivious passion of lovers opens a theological gap that resembles the crisis that Agamben notes in St. Thomas's argument in Summa Theologica: the forgetting of God is apocalyptic; both because to forget God is to be free of the dichotomy of Heaven and Hell, and of truth and false-hood, and because it is the creation of singularity. In the terms that Nancy provides, one can see this singularity as the possibility and experience of community itself: "one must say that ecstasy (community) happens to the singular being" (Nancy 6, original emphasis).
My hope is that this approach to the Gothic in Poe provides a way to understand how Poe's use of the Gothic extends to an idea of community. Offering an alternative to commonplace versions of both his aestheticism and the Gothic, my approach shows how Poe's thought questions the underpinnings of the organising principles driving early American communities. This variant reading of Poe's "Al Aaraaf" and his Boston recitation of the poem then provides the possibility for a new understanding of singularity and its relation to community.
Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: A Not-So-Strange "Case" of Addiction and Criminality in Victorian England".
As the recent Broadview cultural edition of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde demonstrates, Robert Louis Stevenson's Gothic text seems to be informed by late nineteenth-century legal and medical discourses grounded in Darwinian evolutionary theory. Implicit in these discourses is the undermining of the notion of the human will, evolutionary theory challenging the assumption that humans, unlike animal life forms, are able, through their superior moral and intellectual development, to exercise rational thought and control over their instinctual drives and desires. In Stevenson' s novel, Jekyll's inability to abstain from the transformative process that brings about Hyde as the other is symptomatic of a larger anxiety in Victorian thought regarding deviant or socially destructive behaviours. Jekyll's failure to carry out his resolution of abstaining from "Hyde" echoes Victorian temperance discourse surrounding the pitfalls of substance abuse. Victorian theorizing and representations of abstention, as they relate to issues of alcohol and drug use, foreground not only the failure of the human will to exert control over instinctive, addictive, or socially deviant behaviours; such discursive theorization underpins a larger anxiety regarding the conceptualization of criminality in late Victorian England. This paper, provisionally entitled, "Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: A Not-So-Strange "Case" of Addiction and Criminality" examines the forensics of Stevenson's novel and explores the tensions between medical and legal discourses which give rise to gothic anxieties regarding the human subject.
"Innocence Paranoiaque: The Cult Leader and the Gothic Supernatural"
In Totem and Taboo, Freud theorized the killing of the primal father by the band of brothers as the very act which substantiated the symbolic father, the father function as such. Once the primal father, as the one man with access to unlimited enjoyment, was eliminated, the brothers were both cursed and blessed with the guilt of their crime, a guilt which supported the self-reflecting authority of the father as absent. In this manner, the primal father, the exceptional real man, was transformed into a symbolic role--the paternal function. This new father function, however, exists as both a curse and a blessing. It is a curse because now no son can occupy that privileged position once held by the primal father. And it exists as a blessing because this newly established father function mediates the demand/enjoyment of the mother.
One can see in Freud's myth of the killing of the primal father a not too thinly disguised allegory for the rise of democracy itself. The bourgeoisie rises up, kills the monarchy as primal father, and attains self-rule. An empty seat of power is established by Robespierre, among others, in order to protect the reemergence and return of the primal father. But when paternity is replaced by fraternity, when the father's authority is replaced by self-rule (superegoic imperative), authority as symbolic remains less stable than the "no" of the primal father. With democracy emerges the scepticism in authority: whose desire, precisely, is going to occupy the empty seat of power. This very debate is the ground of ideological battles. Regardless, once the belief in the father function, the father as symbolic authority, begins to collapse, once the symbolic father becomes foreclosed, the father returns in what Jacques Lacan called the real. Even though this foreclosure emerges with the very emergence of the symbolic father, we are inscrutably witnessing this foreclosure in ever increasing forms today. Bill Clinton is impeached not because he somehow overstepped his symbolic authority, but because he enjoyed too much. The emergence of minor militia groups and the general increased open antagonism toward the U.S. government appear to be direct reactions to both a growing disbelief in the symbolic father and fear of the newly emerging primal father who enjoys at our expense. Even the traditional family authority of the father has been increasingly supplanted by the ever increasing obsession with pedophiles and other authority figures who traumatize the innocent.
The small quasi-religious cult is a prime example of the return of the primal father due to the growing disbelief in the symbolic father. More and more followers hysterically join cults in a feeble attempt to have an authority in their life that is not lacking, an authority who lacks nothing except doubt. Is not the cult leader, the figure who has access to all the women, who is father of all the children, a return of the pre-lapsarian father who knew exactly where and how to find enjoyment? He is the authority to cure us from our neurotic ills. But the cult leader himself desperately needs followers in order to create a complete community, a community without lack, in order to ward off inevitable psychotic break. The message of the cult leader is always a message without lack. It is the Other that is lacking; the fault is out there, not in here. That those out there want to harm and prosecute us in here is a sign of the innocent paranoia of the cult leader. Was not the cult of Napoleon articulated in a structurally similar manner? Not only does the Gothic novel emerge with the rise of democracy, but it testifies to the fear of the return of this primal father, to the seamy side of democracy. In this manner, the early Gothic novels' obsession with aristocracy should less be read as a desire to return to the comfortable ways of the past than as a fear of a return after that avenue has been cut off. If, for instance, the old returns in the midst of the new, it can only appear as strangely familiar. Hence, the emergence of the uncanny in the eighteenth-century as new class of the frightening.
My paper illustrates this fear of the return of the primal father by focussing on the role of the supernatural in the early English Gothic novel. The supernatural takes on three basic forms within the genre of the early Gothic: the polymorphous, the terrifying, and the horrifying. The first form of the Gothic supernatural, the polymorphous (which is virtually an anti-form), is most succinctly articulated by Horace Walpole in The Castle of Otranto. Terror, as the second form of Gothic supernatural, is mastered by Ann Radcliffe in all of her Gothic romances, while horror, as the third form, became the primary mode of articulated the supernatural in Matthew Lewis' novel The Monk. All three forms are structurally different attempts to deal with the growing disbelief in, and lack of guarantee at the heart of, the father function. My paper will argue that these three writers, as the main proponents of the eighteenth-century Gothic, narrate three different perspectives on the lack of guarantee of the symbolic order, and that these three narratives are structured around particular psychopathologies: perversion, hysteria, and obsessional neurosis, respectively. Within the alternative story lines, they manages to keep the cult leader father at bay, but not without a confrontation with the supernatural as an obscure partially emerged primal father. Finally, my paper will illustrate how it is not until James Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner that the primal father actually returns on the Gothic narrative plane itself in the form of the no longer supernatural Gil-Martin, a Calvinistic cult leader promoting the guarantee of predestination.
"Shakespearean Influences on Charles Brokden Brown's American Gothicism"
When Ralph Waldo Emerson issued his clarion call in "The
American Scholar" for a cultural independence from European
culture, a significant step in that direction had already been
taken by Charles Brockden Brown in his novels. One largely unexplored
influence from Europe that Brown adapts to the emerging American
culture is that of the Neo-Gothic Movement started in England
in the late decades of the eighteenth century. Surprisingly,
however, that influence was not specifically Horace Walpole's,
Ann Radcliff's or that of the Graveyard School of Poetry. It
was a much earlier, and unsuspected, one.
"Poe: From Gothic Hoax to Romantic Nothingness"
"Bella Lugosi is Dead (Again)"
In the late seventies and early eighties the Goth rock band, Bauhaus, was instrumental in forming the space for a popularization of the gothic image in sub-cultural England. Drawing on the schizo-theatrics of Antonin Artaud and the 'vamp' look of Bela Lugosi- David J., Kevin Haskins, Daniel Ash and Peter Murphy constructed an aesthetic that I will explore and explain. I will make reference to the pertinent theoretical perspectives infecting the discussion of cult formation and aesthetics as it pertains to Artaud for clues on how we may better come to understand these seminal goth- rock artists.
"Illness, Madness and the Voice of Medicine: Authority in the short Fiction of Edgar Allen Poe"
In this paper I examine how narrators in the short fiction
of Edgar Allen Poe "borrow" authority in order to legitimize
the fabular stories that they recount. The paper examines this
method of association as it is used to establish each narrator's
distinctly authoritative voice in three of Poe's short stories:
'The Man of the Crowd," "Eleonora" and "The
Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar."
"Buff Girls and Teen Angels: Romantic Desire in Latter-Day Gothic"
The recent resurgence of teen horro/thriller/slasher films, such as director Wes Craven's 1996 Scream and its sequels, as well as the fascination with the 'undead' and other-worldly phenomena in prime time television shows such as The X-Files, Angel and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer might suggest a fin-de-siecle gothic anxiety about transgressive sexuality. Curiously, however, the genre of the apparently gothic explorations of sexualized and often violently erotic transgressions is the "teen pic" or the adolescent coming-of-age film. While teenagers and young adults as a group have always been a particularly potent site of depictions of sexual experimentation, the current spate of shows are remarkably asexual insofar as the heroes and, more often, heroines, always seem to be striving for something beyond consummating whatever desires beckon their bodies. Even the X-Files, a show that teases its audienc with the possibility of sexual union between its two lead characters, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, is more concerned with a rather adolescent fantasy of saving the planet from "man's" own destructive tendencies that with a romance plot. In other words, protagonists such as Buffy Sommers, the Vampire Slayer, appear to be less gothic heroines who successfully defeat the forces of darkness than Byronic characters who labour under the burden of an oppressive secret, power, or desire. Consequently, a show such as Buffy, The Vampire Slayer which follows the weekly adventure of a a group of "UC Sunnydale" originally highschool now college students led by Buffy, the Slayer of demons, uses the staple gothic elements of unspeakable terror threatened by an assorted array of diabolical figures not as an end in itself to entertain the audience, but as a haunting and cryptic background for the essentially Romantic exploration of subjectivity.
Blanca Schorcht Chester
"Coyote Vampires: A.A. Carr's Eye Killers"
"Cults and conspirators: some film versions of the Gothic"
Conspiracy is a theme that connects the late eighteenth century with our own era. Subversive political activity characterizing revolutionary groups (such as the Jacobins) begins in secret, and the activities of secret societies form a significant aspect of the popular novels of the Enlightenment and beyond. Fictions in which even the scene itself symbolizes a veiled and alarming threat reveal the power of the imagination, which contributes to the terrors: we can't trust our friends; we can't trust our senses. The Gothic romances of two hundred years ago, which drew upon our fascination with the mythic and the inexplicable, have inspired film-makers in the areas of both content and form: our political thrillers are best when they play with the unsettling psychological dimensions of the characters' lives, and stories may be told as inset tales or from different points of view.
"History as Catastrophe: Godwin's Mandeville and the Gothic Borders of National Narrative"
William Godwin's Mandeville: A Tale of the Seventeenth
Century in England is an intensely claustrophobic novel that
obliquely intersects with the events of the English Civil War.
The son of Anglo-Irish gentry, Mandeville loses both parents
in a massacre during the Catholic Rebellion in Ireland in 1641,
only escaping death because of the loyalty of his Catholic wet
nurse. Yet he is immediately separated from her by his English
relatives and is given a gloomy, Calvinist upbringing. These
traumas set the stage for Mandeville's obsession with a schoolboy
rival, an obsession which culminates in rendering Mandeville
essentially a ghost in his own life. Written in the wake of Walter
Scott's Waverley (which Godwin had just read), Mandeville
is oddly inward for a historical novel; Katie Trumpener has claimed
that "Mandeville's psyche, Mandeville's story, matches a
collective psyche, a national narrative, only intermittently
and by chance." This paper will argue that this lack of
fit is strategic on Godwin's part, and carried out through his
use of Gothic tropes and themes. Since Godwin later wrote a historical
account of the English Civil War, it is clear that he didn't
disdain representing the war. Rather, his aim in Mandeville
is to challenge the model of continuity and assimilation that
Scott had provided in his novels (a quality that Lukacs noted
and promulgated as the ideal for historical fiction). Just as
Edmund Burke was the philosopher of British historical continuity,
Scott was the narrator of British historical continuity. Gothic
fiction, by definition involving traumatic plots and themes of
abjection, then, is a powerful resource for portraying history
as catastrophe. The initial massacre that makes Mandeville an
orphan results in reports of those massacred appearing as ghosts
to their killers. This originary trauma becomes the unacknowledged
source of frustration for Mandeville's own development, as it
is relentlessly drawn into a seemingly gothic narrative. His
idealistic relationship with his sister is close to incestuous,
while his childhood on his uncle's estate is portrayed as relentlessly
gloomy. The action of the novel depends two figures that double
Mandeville. The use of the gothic is permeated with ambiguity
in Mandeville, however; whether the events happen as narrated
by Mandeville or are colored by his traumatized psyche is left
unclear until the very end. Yet the ambiguity is itself strategic;
by showing that the boundary line between the gothic and history
is permeable--that one man's nightmare may be another's history--Mandeville
renders the past unsettling. Written in the wake of the successful
conclusion to the Napoleonic war and the onset of Liberal hegemony
in Britain, Mandeville's gothic life discloses the trauma
that instigated the rise of the middle-class in Britain.
Robin A. Cryderman
"Gothic Fictions/Alchemical Facts: Yonic Reversals and Revisionings in Theodore Roszak's The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein"
In his "Author's Note" to The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein (1995), Theodore Rozsak tells readers he "hopes" adopting the character of Elizabeth Frankenstein, nee Lavenza, will provide Mary Shelley with "the voice she was not free to adopt in her own day" (x). What follows is a story that paints another truth; monstrosity was born through the theft of knowledge, knowledge grown, nurtured, protected, and lost, by women. This knowing, esoteric, pagan, and alchemical is also female and corporeal. The rape of the natural world, a clichè in our time, is shown here as the inevitable result of the "mastery" that science seeks to enforce over the material, its insistence that its way is the only reason: "it was the joy of taking that he [they] wanted, not that of accepting" (291). All who resist are feminized and demonized. That Shelley may have wanted to write a story such as this is not a far-fetched proposal.
Roszak's novel is an elegantly phrased companion narrative that admirably imagines a particular Elizabeth, re-scripting Frankenstein by telling more than the romantic/gothic form, or the time period, would allow. In Memoirs, women are the center of the story, structurally, thematically, historically, epistimologically, and sexually. Women hold the knowledge that binds body/mind/spirit together, "naturally" feminist. Lady Caroline Frankenstein, Victor's mother, is the leader of the "cunning women" and has chosen his sister/bride, Elizabeth, specifically to teach her "women's mysteries," and prepare her to be Victor's "soror mystica." Victor also trains in the mysteries, but betrays the practice and rapes Elizabeth, thus remaining the representative of all men, and of scientific thought as Shelly intended. "[A]gelically shaped and bright of eye" (275), this fallen angel finds Paradise in his workshop: "'the trials and sufferings of Nature,' as he called his studies" (226).
The novel is presented as a "found" journal: Elizabeth's long lost diary is discovered by the narrator, who then serves as "editor" to the volume we read. This editor is none other than Robert Walton, the explorer to whom the original story is confessed. Roszak uses this editor to multiple ends, but the framing device serves two main, and contradictory, purposes. The editor's questioning voice provides a continuity between Shelley's text and this novel, a putative sympathetic voice. But Walton speaks in the voice of a period scientist, as "truth" and "reason," for whom the "shocking" and "degraded" narrative in Elizabeth's diary can only be an "example of female degeneracy" (xvi). This, unfortunately, has the effect of problematizing the reader's reception of Elizabeth's diary. Walton sees her as what we would call a classical Freudian hysteric, deranged by her erotic practices and writing fictions. One of the considerations of this paper, then, will be the way that Walton's editorials undercut Roszak's feminist project.
"Degeneracy" turns out to be a detailed account of a young girl's journey to womanhood that reverses and revisions the conventions that shaped the original Frankenstein. This paper will argue that Roszak has attempted a complicated reverse iconography with this novel that furthers Shelley's critique of science and society, and like hers, it's a text with explicit pedagogical purposes. What he writes that Shelley could not, is a tantric/alchemical romance re-introducing the Great Goddess and her theologies to the English canon. He reverses many of the conventions of a gothic text and, particularly, through Elizabeth's journey to self-awareness, he parallels in female form the Monster's journey to his.
Memoirs presents an intimate narrative containing an historical one, what may have happened to the European non-Orthodox tradition with the onslaught of science. Modern non-Orthodox practices and theologies in North America have their origins in these traditions, and currently face much the same battle with technology. "Magic" has moved into popular culture, perhaps reiterating the fascination alchemy held for the Romantics. Indeed, Roszak expects his reader to be familiar with the "pop" version of the traditions here detailed.
The "workshop of monstrous creation" finds its beginnings in ancient Tantric practices, the pursuit of the "Great Marriage" of woman, man and divine. In Memoirs the alchemical practices that placed Victor on the "wrong" track are shown to be the gross, materialistic re-workings of spiritual practices based in the sacredness of the body; through corporeality attained by practice and reverence for life, the dross of humanity can become transcendent gold. Roszak suggests that alchemical practices, those which provide Victor with his ideas, are the debased materialist readings of ancient texts, "cyphers" separated from the spiritual principles of the original practices. This is the way the women in this text see the world. Science can only look at the material; indeed, it is limited by its insistence that all experience is material, biological, chemical or electric. What Roszak suggest is that this is intimately connected with domination and subjugation of women's bodies and knowledge. It can not see what it hates.
Memoirs argues that Science itself is "degraded," and suggests fundamental reasons for this position, speaking loudly to contemporary issues surrounding corporeality. At the center of it all, Roszak suggests, is Science's fear of the female, of her ability to create life. In Its haste to take what must be accepted, a monstrosity has been born. With this paper I hope to demonstrate both the importance of this text as a feminist pedagogical project of male authorship, and show some of the problematic aspects of that agenda. Roszak's "alchemical romance" translates Shelley's text and her warnings for a postmodern world, calling, once again, to examine the relationship between women, knowing and Science.
"Nation and Legitimation: The Gothic in Nineteenth-Century
"Potocki's Saragossa Manuscript, Or the Scandal of Variety"
Jan Potocki's Manuscrit trouvé a Saragosse is
a cosmopolitan as well as a manifold text. Written in French
by a Pole from Ukraine and first published (fragmentarily) in
Paris and Saint Petersburg, its settings range across eighteenth-century
Europe and North America. Its main points of reference, however,
are in Spain, scene of the manuscript's discovery in the outermost
frame story of this densely-nested work, scene too of the anti-hero
Alphonse Van Worden's repeated attempts to get past the haunted
inn on the mountainous border between Andalusia and New Castille.
The proliferating stories told during his struggles to cross
the sierras expose this pious would-be soldier to the wider world's
complexities and also locate these complexities in the heart
of Spain, the supposed home of all purities.
"Calvinist Covens: Protestant Paranoia in Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland, or the Transformation and James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner"
To date, much work has been done on the nature and role of the excessive, Roman Catholic "Other" in the English gothic tradition who was vital ot the construction of national and religious (Protestant/anglican) identity. This figure and associated Roman Catholic institutions were central to this generic tradition as they were used to caution against the possible tyranny of unpoliced theocracies. Such representations of the Roman Catholic church as a monstrous and occult, Illuminati-like secret society spoke back, in an often complex manner, to fears and anxieties generated by the French Revolution, among them the possible tyrrany of reason and the dangers of repressing the passions.
"Beauty Is Just The Beginning Of Terror: Creating A Contemporary Gothic Sensibility"
The ways we have been trained to think about our bodies and emotions - indeed virtually all aspects of life - have been conditioned by a history of presumptions concerning what is "natural," "good," and "proper." While dominant society continues to insist that certain behaviors and bodily aspects be deemed abnormal, anti-social, or taboo, the Gothic, or as it might be better known in art historical terms as the abject, encourage sensibilities that articulate and elaborate what has conventionally been unseen and unheard. Many artists traditionally considered on the margins have embraced these sensibilities as a way to question identity, and to transgress and destabilize long held notions of the norm as well as to examine and visualize the dark, disturbing, uncanny realms of both the psyche and society as a whole.
The re-emergence of the Gothic and related abject imagery at the end of the 20th century raises many interesting questions. Our panel, Beauty Is Just The Beginning Of Terror: Creating A Contemporary Gothic Sensibility would focus directly on artists working in this vein. What are their theoretical concerns? Why work with the Gothic and how does each artist evoke this with her/his particular gaze? What are the problems and pleasures of working with this imagery and subject matter? What reception has their work received? Is this work just another form of "millennial angst"? Can expressions of the Gothic retain the power to disturb, disrupt, and be truly subversive? Or, will this imagery ultimately prove to be complicit with the power structures that it hopes to unsettle, becoming little more than a footnote to traditional art and literary canons that the Gothic desires to disrupt? We will explore these issues in the context of our own work , and conclude the panel with a discussion of the implications behind this imagery at the start of the new millennium.
Dixie L. Durham
"Perpetual Gothic in Dixie: From Fiction to the Factual
The Trials and Tribulations of Faulkner's Miss Emily and Berendt's
Within this gothic fascination is a predilection for the strange,
the weird, the grotesque, the mysterious, and perhaps even the
satanic. All of this makes for interesting settings and even
more interesting character studies. Indeed, the Southern twist
on this aspect brings into focus individuals who are outcasts
as the result of race, social station, politics, and even disability
or mental state, but first it might be interesting to look at
the gothic in early America to note its packaging here. Richard
Davenport-Hines points out in his Four Hundred Years of Excess,
Horror, Evil and Ruin that the harshness of Puritan reality
was the wellspring for the American gothic--this source is obvious
in the works of Hawthorne and Melville where sin is inherent--and
that, quite unlike its European counterpart, it became more family-centered
(272, 267). Although the family was an issue in European, especially
English, Romanticism, here the family member might be a usurper
such as Walpole's creation, Manfred, one who exerted external
pressure. The American brand of gothic was more familiar and
familial; thus, the implication is that the conflict is more
internal. Thus, the gothic, as it moved south, took on a unique
and special flavor.
"The Ramifications of Slavery in New England Gothic"
This essay examines the Gothic treatment of race and slavery
in two novels/novellas written by New England women writers:
Moods by Louisa May Alcott and "The Amber Gods"
by Harriet Spofford. Both works seem to show how the existence
of slavery in the South has destroyed or perverted normal relationships
in New England; usually historical works only focus on the negative
effects of male-female relationships in the South, under the
plantation system. But Alcott and Spofford cleverly show that
the North has some responsibility as part of the nation which
sanctions slavery--and how its psyche or moral consciousness
also suffers as a result of its silent acquiescence.
One can view the original sin, or the Gothic curse or "sins
of the fathers," in both Moods and "The Amber
Gods" as being the importation of slaves to the New World.
Both works employ elements of the Gothic to point to the typical
family curse, but on American soil, that curse is transformed
into the immoral slave trade. It becomes the national Gothic
dilemma rather than just a familial (and limited) problem or
curse. Thus, Alcott's text opens with the male protagonist, Warwick,
in Cuba toying with the affections of a strong and passionate
Cuban woman (the "other"); he feels he needs to escape
the bad air of a diseased country (Cuba) sanctioning the slave
trade. And he comes back to New England expecting the air to
purer. But for him, forbidden sexuality (the affair with the
"other") and slavery become synonymous, and he can
no longer have a normal relationship with a "pure"
New England girl, Sylvia, who eventually becomes so lovesick,
fragile, and consumptive, that she herself seems to be imbibing
the bad air of slavery. Similarly, Yone in "The Amber Gods,"
inherits the amber beads of the young Asian slave girl, who was
wrongly taken to the shores of New England and forced to serve
Yone's Puritan forebears. (There is also a Catholic/Gothic intrigue
here as she is brought back to Italy and serves the Italian woman,
who coincidentally, becomes Yone's mother.) The diseased atmosphere
and the family curse, associated with the wrongful possession
of the servant's beads, cause the downfall of Yone and the family
line. Her sexuality is seen as distorted and perverse, and her
failed marriage to Rose Vaughn only serves to accentuate how
unfit Yone is to live in New England society. Though Yone praises
the "colorful" nature and landscape of the Caribbean
people she had visited, her sense of color is patronizing and
condescending. Ultimately, she, like Sylvia in Moods, falls victim
to some draining disease--and dies in a rather Gothic postscript.
In both cases, the failed marriages and diseased lives can be
traced back to the illicit slave trade.
the clearest light of reason / A Mind of its Own: Making Sense of James Hoggs Body of Evidence in The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
In James Hoggs The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner the body has a mind of its own in that it refuses to make sense within the forensics of narrative. This paper will explore the novel as a case history involved in the multiple and contradictory ways of making sense. Memoirs offers a cultural psychoanalysis of the sensible body prized by Enlightenment thought, radicalized by the gothic, yet brought to a crisis of comprehension in Hogg at a time when making sense began to carry with it the utilitarian imperative of making bodies and minds productive within the social sphere of the Empire. By making sense of the irrational psychosomatic body, Freuds case histories are one apotheosis of this utility; but against their own sense they also generate an abjective structure between fact and fiction where the corpus resists making sense. This paper will read before Freud, however, to explore a crisis of rationality that Freuds cases attempt to overcome. In Hoggs novel, the psycho-religious paradoxes of Calvinism would make the subjects body fit a kind of delirious rationality utterly antithetical to the senses. Calvinisms suspension of empiricism creates in turn a suspension of disbelief in a body of evidence beyond the normal realm of comprehension. This body, manifested in Robert Wringhims döppelganger and repeated in the corpus of the novels uncanny narrative, makes sense, but in ways that do not fit the order of things.
"Venus vs. Eve: Debating Cult(ure)s in Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Matthew Lewis's The Monk"
In this paper, I will remove the sexual stereotyping implicit in perceptions of the dialogue between Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Matthew Lewis's The Monk and argue that these two novels were participating in theoretical writings and ideological discussions of the Enlightenment that debated women's relationship to nature and civilization.
The theoretical base of my argument will be Sylvana Tomaselli's article "The Enlightenment Debate on Women" in which Tomaselli explores "a forgotten tradition [of the eighteenth century] which linked women, not, as is all to swiftly done, to nature, but to culture and the process of its historical development" (101). By acknowledging and exploring an ideological aligning of women with culture, Tomaselli opens interpretive possibilities for eighteenth-century studies. The complex layering of gothic fictions, traditionally perceived as feminine, are rejuvenated by such an opening. Tomaselli notes that in the eighteenth century, women "were the barometers on which every aspect of society, its morals, its laws, its customs, [and] its government were registered" (114) in terms of "[t]he nature and extent of their subjection or liberty" (114). The obsession of Gothic fiction with the "subjection or liberty" of women suggests that the gothic genre was one of the barometric modes of registering and measuring society. In light of Tomaselli's theoretical study I will argue that gothic works such as Anne Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Matthew Lewis's The Monk participated in the nature/culture debate by critiquing social and artistic conventions in terms of women and exploring the sociopolitical consequences of aligning women with either nature or culture.
Using the critical works of Elizabeth a. Bohis, Scott Mackenzie,
Barbara M. Benedict, Lauren Fitzgerald, and Jerrold Hogle, I
will build an analysis of Udolpho and The Monk that reveals both
their participation in the Enlightenment debate on women and
their individual ambitions to construct an inclusive masculinized
(The Monk) or feminized (Udolpho) community. I
will suggest that these constructions depend upon Radcliffe and
Lewis's ability to claim cultural authority for either women
or men and that their gothic treatment of women and landscape,
marriage, vision, education and sensibility is predicated on
an attempt to achieve this authority. I will conclude by implying
that Radclliffe's attempt to discard the yoke of aesthetic objectification
and claim a socially, politically and historically influential
female aesthetic subject, involves her utilization of the language
of masculine aesthetics to promote a controlled but uniquely
feminine aesthetic experience that is clearly rooted in the social.
I will show how Radcliffe's utopian vision of a feminized "community
of perfect sociality" (Mackenzie 426) in Udolpho overrides
Lewis's subsequent novelistic attempt to dislodge Radcliffe's
women/culture vision and to reinstate a masculine and innately
noble aristocratic community as the ideal. Thus, in a language
of submission, and a mode palatable to readers bred of male aesthetics,
Radcliffe carefully claims cult(ural) authority.
"The gothicism of Mrs. J. H. Riddell"
(Charlotte E. Riddell, 1832-1906), [was] a prolific Victorian fictionist. Her short stories of the supernatural have been fairly well known, several collected as Weird Stories (1882), The Banshee's Warning (1894) and others in E. F. Bleiler's volume for Dover during recent years.
As a novelist "of the city," as she has repeatedly been designated, Riddell also used gothic effects that draw near to supernatural territories, but that are always revealed to have realistic origins. She modifies from earlier Gothic tradition the vicious pursuit of innocence/innocents for purposes of lust, power, or money--sometimes singly, sometimes collectively, in novels such as City and Suburb, The Rich Husband, Above Suspicion, and others. Mrs. Riddell flourished during the 1860s on through the early 1880s, although she kept writing until illness forced her to stop several years before her death. She is obviously one more heir of the Sensation Fiction school that burgeoned during the 1860s in the works of Dickens, Collins, Braddon, Wood, and others.
My aim is to present an overview of her aims and achievements as regards Gothic tradition. This is no theory focused project, but rather litery history with critical comments interspersed. Since such treatment has never been accorded Riddell's fiction, however, it should add a chapter in the history of late nineteenth-century British fiction of the Gothic stamp.
"Crime, Punishment, Criticism: The Monk as Prolepsis"
Perhaps the best-known fact of Matthew Gregory Lewis' reception is that in both contemporary and twentieth-century criticism of his work, as Howard Anderson notes, he was and continues to be characterized as "Monk Lewis, the artist inseparable from his creation" (205). Just as well known is the nearly-universal condemnation launched against The Monk and its author in the years immediately following the novel's publication. Lewis, one contemporary reviewer held, "grossly offended" the "Canons of Criticism" with his novel (rev. of Impartial Strictures British Critic 318), and for such crimes, punishment was swift. Arguing that Lewis set out to poison the minds of readers against virtue and religion, critics very nearly succeeded in their demands that he be tried for blasphemous libel, which carried quite real penalties. Less well known, however, are the ways in which his status as "Monk" Lewis and his reviewers' attacks intersect. As "Monk" Lewis, "the artist inseparable from his creation," he was not simply identified as the author of The Monk; he was identified with the eponymous villain of his novel, Ambrosio. Indeed, in their responses to Lewis' novel, reviewers reproduce his characters and plot and in so doing map out ways in which The Monk has supplied both a Gothic and cultural narrative that proves ultimately inescapable in the history of his reception: the Gothic tale of The Monk has been repeated at least through the late twentieth-century, with critics not only positioning Lewis as "Monk" Ambrosio but also figuring his contemporary Gothicist, Ann Radcliffe, as the heroine he attempts to ruin.
The fact that Lewis was a member of Parliament, and shamelessly announced himself as such on the title page of the second edition of his novel, certainly contributed to his vilification in the 1790s; reviewers were often as scandalized by Lewis' rank as by The Monk's sexual and religious improprieties. However, this biographical explanation does not fully account for the similarities between The Monk and its reviews, particularly since they are apparent in the reception of the first edition of Lewis' novel, which was published anonymously and several months before he had become an MP. In this brief notice, appearing in June 1796, of the novel's first, anonymous edition, a writer for the British Critic not only begins what would be two years of the journal's nearly-constant condemnation of Lewis, but does so by figuring the novel in the same manner that Don Lorenzo, early in The Monk, figures Ambrosio's crimes against Antonia in a portentous dream.
At this point in Lewis' reception and in the plot of The Monk, both the identity of the novel's author and the identity of the ominous figure in Don Lorenzo's dream are, as Don Lorenzo remarks, "unknown" (Monk 53). But there are also more striking resemblances between the ways in which reviewer and hero represent these "unknowns." As the British critic writes,
Lust, murder, incest, and every atrocity that can disgrace human nature, [are] brought together, without the apology of probability, or even possibility, for their introduction. . . . We are sorry to observe that good talents have been misapplied in the production of this monster. (rev. of Monk 677)
The three words with which the British Critic opens the review-"Lust, murder, incest"-offer a significant parallel to the three words "written in legible characters" that Don Lorenzo discovers "on [the] forehead" of the unknown figure of his dream: "'Pride! Lust! Inhumanity!'" (Monk 53). And as review and dream progress, both novel and figure take on a similar form: Just as the unknown of Don Lorenzo's vision becomes a "monster" who "attempt[s] to drag Antonia with him . . . [into] an abyss" (Monk 53) so too in the British Critic's notice does Lewis' novel become a "monster" bent on "disgrac[ing] human nature."
This early notice begins to point up just how inescapable
Lewis' Gothic was for his reviewers. The episode from The
Monk that the British Critic reproduces establishes
both the terms by which the reviewer describes this "monster"
and the means by which to dismiss it, if only temporarily. For
just as Don Lorenzo ignores the prophecy of his vision because
he is convinced that "what he had just witnessed had been
a dream" (Monk 54), so too does the British Critic disregard
the atrocities of The Monk because they are without "probability
or even possibility." But the British Critic, like
Don Lorenzo, comes to regret this dismissal. Recalling the journal's
first notice of the novel two years later, another British critic
admits with embarrassment that "we should have sought the
strongest words we could collect, to express our disapprobation
and abhorrence" (rev. of Impartial Strictures 319). The
earlier notice was, it turns out, a prophecy of the atrocities
that The Monk would go on to commit. Just as Don Lorenzo's
dream foretells Ambrosio's subsequent attempts on Antonia's virtue,
so too does the British Critic's first notice of Lewis'
novel foretell The Monk's attempts to "disgrace"
its readers. Don Lorenzo's vision, then, is proleptic not only
of Antonia's fate at the hands of a monster who would turn out
to be Ambrosio, but of The Monk's own reception as a villain
who ruins the female heroine of the reviews, the reading public.
In both the novel and the narrative of Lewis' early reception, such celebrity and genius are only tools for seducing and destroying innocence. Just as Ambrosio displays his "pernicious philosophy" and "knowledge of the arts of seduction" in The Monk (Monk 261, 255), so too, held the novel's readers, did Lewis "publish to the world" his "pernicious effusion of youthful intemperance" and "arts of lewd and systematick seduction" (Mathias qtd. in Parreaux 107, rev. of Impartial Strictures 318). The objects of Ambrosio's and Lewis' villainy and the means by which they bring about their pernicious seduction are also figured in a strikingly similar manner. Ambrosio seeks to "infus[e] corruption into Antonia's bosom" by "depriv[ing] her of . . . her modesty," her "excellent morals," and her "virtue" (Monk 256). Likewise, the "great scope and purport" of Lewis' work was "to shew, that the fairest face and semblance of virtue is commonly a cloak to the most horrible crimes," "to discourage the practice of virtue" and to "contaminate" "the purity of public manners" (rev. of Monk European Magazine 112, "On Novels and Romances" 548, "Aurelius" 3, rev. of Aurelio and Miranda qtd. in Parreaux 67).
What has become clear to me, in my ongoing work on the reception histories of both Lewis and Radcliffe, is that it is difficult to escape the Gothic narratives these writers established. Like their late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century predecessors, more recent critics have continued to view "Mrs." Radcliffe and "Monk" Lewis through their own heroines and villains, ascribing to them, and plotting their careers according to, the qualities of their fictional characters. What is less clear to me is what should be done about it. Elizabeth Napier, in her unsympathetic critique of both Gothic novels and criticism, seems to argue that critics should simply stop reproducing the genre in their interpretations. By "adopt[ing] (perhaps unwittingly) Gothic vocabulary and conventions-sometimes even style-to dramatize their views," "students of the genre," she suggests, have done a disservice to both the Gothic and to literary criticism (2). However, because for many "students of the genre" the Gothic has proven to be inescapable, her complaint suggest that the problem is not so much that critics have "adopted" the genre's conventions, but that they have done so "unwittingly." Consequently, part of Napier's implicit solution is that critics should be conscious of this reproduction.
I'd like to suggest, by contrast, that the real solution is not full consciousness, which seems unattainable anyway, but fuller exploitation of the consciousness we do have: rather than attempting to avoid the Gothic narrative of Gothic criticism, we should set out to write better, or at least more fully Gothic, Gothic narratives. And probably the best model to emulate is Lewis, Radcliffe's first and among her most insightful critics, and with Walpole one of the best critics of the genre as a whole. We should, in other words, align ourselves not with the tradition of unconscious reproduction of the Gothic, which has for two centuries punished Lewis for his "gross" offenses, but consciously emulate Lewis by perpetuating in our criticism more fully Gothic crimes.
"The Machinic-Human Body and Charlotte Mew's Aesthetic of (Dis)Embodiment"
In this paper, I look at how the reconfiguration of embodiment
at the end of the nineteenth century provides Charlotte Mew with
a powerful trope of disembodiment which she employs to to inscribe
a new kind of body in her short story, "Passed"-a body
which allows the expression of lesbian desire. The 'reconfiguration
of embodiment' that I speak of is, more specifically, the result
of the emergence of the "machinic-human body" (which
I believe is a precursor to the post-human) at this time. For
the conference, I would like to look at how this machinic-human
body (which is, I think, Gothic or 'abhuman'-as the term is employed
by Kelly Hurley in her book, The Gothic Body) is linked
to Mew's use of erasure, silence, death, and out-of-body-experience,
and how Mew employs erasure of the printed word, and death of
the heterosexual body to encode a new body, with 'new' desires.
In "Passed," text and body are intimately linked such
that within the world of the story erasure of the written word
is associated with the erasure of the heterosexual body, and
this very erasure enacts an encoding of a homosexual one. At
the same time, of course, it is Mew's use of print that allows
the erasure and encoding that is the work of the story.
This paper will look at the contemporary Goth subculture in Melbourne and Brisbane, examining articulations of their (dis)location here as marginal, nostalgic/"regressive", Anglophilic, unhealthy, nocturnal, excessive, "unAustralian". The paper will look at Goths in relation to available contemporary national identities, seeing them in terms of a disjuncture in the framework of an Australian, inner-urban, white middle class. I shall look at the horror fiction of Brisbane novelist Kim Wilkins, and at a recent film, "Angst" for its representation of a "therapeutic" goth girl. I shall also look at Goth clubs and Goth leisured identities in Melbourne in particular, turning in particular to goth femininity and a current interest in the geisha - which continues to dislocate Goth Australian-ness not through Anglophilia but through reconfiguring an image from "old Japan". The newer "Asian Goth" identity will also be noted here as a complication to British-Australian cultural transnationalities, both regionalising Goth identity and further underscoring its (dis)location nationally.
"'J'ai tue le ventre': Killing the womb and writing a "feminine" jouissance on the maternal landscape of Nicole Brossard's Mauve Desert"
Although Nicole Brossard's postmodern poetics/ficto-theory
may not immediately bring to mind the term Gothic Cult, Mauve
Desert has been called a lesbian/feminist de-scribing of
a murder mystery and my paper will argue that it is unquestionably
a monstrous text that disrupts the symbolic order. At first glance
it can be seen that this text blurs the boundaries between fiction,
theory, and poetics-its bricolage construction forms what Jacques
Derrida refers to as a textual "species of the non-species...
a terrifying form of monstrosity"(293). Furthermore, Brossard's
disruption of syntax and sentence structure and her meta-narrative
construction of three texts--three intertextual fragments--within
one text disrupt any linear order of reading or hierarchy of
conscious structuring of narrative. These disruptions create
a textual vertigo which challenges the reader to confront her
or his own un/conscious desires and fragmented subject position.
Like Helene Cixous, Brossard uses the number three because it
cannot be divided without an excessive remainder or surplus,
an excess that refuses to be recontained within a binary framework.
Although Brossard's text is pleasurably sensual and playfully
provocative, she has more than just aesthetic currency in mind.
As Brossard says in These Our Mothers, "I have murdered
the womb and I am writing it," and in Mauve Desert her text
enacts this monstrous, double gesture in order to speak the unspeakable
Brossard, Nicole. Mauve Desert. Toronto: Coach House
"Black Feminism and Gothic Romance: The Reception of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and Morrison's Beloved"
In the 1940s, when the New Critics established the canonical status of William Faulkner's work, they claimed that, far more than local, Southern fiction, it had universal value; as John Crowe Ransom said, it reveals the "moral confusion" of the "modern world," which can "look back nostalgically upon the old world of traditional values and feel loss and perhaps despair" (112). In the 1990s, when the success of the Black feminist Toni Morrison has generated important new studies of her work as well as Faulkner's, scholars suggest that, as Carol A. Kolmerton says, "Read together, the fiction of Faulkner and Morrison offers a richly varied and profoundly moving meditation on racial, cultural, and gender issues in twentieth-century America." Although such rereadings of Faulkner have appeared before, the new studies of Faulkner and Morrison pose more acutely a troublesome contradiction in his reception - how can his work "look back nostalgically upon the old world of traditional values" and still offer a "richly varied and profoundly moving meditation on racial, cultural, and gender issues"?
Such contradictory accounts of a work show that, as Barbara Herrnstein-Smith says, "[W]hat may be spoken of as the "properties" of the work - its "structures," "features," "qualities," and, of course, its "meanings" - are not fixed, given, or inherent in the work "itself" but are at every point the variable products of some subject's interaction with it" (Cited in Richter 1340). Moreover, to read Morrison as a great artist is to revise or revalue Faulkner and her other precursors; at the same time, to revise her precursors is to underwrite her status as an original artist. Gothic romances like Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights provide the intertextual conventions for such a revaluation of Morrison's Beloved and Faulkner's Absalom,Absalom!, in particular. I will suggest that Beloved is a more profound work than Absalom is because Beloved depicts a more significant horror and because it repudiates Absalom's modernist pessimism and affirms the value of the community and its traditions. In modern criticism's divided conditions such revaluation of Faulkner and Morrison opposes conventional notions of literature's formal autonomy and acknowledges the increasingly important traditions of African-American and Women's literature.
"The Waiting Boy: Aphanisis and Stained Masculinity in
Emily Brontë's Gondal Poetry"
From the box of wooden soldiers that reputedly inspired the Brontë's literary microcosm, Emily Brontë was allocated the inauspicious "Waiting Boy." While Brontë furnished this particular figure with the domesticated identity of Sir William Edward Parry, her later Gondal poetry manifests the liminal possibilities of incipient gothic masculinity - she populates the prisons, graves, and intrigues of Gondal with miniaturized men waiting for narrative forces to rescue them. Using Susan Stewart, Herbert Sussman, and Ernest Jones as guiding theorists, this paper explores scenes of constructed masculinity within subterranean excess (the tableaux vivant of domestic sadomasochism) and then closely follows a melancholy boy who briefly flickers throughout the Gondal epic. This boy, stained by fate and genre-aesthetics, embodies the anxiety of the reader of Gothic fiction - he recognizes his insignificance in relation to tradition, the approaching density of narrative closure, and consequently the potential removal of the processes of pleasure. The labyrinth of Emily Brontë's unconventional documentation will provide neither a conclusive name nor identity of the dark boy, thus further destabilizing his position in the text. He is a boy waiting to be buried under words rather than "a hero as man of letters" (Carlyle, 1841) and he thus invites us to reconsider the relationship between masculinity/ies and language.
"Dangerous Cults in Elizabeth Hamilton's Memoirs of Modern Philosophers: New Philosophers, Hottentots, Politics and Sexuality"
While Hamilton's second work of fiction Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800) has, over the years, been classified as an anti-Jacobin work, a political satire, a tale of the times, an educational or even an economic treatise, it has not, to my knowledge yet been termed Gothic. While I will resist the temptation to force it into such a category I do want to explore how knowledge of the Gothic genre helps elucidate what Hamilton does to the cult of New Philosophers in her work.
In this paper I consider how Hamilton passes political comment on the English New Philosophers by depicting them as a cult worthy of every reader's contempt, derision and fear. Hamilton presents a clear correlation between the conventional elements and associations of the Gothic genre and her own presentation of the New Philosophy and philosophers. She does this, I posit, since she is writing to a largely young susceptible female readership, largely uneducated in ways of world but familiar with the Gothic works of writers such as Radcliffe, Lewis, Wollstonecraft and Godwin. Thus she aligns New Philosophy and philosophers with elements of the Gothic to present both as things the reader should be as wary of.
In her domestication of the Gothic (bringing it a rural community
in England), she makes the threat posed by the New Philosophy
all the more horrific. The cult of New Philosophers is abhorrent,
despicable and to be feared since it manifests elements that,
as in the Gothic, threaten the heroine, her family and even her
"Plucking Out the Offending 'I': Policing Desire in Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart'"
This paper proposes to analyze the nameless, first-person narrator of Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" under the rubrics of psychoanalysis and gender studies. Previous psychoanalytic readings of the story and its murderous narrator have attempted to locate his actions within the Oedipus drama, a psychic complex posited by Freud as being central to ego formation and gender development (Marie Bonaparte, Daniel Hoffman). This study will question the efficacy of that approach however, by demonstrating that the mother-figure, the object of the boy's desire within Freud's theory, is entirely absent in Poe's story. It is rather by deconstructing the language of the narrator that a trajectory of desire (or object-cathexis) can be located, not in a mother-figure, but in the narrator's victim. Such a reading can be enjoined by engaging Judith Butler's intervention into the Oedipus Complex, which demonstrates that a taboo on homosexuality must antecede the taboo on incest.
That Poe's narrator should seek to murder the object of desire will be explained in terms of not only the taboo against homosexuality as elaborated by Butler, but in terms of what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, drawing on Freud, has called "homosexual panic." The narrator's final act, or rather sense--hearing his victim's heart beating long after he has stilled it, will be read against Freud's work on melancholia and mourning, where a subject's loss of a loved one is recuperated by and into the mourner's ego. As will be argued, this act of killing the tabooed object of desire, then integrating its loss into the self, helps the narrator achieve a coherent sense of identity within a frame of regulatory heterosexuality.
"Fergus Hume and the Rise of the Irrational Detective Story"
The extent of the impact of French theatre and fiction on British (and, for that matter, American) culture during the course of the second-half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century has long gone either unrecognised or received but grudging recognition (Hale: 2000a, 2000b, 2001; Hale and Upton: 2000). Arguably, this has been one of the consequences of the rise of English as a world language during the course of the twentieth century.
The British theatre was dominated by adaptions of French plays (which accounted for perhaps as many as half the works performed on the London stage); authors such as M.E. Braddon regularly rewrote French novels (including, in the case of the author of Lady Audley's Secret, Balzac's Le Peau de Chagrin, Flaubert's Madame Bovery and Zola's L'Assommoir) for an english readership, and novels such as J.K. Huysmans's La-bas (1891), if not openly plagiarised, were capable of giving rise to an entire subgenre in English (in this case that of the 'psychic' detective story popularised by authors such as Arthur Machen, Aleistair Crowley, and even, on one occasion, Agatha Christie) long before they were translated.
In this paper I intend to look at the extent of the French influence on the work of Fergus Hume (1859-1932). Nowadays only one of Hume's hundred-and-thirty or so works is still read. The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886), the best-selling detective novel of the nineteenth century. Hume remained an extermely popular author for some decades after his first initial success however. Moreover, although Hume regularly penned detective novels with purely rationalistic conclusions, a considerable body of his oeuvre teeters on the edge of the supernatural such that, on occasion, his work almost seems to belong more to the tradition of French conte fantastique than any recognisably British genre.
"Southern Ontario Gothic"
This paper examines the construction of the Gothic within critical accounts of Canadian wilderness writing, using Margaret Atwood's criticism as a focus for the discussion. In a 1986 interview, Atwood coined the term "Southern Ontario Gothic", which she applied to work by Robertson Davies, Alice Munro, Marian Engel, Matt Cohen, Graeme Gibson and James Reaney. I will discuss the reasons why Atwood links these authors, and explore the ways in which the category she creates reflects her own aesthetic and critical priorities and her desire to delineate recognizable Canadian literary traditions. I will argue that (despite her claim to the contrary) much of Atwood's own imaginative writing fits her definition of "Southern Ontario Gothic", and that she is, to a certain extent, seeking to legitimize a tradition which culminates with her own work. Particular mention will be made of her books Wilderness Tips and The Journals of Susanna Moodie. In her afterword to the Journals she emphasizes the non-rational origin of the poems, implying that she was in some sense possessed by Moodie. This suggests that Atwood is heir to Moodie's gothic sensibility, and to her role as mythologizer of the (haunted) Canadian wilderness.
"Mad Prohibitions: Demonic Memory, the Culture of Science,
and the Religion of the Beast People in The Island of Doctor
Moreau, on the other hand, seeks to make animals human through vivisection. Among Prendick's disturbing memories is his recollection of the "Moreau Horrors"--public outrage drove Moreau out of England for over-zealous vivisection thirteen years ago, which corresponds to the high point of public controversay about vivisection in the mid-1870s. As a single-minded reseacher in experimental physiology, Moreau represents the new, tough-minded culture of science, in confrontation with the alliance of religion and Romantic humanism which opposed vivisection. Although Prendick is also a supporter of science, he feels deeply ambivalent about the cruelty of Moreau's operations, which always seem to be conducted without anaesthetic.
A close look at the mad religion of Moreau's products, the Beast People, reveals that the infliction of excruciating pain is central to Moreau's project. He uses the pain of vivisection to block their memory of their animal past, thus suggesting that reshaping the personality through torture is an essential aspect of the civilizing process, and the basis of civilized morality--anticipating Freud's depiction of the vindictiveness of the Super-Ego. Their memory of the "House of Pain" provides the incentive not to slip back into their animal ancestry, a situation which, combined with Moreau's apparent irrationality, calls into question the authority of science, and of civilization itself. In the end it is only through a supernaturalistic religion, invented for the purpose, that rational authority can be maintained. The Gothic effect of this tale is rooted in the failure of all the characters to accept the presence of an animal past in their own natures, and each distorts memory in order to avoid this.
"Predictions, Portents and Propriety: the Domestic Gothic of Mrs Henry Wood"
Mrs Henry Wood (1814-1887) is frequently classified as a Sensation novelist, largely on account of her best-seller, East Lynne (1861). At the same time she is deemed to be one of the founders of the detective story, on the strength of her short stories featuring the character Johnny Ludlow and of her novels such as Within the Maze (1872). Other critics have labelled her as a domestic novelist and anyone reading novels such as Mrs Halliburton's Troubles (1862) or Roland Yorke (1869) would probably be obliged to agree with this definition. However, it would be equally accurate to call her a Gothic novelist as strong elements of the Gothic appear in many of her writings.
Her novels are family sagas, focusing on blood-lines and wealth, and frequently upon family residences that have been occupied by the same family for generations. One has only to scan the titles of some of her works to see how central such houses are to her writings. Some titles are simply the names of houses: we find, for example, Danesbury House (1860), The Channings (1862), Trevlyn Hold (1865) and Pomeroy Abbey (1878). Other titles combine the name of a house with a hint of family history, as in The Shadow of Ashlydyat (1863) and The Master of Greylands (1873). This preoccupation with lineage and patrimony is very much in the tradition of Walpole's The Castle of Otranto.
Moreover, many of her novels also contain a supernatural element which is neither satisfactorily explained nor left unexplained. Thus in Pomoroy Abbey, for example, the curse upon the family is fulfilled to the letter even whilst characters debate about whether it is a matter of destiny or coincidence. Meanwhile, in the same novel, the ghost that walks the rooms of the locked west tower proves to be the living Guy Pomeroy, whom most of the principle characters erroneously believe to be dead and buried. (Of course, there is a secret passage leading to the tower and, of course, the existence of this passage is only known to the heirs of the Lords of Pomeroy!) Yet, in spite of the sceptical note to be found in the novels, Wood seems to be unwilling to fully commit her narrators to either belief or disbelief in the potency of the various curses, predictions and portents to be found in the narratives. The result is that there is never any final interpretation of the events described.
However, alongside this debate about whether or not events are supernatural in origin, Wood supplies her reader with a Gothic which is largely devoid of the supernatural. This is a Gothic of unregenerate humanity; one that powerfully delineates the human capacity for inflicting suffering on others. The very fact that many such sins or crimes in the novels are committed out weakness or selfishness rather than innate wickedness is more chilling than any supernatural occurrence. Thus, in The Shadow of Ashlydyat (1863), it is not the mysterious image that appears in the moonlight that haunts the Godolphin family. Rather, it is the machinations of the sinister Mr Verrall and the seductive wiles of Charlotte Pain. It is due to the wilfulness of the second Mrs Godolphin that the head of the family dies away from the family seat and it is the favouritism of one child over another that brings about the death of the heir's intended bride before the wedding can take place. It is not that such wholly human events are completely divorced from the supernatural portents that colour many of the novels. Rather, it is that events are always also explicable in wholly human terms.
So, why does Wood adopt the trappings of the supernatural Gothic even though her plots are able to support themselves without the supernatural element? And why, having utilized the supernatural Gothic discourse, does she leave at least some element of it unexplained? One cannot be absolutely sure. However, a severe critic might say that she had discovered a workable formula which had the capacity to reach a very broad readership. That is to say, her writings contain within them both the homely detail of the morally conservative domestic novel and the more lurid elements of a very different kind of fiction.
Moreover, these apparently contradictory elements fit together into an unnerving and seamless whole. For, in Wood's novels, as in even the most conservative of domestic narratives, the domestic sphere is represented as both a haven and a trap; and in a typically Gothic sense, the supposedly rational minds of her characters are seen to grapple with the by-no-means-clear distinction between heimlich and unheimlich; and as the many fictional representations of transgression in the novels may be seen to intimate, the domesticated Christian soul has its darker side.
But surely, one might argue, these disparate views of the domestic sphere could have pleased no-one. Surely, the domestic detail alienated one kind of audience and the unholier elements another. However, a stronger case may be made for saying that the novels appealed to both kinds of reader. For, though the novels appear to favour both an unholy superstition and the less amiable side of human nature, they have an over-arching framework of religion and morality to which even the sternest of moralists cannot object. This framework of orthodox religion may be seen to enable the prosaic and pragmatic domestic discourse without disabling its darker underside. Thus Mrs Henry Wood may be seen to have created for herself the best of all possible literary worlds: she may be seen to have found a way to sell sin and salvation in the same market place.
"'That Fatal Birthmark, This Horrible Stigma': Hawthorne's Gothic Allegory of Race and Miscegenation"
Nathaniel Hawthorne's use of traditional Gothic tropes in his classic mad-scientist tale, "The Birthmark" (1843), reveals and complicates the fascination and horror instilled in middle-class white America by the 'threat" of miscegenation and racial "impurity". In the tale, Aylmer, an alchemical and overtly transcendental scientist, attempts to remove his wife's birthmark, described at one point as "a crimson stain upon the snow" of Georgiana's cheek (24) After much theoretical ponderings and experimentation with the infernal regions of his laboratory-cum-"furnace," Alymer is finally able to remove the mark, but in the process kills "the now perfect woman" (23;38)
Criticism on this story generally falls, as Lynn Shakinovsky writes, "into two camps," both of which spring from traditional, allegorical readings of Hawthorne's corpus (280). On the one hand, critics have read in Hawthorne's tale an allegorization of the American transcendentalist literary project. In such readings, Shakinovsky summarizes, Aylmer is depicted "as an idealist, albeit failed, whose 'fault' [ ] lies in having longed for perfection on earth" (280). On the other hand, the gendered figuration of Aylmer's failure has led more recent critics to see "The Birthmark" as patriarchal allegory, in which the birthmark itself is a symbol of the "otherness" of female sexuality and femininity in general. Aylmer, in his attempt to eradicate the mark, thus symbolically removes the biased ontological basis upon which women are defined, therefore killing her. In this set of readings, "The Birthmark" falls squarely within what Robert K. Martin has described as the "politically conservative" Gothic tradition, which focuses on anxieties held by the dominant social group (whether that dominance is worked out in class, gender, or other socio-political categories).
My paper will expand upon both of the critical camps in the
scholarship on this tale, noting how the biases of the ontological
presuppositions of Aylmer's transcendentalism are not only worked
out in sexist terms, but are also depicted in an explicitly racist
discourse, in which the mythical "mark of Cain" which,
in the heavily racialized discourse of 19th century America,
was seen as a metaphor for the curse of dark skin.
"Pi, Chaos, and the Mathematical Gothic"
Darren Aronofsky's Pi deals with society's anxieties regarding the nature of reality in the face of shifting paradigms through the lens of Chaos theory. The central character, a mathematician, discovers that there is a hidden numerical pattern that permeates reality at all levels--finding order in such disparate places as the stock market and the Torah. Aronofsky's film employs many Gothic elements to frame the conflict between the secular and spiritual. Max, the mathematician, is a quintessential Gothic hero in the tradition of Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein, Hawthorne's Almyer, and Melville's Bannadonna, driven to insanity by an ambitious search for scientific perfection into the depths of destruction. As its paradoxical namesake suggests, Pi operates in the realm of ambiguity by pitting chaos versus order via the struggle between linear and nonlinear mathematics. The film takes a conspiratorial turn as Max finds himself caught between a group of Hasidic Jews and a powerful Wall Street firm, both of which want to know the secrets that are hidden in his head. The film is most Gothic in its use of the "uncanny" in the minds of the characters and the viewers to reinforce the central theme--that there is an intelligent order that exists beyond the limits of our control.
"Solipsism and 'Escapability' in the Neo-Gothic Text: John Hawkes's Travesty, Patrick McGrath's Spider, and Eric McCormack's The Paradise Motel"
Edgar Allan Poe radicalized the gothic by exploiting its intrinsic
propensities to evoke solipsistic states of being. Poe's gothic
arouses issues that are grounded in inquiries into the nature
and limits of subjectivity, control and self -control, and their
relation to texts that filter events through those whose mental
pathology is manifest through and circumscribed by narrative
voice. The solipsistic vantages evident in tales like "Berenicë,"
"Ligeia," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The
Black Cat," "William Wilson," and "The Fall
of the House of Usher" appear as textual reconfigurations
of the Gothic novel's iconography of helplessness and terror:
claustrophobia-inducing scenes of bodily imprisonment in craggy
castles with mazy and shadowed corridors, cloistered monastic
cells, underground vaults, locked rooms, and the like.
"The Gothic Feminine: Perfections and Profanities in the Art of the Body"
The feminine image in the late nineteenth century expressed an inherent power to both attract and repel, to be goddess and also grotesque, both fatal and benevolent, untamed and tamable - like nature. At the end of our fin-de-siecle, we still equate "the gothic" with the monstrous and grotesque: behaviors and bodily aspects deemed abnormal, anti-social, or taboo. Concomitantly, our society's conception of the "norm" for femininity is structured by measuring "the feminine" ideal against horrors attributed to "the gothic." The "feminine" is understood within sets of paradoxical meanings, oppositional value codes such as ugly/beautiful, dark and sinister/pure and white, sick/well, hysterical/calm, clean/dirty, ideal/abject, perfect/profane. Thus, "the feminine" carries with it cultural baggage ascribed to both the "proper" and "improper" woman in which the appropriate is subtracted from the inappropriate, and the former placed on a "holier-than-thou" pedestal.
Nineteenth-century presumptions regarding "purity" and "danger"* helped characterize today's "feminine norm" by measuring the female body and bodily functions against categories of "the gothic." I will explore ideals of female perfection and pathology as they are fashioned within the cults/cultures of today's art and advertising.
Through presentation and discussion, I intend to examine the polarities of how women are visually defined and their behavior toward their bodies is shaped by investigating various ways in which societal and aesthetic traditions rooted in the nineteenth century have standardized woman's physical and mental representation, and thus also sought to "normalize" the female mind, appearance, and function.
*Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis ofthe Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. 1966. Reprint, New York and London: Routledge, 1996.
"Sinister Welles: Constructing the Gothic In American Theatre, Radio and Film"
In the opening sequence of Orson Welles's (1915-1985) acclaimed film, Citizen Kane (1941), the camera violates a "No Trespassing" sign and takes us into Kane's opulent mansion/castle, Xanadu. Gloom enshrouded and foreboding, it harbors a soul in torment breathing his enigmatic last word,"Rosebud."
This theme of psychic disjuncture, with inner angst complemented by a habitat steeped in a Gothic aura, pervades the Welles ouevre, a legacy that evidences unparalleled achievement in three major art forms--theatre, radio, and film. This paper will explore the conduit between the dark inner and outer worlds of his protagonists (usually played by him) in each medium. It will begin by highlighting of his often conflict-ridden upbringing--demons he tried to confront artistically at age 18 in one of his earliest writing projects, the play Bright Lucifer, performed for the first time in 1997.
As will be shown, Welles went on to stun the New York theatrical world with a series of spectacular productions having Gothic resonance. They include his "Voodoo" Macbeth (1936), featuring an all black cast, and a staging of Marlowe's Faust that incorporated his lifelong passion for magic. He eventually took his theatrical company, the Mercury, to radio in 1938. Apart from his infamous War of the Worlds, panic broadcast, several of his radioplays explored Gothic themes. The series debuted with Bram Stoker's Dracula, and went on to air versions of Jane Eyre and Rebecca. He continued his "exorcisms" in films such as Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Stranger (1946), Macbeth (1948), Touch of Evil (1958) and the nearly completed, The Other Side of the Wind (n.d.), now awaiting release.
"The Culture of Adolescence in LLoyd Webber's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA"
My comprehensive book on THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as a cultural phenomenon will be published shortly after the conference by St. Martin's Press under the "Palgrave" imprint. One question I pursued in that study was the most obvious one for the 1980's and '90's: why did the 1986 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical version of the story become a long-lasting sensation, more even than the original novel, LE FANTOME DE L'OPERA (1910) by Gaston Leroux? Why, particularly and peculiarly, did this adaptation attract such a large middle-class audience mostly over 30 while also appealing strongly for a time to adolescents, the principal purchasers and wearers of the PHANTOM memorabilia that burgeoned with the increasing circulation of the musical in road companies and imitations? What powerful "cultural work" does the musical version perform for its audience -- oddly NOT adolescent literally but very adolescent otherwise -- that goes deeper than the attraction of the "production values" or the plot's sometimes standard variations on "Beauty and the Beast" or versions of "Perspehone and Pluto"? Why does this version have special affinity for adolescence which other versions have not always had?
I want to argue that the Lloyd Webber PHANTOM, particularly in its emphatically Gothic elements, evokes the contradicatory feelings in a whole CULTURE of adolescence that is really basic to the "baby-boom" generation that embraced this show so completely, far more than the real adolescents of the '80's and '90's who played with some of its elements. To be sure, this musical developed, while it also sanitized, the late 1970's rise in "Gothic" teenage cults and clubs, some of these centered around THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975), the original stage version of which was one of Lloyd Webber's inspirations for doing a new PHANTOM. In this way, Lloyd Webber's version resurrected a forgotten level in the original novel, which was written at a time (it turns out) of ununusal Western cultural focus on defining and containing adolescence in the wake of its prominence during the FIN DE SIECLE that ended the nineteenth century. But the musical goes much further and makes both its nameless phantom and its heroine (still Christine Daae) pointedly adolescent in many of their qualities, longings, and song-lyrics. The sympathies felt for both of them, I want to show, therefore come from how the baby-boom audience felt caught within an arrested adolescence, within a half-conscious awareness of always pursuing the fullfilment of economic and class-based desires that could never grow to fruition and would always remain deferred, as would a full "adulthood" never to be achieved. Lloyd Webber's PHANTOM has the deep resonance it does over the last two decades because it is drawing out and disguising the fact that the baby-boom generation in the West IS, and feels itself to be, a culture of adolescence.
This argument will be grounded in evidence from the Lloyd
Webber libretto and some of its contemporary sources. But it
will also be proven by evidence in studies of the baby-boom generation
by Landon Jones and others. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, in its
various forms, has always allowed Western middle-class audiences
to "abject" (or "throw off over there") their
own contradictory foundations, even as these foundations change
from era to era (just as the features of the various PHANTOMS
do). By the 1980's, an anxious and multi-faceted root of middle-class
life for baby-boomers (born after World War II from the late
'40's to the early '60's) was its quasi-adolescent condition
in an era of both inflation and recession. That condition, Lloyd
Webber's own (since he was born in 1948), is the one vividly
manifested and Gothically concealed in his PHANTOM OF THE OPERA,
and that is what makes both the show and its title character
simulteaneously horrific and sympathetically attractive to most
of those who have flocked, and continue to flock, to this this
musical show now celebrating over a decade and a half of continuous
Trevor M. Holmes
"The Cult of Count Stenbock: a Gothic Rhizome"
In a book length discussion of Franz Kafka's work, French theorists Deleuze and Guattari state their preference for experimentation over interpretation. My paper for the Gothic Cults and Cultures conference takes literally their approach to texts and applies it to the life and works of a rarely studied, decadent gothic writer named Eric Stenbock (1860-1895). A cult of gothic foolishness rather than genius, gothic lifestyle rather than literature, has grown up around the Count since his inglorious death on the first day of the Wilde trials in 1895. My paper brings critical attention to bear on the "gothicized" life and works of an underestimated figure in late Victorian circles.
My argument hinges on the notion of gothic cult reading practices. Recently, David Tibet of goth band Current 93 issued a cd of music to accompany a lost story of Stenbock's, as well as a collection of unpublished short stories. Just as Count Stenbock as a goth read Percy Shelley as a goth (he kept a bust of Shelley on his mantle, alongside a Buddha), and Percy Shelley read Charlotte Dacre as a goth (reiterating in Zastrozzi many surface traits of Dacre's Zofloya), David Tibet "goths" the mystery surrounding Count Stenbock's sexuality and literary output. I contend that "gothing" as a verb is structurally analogous to "queering" as a verb, but also that "gothing" or "gothicizing" can function as a queering (of texts, of authors, of general and gothic canonicity). By implication we can begin to think of gothic literary history as clusters of rhizomes rather than as filiative and arborescent.
Count Stenbock's cult status can be plotted along several
points: fiction and non-fiction by Yeats featuring Stenbock as
a figure; a biography by John Adlard in 1969; a brief mention
in Brian Reade's 1971 collection Sexual Heretics; anecdotes
told by Ernest Rhys in his memoir Everyman Remembers;
and the publishing history of one oft-anthologised vampire tale.
He also figures in Kim Newman's pastiche Anno Dracula.
Bringing these various sources together has been the work of
part of my dissertation (in progress). Adding the goth music
aspect as a ground for claims about cult production and reproduction
suits both the conference theme and the direction I would like
to take this topic. The presentation includes overhead-projected
images of Count Stenbock and his gloomy book jackets (helpful
in substantiating my claims), together with (if available) appropriate
images and music from the Current 93 album "Faust."
Trevor M. Holmes
David S. Hogsette
"Cults of Redemption in Gothic SF: The Postmodern Messiahs of Blade Runner and The Matrix"
In this presentation I argue that the characters Roy from Blade Runner and Neo from The Matrix are postmodern messianic figures who offer the hope of redemption through love, mercy, and grace. In these Gothic science fiction films, this rehumanizing redemption is offered to a lost and fragmented humanity living anxious and artificial lives in bleak dystopic futuristic worlds that are projections of our contemporary postmodern condition. As Robert Miles argues, the Gothic broadly defined is a discursive site where writers struggle to examine and resolve fragmented human identities. According to Fred Botting, twentieth-century Gothic narratives and film, particularly science fiction that has been associated with the Gothic since Frankenstein, reveal cultural terrors associated with the postmodern tendency to decenter authority, fragment identities, and undermine social forms. Blade Runner, The Matrix, and many other Gothic SF novels and films indeed explore the postmodern horrors of fragmented identities, self-alienation, and technological dehumanization. However, in the midst of this postmodern Gothic terror is a redemptive uncanniness: the messianic narrative is a repressed spiritual truth and desire that manifests itself in the biomechanical and cybernetic creations of postmodern civilizations.
One of the central questions of Blade Runner, based upon Philip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, is what does it mean to be fully human? Roy, a highly intelligent military replicant, leads a small cultic group of genetically engineered and programmed replicants on a Romantic quest for biological and social independence. They want more life and they want to determine their own destinies. Because of an inherent design flaw, replicants become emotionally and psychologically unstable after three-to-four years of life. Therefore, the human creators programmed a four-year lifespan. Roy is a SF Byronic hero who steps outside the laws of human civilization, seeks to progress beyond his physical limitations, and confronts and ultimately destroys his (failed) creator who cannot satisfy Roy's desire for life and freedom. It would seem that Roy achieves what Milton's Satan could not; yet right when Roy appears to be the archetypical Byronic hero, he transcends this limited narrative identity and transforms himself into a messianic figure. Critics like Judith B. Kerman praise the film for raising political, racial, technological, and economic issues concerning our own age, yet they conclude that the film offers no clear solution to these human problems. Such critics miss the point. In the penultimate scene of the film, Roy gloats over Deckard who is about to fall to his death. However, instead of giving in to revenge (Deckard has systematically killed all of Roy's cult, including his mate), Roy reaches out at the last second and saves Deckard from falling. This act of mercy and grace profoundly changes Deckard as an individual. Even though Roy dies (his four-year lifespan runs out), he lives on in Deckard, and arguably others, as an example of the redemptive power of love, mercy, and grace.
In The Matrix we are presented with a less ambiguous messianic figure and a full-fledged revolutionary cult. Neo is "the one" and the Wachowski brothers go out of their way to mix pop-philosophy, cyberpunk culture, postmodern theories of simulation, Greek mythology, and Judeo-Christian theology to create a virtual reality messiah. Underlying all of the amazing special effects and VR narrative mind games is a classic narrative about the redemptive powers of faith and love. Many critics and viewers find the motivating brotherly love between Neo and Morpheus and the rejuvenating romantic love between Trinity and Neo unconvincing and hokey in the context of this cyberpunk SF film. Yet again, in this Gothic dystopia in which computers have taken over human civilization and humans serve as biochemical power sources for the machines, we see messianic uncanniness. The human need and desire for agape, self-sacrificial love, repressed in the postmodern mindset, resurfaces in the revolutionary cult generally (they are sacrificing their relative Zionist security in order to save all of humanity) and the figure of Neo specifically. Love transforms him into the postmodern messiah whose grace and faith will save humanity from Gothic dehumanization and alienation in a nightmarish technological future.
My central question is why do these postmodern SF films have
at their core the messianic grand narrative of love and redemption?
Most postmodern thinkers posit that the real of our everyday
lives masks the "truth" that there is no truth or meaning.
These films, however, suggest that there is underlying meaning,
a humanistic truth that ultimately points to the human longing
for messianic truth, the need for and reality of a savior. Ultimately,
postmodern thought is the veil that attempts to mask messianic
truth. Because it cannot accept this reality, postmodern thought
attempts to hide it behind a contradictory theory that is unlivable.
In the context of these films, the postmodern thinkers are the
limited, fearful humans of Blade Runner or the drones
in the tanks of The Matrix. The messianic believers, on
the other hand, are those who free their minds and escape the
Gothic dystopia through love, mercy, and grace.
"'An angel satyr walks these hills': Imperial fantasies for a post-colonial world"
In an age of Imperial confidence, the social rhetoric of Victorian Britain frequently manifested a perceptible unease when considering cultural problems within the home nation. The imagery of 'darkest England', dependant as it was upon a powerful colonialist discourse, authorised and transmitted a register of language whereby an internal Other might be configured as uncivilised, and thus capable of being subject to the explorer and the missionary. Much, of course, has already been written upon the Gothic possibilities of this phenomena which characterised an Imperial age which declined with the Nineteenth century. No similar consideration, however, has yet been made of its continuation into the Twentieth Century, a progressively post-colonial era in which the Imperial (or Imperialised) Other, in consequence, functions differently.
This paper considers two Gothic short stories, one in a reprinted Edwardian collection, the other a component of an original collection, both of which were issued in volume form in the late 1940s. The two narratives examine classic 'cultures-within-cultures', pockets of resistance within the fabric of the Imperial nation, though in a cultural context radically different from their Victorian predecessors. Algernon Blackwood's 'Ancient Sorceries' (1908), published in the 1947 reprint of his John Silence, and L.T.C. Rolt's 'Cwm Garon', published in Sleep No More (1948) share a preoccupation with the casual, localised, travelling which has replaced Imperial adventure, and with the decline of identifiable Christian institutions and landmarks - themselves the products of earlier missionary activity - in a familiar, though threatening, European landscape. In both short stories a form of devil worship is enacted before the eyes of the traveller, and in a landscape which fascinates and somehow holds him. In 'Ancient Sorceries', where the Devil does attend the bacchanal, the protagonist is almost seduced into willing participation but, on evading the sexual lure of the sabbat, vows never to return. Rolt, writing after the recent horrors of the Second World War, discards the presiding Devil in favour of a mortal substitute, but still leaves open the possibility that, in Kilvert's words, 'an angel satyr walks these hills'. Neither welcomed nor seduced by the satanic community, Rolt's protagonist finds himself fascinated by the land, and thus drawn into unwilling participation.
In colonial terms, these two narratives explore the frequently
rehearsed dangers of 'going native' that lie at the core of,
among other works, Kipling's 'The Mark of the Beast', Rider Haggard's
She and Conrad's Heart of Darkness. A subject people
is identified, but their strength - either supernatural or merely
cultural, the ability to preserve a distinctive and resistant
way of life - tests the limits of the perceiving power. These
are, in a sense, Imperial fantasies for a post-colonial world,
a reflexing of colonised culture back in upon the formerly colonising
"Mimicry and Identity Formation: Becoming-Human and Becoming Not-Human in John Frankenheimer's The Island of Dr. Moreau and Guillermo del Toro's Mimic"
"This fragmented body... usually manifests itself in dreams when the movement of the analysis encounters a certain level of aggressive disintegration in the individual. It then appears in the form of disjointed limbs, or of those organs represented in exoscopy, growing wings and taking up arms for intestinal persecutions." - Jacques Lacan, "The Mirror Stage"
"I want to be like you! Will I never be like you!" - The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
In Laura Mulvey's influential article "Visual Pleasure
and Narrative Cinema," cinema in general is figured as a
version of the Lacanian Imaginary, and film spectatorship is
said to reinforce and intensify the ongoing adult experience
of the mirror stage. According to Mulvey, the image of the male
human on the screen is recognized/misrecognized as an "Ideal-I,"
as a more complete and more perfect version of the ego, which
is then introjected as an ego-ideal. "The cinema has structures
of fascination strong enough to allow temporary loss of ego while
simultaneously reinforcing the ego," says Mulvey. Within
such a formulation, it almost goes without saying, the assumption
is that film spectators are unconsciously but determinedly invested
in identifying human, and that mainstream cinema consistently
works to indulge that desire as well as the desire for subjective
In this paper I discuss two recent Gothic Horror films in which the processes of ego-formation and of "identifying human" are figured in horrific, surrealist, and at time parodic terms. In Frankenheimer's film all characters aspire to be like Dr. Moreau, thought to represent the apex of human perfection: the little homunculus attempts to imitate his dress and behavior in every detail, the drugged-out Montgomery performs a burlesque of the Moreau-identity, and even the most savage of the Beast-People long to be like "Father," if only to wield his power. However, this Ideal-I is a bloated and ludicrous figure as portrayed by Marlon Brando, and aspiring to a "full" human identity is alternately represented as comic and tragic in the film. Mimic's hybridized cockroaches have taken on human form simply by imitating the humans they see (introjecting the human image, so to speak). They successfully imitate, moreover, a male human identity (usually understood as the more "fully human" identity): they are huge, looming, powerful-looking figures in seeming male dress. But they are insects whose bodies unfold bizarrely into kinetic forms, as if the full human self were being undone - disassembled and reconstituted phantasmically.
Back to Top of Page
"'Christ Kid, You're a Weirdo': The Contemporary Gothicism of Rolf de Heer's Bad Boy Bubby."
This paper explores issues of sexuality, subjectivity and Gothicism in the South Australian film Bad Boy Bubby (1993). I consider the film's Gothicism, or gothic effect, through its use of horror and abjection, perverse oedipal narratives and general critique of dominant Western ideology. Bad Boy Bubby produces a gothic effect through its ability to undermine and perplex dominant discourses surrounding sexuality, subjectivity and decency. Utilising feminist psychoanalytic and postmodern perspectives, this paper argues that through Bad Boy Bubby's contemporary evocation of the Gothic, the film is unable to offer fixed notions of sexed and gendered subjectivity in both psychic and social contexts. This inability derives from what emerges in the film as an awareness and exploration of the crisis and disintegration of traditional notions of masculine subjectivity.
This paper is divided into three sections. First I consider the film's evocation of horror, abjection and the maternal body through the main character, Bubby's, ambiguous relation to the mother figure, Flo. I demonstrate how the film refuses to give a fixed or simplified version of the fear and desire for the excessive maternal body in the cultural imagination. Using the theories and insights of Julia Kristeva, I discuss Bad Boy Bubby's more generic gothic effects of horror, death, incest, murder and the (mother's) house as a source of fear and loathing, desire and memory. The second section considers how Bad Boy Bubby subverts and challenges notions of the Oedipal narrative and the Oedipal complex . The film takes the central narrative and psychoanalytic discourse of Oedipus and confuses and perplexes it. It does this by parody, performance and subversion, particularly Bubby's overt adoption and mimicry of his father's persona, Pop. The third section considers the film's critique of dominant ideology using Foucaultian and Deleuzian perspectives on power and desire. Bad Boy Bubby produces a gothic and postmodern effect through its critique of organised religion as well as modernist, post Enlightenment traditions such as science, capitalism and the State. In Bad Boy Bubby, the central structures which are commonly imagined to give support, strength and centrality are represented as backward, hypocritical, unreliable, physically and symbolically crumbling. Heteronomative male desire and power is deterritorialised and instead the film explores marginal sexualities and subjectivities which both mimic and subvert dominant modes of 'being' and 'knowing'.
This reading of Bad Boy Bubby teases out the contemporary Gothicism in the film's narrative and spectacle, through critique and suspicion of the 'centres', and its visibility and exploration of the 'margins'. Bad Boy Bubby embraces and embodies a gothic effect through its visual 'grittiness', melancholy mood and soundtrack, and its willingness to explore and exploit the abject and taboos such as incest and murder. The contemporary Gothicism of this low budget alternative Australian film is most powerfully manifested through its moments of gender disruption, sexual anxiety and social transgression.
"Women on the Boundaries: Historic Gothic and Contemporary Criminal Images"
The Gothic portrayal of women in literature, as deceptively possessing both male and female attributes, resonates with later criminological theories that describe female offenders as similarly dual natured and deceptive. In particular, the work of Otto Pollack, a mid-twentieth century criminologist, presents women as biologically prone to trick and deceive through their masked sexualities. He analyzes the woman offender as blinding males in society with their cunning sexuality. Many Gothic texts explore the crossing of gender boundaries by the female: a woman who "haunts" the male ego's domain. Gothic women can be aggressive and masculine in nature; Pollack's female offender is similarly "like man" and can possess dangerous masculine attributes. These two juxtaposed characterizations of women are profiled in the present paper in an attempt to explore the criminology of the Gothic.
"Charlotte Dacre and the 'Phantom' Private Sphere"
In a reading of Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya (1806), this paper proposes that there is a connection between Dacre's iconoclastic embrace of the horrific heroine-villain and her novel's absence from the gothic canon. Victoria, the lustful and murderous protagonist of Zofloya, has no equal in the rosters of gothic deviance. Neither a wayward monk nor a chaste heiress, she is in some ways a remarkable synthesis of the two, combining the lasciviousness of 'Monk' Lewis's Ambrosio with the cleverness and pluck (nay, audacity) of Ann Radcliffe's Emily St. Aubert. Victoria is not, however, a compromise between iniquity and propriety. Revelling in vengeful and rapacious behavior, Dacre's heroine is remarkable for the way she embraces iniquity, and not moral rectitude, as the means to self-fulfillment. She is both immoral and unrepentant. But what is most remarkable about this heroine-villain is that the narrator's condemnation of her is thoroughly unconvincing. Although she appears to condemn Victoria, Dacre ironically celebrates such self-interested behavior. Reading a cultish figure like Dacre alongside the more celebrated figures of the gothic, I suggest that her marginal status is evidence of deviations which conventional histories of the gothic cannot accommodate.
One explanation for this exclusion is the text's refusal to fit into the narrative of separate spheres which so persistently, and yet reductively, characterizes the turn of the nineteenth century in Britain. The chimerical separate spheres -- as rendered in tired and flimsy distinctions between reason and emotion, sense and sensibility, public and private -- have also bequeathed a well-worn binarism in criticism of the gothic: Terror, as this criticism defines it, relies on suspense and is feminine; meanwhile, horror, a more grotesque and explicit mode, is masculine. The gendering of these two gothic modes refracts the gendering of reason and emotion that we see throughout the long eighteenth century, from Milton's Paradise Lost to Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman, both of which profess, directly or indirectly, a masculine model of virtuous reason. I will demonstrate how these two categories -- terror and horror -- reinforce the stereotypes of feminine restraint or timidity versus masculine voraciousness or aggression. I will argue, then, that Zofloya disrupts the neat alignment of feminine discretion and masculine abandon implied in the terror/horror pair. In doing so, it upsets the binary logic of separate-spheres ideology, for Victoria's vices do not conform to the model of femininity based on submissiveness and chastity.
Adding Dacre to the pantheon of gothic novelists not only supplements this particular genre but also transforms the entire 'rise of the novel' narrative which has defined and redefined the canon. For Dacre's novel opposes the domestic novel which many critics treat as paradigmatic of late eighteenth-century fiction and prescient of the Victorian novel. In making this argument, critics also imply that the Enlightenment legacy of separate-spheres ideology (alternately labelled liberalism, republicanism, or simply, progress) has been triumphant, even though its foundations are unstable. In making gothic the "other" of domestic fiction, critics reinforce the reductive logic of the separate spheres. Dacre's novel demonstrates the very instability of the spheres; by scrambling and realigning the gendered identity of certain moral (or immoral) behaviors, Zofloya makes it impossible to fix the meaning of masculinity and femininity; so, too, does she render impossible the notion of a feminine private sphere. Making excess the standard of self-knowledge, Dacre challenges the organization of identity around gender. With such an unorthodox position, and wanton way of presenting it, Dacre has earned her cult status.
"The Cyborg Activity of Writing: Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl as Gothic Hypertext"
This proposal focusses on Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl (1995), an electronic hypertext which rewrites Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) from the point-of view of the female monster that Victor promises to create but prematurely destroys. For Jackson, this monster is not simply a character in a novel, she is the novel moving from link to link, and from node to node, the reader in effect assembles the narrative from the "scrap bag" of diverse materials and mixed texts that constitute the discursive body of this monster, its organs, limbs and tissues. Writing, Jackson suggests, is itself a cyborg activity: like Victor's monster, Patchwork Girl is stitched together from the historical detitrus of culture and the scavenged remains of the literary "tradition," blurring, as Donna Haraway has argued, the distinction between the animate and inanimate, the living and the dead. For Victor, such an unholy combination, especially in its female form, fills him with a deep loathing, a response which echoed the reaction of many nineteenth-century critics who decried the monstrous hybridity of the gothic genre. But for Jackson, casting her narrative as an electronic hypertext allows her to reimagine the relationship of the author to the materiality of her work, one in which the connections, links, and points of exchange between her source materials become the means of conceding the role of author, or the maker of bodies, to the reader herself. Jackson thus allows for the reader to become an active participant in the production of the text, but, in so doing, and perhaps more troubling, emphasizes our complicity in what Derrida calls the "violence of the letter." Meaning here is always found at the point of the scar, or the seam: it is a process of stitching together and making whole, but simultaneously, a rending, and making part. If Patchwork Girl, like all good gothic romances, is haunted, it is so by the ghosts, the invisible rem(a)inders, of the paths not taken, the bodies not made, and the meanings left unforged.
"Literary Architecture in George MacDonalds's Phantastes"
This examination of Scottish author George MacDonald's 1857 novel Phantastes considers the role of the house in Gothic fiction, arguing that MacDonald's houses offter metpahors for literary art, and suggesting that the relationship between literature and architecture rests on an anxiety about aestheticism, the fear of a total mergence of the real world with the world of art (fears echoed in such contemporary works as Tennyson's "Palace of Art", or Poe's Gothic stories of immurement and entrapment). In Phantastes, Macdonald blends Gothic domestic mystery with chivalric romance: as the hero Anodos investigates the family secrets of his ancestral castle, the castle metamporphoses into the forest of Faiy Land. The romantic forest, however, is eclipsed by the architecture it conceals, as Anodos's chilvaric adventures, transposed onto the Gothic paradigm of exploring household mysteries, consist largely of his voyaging through a sequence of cottages, palaces, and houses, each of which contains a book or books of romantic tales that Anodos must read in order to progress on his journey.
"Locked Room Revisited: Gothic Crime and Punishment in Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch"
In the large architectural metaphor of Gothic fiction the locked room* appears in a double tropological frame. It functions as a synecdoche of the horrified hero's or heroine's mind, but also as a mirror scene on which the realization of the primal and most suppressed desires of the villain is acted. This locus is represented by various transformations of the camera obscura: the locked bedroom, the monastery cell, the prison cell, the underground passages, the cave, etc. Thus, all of them can be seen as sites of dramatic interiorisation where various psychic-subconscious, moral and political dimensions of the gothic violence simulacra partially overlap. As a narrative topos, the Gothic 'locked room' becomes a constantly reappearing recognition scene. In its loci the politics of desire strive to legitimate themselves through acts of power. Thus, the acts of transgression perform initiative function: the characters of both types start transforming their metaphysical selves and private realities, and acquire higher positive/negative publicity.
The camera obscura is an epitome not only of mystery, but of artistic media as well. As an anthropological and technological figure of the text/image interplay and conversion, it mediates the change of my essay's perspective from literature to film. The film has been exploiting since its very early years not only gothic plots and characters but a large paradigm of gothic imagery in order to represent sights and sounds of the supernatural, anxiety, and terror/ horror. The works of Hitchcock and Lynch make use of the gothic paraphernalia in order to achieve both effects of suspense and horror, and moral knowledge. Films as Blackmail, The Rope, Vertigo, Psycho, and Man Elephant, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, merge gothic devices and criminal plots to represent the clashes between the fulfilment of transgressive desires and their (un)deserved retribution. Various visualisations of the camera obscura become allegorical loci of the interiorised struggle for present being of both malefactors and victims in these films. In the interplay of self-knowledge and morals, of power and art, the politics of crime and punishment proves itself a supplement to the poetics of the two authors.
"'Going Over the River': Gothic Narratives of Slavery in Niagara Falls"
In Toni Morrison's Beloved, traditional Gothic conventions are adapted and politicised in an act of remembering and mourning particular histories of American slavery. The figure of the ghost in Morrison's narrative is not sensational, fantastic nor strange; rather it functions as an unspoken past and an accepted and expected part of everyday life. Similarly, spatial Gothic mainstays such as the escape, the journey, the border crossing and the haunted house are given political purchase and local significance to narrate the particular horrors of American slavery. Morrison's deployments of the Gothic work to critique the genre itself and suggest some of the ways the Gothic can be read in historically and politically specific ways.
Following Morrison's interventions into the Gothic, this paper
considers the tropes of Gothic mobility and space - of flight,
borders, journeys, and haunted places - to theorize the politics
of race in the 'text' of Niagara Falls. As a border territory
and fluid landscape, Niagara Falls, in particular, is a 'gothicised'
space in Canadian culture through which the discursive production
of race is also 'gothicised'. Specifically, Gothic narratives
and tropes characterise a range of historical discourses of slavery
and slaves in Canada. Despite an avowed national imagining of
'distance' from the politics of race and slavery in America,
this paper argues that the nation is 'haunted' by effaced histories
of slavery and Gothic constructions of identity and belonging.
"The Dazzling Prince of Caesarian Sections": Surrealism's Gothic Reading of Les Chants de Maldoror"
Surrealism's unbridled enthusiasm for Comte de Lautréamont's Les Chants de Maldoror (1868/9) is well-known and has been widely discussed; like Sade and Rimbaud, Lautréamont was regarded as a key figure in surrealism's counter-cultural movement against the high canon of French art and letters. This comes as no surprise-after all, Les Chants de Maldoror's explicit violence and blasphemy had made it a cult favorite for bohemians and dropouts since the turn of the century. It is an amalgam of moral malice, poetic invention, and black humor that reverberates with a nightmarish intensity; its protagonist is a shape-shifting dandy and satanic serial killer named Maldoror, declares war on society, God, nature, and finally himself. Antisocial, amoral, and ambisexual, Maldoror is beyond good and evil as he prowls the dank streets and arcades of late nineteenth-century Paris, copulating and killing young men, women, sharks, frogs, and lice, while all the while combating a host of archangels dispatched by God to destroy him.
Studies of Lautréamont and surrealism have neglected to mention how and why many of the surrealists chose to read this darkly frenetic Symbolist prose-poem as a gothic text. In fact, according to the surrealist poet and polemicist André Breton, the most compelling way to read the work of "that brilliant figure of black light" was to gothicize it, saying that readers need first "rediscover the colors used by Lewis in The Monk." It is only then that one can properly imagine the cruel allure of Maldoror, Breton wrote in the late 1930s: "Paint the apparition of this infernal spirit behind the features of an admirable nude youth with crimson wings, his limbs caught in a diamond orbit under the ancient breath of roses, a star on his forehead and his gaze marked by a fierce melancholy." When France went to war with Nazi Germany in 1940, Breton-an outspoken antimilitarist-cryptically remarked that every French soldier should carry a copy of Les Chants de Maldoror in his rucksack.
Breton's remarks are typical of the ways in which surrealism's cult of Lautréamont was a gothic one. This becomes most apparent when one notices how the critical essays and images produced by surrealists on Les Chants de Maldoror relate to surrealism's devotion to Wuthering Heights, Melmoth the Wanderer, and Udolpho's Castle; to motion pictures such as Nosferatu (d. F.W. Murnau, 1922) and Witchcraft Through the Ages (d. Benjamin Christiansen, 1922); and the romantisme noir writings of Charles Nodier, Eugène Sue and Aloÿsius Bertrand. In investigating the surrrealists' gothic reading of Les Chants de Maldoror, this paper not only develops key elements in Lautréamont's text which are otherwise usually glossed over, but it also points the way towards a reassessment of why surrealism championed gothic aesthetics and the poetics as in the service of cultural sedition in the 1920s and 1930s.
"Gothic Down Under: The southern(most) Gothic of Dunedin"
Articulations of the Gothic in New Zealand cinema and literature have tended to focus on rural geographies: stretches of coast inhabited by ancient Maori presences (Grant Shanks' and Tahu Potiki's Where No Birds Sing), engulfing farmland (Vincent Ward's Vigil), the small town with its pub and gravelpit (Ronald Hugh Morrieson's Gothic parodies The Scarecrow and Came a Hot Friday), and the decaying homestead of the self-ghosting English colonial, exiled in this "land of settlers / With never a soul at home" (Allen Curnow's "House and Land"). I would liketo revise and extend this predominantly provincial image of Kiwi Gothic by presenting a specifically urban colonial Gothic tradition in the architecture, literature, and film of Dunedin, located in the south-east of New Zealand's South Island. Dunedin's Victorian Gothic architecture, Presbyterian gravity, and low percentage of sunshine hours have nurtured the fictional studies of suburban and psychiatric terrorism associated with novelists John A. Lee and Janet Frame and filmmakers Robert and Duncan Sarkies (I, 1999). The paper considers the relationship between physical, cultural, and psychological geographies within New Zealand's best-preserved cityscape.
"The Alien at Home: L.M. Montgomery and F.W.H. Myers"
L.M. Montgomery's novels were and are chiefly marketed and read as domestic fiction for girls. As domestic fiction, Montgomery's novels indicate that while the girl may not always find the home a comforting or welcoming or loving space, it is finally and inevitably the place in which she "belongs": thus Anne of Green Gables, Pat of Silver Bush, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, etc. In her largely autobiographical Emily trilogy, Emily of New Moon and its successors, Montgomery follows the same formula, but with a Gothic twist. In each of the three novels, the heroine Emily has a dream or vision or hallucination intimately connected with home which allows her to probe some family mystery, to discover some hidden event, whether past, present, or future. These Gothic effects have frequently been read as indebted to works of adult domestic fiction, principally Charlotte Bront's Jane Eyre.(1) This paper argues that while the literary predecessors of Montgomery are undoubtedly an important influence on her Gothic novels, they are equally indebted to Montgomery's reading of a now largely forgotten writer in abnormal psychology, F.W.H. Myers and his book Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1903). In that work Myers argues that "psychical uprushes" and telepathic communications are not the stuff of the Gothic imagination but of sober fact.
Montgomery came to read Myers in 1919 because of her own domestic distress. Her relief that the Great War had ended in November 1918 was tempered by many family and professional troubles: her protracted law suit with her former publishers, L.C. Page Co.; her grief at the sudden illness and death of her best friend and cousin Frederica Campbell MacFarlane; and, most importantly, the mental illness of her husband Ewan Macdonald. In the summer of 1919, she watched in horror as her husband sunk into a deadening religious melancholia, believing that he was eternally damned with no hope of salvation. Writing five years after this first attack, Montgomery confides in her journal:
The suddenness of these attacks is so uncanny. Two weeks ago, Ewan was well, jolly, and care free--a fine looking man with a pleasant, open face and friendly, twinkling eyes. Yesterday he sat or lay all day--unshorn, collarless, hair on end, eyes wild and hunted, with a hideous imbecile expression on his face. . . . There is an alien personality in Ewan during these attacks. He is an utterly different creature from the man I married. The touch of his hand on me seems like a profanation. (March 16, 1924: Journals 3: 169-70)
Ewan's "alien personality" literally brought the "alien" into the home and family; after this point Montgomery is ceaselessly anxious, not only that her husband's illness will recur--which it does many times over the years--but that her two sons will also have inherited the "taint" of madness.
It is at this point that Montgomery turns to Myers, as well as Morton Prince and other writers in the field of abnormal psychology. Myers' book was perhaps the most compelling for her because he argues that while what he calls the "psychical uprushes" she witnessed in her husband were evidence of the most debased and frightening alienations of the human mind, the same process could simultaneously account for the most transcendent and sublime moments of awareness and communication. Thus when Montgomery turns to writing the autobiographical Emily novels in 1923 and following, her understanding of Myers' theory accounts both for the artistic inspiration, what Myers calls "genius," of the protagonist Emily, and for Emily's moments of deeply unsettling telepathic awareness and communication. This paper thus argues that the Gothic effects in the Emily trilogy are the product of Montgomery's own psychical researches into what Myers termed the "subliminal." In her fiction she produces narratives of the home which expose the subliminal self which operates within the domestic sphere, a self which disrupts the safe accession of the girl into the woman who "belongs" to and in the home.
1. For readings which compare the Emily series to Jane Eyre see, for example, Epperly 163-66; Rubio 18-19, 25-28; Menzies 49.
"'Keepsake Gothic: Books, Bodies and Parallel Doubleness"
Not the external and physical alone is managed
by machinery, but the internal and spiritual also.
The entanglement of signal and materiality
in bodies and booksconfers on them a parallel doubleness.
This paper explores N. Katherine Hayles's suggestively gothic phrase "parallel doubleness" from a number of perspectives, not only that of the entanglement of signal and materiality which she suggests renders bodies and books analogous, but also the "parallel doubleness" that links bodies and books to machines. While books and bodies often figure as extraneous, even unruly, opposites to the smooth hum of rational technologies, they are just as often the incorporate gothic ghost in the machine or the tool which extends and completes a larger mechanical whole. In addition, the specific context of my discussion suggests a further "parallel doubleness" in so far as it involves a comparison between an early 19th century mixed media book known as The Keepsake literary annual and its recent digitization on the web; this comparison opens up a space for critical reflection on the relationship between print and cyber cultures. I have chosen this specific instance of digitization precisely because yet another "parallel doubleness" emerges as the web becomes the space for fulfillment of academic fantasies about how to make books matter. These essentially utopian fantasies, I argue, are inseparable from one final "parallel doubleness"--the gothic contradictions inherent in the postmodern fascination with embodiment, materiality, and mediation.
One of the first mass-market publications in Britain, the illustrated literary annuals (also known as gift books and keepsakes) contain a motley assortment of conceptual genres, such as gothic short fiction, art criticism, travel literature, and poetry. Annuals are unusually innovative and arguably most "gothic," however, at the level of the medium itself. When it comes to format, they instantiate genre as materially based and technologically driven, a situation where meaning occurs at the interstices of word, image and book itself. In insisting on materiality, annuals call attention to the analogy between books and bodies. From this affinity emerges a complex feedback loop between print, the technology that generates it, and the embodied readers who produce and are produced by books and technologies (a network of relations that Carlyle aligns with mechanics and Hayles with informatics). Annuals are thus especially suited to remind us of the doubleness of media, consisting of physical object and representational space, body and message, material and signification.
"This Thing of Darkness': Racial Discourse in Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein's Creature has been persuasively identified as
enmeshed within a variety of contemporaneous discourses, notably
feminism or the rights of women, female anxieties in authorship
(and Shelley's own experience of births and deaths); radical
discourse on the rights of man following from William Godwin's
Political Justice; perceptions of the condition of the
working class; figurations of the unvoiced and dispossessed.
Thus Ellen Moers reads Frankenstein as a birth myth, lodged
in the author's imagination by the fact that she was herself
a mother, and containing 'the motif of revulsion against newborn
life, and the drama of guilt, dread, and flight surrounding birth
and its consequences.' As Moers admits, however, Mary Shelley's
journal puts emphasis not on her maternity but on her reading,
her immersion in the ideas about education, society and morality
professed by her father, Godwin, and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft;
Humphry Davy on chemistry, Erasmus Darwin on biology; and the
discussions of Byron, Shelley and Polidori on mesmerism, electricity
and galvanism in relation to the riddle of life. She was 'herself
the first to point to her fortuitous immersion in the literary
and scientific revolutions of her day as the source of Frankenstein.'
Reading the book as a response to Milton's Paradise Lost,
as well as to her own motherless condition and guilt over her
mother's death immediately after her own birth Sandra Gilbert
and Susan Gubar discuss it as 'the fearful tale of a female fall
from a lost paradise of art, speech, and autonomy into a hell
of sexuality, science, and filthy materiality' in which both
Victor, and his monster, play the part of Eve: 'for Mary Shelley
the part of Eve is all the parts.' David Punter sees the novel
as profoundly concerned with injustice, 'the society which generated
and read Gothic fiction was one which was becoming aware of injustice
in a variety of different areas' at the stage when 'the bourgeoise,
having to all intents and purposes gained social power, began
to try to understand the conditions and history of their own
ascent.' Kari J. Winter argues that in Frankenstein Mary
Shelley 'attempts to give voice to those people in society who
are traditionally removed from the centers of linguistic power,
people who are defined as alien, inferior, or monstrous solely
because of physical features (such as sex or race) or material
conditions (such as poverty).' This raises, albeit obliquely,
the question of race in Shelley's gothicism that I wish to further
"Slavery, Gothicism and Intertextuality"
Taking up recent suggestions by Toni Morrison, Robert K. Martin and Eric Savoy, and many others, that American Gothic literature has been marked by a persistent return of the repressed racial/historical Other, this panel considers the strategic use, in 19th and 20th century American fiction, of Gothic conventions as a means of representing the haunting legacy of North American slavery. In particular, the panel examines the intertextual construction of fictional narratives about slavery, arguing that Gothicism is brought into these narratives both as a strategy for critiquing the traumatic erasure of history impelled by the "peculiar institution" and as a means of challenging dominant 19th century narrative modes, from sentimentality to realism. The panel also highlights the transmission and transformation of anxieties about the enslaved "other" within the American Gothic tradition itself.
"'Is That Story True?': Charles Chesnutt's Gothic Realism"
Charles Waddell Chesnutt's "conjure" tales mark an extraordinary moment in American literary history: the convergence of realist, sentimental, and romantic modes in a series of Gothically-inflected narratives about antebellum plantation life. The conjure tales, constructed in response to the postbellum popularity of nostalgic plantation stories, share both a stable frame and a thematic concern with the spectacular suffering of slaves transformed by conjure into objects of consumption. The transmission of these tales by Julius, an ex-slave and sole survivor of the McAdoo plantation, is mediated by John, a cynical Northerner who evaluates the tales primarily in terms of their economic value, and less directly by his wife Annie, who condenses their sentimental significance.
Scholarship on nineteenth-century American Gothic writing has moved in two distinct directions in recent years: one track exposes the way that Gothicism has been deployed, in the American literary tradition, as a response to racial anxieties, while the other examines the ways that Gothic is interwoven with other genres, particularly sentimental and realist fiction. Insofar as Chesnutt, in the "conjure" tales, draws upon and contributes to the emergent conventions of Southern Gothic in his exposition of the psychic architecture of slavery. I argue that Chesnutt's decision to place the Gothic in dialogue with both realism and sentimentality was a strategic response to the Gothic's racial anxieties, as well as an attempt to "haunt back," using Gothicism to trouble the assumption of a coherent national "self."
"The Bride of Lammermoor; Scott's 'frightful tragedy.'"
Is Scott driven to use the Gothic in The Bride of Lammermoor? In the introductory chapter he has Pattieson, his narrator, advised by the painter Tinto to modify his usual practice, the dramatic, conversational mode, in favour of a greater emphasis on scene, "arresting the attention and exciting the imagination." In line with this fiction of its presentation, then, The Bride relates an affecting Scottish family legend, but invests it with the distinctly Gothic colour provided by what Scott/Pattieson calls "Scottish superstition". Scott's novel becomes, in consequence, a marbled text, if not fully hybridised: oral joins to written narrative, gothic is coupled to history, the realistic gets harnessed to the supernatural. At one level, the Gothic element appears to make for ideological differentiation, sharpening the historical representation of the novel's characters; in doing this, however, it also creates a sense of fated-ness that cannot be explained away by characterization or by reassigning the history to the realm of the marvellous. Lucy is the ideal Gothic reader with her delight in "the old legendary tales of ardent devotion and unalterable affection, chequered as they so often are with strange adventures and supernatural horrors." But if this fair Lucy represents the cult of the Gothic in her time and place, the Gothic also binds her to particular outcomes, to an inescapable fate, from the moment in which she fixes her eyes and heart upon the book's dark hero, Edgar Ravenswood - who is more implicated than any other character in the contest of realistic and irrational within the narrative.
The result of this emphasis upon 'scene' is more than passing excitement, a reader's pleasure; it produces precisely that hesitation between different epistemological orders that Todorov has called the fantastic. Furthermore, since Scott is plainly trapped in the play of narration set up in the first chapter, he must be implicated in the haunting of the novel's characters in the history they share with him and us. The consequences are significant. The fated-ness of the central characters suggests an acknowledgement of the limits of a forward?pressing history as an explanatory principle of human experience. The tensions and pressures created within the book suggest even that Scott registers here, despite himself perhaps, the entropic force of what Freud was later to call the death drive. At its various levels, we might say, for all its open commitment to putting a local history on the record, the novel proves itself the work of libidinal and thanatic drives; it is finally not Lucy but death itself that is Lammermoor's true bride.
"The Proof is in the Pie: Documenting Cannibalism in Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet"
Given the theme of this year's International Gothic Association
conference, my paper will analyze what I call "the cult
of Sweeney Todd" in nineteenth and twentieth century popular
fiction and drama. From the first publication of Thomas Peckett
Prest's 1846 tale, "The String of Pearls," to the numerous
performances of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical in the 1980s
and 90s, the "urban myth" of Sweeney Todd, the Demon
Barber of Fleet Street has consistently been heralded as
one of the greatest accounts of serial murder in the history
of London crime. Like most urban myths, however, the critical
reception of the Sweeney Todd story has focused primarily on
delving the archives of London history (wherever they may be)
for sources documenting the truth of this demon barber obsessed
with having his victims' bodies baked into "the most celebrated
veal and pork pies that London has ever produced." While
the archival work of such scholars as Montague Summers, W.O.G.
Lofts, and Peter Raining are fascinating accounts of Todd 's
history (or lack of thereof), my paper will argue for a more
critical examination of Sweeney Todd' s relationship to Victorian
notions of documentation and what constitutes "proof' in
"Dark Angel: Recombinant Prometheus and Pygmalion"
(This proposal represents part of a longer
project mapping reinscriptions of the Pygmalion myth in literary
history. The paper will be largely written by Kathleen Lee -
a theatre director in her own right whose day-job entails managing
the William Davis School for film actors in Vancouver, and who
is also a bi-rights activist -will consult, and help with, presentation.)
The Pygmalion myth -in which Venus answers Pygmalion's prayer that the ivory woman he sculpted and loves be given life -existed in antiquity, though it is Ovid's (1st C) retelling which has most popularly survived (Anderson 495). Though Mary Shelley's Frankenstein does not treat Pygmalion overtly, the animation of the creature raises the spectre of Galetea (Pygmalion's object of desire) in an anxiety-riven Gothic mirror.
Gene therapy evokes anew anxieties over the creation of artificial life. Dark Angel, the television series written and produced by James Cameron (director of Terminator 2 and Titanic) certainly explores ideas of "unnatural" genesis. The heroine Max has a barcode on the back of her neck proving that she is the progeny of science rather than nature, and promoting the possibility that she, like Galetea, Frankenstein's creature, and everything in Walmart, may be considered an ownable object, not a person.
Separated from her mother at birth, Max personifies the Gothic isolato whom DeLamotte places "at the heart of a social order whose peculiar disorder it is to make her the fearful other" (28). But instead of becoming a "fearful other," Max is more of a "fearsome other": she uses her genetically enhanced powers to become a cat burglar, a singularly apt occupation since some of her spliced-in genes came from felines. However, instead of wallowing in her difference from most of humanity, Max becomes an (initially reluctant) Robin Hood, helping the oppressed at the great expense of the wealthy few, and clearly envying the mother-child bonds of the women she rescues.
She usually rescues women and girls. In a related note, the "bad guys " thus far in the series have all been male, a deliberate binarism in a show otherwise refreshingly multi-cultural in its casting. The depiction of solidarity among women further reifies that binarism: the premiere includes a variation on the filmic tradition of a red-dress staircase entrance. However, no men whistle as they would at Marilyn; instead, another woman tells Max admiringly "You work that dress, girl! " On one hand she is still very much an the object of scopic privilege, both in that scene, and one immediately following in which she is frisked. On the other hand, her genetic enhancements mean she has control over any physical contact--her empowerment is palpable to watchers, though obscure to the man doing the frisking. Furthermore Max regards her looks as a matter of design--when complimented on her beauty, she diffidently responds "it's the genes"--and as such, a very mixed blessing. Finally, just as Xena has Gabriella, and Buffy has Willow and Tara, Max's best friend is the unabashedly gay Original Cindy. Thus gender issues in Dark Angel raise the spectres of both Galetea, the sculpted object of Pygmalion's desire, and Frankenstein's fear-provoking creature, both of whom are judged by appearance.
Dark Angel's Blade-Runneresque setting continues a long line of Promethean visions more evocative of Frankenstein's modern incarnation rather than the classical fore-text. Cameron's post-apocalypse Seattle fits Warwick's definition of Urban Gothic, in which "the city is. ..a place of ruins, paradoxically always new but always decaying, a state of death-in-life" (289). However, Max's sense of community with her day-job co-workers (ostensibly, she's a bicycle courier) denies the "alienation of the urban subject, leading to paranoia, fragmentation and loss of identity " (289) which Warwick leads us to expect of urban Gothic. An unexpected optimism pervades Dark Angel's ruins.
Dark Angel marks out some deep ambivalences in popular
versions of contemporary gothic culture: Max's high-rise squat
romanticizes life on the street, and her indifference to her
own beauty doesn't render it any less provocative. Day's observation
that "the Gothic fantasy is the expression of the fears
and desires created, but unacknowledged, by conventional culture"
( 177)1 places James Cameron's latest blockbuster firmly in the
realm of the Gothic. Dark Angel combines the fear of artificial
humans elucidated in Frankenstein, and the desire for them evoked
by Ovid's version of the Pygmalion myth.
1 Pace Kilgour, who would question
Day's psychoanalytic analysis on the grounds that Freudian psychoanalysis
is no more than another Gothic narrative, and therefore analysis
of the Gothic from a Freudian perspective is tautological (221).
"Law, Modernity, and Professionalism in Stoker's Dracula"
Reflections of law and lawyering in the artifacts of popular culture provide important reference points for understanding the construction of the legal profession and professional culture and ethos. Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula is rich in legal imagery. Legal knowledge is placed at the vampire's service by the young solicitor Jonathan Harker. Imbued with the ethic of the neutral technician of law, Harker must wittingly facilitate the vampire's predation. Professional responsibility requires loyalty to the client's cause yet this same ethic undermines law's (popular) legitimacy. That Stoker was educated in both solicitor's law and barrister's lore suggests that a legal reading of the novel is not misplaced.
"The Lawyer and the Vampire"
Reflections of law and lawyering in the artifacts of popular
culture provide important reference points for understanding
the construction of the legal profession and professional culture
and ethos. Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula is rich in
legal imagery. Legal knowledge is placed at the vampire's service
by the young solicitor Jonathan Harker. Imbued with the ethic
of the neutral technician of law, Harker must wittingly facilitate
the vampire's predation. Professional responsibility requires
loyalty to the client's cause yet this same ethic undermines
law's (popular) legitimacy. That Stoker was educated in both
solicitor's law and barrister's lore suggests that a legal reading
of the novel is not misplaced.
"'Criminal Lunacy' and Cultural Representations of Horror: The Case of The Colquitz Mental Home, British Columbia, 1919-1964"
Western cultures, and the psycho-legal systems and discourses they engender, have long been captivated by the idea of criminal lunacy. The spectre of the insane criminal--a being who inhabits the dual worlds of unreason and illegality, but who eludes the understandings and governance of both--has haunted jurisprudence, criminology, medical science and public culture for more than half a millennium. This paper considers the imagery and iconography of criminal madness in the context of the Colquitz Mental Home, an institution for male 'insane offenders' and 'unmanageable' mental patients that operated on the outskirts of Victoria, British Columbia during the early and middle parts of the last century. Through an exploration of government and institutional records, patient files, media reports and first-hand accounts of Colquitz, I chronicle the depictions and accounts of insanity, crime, violence, contagion, horror, and risk that circulated both within and beyond the walls of this most gothic of institutions. I argue that, in lurid contrast to the oppressive banality of everyday life at Colquitz, and despite the unrelenting ordinariness of the patients who inhabited its wards and cells, the institution came to be officially and publicly (re)constructed, signified and feared as a macabre 'snakepit'-an opaque and incomprehensible receptacle of despair, decay, danger and death. The Colquitz story illuminates the chronic failure of science and law to gain mastery over the criminal lunacy construct and the people it subsumes. It documents the enduring power of cultural representations around madness and crime--along with a litany of other 'social problems'--to penetrate and subvert modernist projects aimed at rationalization, domestication, redemption, and social order.
"Jewish Gothic, Jewish Agency: Life Is Beautiful"
"From now on, no Visigoths allowed. I'm sick and tired of these Visigoths." This line is spoken by Roberto Benigni (Guido) as he struggles to explain to his son Joshua the import of a sign that reads "no dogs or Jews"; Benigni strives to reassure his son with the farce that exclusionary practices are random and can be freely chosen by all--if some would disallow dogs and Jews, others can disallow Visigoths (and spiders). This comic and seemingly throwaway line underscores that the Holocaust is historical Gothic; in this paper, I will argue that reading Life Is Beautiful as an active and invested engagement with Jewish Gothic helps to explain the film's popularity and the cultural work it does for post-Holocaust Jewry.
The Shoah haunts Europe and post-Holocaust Jewry, and many critical debates start with the question of whether and how and for what aims one should represent attempted genocide. According to Gabriel Schoenfield, "much of what goes by the name of Holocaust remembrance. . . drains the nightmare of its horror, treating the most shattering event in modern history as a banality, or worse, as entertainment." Indeed, some critics read Life is Beautiful as exemplifying the tendency to misrepresent the Shoah by deJudaizing and deGothicizing it. Significantly, such tendencies breed their own forms of Jewish Gothic: Stuart Liebman begins his Cineaste article on the film with "For the last three months, I have had a recurring nightmare"; his fears revolve around the Academy Awards ceremony and the possibility that a work that he believes "trivializes experience and displaces despair" will be celebrated and honored. Likewise, David Denby ultimately regards Life Is Beautiful as a "benign form of Holocaust denial."
However, such a reading of the film problematically assumes that an event widely regarded as unrepresentable can and should only be represented mimetically and that all viewers are starting at ground zero of Holocaust consciousness. Certainly the demise of Guido's uncle and the shot that announces the annihilation of Guido textually refute the charge of Holocaust denial as does the scene in which Guido stumbles through the fog and finds himself facing a mass of skeletal corpses. At the end of the movie, when Joshua sees the U.S. tank entering the camp, he exclaims "It's true." Here the child's innocent stupefaction at the appearance of the coveted tank is juxtaposed with the audience's knowledge that the arrival of those tanks came much too late for millions; indeed, this moment functions as a subtle, chilling and poignant reminder that the Gothic scenes and allusions here originate not in games, dreams, or fantasy, but rather derive from the horrors of history.
However, while Life is Beautiful recognizes rather than denies the horrors of the Shoah, the film simultaneously mobilizes supplementary narratives of crucial importance to post-Holocaust Jewish consciousness. The bifurcated structure of the film dramatizes and honors life before Auschwitz; Joshua's gleeful announcement "we won, we won" usefully reminds us that "the final solution" did not become the final chapter of Jewish history. Indeed, I would argue that the promise and the appeal of Life is Beautiful lies in its ability to weave Jewish agency through and around Jewish Gothic.
"Gothic Noise and the Random Distribution of Ghosts"
Insofar as a message itself is an event, or even an image characterized by a particular pattern, information is a type of mediation that depends on the dialectic - and emerges from a dialogue - between predictability and chaos. According to Katherine Hayles, the informational structure is a function of the interaction between pattern and randomness; it appears in the interface and it operates as a kind of interstitial, flickering event. Thus we can speak of two types of appearances, two ghostly manifestations, or two forms of embodiment: the appearance of the body and the emergence of the informational structure. Using two shorter gothic narratives of Sir Walter Scott and Mary Shelley, both published in the 1829 edition of The Keepsake, I will examine the relationship or interface between these two types of becomings, and then trace the implications that various forms or strategies of embodiment as well as the notion of the cyborg have for the Gothic as a genre and for our understanding of its problematics and aesthetics today.
We might begin by noticing that the matter of informational structure, or "intelligence" as perhaps Scott would have it, no longer has anything to do with the material durability of the message or informational flows, because there is no longer any inscription proper; rather text is represented and already functions as image. We can think of text as membrane or veil; it's a question of cartography or, more specifically, of a kind of mapping that could account for two types of phenomena occurring simultaneously, territoriality along with various movements, and flows of desire that too can be imaged as a set of spatial movements or trajectories. In both cases we are dealing with an exchange of codes equivalent to the interfacing of media. In a Deleuzian formula, one could put it as follows: everything happens on a body without organs which functions as a recording surface; everything that happens can be seen in terms of territorial movements, as de- and re-territorializations, which in turn are related to the various articulations of desire. Everything that happens is seen in terms of affects on the recording surface, and everything is a surface event. Desire, too, is a surface event; it is produced and articulated through the extremities of the body, its spouts, noses, mouths, hands, and tails. It is in the process of mapping, as image emerges from the cartographic montage, that one discerns patterns, redundancies, and repetitions along with random distribution. In any case, like those virtual or possible worlds of hyperspace, the conflation of codings and physical presences "problematizes thinking of the body as a self-evident physicality" (Hayles 27). In other words, flows of information or discursive patterns take over and displace the metaphor of bodily presence.
This doesn't mean that reality is undermined or that the so-called
realist novel has been dealt a deadly blow. It is not the case
that along with a certain nostalgia for physical immediacy goes
the material world itself, or else that its existence is put
into doubt. Rather, what is questioned and subsequently inquired
into is the notion of materiality as an epistemological category
and consequently as a normative, legislative apparatus. Thus,
at stake is the construction of the human body as a discursive
space. The body is of course central to the Gothic insofar as
Gothic is concerned with various liminal states of bodily presence,
semi or non-material states that manifest themselves in the form
of ghosts, ghostly appearances and imagined or otherwise illusory
bodies. The body is, properly speaking, a system of folds; it
is technically one continuous sheet of various organic matters
folded into a kind of roll, each layer evolving according to
its own code. Given this initial heterogeneity, it would be better
to speak of embodiments, and thus of a certain politics of embodying
rather than the body proper. In fact, as Hayles suggests, it
is no longer absence or presence that concerns us the most but,
instead, various measurements, lines of flight, links, nodes
and lexias, in short exteriority and cartography through which
the body is articulated.
Yet, the notorious bodily mutations of the Gothic are directly linked to mutations that shatter the system of information, forcing it to evolve along a different line of territorialization. The transformation and metamorphoses of the body occur or are witnessed already on the textual level. For instance, as Hayles successfully demonstrates, so-called information narratives mark prominently the shift away from the presence/absence paradigm toward one that emphasizes displacement and randomness, and so they pose a direct challenge to physicality. Be that as it may, the immateriality that Gothic texts offer seems to be not spiritual or transcendent but rather informational and immanent. Bodies appear mutated in relation to how subjectivities that occupy them become patterns rather than presences. It is precisely mutations that account for "different configurations of embodiment" (Hayles 33) and produce the posthuman effect.
"Systems of Terror: Conspiracy Fiction in the 1790's"
"Something Hungry is Watching: Wendigo, Cannabilism, and Cultural Abjection in Ann Tracy's Winter Hunger and Mordecai Richler's Solomon Gursky Was Here"
My paper will consider the role of cannibalism as a trope in Canadian fiction, and will discuss the projection of taboos surrounding this issue onto the Gothic body of the Wendigo, a figure from the legends and stories of eastern Canada's Algonquian-speaking peoples. The Wendigo is a monstrous creature, immensely strong, with feet of fire and a heart of ice, who may once have been human, and whose ambiguous status sites it in the Gothic space between life and death, monstrosity and humanity, self and other. Most significantly, it is characterized by its insatiable desire for human flesh, and in communities prone to food shortages, and so haunted by the spectre of famine, Wendigo psychosis, the belief that one has become a Wendigo, is a recognized form of mental disturbance. By focusing on two texts, Ann Tracy's Winter Hunger, and Mordecai Richler's Solomon Gursky Was Here, I intend to examine the extent to which notions of cannibalism haunt the literary consciousness of both Native and non-Native Canadian writers, and how the instances of cannibalistic activity within these texts, function to de-stabilize the myths of 'femininity', 'maternity', and 'humanity' that are prevalent in contemporary culture. I will discuss the psycho-social aspects of the Wendigo legend in Native communities, the intertextual intrusion of the rumours of cannibalism surrounding the doomed Franklin expedition of 1845 into contemporary Canadian fiction, and the utilization of the Wendigo figure to represent the ungovernable and abject monsters which we all fear lurk within us.
In this way, the paper will engage with the critical debate surrounding the cultural inflexion of abjection as discussed, for example, in Jerrold E. Hogle's essay 'The Gothic Ghost of the Counterfeit and the Progress of Abjection', which utilizes the concept of abjection as defined by Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror. I will suggest that Wendigoes/cannibals are abject Gothic figures, onto which are cast off those aspects of our selves which are culturally perceived as monstrous.
I will propose that in the Gothic body of the cannibalistic Wendigo, the spectre that haunts both texts to be discussed, is to be found the conflation of two disparate narrative cultures: the literary conventions inherited by Canadian writers from European Gothicism, and those of the interwoven and self-referential traditions of Native Canadian storytelling and mythology. Although the length of the paper will not allow a comprehensive examination of cannibalism in either tradition, this will be a consideration, and my discussion will include reference to the utilization of cannibalistic acts, both actual and metaphoric, in Canadian fiction. Additionally, I will extend this discussion to trace the literary history of the Wendigo, referring to both its explicit and implicit presence in Native legend and in the work of writers of European ancestry. Inevitably, this will entail consideration of the dynamic created by the convergence of narrative influences and the consequent de-stabilizing effect on notions of cultural or literary superiority, which can again be seen to take corporeal form in the liminal figure of the Wendigo.
"Gothic Horror or Religious Fervour? Defining Les Dialogues des Carmelites"
With plots often derived from gothic novels, melodramas, or Renaissance revenge plays, with stagings of distressed heroines, bloody and treacherous acts, and with unrestrained expressions of passion, nineteenth-century opera has to a certain extent defined operatic characteristics still perceived, if not demanded, by contemporary audiences. Despite its popularity, opera has never gained for itself the artistic respect obtained by other implicitly pure forms of artistic expression such as literature or painting. Opera's apparently impure hybrid form and inclination towards gothic display of emotion and excess have tended to ensure its exclusion from serious critical consideration as drama. Indeed, those who appreciate the form often dismiss its plots and libretti with amused and knowing derision to argue for the transcending ability of the music. Reacting to these perceptions, twentieth century opera has attempted to assert its intellectual worth through libretti based upon 'difficult' literary works and/or music defined by a deliberate break from convention. Such attempts have frequently resulted in critical approval and audience distaste; the music is no longer perceived as 'transcending' (a term often equated with 'melodious'), and the subject (frequently characterized by the neurosis of an individual or community) unworthy of transcending music.
One of the few works of the twentieth century to have obtained favour with both critics and audiences is Francois Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmelites. Based upon a drama by Georges Bernanos which was in turn based upon a German novel inspired by historical papers, the opera claims a spiritual and historical significance for itself in its choice of subject. It is often treated as a dramatic articulation of the key concerns of Christian doctrine and is seen to ask us "at least to help one another, to see others' fears, sufferings, and needs, and to give of ourselves to alleviate them" (Owen Lee, A Season of Opera). Poulenc's application of both neoromantic and experimental musical styles has ensured the general approbation of the work for its ability to articulate and apply the spiritual potential of music to a dramatic source, and thus unify plot and music to overcome perceived limitations of a hybrid, 'gothicizing' musical form.
A close examination reveals, however, that the opera ultimately fails to reconcile moments of individual neurosis with expressions of religious fervour. Far from being profoundly religious, the work manifests Poulenc's nebulous grasp of key theological implications of the original text. Indeed, the opera is ultimately a gothic dramatization of psychosis within a convent corrupted by individual insanity and social oppression. The opera concludes with a gothic tableau of bloody collective suicide for a cause defined by the fanatic doubt of its adherents. Poulenc's opera has obtained a canonical status for its apparent success at reconciling operatic subject with music. It fails in this attempt, however; the work is ultimately an emotional theatrical presentation successful only in impressing the audience with the horror of execution and the beauty of Poulenc's compositional abilities.
What, one must ask, does this interpretation do for the work as a valid twentieth-century opera? Can the work only be acceptable if it can be seen to subscribe to a Christian ideal, or is it nonetheless 'redeemable' for its attempt? Ultimately, the simultaneous spiritual failure of the work and general acknowledgment of its success betokens a critical redefinition of the dramatization of spiritual transcendence. No matter how gothic the tale, that tale can be rendered critically and aesthetically acceptable if articulated within a historic and spiritual context which invokes convictions of spiritual faith. The audience need only expect religious transcendence, and hear that transcendence articulated through music, in order to accept the critical validity of the opera. As a result, the redemptive power of the opera lies in its ability to successfully transform the plot-scoffing operagoer to enthusiastic participant in a tale of gothic violence, neurosis, and blood.
Valérie de Courville Nicol
Mary Beth Neff
"J.K. Huysmans' Against the Grain and the Inescapable Monstrosity of Nature"
Duc Jean Des Esseintes, the anti-hero of Joris-Karl Huysmans' Against the Grain (A Rebours), is a man whose aesthetic ideology is extreme: he abhors Nature in all of its manifestations, and tolerates only those "miracles wrought by artificial atmosphere." This predilection causes him to tire of human involvement and vice, and to isolate himself within a virtual palais d'art. The ironic twist to this Decadent epic is that Des Esseintes inadvertently discovers that he has sought a futile goal, an unattainable Ideal. This realization is perhaps most apparent in the infamous eighth chapter of Against the Grain, during which the aesthete is both exhilarated and tortured by his collection of hothouse flowers. The literal and metaphoric qualities of these monstrous flora reveal the inherent paradoxes of the Decadent philosophy that will ultimately lead to the movement's failure.
The particular flowers that Des Esseintes selects for his gardening experiment are, in accordance with his loathing for the natural, those which he feels "[imitate] the false." He purchases Bosphorus plants that remind him of "starched calico," and lavishes over the "incongruous contours" of the Cypripedium that "[seem] the invention of a madman." These hybrid horrors are living art; they have mastered the ability to improve upon their innate ordinary stations and have earned literal and figurative positions in "glass palaces." They mirror Des Esseintes' own perceived refinement, and validate his chosen isolation as both a necessary and desirable consequence of aestheticism.
There are evident inconsistencies with Des Esseintes' theories. A number of plants that have been selected present potential danger to their caretaker, as they are either poisonous or carnivorous. Furthermore, popular Victorian flower symbolism reveals that the aesthete's garden is one to "beware" due to "deception." The wonders that evoke Des Esseintes' admiration are indifferent predators to their host; they deceive him with their "artificial" beauty into a false sense of security.
The danger with which this art threatens its admirer is portrayed metaphorically through Des Esseintes' nightmare, in which the man is nearly emasculated by his hothouse collection when it metamorphoses into an entrancing female body. The brilliant hues of the Pox on horseback - colors specifically esteemed when selecting home décor - further indicate that seemingly harmless visual stimuli can possess deadly intent.
The Decadent subjugation of the soul to the body effected the denial of an innate (or natural) morality, and the subsequent rejection of ethics altogether. However, the continuum of good and evil was not actually removed from discourse, but was instead reassigned to the new discourse of sensation and Taste. While Des Esseintes claims in true Decadent fashion that the "goodness" of a hothouse flower is unrelated to morality, he nevertheless falsely assumes that such a "charming" and "veritable miracle" is incapable of harm. Like Wilde's portrait of Dorian Gray, this predatory garden reveals that the love of artificial beauty is often dangerously connected with a naive attribution of traditional goodness to such beauty.
The eighth chapter of Against the Grain indicts Decadence on a cultural level, as well, as it hints at the Victorian subject of eugenics. The monstrous flowers and plants that Des Esseintes has chosen for his hothouse collection are artificial only in that they are hybrids, skillfully grafted by gardeners. The man proudly avers that "mankind is able in the course of a few years to bring about a selection which sluggish Nature can never effect but after centuries' time." This careful breeding of traits, inspired by the theory of natural selection, reeks of Sir Francis Galton's program of human engineering known as eugenics.
Galton declared that intelligence could best be measured by sensory acuity, a conclusion that allowed aesthetes such as Des Esseintes to effectively defend their intellectual superiority. However, Galton also argued that eugenics was a social obligation. Herein lies the paradox: Des Esseintes feels that humanity is set apart by its ability to enhance and create, yet his self-imposed isolation necessitates that such ingenuity and imagination be restricted from the actual improvement of humanity.
Joris-Karl Huysmans has created a philosophical dilemma in his Decadent Against the Grain, most evident through Des Esseintes' hothouse flower experiment. The episode is intended to elevate the aesthetic ideals of beauty, human creativity, and art; it instead serves as a portent to all who isolate such ideals from the natural world. Even a beautifully enhanced Nature is, at its core, still a passionate and powerful Nature.
"The Mysteries of Analysis: Exploring the Gothic Elements of Freud's 'Dora'"
In the cult(ure) of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud has long held the position of charismatic leader. Freud's personal dominion as psychoanalysis' heroic progenitor is most evident in his case studies, of which the first, Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria or "Dora", has long been considered the most compelling and yielding the most interesting insights. Indeed, the narrativity of the case study, its representation of historical and cultural conditions, and the personal fascination of its principals have drawn attention from critics in the fields of literary criticism and feminism, in addition to psychology, for much of this century.
Following the lead of such critics as Stephen Marcus, I read "Dora" as a literary text rather than a scientific document; I also read "Dora" as the product of particular literary and cultural conditions--as Gothic. As Anne Williams states in Art of Darkness (1995), "Instead of using Freud to read Gothic, we should use Gothic to read Freud" (243). Examining "Dora" under the Gothic lens, exploring how the concerns of the text resonate with the concerns of the Gothic illuminates aspects of the text that have remained inaccessible and enables one to read the case history in a fresh light. Freud's analysis of Dora and much of the critical treatments of her case fail to comprehend Dora or her role. To understand the text as Gothic and Dora's role as that of a Gothic heroine (in the tradition of Ann Radcliffe) is to comprehend her struggle against the cult of the patriarch, its repression of the feminine and the usurping of her story.
The site of this discord between heroine and anti-hero is the narrative structure of the case history, imposed by Freud and subverted by Dora and marked by such Gothic features as fragmentation (politicized by gender relations), narrative unreliability and lacunae, in which the repressed feminine makes its presence felt in absence. Dora, her case history, and Freud himself are also marked by the Gothic qualities of the fin-de-s"ecle culture in which they are both produced, as subject and as text.
Using Lacanian techniques of criticism, as reconsidered by feminist critics, I demonstrate how the very culture of psychoanalysis works to reveal the Gothic essence of Dora's story: the death of the mother and the struggle against the law of the Father. Dora's hysteria is read as an integral part of this story, as the symptomatic/unspeakable is an integral element of the Gothic. In understanding "Dora" as a Gothic narrative, we understand the truth of her struggle and the cause of her failure and Freud's--for no one "wins" in this fragmented story where male and female Gothic, anti-hero patriarch, and hysteric heroine face off in the haunted castle of Dora's mind.
Back to Top of Page
"The Shape Which Shape Had None": Jane Eyre's Paintings, the Gothic, and the Mediated Image"
When Jane Eyre, newly arrived at Thornfield, meets and speaks with Edward Rochester, their conversation is constituted as a form of banter, even contest, where speech, offered, received, and offered again, models other actions of gift giving and reception, in particular those of erotic gesture and erotic response. The central event of this meeting takes the form of the display of several watercolour pictures which Jane shows to Rochester at his request (or, more accurately, given the power differential inherent in the relation between employer and governess, one which Brontë was of course exquisitely aware, his order).
Brontë introduces these paintings as a functional device which carries meaning additional to that of the written text, invoking a moment of ekphrasis, visual stillness within a work achieved by textual description of an (art) object. Murray Kreiger writes that "[t]he visual emblem and the verbal emblem are complementary languages for seeking the representation of the unrepresentable" and it is useful to consider what it is that might be unrepresentable in this particular passage from Jane Eyre, and why Brontë chose to convey this through the textual translation of the code of the visual. Kristeva's semiotic, as unstructured meaning, marginalized in relation to the symbolic, also has a place here: Jane's paintings mark a threshold, a failure of language, a location where what cannot be spoken must instead be shown. The paintings carry complex levels of meaning: they stand as the sign of the unsayable, as evidence of female pleasure taken in artistic creation, and as the re-vision of popular texts, particularly the engravings of the 19th century gift book or annual, within the literary imagination. Displayed within the erotically charged context of Jane and Rochester's conversation, the paintings allow Brontë to engage the technologies of the gothic in a way which allows for the control and directing of masculine desire, even, ultimately, the masculine itself.
Jane's pictures themselves, as written by Brontë-a bird sitting on the mast of a sunken ship, holding in its beak a glittering bracelet while a drowned body floats nearby, only an arm revealed; the head of a woman crowned with a diadem ("the eyes shone wild and dark; the hair streamed shadowy"); a polar scene of a half veiled face captioned with the phrase "the shape which shape had none"-construct narratives, though open ended and partial: narratives of loss and death and the supernatural, they are images certainly both sensual and erotic, containing expressions of natural force, wind and clouds and water and ice, visions of a drowned body both submerged underwater and upheld by it, and a radiant (and feminine) personification of the morning star. They are pictures are meant to propose mysteries and puzzles that are never to be solved; using the vocabulary of the gothic available to Brontë through literary and popular culture, they constitute a projection of the self, of Jane's dramatic imagination and above all her interiority, as originally sited in, and extracted from, her body. (Rochester asks her "Where did you get your copies?" (meaning, Where is the source of these pictures?) to which Jane replies "Out of my head".)
The power of these paintings is drawn not only from their gothic content (magical jewels, unnatural death, storm, the sea at night, the female body) but also from the fact of female pleasure made material. These painted images are marks, evidence of pleasure taken, situated within a text which itself deals with the organization and control of desire; this is also an instance of longing (Jane's wish for sensual knowledge) coded as aesthetics (the plumbing, and recreation, of the imagination). This pleasure is specifically named by Jane: "To paint them, in short," [she says to Rochester] "was to enjoy one of the keenest pleasures I have ever known." This pleasure is one that existed in Charlotte Brontë's own life; it is possible to follow the line of this pleasure, to locate its source in Brontë's juvenilia, and to see that this construction of childhood pleasure was eventually used by Brontë to invoke an adult sense of self within her fiction (she also makes reference to such illustrations in Villette). The watercolours that Jane Eyre paints are derivative of much of the material found in the annuals of Brontë's childhood and adolescence, printed engravings which Brontë spent hours labouriously copying. Such copying of the annual engravings was a more complex act than that of mere duplication, as it did not disallow co-optation, usage, re-creation and modification of such images, or the usage of such images within written texts. Christine Alexander comments on the use of gothic material in Brontë's juvenilia, particularly in the complicated tale of Angria, which absorbed her for many years:
[T]he periodical literature of the early nineteenth century, in particular the Annuals that were introduced to the English market in 1822 continued to print Gothic tales and fragments well into the 1850s. From the Annuals [Charlotte] Brontë learned not only to imitate but to parody the Gothic form: her early writings show that the Gothic allowed her to indulge in the exotic, the licentious, and the mysterious [ ] The deliberately complicated narrative can also be read as Gothic: it is a maze distorted by rival narrators and constructed chiefly from literary and visual models with the intention to confuse and amuse not only her siblings but her imagined audience. The Gothic provided basic material in this 'play' .
For Brontë, the reception of the annual engraving included the reproduction, recreation, and criticism of the image, so that the juvenile copies became sites of rearrangement, of rethought discourse, where tensions are exposed through the interpolation of mass marketed images into the process of individual artistic apprenticeship. When Jane shows the paintings to Rochester, with their gothic tropes, their mysticism and magic, the annual image becomes a conduit or venue for the performance of a desire which cannot be verbalized; what we have, then, is a model of reception and production which can be figured as an information loop such as those referred to by Epson Aarseth in his work on ergodic information systems. Aarseth writes that "[t]he text is seen as a machine-not metaphorically but as a mechanical device for the production and consumption of verbal signs It is within this triad [of verbal sign, medium, and operator] that the text takes place." The machinery of the annual illustration, when considered in relation to Brontë's novels, moves from the reception of the image embedded within text (the engraving itself) to the production of the image as written description, illustrating a metaphor of reception in which the points of the triad in fact have a malleability of shape, and map a flow between the medium, operator and creator. This is a kind of liquid text, which flows between medium and operator, the creation of a liquid surface which allows for the movement of image between media and operator and media yet again; the operator even becomes the text and the generator of the text herself, so that the boundaries between the act of reception and the act of creation become transparent, mediated by the act of re-shaping. By creating simulations of the annual illustrations, and endowing them with personally encoded meaning, both creation and mediation are acknowledged; the annual illustration once re-inscribed by Brontë as copy is then reinscribed into the text in her novels. Brontë does, in a sense, create the recursive 'shape which shape had none', as the shape, or illustration, calls upon knowledge of the popular illustration's potential for different glosses of meaning, and where the shape may be seen as both the visual representation of Jane's interior life and an invocation of gothic strategies drawn from the material of contemporary culture. The Shape which Shape had None also stands as a paradox of bodily dissolving which holds a metaphorical clue to the erotic relation between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester: despite Jane's seeming disadvantage when faced by Rochester, she asserts a discourse of power through the manipulation of the Gothic image, initiating the narrative of masculine pursuit, which, controlled and modified by Jane through both language and her sudden mid-novel disappearance, runs through the text until her final, triumphant capture of the masculine: "Reader, I married him."
Patrick R. O'Malley
"Crossing the Threshold: Dracula's Catholicism as Cult and Culture"
The opening episode of the 2000-2001 season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" featured a guest appearance by Dracula himself. Although within the allotted hour, Buffy was able to reduce the Ur-Vampire to a pile of dust, the episode cannily produced Dracula as a type of undead Ricky Martin, a pop-cultural phenomenon as well as a cult stud in his own right, reducing each character from Anya, the demon woman who had once renounced men, Xander, her ineffectual boyfriend, and Buffy herself to fawning fans practically lined up for an autograph as well as the obligatory bite on the neck. Bitten and smitten, the WB's cult TV stars both celebrated and parodied their own cultural currency; when Anya giggles that although she met Dracula during her demon days, "I'm sure he doesn't remember me," she's got a point; in a hundred and three years after "Buffy," I'll guess that almost nobody will be writing critical articles on it, although Dracula-as vampire and as text--has seemingly only gathered increased analytic attention in recent decades. Dracula may have failed in his attempt to "create a new and ever widening circle of semi-demons to batten on the helpless" (67), but the novel has accomplished a parallel task, producing over a hundred films and made-for-TV movies with the name "Dracula" in their title as well as seemingly infinite proliferations of textual and cultural study.
I say that "Buffy"'s appropriation of Dracula as a star is "canny," however, not only because the television show is, of course, part of the almost cult-like revivification (in culture and counter-culture) of the Dracula legend, but also because the novel itself already encodes within its pages a portrayal of the way that cult can become culture, that alterity can become identity through the power of fascination. Almost immediately after his introduction, the Count announces that his plan is for assimilation, for the transmutation of his status from cult-figure to culture itself; to Jonathan Harker's polite compliments on his command of English, he answers, "Well I know that, did I move and speak in your London, none there are who would not know me for a stranger. That is not enough for me. Here I am noble; I am boyar; the common people know me, and I am master. But a stranger in a strange land, he is no one; men know him not--and to know not is to care not for. I am content if I am like the rest. . . . I have been so long master that I would be master still--or at least that none other should be master of me" (31). Dracula's insidious plan is to transform himself from the object of cultish devotion of Transylvanian superstition into a force permeating British society itself.
"Violence and the Scred: The Case of P.D. James"
Religious concerns have always been central to the work of P. D. James. Rather than pointing to the absence of a sense of the sacred as a cause for modern violence, however, her novels affirm instead the paradoxical affiliation between violence and the sacred that is central to the theories of Rene Girard. While James typically uses the genre of the mystery novel to explore this affiliation, I will consider her more overt and arguably less successful exploration of this theme in two less characteristic non-mysteries, Innocent Blood and The Children of Men, in order to pursue such questions as the mutual relations between sacred and secular mystery in terms of their attitude towards and use of violence.
Taiwo Adetunji Osinubi
"Of Severed Heads"
In his introduction to American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative, Robert K. Martin proposes a conception of American gothic cultural production as a discursive field that coheres around, amongst other things, poetics and narrative structuration. This discursive field becomes an arena in which "a metonymic national 'self' is undone by the return of its repressed Otherness." I want to employ this concept of a discursive field as a theatre in which the concerns of American literary imagination, with the subject and legacy of slavery, are played out.
This paper investigates, specifically, the intertextual play between Poe's "Murders in Rue Morgue," Richard Wright's Native Son, Faulkner's Light in August, and Toni Morrison's Beloved. These texts exhibit a special concern for transgression of borders into or out of domestic spaces in which moments of horror occur but they deploy similar motifs in strikingly different forms in dialogue with and in reaction to each other. At the center of each text is a mutilated body that unleashes a psychic and physical disturbance that undoes the thread of a communal self. In each text, the incisive moment of terror must be rehabilitated through a communal 'coming to speech' or a communal act of violence. While Poe and Faulkner deploy the conventions of violence in the domestic space as incursions of 'dark' terror (from racial Others) from without, Wright and Morrison rearrange the icons of the gothic discursive field; violence is an eruption from within the domestic space into a public space in order to halt the process of othering.
'The Gothic Tradition in Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees: A Study in Genre'
Growing interest in Canadian Gothic as a subgenre has provoked a (truly Canadian) identity crisis: what is Canadian Gothic? To answer this question one first must ask, what is Gothic? Although we still look to the conventions of early Gothic texts for a definition, new texts are continually rewriting the genre, provoking us to re-examine our understanding of the Gothic. Ann-Marie MacDonald's novel, Fall on Your Knees, raises many questions about the nature of contemporary Gothic and the direction of Canadian Gothic. Fall on Your Knees is a revisionist Neo-Gothic text that transforms conventions of the genre and establishes a new tradition of Gothic literature in Canada.
Fall on Your Knees is commonly perceived to be a feminist novel or a family saga. If this were exclusively the case, why does MacDonald meticulously follow the conventions of the Gothic? Such conventions include a curse cast over the Piper family, ghosts, incest, family secrets and deeply imbedded references to Catholicism. How does MacDonald manipulate these conventions to create an historically specific commentary of gender, sexuality and race in early twentieth-century Canada? The Gothic has long been interpreted as a vehicle for social and political commentary or as a means of undermining the norms of society and literature. Although the Gothic usually reinforces a strictly conservative social order, often through contrived moralistic endings, Rosemary Jackson accurately defines it as "the literature of subversion." Ann-Marie MacDonald frequently employs Gothic tropes in Fall on Your Knees in order to draw attention to normative institutions of Canadian society, including the powerful Catholic church, Anglo cultural dominance and heterosexual hegemony. However, Fall on Your Knees is revisionist Gothic and not merely a re-enactment of established conventions. The conclusion of the novel embodies such revisionism with scenes of forgiveness, rather than punishment, and the legitimisation of lesbian desire.
My essay is a generic study of MacDonald's novel; I will theorise that Fall on Your Knees is a Gothic text, one that re-inscribes the genre and indicates a new tradition in Canadian Gothic. Post-modern Gothic theory informs my argument, in particular, Jerrold Hogle's theory of cryptonomy and Mark Wigley's essays on architecture. I will begin with an analysis of Canadian Gothic as outlined by Margaret Atwood and Margot Northey, who draw upon the theories of Northrup Frye to interpret Canadian Gothic as the manifestation of our collective fears of the Canadian wilderness. Susanna Becker has recently observed the shift of Canadian Gothic to interior female spaces, in particular, the home. Fall on Your Knees primarily focuses on the Piper home and those who inhabit and/or haunt it and therefore, follows in this motif of confinement and internalisation in a feminised space. I will also examine how MacDonald employs traditional Gothic conventions and allusions to early Gothic texts. In particular, Fred Botting's study of the Gothic is useful here. I will examine the highly conventional Gothic structure that signals a Gothic text and I will emphasis how the novel delineates from this structure. Of significance are MacDonald's non-linear narrative and the manner in which violence brings catharsis. To conclude I will examine Kathleen's diary entries; these entries are an embedded text that function as recurring trauma, one that is unsuccessful repressed by the primary narrative of the Piper family. The diary excerpts illustrate MacDonald's acceptance of plurality in the text and her insistence that hegemonic institutions in literature and Canadian society be questioned and rewritten.
"(Dis)Tasteful Terror: The Seductive Nature of Hannibal Lecter"
John Gianvito in "An Inconsolable Darkness. The Reappearance
and Redefinition of the Gothic in Contemporary Cinema" (1997)
discusses the appeal of the Gothic experience, which he identifies
as the "stepping into darkness, into that which is forbidden,
repressed." For Gianvito, the reemergence of a "Gothic
sensibility" functions in similar ways to earlier Gothic
novels in that we, as an audience, are provided with an opportunity
to give shape to our fears and anxieties, thereby permitting
ourselves to confront and control our fright. Herein lies the
seductive nature of terror: by making explicit the darkness that
lurks inside all of us, and indeed out there, we can 'diffuse'
our dread and apprehensions, rendering them benign. In the popular
imagination, the serial killer represents the modern manifestation
of the monster in his ability (for he is usually male) to inspire
dread and fascination. In The Silence of the Lambs we
have our first encounter with the enigmatic Dr. Hannibal Lecter,
the brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. This
initial glimpse left audiences wanting more, a desire that was
fulfilled ten years later with the long-awaited sequel featuring
Dr. Lecter as the key figure. Hannibal presents an opportunity
for audiences to undergo a contemporary 'Gothic experience':
it allows us to become acquainted with the cannibalistic monster,
to confront the darkness he embodies, and to dispel our feelings
of terror. But the film goes further-it elicits our sympathies
for the monster by pitting Hannibal the Cannibal against a second
monster, the physically and morally grotesque Mason Verger-a
monster who is, perhaps, even more distasteful than the cannibal
himself. The presentation will explore this contemporary gothic
experience through a detailed analysis of Hannibal. This discussion
will center around the interwoven themes of the operation of
terror and seduction, the role of the monster, (dis) taste and
its many associations, and the dread of the psychiatric expert
"Louise Erdrich's Tracks as a Gothic Novel"
In her 1988 novel Tracks, Louise Erdrich created a story of an intense struggle of race holding off the incursion of another, of people calling on the spirits of nature and their ancestors to survive loss and change, of people testing the formidable boundaries set before them. Tracks is a novel of American literature, a novel of the Native American experience; and as this paper will show, a representation of American Gothic fiction. Spirit-filled lakes and forests, arcane characters including the trickster Nanapush, and a culture in the throes of change provide a narrative rich in Gothic style. This paper will also examine the suggestion that Tracks is one example of an approach by contemporary writers to address issues of ethnicity through ghosts and spirits.
Marjean D. Purinton
Early nineteenth-century British drama reflects its linkage
with the culture's preoccupation with science and medicine. Conceptual
matters in medical discourses, such as sexuality, disease, anatomy,
nervous disorders, were rescripted for popular consumption in
theatrical performances. Conversely, theatre was appropriated
by medicine as the actual site for staging experiments and displays.
Since the seventeenth century, Robert Boyle's demonstrations
for students were staged as anatomical theatres of medicine with
formalized and regularized performances. Staged dissections functioned
in spectacularly pedagogical ways in science's institutional
training. Scientific and medical interests were also theatricalized
in other public but non-dramatic forms, such as traveling and
raree shows, itinerant lectures and demonstrations, extravagant
displays and exhibitions, and forums at the Royal College of
In my presentation, I will examine four popular plays' performance of medical cults and gothic culture: Thomas Dibdin's The Jew and the Doctor; A Farce in Two Acts, presented at Covent Garden on November 23, 1798; George Colman's Doctor Hocus Pocus; or Harlequin Washed White, performed at the Haymarket on August 2, 1812; John Kerr's The Monster and Magician: or The Fate of Frankenstein, A Melodramatic Romance in Three Acts, performed at the Royal West London Theatre on October 2, 1826; and John Oxenford's Doctor Dilworth; A Farce in One Act, performed at Madame Vestris' Royal Olympic Theatre on April 15, 1839. In all four plays, we find that the medical profession constitutes manifest content, with "doctors" occupying leading roles. I will examine these medical portrayals as well as the latent techno-gothic forms to discover what they suggest about a theatricalized gothic culture that was being redefined by medical cults of the early nineteenth century.
My presentation will include the use of primary-source medical discourses, works made available to me by a research grant to the Cage Rare Books Library at the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania last summer. From my archival work, I will include Matthew Baillie's Lecture and Observations on Medicine (1825), Alexander Crichton's An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement (1798), William Hunter's Anatomical Lectures (1794), Ebenezer Sibly's The Medical Mirror (1814), Thomas Trotter's A View of the Nervous Temperament (1807), Thomas Beddoes's Contributions to Physical and Medical Knowledge (1799), as well as Notes/Syllabi from William Hewson's, William Cruikshank's, and William Hunter's lectures on anatomy. The notes and syllabi from these physicians, like Colman's play Hocus Pocus, are manuscripts extant in holographs only. By reading the plays in the context of this medical discourse, I will show how the popular drama of the early nineteenth century took on techno-gothic forms as it put medical matters center stage and cast as gothic culture.
"'He called the ghost ... It had a queerish look': Francis Lathom and The Midnight Bell"
Francis Lathom's The Midnight Bell is now known, if at all, as one of the books named by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. But a re-reading suggests that, in more ways than one, it is a queer book; and Lathom - if that was his name - led a queer life. In this paper I want to explore some of the connections between the narratives of the text and the narratives of the life, applying ideas drawn from Julia Kristeva, Judith Butler and Guinn Batten.
"Feminist Cyborg and Gothic Biomechanoid: A Comparison of Anti-Reproduction discourses"
In 1985, Haraway published her "Manifesto of the Cyborgs" which made her immortal. Her text calls for a new sociological narrative as the basis for new feminist analyses and pragmatics. It trumpets the demise of old binary categories of thinking and, with brash strokes, delineates the terms of a new epistemology in the wake of a cybernetic and biological revolution. From a cultural viewpoint, the strong point of her analysis lies in her perceptive practice of linking two frequently estranged paradigms: one is scientific knowledge and the other is myth- making or narrative-making. What she brings out is how new ways of thinking science and doing scientific things produce new social, political, and narrative culture. With the advent of a new epistemological paradigm (1), the now traditional narratives of feminism have become obsolete and potentially dangerous as they can no longer address the issues at stake for women. The manifesto was published at a time when the new epistemological paradigms were already in place even if not always visible to all intellectuals. Today, the new knowledge and practices are so evident that we marvel at Haraway's clear-sightedness.
In 1980 the first installment of the Alien series was released. The movie owes part of its originality to Swiss designer H.G. Giger who drew the designs for the setting and the monstrous creature stalking the spatial vessel. Although Giger was new to the American cultural scene, he had been working in Europe for more than fifteen years. Giger's pictures and drawings offer startling ways of reading our bodies and the landscapes which surround us. Giger's pictures are rarely accompanied by a philosophical explanation of what they intend to signify; however, it becomes soon clear to the newcomer that his pictorial representations challenge and disturb our traditional conception of what constitutes humanity, notably in the pictures displaying what Giger christens as biomechanoids.
It is rather fascinating to compare Haraway's and Giger's attempts to create new myths of identity. Both belong to the early baby-boomer generation, and although stemming from quite different cultural and biographical backgrounds, both contribute to this twentieth-century movement of thought which aims at destroying traditional humanist representations and narrative constructs. Both are stridently provocative and love playing with the devil, acting as his advocate. Both are characterized by a cultish aura to which their knack for provocation and cultural subversion have contributed. Both have moved from the margins of artistic and academic cultures to the center of new visions and new discourses. However, their visions are not identical, and this difference has least to do with their different social status: Giger has never frolicked with the academic, while Haraway has never been cast for Alien, even for a minor role. It is therefore with trepidation that I invite you to couple these two visionaries in an intense academic embrace of the most hybrid and Gothic type. The aim of this exercise is to compare their two visions and to try and understand the cultural and political significance of their divergences. I will first demonstrate the extent to which the cyborg and the biomechanoid discourses share a rhetoric of spectralization and one of subversion. I will then argue that in Haraway and Giger this double rhetoric is a means of dismantling the Western family culture based on an organic conception of self and reality. However, I will show that Giger's and Haraway's visions are dissimilar because they diverge at the level of epistemology and gender politics. I will conclude by questioning the validity of Gothic cult and rhetoric in today's cybernetic culture.
"Building the Gothic Image in America: Changing Icons, Changing Times"
The Gothic image in the built environment in America has differed in appearance, purpose, and function from that found in Europe. While Gothic architecture in Britain or Western Europe represents a revival (however inaccurate) of a genuine medieval past, American Gothic is bricolage: bits and pieces of various traditions, transformed and superimposed upon a new landscape and a different culture. American Gothic must always be fantastic, because it "revives" an alternate history, a time and place that never existed.
America's first Gothic Revival, beginning in the 1820s and continuing through the nineteenth century, resulted from the impulse to clothe a raw, new country in the garments of a proper historical past: in this, it resembled the Greek Classical revival that was its contemporary. It is no coincidence that Gothic became the style of choice for colleges, especially military colleges, and, through a strange transmutation, for Protestant churches, Northern Baptist and Congregationalist as well as Episcopalian. Apologists for the style cleansed it of all association with Roman Catholicism and tyranny, dwelling instead on its innate nobility and heaven-aspiring form. Domestic Gothic architecture married whimsy with respectability, creating wooden masterpieces ranging in size from cottage to mansion. The landscapes of the Hudson and other Eastern rivers were remade in the image of the Rhine, with castles and even a few Gothic follies of ruins.
America's aristocracy of wealth embraced the Gothic as the outward sign of their triumph in the New World. Robber barons of railroads, steel, coal and newspapers erected the castles that now symbolize the excesses of the pre-income tax era. Today, Hearst Castle, the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Mass., Newport's Belcourt Castle, Cape Ann's Hammond Castle, and many others serve as museums to enshrine the memory of their builders.
The most recent Gothic revival--that fascination with horror and medievalism born of the 60s and roaring on unabated--manifests itself in images at once more ephemeral and more fantastic. Instead of castles, we find the temporary structures--Medieval Potemkin villages--designed for Renaissance Faires; instead of churches, S&M nightclubs and jousting dinner theaters; instead of charming follies, private dungeons. The twin and opposing icons of Cinderella's Castle, the symbol of the Disney empire, and the Hotel Excalibur, Las Vegas's contribution to Gothic culture, stand witness to American fascination with Gothic medievalism at the turn of the millennium.
I will examine the changing functions of these and other outward manifestations of the Gothic image in America, and show how a fascination with the Gothic and the medieval was transformed from a pastime of the wealthy and powerful elite few to the populist masscult many, reflected in the most ephemeral "built environment" of all, cyberspace.
Jean Paul Riquelme
"Not a Reading of Dracula, But the Reading of It."
Central to my commentary would be consideration of the odd position we are in because Mina Harker is the editorial source of the book's language as well as an ambiguous figure within the narrative. The paper would describe the ways in which Stoker's styles encourage in the reader in small and large ways a process of hesitation, rereading, reconsideration, and critique. The small ways involve words, phrases, dialects, malapropisms, and figures of speech that undermine immediate apprehension or enable supplementary understandings belatedly to produce a reflexive, transformative reading process. The large ways involve the various narrations (especially their fragmented or intermittent or discontinuous qualities), the textualized and mediatized character of the narrative's discourses, and other discursive structures that disturb the continuity of reading (by comparison with the reading of a realistic narration). My claim would be that the hesitating, stopping-and-restarting process of reading is also an analytic process that regularly distances the reader from the narration by preventing immediate, or even at times eventual, understanding and acceptance of what the narration presents. That analytic, skeptical process carries through to the book's end, which, rather than gaining our assent, like many earlier moments in Dracula, invites us to take a stand that differs from what the narrating character or other characters within the narrative assert. The paper, then, would take a stand against the many readings of Dracula that portray the ending to be a conventional Gothic closing that restores bourgeois orderliness to the narrative's world.
"Meat is Murder: The Gothic and the Grotesque in Margaret Atwoods Alias Grace"
Throughout Alias Grace Atwood teases her readers through the ambivalence of her allusions to gothic conventions. Her narrative involves the beautiful and threatened young woman (who may or may not be innocent), the supernatural (which may just be a hoax), and confusions of identity. Above all, she plays with the borders between the gothic and the grotesque. In this novel. doctors, butchers, and murderers are linked through metaphors of food andthe body and through the imaginations of various characters. This paper will examine doctors as butchers, bodies (dead and alive) as meat, and explores connections between sexual hunger and the hunger of poverty in relation to the themes of innocence and repressed knowledge.
Throughout Alias Grace, doctors figure as butchers
in Graces imagination. This notion originates with Mary
Whitneys death after an abortionist "took a knife
to her, and cut something inside" (204). Marys death
is a punishment for her sex and class, and Grace sees both the
doctor and Marys unknown gentleman as murderers. The room
where Mary dies smells like a butchers shop; Grace tells
Agnes that whoever the man is he is "most likely enjoying
his breakfast at this very moment, and not having any thoughts
about Mary, no more than if she was a carcass hung up at the
butchers" (207). When Dr. Bannerling touches Graces
breast and she bites him, he tastes like raw sausage (37). The
doctor at the Governors wifes house who causes Grace
to faint reminds her of both these doctors, with his black leather
bag of glinting knives and his hand like "a glove stuffed
with raw meat" (31). To Grace, doctors are a portent of
death, "even when they are not doing the killing themselves"(29
"'In the Shadow of Monstrosities': the Gothic in Pat Barker's Another World"
From Pat Barker's earliest novels, her critique of class and gender and the intersection of institutional and personal violence in twentieth-century Britain has been as realist as it is materialist. Another World (1998) is no exception, written as it is in part in response to the 1995 murder in Liverpool of two-year-old James Bulger and the chilling level of rage directed by the community--neighbours of the killers and the victim, the media, the judicial system and the Labour Government--towards the two ten-year-old boys convicted of the murder. My focus in this paper, however, will be the haunting of a highly politicised realism by the Gothic, in this novel in particular, and (glancingly) in Barker's fictions in general. I will consider ways in which she self-consciously uses Gothic intertexts and tropes both in her critique of the mirroring violence, repression and entrapment that structure the institutions of the family and the state, and in her interrogation of a historicity which, as another recent Booker winner, A.S. Byatt, has pointed out, returns to "possess" us as we undertake the act of naming, narrativising, possessing history.
"'Wildered, wan, and panting': Percy Shelleys Gothic Genderings"
Matthew Arnolds infamous quote about Percy Shelley,
"in poetry, no less than life, he is a beautiful and
ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in
vain," is merely the most famous instance of the process
of Shelleys effeminisation. Painting Shelley as ethereal
was one method of robbing him of his political concerns, which
included equality for women, however problematic his own relationships
with women, in both life and work, may have been. Moreover, Shelleys
love of the Gothic intersects with his serious play with gender;
he self-consciously used the mask of the effeminate male in order
to both suppress his own violent temper and to manipulate others
through fear and /or passivity. I will place Shelley in his historical
context, namely a masculinist England in the wake of the feminised
and demonised French Revolution to discover why commentators
on Shelley, particularly some of his male friends, oscillated
between portraying Shelley as simultaneously manly and feminised.
Shelley made masculinity a much more open proposition by allowing
femininity an equal place in his character. Shelleys refusal
to be posited as wholly masculine therefore has profound political
repercussions. Like the repressive aspects of ideology, being
wholly masculine is limiting. Therefore, Shelleys love
of the Gothic as well as his effeminacy enable commentators to
neutralise his radical political concerns, a process I hope to
help alter in this paper.
"Housebroken: Or, At Home with Haunting in Dicken's Bleak
House and Morrison's Paradise"
[My paper] gives a comparative reading of the operation of
domestic ideology in the two novels. I do so by analyzing the
ways the authors employ gothic conventions to mark anxieties
concerning the cultural and material significance of constructing
(or failing to construct) a "home" in accordance with
the mandates of domestic ideology.
"Acts of the Witching Imagination: Coleridge's Re-Visionary
Coleridge's criticisms of contemporary Gothic fiction are well known, as are his own supernatural poems written around the same time. Their coincidence suggests that his contribution to the genre was a self-aware and deliberate response. I will argue that Coleridge rewrote Gothic in accord with "supernatural" or "visionary" experiences of his own, experiences that challenged the popular representation of such phenomena. Although their influence can be traced through many of Coleridge's poems, my discussion will focus mainly on "Christabel," his seemingly most conventional Gothic work.
Often considered a literature in which irrational, destabilizing psychological forces found expression, Gothic fiction at the end of the eighteenth century can be seen as extremely rationalistic in its treatment of the supernatural. Genre-setting works like those of Walpole, Radcliffe, and Lewis, however diverse they may be, share a strategy of division and displacement. By predicating their portents and horrors (even when ultimately " explained, " as in the case of Radcliffe) on alterity of some kind--whether the " dark ages, " Catholicism, superstition, or undisciplined imagination--they maintain their allegiance to reason while indulging in the "departure from consensus reality" that, in Kathryn Huroe's theory, constitutes "fantasy" (Fantasy and Mimesis, 1984). Through this dual movement of dissociation and appropriation they effectively equate the supernatural with the imaginary , and the real with the empirically verifiable.
For Coleridge, however, the real and the imaginary were not so absolute, and the supernatural was not merely a category of superstition or literary play. The recent work of Jess Byron Hollenback on the "empowered imagination" in mystical and paranormal experience (Mysticism: Experience, Response, and Empowerment, 1996) sheds new light on Coleridge's writings on dreams, visions, and apparitions. It helps reveal Coleridge's belief in the mind's power in certain states of consciousness to give "outness" to thought and image. Conflating Hollenback's term and Coleridge's own "witching time" The Friend 1: 140), I call this power the "witching imagination. " Coleridge located encounters with ghosts, angels, demons, and other visitants in a quasi-material dimension created by the witching imagination. This intermediate space, the "spectral realm" as I name it, blurs the boundary between the real and the imaginary that rationalist supernaturalism depends upon. Although Coleridge never finally accepted his projections as encounters with the spirit-world, he was haunted by spectres and phantoms nonetheless. His experience produced a "re-visionary" Gothic that questions both otherworldly intrusion and the rationalism that displaces and exploits it.
In contrast, then, to the "manufactures" of Gothic "Horror and Mystery" whom he derides (e.g. Collected Letters 1: 318, Shorter Works and Fragments 1: 58), Coleridge problematizes supernatural encounter. In "Christabel, " which incorporates many Gothic conventions of place, time, and character, he expresses the effects of the witching imagination's power on the projector-percipient: the substantiality of nightmare diminishes the ontological status of the dreamer. The supernatural Geraldine is both real and imaginary , a dream creature materialized. Her prolonged encounter with Christabel, especially her controversial embrace, fractures the identity of Christabel and ultimately results in her dislocation and "spectrification." As dream becomes reality , substance and shadow exchange places.
By expressing in poetry the acts of the witching imagination,
Coleridge created a paradox troubling to readers, as contemporary
reviews show, rather than a stable escape from consensus reality.
In the end, his supernatural creatures and poems were perhaps
more subversive than otherworldly intrusions and their representations
ever could be, for they manifested the power of imagination to
penetrate reality and erode the boundaries we live by.
Thursday Panel 2: Postcolonial Gothic
In his 1996 critical study Gothic, Fred Botting argued that
the genre is underpinned by an uneasy relationship between the
consciousness of impending current cultural crisis, and the desire
to affirm the stability of the known. The Gothic is, in this
sense, preoccupied with the exploration of the threatened collapse
of cultural and epistemological boundaries. The Gothic has always
constructed images of monstrosity, barbarism, and racial and
personal degeneration. The Gothic has often dramatised the seemingly
fragile spaces between known terrains (whether geographical or
epistemological) and the Unheimlich. Gothic, in this sense,
may be read as illustrating Mary Louise Pratt's notion of 'the
contact zone', a space 'where disparate cultures meet, clash,
grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations
of domination and subordination.'
Stoker's views on America illuminate how his attitude towards American colonialism alters over the period between his socio-political account of modern America published as A Glimpse of America (1886) and his 1902 novel The Mystery of the Sea. Stoker's demonisation of America in Dracula (1897) and The Mystery of the Sea reflects on his own position as an emigré member of the Irish Protestant Ascendancy, although one who supported Home Rule for Ireland. Home Rule, in its Gladstonian form, the form supported by Stoker, meant that Ireland would play a role in the Union which Ireland could only benefit from, even if its projected parliament would be subservient to Westminster. It is this position which influences Stoker ambivalent view of colonialism. My central argument is that Stoker can be related to a colonial context (his support for Britain) and a postcolonial context (his rejection of America's colonial ambitions).
Franco Moretti claims in Signs Taken for Wonders that Quincey Morris, the American frontiersman in Dracula is, symbolically, a vampiric rival to the Count's whose ambitions for the subjugation of Europe Morris shares. I develop this idea through the conceptual framework of Postcolonial thought. I argue that Stoker's view of America is governed by a postcolonial ambition to replace subjugation with models of appeasement and reconciliation. Colonial adventurers and feudal anomalies, such as Count Dracula, have no place in Stoker's postcolonial politics as he tries to embrace the possibility of a harmonious community that exists outside such territorial disputes and Imperial ambitions. In The Mystery of the Sea, Stoker makes these issues explicit by referencing both the war between America and Spain over Cuba (the war of 1895/1898) and the earlier conflict between Spain and England in the sixteenth century; the latter enabling Stoker to introduce the theme of Catholic and Protestant hostility. The novel attempts to formulate the possibility of a peace settlement between Don Escoban, a descendent of one of the combatants who drowned in the defeat of the Armada, and the American heroine, Marjory Drake (a descendent of Sir Francis Drake) a millionaire whose support for American aggression against Spain is underlined in her purchase of a battleship for the American navy.
The novel brings Europe and America together via marriage between the English narrator, Archibald Hunter, and Marjory. However, before the marriage Marjory makes a series of quasi-political speeches concerning her American forefathers; speeches in which she outlines the heroism of her bloodlines. It is these speeches which share a rhetorical alignment with Count Dracula's claims about his own heroic bloodlines and so suggest that Marjory, significantly when referring to nation, should be seen in vampiric terms. The novel however, moves beyond this demonisation and a peace settlement between Spain and America and Catholic and Protestant becomes brokered in a Celtic country (the novel is set in Scotland and functions as territorial contact zone). It is therefore clear that the novel produces a sketch of a solution to both colonial aggression and the religious problems of Ireland.
I will finally explore Stoker's view of colonialism in The Lady of the Shroud (1909), where the British Union is celebrated at the expense of America's Imperial ambitions. In this novel, it is revealing that a journalist from Free America reports the ceremonials that inaugurate the Balkan federation. Here America is positioned as an outside observer of the construction of a new, European, power that is built on British lines. The novel thus reveals a faith in the idea of political union, through the deeds of the heroic Rupert Sent Leger (a Union supporting Scotsman).
"Undead Fashion: Nineties Style and the Perennial Return of Goth"
This paper seeks to relate the so-called "Goth"
subculture of the 1980s and 1990s to its appropriation by high
fashion in the 1990s. The final decade of the last century saw
British style magazines proclaim a "Gothic revival "
in high fashion, based on the work of designers such as Alexander
McQueen, as well as a perceived resurgence of interest in "the
dark side" sparked by millennial culture. Like Dracula,
Gothic fashion is constantly revisited by the trope of the undead.
It is continually undergoing a "revival", despite the
fact that according to popular perception it has never really
died in the first place. In this paper I intend to explore the
way in which Gothic conventions pervade discussions of Gothic
fashion, the language of style magazines repeating the clichés
of Gothic criticism. My argument is that Goth, like most contemporary
subcultures, is in a perpetual state of process and redefinition,
a set of discourses rather than a fixed identity. As such any
attempt on the part of the popular media to characterise Goth
will inevitably fall into stereotype. However, I conclude that
the role of stereotype in Goth culture is ultimately ambiguous,
as the animation of certain cultural stereotypes through dress
is also an important aspect of Goth fantasy life, a means of
exploring alternative identities and sexualities, and therefore
"Gothic Women and Vocal Eruptions in Poe, Stowe, and Melville,"
[Thise paper] explores how late 18th century concerns over America's linguisticality, reflected in Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland (1798), become gendered in the mid-nineteenth century Gothic figure of the strange woman speaker in texts by Edgar Allen Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Herman Melville; this recurring Gothic figure highlights the accruing cultural and national significance attributed to women's voices, increasingly uncontainable within a narrative of national identity. These vocal "eruptions" replicate a critical perspective that reads the gothic as "erupting" into more conventional discourse and reveals its critical currency: in Foucauldian terms, the gothic becomes the opposition that allows our discourse to continue.
"Mr. Sludge and Mrs. Oliphant: Victorian Negotiations with the Dead"
The Victorian culture of death--jet ear-rings, black-edged
stationery, Little Nell and all--is notorious. The epitome of
one aspect of that culture, In Memoriam, provides a narrative
of an ongoing relationship between the living poet and the beloved
dead, the kind of relationship that other members of the Tennyson
family--and many others--pursued through their Spiritualist activities.
Spiritualist exploitations of mourners like these are among the
targets of Robert Browning's anger in "Mr. Sludge-the 'Medium.'
" It is in this context--a context which produced numerous
ghost stories in the second half of the nineteenth century--that
I will examine the extraordinary series of stories of the supernatural
that Margaret Oliphant produced in the early 1880s. These stories
focus not on the longing of the living for the dead but on the
concern for the dead with the living. The most striking of these
narratives is undoubtedly her full-length novel, The Beleaguered
City (1880), where the dead besiege the living and expel
them from their homes. In a shorter piece, "The Portrait"
(from Stories of the Seen and the Unseen, 1885), Oliphant
focuses more narrowly on one household that is transformed-arguably
brought to life again--by the active intervention of its own
"The Specter of Endogamy in American Fiction"
Going by the gothic fiction originating on the western side of the Atlantic, it is safe to say that the newly created United States was not haunted by a history of customs and traditions so much as by the lack of such a history. There are, to be sure, numerous novels (Julia, Amelia, Adventures in a Castle) that reproduce the romance trappings of the European gothic. Whenever American fiction relocated the gothic experience--a narrative that violated aristocratic kinship patterns--on an American landscape, however, that narrative underwent important changes. In America, the secrets of a European past do not disrupt a social hierarchy based on birth but preclude the possibility of participation in a modern civil society. Ventriloquism, magic, mesmerism--the magic we find in Brockden Brown's novels--do not dredge up the past in order to rectify kinship relations in the present. In American gothic such magic ultimately overthrows blood ties that survive at the expense of individual choice and the ability to create a new household. A narrative staged in a New Jersey castle proved as ridiculous to early reviewers as it does to today's reader. The general failure of such fiction prompts me to ask for what kind of gothic, if not for that in the European tradition, is the distinctively non-European landscape of British North America an appropriate setting?
Historians call our attention to a pervasive concern among colonial writers with the possibility that the natural climate and landscape could change the identity of the British subjects who lived there. The fear that a different national environment might change English identity can be seen I believe, in the captivity narrative, one of the earliest narrative forms indigenous to America. Mary Rowlandson, arguably the most famous author-narrator-heroine of such an account of Indian captivity, searches the landscape for signs of an English presence, as she resists the pernicious influences of that landscape over her mind and body. It is not so difficult to understand why members of the early settler colonies should fear the erosion of their English identity in an American wilderness populated by savages. By the same token, however, it makes little sense that questions of landscape and climate should concern readers and writers after the formation of the new United States. By the time of Cooper's historical romances, the captivity narrative had been revised to demonstrate the virtues of adjustment and assimilation as the narrative of Mary Jemison suggests. The persistence of an archaic identity in an American landscape where it just isn't natural is what animates gothic fantasies.
Brief glances at Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher," Hawthorne's "Rappacini's Daughter," and the Simon Legree section of Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin should suffice to demonstrate that the United States had significantly revised the gothic form it had imported from England. In nineteenth-century America, the gothic devices render phobic the very endogamous practices that had insured the purity of a diasporic community. Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher" equates the endogamous imperative necessary for maintaining Creole cultures with live burial. So radical is this form of self-enclosure that it quite literally dissolves the European architecture of the ancien regime into the surrounding American landscape. After suggesting how Hawthorne's "Rappacini's Daughter" makes a similar point, I will close with a brief look at the migration of the gothic into such mainstream popular fiction as Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin where the gothic is used to characterize the regional practices-specifically the sexual practices associated with slavery-- of the anti-diluvian south. In the case of these writers, I contend, gothic devices represent the lethal effects of endogamy and blame threats to civil society on the persistence of an archaic European past.
"Republican Gothic: Melville's 'The Bell-Tower' Reconsidered"
It has been over forty years since Leslie Fiedler described American literature in his seminal work Love and Death in the American Novel as being, of all fiction in the Western tradition, the "most deeply influenced by the gothic,...almost essentially a gothic one [fiction]" (129). While Fiedler failed to elucidate the Gothic aspects of the works of Herman Mellville in that study, subsequent scholars have undertaken this enterprise. Curiously, with the exception of an essay by Jay Macpherson, Melville's short story, "The Bell-Tower" (1855) has, to date, garnered little critical attention as a Gothic production -- this, despite its undeniable Gothic makeup as a tale chronicling the "wages" of sin/transgression. Although insightful, Macpherson's examination of Frankenstein's role as a parent text to "The Bell-Tower" fails to fully contextualize Melvill's story in the light of its socio-historical and cultural cntexts. While perceptive, Macpherson's reading of the bell in Melville's tale as a symbolic Liberty Bell neither illuminates nor interprets the nature and implications of this story's traditionally Gothic tensions as delineated in such works as Maggie Kilgour's The Rise of the Gothic Novel and Fred Botting's Gothic -- tensions, for example, between such ideas as feudalism and modernity, individuality and community, faith and science. The essay . . . . [involves] a detailed examination of such tensions in the light of contemporary debates about the nature and direction of the young Republic. In this regard, a further, and perhaps more significant, objective will involve situating Melville's largely neglected story within a speicifcally American tradition that may be called Republican Gothic, which centres -- among other things -- upon the construction and (usually) destruction of symbolic edifices/structures and the vexed questions of justice and inheritance in the young Republic. Comparisons will be drawn between Melivlle's story and other preeminent examples within this tradition such as Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland, or the Transformation (1798) and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables (1891).
"Cultures of Being, Cults of Becoming:
History, Objectification and the Subject of Gothic Narrative"
This paper seeks to investigate the being/becoming divide as it articulates itself with the historical construction of the subject in a selection of late eighteenth-century Gothic writers. Following Michel Foucault in The Order of Things, the nascent concept of man, particularly as it is constituted in discourse towards the end of the classical episteme, renders the human subject the subject of history at the moment of its formation. History in this sense, though, is not to be conceptualised as that vast epistemic system of discourses and practices which will serve as Foucault's predominant interest throughout most of his oeuvre, but rather as a personal past or private historical narrative that is held to be constitutive of man's being; it is with the birth of man at the end of the eighteenth century, Foucault argues, that man's history, or (his) experiences through time, are conceptualised as determinants or constituents of selfhood. In Discipline and Punish, moreover, Foucault will develop this notion by arguing that in addition to the objectifying effects of the concept of man itself, the modern subject's relation to a personal historical narrative, be it in the form of dossiers, documents, files, reports or a number of other archival sources, is a manifestation of the workings of modern disciplinary power, and thus functions as a mode for the further objectification of the subject. Through drawing upon specific texts by a range of eighteenth-century Gothic writers, including Ann Radcliffe, Sophia Lee, Charlotte Dacre and Maria Regina Roche, this paper will argue that the subject of Gothic narrative is invariably the subject of a personal history, to such an extent that (her) being is frequently conceptualised as little more than the sum-total or constitutive effect of (her) past. As the paper will argue, this frequently manifests itself in eighteenth-century Gothic narrative through the trope of victimisation, according to which the subject is passively inscribed within, or utterly written and determined by, (her) historical experiences across time. In addition to this, the Gothic subject's objectification through, and subjection to a personal history is manifested through the functions and effects of memory and recollection, as well as the compulsion to construct the self through the telling of a private historical narrative. It is in these various senses, then, that the Gothic may be said to inscribe a culture of historical being, or selfhood as it is determined and objectified in relation to the subject's history. However, where the Gothic seems to differentiate itself from this Foucauldian schema is that it also seeks to articulate a sense of becoming, or a process in which the subject actively "works through" the past and in so doing initiates a continuous and interminable process of moving beyond the objectifications of history. In addressing this notion of what is ostensibly a cult of Gothic becoming, the paper will draw upon certain psychoanalytic notions, and especially Freud and Lacan's theorising of the subject's relation to a private history in the analytic scenario. The Lacanian distinctions between primary and secondary historicisation, for example, come by way of an attempt at remediating the subject's deathly return to a past which remains foreclosed in the real, and in so doing, initiates a therapeutic process of interminable becoming at the limit of historical objectifications. Through reference to certain Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, then, the paper insinuates itself with a critique of the Foucauldian subject, especially the sense in which Foucault's critique and subsequent elision of desire ironically only serves further to objectify the subject of history in a culture of historical being.
"Labelled 'Monstrous': The Criminology of Frankenstein"
"'The Consideration of Modern Degeneracy': Gothic Revivalism and the Architectural Design of A. W. N. Pugin"
Many critics of architecture, including John Canaday, claim
that the greatest buildings are appropriate to the "activities
most closely connected with the spirit that dominates the age"
(Keys to Art 26). Understanding this, but rejecting the
spirit of his age, the eccentric and brilliant Gothic Revivalist
A. W. N. Pugin turned toward the Gothic styles of a previous
age for his architectural designs. Expressing deep disgust over
the irresponsible authority and deep stratification of his society,
as well as the general lack of imagination, depth, and devotion
of the people (which
Linda R. Walvoord
"Miss Habersham, Gothic Woman: From Dickens to Faulkner"
In Dickens' Great Expectations, Miss Havisham adds to Pip's terrors and trials as a half-crazed, aging woman who was jilted and takes her revenge in bizarre playacting and macabre scenes. When Faulkner wrote Intruder in the Dust, he borrowed the ghost of Dickens' character, at the least a literary allusion, in order to challenge not only the culture of the community but also the conceptions of the south. The session reads passages involving Miss Habersham in Faulkner for 15 minutes, provides a plot handout, and discusses her role as both "intruder" and keeper of secrets, exploring the gothic female borrowed from English tradition in Faulkner's novel.
"'The ghost of a forgotten form of sleep': Full and Empty Signs In the 'Shape All Light' of Shelley's The Triumph of Life"
I would like to explore what I propose are the consciously
planned deconstructions and constructions of image and sign in
this complex phantom. I think one of the best ways to see it
is to align it with Shelley's continuing interest in the Gothic
mode and to compare it with this theme in the major poetry and
prose. In doing so I hope to uncover what Shelley might have
thought were the criminal transgressions in this seemingly light-filled
image. I will ask whether Shelley's Shape, is after all, a refined
and gothic ghost, a virtual and inner demon that while offering
progress is actually a counterfeit, "the ghost of a forgotten
form of sleep".
"Gender Politics and the Gothic in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca"
My paper will address Alfred Hitchcock's movie Rebecca (1940) as a retrograde rewriting of the heroine-centered Gothic that can be traced from Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (1847) and beyond. Analyzing this Hollywood movie's depiction of marriage, I will argue that Rebecca can be seen as more conservative than the quasi-canonical British Gothic novels that it updates (though less so than the Daphne du Maurier novel on which it is based). My paper will thus raise questions concerning the hegemonic uses of the Gothic as it persists into twentieth-century popular culture.
As several critics have pointed out, the problematic ending
to Jane Eyre can be seen in terms of the Gothic conventions
of imprisonment and live burial (one woman's happy ever after
is another woman's dungeon). I will suggest that Rebecca
can similarly be read in terms of the unnamed heroine collaborating
in her own oppression. The heroine's husband Maxim de Winter
(like Bronte's Mr. Rochester, Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein,
and even Jane Austen's Henry Tilney) can be seen as a combination
hero/villain, one who both offers the heroine escape and threatens
her with danger -- if not the danger of imprisonment then a lack
of communication, love and understanding. Discussing the gothic
convention of the splitting and doubling of characters as it
plays out in Rebecca, I will show that while the danger
embodied by Maxim is partly split off onto other characters,
the second Mrs de Winter and Rebecca can be seen as two halves
of one person (both familiar Gothic female stereotypes, the innocent
heroine and the evil "Other Woman"). The movie tempts
us to hate and fear Rebecca just as we are invited to despise
various other passionate and dominant women in Gothic fiction
-- Laurentini in Udolpho, Baroness Lindenberg, the Bleeding
Nun and the Prioress in M. G. Lewis's The Monk (1796),
and Bertha in Jane Eyre. I aim to answer the question,
what is the meaning of Rebecca's death (the faithful dog Jasper
will not forgotten!) and the related question, what is the threat
posed by Rebecca?
"Hawthorne and His Readers"
[This paper] reads Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Alice Doane's Appeal" and The House of the Seven Gables as texts that utilize gothic tropes to make present, and thus attempt to contain, a complicated national history. Hawthorne's representations of readers in "Alice Doane" and his depiction of intersubjectivity in House, however, show the extent to which the use of the gothic as an affective space references a national past in order to create connections between individuals. In turn, Wooley argues that criticism of the gothic is similarly invested in the relationship between the affective experience of reading and the possibilities of intersubjectivity.
"Figuring the Global in Stoker's Lady of the Shroud"
In The Lady of the Shroud (1909), Bram Stoker traces the transformation of an idealized "primitive" culture, the Balkan Land of the Blue Mountains, into modern nationhood. This transformation is figuratively and literally enabled by the novel's most controversial feature: the fake vampire spectre known as the "lady of the shroud." As Jerrold E. Hogle has persuasively argued in a series of recent articles, in gothic fiction--especially early gothics--the counterfeit is the medium of symbolic exchange in the wake of the modern disassociation of signifier and signified. Hogle suggests that "hollowed-out signs of more antiquated Western power-centers (ghosts of counterfeits) " function "as ways to market or 'sell' the acquisitive and uncertainly grounded self in an increasingly capitalist world verging on the full arrival of mechanical reproduction." It is thus suggestive that Stoker's late gothic novel is named for and pivots on not the "ghost of the counterfeits," but the counterfeit of a ghost. But at issue here is not only the capitalist dimension of modernity, stressed by Hogle, but also modernity's dependence on globalism"
'The Terrorist System of Novel Writing': the (anti-)establishment of the Gothic genre in the periodical press of the 1790s".
My paper proposal reflects upon the central topic of the conference,
'Gothic Cults and Gothic Cultures', by exploring the initial
attempts to define the Gothic genre in the periodical reviews
of the 1790s. The anonymously-penned 'Terrorist Novel Writing'
of 1798 has been frequently cited as a satirical critique on
the numerous Gothic texts that flooded the literary marketplace
in the 1790s. And yet, paradoxically, this article and others
of its type contributed towards establishing the Gothic as a
literary genre. Until the appearance of such articles, the label
Gothic was not automatically associated with the emergent terror
fiction of the 1790s. Many of these satirical letters included
'ingredients' of the Gothic to highlight just how prescriptive
the critics found the fiction. In addition to the more famous
article I have cited above, I will also discuss the earlier formative
'The Terrorist System of Novel Writing' which was signed by 'A
Jacobin Novelist' and 'On the New Method of Inculcating Morality'
which was signed by 'Anti-Ghost'.
"Mesmerism, Narrative, Technology and Agency in Bulwer-Lytton's
"The House and the Brain."
Robert Lee Wolff, in Strange Stories, remarks that
Bulwer-Lytton's 1857 short story, "The Haunted and the Haunters;
or, The House and the Brain," "has always been regarded
as one of the best Victorian stories of the supernatural."
Wolff demonstrates that Bulwer-Lytton not only puts mesmerism
and spiritualism to imaginative use in the evocative, yet also
discursive tale, but makes a conveniently noncommital intervention
in the cultural debate over the legitimacy and value of the two
phenomena. Bulwer-Lytton, though fascinated by displays of mesmeric
control and somnambulistic clairvoyance, and an eager participant
in seances, was reluctant to lend any cultural capital to the
"cultic" phenomena o fmesmerism and spiritualism through
an unambiguous public endorsement. Instead, through the unnamed,
confident scientific narrator-protagonist of his tale, he articulates
his position, disappointing to proponents of the pseudo-science
and the spiritualists alike, that there is truth to their claims,
but that there is little to be gained from induced clairvoyance
or intercourse with soul-less phantoms. Ironically though, Bulwer-Lytton's
dismissive evaluation of the supposed "wonders" of
the new "science" of mesmerism -- "they are alike
objectless, purposeless, puerile, frivolous" reflexively
implicates his own tale which features, so prominently, these
"Gothic, cultic and filmic Jouissance and the Thing in "Fight Club."
The film "Fight Club," with its fusion of gothic
with the satiric, reprises the psychological motif of the disavowed
alter-ego in the context of a post-modern, cynical, consumerist
world of Baudrillardian simulation, where "everything's
a copy of a copy of a copy." It can also be approached as
a remarkably self-conscious exploration of the distinction between
what Jacques Lacan calls "jouissance" and desire, and
an incisive, parabolic, and highly self-reflexive elaboration
of the characteristics, functions, effects and implications of
jouissance at several distinct levels of operation: in the
individual subject, the group, the social (the symbolic network),
the film itself (and more broadly cinema), and the audience's
culturally constructed engagement with aspects of mass entertainment,
most notably, "the star."
"Force of Evil: The Gothic in Film Noir"
Scholars and enthusiasts of Gothic literature struggle to
define its essence--to differentiate between British and American
forms along with distinguishing male from female approaches.
Gothicists examine literary works to locate the influences that
foster a Gothic treatment. In the 19th century it was the repressive
climate of the Victorian era and its suffocating effect on social
norms and notions of intimacy. But gothicism is hardly an antique
locked away in a dark, dusty attic. Its modern echoes are evident
in the literature connected to the AIDS crisis and the devastation
it has wrought. That same fatalism also can been seen behind
the recent "Goth" counterculture, as expressed in music
and fashion, as well as in literture.
This paper will examine a particular kind of female Gothic. It is our contention that Gothic's propensity to constitute itself as a literature of terror needs to be constantly renewed as its tropes, by their very nature as figures of excess, teeter on the edge of self-parody. Seizing the moment at which features of Gothic form have become sufficiently established to become part of a cultural inheritance, some twentieth-century women writers, we will argue, have created comic Gothic fictions which have extended the boundaries of potential feminine identity. In some cases these achieved a cult status in their time, revitalizing worn-out forms in popular culture in a knowing and self-reflexive manner.
In the paper we shall examine some British examples of this mode of fiction, beginning with Stella Gibbons' 1932 novel, Cold Comfort Farm, a text which had considerable popular impact. Cold Comfort Farm pits Austenian rationality against Romantic Gothic sensibility evocative of Radcliffe and Emily Brontë, and proceeds to parody both these literary ancestors of a contemporary narrative of femininity. Gibbons' novel generates comic phrases which, for many years following its publication, captured the imagination of readers through their relish of unspoken dark deeds, especially that 'something nasty in the woodshed'. Written some fifty years later, Fay Weldon's The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983) also appropriates aspects of Gothic to spin a darkly comic tale of literary and literally constructed 'woman'. Alongside these two British novels, we shall also look at the Canadian novel published a year earlier than Weldon's, Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood, which engages playfully with the relationship between Gothic writing and the feminine.
We claim that such texts constitute a challenge to the grand récit of gender difference. Female writers of comic Gothic confront the stuff of patriarchy's nightmares (or, to use Anne Williams' term, nightmères) and transform it into fictions of wry scepticism or celebratory anarchy. Through parody as 'repetition with critical difference' (in Linda Hutcheon's words), the boundaries of gender difference are destabilized in the service of creating different possibilities for female subjectivity. In their resistance both to tragic closure and their recasting of the fears of patriarchal society from a feminine perspective, such texts transform a literature of terror into a literature of liberation.
|Back to Top of Page|