This book investigates discursive structures intermittently recurring through Gothic writing, and provides intertextual readings, exemplifications of contemporaneously understood, discursively inflected, debate. By drawing on the ideas of Michel Foucault to establish a genealogy, it brings Gothic writing in from the margins of 'popular fiction', resituating it at the centre of debate about Romanticism. The book stresses that the intertextual readings form the methodological lynchpin for interpreting Gothic writing as self-aware debate on the character of the subject. Foucault's theory of discourse enables readers to gain an historical purchase on Gothic writing. The book traces the genealogy of a particular strand, the 'Gothic aesthetic', where a chivalric past was idealized at the explicit expense of a classical present. It introduces the reader to the aspects of Gothic in the eighteenth century including its historical development and its placement within the period's concerns with discourse and gender.
While the importance of space in Gothic literature and the role of spectacle in the staging of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century British Gothic drama have received much attention, little has been written about how Gothic dramatic writing gestures with space. By looking at how dramatic writers rhetorically used Gothics politically and psychologically charged spaces in their dramatic works for stage and page, this essay explores how space functions in pre-realist drama. The essay shows how a rhetoric of space functions in three examples of Gothic theatrical writing - Matthew Lewis‘s The Castle Spectre, Catherine Gore‘s The Bond, and Jane Scott‘sThe Old Oak Chest - and suggests that British Gothic dramas spatial rhetoric anticipates cinematic uses of space.
Mourning and Melancholia in Female Gothic, 1780–1800
Wright explores how novels by Eliza Fenwick, Sophia Lee, Maria Roche, and Ann Radcliffe critique, via their fascination with portraiture, eighteenth-century consumerism. Wright argues that this engagement with image-making indicates late eighteenth century concerns with fashion, opulence and consumerism which become relocated in women‘s Gothic writing through the correlated issues of female insanity, desire and loss.
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.
This essay examines a particular kind of female Gothic. Seizing the moment at which features of Gothic form had become sufficiently established to become part of a cultural inheritance, some twentieth-century women writers, we argue, created comic Gothic fictions that extended the boundaries of potential feminine identity. Stella Gibbon‘s Cold Comfort Farm pits an Austen sensibility against a rural Radcliffean scenario and proceeds to parody both as literary ancestors of a contemporary narrative of femininity. Fay Weldon‘s The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983) also appropriates aspects of Gothic to spin a darkly comic tale of literary and literally constructed ‘woman’. The essay also looks at the Canadian novel published a year earlier, Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood, which engages playfully with the relationship between Gothic writing and the feminine. Such texts constitute a challenge to the grand récit of gender difference, a challenge that has yet to be recognized fully by feminist critics many of whom have concentrated their energies on the feminist pursuit of life-writing. Female writers of comic Gothic, however, confront the stuff of patriarchy‘s nightmares and transform it into fictions of wry scepticism or celebratory anarchy. Through parody as ‘repetition with critical difference’, the boundaries of gender difference are destabilized in the service of creating different possibilities for female subjectivity. In their resistance both to tragic closure and their recasting of the fears of patriarchal society from a feminine perspective, such texts transform a literature of terror into a literature of liberation.
literary historical solecism to equate
the Gothic only with fiction. During its initial phase (1750-1820)
Gothicwriting also encompassed drama and poetry, and before it was any
of these Gothic was a taste, an ‘aesthetic’.
But as David Punter indicates in his review of Elizabeth
Napier’s The Failure of Gothic, Gothic is problematic not simply
because it is heterogeneous. Napier’s focus, on forms of
In the Introduction I referred to
several decisions crucial to historicizing the Gothic: to resist
applying evolutionary narratives to the development of Gothicwriting;
to see the self in Gothicwriting as in the first instance conditioned
by historical conventions of representation; and to hold in abeyance the
traditional lines of demarcation, evaluative and generic, that cross
approaches. If there is, now, a consensus, it is that literary histories
should beware ‘grand narratives’, making room for difference.
In writing this book I have found myself influenced by
this consensus. The simple premise with which I started was that Gothicwriting was discursively involved in representations of the self.
Following the logic of this premise, I outlined a reading of the
reveries, the sublime – each is conceived as an hygienic event
threatened by desire. The Gothic’s predisposition to these is not
accidental, but represents once again the reflex of the Gothic to
internalize practices of the self touching upon sexuality as ‘an
especially dense transfer point for relations of power’ (Foucault 1979 : 103). Within
Gothicwriting itself, these normative practices unravel.
Introduction The aim of the present collection is to make available a
body of texts connected with the cultural phenomenon known as Gothicwriting. Some of the texts document the ideological and aesthetic
environment which gave rise to the new form of writing – its
conditions of possibility. Others indicate its political inflections. We
include many of the critical writings and reviews which helped to constitute