For my first creative writing group, formed with three colleagues at the
South Bank Centre in London in December 1987, I wrote about this
photograph, taken in 1940 or 1941. I called the piece ‘Image of an alien’.
But the really extraordinary thing about this photo is that he is
right in the centre. Not only that. He is framed and displayed by the
arch, projected, more than any of the other men, against the pale
background of the sky.
It took me a while to understand what was so unsettling about it.
I thought it was the dislocating effect of seeing him
Aliens: immigration law’s
The idea that there is a clear distinction between the status
of British subject and that of alien performed a useful function for Britain as it sought to expand its territory and
build the British Empire between the late sixteenth and
early eighteenth centuries. The legal category of alien
aided in the institutionalisation of a hierarchy of people
and, accordingly, allowed for the differentiated apportionment of resources and entitlements. Aliens could be denied
the rights that were granted to British
MUP FINAL PROOF – <STAGE>, 11/01/2013, SPi
Aliens in the sanitary zone
In 1896 the old barrier of quarantine finally gave way to the English
System with the repeal of the Quarantine Act of 1825, and the practice and administration of port health was no longer divided. Britain’s
success in averting the spread of cholera in 1892 and the subsequent
European acknowledgement that the system of sanitary surveillance
had prevented a British epidemic hastened the legal removal of quarantine from the statute books, for all diseases. Yet the question of
health at the
MUP FINAL PROOF – <STAGE>, 09/04/2013, SPi
The internment of ‘enemy aliens’
With the outbreak of war, all German and Austrian refugees in Britain
were transformed overnight into ‘enemy aliens’, and therefore regarded as
potential enemy agents. During the First World War, the British government had introduced general internment of ‘enemy aliens’ and MI5 had
advocated a similar policy in any new conflict, ‘largely because it saw no
practicable alternative’.1 However, the government initially decided against
mass internment. Instead the Home Office announced a
Demography and the alien in the twentieth
century: creating the Gibraltarian
By the end of the nineteenth century the great majority of the civilians living in
Gibraltar had, legally, a secure right of residence. In most cases this was based
upon laws which applied pretty much in all parts of the British Empire, of which,
of course, Gibraltar with its British army garrison and Royal Navy base seemed
securely and permanently a part. Through the principle of jus soli the nativeborn had acquired by birth an apparently robust entitlement, and that privilege
Hearing Voices in L. M. Montgomery‘s Emily Climbs and F. W. H. Myers
The novels of L. M. Montgomery‘s Emily trilogy belong to the genre of domestic fiction, but they are punctuated by uncanny events, by excursions into a Gothic mode where the girl‘s smooth transition from rebellious child to compliant adult is disrupted. This paper is an investigation of Montgomerys use of Gothic tropes in the second novel of the trilogy, Emily Climbs (1925); in particular, this essay analyses the chapter entitled ‘In the Watches of the Night’, a chapter that is exemplary of Montgomery‘s use of the Gothic mode to disrupt the disciplinary system that enjoins the adolescent girl to situate her desires in the home. The chapter is permeated by Montgomery‘s reading in abnormal psychology, particularly by F. W. H. Myerss Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1903), a work that lends a scientific veneer to Montgomerys Gothicism with its account of what ‘hearing voices’ means. In an extravagantly gothic metaphor, Slavoj Zizek claims that the ‘life of a voice’ is ‘the uncanny life of an undead monster, not the “healthy” living self-presence of meaning’ (103). Montgomery‘s text arguably excavates a moment which reveals both the speaking subject and the ideology which disciplines it to be marked by the uncanny, by that which undermines ‘the “healthy” living self-presence of meaning’.
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.
The critical response to Alien Resurrection marked a departure from negative responses to Alien3. Oblivious to the films parting from the trilogys characterization as ‘simultaneously feminist and gynophobic’, some critics remained steadfast to that trope, insisting ‘Ripley is still the same person.’ Critics of the trilogy determined its sub-text to be concerned with gender and reproduction and went on to assert the same of Alien Resurrection. Where the trilogy offered a vision of Ripley,through a heterocentric lens, with blurred but visible divisions between monstrous and human, (and what distinguished them had to do with means of reproduction), AlienResurrection eradicates boundaries so it becomes impossible to determine whether ‘normal’ human or monster, can even exist in this world. The issue of sexuality becomes paramount to the issue of reproduction and gender. In the course of the trilogy, gender is made obsolete; Alien Resurrection finishes the job in rendering terms of sexual normalcy immaterial. The alien queen who has mutated into a parthenogenetically reproducing creature is described as ‘perfect’; what kind of meaning can that sort of reproduction or creature have in a heterocentric world? This world and its inhabitants are beyond heterosexuality, and perhaps beyond sexuality as we know it. Consequently, reconsidering AlienResurrection through a queer lens which inquires into sexuality offers a fuller and more fruitful reading than does one through gender or the biological labyrinth of reproduction.