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.
This chapter pinpoints 27 December 1601 as the date of the first performance
of Twelfth Night – and demonstrates that Shakespeare wrote his play for two
audiences, one at Elizabeth’s Court, the other at the Inns of Court.