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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.

Gothic Studies
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Phreno-Magnetism and Gothic Anthropology

This essay addresses the socio-cultural potential of phreno-mesmerism in the mid-nineteenth century and how its good intentions were frustrated by its uncanny discourse. Supporters of phreno-mesmerisms social agency dreamed that the physiological make-up of future generations could be determined by engineering sexual partnerships. But the more earnestly the new hybrid science was advanced as a tool of social change, the more the discourse of phreno-magnetism proved unwieldy. In effect, the discourse represents a double-bind, intertwining sex and gender, essentialism and constructionism, science and the occult, materialism and Gothic. The article focuses of Elliotson‘s enthusiasm for uniting phrenology and mesmerism in his notorious Letter On Mesmeric Phrenology and Materialism (1843).

Gothic Studies
Becoming-Fungus in Arthur Machen‘s The Hill of Dreams

This paper examines the role fungi play in Arthur Machen‘s Decadent classic The Hill of Dreams (1907), a supernatural novel written in the 1890s. Ostensibly an idiosyncratic topic, the novels concern with these organisms devolves on an inquiry into the nature of life itself, of whether it is the result of a spiritual life-force or a haphazard assemblage of matter. In this way, Machen‘s novel participates in the fin de siècle debates between vitalism and materialism. Rather than attempting to resolve this debate, the novel seizes on tensions inherent in fungal life in order to dissolve the concept of life altogether, to suggest its horrifying unreality.

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
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Misery, pornography, utopia

the critical diagnosis of the mediated, self-conscious, lost world it describes. And this is nowhere clearer than in its use of pornography. For Houellebecq – more straightforwardly, perhaps, than for Despentes – pornography demonstrates the reductive materialism of contemporary sexual relations. The paradigm of the measurable, marketable body to which western men and women are now to aspire, is the pornographic body, reduced

in The new pornographies

vacuous materialism of contemporary America, depicting and denouncing that society as a sterile wasteland, lorded over by indulgent, vicious, morally corrupt and emotionally unaware elites. The social fabric is rent, discrepancies between economic and cultural classes abound, and the structures and processes of the city create alienated individuals, enclaves and subgroups, mutually fearful and antagonistic. Within this

in Terry Gilliam

challenges posed to established beliefs, conventions and modes of expression by new cultural developments: post-war housing problems and the spread of new social mores ( For Better, For Worse ) ; the impact of foreign cultural forms on the British way of life (As Long As They’re Happy ) ; the megalomania of media tycoons and the dangers of materialism ( An Alligator Named Daisy ) ; and the erosion of small-scale modes of

in J. Lee Thompson
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– include a critique of the reductive, empty consumerism of this world, for which the pornographic, defined for these purposes by a soulless, commercially motivated materialism, can become a kind of shorthand. At times, however, this thematisation is marked by a very contemporary ambivalence, which leaves any critique of the ways of this world, and of this pornography, awkwardly entangled with the very structures it might like to

in The new pornographies
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engaging with different oppressions and repressions at different times, Renoir’s cinéma is never able or never seeks to combine a broad critique of materialism and productivism with a critique of specific oppressions. The early 1930s focus largely on the bourgeoisie’s self-repression and hypocrisy but neglect that class’s exploitative relationship to other groups. The Frontist films focus on class oppression but move away from

in Jean Renoir
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acknowledged, for the first time since the Great Depression, the nation’s ongoing inability to realise the dreams of its anti-materialist, spiritually-driven early settlers. At the hands of the authoritarian militarism of successive governments and the rapacious self-seeking consumer fetishism of individuals, the nation for Romero had broken its foundational covenant with God; condemning itself to the crass materialism and paranoid jingoism so powerfully encapsulated in the zombie apocalypse. But as I will illustrate in Chapter 5, zombie horror was not the only subgenre

in The wounds of nations