In The Arcades Project, Benjamin explores the different aspects of nineteenth-century culture, in search of a historical reality to which people can awake in a revelatory act of political consciousness. However, the uncanny effects of his archival approach impinge on this revelatory and sublime process. Rather than revealing the political, economic, and technological latent content of the past, representations of the material object confront consciousness with the unfamiliar and abject forms of the repressed collective unconscious. The Gothic tropes of Benjamin‘s text are the traces of the melancholy haunting his concept of a demystifying revelation of historical and material truth.
The article analyzes the relationship between social laws and the self in Gothic fiction, and argues that contemporary English Gothic fiction enacts the way subjects adhere to social practices and structures. In this scenario, characters are monsters of social conformity and docility. On this basis, Susan Hill‘s The Mist in the Mirror and The Woman in Black can be interpreted as critiques of the masculine quest for identity by means of adherence to the family as institution and habitus. The novels represent this process of ideological adherence by creating a dehistoricized plot and setting haunted by a ghost exerting what Bourdieu calls symbolic violence on the protagonists, and from which women have been absented.
Patricia Duncker’s The Deadly Space Between and The Civil Partnership Act
Anne Quéma analyses in Chapter 8 the uncanny kinship narratives in Patricia Duncker’s The Deadly Space Between (2002) and the British Civil Partnership Act (CPA) (2004). Quéma argues that the uncanny can be interpreted as the manifestation of the effects of normative power as we adhere to dominant norms such as family norms. In Duncker’s novel, cultural performatives of kinship, sexuality and gender identification relentlessly haunt the protagonist. The CPA betrays a fundamental contradiction: while legitimizing the deletion of binary gender differences by same-sex union, it applies an interdict that reinstates the Oedipal logic of binary relations and undoes the acknowledgment of same-sex union. This constitutes the political uncanny at the heart of English family law. If the uncanny characterizes both the legal discourse and the novel, it is not so much because they operate under sexual and cultural repression; rather, the uncanny effect derives from the ways in which these two texts remain trapped in and haunted by ancestral patterns of gender and sexual identification that posture as universal, natural and commonsensical ways of doing things.