This article considers the allusions to classical statuary in Matthew G. Lewis’s
novel The Monk (1796) and his Journal of a West India
Proprietor Kept during a Residence in the Island of Jamaica (1816).
Drawing on John Barrell’s account of civic discourse on the fine arts after
Shaftesbury, I explain and contextualise the centrality of the Venus de’ Medici
statue to Lewis’s representations of male desire and male virtue. Images of
Venus, both in The Monk and in the Journal,
function as tests of civic virtue and articulate the conditions of Lewis’s
entitlement to hold and govern slaves in Jamaica. Lewis’s colonial inheritance
underpins the narratives of desire in The Monk, and inflects
his authorship more generally.
Masculinity and Perversity in Crash and Fight Club
This article considers two evocations of the Gothic in contemporary film that link the popular recurrence of Gothic conventions to contemporary constructions of perversity and masculinity. Crash (1996) and Fight Club (1999) intersect themes of masculine perversity with the Gothic, giving substantially new life to discourses surrounding a ‘crisis in masculinity’ at the turn of the twentieth century. The relationship between the Gothic and masculinity is considered in relation to themes surrounding the corporeal, psychological and social ‘perversities’ in the two films.
The author reviews Barry Jenkins’s 2018 film adaptation of
Baldwin’s novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, finding
that Jenkins’s lush, painterly, and dreamlike visual style successfully
translates Baldwin’s cadenced prose into cinematic language. But in
interpreting the novel as the “perfect fusion” of the anger of
Baldwin’s essays and the sensuality of his fiction, Jenkins overlooks the
novel’s most significant aspect, its gender politics. Baldwin began
working on If Beale Street Could Talk shortly after being
interviewed by Black Arts poet Nikki Giovanni for the PBS television show,
Soul!. Giovanni’s rejection of Baldwin’s
claims that for black men to overcome the injuries of white supremacy they
needed to fulfill the breadwinner role prompted him to rethink his understanding
of African American manhood and deeply influenced his representation of the
novel’s black male characters. The novel aims to disarticulate black
masculinity from patriarchy. Jenkins’s misunderstanding of this aspect of
the novel surfaces in his treatment of the character of Frank, who in the novel
serves as an example of the destructiveness of patriarchal masculinity, and in
his rewriting of the novel’s ending.
Homosocial Sins and Identity in Horace Walpole‘s The Castle of Otranto
Readings of William Beckford‘s novel Vathek suggest it encodes homoerotic desire and suspect masculinity in its themes and narrative structure when read alongside the life of the author. Horace Walpole‘s The Castle of Otranto can be read with the same methodology. The narratives of identity reversal, both gender and social, and its tropes of hyperbolic masculinity as sources of fear are interpreted according to the central importance gender has for understanding Walpole‘s conception of his sexuality. The novel exhibits a fear of gossip and rumour over identity, which may be related to a fear of public exposure of homoerotic desire as it is (mis)understood in terms of same-sex practice between men.
In Alien3 Lt Ellen Ripley finds herself in a nightmare scenario. She has crash-landed on an abandoned prison planet, ‘Fury 161’, surrounded by a remnant of the inmate population (twenty-five prisoners, a medical officer and two administrators who have opted to remain in a care-taking capacity after the prison/refinery was closed). The prisoners are a violent group of rapists and murderers with double-y chromosome coding, who can only seem to control their excessive expressions of masculinity by fanatically embracing a fundamentalist religion. Ripley sums up the group as ‘a bunch of lifers who found God at the ass-end of space’. On one level, this setting begs for a story of male homosexuality: an all-male prison planet filled with sexual aggressors could be the recipe for a gay male porn classic. Instead, it becomes a tale of excessive masculinity manifested through heterosexual fears and desires. I want to take this discrepancy between homo-possibilities and hetero-manifestations as my point of departure to explore how Alien3s engagement with the Gothic diverts and expresses anxieties about queer masculinity, desire, and sexuality.
This article examines Pat Barker‘s novel Another World (1998) in order to argue that it portrays the masculine subject as precarious and unstable. This is linked to the novels regional setting, in which traditional ‘heavy’ industries such as armaments manufacturing are in decline, thus depriving men of an authoritative public and private role. Viewed from the perspective of postfeminism, this might be regarded as a sign that male (and female) roles can be renegotiated in order to achieve greater gender equality. However, Barker‘s frequent references to Gothic texts renders this crisis sinister and uncanny. This paper uses references to Nicolas Abraham‘s essay ‘Notes on the Phantom’ in order to assert that Another World‘s preoccupation with murder and haunting reveals a compulsive desire to cover up this sense of ‘lack’ that Barker implies characterises modern masculine subjectivity.
This paper explores the role and function of the Marvel film‘s Loki as a Gothic
antagonist. Loki‘s characterisation incorporates several Gothic themes. As a shapeshifter,
he corresponds with the idea of the unstable and fragmented body, also found in Gothic
texts dealing with supernatural transformations. By breaking down the barriers between the
realms of Asgard, Earth and Jotunheim, Loki engages with tropes surrounding Gothic space,
where borders and boundaries are permeable. Finally, Loki is Othered by his association
with the feminine and queer Gothic, something that ultimately leads to another common
Gothic theme, that of madness.
Applying Butler‘s gender performance theory and critiquing authoritative philosophical discourse on the sublime, the essay examines the Gothic sublime as phantasmatic masculine drag. Focusing on Walpole‘s flamboyant flouting of Longinus‘s rhetorical prescriptions, the essay also explores how The Castle ofOtrantos fictional progeny continue to drag sublimity into Gothic drag king performances.
Movies speak mainly to the eyes. Though they started talking in words some seventy years ago, what they say to our ears seldom overpowers or even matches the impact of what they show us. This essay proposes to read one more time the issue of homosexuality in Mary Shelley‘s first novel, Frankenstein. In order to offer a new angle on the homosexual component of Victor Frankenstein‘s relationship with his creature when next teaching this most canonical Romantic novel, this essay considers Shelley‘s work alongside four film adaptations: James Whale‘s 1931 Frankenstein, Whale‘s 1935 The Bride of Frankenstein, Richard O’Briens 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Kenneth Branagh‘s 1994 Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein. These films present their audience with original readings of their source material, readings that can be questioned with regards to their lack of truthfulness to the original works themes and characters.
A Review of Hilton Als’ God Made My Face: A Collective
Portrait of James Baldwin
This essay reviews Hilton Als’ 2019 exhibition God Made My Face: A
Collective Portrait of James Baldwin at the David Zwirner Gallery.
The show visually displays Baldwin in two parts: “A Walker in the
City” examines his biography and “Colonialism” examines
“what Baldwin himself was unable to do” by displaying the work of
contemporary artists and filmmakers whose works resonate with Baldwin’s
critiques of masculinity, race, and American empire. Mirakhor explores how
Als’ quest to restore Baldwin is part of a long and deep literary and
personal conversation that Als has been having since he was in his teens, and in
this instance, exploring why and how it has culminated via the visual, instead
of the literary. As Mirakhor observes, to be in the exhibit is not to just
observe how Als has formed and figured Baldwin, but to see how Baldwin has
informed and made Als, one of our most lyrical and impassioned contemporary
writers and thinkers.