Literature and Theatre

Graveyards as a Gothic chronotope in twenty-first-century fiction for young people
Debra Dudek

As the twentieth century ended and the twenty-first began, young adult (YA) television series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) and The Vampire Diaries (2009–17) featured graveyards as a space for temporary contemplation. With the publication of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book (2008), the graveyard came to the foreground as a place of safety and belonging for young people. Since The Graveyard Book, graveyards have become agential sites. Young people live in graveyards or adjacent to them, pets are resurrected, and humans work together with the undead to seek justice for wrongdoings. In each case, graveyards are a chronotope for adolescent liminality – that space and time between childhood and adulthood. Although graveyards appear in many texts for young people, their significance has not been the focus of much academic scholarship beyond attention to Gaiman's novel. In this chapter, I focus my analysis on a selection of texts published between 2017 and 2021 in which graveyards are implicit sites of being: Graveyard Shakes; The Graveyard Riddle; Death and Douglas; The Graveyard Girl and the Boneyard Boy; and Cemetery Boys. Each text features a graveyard or cemetery as a Gothic chronotope, a space the young protagonists occupy to negotiate and fortify their sense of self. These graveyard narratives represent graveyards and adolescence as liminal locale and, as I contend, a space and time for young people to express and develop their being in an ontological exchange with an Other.

in Graveyard Gothic
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The futures of graveyard Gothic
Eric Parisot
,
David McAllister
, and
Xavier Aldana Reyes

This chapter considers the future of the graveyard Gothic in a twenty-first-century landscape transformed by developments in the management and mourning of the dead, as well as by a growing secularism. The chapter begins with a discussion of how the multiple overlapping crises of the last decade have begun to reshape contemporary deathways: war, pandemic and a rapidly developing ecological catastrophe have all threatened to transform, whether temporarily or in more enduring ways, the relationship between the living and the buried dead. Here, as elsewhere in the collection, we explore the graveyard’s political ramifications through discussions of how COVID-19 reshaped burial practices, and how Spain has begun to reckon with its twentieth-century history through the exhumation of mass graves made in the Civil War era. What emerges is a picture of the graveyard’s resonance to contemporary movements for political and social justice, and speculations on how that might continue to develop in an age where resources are becoming scarcer due to population growth and environmental change. The chapter ends with a discussion of the future both of Death Studies as a field of scholarly endeavour and of burial itself as founding institution of many human civilisations.

in Graveyard Gothic
Ken Gelder

This chapter looks at colonial grave sites and – to a degree – the question of memorialisation in Australia. It begins by looking at unquiet, uncommemorated settler graves; ‘Fisher’s Ghost’ (1836) is an important early story here. The chapter then discusses the neglected shepherd’s grave and, by contrast, the most commemorative settler colonial poem of all, Charles Harpur’s ‘The Creek of the Four Graves’ (1845). It then looks at some Aboriginal massacre sites in colonial writing, beginning with ‘The Shepherd’s Grave’ (1874) about settler killings of Aboriginal people at a place later known as Murdering Flat. Colonial Australia is increasingly cast as a spiralling series of deathscapes, many of which remain unmemorialised. Two poems about the 1838 Myall Creek Massacre lead to a discussion of the ‘Aboriginal lament’, a ventriloquised witness account in the voice of an Indigenous massacre survivor. The Myall Creek memorial site opened in June 2000; it is understood here as a ‘site of memory’. Another ‘Aboriginal lament’, from 1876, leads to an account of settler grave robbing and the illegal trade in Aboriginal skulls and bones. In Henry Lawson’s story ‘The Bush Undertaker’ (1892), an old shepherd (who may have earlier participated in an Aboriginal massacre) digs up Aboriginal remains with the aim of participating in that trade. W. S. Walker’s ‘The Evil of Yelcomorn Creek’ (1898) folds grave-robbing into an expression of colonial extinction discourse and ‘weird’ spectral effects: where terra nullius turns into a ‘badland’. For Mark Fisher, the ‘weird’ conjoins things that ‘do not belong together’, which is precisely what colonial grave literature seems to do. The colonial grave never seems to be at rest; in some cases, its afterlife can reach into Australia today and demand recognition.

in Graveyard Gothic
Mexican graveyards and Gothic returns
Enrique Ajuria Ibarra

In Mexico, graveyards are not solely resting places but also sites for remembrance. During the Day of the Dead, visiting and spending the night in cemeteries appeals to the memory of the deceased. The return works through commemorative rituals in which the living and the dead are able to communicate. This practice is provided with a heightened visual appeal in the animated film Coco (2017). Here, the graveyard is a setting that foregrounds the connection between the living and the spirits of the deceased: when their living relatives remember them, they can return for one single night. The idea of the graveyard filled with returning ghosts is not new. In fact, it can be traced back to other works in Mexican fiction, such as in Juan Rulfo’s seminal novel Pedro Páramo (1955) and Mexican films Cien gritos de terror (1965), directed by Ramón Obón, or Día de difuntos (1988), directed by Luis Alcoriza. This chapter focuses on the conversational graveyard, an active site for remembrance and community, where hauntings return through memory and communication. In Mexico, the celebration of the dead is a social dynamic that does not necessarily involve Gothic-related traumas or uncanny revelations but more likely an awareness of family and life.

in Graveyard Gothic
David McAllister

This chapter considers the anti-Gothic ideology that led to the mass closure of graveyards in Britain in mid nineteenth century, the opening of new cemeteries that were designed to combat Gothic affects, and the reclamation of these now decaying spaces for the Gothic mode at the fin de siècle. It begins by showing how burial reformers of the 1830s and 1840s drew on associationist psychological theories to argue that Britain’s decaying urban graveyards were an unacceptably Gothic presence in the nation’s modernising cities. I show how they were identified as damaging sites of both physical and psychological pollution: breeding grounds for disease and superstition, and exemplars of a Gothic inheritance that a progressive new era wished to reject. Social reformers argued that if Britain was to move forward as a nation – socially, morally and financially – its graveyards must be replaced by aestheticised cemeteries: spaces in which ‘the imagination is robbed of its gloomy horrors’, according to one enthusiast, by excluding and disguising decay. The chapter then moves forward in the century to narrate the failure of this project, through an examination of Lucy Westenra’s tomb in Dracula. Here I argue that Victorian attempts to eliminate decay made this de-Gothicising project impossible, and in itself constituted a new and superadded terror, with the vampire as a figure of this denial of decay. The chapter concludes that by the 1890s, with the ornate tombs of aestheticised Victorian cemeteries themselves falling into decay, the graveyard was reinstated as a key Gothic location.

in Graveyard Gothic
Cultural remains and literary beginnings
Eric Parisot

Eighteenth-century graveyard poetry was a devotional mode of poetry focused on Christian death, salvation and the afterlife, one that invested heavily in Gothic affect as a spur to piety. As a crucial tributary to later Gothic and Romantic traditions, it helped to establish the graveyard and related sites of burial and ruin as mournful locales imbued with melancholic fear. This chapter isolates the churchyard as a particular proto-Gothic poetic locale in graveyard poetry, restoring the historical, lexical and religious peculiarity of the churchyard as consecrated ground. Comparative readings of the poetry of Thomas Parnell, Thomas Gray, Edward Young and Robert Blair, and the funereal prose of James Hervey, focus on how the interrelation of nature, the church and the buried dead was carefully managed to produce a spectrum of emotions ranging from pensive melancholy to religious awe, existential and eschatological anxiety, and deathly horror. In doing so, this chapter reveals the premodern churchyard as a composite memento mori, a place with deep communal roots, a site of transformation within the Christian cosmos, as a point of origins as well as endings. The imagined churchyards of graveyard poetry, then, are apt literary emblems of a fading mortuary culture and a harbinger of the Gothic’s expansive and transformative engagement with the dead.

in Graveyard Gothic
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Graveyard Gothic is the first sustained consideration of the graveyard as a key Gothic locale. This volume examines various iterations of the Gothic graveyard (and other burial sites) from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first, as expressed in numerous forms of culture and media including poetry, fiction, TV, film and video games. The volume also extends its geographic scope beyond British traditions to accommodate multiple cultural perspectives, including those from the US, Mexico, Japan, Australia, India and Eastern Europe. The seventeen chapters from key international Gothic scholars engage a range of theoretical frameworks, including the historical, material, colonial, political and religious. With a critical introduction offering a platform for further scholarship and a coda mapping potential future critical and cultural developments, Graveyard Gothic is a landmark volume defining a new area of Gothic studies.

Refashioning the Victorian death space
Emma Liggins

In These Silent Mansions: A Life in Graveyards (2020), the poet Jean Sprackland writes of the graveyard as an ‘otherworldly’, liminal place, ‘dismantled gradually by the passing years, always in a state of becoming’ (2020: 1). Historians addressing mourning and ‘the Victorian celebration of death’ (Jalland, 1996; Curl 2000) have dwelt on the Gothic excesses of the architecture of the nineteenth-century cemetery, and its archival and aesthetic functions. Drawing on recent work on the cemetery as death space (Young and Light, 2016), this chapter begins by reconsidering its otherworldly qualities in relation to its development as a site for mourning and display. Contemporary novelists Susan Hill and Tracy Chevalier refashion the Victorian burial ground in novels set in the early twentieth century. In their descriptions of lichen-covered headstones, ‘vapid’ angels, urns and open graves, The Woman in Black (1983) and Falling Angels (2001) represent the graveyard as a place shadowed by decay and excess. The original illustrations for the first edition of Hill’s novel dwell on the ghostly woman in black in the remote burial ground of Eel Marsh House and behind the headstones at Alice Drablow’s funeral, signifying the excessive and malevolent suffering of the mourning mother. Inspired by Highgate Cemetery, Chevalier plays on the idea of the burial ground as a contested space of disposal, decay and ‘moral sentiment’ (Loudon 1843: 1) in the transitional years after Queen Victoria’s death. I explore the extent to which neo-Edwardian fiction embraces the excesses of the Victorian death space or sets out to desacralise this place of mourning, loss and darkness.

in Graveyard Gothic
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Anachronism, Anglo-Japanese semiotics and the cruel nightmare of resurrection in early horror video games
James T. McCrea

In the form of an environment within video games, the graveyard behaves as a treacherous landscape populated by malevolent supernatural creatures. These associations originate in horror-themed arcade games in the 1980s with medieval settings featuring graveyards that more closely resemble those of eighteenth-century Europe. Such graveyards invert their typical role as a resting place by inflicting constant resurrections upon their monstrous inhabitants as well as players themselves. Notoriously difficult games such as Castlevania (1988) and Ghosts ’n Goblins (1985) place players in or near graveyards from the start, fostering a nightmarish recursion where player death results in rebirth within the arena of the dead. As Japanese game designers conflated disparate aesthetics from Western European history, they unintentionally created an enduring association between medieval imagery, modern graveyards and monstrosity, which persisted as video games grew progressively complex. This motif would resurface as intentional narratives in the Dark Souls series (2011–16) and internationally developed games such as L'Abbaye des Morts (2010), Grave Chase (2017), Graveyard Keeper (2018) and Odallus: The Dark Call (2015), all of which focus on anachronistic graveyards wherein distinctions between life and death blur. As a culmination of Japanese and English-language collaboration, Elden Ring (2022) centralises its entire narrative around the inability to die, using tombstones as a consistent visual reminder of the story's thanatological gravity. Consequently, a close assessment of graveyard imagery explicates video games’ unique capacity to develop a global postmodern expression of the Gothic, whose existence depends on anachronism and international semiosis.

in Graveyard Gothic
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Visiting (and revisiting) the burial site in late eighteenth-century Gothic fiction
Yael Shapira

In this chapter I trace the transformation of the literary graveyard visit as it migrates from graveyard poetry to the Gothic novel of the late eighteenth century. Whereas graveyard poems framed the sojourn among the graves as a prompt to solemn spiritual reflection, Gothic fiction far more openly recognised the appeal of such scenes as a source of pleasure. My chapter considers the connection between pleasure and the Gothic burial vault from two complementary angles. I begin by looking at the role that one key characteristic of the burial vault, its privacy, plays in the two major Gothic masterpieces of the period, Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796). In both novels, the isolation of the enclosed burial space enables the pursuit of suspect thrills, whether these involve the excesses of sensibility or the more blatantly transgressive pleasures of sexuality. The chapter’s second part shifts attention from the pleasure of the characters to that of the readers, focusing on the role that burial vaults play in ‘trade Gothic’ novels – that is, lesser-known works produced in large numbers by commercial publishers such as the Minerva Press. I conclude the chapter by suggesting that the pleasure which late eighteenth-century readers found in Gothic graveyard scenes can complicate and enhance our understanding of this pivotal moment in the cultural history of death.

in Graveyard Gothic