The Early Promise and Disappointing Career of Time-Lapse
Time-lapse photography—the extremely accelerated recording and projection of an event
taking place over an extended duration of time—is almost as old as the movies
themselves. (The first known use of time-lapse dates from 1898.) In the early decades
of the twentieth century, cineastes, not to mention scientists, artists, and poets,
waxed eloquently on the promise of time-lapse photography as a means for revealing
“things we cannot see,” and expanding human perception. This essay examines
time-lapses tremendous initial imaginative appeal for such figures as Ernst Mach,
Germaine Dulac, Jean Epstein, Rudolf Arnheim, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Collette, and
speculates about the possible reasons for its diminution over the course of the
To consider how James Baldwin resisted racialized notions of sexuality in his
first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, I employ a number of black feminist
critics—including Saidiya Hartman, Patricia Williams, Hortense Spillers, and Patricia
Hill Collins—to analyze three under-studied minor characters: Deborah, Esther,
and Richard. Those three characters are best understood as figures of
heterosexual nonconformity who articulate sophisticated and important critiques of rape
and marriage in America at the turn of the twentieth century. Baldwin thus
wrote subversive theories of race and sexuality into the margins of the novel, making its
style inextricable from its politics. Baldwin’s use of marginal voices was a deft and
intentional artistic choice that was emancipatory for his characters and that remains
enduringly relevant to American sexual politics. In this particularly polarizing
transition from the Obama era to the Donald J. Trump presidency, I revisit Baldwin’s
ability to subtly translate political ideas across fault lines like race, nationality, and
The intellectual connection between James Baldwin and Lionel Trilling, and the resonances
across their criticism, are more substantial than scholarly and biographical treatments
have disclosed. For Trilling, Baldwin’s writings were notable for their deviation from
most humanistic inquiry, which he considered insufficiently alert to the harms and
depredations of culture. Baldwin’s work became for Trilling a promising indication that
American criticism could be remade along the lines of a tragic conception of culture
deriving from Freud. This essay concentrates on a relevant but neglected dynamic in
American letters—the mid-twentieth-century tension between Freudian thought and American
humanistic inquiry evident in fields like American Studies—to explain the intellectual
coordinates within which Trilling developed an affinity for Baldwin’s work. The
essay concludes by suggesting that the twilight of Freud’s tragic conception of
culture, which figured centrally in the modernist critical environment in which
Baldwin and Trilling encountered one another, contributed to an estrangement whereby the
two came to be seen as unrelated and different kinds of critics, despite the consonance of
their critical idioms during the 1940s and 1950s.
Ordinary Intimacies in Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin
This essay reads James Baldwin in conversation with two unexpected interlocutors
from the American nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Ralph Waldo Emerson and W.
E. B. Du Bois. What draws these historically distant and intellectually
different thinkers together, their differences making their convergences all the
more resonant and provocative, is a shared mode of attention they bring to the
social crises of their eras. It is a mode of attention foregrounding how the
often unobserved particulars and emotional registers of human life vitally shape
civic existence; more specifically, a mode of attention provoking us to see how
“a larger, juster, and fuller future,” in Du Bois’s words,
is a matter of the ordinary intimacies and estrangements in which we exist,
human connections in all their expressions and suppressions. Emerson names them
“facts [. . .] harder to read.” They are “the
finer manifestations,” in Du Bois’s terms, “of social life,
which history can but mention and which statistics can not count”;
“All these things,” Baldwin says, “[. . .]
which no chart can tell us.” In effect, from the 1830s to the 1980s these
thinkers bear witness to what politics, legislation, and even all our knowledges
can address only partially, and to the potentially transformative compensations
we might realize in the way we conduct our daily lives. The immediate relevance
and urgency this essay finds in their work exists not in proposed political
actions, programs for reform, or systematic theories of social justice but in
the way their words revitalize the ethical question “How shall I
live?” Accumulative and suggestive rather than systematically comparative
or polemical, this essay attempts to engage with Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin
intimately, to proceed in the spirit of their commitment to questioning received
disciplines, languages, and ways of inhabiting the world.
Transfusing Blood, Science and the Supernatural in Vampire Texts
This article examines blood transfusion in vampire texts and its connections to vampirism in order to establish the different ways the body and identity of the vampire, and its victim, are constituted and affected by the dangerous circulation of blood. Vampire texts manifest anxieties about identity that arise through the symbolic value of blood, but also through its increasing medicalisation. Nineteenth-century vampire texts focus on blood‘s symbolisms while twentieth-century texts define blood as a neutral medium to be analysed and explained. In the late twentieth century however, blood becomes the locus of biomedical interventions which affirm respect for tradition, selfish individualism and responsibility.
The article surveys two centuries of Gothic Revivals in the architecture and popular culture of the United States, from the Carpenter Gothic of 1830-1860 through the castle-building of the Gilded Age and the Gothic Revival structures of the early twentieth century to todays Renaissance Faires. American Gothic is fantastic, ‘reviving’ a time and place that never existed on those shores. The earlier Gothic Revival castles represented an aristocratic and anti-democratic tradition, while in the twentieth century, Gothic revival styles are postmodern and ephemeral. These outward manifestations of the Gothic image in America show how fascination with the medieval was transformed from a pastime of the wealthy few to the masscult many, one way in which North America has appropriated and transformed the European Middle Ages through serious architectural practice and market-driven parody of the Gothic.
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.
This essay explores the way in which Gothic tropes and metaphors manifest themselves in writing that is not recognisably classed as Gothic in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It argues that recent Gothic writing has exhausted the potency of such motifs and that criticism needs to re-examine the literature of modernity, in particular that of ‘High’ culture, and assess the way in which Gothic metaphor manifests itself therein. Ultimately the paper explores literature which troubles the traditional boundaries constructed between aesthetics and ethics found in nineteenth-century cultural discourse.
Horner and Zlosnik explore the work of the English novelist Barbara Comyns whose best-known works were published between 1950 and 1985. They focus on The Vet‘s Daughter (1959) and The Skin Chairs (1962) and explore how Comyns‘s use of parody, wit, and humour exposes the horrors of domestic life. For Horner and Zlosnik this constitutes a Female Comic Gothic which is grotesque and blackly comic in its critical assault on patriarchal plots, and so constitutes a particular form of the Female Gothic which became popular in the twentieth century.
Postfeminist Vampirism in Margaret Atwood‘s The Robber Bride
The article examines Margaret Atwood‘s The Robber Bride in terms of Gothic imagery and postfeminist politics. The novel depicts three characteristically second wave women whose lives are disrupted by Zenia, the embodiment of postfeminism. Zenia threatens the stability of the women and they respond to her with both loathing and desire, experiencing her as a vampire feeding on their lives. The Robber Bride connects the subversive power of Gothic to the multiple identities, transgressions and instabilities of postfeminism. Using a common second wave feminist psychoanalytic rereading of Gothic terror as fear of confinement, I suggest that Atwood‘s depiction of Zenia as a Gothic figure points to some concerns about second wave feminist politics. The location of Zenia as both Self and Other raises questions about postfeminisms situation as a reactionary backlash against feminism, and equally as a liberal politics that many late twentieth-century women were increasingly identifying with.