Conspiracy and Narrative Masquerade in Schiller, Zschokke, Lewis and Hoffmann
This essay brings together the popularity of Venice in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century as a setting for horror, terror and fantasy, and the narrative conventions of the Gothic. Focusing on Schiller, Zschokke, Lewis and Hoffmann, the article studies the representation of Venice as a Gothic labyrinth, in the context of the city‘s changing reputation as a political structure. ‘Venice’ is treated as a common set of signs which overlap between the literary field and the field of cultural politics: ‘plots’ are both political conspiracies and (carnivalised: doubled and disguised) narrative forms. All is given over to the dynamics of masquerade. The topography of the Venetian Republic is itself a political text, which carnivalises the ‘separation of powers’, while the texts of the Gothic writers are narrative masquerades which choose popular hybrid forms of comedy, folktale and horror, rather than Tragedy or Realism, to respond to Venice‘s tension between law and anarchy and the conflicting pressures of Enlightenment, Republicanism and Empire.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The Gothic is the discourse which embodies the dialectic of the Enlightenment, with its potential to push the frontier of reason into the mythologized darkness. Embarking on the use of genre fiction as political discourse and finding a voice to tell a story of her generation, Carter made a major breakthrough in her career. Making use of the Gothic palimpsest, Carters Marianne leaves behind the sphere of (feminine) ‘interiority’-the psychic spaces of desire and anxiety for the (supposedly masculine) catharsis in the Other world, as a sixties heroine of sensibility. Heroes and Villains calls for the reconstruction of enlightenment at the ‘post-modern’ ruins of civilization.
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.