Cruelty, Darkness and the Body in Janice Galloway, Alison Kennedy and Louise Welsh
This essay seeks to define a Gothic tendency in the ‘viscerality’ of some recent and prominent Scottish women writers: Janice Galloway, Alison Kennedy and Louise Welsh. The argument addresses an alienating tension in this ‘viscerality’ between a fabular form and the impression of a new realism of social surfaces. This is a Gothic of cruelty and violent representation of the body, which opens a Scottish urban culture, portrayed as a synecdoche for divided consciousness, to fables of sexual and political alienation.
James Robertson‘s well-deserved reputation as a historical novelist has obscured the role that the Gothic plays in his work. Manifesting itself in distinctively Scottish fashion, Robertson‘s Gothicism is tied to the ‘broader national culture’ in general and to post-devolutionary Scotland in particular. Not only does his transformation of the Gothic into the historical novels uncanny other resist the modern novels tendency towards increasing privatisation. It also results in work that diverges from much post-devolutionary Scottish fiction in that his stories and novels are, by virtue of the density of their Scottishness, deeply connected to the local and to folk culture.
This article approaches a range of contemporary Scottish fiction: Iain Banks‘s Complicity and A Song of Stone, Irvine Welsh‘s Filth, Michel Faber‘s Under the Skin, James Robertson‘s Joseph Knight, Alan Guthrie‘s Savage Night and selected stories from Alan Bissett‘s Scottish Gothic anthology, Damage Land. The theme the article traces is pity, whether seen in a national or historical context, or as part of a wider panoply of what one might think of as ‘Gothic emotions’. The main contention is that it is possible that we reduce the scope of Gothic when we think of it as merely conducing to terror; whether we think of the earliest Gothic novels or of contemporary writing, there are often other feelings being stirred, a wider range of sensibilities being explored.
The journey North is a recurrent motif throughout the Gothic literary tradition, often representing a journey back in time to a more primitive location where conventional rules do not apply. Within the context of contemporary Scottish Gothic this journey continues to involve a temporal regression. The North of Scotland, and specifically the Highlands, is still a Gothic location, allowing for an interrogation of the homogenising notion of ‘national identity’. In this article the journey North is explored in the work of contemporary writers and film directors including Iain Banks, Alan Warner, David Mackenzie, and Neil Marshall.
The Gothic-Fantastic in Soviet Socialist Realist Literature
The European Gothic novel was an enormous influence on nineteenth-century Russian fiction, as shown by the works of Pushkin, Dostoievskii and many other major novelists. However, both Russian and Western critics have ignored the survival of Gothic-fantastic themes and motifs in Russian literature of the Soviet period, not only in fiction by dissident writers but also within the officially promoted genre of Socialist Realism. The Gothic-fantastic mode continued to function as a resource for satire, speculation, and ideological re-evaluation throughout the Soviet period and up to the present day. This article identifies and analyses three Gothic texts selected from mainstream Soviet literature between 1920 and 1940 and discusses their interaction with ideological trends.
This article argues that Charles Maturins Melmoth the Wanderer embodies an ethical attitude towards its representations of Gothic violence and horror in the way that it self-reflexively stages its horrific scenes. By confronting its readers with a shifting distance from such violent scenes, the novel exposes readers to their own desire for and victimization by Gothic horror. While previous critics have tended to see Maturins novel as either glorying amorally in its excessive Gothic representations, or as recuperating its scenes of horror with a moral message, this article sees its ambiguous and undecidable attitude towards these scenes as embodying its ethical standpoint, a standpoint that challenges the illusion of literary coherence and that exposes its readers’ implication in the horror that lies traumatically within, and not safely outside, language.
This article considers the exploration of Gothic genericity within two of Mary Elizabeth Braddon‘s neglected penny blood fictions. It observes the way in which genericity comes to be associated with the Gothic as the supposedly disruptive influence of popular literatures is countered by Victorian reviewers. These emphasise such texts’ genericity in order to contain their influence and separate them from superior readerships and literature which is held to transcend generic limitations. Braddon‘s bloods explore this implicit association between the Gothic and genericity and suggest that the latter – identified in terms of the Gothic‘s status as an ephemeral commodity in the penny blood genre – actually enhances rather than limits, the Gothic‘s agency.
This article reviews the exhibition _Gothic: Dark Glamour_, held at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, September 5 2008 – February 21 2009. It also considers the eponymous volume published alongside the exhibition by Valerie Steele and Jennifer Park. The exhibition was the first of international significance to identify and explore the influence of Gothic on contemporary fashion by both major label designers and small subcultural producers. The article hails the exhibition as a landmark event and investigates the various Gothic/fashion narratives it,puts forward, including veiling motifs, subcultural style, grotesque and perverse bodies, and the prevalence of British and Japanese design. The article concludes that the exhibition marks a moment in the glamorisation of the Gothic, in which it moves from being a minority to a mainstream interest.