Defining the Relationships between Gothic and the Postcolonial
William Hughes and Andrew Smith
The Gothic has historically maintained an intimacy with colonial issues, and in consequence with the potential for disruption and redefinition vested in the relationships between Self and Other, controlling and repressed, subaltern milieu and dominant outsider culture. Such things are the context of obvious, visible irruptions of the colonial Orientalist exotic into the genre, whether these be the absolutist power and pagan excesses of Beckford‘s Vathek (1786), the Moorish demonic temptations of Zofloya (1806) or the perverse, corrupting influence of a western invader upon a primitivised European in the ImmaleeIsadora episodes of Maturin‘s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). These are, in a sense, horrors beyond, the exoticism of time and space distancing the problematic text from the comfortable, identifiable world of the contemporary and the homely a reassurance comforting even in a reading of the Irish episodes of Melmoth the Wanderer, where geographical marginality anticipates a borderland as distant from metropolitan sensibilities as effective as those of later writers such as Hope Hodgson, Machen or Rolt. The colonial is both kept at a distance and in a state of suggestive vagueness, of resemblance rather than obvious representation, its horrors accessible though thankfully not immanent.
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.
Epistemology and Revolution in Charles Brockden Brown‘s
In Wieland, Charles Brockden Brown attempted to negotiate varying forces confronting
contemporary American religious and political life. Through the transformation of the
temple into a Gothic zone Brown injects questions of epistemological uncertainty, clashing
forces of rational Enlightenment and supernatural faith. Brown outlines the religiously
motivated founding of the nation reacting to European oppression as allegorical to the
Wieland patriarchs journey from the Old to New World, and his construction of the temple
demonstrates the establishment of new institutions in the American landscape. Religious
liberty turns into extremism, producing Gothic violence that transforms the temple into a
site of horror and destruction. His children attempt to re-transform the temple along
rational Enlightenment lines much the same as Brown perceived the need for America to
distance itself from its revolutionary and religious extremist origins. Yet the failure of
rationalism to expunge the supernatural aura from the temple allows for the tragic events
to transpire that comprise the bulk of the novel. Ultimately, Brown‘s Gothic novel evinces
the critical nature of the epistemological clash he sees taking place for the direction
America will take, and his concerns that Gothic violence will reverberate throughout
future generations find their expression in Wieland‘s temple.
) , pp, 216–17.
7 S. Wasson, ‘Before narrative’, Medical Humanities, 44:2 (2018), 106–112 .
8 R. Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013) .
9 Nancy; F. Varela, ‘Intimate distances’, Journal of Consciousness Studies , 8:5–7 (2001), 259–71 .
10 S. Squier, Liminal Lives (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004) , pp. 170, 183.
Gardens and wilderness in ‘The Man who Went too Far’ by E. F. Benson and ‘The Man whom the Trees Loved’ by Algernon Blackwood
gardening, order can be reasserted and a distance put between the gardener and the rest of the world’ (106).
Linking it with a nostalgic nod back to the Arts and Crafts movement, Anne Helmreich says the ‘cottage’ garden ‘lacks apparent order, with plants arranged in masses or drifts, but is nevertheless fecund and productive’ ( 2002 : 72). Near the beginning of the story, David Bittacy sits at his window, gazing at an idyllic picture of an enclosed garden at the height of the English summer: ‘Outside the blackbirds whistled in the shrubberies across
realities of it, unlike threshing or ploughing. The orchard was a timeless emblem of England, well-tended, ordered and without any hint of industrial progress or urban growth. Once questing knights slept beneath the apple trees, later came decorous nineteenth-century maidens, but both are distanced from the work of the orchard labourers and from any changes in the wider landscape.
Lowenthal elides the landscape with the garden, and orchards are, culturally and materially, part of both. Victorian schemes to house the urban working classes stressed the
Transnational harvest horror and racial vulnerability at the turn of the millennium
convert into image and narrative the disasters that are slow moving and long in the making?’ 38 and Povinelli asks, ‘How do scholars find the right distance or the right scale from which to sketch the “slow rhythms” of this lethal violence?’ 39 Critics analysing such subtle deathwork have repeatedly had to have recourse to representational innovation. Biehl, for example, reluctantly develops the idea of the ex-human, to convey a lacerated state of being, yet he is wary of this coinage, since the term ‘might generate a distance and thus unintentionally participate in
Bodies dis(re)membered: Gothic and the transplant imaginary
when warped by economic pressures, but also about the dangers of representations that let us distance atrocities as performed by monsters. Gothic can dismember to forget, normalising certain suffering.
Fourthly, the prefixes dis- and re - speak of collapse and assembly and capture something of the way that tissue transfer is always already a process involving human and nonhuman entities, material and discursive: ‘assemblages’, in the sense used by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, combining ‘states of things, bodies, various combinations of bodies, hodgepodges
‘Machines of social death’ and state-sanctioned harvest in dystopian fiction
causes too, some of which are affected by state decisions and insidious forms of inequality and slow violence. 28 Speculative fiction’s alternative social worlds mean that economies and cultural detail are sensitised, demanding reader attention rather than fading into a mere backdrop for the actions of an individual agent. Such texts can be said to estrange the social, to invoke Bertolt Brecht’s sense of the Verfremdungseffekt , distancing readers in order that they might reflect on their own contexts. 29 Such distancing may make it easier to notice sociocultural
submerged and the flowing stream of time were passing over him with its clear and gentle waves, and the garden were lying deep beneath, bound by a magic spell’ (147). In the distance, he sees a mysterious woman (Venus) amid the wildly colourful flowers, her lovely body in a blue dress, singing provocatively about how spring has woken her again. Florio loses sight of her but finds instead her helper, Donati, sleeping as if dead among the inevitably Gothic ruins. Deathly pale, Donati is startled upon waking and cries out, ‘How … did you get into this garden?’ (149). It is