Dangerous bodies

Historicising the gothic corporeal

Marie Mulvey-Roberts
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The body is a potential marker of monstrosity, identifying those who do not fit into the body politic. Irregularity and the grotesque have been associated with Gothic architecture and are also indicative of wayward flesh and its deformities. Through an investigation of the body and its oppression by the church, the medical profession and the state, this book reveals the actual horrors lying beneath fictional horror in settings as diverse as the monastic community, slave plantation, operating theatre, Jewish ghetto and battlefield trench. Original readings of canonical Gothic literary and film texts include The Castle of Otranto, The Monk, Frankenstein, Dracula and Nosferatu. This collection of fictionalised dangerous bodies will be traced back to the effects of the English Reformation, Spanish Inquisition, French Revolution, Caribbean slavery, Victorian medical malpractice, European anti-Semitism and finally warfare, ranging from the Crimean up to the Vietnam War. Dangerous Bodies demonstrates how the Gothic corpus is haunted by a tangible sense of corporeality, often at its most visceral. Chapters set out to vocalise specific body parts such as skin, genitals, the nose and eyes, as well as blood. The endangered or dangerous body lies at the centre of the clash between victim and persecutor and has generated tales of terror and narratives of horror, which function to either salve, purge or dangerously perpetuate such oppositions. This ground-breaking book will be of interest to academics and students of Gothic studies, gender and film studies and especially to readers interested in the relationship between history and literature.

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Winner of the Alan Lloyd Smith Memorial Prize, 2018


‘Mulvey-Roberts has put together an excellent text that is soundly designed and structured, rigorously documented and supported through compact and learned endnotes, and includes cogently argued concepts, analyses, and interpretations. Dangerous Bodies:Historicising the Gothic Corporeal will, I hope, become a standard text for the field.'
Edmund Cueva
The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies 16
Autumn 2017

‘Admirable! Now at last I know what "Gothic" means.'
Fay Weldon

‘This book breaks new ground in Gothic studies by relating a series of enduring images of the body in torment to actual historical events and trends, showing how these images are not conjured up out of thin air but instead form a series of representations, however distorted, of man's continuing inhumanity to man, whether through religious persecution or perversions of medical practice. A significant addition to the body of writing on the Gothic, the study of Gothic as writing on the body.'
Professor David Punter, University of Bristol

‘This exceptionally well-argued volume breaks new ground in liking the representations of the monstrous body to the historical traumas that culture responds to, and neatly illuminates the dialectic relationship between the Gothic body of work and the work of the Gothic body.
Gothic Studies

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