James Baldwin, the Religious Right, and the Moral
In the 1980s, James Baldwin recognized that a major transformation had occurred in the
socio-political functions of religion. His critique adapted accordingly, focusing on the
ways in which religion—particularly white evangelical Christianity—had morphed into a
movement deeply enmeshed with mass media, conservativepolitics, and late capitalism.
Religion in the Reagan era was leveraged, sold, and consumed in ways never before seen,
from charismatic televangelists, to Christian-themed amusement parks, to mega-churches.
The new movement was often characterized as the “religious right” or the “Moral Majority”
and was central to both Reagan’s political coalition as well as the broader culture wars.
For Baldwin, this development had wide-ranging ramifications for society and the
individual. This article draws on Baldwin’s final major essay, “To Crush the Serpent”
(1987), to examine the author’s evolving thoughts on religion, salvation, and
transgression in the context of the Reagan era.
In his analysis of the evolution of sexuality in society in Making Sexual History, Jeffrey Weeks comments that, following a series of major challenges throughout the twentieth century (ranging from Freud‘s work to the challenges of feminism and queer politics), ‘sexuality becomes a source of meaning, of social and political placing, and of individual sense of self ’. This special issue of Gothic Studies intends to foster further research on the topic of queer sexuality. This is research which has already been underway for some time but it has not always been interdisciplinary in nature, as is the case for these five articles, in their discussion of theatre, cinema, and literature or literary conventions borrowed from Gothic novels.
This essay discusses the possibility of a new reading of Charles Maturins Bertram; or, The Castle of St. Aldobrandon the basis of a hitherto ignored manuscript, ‘Epilogue’ to the drama found in the archives of publisher John Murray. The essay adds a new chapter to the tormented publishing history of this work and sheds light on the ambiguous and shifting moral and political interpretations given by both Maturin and his audience to one of the most famous Gothic dramas.
Cruelty, Darkness and the Body in Janice Galloway, Alison Kennedy and Louise Welsh
This essay seeks to define a Gothic tendency in the ‘viscerality’ of some recent and prominent Scottish women writers: Janice Galloway, Alison Kennedy and Louise Welsh. The argument addresses an alienating tension in this ‘viscerality’ between a fabular form and the impression of a new realism of social surfaces. This is a Gothic of cruelty and violent representation of the body, which opens a Scottish urban culture, portrayed as a synecdoche for divided consciousness, to fables of sexual and political alienation.
This essay presents the idea of James Baldwin as a freedom writer, the organizing idea of
my biography in progress. As a freedom writer, Baldwin was a revolutionary intellectual,
an essayist and novelist committed unfailingly to the realization of racial justice,
interracial political equality, and economic democracy. While the book is still in
process, this short essay narrates autobiographically how I came to meet and know
Baldwin’s work, explains in critical fashion my work in relation to existing biographies,
and reflects interpretively my thoughts-in- progress on this fascinating and captivating
figure of immense historical and social consequence.
An Excerpt from Bill V. Mullen’s New Biography, James
Baldwin: Living in Fire, and an Interview with the
Bill V. Mullen
This excerpt from James Baldwin: Living in Fire details a key
juncture in Baldwin’s life, 1957–59, when he was transformed by a
visit to the South to write about the civil rights movement while grappling with
the meaning of the Algerian Revolution. The excerpt shows Baldwin understanding
black and Arab liberation struggles as simultaneous and parallel moments in the
rise of Third World, anti-colonial and anti-racist U.S. politics. It also shows
Baldwin’s emotional and psychological vulnerability to repressive state
violence experienced by black and Arab citizens in the U.S., France, and
In this article, I propose that the key to the underlying dissidence of M. G. Lewis‘s The
Monk lies in the novel s depiction of consent, a fundamental principle in late
eighteenth-century British discourse. For British thinkers of all stripes, a government
and populace that valued consent made Britain the greatest nation in the world; The Monk
disrupts this worldview by portraying consent, whether express or tacit, political or
sexual, as incoherent. By depicting consent as illegible and pervasively undermining the
distinction between consent and coercion, The Monk effectually threatens a value that
rested at the core of late eighteenth-century British identity.
This article proposes a reading of Jane Campion‘s film The Piano as psychic allegory; as a Gothic psychomachia, in which Eros and Thanatos are the chief contenders. It is argued that the factitious Victorianism and the apparent proto-feminist agenda of this film should not blind the reader to the fact that this is a cinematic text which radically interrogates the very readings that it ostensibly elicits; readings inevitably of a ‘politically correct’ tenor. The film poses many questions and provisional answers are offered by orchestrating a dialogue between the film and Julia Kristeva‘s musings on depression and melancholia in her book, Black Sun.
Crude Metonymies and Tobe Hooper‘s Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
My analysis of Tobe Hooper‘s Texas Chain Saw Massacre centralizes the films political setting: an early 1970s Texas gas station that has no fuel and that offers only death to those who assume petroleums easy purchase. Such a move shifts critical attention from the film‘s monstrous bodies to its Gothic economy and the dead ends of corporate US oil culture. In Chain Saw, metonymies of blood and oil signify not only the material history of Texas oil and the seemingly unstoppable machinery of capitalism, but also the tremendous gap – or ‘gulf ’ – between human and nonhuman persons.
The Role of Danger in the Critical Evaluation of The Monk and The Mysteries of Udolpho
L. Andrew Cooper
Gothic Threats argues that eighteenth-century British critics based their judgments of Gothic fictions on the fictions apparent capacity to help or hurt social order. If, like Matthew Lewiss The Monk, a novel seemed to corrupt the young, erode gender norms, encourage heretical belief in the supernatural, or foment revolution, critics condemned it. If, like Ann Radcliffes The Mysteries of Udolpho, a novel that seemed to fight against such threats, critics gave it the highest praise. This politically-determined pattern of “aesthetic” evaluation helped to establish the Gothics place in the hierarchy of high and low culture.