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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