John Hughes Family Films and Seriality in 1990s Hollywood
This article explores serial production strategies and textual seriality in
Hollywood cinema during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Focusing on John Hughes‘ high
concept family comedies, it examines how Hughes exploited the commercial
opportunities offered by serial approaches to both production and film narrative.
This article first considers why Hughes‘ production set-up enabled him to standardise
his movies and respond quickly to audience demand. The analysis then explores how the
Home Alone films (1990–97), Dennis the Menace (1993) and Baby‘s Day Out (1994)
balanced demands for textual repetition and novelty.
This article concerns itself with feminist comedy that is deemed angry and difficult in an era of postfeminism. Hannah Gadsby’s live show Nanette, released as a Netflix film, can be described as difficult because it is politically challenging, emotionally demanding and disrupts the established format of stand-up comedy. Yet it has had critical and commercial success. Nanette challenges the underpinning assumption of postfeminism: that feminism is no longer needed. It is feminist and angry. To explore the phenomenon of angry feminist comedy in the postfeminist era, the article considers the comedy of Gadsby through the figure of the feminist killjoy, coined by Sara Ahmed, to reflect how the killjoy and the queer art of failing offer forms of political ‘sabotage’ that subvert comedy as masculinist popular culture.
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany‘s and Hollywood
This essay examines some of the literary and biographical models Truman Capote drew
on in the creation of Holly Golightly, the heroine of his 1958 novella Breakfast at
Tiffany‘s. Making use of Paramount studio records, the essay also explores the
complex process of adapting the story to the big screen. Numerous changes were made
so as to transform Capotes story into a romantic comedy, and thus to contain Holly‘s
liberated sexuality while also erasing any doubts about the male protagonists
heterosexuality. Casting Hepburn as the female lead helped to neutralize Holly‘s
sexual transgressiveness, and it sexualized the stars ethereal persona.
The essay explores Ann Radcliffe‘s complex notion of sensibility in The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and considers the relationship between the servant class and the young Emily St Aubert. It is argued that the servants’ deployment of the comic Gothic moderates and qualifies Emily‘s heightened sensibility and facilitates her fashioning herself as a woman whose actions are informed by a working together of sensibility and reason, rather than an unquestioning trust in superstition. The comic mode, in that regard, serves as an important element in the development of Emily‘s personality and highlights the dangers of too excessive an indulgence of refined sensibility.
On first glance, M*A*S*H (1972–83) might not be the ideal text for Gothic analysis.
Aesthetically, the traditional dark castles surrounded by black forests in the moonlight
are replaced by muted khaki and green canvas Army tents, and the tinny canned laughter
punctuating the sardonic jokes echo longer than the terrified screams in the night. Gothic
and war are uneasy bedfellows; it is the inclusion of comedy, however, that determines
just how horrific the result can be. Using M*A*S*H as a primary example to explore what I
refer to as Khaki Gothic this paper will explore how, utilising Gothic tropes, comedy can
disguise, diffuse and intensify the horrors of war.
Horner and Zlosnik explore the work of the English novelist Barbara Comyns whose best-known works were published between 1950 and 1985. They focus on The Vet‘s Daughter (1959) and The Skin Chairs (1962) and explore how Comyns‘s use of parody, wit, and humour exposes the horrors of domestic life. For Horner and Zlosnik this constitutes a Female Comic Gothic which is grotesque and blackly comic in its critical assault on patriarchal plots, and so constitutes a particular form of the Female Gothic which became popular in the twentieth century.
It has been widely asserted that nationhood is inseparable from narration. This vague
claim may be clarified by understanding that nationalism is bound up with the
universal prototypical narrative structures of heroic, romantic, and sacrificial
tragi-comedy. This essay considers an historically important case of the emplotment
of nationalism - the sacrificial organization of German nationalism between the two
world wars. It examines one exemplary instance of this emplotment, F. W. Murnau‘s
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922). However unintentionally, Nosferatu represents
the vampire in a way that is cognitively continuous with Nazi representations of
Jews. The films sacrificial emplotment of vampirism is, in turn, continuous with Nazi
policies. That continuity places the film in a larger discourse that helped to make
Nazi policies possible.
Conspiracy and Narrative Masquerade in Schiller, Zschokke, Lewis and Hoffmann
This essay brings together the popularity of Venice in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century as a setting for horror, terror and fantasy, and the narrative conventions of the Gothic. Focusing on Schiller, Zschokke, Lewis and Hoffmann, the article studies the representation of Venice as a Gothic labyrinth, in the context of the city‘s changing reputation as a political structure. ‘Venice’ is treated as a common set of signs which overlap between the literary field and the field of cultural politics: ‘plots’ are both political conspiracies and (carnivalised: doubled and disguised) narrative forms. All is given over to the dynamics of masquerade. The topography of the Venetian Republic is itself a political text, which carnivalises the ‘separation of powers’, while the texts of the Gothic writers are narrative masquerades which choose popular hybrid forms of comedy, folktale and horror, rather than Tragedy or Realism, to respond to Venice‘s tension between law and anarchy and the conflicting pressures of Enlightenment, Republicanism and Empire.