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Anne Young

Chris Baldick and Robert Mighall have argued rather convincingly that ‘Gothic Criticism’ is in need of an overhaul. I revisit their controversial article through an analysis of Oscar Wilde’s parody of the Gothic and of scholarship, ‘The Portrait of Mr W. H.’ In this tale of creative criticism, Wilde’s hero, Cyril Graham, invents the character of Willie Hughes to prove a theory about Shakespeare’s sonnets. Contrary to Baldick and Mighall, I argue that Gothic criticism might do well to take its cue from its object of study. Plunging deep into the abyss, abandoning pretentions of knowing fact from fiction, natural from supernatural, I whole-heartedly - momentarily - consider the ‘Willie Hughes theory’ and ‘I will take up the theory where Cyril Graham left it and I will prove to the world that he was right’.

Gothic Studies
Evil, Privation and the Absent Logos in Richard Marsh‘s The Beetle
Simon Marsden

This essay explores the influence of the theological tradition of privation theory upon Richard Marsh‘s novel The Beetle (1897). Focusing on images of ontological nothingness, corruption and uncreation, it argues that the novel employs the concept of privation both in its depiction of the supernatural Other and in its parallel interrogation of its contemporary modernity. Imagery of privation in the novel is associated not only with the Beetle itself, but with the modern urban environment and weapons of mass destruction. The essay concludes by examining the corruption of language and absence of a creative logos able to respond adequately to the privations of the modern city and industrial economy.

Gothic Studies
Theorizing the Nineteenth-Century Gothic Pharmography
Carol Margaret Davison

Liberty, a term dear to the Enlightenments emancipatory project, has long been a key concept in the Gothic. No branch of the Gothic more powerfully or creatively examines the complexities of the liberty question than the Gothic pharmography – a narrative chronicling drug/alcohol seduction and addiction. Drawing on three novelistic sub-genres – the Oriental tale, the imperial Gothic, and the Urban Gothic – the Gothic pharmography coalesces several distinct nineteenth-century debates – the nature of the will and liberal individualism; social oppression and conformity; urban and national degeneration; and British imperialist expansion, which involved the perceived anxiety-inducing sense of Britains growing economic dependence on the non-Western world. This essay offers an overview of the Gothic pharmography from the late eighteenth century through to the fin de siècle in Marie Corelli‘s Wormwood.

Gothic Studies
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Post-9/11 Aesthetics of Uncertainty in PlayDead‘s Limbo (2010)
Graeme Pedlingham

This paper explores the Gothic videogame Limbo (PlayDead, 2010) in terms of an aesthetic and conceptual precariousness and preoccupation with uncertainty that, I suggest, are particularly associated with the traumatic legacy of 9/11. It engages with Judith Butler s post-9/11 reflections in her work Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (2004) on the loss of presumed safety and security in the First World. From here, she expresses the potential for shared experiences of vulnerability to inaugurate an ethics of relationality, without recourse to investment in systems of security. I then contrast this with an alternative critical trajectory that emphasises the use-value of such systems over a desire for moral purity. This critical framework is considered in relation to the treatment of vulnerability in Limbo, through its construction of a dialogic relationship between its diegetic game-world and the formal structure of its game-system. The former is found to articulate a pervasive experience of uncertainty, whilst the latter provides a sense of security. I draw upon psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott‘s theories of play and creative living to argue that the tension between game-world and game-system in Limbo creates a model of how uncertainty can be dwelt with, through a precarious balance between the use of systems of security and disengagement from them.

Gothic Studies