Though criticism of the Gothic has recently been charged with reproducing its object of study, the tendency to Gothicize the Gothic can be traced at least as far back as the late eighteenth century. One remarkable example of this trend is the critical fortune of Matthew Gregory Lewis. Through the figure of ‘Monk’ Lewis, he was identified not only as creator of his novel but with his villain, Monk Ambrosio. This conflation in turn yields insight into the other well-known fact of his reception, the vociferous, if not entirely universal, condemnation of The Monk. Lewis‘s novel more than simply provided reviewers with a source of outrage; it appears to have subjected them to their worst fear for Gothic readers, textual influence, dictating the narrative of their own responses. Moreover, by reproducing the novels characters and plot, contemporary reviews map out ways in which The Monk supplied a Gothic tale that would prove ultimately inescapable in two centuries of Lewis‘s reception history.
Chris Baldick and Robert Mighall have argued rather convincingly that ‘Gothic
Criticism’ is in need of an overhaul. I revisit their controversial article
through an analysis of Oscar Wilde’s parody of the Gothic and of scholarship,
‘The Portrait of Mr W. H.’ In this tale of creative criticism, Wilde’s hero,
Cyril Graham, invents the character of Willie Hughes to prove a theory about
Shakespeare’s sonnets. Contrary to Baldick and Mighall, I argue that Gothic
criticism might do well to take its cue from its object of study. Plunging deep
into the abyss, abandoning pretentions of knowing fact from fiction, natural
from supernatural, I whole-heartedly - momentarily - consider the ‘Willie Hughes
theory’ and ‘I will take up the theory where Cyril Graham left it and I will
prove to the world that he was right’.
The official journal of the International Gothic Association considers the field
of Gothic studies from the eighteenth century to the present day. The aim of
Gothic Studies is not merely to open a forum for dialogue and cultural
criticism, but to provide a specialist journal for scholars working in a field
which is today taught or researched in almost all academic establishments.
Gothic Studies invites contributions from scholars working within any period of
the Gothic; interdisciplinary scholarship is especially welcome, as are readings
in the media and beyond the written word.
The papers in this volume consider Gothic Ex/Changes, a concept at the heart of the essentially hybrid mode of Gothic, which constantly challenges prevailing orthodoxies. Papers foreground the confusion of boundaries and definitions of the human. A number take this examination of the hybrid into the realm of form and genre, including music and historiography. The analysis of Gothic in the collection demonstrates the way in which Gothic criticism has extended the subversive role of Gothic texts into the academy. It might be that as part of the ongoing process of change and exchange with a range of theoretical approaches, we are entering the period of ‘postGothic studies.’
Representations of Lower-Class Voices in Ann Radcliffe’s Novels
This paper investigates lower-class voices within the context of anti-Gothic
criticism, using Ann Radcliffe’s novels and early Gothic critic Joseph Addison’s
essays to highlight the ways in which Radcliffe reassigns value to the Gothic
aesthetic. It further emphasizes Radcliffe’s reconfiguration of domestic roles
as she positions patriarchal figures as anti-Gothic critics, the heroine as
reader of gothic narratives, and lowerclass voices and tales as gothic texts.
The Mysteries of Udolpho and Romance of the
Forest subvert critical discourse and its motif of servants’ contagious
irrationality. In Radcliffe’s novels, ‘vulgar’ narratives as superstitious
discourse do not spread fear to susceptible heroines, embodiments of bourgeois
virtue, but demonstrate the ways in which fear is a construct of patriarchal
discourse. Servants and country people, in turn, construct a pedagogy for
reading gothic texts that permit heroines to deconstruct metaphors of ghostly
haunting embedded in their tales and resist patriarchal hegemony and
interpretative authority over gothic texts.
The term ‘Gothic’ is used in critical writing to describe an ever-increasing variety of texts that are not popularly recognisable as such. This article suggests Gothic texts ought to be read in terms of their genre, and that genre can be understood as the practical logic of habitus, formulated by Bourdieu.
This brief introduction to the special issue underscores the relative lack of attention to popular culture in academic study of the Gothic. It places the essays that follow in context, identifying common arguments and themes.
This tenth anniversary issue of Gothic Studies reconsiders how the study of the Gothic mode in many venues (from fiction and drama to cinema and video) has been deeply affected by a wide range of psychoanalytical, historicist, cultural, and literary theories that have been, and can still be, employed to interpret and explain the Gothic phenomenon. This collection builds on the most fruitful of existing theoretical perspectives on the Gothic, sometimes to transform them, or by suggesting new alliances between theory and the study of Gothic that will enrich both domains and advance the mission of Gothic Studies, as well as Gothic scholarship in general, to provide the best arena for understanding the Gothic in all its forms.
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.
Sibling Rivalry in Elizabeth Gaskell‘s The Old Nurse‘s Story
Elizabeth Gaskell s The Old Nurse s Story (1852) occupies a shadowy middle ground between Gothic tale and case history. Concerning sibling rivalry and parental abuse recollected from the vantage of old age, it is both a ghost story and a narrative of maternal absence, paternal domination, transference, and the return of the repressed. Using both psychoanalysis and Gothic genre criticism, this essay traces, in miniature, the Victorian movement from spirits to sexual psychology.