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.
Urban legends and their adaptation in horror cinema
Mikel J. Koven
discussed Candyman from a folkloristic perspective by drawing
the literature surrounding ostension (Koven, 1999 ). Overall, however, a useful methodology
for the analysis of legends in popular cinema has been slow to
An obvious starting point would be a consideration of the
narrative structure of those films either based on or utilising urban
question of ostension – I would like to insert an incident
from a village in the English countryside from long after the era of the
The case of Ann Izzard 16
In 1808 Ann Izzard and her husband, of
Great Paxton, Cambridgeshire, were attacked in their cottage by a mob of
other villagers on two successive nights. The case has maintained a certain
notoriety in local tradition, and forms part of
book, with its superb and subtle account of the end-stopped, the blank, the ‘preconceptual’, the ‘hum’, the ‘ostensive’ in literature and the (Wordsworthian but also more generally poetic) sense of the ‘blank opacity with which the world discloses its being’ (p. 7), or the (Dickinsonian but also more generally poetic) sense of the ‘disclosure of the insignificant in the very sound of signification’ (p. 63). As Fry puts it, ‘the suspension of knowledge enabled by ostension can serve to reinvigorate the very quest it interrupts’ (p. 201).
, understanding, but also in the end nescience. This reticence is what we learn, or what we can learn, from books – not to know, not to desire knowledge. Or to ‘know’, rather, a book’s opacity, or what Paul Fry calls the ‘ostension’ of the poem – the way that, like some lines of poetry, a poem can be ‘end stopped’, can lead, cognitively, just nowhere. 13 In this regard, epistemophilia, the desire or drive to know, which itself drives reading and structures narratives may be said to be shadowed by its other, by what we might call anepistemophilia or even by epistemophobia, by
made an act of benediction. 89 Thus San Gennaro vanquished Vesuvius to save Naples.
Giovanni Battista Manso (1560–1645), Marquis of Villa and founder of the Pio Monte della Misericordia and the scholarly Accademia degli Oziosi, then in his seventies, had a privileged view of the ostension of the relic outside the Porta Capuana:
I was the closest to the Cardinal, since he had asked me to find a place where this could best be done, which I did on a high platform, [at the distance of] perhaps an arquebus’ shot from the gate, where once the Cardinal had arrived
di Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza , 16 (2004), 79–120). In an important contribution on the relationship between architecture and relic, Scott discusses the ostension of the Turin Shroud in relation to the growing ambitions of the Savoy dynasty (Scott, Architecture for the Shroud ) . Thomas Dale argues that the twelfth-century mural painting in the crypt of Aquileiea Cathedral occupied a complementary relationship to the relics of Hermagoras (the cathedral’s founding bishop) in their distinctive devotional and political roles. Significantly he locates
glass clouds the view, shuns the viewer. Behind misty crystal or glass, hard to see, in its own obscurity lies the relic. We know now in part. The glass glints, small and round, like an exit wound, or an eye looking back. Thus glass permits a tantalizing glimpse and insists on an incompossible separation. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face.
Desire for access to God was complex and ambiguous. While the reliquaries stage ‘seeing’ and ostension, the relics are veiled as much as visible. The sacred remains at a distance, out of reach
arranged for musical performances every morning and evening to accompany ostensions during the novenas and the triduum. 138 Music, they hoped, would draw ‘a greater concourse of visitors’. 139 Indeed, the chapel’s architecture placed music at its heart. While the presbytery glistened as visual focus, the body of the chapel was the crossing where the worshippers gathered; and the elevated organ and four choir galleries ( coretti ) were raised immediately above them ( Plates 2 & 4 ). Choirs were elevated in the chapel, their singing to rise into the soaring dome
issue of precedence and etiquette should be resituated away from the history of customs and mentalities to that of relationships and conflicts amongst classes and ranks. 97 The story of the Treasury Chapel is in part the story of the way in which the holy was part of those conflicts and relationships, and was neither extraneous to them nor purely instrumental. Tensions between deputies and Archbishop focused on the cult of San Gennaro, including ownership of the relics, precedence in celebrations, the appropriate place (chapel, Cathedral) for the ostension of his