This article approaches a range of contemporary Scottish fiction: Iain Banks‘s Complicity and A Song of Stone, Irvine Welsh‘s Filth, Michel Faber‘s Under the Skin, James Robertson‘s Joseph Knight, Alan Guthrie‘s Savage Night and selected stories from Alan Bissett‘s Scottish Gothic anthology, Damage Land. The theme the article traces is pity, whether seen in a national or historical context, or as part of a wider panoply of what one might think of as ‘Gothic emotions’. The main contention is that it is possible that we reduce the scope of Gothic when we think of it as merely conducing to terror; whether we think of the earliest Gothic novels or of contemporary writing, there are often other feelings being stirred, a wider range of sensibilities being explored.
William Burroughs’ texts provide us with one of the most self-conscious of guides through an addicted world which is violently dislocated from linear time, while at the same time undermining the reliability of such a guide. In this Gothicised world we cannot trust the account of the addict; but this also implies that we cannot trust ourselves in the moment of addiction to reading. While we are secretly communing with the texts, we are also liable to ‘forget’, or to ignore, the outer parameters which comprise the moral universe; we are freed but, paradoxically, we find difficulty in reporting the content of this freedom. Here we find an essential link, which can also be found across Gothic fiction, to the notion of ‘psychotic rapture’, and a dislocation between the force of the messages ‘broadcast’; to us from the outside and the alignment of these messages with the counterforce of the world of experience.
Algernon Blackwood's concern is constantly with the heart. He was interested in science as well as in psychology and psychoanalysis, and was an avid reader of Sigmund Freud. He was also interested in various strands of late Victorian and Edwardian mysticism and psychical research. It has been said, no doubt contentiously, that he was the only major writer of supernatural fiction to take the supernatural seriously. And his work is governed by a very particular interpretation of the relations between 'nature' and 'spirit', considered in the widest applications of both terms. The passing of time, the clear movement from past through present into future, is a mere distraction. Rather what one has, what one is destined to live with, is an endless looping of phrase, a process caught in condensation and displacement, a negotiation between spirit and nature.
In a recent edition of Atlantic Studies, Hester Blum outlined the methodological
approaches appropriate to the emergent field of oceanic studies, arguing that such work
should prioritise the oceans material conditions, their nonhuman scale and depth
andmulti-dimensional flux. Our aims in this essay are twofold: to consider the
implications oceanic studies has for scholars of the Gothic while also considering the
ways in which there is already a decidedly Gothic dimension to a critical framework
championing nonhuman scale and depth and multi-dimensional flux. The literary analysis for
this essay is rooted in a range of Gothic sea poetry. The poems explorations of depth, we
argue, assert the prominence and pre-eminence of the uncanny nonhuman forms inhabiting the
ocean, while the deep is shown to be a site haunted by the accumulation of history in
which past blends with present, and where spatiality and temporality become unmoored from
and exceed their traditional (or terrestrial) qualities.
Francis Lathom was a novelist and playwright, well-known in his lifetime, but whose reputation died with him. He is best known today for his novel The Midnight Bell (1798) which formed part of the Gothic reading material on which Jane Austen‘s Northanger Abbey is founded. Lathom is described as a second or third rank Gothicist, who also wrote novels dealing with upper-class social life. This article begins with a brief biography, collated from a series of ‘facts’ that have survived about Lathom. The article debates and queries these received facts. Was he from an aristocratic family? Why did he move from Norwich to reside in a series of small Scottish villages? His life is itself considered as a narrative construct that has been amended and has accreted layers of rumour through time. The combination of secrecy and display which seem to characterise his life are the same as those found in Gothic fiction itself. These themes are explored in The Midnight Bell. A plot summary is followed with an examination of the connections between the narrative of the book and the narrative of the life of Francis Lathom.