Ed Cameron‘s essay offers a Lacanian interpretation of the development of the eighteenth-century Gothic novel. Tracing the movement from Horace Walpole to Ann Radcliffe and Mathew Lewis, the essay argues that the Gothic supernatural machinery figures that which is immanent yet inaccessible to the narrative structure. Reading the supernatural as a literary delimitation of the excessive enjoyment of the Lacanian symbolic order, Cameron illustrates how the different manner by which each novelist relegates his or her specific use of the supernatural corresponds to different psychoanalytically recognized psychopathological structures.
This article argues that the allegorical interpretations of the Gothic sublime made by materialist critics like Franco Moretti and Judith Halberstam unavoidably reduce Gothic excess and uncanniness to a realist understanding and, thereby, ironically de-materialize Gothic monstrosity by substituting for it a realistic meaning. This essay, instead, advocates a psychoanalytic critical reception that demonstrates how the essential uncanniness of the Gothic novel makes all realistic interpretation falter. Rather than interpreting Frankensteins creature as a condensed figure for proletarian formation or Dracula as an allegory for xenophobia, for instance, this article insists that the Gothic uncanny should be understood as figuring that which can only be viewed figuratively, as figuring that which has no space within a realistic understanding.