This essay introduces this special issue on ‘Romanticism and the “New Gothic”’, which contains revisions of essays presented at a special seminar at the 1999 joint conferences of the International Gothic Association (IGA) and the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hogle argues that the ‘Gothic’ as a highly counterfeit and generically mixed mode in the eighteenth century was a quite new, rather than revived old, aesthetic which allowed for the disguised projection - or really abjection - of current middle-class cultural fears into symbols that only seemed antiquated, supernatural, or monstrous on the surface. Romantic writers thus faced this mode as a symbolic location where feared anomalies of their own moment could be faced and displaced, and such writers reacted to this possibility using some similar and quite different techniques. Post-Romantic writers, in turn, ranging from Emily Dickinson all the way to the writers and directors of modern films with Gothic elements, have since proceeded to make the Gothic quite new again, in memory of and reaction to Romantic-era uses of the new Gothic. This recurrent remaking of the Gothic comes less from the survival of certain features and more from the cultural purposes of displacing new fears into symbols that recall both the eighteenth-century Gothic and Romantic redactions of it. The papers in this special issue cover different points in this history of a complex relationship among aesthetic modes.
Though pointedly raising its literary pedigree with allusions to ‘high’ literature from Percy‘s RELIQUES to Spensers FAIRIE QUEENE, Coleridge‘s ‘Christabel’ (1799-1801) still draws heavily on the very Gothic fiction of the 1790s that he condemns as ‘low’ writing in reviews of the same period. Especially Gothic is this poems alter-ego relationship between the title character and the vampiric Geraldine. This peculiar use of echoes extends the many jibes of this period that blame the many literary changes of this time (including a mass-produced effulgence of printed writing and a frightening blurring of genres) on the Gothic as a kind of scapegoat for the cultural upheaval of this era. The Gothic is, in fact, a site for what Kristeva calls ‘abjection’: the cultural ‘throwing off’ of intermingled contradictions,into a symbolic realm that seems blatantly fictional and remote. As such a site, the Gothic in ‘Christabel’ haunts the poem with unresolved cultural quandaries that finally contribute to its unfinished, fragmentary nature. One such quandary is what is abjected in the Gothic relationship of the heroine and Geraldine: the irresolution at the time about the nature and potentials of woman.
This tenth anniversary issue of Gothic Studies reconsiders how the study of the Gothic mode in many venues (from fiction and drama to cinema and video) has been deeply affected by a wide range of psychoanalytical, historicist, cultural, and literary theories that have been, and can still be, employed to interpret and explain the Gothic phenomenon. This collection builds on the most fruitful of existing theoretical perspectives on the Gothic, sometimes to transform them, or by suggesting new alliances between theory and the study of Gothic that will enrich both domains and advance the mission of Gothic Studies, as well as Gothic scholarship in general, to provide the best arena for understanding the Gothic in all its forms.