Literature and Theatre

Xavier Aldana Reyes

This chapter argues that graveyards in Western Gothic cinema have become an intrinsic part of the aesthetic vocabulary of horror, bridging the gaps between effect-driven atmospherics and serious subject matter, and suturing specific cultural anxieties into canonical narrative conventions that speak to the mode’s interest in the unearthing of the past – its unspeakable secrets, injustices and repressions. Their metonymic figuration of death, the greatest human fear, sometimes takes anthropomorphic shape in the Gothic’s infinite revenants and crepuscular dwellers, who claw their way out of tombs and mausolea to force the living into earth-shattering moments of reckoning and acceptance of the inexorable progress of ageing and the finitude of life. Other times, graveyards act as literal passageways, as corridors to the great unknown, the numinous and imponderables that exist beyond the metric grasp of empiricism and the exacting test-tubes of science. In the process, they make us question who gets pushed underneath, below the fabric of acceptable society, who is forced to inhabit subterranean spaces that defy majoritarian understandings of the traditional and the expected. Films discussed in this chapter include Frankenstein (1931), Night of the Living Dead (1968), La noche del terror ciego (Tombs of the Blind Dead, 1972), La Rose de fer (The Iron Rose, 1973), Phantasm (1979), Bride of Re-Animator (1990), Nightbreed (1990) and Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man, 1994).

in Graveyard Gothic
Graveyards in Western Gothic television
Stacey Abbott

Graveyards are a common backdrop to television adaptations of Dracula, in which the Count hides among the dead and seduces the living. It is also within a graveyard that the hero of Nigel Kneale’s The Woman in Black (ITV, 1989) first catches sight of the eponymous spectre who will seal his doom and where gravedigger Mike Ryerson comes face to face with the newly risen and vampirised child vampire, Danny Glick in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (CBS, 1979). The graveyard is an ideal setting for uncanny encounters between the living and the dead, lending these meetings a recognisably Gothic and melancholic mise en scène. Yet the aim of this chapter will be to demonstrate how the utilisation of the graveyard in Gothic TV is more than simply a shorthand to evoke a Gothic atmosphere but rather a location that renegotiates the Gothic for television. I will demonstrate how the iconography of the graveyard fosters an audience familiarisation with the conventions of horror while subtly inverting these tropes in family-friendly shows such as The Addams Family (ABC, 1964–6) and The Munsters (CBS, 1964–6). This location, however, also facilitates a confrontation with, and negotiation of, themes of death and grief in series such as Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (NBC, 1969–73), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WB/UPN, 1997–2003), The Originals (CW, 2013–18), The X-Files (Fox, 1993–2018, and In the Flesh (BBC, 2013–14). Significantly, I will consider how the association of television with themes of the domestic allows for a reimagining of the Gothic graveyard as a site that evokes security and comfort while also disrupting that security through the eruption of the dead through the carefully manicured cemetery lawn, confronting the audience with the horrors of familial trauma and personal loss.

in Graveyard Gothic
Kevin Corstorphine

Indian burial grounds are a staple of American popular culture, and through their representation in fiction and film reach a global audience. In such narratives, ‘old Indian burial grounds’ are built over with houses, hotels and other such dwellings. The after-effects of this disrespect shown to sacred ground usually include hauntings and otherworldly incursions of various types, and the possession of people, objects, or even the structure itself. In this way, the Indian burial ground serves as a fairly obvious (and indeed much-parodied) trope for the dispossession of native peoples and the subsequent cultural guilt of a colonial society. The extent to which these representations have any connection to actual Native American burial and funereal practices is less frequently explored, and the tendency is for such popular culture narratives to draw on this vaguely defined sense of cursed or spoiled land, unfit for human habitation but ripe for supernatural happenings. The association of Native Americans with the supernatural has a long and revealing history in settler culture in the United States, particularly in the loaded terms of land ownership. This chapter will explore this history from a postcolonial perspective, alongside readings of notable examples of the motif in fiction and film such as The Amityville Horror, Pet Sematary, and Poltergeist, as well as going back to early American fiction such as Washington Irving’s ‘The Devil and Tom Walker’

in Graveyard Gothic
Abstract only
Graveyard Gothic
Eric Parisot
,
David McAllister
, and
Xavier Aldana Reyes

This introductory chapter theorises the graveyard’s persistent appeal to Gothic writers, identifying it as a heterotopic space of intergenerational confrontation replete with supernatural potential. Readings of key texts from Gothic’s first wave establish the centrality of burial spaces to the emerging Gothic mode, from the funerary sculptures and tombside denouement of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) to the double-coded graveyards found in Gothic spoofs and satires. The accumulated layers of meaning that the graveyard accrues marks it as an example of what Michel Foucault, in ‘Of Other Spaces’ (1967), calls a ‘heterotopia’: a space that is discursively ‘other’ due to its disturbing and transformative qualities. Here, the authors argue that the graveyard is a heterotopia characterised by temporal accumulation and discontinuity in which ideologies compete, become distorted, are repressed and re-emerge, transformed in and by different cultures and new media. It is this seemingly endless flexibility and relevance that have given the graveyard its enduring position as a key Gothic locale, and which necessitates the cross-media and international approach that characterises this volume.

in Graveyard Gothic
Horror, reform and Gothic fiction
Roger Luckhurst

The reformist impulses of the Anatomy Act of 1832 and the Burial Act of 1852 started to resolve two specific cultural anxieties that dominated the early nineteenth-century perception of the graveyard. The growth of the medical profession outpaced the strictly controlled supply of bodies for dissection, leading to the fifty-year career of the ‘resurrection men’ who supplied newly buried bodies to anatomy schools. This produced a wave of fear that was integral to the first wave of Gothic ʻterror novels’ up to and including Shelley’s Frankenstein and its gruesome graveyard scenes. Twenty years later, the Burial Act addressed the fear of miasmatic disease spreading from overcrowded private burial grounds, consolidating the revolution in suburban garden cemeteries. Again, the scandals of over-burial exposed in the 1830s fuelled another aspect of Gothic horrors, remaining integral to the genre up to and including the pivotal place of the choked inner London pauper ground in Dickens’s Bleak House.

in Graveyard Gothic
Abstract only
A tour of the cinematic Slavic cemetery
Agnieszka Jezyk
and
Lev Nikulin

The chapter provides a textual tour of Slavic graveyards in Russian and Polish horror films of this transitional time: Marek Piestrak’s She-Wolf (1983) and The Return of the She-Wolf (1990), Oleg Teptsov’s Master Designer (1988), Andrzej Żuławski’s She-Shaman (1996) and Aleksandr Itygilov’s The Humble Cemetery (1989). We look at the function of the graveyard in the period during which it became a holding and processing mechanism for historical memories and traumas as well as a conceptual bridge between irreconcilable eras. In our case studies, two directors use cemeteries to deal with the past (Marek Piestrak and Oleg Teptsov), and two use them to look ahead to an uncertain future (Andrzej Żuławski and Aleksandr Itygilov). These films utilise the imagery of graves and graveyards to bring expressions of cultural anxiety and elements of social critique into Gothic narratives. Despite radically different geopolitical positions and historical legacies, and idiosyncratic cinematic styles, these East European directors all present cemeteries and tombs as places and objects that transform history from experience into discourse. Emphasising themes such as historical trauma, and gender and class relations, we are inspired by, among others, Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope, George Bataille’s notion of inner experience, Susan Signe Morrison’s view on history as waste, and Walter Benjamin’s vision of debris of history.

in Graveyard Gothic
Corinna Wagner

Ruins are as endemic to the modern as Gothic. Gothic graveyards are and should be organic, living repositories, characterised, positively, by impermanence and slow ruin. Thus, efforts to preserve, conserve and renovate can, paradoxically, disrupt important individual and communal connections with the dead. To erase or destroy those spaces, with their ruins and relics, is to effectively erase or destroy important social and cultural bonds. The Victorians had their destructive improvers; the late twentieth and early twenty-first century has commercial developers and a gentrifying heritage industry. In this chapter I examine how, at specific historical moments, graveyard ruins and relics – official and unofficial, textual and visual, material and imaginative – facilitated certain kinds of vital encounters between the dead and the living.

in Graveyard Gothic
Textures, tehkhana and the Gothic in the horror films of the Ramsay brothers
Vibhushan Subba

In examining the 1980s Bombay horror cinema of the Ramsay Brothers, this chapter explores the site of the tehkhana – an underground dwelling, cellar or dungeon used at times as a burial place – which emerges as a distinct space and a Gothic site rendered monstrous with the arrival of a particular kind of cinema and haunting. Unlike the graveyards and havelis of Bombay horror and an earlier cycle of Gothic supernatural films, the tehkhana signals the arrival of a particular brand of horror that is symptomatic of a larger transformation of the Indian public sphere and media geography following the cassette and piratic networks of the 1980s and a response to the political climate of the 1970s. I approach this site as a ‘crime scene’ that holds on to the unresolved testimonies of the repressed and the forgotten, that maintains a complicated relationship with the legacies of feudal and colonial power, and that explores the uncertain contours of modernity – a space that operates within the subterranean world of Bombay low-budget horror and where the voids of history dwell.

in Graveyard Gothic
Gothic of the British First and Second World Wars
Sara Wasson

During both World Wars, the British government sought to minimise signs of civilian and combatant death. Yet the dead nonetheless had a vital presence within national discourse. Throughout both Wars, there was substantial popular and government appetite for the trope I have called the ‘ventriloquised corpse’, ‘in which, in the imagination of the living, the dead declare that their sacrifice was willing and worthwhile’. This chapter examines literary engagements with this problematic trope, then troubles this cultural narrative through texts using a Gothic mode to disconcert state-sanctioned narratives of national commemoration of war death. Existing criticism within Gothic studies has considered the soldier revenant who resents their sacrifice and bears malice toward the living. This present chapter, too, shows how Gothic representations may undercut national stories of war, but I explore this with a different emphasis, stemming from taking, as my focus, war graves and burial places – including of burial alive –and other sites where the dead were taken into the earth. The concept of interment becomes a fulcrum on which, in the writing of the time, trenches and bombed streets edge towards ‘grave’. Rather than the speaking spectre, this chapter concerns the silent corpse – rotting and speechless, it, too, cannot be recruited to narratives of national glory. Adapting Pierre Nora’s concept of lieux de memoire and Nancy Wood’s concept of lieux d’oubli, I consider how these works examine sites of selective forgetting. More precisely, I suggest these works offer lieux d’oubliés, sites of the forgotten, insofar as they attend to the decay of particular bodies and refuse to elide the material impact of war. Texts explored include work by Frederic Manning, Edmund Blunden, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Mervyn Peake, Rose Macaulay and John Piper.

in Graveyard Gothic
James Machin

Primarily focusing on the weird fiction of H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937), this chapter explores how Lovecraft’s uses of the graveyard can be situated as being both within and emergent from the Gothic tradition. Lovecraft’s fictive graveyards also intersected with the literary necrophilia of Poe and the Decadents, who, as well as regarding the graveyard as being symbolic of the precarity of existence, imbued the site with an aesthetic and transgressive jouissance. In ‘The Hound’ (1922), Lovecraft uses the graveyard not only to evoke visceral horror in the reader but explicitly as a site functioning as a focal point for these literary, philosophical and aesthetic intersections: the protagonists are two aesthetes and intellectuals who alight upon the graveyard specifically to achieve this jouissance. The chapter goes on to explore how, from this Gothic context, Lovecraft continued to further ‘weird’ the graveyard by conceptualising it within the framework of modernism. In ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ (1928), Lovecraft applies the cubism of Picasso to the graveyard, exploding traditional understandings of ordered space and perspective by turning the site into the fourth-dimensional, indeterminate ‘living tomb’ of R’lyeh, from which Cthulhu emerges with ‘a stench as of a thousand opened graves’

in Graveyard Gothic