The annihilation of self and species
The ecoGothic sensibilities of Mary Shelley and Nathaniel Hawthorne
in The Gothic and death
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This chapter argues that Shelley and Hawthorne adapt traditional Gothic imagery to environmental contexts in order to create two distinctly different ecoGothic visions of the extinction of humanity. Drawing on ideas advanced by ecocritics, conservation biologists, and psychoanalytic thinkers, this chapter describes the historical context and emotional import of extinction science and its impact on Shelley and Hawthorne. Taking up The Last Man and The Ambitious Guest, respectively, the chapter contrasts Shelley’s view of nature as a indiscriminate force that slaughters millions of innocent humans, with Hawthorne’s view of nature as a vengeful force that punishes a small, symbolically significant group of sinful humans. It concludes by noting that it was Hawthorne’s brand of ecoGothic writing, not Shelley’s, that eventually became immensely popular with late-twentieth-century writers and filmmakers.

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