Violence and Miscegenation in Jean Toomer‘s ‘Blood- Burning Moon’
Jean Toomer‘s Cane (1923) has long been considered a signature text of both avant-garde Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. While Gothic tropes and imagery lurk throughout Toomer‘s collection of poetry and prose, Anglo-American Gothic conventions come to the foreground in the story ‘Blood-Burning Moon’. The story‘s interracial love triangle provides a locus of conflict between the post-Reconstruction American South and the haunting economic logic of slavery. Though the three characters each aspire to new racial, sexual and economic identities, they are terrorized by a society where employer-employee relations cannot escape the violence of the master-slave dialectic. Toomer does not relinquish his aesthetic experimentation and political radicalism to the Anglo-American Gothic, but instead engages the Gothic form in order to critique the violent racism of American capitalism. In this way, Toomer positions the Gothic centrally within African-American literary and cultural history.
In Ann Radcliffes The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian, the sublime in nature represents a benevolent patriarchy which works in tandem with ‘the heightened awareness’ that characterizes sensibility in order to educate and empower Emily St Aubert and Ellena di Rosalba. Both of these forces work symbiotically within the gazes (read ‘spectatorship’) of the heroines. Conversely, these forces are threatening to the heroes, in that they limit Valancourts and Vivaldis ability to gain their desires and to influence the events surrounding their beloveds. This gender-based disparity reflects eighteenth century familial politics and suggests that, despite Radcliffes apparent protofeminism in giving her heroines agency over the patriarchal weapons of the sublime and sensibility, her reinventing these forces to empower her heroines at the expense of the heroes actually buys into and supports patriarchal ideals of the roles of difference and sameness in heterosexual desire.
Transvaluation, Realization, and Literalization of Clarissa in The Monk
D. L. Macdonald
Lorenzo‘s dream, at the beginning of Lewis‘s The Monk (1796), is closely based on Lovelace‘s dream, near the end of Richardson‘s Clarissa (1747-48); the realization of Lorenzo‘s dream, in the rape and murder of Antonia at the end of Lewis‘s novel, is based closely on Clarissa‘s dream, near the beginning of Richardson‘s. Lewis consistently (in the terms Gérard Genette uses in Palimpsests) devalues Lovelace‘s dream and revalues Clarissa‘s, achieving a transvaluation of Richardson‘s novel. He also literalizes many of Richardson‘s metaphors, a process which, as Tzvetan Todorov argues in The Fantastic, is essential to the fantastic, and which as Margaret Homans argues in Bearing the Word, enables the articulation of womens experiences. As a result, The Monk, despite its conflicted sexual politics, does contribute to the feminization of fiction that was part of the historical project of the Gothic.
The late twentieth century is fascinated by the phenomenon of the gothic child, the child who manifests evil, violence, and sexual aggression. On the face of it, this evil is “caused” by either medical or social factors: medicinal drugs, radiation, or the corrupting influences,of political others. However, this essay argues that the gothic child actually arises from conflicting forces of child-philosophies, the intersection of Romantic childhood innocence with Freudian depth models. These models tacitly point to a child that “is” rather than “is,made”, a child that belies contemporary parental attempts to make it be otherwise. Moreover, the idea that the child is somehow immune to parental influence – that it is self-possessed rather than possessed by another – extends to the current notion of,the “inner child”, that “self” who is the seat of identity and coherence. Because of this, the gothic as often fantasizes the killing of the “child within” as it revels in killing the child without.
Epistemology and Revolution in Charles Brockden Brown‘s
In Wieland, Charles Brockden Brown attempted to negotiate varying forces confronting
contemporary American religious and political life. Through the transformation of the
temple into a Gothic zone Brown injects questions of epistemological uncertainty, clashing
forces of rational Enlightenment and supernatural faith. Brown outlines the religiously
motivated founding of the nation reacting to European oppression as allegorical to the
Wieland patriarchs journey from the Old to New World, and his construction of the temple
demonstrates the establishment of new institutions in the American landscape. Religious
liberty turns into extremism, producing Gothic violence that transforms the temple into a
site of horror and destruction. His children attempt to re-transform the temple along
rational Enlightenment lines much the same as Brown perceived the need for America to
distance itself from its revolutionary and religious extremist origins. Yet the failure of
rationalism to expunge the supernatural aura from the temple allows for the tragic events
to transpire that comprise the bulk of the novel. Ultimately, Brown‘s Gothic novel evinces
the critical nature of the epistemological clash he sees taking place for the direction
America will take, and his concerns that Gothic violence will reverberate throughout
future generations find their expression in Wieland‘s temple.