During a twenty-five year period, spanning the Second World War and his move from
England to America, Hitchcock showed a particular preference for plots involving an
unjustified accusation against the films central character. The 39 Steps (1935),
Young and Innocent (1937), Saboteur (1942), Strangers on a Train (1951), I Confess
(1953), The Wrong Man (1956) and North by Northwest (1959) are all variations on the
same pattern with different thematic emphases. This article discusses the narrative
logic and moral content of this ‘innocence plot’, running through Hitchcock‘s films
from the mid-thirties to the late fifties.
Melodrama, Mystery, and the Nightmare of History in Jessie Fauset‘s Plum Bun
This essay discusses how African-American novelist Jessie Fauset used the Gothic motif of a hidden history to critique the melodramatic happy ending of her best novel, one set in New York city in the 1920s. What undermines the ‘moral legibility’ of melodrama is the Gothic implications of an unsolved crime in the past, one that, ironically, continues to haunts the ‘New Negro’ of the Harlem Renaissance who claims to have reinvented him or herself in the modern city.
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.
Elizabeth Gaskell used Gothic as a symbolic language to explore the dark side of Unitarian thought. She explores, in rationalist terms, evils origins, effects, and remedy, using Gothic tropes as metaphors for humanly created misery. Gaskell locates the roots of ‘evil’ in an unenlightened social order – in ‘The Crooked Branch’ erroneous parenting, and in ‘The Poor Clare’ wider social structures, both distorted by the ideology of privilege. ‘The Poor Clare’ also engages with the tension between moral determinism and personal responsibility, and defends a Unitarian salvation. This tale also demonstrates Gaskell‘s views on aspects of Roman Catholicism.
Zoographic Ambivalences in Mantegazza, Ouida, and Vernon Lee
In the framework of contemporary ecocritical theories, this comparative analysis of works by Paolo Mantegazza, Ouida, and Vernon Lee focuses on the conflictual relationship of proximity and differentiation at stake in the human-animal distinction in a post-Darwinian context dominated by the rise of experimental sciences. A discussion of vivisection and animal taming prompted by anthropocentric works as Fisiologia del dolore and Upilio Faimali in tension with proanimal essays by Ouida and Lee shows how the animal, caught between pure inert materiality and idealization, emerges as an intrinsic lack that the human fills with contending rational, utilitarian, moral, and affective motivations.
Mary Robinson‘s decision to publish in a notorious genre, the Gothic, drew further attention to her own sexual and moral notoriety. In Hubert de Sevrac, a Romance of the Eighteenth Century (1796) and Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Robinson (1801), she manipulates the publiccs taste for the type of Gothic fiction popularised by Ann Radcliffe and offers the sexually experienced heroine as a counter-ideal to Radcliffe‘s sexually naive characters. These works strategically revise conventional Gothic discourse in order to reassign the cultural significance of active female sexuality to fictional women, and, ultimately, to Robinson herself.
William Burroughs’ texts provide us with one of the most self-conscious of guides through an addicted world which is violently dislocated from linear time, while at the same time undermining the reliability of such a guide. In this Gothicised world we cannot trust the account of the addict; but this also implies that we cannot trust ourselves in the moment of addiction to reading. While we are secretly communing with the texts, we are also liable to ‘forget’, or to ignore, the outer parameters which comprise the moral universe; we are freed but, paradoxically, we find difficulty in reporting the content of this freedom. Here we find an essential link, which can also be found across Gothic fiction, to the notion of ‘psychotic rapture’, and a dislocation between the force of the messages ‘broadcast’; to us from the outside and the alignment of these messages with the counterforce of the world of experience.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the term ‘uncomfortable houses’ was used to describe properties where restless spirits made life unpleasant for any living persons who tried to claim these supernatural residences as their own. This article uses the idea of ‘uncomfortable houses’ to examine how this ghostly discomfort related to larger cultural issues of economics and class in Victorian Britain. Authors such as Charlotte Riddell and Margaret Oliphant used the haunted house story as a means of social critique which commented on the financial problems facing many lower- and middle-class Victorians. Their stories focus on the moral development of the protagonists and reconciliation through the figure of the ghost, ultimately giving readers the happy endings that many male-authored ghost stories lack. Riddell‘s ‘The Old House in Vauxhall Walk’ and ‘Walnut-Tree House’ and Oliphant‘s ‘The Open Door’ serve as important examples of this ‘suburban Gothic’ literature.
This article argues that Charles Maturins Melmoth the Wanderer embodies an ethical attitude towards its representations of Gothic violence and horror in the way that it self-reflexively stages its horrific scenes. By confronting its readers with a shifting distance from such violent scenes, the novel exposes readers to their own desire for and victimization by Gothic horror. While previous critics have tended to see Maturins novel as either glorying amorally in its excessive Gothic representations, or as recuperating its scenes of horror with a moral message, this article sees its ambiguous and undecidable attitude towards these scenes as embodying its ethical standpoint, a standpoint that challenges the illusion of literary coherence and that exposes its readers’ implication in the horror that lies traumatically within, and not safely outside, language.
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.