Deadly interrogations
Cycles of death and transcendence in Byron’s Gothic
in The Gothic and death
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A number of Byron’s works – in particular The Two Foscari but also The Prisoner of Chillon, Manfred, and Sardanapalus – can be located firmly within the Gothic. The tyrannical burden exerted by ancestry, for example, is a Gothic theme seen in these works, while The Prisoner of Chillon and The Two Foscari also feature the Gothic scenarios of incarceration and torture: in both cases that which is loved and familial repeatedly becomes a source of pain and death. Yet Byron also moves beyond the Gothic view of death by presenting so many figures, from Manfred to Jacopo Foscari, who appear to actively exhibit a death drive, which is dramatised as a means of transcending different forms and conditions of imprisonment and torture. Death is a repeated event in these works where significant and extended claims are also made by Byron for the existence of variously imagined (mental, physical, and textual) afterlives.

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