This article uses Franco Moretti‘s interpretation of Frankenstein and Dracula (Signs Taken For Wonders, 1988) to interrogate Dennis Potter‘s final television play, Cold Lazarus (1996). The critical approach, following Moretti‘s example, is generic, Freudian and Marxist. By identifying the conventions of Gothic drama in Potter‘s play, it claims, firstly, that Cold Lazarus dramatizes deep-seated psychic neuroses; and secondly, alerts its viewers to contemporary cultural anxieties about individual autonomy and the exploitative nature of capitalist enterprise. The argument challenges the predominantly negative reception of Cold Lazarus when first screened in 1994 and aims to defend this play as a fine example of televisual Gothic drama.
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.
Tragic mediation in The White Devil
Thomas J. Moretti
Observe, that no society hath the privilege to be free from a Judas.
Thomas Adams, ‘The White Devil’ (1613)1
For decades, John Webster’s The White Devil has been pushed and pulled
between the poles ‘early’ and ‘modern’: on one end is the claim that the play in
fact offers a complexly moralist, even providentialist worldview; on the other
end is the reading of The White Devil as a cynical, even radical tragedy, one
which bears witness to a culture facing nihilistic anxieties and which represents the
actual communication. Curiously, however, her scenario bears a strong resemblance to the critical practice recommended in Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading ( 2013 ), a revisionist literary history that seeks to replace ‘close reading’ with computational analysis. Moretti argues (with total justice) that received notions of the canon hinge on a minute number of texts, and that when we talk about a literary inheritance we are ignoring an immensely larger body of texts that it would be beyond the capacity of any single person to read. His answer is to bring computational
readership to the cultivation of successful and financially lucrative international careers by particularly savvy authors. 3
The evidence of Roche's lasting fame and influence presented in Chapter 4 draws attention to the many overlooked Irish novelists who published with Lane in the Romantic period. 4 It also underlines the importance of readers in the determination of literary relevance and impact. As Franco Moretti aptly puts it, ‘Readers, not professors, make canons’. There is ‘[a] space outside the school’, Moretti suggests, ‘where
exclusion creates, in consequence, established gothic literary canons that now need to be interrogated to account for the texts – including ‘Conjugal fidelity’ – that have fallen victim to what Franco Moretti aptly terms ‘the slaughterhouse of literature’. 8 These are works that are not generally considered gothic by the retrospectively defined ‘rules’ of ‘Irish Gothic’ or ‘the Gothic novel’ but which, when viewed through the lens of historical constructions of the term gothic, might reasonably be described as such. In their deviation from imposed gothic norms, ‘Conjugal
the complex dynamics of Herkunft and change, might indeed come
to different conclusions.
While also partly committed to a questionable notion of empiricist
factuality, Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees (2005) can count as
one of the most radical recent redrawings of the traditional understanding of what genre is and how it works. It sets out to present ‘[a]
more rational literary history’ by means of ‘distant reading’.46 In the
first section of his book, Moretti uses a quantitative approach to graph
a wealth of data that he eventually uses to explain the rise
are inscribed (literally) on the map and, by extension, on the material fabric of the city itself. Sinclair attempts to summon the lost presence of Rodinsky (emblematic of the lost Jewish presence in Whitechapel) by revivifying his walking practices, quasi-magically invoking him through an urban ritual based upon journeys inscribed on Rodinsky’s map.
Franco Moretti, in his book Atlas of the European Novel 1800–1900 (1998), offered an entertaining and illuminating set of analyses of novels and stories of the nineteenth century, illustrated
the genre, The Way of the World (1987), the
Marxist critic Franco Moretti developed Bakhtin’s insights. For
Moretti, the birth of the Bildungsroman was called forth by the
traumatic birth of modernity in the French and Industrial revolutions.
The Bildungsroman, he argues, ‘comes into being . . . because Europe
has to attach a meaning, not so much to youth, as to modernity’.29 With
its young protagonist who is painfully negotiating the journey of selfformation, while simultaneously struggling to find a place in the social
world, the Bildungsroman gave narrative shape
also exposes humans as capable of
being as equally murderous as vampires.
Franco Moretti’s essay ‘The dialectic of
fear’ has proved influential in the critique of Gothic fiction,
opening the way for analysis of the monster, especially the vampire, as
metaphor. From Moretti’s own equation of Bram Stoker’s
Dracula with capitalism, the vampire has been read as symbolic of a