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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.

Gothic Studies

I will read John Winthrop‘s Model of Christian Charity against and through Edgar Allan Poe‘s poem ‘The City in the Sea’. Winthrop and Poe both localize a ‘city’ to represent an extreme form of society. The koine Greek of Matthew 5 uses the word polis to describe a ‘city on a hill’. Christ says this city must not be hidden, but rather should shine so that the world may see it. The New Testament‘s merging of ‘politics’ and ‘city’ in the word polis makes it unsurprising that many Anglophone writers invoke ‘city’ in a title or phrase when making political innuendoes. Winthrop was a devotee of scripture, and Poe knew Greek, so their allusions to a representative human city are fraught with cultural meaning. To contextualize and compare their particular evocations of the city metaphor, I incorporate the theories of Edward Said and present cross-references to Eugène Delacroix, the prophecies of Ezekiel, and Shelley‘s poem ‘Ozymandias’. The Holy Land is at once fixed in the exotic Middle East yet necessary for America‘s quotidian social mores. Winthrop and Poe romanticize, appropriate, and exploit Middle Eastern symbolism. The interesting twist, however, is that Poe Orientalizes Winthrop‘s city on a hill, and in so doing, he Orientalizes Winthrop, and perhaps America‘s own religious fanaticism.

Gothic Studies
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Material Gothic

As Gothic works knock the stuffing out their subject and splatter the remains over the page and screen, their obsessive focus on an economy of decomposing bodies in distress makes a compelling case for the attraction they exert on materialist criticism. A broad and heterogeneous spectrum of left social and cultural critique has always relied on Gothic referents to make descriptive sense of the teratology of life within societies dominated by the bourgeoisie. Marx‘s Capital begins, after all, by seeing the ‘monstrous ungeheure accumulation of commodities’ as the symptom of something gone terribly wrong in liberal political economy.1 What, though, if the Gothic codex is more than simply ornamental language or images added to the otherwise dry bones of philosophical, political, and economic writings and is itself a mode of critical inquiry into capitalist modernity that may also interrogate classical Marxisms precepts and underexplored aspects? If Marxism has depended on Gothic referents to make its point, can Gothic return the favor by thinking through obstacles and potentialities within familiar Marxist claims? In this light, we mean ‘material Gothic’ as something greater than simply a less provocative name for Marxist-inflected readings of Gothic works, and understand it as a project in which Gothic studies can inform and reshape cultural and historical materialism.

Gothic Studies

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.

Gothic Studies
Nation, History, Gender

This essay discusses the ways in which different models of historical and social development, and especially of the relationship of the Gothic past to the present, might be seen to structure – and help us now to interpret – eighteenth-century Gothic fiction. It begins with an account of the representation of ‘Gothick days’ in James Beattie‘s poem The Minstrel (1771–4), and then gives an overview of how‘ Scottish’ conjectural histories attributed a pivotal modernizing role to feudalism and chivalry, in some cases defining an exceptional Gothic legacy with particular reference to the agency and influence of women. The essay concludes by suggesting that critical attention to different accounts of social development, and contemporary ‘histories of women’, might help to provide a better literary-historical map of eighteenth-century Gothic fiction, and a richer sense of the cultural and political work that that fiction may have performed.

Gothic Studies
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Blood Ties and Vampire Television

Vancouver is not necessarily the first topic that springs to mind when discussing the production of vampire television. In an attempt to remedy this, the vampire television series Blood Ties (2007) is considered in relation to its Canadian production context. I explore the series political economy within an international framework (its production and distribution in Canada and its scheduling/exhibition and reception in the UK), suggesting that the Canadian qualities of the series are often wilfully ignored in distribution and reception. The ultimate failure of the series (running for only one season) is then located in relationship to the recent explosion of vampire fiction on domestic screens, where I suggest that Blood Ties inspires a form of Gothic television distinct from the American vampire series True Blood (2008-).

Gothic Studies

In the early gothic literature of the eighteenth century danger lurked in the darkness beneath the pointed arches of gothic buildings. During the nineteenth century, there was a progressive, although never complete, dislocation of gothic literary readings from gothic architecture. This article explores a phase in that development through discussion of a series of dark illustrations produced by Hablot Knight Browne to illustrate novels by Charles Dickens. These show the way in which the rounded arches of neo-classical architecture were depicted in the mid-nineteenth century as locales of oppression and obscurity. Such depictions acted, in an age of political and moral reform, to critique the values of the system of power and authority that such architecture represented.

Gothic Studies
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The Garlic Flower in Bram Stoker’s Hermeneutic Garden

This article explores the use of floral symbolism within Gothic fiction of the fin de siècle. Taking as a basis the language of flower anthologies popularised throughout the nineteenth century, it investigates how this notoriously unstable floral language filtered through into the popular Gothic fiction at the end of the century. Whilst authors of Gothic may have adhered to existing codes and associations pertaining to particular flowers, they also destabilised traditional meaning, and introduced a new floral lexicon into the popular imagination. The article primarily considers Bram Stoker’s Dracula in an attempt to locate floral significance through consideration of the production and widely discussed political agenda of the text. Through a close reading of Dracula’s garlic flower, the article asks whether there might be a Gothic language of flowers situated within the narrative that bears comparison with other Gothic fictions of the period and beyond.

Gothic Studies
Character Doubling and Social Critique in the Short Fiction

As she had done in Frankenstein, Mary Shelley reworked the gothic dopplegänger motif time and again in her short fiction not only to entertain but also to educate her readers. Focusing on four tales written in the late 1820s and early 1830s, this paper considers how Shelley repeatedly set up a triangle of desire in which an intensely competitive and destructive relationship between men is mitigated or resolved by a female character. A close look at these tales contributes to our understanding of the extent to which Mary Shelley devoted herself to remodelling Gothic modes. More importantly, these tales demonstrate the degree to which her ‘New Gothic’ was intended to contribute to a reconfiguration of traditional gender roles and a revaluation of the domestic affections, particularly in terms of their relevance to the political arena.

Gothic Studies
The Kinship Metaphor in the Age of Byron

Although many Gothic novels conclude with contained restorations of patrilineal inheritance, others subvert primogeniture by perpetuating birthright through a non-traditional line. Such transgressions of Gothic primogeniture become even more pronounced during the Romantic era - particularly in the works of Byron, such as Cain and Don Juan. In the latter, Juan‘s nuptial dilemmas reflect several primogenitary issues of deep concern during the eighteenth century - including the preservation intact of patrilineal property, the containment of an increasing marriage age, and the extension of political alliances through marital exogamy. At the same time, these primogenitary issues also reveal a striking parallel between the handing down of inheritance and the handing down of texts. Finally, such a parallel also extends to the economic foundation of both inherited and textual property. As a result, Byron‘s poetry links both realms to Malthusian demographics, female commodification, and the paper currency crisis of the era.

Gothic Studies