Film, Media and Music

This essay investigates how H G Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau employs the gothic trope of the uncanny. Despite Wells’s use of ‘uncanny’ twice to describe humanized animals, prior critics haven’t explored what the uncanny adds to our understanding of the novel, perhaps because Freud’s famous essay ‘The ‘Uncanny’ was written in 1913, following The Island of Doctor Moreau by more than two decades. We argue, however, that both men were working from notions of the uncanny circulating in fin de siècle Europe and describing a larger colonial dynamic, so that even though Wells’s work preceded Freud’s, we can use Freud’s explanation of the uncanny to better understand what Wells was doing and why the animals in The Island of Doctor Moreau are so unsettling to readers in our time and in his. That is, the uncanny helps to explain how the novel works as a gothic. Moreover, by examining how Freud’s theories help us to understand Wells, we also see elements of Freud’s essay that we wouldn’t otherwise. We will argue that because Freud and Wells were describing the world around them, overlap is logical, even predictable, and certainly useful to understanding both projects.

Gothic Studies
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Botany and Empiricism in The Mysteries of Udolpho

In The Mysteries of Udolpho, characters practice science in home laboratories, libraries, green houses and gardens, using observation, instruments, and books to study botany, astronomy, and chemistry. By integrating these moments of everyday science into her novels - and making them integral to the development of her heroines - Ann Radcliffe presents a landscape in which both reason and sensibility are enlisted to gather and process information and create meaning in a way that echoed the popular scientific discourse of the day. To date, there has been no sustained study of Radcliffe’s incorporation of scientific practice and rhetoric into her Gothic novels. By looking closely at the scientific engagement within her texts, we can broaden the basis for understanding her work as a part of the broader culture that not only included, but was in many ways predicated upon the shifting landscape of science at the end of the eighteenth century.

Gothic Studies

The existing canon of scholarship on Dracula asserts that the sexually aggressive female vampires are representative of the New Woman, and thus are evidence of Stoker’s conservative reaction to changing gender roles. In contrast, this article offers a reinterpretation Dracula in the light of key writings of the New Woman movement which sought to demonize the Victorian marriage market because of its creation of a class of female parasites: idle middle-class woman entirely dependent on fathers and husbands. A close reading of key sections of the novel demonstrates that the female vampires are characterized as traditionally subordinate Victorian housewives, in contrast to the positive presentation of Mina Harker as a New Woman. This reading reveals a text that argues that work for women is the only antidote to the degeneration inherent in traditional womanhood, through which women are reduced to nothing more than their biological functions.

Gothic Studies
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Gothic Studies

Since 2005 Tim Burton’s imagination has frequently turned to Victorian-related subjects. Focusing primarily on Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd (2007) and Alice in Wonderland (2010), this article argues that Burton’s response to (neo-) Victorian culture is a distinctly Gothic one. Unlike other more literary and canonical types of neo-Victorianism it engages with the popular and strongly Gothicised conceptions of the Victorian that emerged through the horror cinema of the twentieth century. It is also Gothic in the way that it self-consciously blends the Victorian with other cultural trends. As a result, rather than offering a strongly theorised, academic view of the Victorians, Burton remediates them for his own aesthetic purposes.

Gothic Studies
Biting into the Global Myth

This article discusses the manner in which the vampire fiction of contemporary Ukrainian author Halyna Pahutiak enters into a dialogue with the global vampire discourse whose core or ‘cultural capital’ finds its origins largely in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula (1897). Through discussion of thematic, stylistic, and structural similarities and differences between Pahutiak and Stoker’s portrayals of the vampire myth, my paper sheds light on the conscious mythmaking strategies that Pahutiak employs to return the vampire symbolically from the West to Eastern Europe where it originated, and reassess the core characteristics of the Dracula myth.

Gothic Studies

Drawing on Maggie Kilgour’s dictum that the Gothic activates a dormant past with the power to harm the present, this article explores the early modern histories invoked by the Regnum Congo, a sixteenth-century account of Africa featured in H. P. Lovecraft’s cannibal story ‘The Picture in the House’. The Regnum Congo taps into Lovecraft’s racism, instantiating, within and beyond the story, the racial and cultural convergence he dreaded. The tale’s cannibal resembles the Africans depicted in the Regnum Congo to a striking degree, even as his reverence for the book colours his putative status as a puritan. Integrating the book itself into the analysis enables a reading of the tale’s controversial cataclysmic ending as oneof several exemplars of Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock’s ‘Gothic thing-power’, which disrupts subject/object boundaries. The multifarious histories summoned by ‘Picture’ reflect Lovecraft’s own ambivalence about the past, as well as the possibilities of attention to Gothic pasts.

Gothic Studies

The following considers Richard Marsh’s 1897 gothic novel The Beetle in relation to fin-de-siècle anxieties, specifically sexual deviancy, empire, and venereal disease. While the domestic Contagious Diseases Acts had been revealed in the 1880s, continued high rates of VD amongst British soldiers in particular continued the debate as to who was responsible for spreading diseases such as syphilis both at home and abroad. At a time of ‘colonial syphiliphobia’, to extend Showalter’s term, The Beetle suggests the necessity of regulating venereal disease in the Empire to protect Britain’s ‘racial superiority’ and conservatively warns against the potential consequences of dabbling with the sexually ‘deviant’ and dangerous Orient.

Gothic Studies

Whilst the focus of much criticism has addressed goth as a subculture, considerably less attention has been given to the gendered status of marketing and advertising in subcultural magazines, whilst ‘glossy’ goth magazines have enjoyed little concerted analysis at all. Subcultures are frequently represented by participants and critics as ‘idyllic’ spaces in which the free play of gender functions as distinct from the ‘mainstream’ culture. However, as Brill (2008), Hodkinson (2002) and Spooner (2004) have identified, this is unfortunately an idealistic critical position. Whilst goth men may embrace an ‘androgynous’ appearance, goth women frequently espouse a look which has much in common with traditional feminine values. Slippages between subcultural marketing and mainstream advertising are frequent and often neotraditional in their message regarding masculinity and femininity. In using critiques of postfeminism alongside subcultural theory, I seek to reevaluate how gender functions in these publications. By close inspection of scene representations of ‘goth’ in the twenty-first-century through magazines such as Gothic Beauty (US), Unscene and Devolution (UK), as well as interviews with participants, I argue women’s goth fashion, sexuality and body image often (but not exclusively) represent a hyperfemininity which draws from conventional ideas of womanhood.

Gothic Studies

Scholars of eighteenth-century literature have long seen the development of the Gothic as a break from neoclassical aesthetics, but this article posits a more complex engagement with classical imitation at the origins of the genre. In Horace Walpole’s formative Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto, his Gothic drama The Mysterious Mother, and in the curiosities in his villa, classical elements are detached from their contexts and placed in startling and strange juxtapositions. His tendency towards the fragmentation of ancient culture, frequently expressed through the imagery of dismemberment, suggests an aesthetic not of imitation, but of collection. Moreover, rather than abandoning or ignoring the classical, Walpole reconfigures literary history to demonstrate elements of monstrosity and hybridity already present in Greek and Roman texts.

Gothic Studies