This chapter explores Will Self's novel Dorian, an updated version of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray set in the 1980s and 1990s. It revolves around a gay culture which has been affected by acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The focus is on Self's novel rather than on how it rewrites Wilde's Dorian Gray, because the emphasis of the enquiry is on the late twentieth century. Self's version of queer Gothic asserts the presence of an identity politics which, in its insistence on a grand debate about life and death, tends to obscure the politics of the queer Gothic. The central anxiety in Dorian concerns a fear of death in a secular culture. Henry Wotton is amongst those who become infected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), whereas Dorian appears to be immune to disease because his 'body' has been effectively transformed into Baz Hallwood's art installation, Cathode Narcissus.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book demonstrates that incest was representative of a range of interests crucial to writers of the Gothic, often women or homosexual men who adopted a critical stance in relation to the heteronormative patriarchal world. Incest, a sexual act associated with transgression, violations of power and violence, has readily been conflated with sexual violence in Gothic scholarship and consigned to one of two gendered plots. Sexuality, questions of ownership, inheritance, women's subjugation to male authority, laws of coverture and primogeniture and issues concerning gender roles pervade Gothic works from the mid-eighteenth century on. The incest thematic as employed by women writers in the early modern period is shown to be transgressively endogamic in Maureen Quilligan's excellent work on incest in Elizabethan England.
There are several problems that usually emerge in scholarship examining representations of father-daughter incest in the Gothic, even in works by scholars whose goal is to lay bare the feminist themes that are central to the genre. Principal among these is that representations of father-daughter incest often cause works to be placed in the gendered subgenre of Female Gothic and to be viewed through a lens predicated on this generic division. This chapter examines the incestuous relationships between fathers and daughters in Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest and Mary Shelley's Matilda and the texts' attendant scholarship. These three works have been selected in order to compare the way that incest is rendered in a representative chronology of Gothic texts beginning with what has been traditionally defined as the original Gothic novel.