Mid-century gothic

The uncanny objects of modernity in British literature and culture after World War II

Mid-Century Gothic defines a distinct post-war literary and cultural moment in Britain, lasting ten years from 1945 to 1955. This was a decade haunted by the trauma of fascism and war, but equally uneasy about the new norms of peacetime and the resurgence of commodity culture. As old assumptions about the primacy of the human subject became increasingly uneasy, culture responded with gothic narratives which reflected two troubling qualities of the newly assertive objects of modernity: their uncannily autonomous agency, and their disquieting intimacy with the reified human body.

This book offers original readings of novels, plays, essays and cinema of the period, unearthing neglected texts as well as reassessing canonical works. The post-war decade has often been defined either as the bathetic terminus of high modernism, or as the stiflingly hidebound context from which later countercultural and avant-garde movements erupted. Yet historically, this was an important and resonant cultural turning point, as still-fresh war trauma intersected with new paradigms of modernity. By looking beneath the surface of its literature and culture, it is possible to resurrect a sense of this decade as a moment of urgent cultural crisis, rife with repressed tensions which could only be expressed in a gothic mode.

By bringing these into dialogue with mid-century architecture, exhibitions, technology, and material culture, Mid-Century Gothic provides a new perspective on a notoriously neglected historical moment, and paints a picture of a decade roiling with intellectual and aesthetic upheaval.

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