This chapter investigates the Gothic as a mode of writing that escaped generic literary boundaries during the British debates over the French Revolution in order to express more widespread fears of cultural decline. Positing the current ubiquity of the zombie as a resurgence of this Gothic mode, the chapter explores zombie-apocalypse texts as expressing a return of Malthusian worries about population growth, climate change, financial instability, and energy insecurity. The zombie-apocalypse genre, popularized by George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), released within a few years of U.S. peak oil production, has become a mainstay of global cinema, fiction, and television in the recent international scramble for alternative energy sources. These texts, like the Gothic in its first heyday, demonstrate a conflicted desire both to confront and dismiss problems that seem as inconceivable as they appear to be insoluble. Today’s zombie stands, then, much as the envisioned undead did for earlier British writers like Edmund Burke and Mary Wollstonecraft, as the spectre of regression so unimaginable within the reigning cultural narrative of the time that its nightmarish possibility may be repressed by the very same spectacle of apocalyptic carnage used to figure it.
The Gothic has become a dominant mode in children’s and young adult fiction published in the past decade. This chapter considers how Sonya Hartnett’s The Ghost’s Child (2007), Chris Priestley’s Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror (2007), Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (2008), and Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2011) all represent dead or ghostly children who, in diverse ways, work to critique or remedy adult actions, particularly through their interactions with history. Contemporary Gothic children’s literature is, this chapter argues, distinctly different from Gothic fictions for adults, which often represent children as the bearers of death. In contrast, Gothic children’s literature displaces the anxieties that ordinarily accompany the representation of child death in realist fiction.
Cycles of death and transcendence in Byron’s Gothic
A number of Byron’s works – in particular The Two Foscari but also The Prisoner of Chillon, Manfred, and Sardanapalus – can be located firmly within the Gothic. The tyrannical burden exerted by ancestry, for example, is a Gothic theme seen in these works, while The Prisoner of Chillon and The Two Foscari also feature the Gothic scenarios of incarceration and torture: in both cases that which is loved and familial repeatedly becomes a source of pain and death. Yet Byron also moves beyond the Gothic view of death by presenting so many figures, from Manfred to Jacopo Foscari, who appear to actively exhibit a death drive, which is dramatised as a means of transcending different forms and conditions of imprisonment and torture. Death is a repeated event in these works where significant and extended claims are also made by Byron for the existence of variously imagined (mental, physical, and textual) afterlives.
This chapter examines the ‘Lost World’ genre, a staple of late-Victorian popular fiction, exemplified by H. Rider Haggard’s stories featuring Allan Quatermain, and Ayesha, known as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. These fin-de-siècle tales, while ostensibly celebrating British Imperialism and the continuation of colonial power, reveal layers of anxiety concerning degeneration, the collapse of civilisation, the rise of the Victorian ‘new woman’, and perhaps most potently the fear of death. Canadian writer James De Mille, in his book A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, inverted Victorian values to satirise the capitalist economy, and the glorification of war, by creating the Lost World of the Kosekin where wealth is a burden and death worshipped. The presentation of the Lost World as a Gothic Space allows for a critical examination of the way that Victorian cultural certainties were challenged, by divergent belief systems, and the mystery and terror of death.
This chapter posits a psychoanalytic reading of Iginio Ugo Tarchetti’s short story I fatali (The Fated Ones) published posthumously in the collection Racconti fantastici (Fantastic Tales) (1869). It focuses on the mortal rivalry between the father and son figures, Count Sagrezwitch and Baron Saternez, who become known in late nineteenth-century Milanese society of the short story as true embodiments of fatal beings belonging to popular superstition, known as jinxes – bringers of bad fortune, illness, harm, and even death to others. Drawing from Otto Rank and Sigmund Freud’s conceptions of the Doppelgänger, it is argued that these protagonists emerge as complementary doubles for one another, as opposing incarnations of Death in the form of mysterious foreigners. This chapter also highlights the post-Unification, socio-cultural undertones of Tarchetti’s fantastic tale, affirms the existence of an Italian Gothic, and reveals the author’s portrayal of death’s spectacular nature.
This chapter argues that all Terry Gilliam's films are exercises in hybrid textuality, but the dystopian form taken up in Brazil makes this his most overtly political work. Brazil initially is replete with utopian dreams, but as its protagonist Sam Lowry gains a better understanding of the dystopian reality, his dreams increasingly take on the dystopian tenor of that environment. Lowry's fantasies are critically analysed in terms of their narcissism and escapism, but even if we judge these negatively, he at least inhabits a more stimulating world than those around him. In Munchausen, by constructing the framework of the theatre around the tales themselves, Gilliam and Charles McKeown create a form of transitional space between the worlds of fantasy and reality. The Theatre Royal provides a space where fantasy can be presented, while serving as a refuge from the murderous reality of the besieged town that surrounds the audience.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book provides critical insights into specific problems and topics and encourages readers to consider the breadth of, and different emphases within, Television Studies. The issues of whether there is more or less 'quality television' than there was, and the standards of taste and decency in television, have mostly been left to popular and journalistic opinion. The book highlights that the exploration of generic instability and stakes of genre as a delimiting and categorising force will continue to develop in work on the diverse television drama forms as contemporary urban drama, crime drama and the literary adaptation. It also addresses examples of television which are either widely known, still being broadcast or available through commercial or library sources in videotape form.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book provides resources for critical thinking about key aspects of television drama in Britain since 1960, including institutional, textual, cultural and audience-centred modes of study. Helen Wheatley's analysis of Rebecca, The Wyvern Mystery and The Woman in White distinguishes the gendered concerns of the Gothic as a mode that encompasses literary and cinematic realisations of narratives that reflect on the politics of domesticity. The book emphasises the relationships between the television drama text and its contexts of production and viewing. It investigates how the programme's production and realisation negotiated the possibilities that television offered for realising both conventional 'pulp fiction' monster stories and the aspirational claims for 'serious' speculative and educational drama in science fiction.