Suicide and the Gothic is the first protracted study of how the act of self-destruction recurs and functions within one of the most enduring and popular forms of fiction. Comprising eleven original essays and an authoritative introduction, this collection explores how the act of suicide has been portrayed, interrogated and pathologised from the eighteenth century to the present. The featured fictions include both the enduringly canonical and the less studied, and the geographical compass of the work embraces not merely British, European and American authors but also the highly pertinent issue of self-destruction in modern Japanese culture. Featuring detailed interventions into the understanding of texts as temporally distant as Thomas Percy’s Reliques and Patricia Highsmith’s crime fictions, and movements as diverse as Wertherism, Romanticism and fin-de-siècle decadence, Suicide and the Gothic provides a comprehensive and compelling overview of this recurrent crisis – a crisis that has personal, familial, religious, legal and medical implications – in fiction and culture. Suicide and the Gothic will prove a central – and provocative – resource for those engaged in the study of the genre from the eighteenth century onwards, but will also support scholars working in complementary literary fields from Romanticism to crime fiction and theoretical disciplines from the medical humanities to Queer Studies, as well as the broader fields of American and European studies. Its contents are as relevant to the undergraduate reader as they are to the advanced postgraduate and the faculty member: suicide is a crucial subject in culture as well as criticism.

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have established the ‘ground rules’ for how vampires act, Varney can take credit for one of the more curious recurring tropes of vampire narrative: vampire suicide. From Rymer’s un-dead omnibus, considered the first full-length work of vampire fiction, to modern vampire narratives including films such as Blacula (William Crain, 1972), Thirst (Park Chan-wook, 2009) and Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2014); television programs such as True Blood (based on the Southern Vampire Mystery series by author Charlaine Harris) and Angel (the Buffy the Vampire

in Suicide and the Gothic
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The self-destroying Gothic villain in Pauline Hopkins’ Of One Blood

This chapter explores how the villains in classic Gothic novels by Ann Radcliffe and Charles Brockden Brown used suicide to evade justice, and how this ‘suicide solution’ is later reworked by Pauline Hopkins in her 1903 Gothic novel Of One Blood . While the suicides of Radcliffe’s and Brown’s villains demonstrate their disregard for justice and judicial processes, Hopkins radically revises the possibility of justice through suicide. In these examples, suicidal Gothic villains present the reader with a complex moral quandary about how to

in Suicide and the Gothic
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Darkness and suicide in the work of Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith held very strong beliefs when it came to suicide. When Highsmith’s friend Arthur Koestler committed suicide with his wife, due to his leukaemia and Parkinson’s disease, she was both shocked and furious. Andrew Wilson describes a friend of Highsmith, Jonathon Kent, recalling his experience of this: ‘The only time I ever saw Pat morally outraged was when she talked about the deaths of Arthur and Cynthia Koestler’, says Jonathon Kent. ‘She felt that Koestler had persuaded Cynthia to kill herself

in Suicide and the Gothic
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Suicide and the Gothic in modern Japanese literature and culture

The portrayal of Japan as ‘the nation of suicide’ is pervasive. In 1897, Émile Durkheim famously proclaimed that ‘the readiness of the Japanese to disembowel themselves for the slightest reason is well known’, 1 echoing the bushido tenet that ‘the Way of the Samurai is found in death’. 2 The notion of suicide as an attribute of manliness is inscribed into Japanese culture, the cultural normalisation of and permissive attitude towards it explained through the country’s religio

in Suicide and the Gothic
Suicide as control and contagion in the works of Richard Marsh

The remarkable prevalence of suicide in England this summer brought the painful question of self-destruction prominently before the public. 1 So wrote S. A. K. Strahan, a prominent member of the Medico-Psychological Association, in the Preface to his 1893 work Suicide and Insanity . This is a title that illustrates Strahan’s accordance with the predominant medical view that the two do not necessarily coincide, this being what is often referred to as the ‘standard’ theory. Indeed, this

in Suicide and the Gothic
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The most Gothic of acts – suicide in generic context

The literary Gothic, if not actually initiated with a fictional instance of suicide, is certainly prefaced by the avowed intention by one character to exercise the ultimate preference of death over life. Manfred, the Gothic hero of Horace Walpole’s frequently playful but still guilt-ridden The Wrongs of Woman (1764), having enjoyed his baronial fiefdom in the capacity of a usurper, arbitrarily divorced a faithful wife and contemplated a technically illegal and incestuous union with his prospective daughter-in-law, finally commits the

in Suicide and the Gothic
Romanticism and Gothic suicide

If the Romantic Gothic hero is typically defined by his or her marginalisation from society and its norms and is characterised by excess, individualism and transgression, the ultimate act of defiance is self-annihilation. Romantic literature’s dark side to a preoccupation with individuality and subjectivity is the extinction of the self. Given its associations with a longstanding interest in what has been characterised as ‘the Romantic agony’, it is perhaps surprising that suicide is not treated as a topic distinct from death in the

in Suicide and the Gothic
Suicide and the self in the fin-de-siècle Gothic

Utterson’s comment, on discovering the twitching, dying body of Edward Hyde, that he ‘knew that he was looking at the body of a self-destroyer’, is both a tragic moment of discovery and a pun. 1 Jekyll may have committed suicide, but Hyde is a destroyer of selves, including that of Jekyll. This chapter begins by exploring how accounts of civilisation, constructed in theories of degeneration, articulated anxieties that civilisation could not be trusted because it incorporated within it the very forces which

in Suicide and the Gothic
The suicide at the heart of Dear Esther

landscape, in conjunction with the one-sided dialogue that an unnamed protagonist has with the Esther of the game’s title. The ‘story’ of the game is told in an epistolary form, delivered through fragments of letters, and is augmented by the player’s ability to observe the landscape, using both together to build a cohesive narrative of loss, grief, guilt and suicide. Catherine Spooner reminds us that the Gothic has never been solely restricted to books. 4 Thus, ‘given that a great majority of video games are based on

in Suicide and the Gothic