As Gothic works knock the stuffing out their subject and splatter the remains over the page and screen, their obsessive focus on an economy of decomposing bodies in distress makes a compelling case for the attraction they exert on materialist criticism. A broad and heterogeneous spectrum of left social and cultural critique has always relied on Gothic referents to make descriptive sense of the teratology of life within societies dominated by the bourgeoisie. Marx‘s Capital begins, after all, by seeing the ‘monstrous ungeheure accumulation of commodities’ as the symptom of something gone terribly wrong in liberal political economy.1 What, though, if the Gothic codex is more than simply ornamental language or images added to the otherwise dry bones of philosophical, political, and economic writings and is itself a mode of critical inquiry into capitalist modernity that may also interrogate classical Marxisms precepts and underexplored aspects? If Marxism has depended on Gothic referents to make its point, can Gothic return the favor by thinking through obstacles and potentialities within familiar Marxist claims? In this light, we mean ‘material Gothic’ as something greater than simply a less provocative name for Marxist-inflected readings of Gothic works, and understand it as a project in which Gothic studies can inform and reshape cultural and historical materialism.
This essay discusses the ways in which different models of historical and social development, and especially of the relationship of the Gothic past to the present, might be seen to structure – and help us now to interpret – eighteenth-century Gothic fiction. It begins with an account of the representation of ‘Gothick days’ in James Beattie‘s poem The Minstrel (1771–4), and then gives an overview of how‘ Scottish’ conjectural histories attributed a pivotal modernizing role to feudalism and chivalry, in some cases defining an exceptional Gothic legacy with particular reference to the agency and influence of women. The essay concludes by suggesting that critical attention to different accounts of social development, and contemporary ‘histories of women’, might help to provide a better literary-historical map of eighteenth-century Gothic fiction, and a richer sense of the cultural and political work that that fiction may have performed.
Vancouver is not necessarily the first topic that springs to mind when discussing the production of vampire television. In an attempt to remedy this, the vampire television series Blood Ties (2007) is considered in relation to its Canadian production context. I explore the series political economy within an international framework (its production and distribution in Canada and its scheduling/exhibition and reception in the UK), suggesting that the Canadian qualities of the series are often wilfully ignored in distribution and reception. The ultimate failure of the series (running for only one season) is then located in relationship to the recent explosion of vampire fiction on domestic screens, where I suggest that Blood Ties inspires a form of Gothic television distinct from the American vampire series True Blood (2008-).
In the early gothic literature of the eighteenth century danger lurked in the darkness beneath the pointed arches of gothic buildings. During the nineteenth century, there was a progressive, although never complete, dislocation of gothic literary readings from gothic architecture. This article explores a phase in that development through discussion of a series of dark illustrations produced by Hablot Knight Browne to illustrate novels by Charles Dickens. These show the way in which the rounded arches of neo-classical architecture were depicted in the mid-nineteenth century as locales of oppression and obscurity. Such depictions acted, in an age of political and moral reform, to critique the values of the system of power and authority that such architecture represented.
Character Doubling and Social Critique in the Short Fiction
A. A. Markley
As she had done in Frankenstein, Mary Shelley reworked the gothic dopplegänger motif time and again in her short fiction not only to entertain but also to educate her readers. Focusing on four tales written in the late 1820s and early 1830s, this paper considers how Shelley repeatedly set up a triangle of desire in which an intensely competitive and destructive relationship between men is mitigated or resolved by a female character. A close look at these tales contributes to our understanding of the extent to which Mary Shelley devoted herself to remodelling Gothic modes. More importantly, these tales demonstrate the degree to which her ‘New Gothic’ was intended to contribute to a reconfiguration of traditional gender roles and a revaluation of the domestic affections, particularly in terms of their relevance to the political arena.
Although many Gothic novels conclude with contained restorations of patrilineal inheritance, others subvert primogeniture by perpetuating birthright through a non-traditional line. Such transgressions of Gothic primogeniture become even more pronounced during the Romantic era - particularly in the works of Byron, such as Cain and Don Juan. In the latter, Juan‘s nuptial dilemmas reflect several primogenitary issues of deep concern during the eighteenth century - including the preservation intact of patrilineal property, the containment of an increasing marriage age, and the extension of political alliances through marital exogamy. At the same time, these primogenitary issues also reveal a striking parallel between the handing down of inheritance and the handing down of texts. Finally, such a parallel also extends to the economic foundation of both inherited and textual property. As a result, Byron‘s poetry links both realms to Malthusian demographics, female commodification, and the paper currency crisis of the era.
While the importance of space in Gothic literature and the role of spectacle in the staging of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century British Gothic drama have received much attention, little has been written about how Gothic dramatic writing gestures with space. By looking at how dramatic writers rhetorically used Gothics politically and psychologically charged spaces in their dramatic works for stage and page, this essay explores how space functions in pre-realist drama. The essay shows how a rhetoric of space functions in three examples of Gothic theatrical writing - Matthew Lewis‘s The Castle Spectre, Catherine Gore‘s The Bond, and Jane Scott‘sThe Old Oak Chest - and suggests that British Gothic dramas spatial rhetoric anticipates cinematic uses of space.
Victor Frankenstein relates his narrative ‘marking the dates with accuracy’, determined that his improbable story will be believed. Through examining the time references, this essay reveals the extent to which the novel is preoccupied with realism and temporal accuracy and demonstrates why the time scheme of Frankenstein is a problem for critics. The narrative can be charted via a consistent and extensive system of time references provided by the three narrators. At a point near the end, Shelley is momentarily vague. Previous decisions on how to deal with this difficulty are opened up to scrutiny, and a detailed chronology of the 1831 version is proposed. Readings which have based their arguments for political or biographical significance on embedded numerology are reexamined using the new chronology.
Angela Carter‘s Exposure of Flesh-Inscribed Stereotypes
The human body is a crucial site for the inscription of cultural paradigms: how people are perceived controls the way they are treated. Postmodernist writers have shown sexual roles, racial inequalities and other forms of discrimination to be parts of a process of reductio ad absurdum, consisting of the identification of the individual‘s social functions with their anatomical features as well as with the habitual marking of their bodies. This article examines Angela Carter‘s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman where Carter‘s refusal of established body politics is most clearly dramatised. This novel exposes the dreary consequences of power/weakness relations, together with its contradictory exploitation of Gothic devices, making it an esssential testimony to Carter‘s postmodernist reconfiguration of worldviews and narrative modes.
This paper explores the occult relationship between modern psychoanalysis and the pre-Freudian psychoanalysis of James Hogg‘s 1824 Gothic novel, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Haunted by the ghosts of Mesmerism and of Calvinisms rabidly contagious religious fervour, Hogg‘s novel explodes post-Lockean paradigms of the subject for a post-Romantic British culture on the eve of the Empire. Turning back to Scotland‘s turbulent political and religious history, the novel looks forward to the problems of Empire by turning Locke‘s sense-making and sensible subject into the subject of an unconscious ripe for ideological exploitation, a subject mesmerized by the process of making sense of himself.