This essay announces the discovery of ten performances of Horace Walpole‘s five-act tragedy, The Mysterious Mother (1768) in May 1821 at The Surrey Theatre, St Georges Fields, London, then under the management of Thomas John Dibdin (1771–1841). It was produced as Narbonne Castle: Or, The Mysterious Mother and billed as founded on a Tragic Play written by the late HORACE WALPOLE, EARL OF ORFORD, and now presented for the FIRST TIME. It has long been assumed there was no public performance until the Glasgow Citizens Theatre production of 2001. The essay demonstrates theatre licensing conditions forced Dibdin to produce Narbonne Castle as a three-act, musicalized, redaction. With audiences totalling in excess of 16,000, its production raises many questions about contemporary attitudes to incest.
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.
Surfaces and Subtexts in the Popular Modernism of Agatha
Christie‘s Hercule Poirot Series
In Detective Writers in England, Christie claims a detective story is an escape from the
realism of everyday life; however, her Poirot series represents anxieties about the
conditions of modernity through the conventions, images, and tones of the classic Gothic,
a genre well established as providing a balance between escapism and historical commentary
(xiii). While the earlier Poirot texts juxtapose the trappings of the Gothic– séances,
curses, ghosts– against a rational modern world and produce a comical effect when these
conventions are revealed as staged, as the conditions of modernity weigh upon Christie,
particularly during World War II, her Poirot texts take on an increasingly sinister
quality in which history itself is coded in Gothic terms.
Gothic Melodrama and the Aesthetic of Silence in Thomas Holcroft‘s A Tale of Mystery
Focusing on melodrama and on Thomas Holcroft‘s exemplary A Tale of Mystery (1802) in particular, this essay proposes a reinterpretation of Gothic drama and theatre as constitutively characterized by interruptions of comprehension. The tribulations of its persecuted protagonist Francisco are read in the context of the court trial of a real-life Francisco, who lived in London in 1802 and was one of the ‘stars’ in contemporary newspaper reports from the Old Bailey. Combining different generic and tonal modes, Romantic-period Gothic melodrama capitalized on explicitness and hyperbole, as well as on materializations of ethics and sentiment through their overt exhibition on stage or ‘ostension’. At the same time, it emphasized absence, silence, dematerialization and dissolution. With its continuously deferred revelations,and ostensions of the unsaid, A Tale of Mystery is a significant investment in an aesthetic of the unsaid that is central to a definition of Gothic on stage.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has become a cult series. The show has been broadcast worldwide and vampire Spike has been travelling around the world; or rather his translated version has, reaching many destinations. In France there are two translated versions of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, one dubbed and the other subtitled. This article examines the significance of Spikes Britishness against the American background where he lives. The analysis considers his performance in the original and in the translation to show how British Spike ‘sounds’ in French. The article ultimately reflects on Spikes vampiric otherness and how translation might be used to efface or reduce otherness.
‘The Gothic Aesthetics of Eminem’ examines key videos, lyrics, and performances of the white hip-hop celebrity, noting the reoccurrence of such Gothic tropes and narrational strategies as self-replication, the spectacle of monstrous proliferation, the spread of fakery and the counterfeit, as well as the abjection of women. The authors compare Stoker‘s Dracula to Eminem, whose cultural menace similarly functions to proselytise white young men into clones, refracting the racial and sexual anxieties of Stoker‘s novel. The article moves from a consideration of the rapper‘s songs and videos ‘My Name Is’, ‘The Real Slim Shady,’ and ‘Stan’ to the film, 8 Mile.
Critics of the Gothic have typically stated that ancient, foreign, Catholic, Italy was generally an obvious choice as the site of early Gothic ‘otherness’. I argue that Walpole‘s choice of Italy was in fact overdetermined by his experiences there from 1739–41. In Italy, Walpole learned various strategies for disguising a self implicitly unacceptable in England. Italy was notorious for its homoerotic subcultures. Its Carnevale institutionalised the masquerade, and Italian opera performed the notion that gender is a performance. Upon his return to England, Walpole constructed Strawberry Hill, his most extravagant and elaborate masquerade. Years later, when the dream of his grand staircase impelled, The Castle of Otranto, another disguise was expressed. According to Otranto, Strawberry Hill was the unconscious embodiment of the English cultural prohibitions imposed upon him; the first Gothic novel is also the first closet.
Hawthorne, Ligotti, and the Absent Center of the Nation-State
Donald L. Anderson
Although composed before 9/11, Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s My Kinsman, Major Molineux and Thomas Ligotti‘s The Shadow at the Bottom of the World are both prescient in their critique of the impulse of American communities following 9/11 to monumentalise and concretise the nation-state and in particular the remains at Ground Zero. In this essay I discuss Ground Zero as a suggestive trope for the illusiveness of the nation as an imagined community. These complementary Gothic short stories operate as allegory and offer a way of reading how patriotic communities cohered around what remained at Ground Zero and (re)produced it as a site of patriotic performance. A new Gothic trait in our age of terror(ism) is the anxiety over the absence of a stable centre that anchors national continuity. This article places these short stories in conversation with Benedict Anderson,,Étienne Balibar and other theorists who engage critiques of nation-building in order to draw out what is Gothic about the nation-state and to further substantiate how 9/11 revealed the nation-state as a principally Gothic phenomenon.
In 1807, the Duchess of Bedford and several of her circle attended a performance of the opera The First Attempt at Dublin‘s Theatre Royal. Their hair was not coifed in the style of the day but rather swept up and fastened with golden bodkins in the ancient Irish manner. Soon this became all the rage in polite Irish society, and Dublin jewellers, struggling to compete, took out advertisements to accuse other firms of making less than authentic replicas. Indeed, the great demand in Dublin for these golden bodkins inflated the price of gold in Ireland. Drapers soon saw a business opportunity in this Celtic fashion renaissance and started producing the `Glorvina Mantle, a flowing scarlet cape, ideally secured with golden replicas of Celtic broaches. Eventually these ancient Gaelic styles made their way to London and became fashionable among ladies from the upper class. The popularity of this exotic dress resulted from a confluence of factors. While the growing interest in Irish antiquarianism, the European fascination with orientalism and the popularity of Gothic romance fed the fire, the spark that ignited the blaze was The Wild Irish Girl, a novel written by a young Irish governess. Not only does this fashion craze bear witness to the popularity of the text, but so do the sales figures. This popular novel, first published in 1806, went through seven editions in two years, and was even successful on the Continent, especially in Germany, where the young authors popularity almost eclipsed Scott‘s and Byron‘s and her sales figures surpassed those of her fellow Irish writers, Maria Edgeworth and Charles Maturin. In fact, the great Gothic writer Maturin openly borrowed from The Wild Irish Girl in his own work.
This groundbreaking book is the first full-length study of British horror radio from the pioneering days of recording and broadcasting right through to the digital audio cultures of our own time. The book offers an historical, critical and theoretical exploration of horror radio and audio performance examining key areas such as writing, narrative, adaptation, performance practice and reception throughout the history of that most unjustly neglected of popular art forms: radio drama and “spoken word” auditory cultures. The volume draws on extensive archival research as well as insightful interviews with significant writers and actors. The book offers detailed analysis of major radio series such as Appointment with Fear, The Man in Black, The Price of Fear and Fear on Four as well as one-off horror plays, comedy-horror and experimental uses of binaural and digital technology in producing uncanny audio.