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.