Literature and Theatre
Published in 1795, John Palmer, Jun.’s The Haunted Cavern: A Caledonian Tale is a historical Gothic romance that expresses certain unease with the growth of British imperialism at the end of the eighteenth century. In this text, Palmer explores the impact of empire on the colonialized other as well as demonstrating the hypocrisy and abuse of certain imperial practices. With the plot set during the end of the War of the Roses, The Haunted Cavern juxtaposes medieval England as the imperial power with France and Scotland illustrated as the colonialized victims. This article examines the tension towards empire found in The Haunted Cavern which helps clarify the commercialized Gothic romance’s function as a subversive medium towards colonialism.
This article explores the use of floral symbolism within Gothic fiction of the fin de siècle. Taking as a basis the language of flower anthologies popularised throughout the nineteenth century, it investigates how this notoriously unstable floral language filtered through into the popular Gothic fiction at the end of the century. Whilst authors of Gothic may have adhered to existing codes and associations pertaining to particular flowers, they also destabilised traditional meaning, and introduced a new floral lexicon into the popular imagination. The article primarily considers Bram Stoker’s Dracula in an attempt to locate floral significance through consideration of the production and widely discussed political agenda of the text. Through a close reading of Dracula’s garlic flower, the article asks whether there might be a Gothic language of flowers situated within the narrative that bears comparison with other Gothic fictions of the period and beyond.
Gothic literature set in fin-de-siècle London has often been argued to highlight duality. However, the urban Gothic truly flourishes through its liminality, which allows chaos and order to coexist. Texts such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray offer versions of a Gothic London that have the appearance of structure but are difficult to navigate. Likewise, the Batman franchise has embraced Gotham City as a setting that provides tensions between order and chaos. In Gotham, as in fin-de-siècle London, liminality puts pressures on apparent boundaries. While the urban Gothic initially developed through nineteenth century British texts, modern-day comics and films within the Batman franchise have allowed us to see how a multiverse normalises liminality and embraces multiple works to speak collectively about Gothic tensions. This article analyses the liminal nature of the urban Gothic in both cities side by side to argue that the urban Gothic’s liminal nature allows instability to reign.
This paper investigates lower-class voices within the context of anti-Gothic criticism, using Ann Radcliffe’s novels and early Gothic critic Joseph Addison’s essays to highlight the ways in which Radcliffe reassigns value to the Gothic aesthetic. It further emphasizes Radcliffe’s reconfiguration of domestic roles as she positions patriarchal figures as anti-Gothic critics, the heroine as reader of gothic narratives, and lowerclass voices and tales as gothic texts. The Mysteries of Udolpho and Romance of the Forest subvert critical discourse and its motif of servants’ contagious irrationality. In Radcliffe’s novels, ‘vulgar’ narratives as superstitious discourse do not spread fear to susceptible heroines, embodiments of bourgeois virtue, but demonstrate the ways in which fear is a construct of patriarchal discourse. Servants and country people, in turn, construct a pedagogy for reading gothic texts that permit heroines to deconstruct metaphors of ghostly haunting embedded in their tales and resist patriarchal hegemony and interpretative authority over gothic texts.
This article investigates the role of the corridor in Gothic fiction and horror film from the late eighteenth century to the present day. It seeks to establish this transitional space as a crucial locus, by tracing the rise of the corridor as a distinct mode of architectural distribution in domestic and public buildings since the eighteenth century. The article tracks pivotal appearances of the corridor in fiction and film, and in the final phase argues that it has become associated with a specific emotional tenor, less to do with amplified fear and horror and more with emotions of Angst or dread.
Chris Baldick and Robert Mighall have argued rather convincingly that ‘Gothic Criticism’ is in need of an overhaul. I revisit their controversial article through an analysis of Oscar Wilde’s parody of the Gothic and of scholarship, ‘The Portrait of Mr W. H.’ In this tale of creative criticism, Wilde’s hero, Cyril Graham, invents the character of Willie Hughes to prove a theory about Shakespeare’s sonnets. Contrary to Baldick and Mighall, I argue that Gothic criticism might do well to take its cue from its object of study. Plunging deep into the abyss, abandoning pretentions of knowing fact from fiction, natural from supernatural, I whole-heartedly - momentarily - consider the ‘Willie Hughes theory’ and ‘I will take up the theory where Cyril Graham left it and I will prove to the world that he was right’.
The role played by Fantasmagoriana in the genesis of Frankenstein and The Vampyre has largely prevented the full critical appreciation of this work in its original context of production, i.e. the French market of supernatural anthologies in the early nineteenth century, paving the way to the so-called frénétique vogue. By analysing a manuscript appendix to Fantasmagoriana, drafted between the mid-1820s and the mid-1830s and bound within a copy formerly belonging to the Roman family Gabrielli-Bonaparte, this article reinstates Fantasmagoriana within the environment of Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic culture and its renewed interest in the supernatural. Whereas English-speaking criticism has normally approached Fantasmagoriana through Tales of the Dead, i.e. Sarah Utterson’s Gothicizing and partial translation of 1813, an analysis of Fantasmagoriana from the point of view of its original readership will enable us to rethink the specificities of the French Gothic beyond Anglocentric perspectives.
Ever since the publication of Frankenstein, the Gothic has been read as an expression of the fears associated with scientific, technological, and medical advances. This essay argues that obstetrical medicine, from midwifery to obstetrics, is the most Gothic of medical pursuits because of its blurring of boundaries between male and female, natural and supernatural, mechanical and organic, life and death. From subterraneous passages to monstrosity, the professionalization of obstetrics over the course of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth reads like a Gothic novel. Tracing the parallels between the Gothic aesthetic and several fictional and quasifictional accounts of obstetrical ‘stories’ - from the Warming Pan Scandal of 1688 to the work of Scottish obstetrician William Smellie and man mid-wife William Hunter - this essay demonstrates the Gothic nature of reproductive pursuits.
This study maps the influence of the Gothic mode in the Czech postmodern prose, especially in the novels published at the turn of the millennium: it primarily concerns books by Václav Vokolek, Miloš Urban and Jan Jandourek. Through analyticalinterpretative probes into these texts are demonstrated the main possibilities of the Gothic mode and consequences of its implementation in the contemporary Czech literature: distortion of the perspective and blurring of the individual identity, instability of the setting, expression of civilizational and existential fears. The study illustrates capturing of the key Gothic themes in the analyzed works of fiction and also the specific transformation and modification of these topics within individual author poetics. Special attention is particularly given to specifics of the setting, often combining typical Gothic topoi, which may be part of seriously intended opposition of the sacral and the profane, or they can also be presented as exposed cliché sceneries.
Though presenting itself as pulpy example of hardboiled American fiction, Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me opens up in important and unexpected ways when read as a subversive Gothic novel. Such a reading sheds light on a range of marginalized characters (especially women and rural peoples) who often remain shadowed by more conventional readings. Reading the novel as Gothic also highlights thematic concerns which counter the halcyon image of post-World War II America as a golden age and reveal instead a contemporary landscape fraught with violence, alienation, and mental instability.