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.
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.
James Baldwin criticism from 2001 through 2010 is marked by an increased appreciation for
Baldwin’s entire oeuvre including his writing after the mid 1960s. The question of his
artistic decline remains debated, but more scholars find a greater consistency and power
in Baldwin’s later work than previous scholars had found. A group of dedicated Baldwin
scholars emerged during this period and have continued to host regular international
conferences. The application of new and diverse critical lenses—including cultural
studies, political theory, religious studies, and black queer theory—contributed to more
complex readings of Baldwin’s texts. Historical and legal approaches re-assessed Baldwin’s
relationship to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements and new material emerged on
Baldwin’s decade in Turkey. Some historical perspective gave many critics a more nuanced
approach to the old “art” vs. “politics” debate as it surfaced in Baldwin’s initial
reception, many now finding Baldwin’s “angry” work to be more “relevant” than “out of
touch” as it was thought of during his lifetime. In the first decade of the new
millennium, three books of new primary source material, a new biography, four books of
literary criticism, three edited collections of critical essays, two special issues of
journals and numerous book chapters and articles were published, marking a significant
increase not only in the quantity, but the quality of Baldwin criticism.
Taking its cue from recent scholarly work on the concept of time in African American
literature, this essay argues that, while both James Baldwin and Malcolm X refuse
gradualism and insist on “the now” as the moment of civil rights’ fulfillment, Baldwin
also remains troubled by the narrowness assumed by a life, politics, or ethics limited to
the present moment. In his engagement with Malcolm’s life and legacy—most notably in One
Day, When I Was Lost, his screen adaptation of Malcolm’s autobiography—he works toward a
temporal mode that would be both punctual and expansive. What he proposes as the operative
time of chronoethics is an “untimely now”: he seeks to replace Malcolm’s unyielding
punctuality with a different nowness, one that rejects both calls for “patience,” endemic
to any politics that rests on the Enlightenment notion of “perfectibility,” and the
breathless urgency that prevents the subject from seeing anything beyond the oppressive
system he wants overthrown. Both thinkers find the promise of such untimeliness in their
sojourns beyond the United States.
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.
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.
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-).
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.