Literature and Theatre

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Dream manifestation in the Gothic short story
Nicola Bowring

Gothic has, since its inception, been concerned with the liminal nature of dreams and their relationship to the material. Monstrous figures within dreams function as manifestations of anxieties, but within the Gothic text, we see examples of beings and monsters who move from dream image to literal embodiment. This chapter explores the material manifestations of dream figures in the Gothic, taking the nineteenth-century short story as its focus. Gothic writing employs the dream primarily as a form of communication and is also concerned with the materiality of language, with articulation and (re)iteration. This materiality is a focus for psychoanalytic critics following Freud, such as Lacan, who regards language as essentially material, and Derrida, who in his concept of the trace picks up on the relationship between presence and absence, present and past, which these stories also explore. This chapter, then, will engage with theoretical concepts around language and communication to consider the materiality of the dream’s communications, through its nocturnal visitors/visitants. The concept of the trace is particularly fitting to the short story, which is able to infer without fully elucidating, to leave a trace, or a suggestion, of an idea. Like the dream, the short story’s latent content may appear ‘scant’ in comparison to its interpretation. Through the concept of embodiment in the dream narrative, the chapter will investigate the use of this format to explore anxieties around the unconscious dreaming state and its vulnerability to the monstrous, to a trace which becomes a presence, the spectral made manifest..

in Gothic dreams and nightmares
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Nightmarish realities in Thomas Ligotti’s fiction
Elisabete Lopes

Many of Thomas Ligotti’s tales are endowed with an oneiric nature and narrate encounters with otherness within an uncanny framework. Horror pervades the narrators’ accounts, who often find themselves lost in the claws of some mysterious nightmare that has suddenly breached into their reality, recalling the atmosphere of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Through these disturbing dreams, narrators discover that the reality they know and take for granted might be only a façade, a creation of cosmic unknown forces to disguise the true nature of the world. In fact, once these protagonists step into these alternate realities made available by dreams, they have contact with ‘the madness of things’, a phenomenon that encompasses evil, chaos, and monstrosity all combined. The purpose of this chapter is then to examine how Ligotti resorts to the dream to explore the limits of Gothic fiction, expanding its span towards the uncanny and the weird, by means of these eerie encounters with otherness. In this context, it is also important to explore the dream as a literary phenomenon that gives way to the intrusion of cosmic horror, which, in turn, is liable to deconstruct the world of the narrator and put into question his identity, thus leaving him hopeless and on the verge of madness..

in Gothic dreams and nightmares
Sam Hirst

The interpretation of Gothic dreams frequently focuses on psychoanalytical or narratological readings of Gothic dreams. This emphasis is often based on the underlying and often averred assumption of the secularisation of the period and the Gothic’s essential lack of concern with the metaphysical realities of the supernatural events it portrays. This chapter contests the assumption of secularity in early British Gothic literature, pointing to the survival of theological interpretations, their importance in contemporary dream discourse, and the ways in which Gothic texts engage with these beliefs. In order to map the complex nature of dream discourse in the period and its connection to the theological, this chapter provides a historical overview of theological ghost belief. It points to the survival of these conceptions of the dream and elucidates their influence on, and importance to, Gothic dreams. Theologised understandings of supernatural dreams and their provenance, purpose, and meaning are central to the Gothic. They are also intrinsically linked to wider theological debates about the nature of the soul, free will and determinism, theodicy, and providence, making, as will be explored, Gothic dreams as an index to the theological concerns of Gothic novels. Dream depiction in Gothic novels was by no means static. This chapter also maps the ways in which an increasingly medicalised discourse around dreams manifested in Gothic fiction. The influence of these discourses did not result in the rejection of supernatural understandings of the dream but rather in an increased emphasis on interpretative ambiguity, which allowed for both secular and theological possibilities of interpretation.

in Gothic dreams and nightmares
The night, the haunt, and the female vampire
Maria Giakaniki

In Samuel T. Coleridge’s Romantic poetic narrative ‘Christabel’ (1816), Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Victorian Gothic novella ‘Carmilla’ (1872), Théophile Gautier’s hallucinatory novella, ‘La Morte Amoureuse’ (1836), and Mircea Eliade’s Romanian horror novel Domnișoara Christina (1936), the bizarre, unsettling dreams that the protagonists experience are alternately erotic, repulsive, and/or premonitory, either resembling the state of trance or appearing to be a vivid simulation of real life. In this context, this chapter constitutes an individual but also comparative analysis of the dreams and nightmares in these four classical literary vampire works and the ways they expose the central character’s subconscious, forbidden desires and fears, at the same time remaining attentive to each text’s sociohistorical context. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which dreams are employed by each author to depict different forms of complex vampiric relationships, while the chapter will also demonstrate how the ambivalent persona of the female vampire represents (queer) sexual desire, but also parasitic otherness and how these features are illustrated through the use of dreams. In this respect, the exploration of the emblematic figure of the female vampire as a classic Gothic horror motif, as well as the theme of repressed sexuality within the broader scope of dreams and nightmares in Gothic/horror literature, adds an intriguing dimension to an already fascinating topic. The inclusion of lesser-known continental literary works will offer fresh perspectives on the subject, thus providing a more comprehensive, enhanced view of the misty landscapes of troubled sleep in Gothic/horror fiction. .

in Gothic dreams and nightmares
Open Access (free)
Beckett’s Film
Philipp Schweighauser

The historical setting of Beckett’s Film in 1929 is conventionally related to the significance of that year in the history of film. But Beckett's use of the device of the ‘angle of immunity’ suggests an additional historical context. Both the setting of Film in 1929 and its production in the early 1960s prompt me to inquire into the medical meanings of ‘immunity’ in a film whose damaged protagonist, dilapidated setting and production in the sweltering heat of New York in July prominently raise issues of health and disease. I supplement my inquiry into the medical meanings of Beckett’s ‘angle of immunity’ with an exploration of the concept’s social significance. Drawing on Jacques Derrida’s and Roberto Esposito’s reflections on community, immunity, and autoimmunity, I note that O’s flight in Beckett’s Film is not merely a flight from perception but also a flight from community. This flight from community manifests the destructive, autoimmunitary logic of the self/not-self dichotomy that the immunological revolution succeeded in placing at the heart of immunology as Beckett was shooting his film.

in Beckett and media
Open Access (free)

Featuring twelve original essays by leading Beckett scholars and media theorists, this book provides the first sustained examination of the relationship between Beckett and media technologies. The chapters analyse the rich variety of technical objects, semiotic arrangements, communication processes and forms of data processing that Beckett’s work so uniquely engages with, as well as those that – in historically changing configurations – determine the continuing performance, the audience reception, and the scholarly study of this work. Greatly enlarging the scope of earlier discussions, the book draws on a variety of innovative theoretical approaches, such as media archaeology, in order to discuss Beckett’s intermedial oeuvre. As such it engages with Beckett as a media artist and examine the way his engagement with media technologies continues to speak to our cultural situation.

Ulrika Maude

Beckett’s television plays stage a seeming disparity between their often difficult and affectively challenging subject matter, and the deliberate aestheticism and formalism of their representational strategies. This is made even starker by the austere formal qualities of their medium: the limited, rigidly framed TV screen, its flatness, the shades of grey in a black and white broadcast, the stark televisual light, produced by the firing of a cathode tube onto the television screen, the frequently ‘flat’ or ‘indifferent’ tone of their voice-over and the often ‘staring’ camera eye, as Beckett called it in his manuscript drafts. And yet, the answer to how the plays’ affective content is communicated seems to reside precisely in the unusualness and precision of their form, in the clinically framed shots and the abstracted, calculatedly affectless sets, in their detailed foregrounding of the artifice of representation, in their late-modernist, minimal, pared-down style, even in the brevity and semantic reticence of the scripts.

in Beckett and media
Armin Schäfer

This chapter discusses the concept of exhaustion in Beckett’s literary texts and plays. The course of the argument follows Gilles Deleuze’s essay on Beckett, but relates the concept of exhaustion to the history of science and media studies. Since the nineteenth century physiology and psychiatry have investigated the effects of exhaustion, which ultimately leads to the destruction of the subject. Deleuze argues that exhaustion may also bring an unforeseen possibility or the emergence of invention. Beckett’s notion of media helps to grasp the nexus between exhaustion and invention. Since the technological basis of a medium is constantly evolving and changing, there is no single entity, apparatus or essential technological feature that constitutes ‘theatre’, ‘film’ or ‘radio’. Beckett makes inventions by exhausting the possibilities that are intrinsic to a medium and by stripping it bare to its inherent dispositive.

in Beckett and media
Remediating theatre through radio
Pim Verhulst

This chapter analyses Beckett’s reconceptualisation of the body in his later theatre – Happy Days, Play, That Time, Footfalls and Not I – against the background of his work for radio and, to a lesser extent, television in the 1950s and 1960s, focusing in particular on All That Fall, Embers and Eh Joe. Through concepts such as intermediality, remediation and embodiment, it argues that Beckett’s early opposition between technological and non-technological genres, in terms of physicality and voice, becomes increasingly untenable in the 1970s, which leads to a re-embodiment of his theatrical work by way of radio’s disembodying influence. The chapter thus shows how Beckett’s exposure to new media throughout his later career invited him to revisit as well as revise his own preconceptions about drama in its various forms, and use that experience as a driving force of theatrical innovation.

in Beckett and media
Martin Harries

This chapter reconsiders Beckett’s well-known devotion to the convention of the proscenium arch. It argues that Beckett’s practice disrupts familiar ways of thinking about the proscenium as historically constant in its effects. Beckett, to use the Brechtian term, refunctions the proscenium. The chapter argues that Beckett’s insistence on the proscenium as pictorial frame responds to a historical situation in which that frame had migrated from the theatre to the ubiquitous media of film and television. Beckett’s plays experiment with the changed situation of the theatrical proscenium in the wake of its generalisation as a format for mass-mediated representations. Focusing especially on Endgame, the chapter argues that in Beckett’s work the theatre became a site to scrutinise rather than to reproduce the ideological effects associated with the proscenium and its subjectifying force.

in Beckett and media