Beyond the mid-century

in Mid-century gothic
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What became of mid-century gothic? As the 1950s progressed, its warnings about alien objects capable of infiltrating and intervening in the human realm were soon drowned out by the normative bellow of advertising and mass culture, and a new appetite for distracting pleasures took hold. An early example of this attitude can be seen in Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim (1954). Jim Dixon’s epiphanic yet tautological realisation that ‘nice things are nicer than nasty ones’ marks the moment when this turn begins in British literature. Non-commodities like rubble, junk and bombs recede from view; Dixon’s proto-countercultural rebellion is expressed in terms of a restless need for hedonic fulfillment which was arguably less subversive than the mid-century’s emergent critique of consumer desire.

Dixon is the archetype of a generation unhaunted by postwar trauma, and his insistence on grasping the available pleasures of the now is traced through Roland Barthes’s Mythologies (1957), Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (1964), and Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker.

Contemporary culture is increasingly alert to the power of autonomous digital objects, and uncanny agency and alien intimacy continue to focus our anxiety wherever the animate and inanimate become intermixed or interchangeable.

Mid-century gothic

The uncanny objects of modernity in British literature and culture after World War II



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