Through the prisms of psychoanalysis and narrative theory the article addresses the concepts of temporality and transgenerational phantom in Elizabeth Gaskells Gothic piece ‘The Poor Clare’ (1856). Gaskells text, which revolves around an ancestral curse, is but a loose repetitious narrative characterized by the circularity of its structure and tone – its end casting one back into its middle – with its narrator narrating the past locked into the present, which is completely determined by the future, by the curse to be fulfilled. Narration becomes unsettling and obsessional, revealing the texts shared phantoms/foreign bodies as these implicate the characters and the narrating persona in a complex web of unconscious identifications and psychic splits, eventually coming to congeal around the biblical prophecy: ‘the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children’. In being reiterated throughout, the cryptic and (encrypted) words reaffirm both the efficacy of the curse –which always already doubles back on the one that has hurled it – and the texts playing out of desire and trauma, thus rendering the celebrated subject of the Enlightment both an ailing subject and an alien to itself.
Focusing on melodrama and on Thomas Holcroft‘s exemplary A Tale of Mystery (1802) in particular, this essay proposes a reinterpretation of Gothic drama and theatre as constitutively characterized by interruptions of comprehension. The tribulations of its persecuted protagonist Francisco are read in the context of the court trial of a real-life Francisco, who lived in London in 1802 and was one of the ‘stars’ in contemporary newspaper reports from the Old Bailey. Combining different generic and tonal modes, Romantic-period Gothic melodrama capitalized on explicitness and hyperbole, as well as on materializations of ethics and sentiment through their overt exhibition on stage or ‘ostension’. At the same time, it emphasized absence, silence, dematerialization and dissolution. With its continuously deferred revelations,and ostensions of the unsaid, A Tale of Mystery is a significant investment in an aesthetic of the unsaid that is central to a definition of Gothic on stage.
This essay examines the influence of Sir Walter Scott‘s historical romances on the artists of the Hudson River School of American landscape painting. Scotts writings inspired paintings of medieval castles, fictional and actual, as well as scenery related to Scott‘s life and literary works. Many American artists visited these sites first-hand and painted or sketched them, providing a visual record of the tourist experience of Great Britain.That so many American artists engaged in painting castles suggests the paradoxical nature of American culture in the nineteenth century, when commentators clamored for a uniquely American culture, even while American authors and artists copied or borrowed from European culture. Castles function as perhaps the ultimate European signifier in otherwise generalized landscapes. This essay argues that those American artists who included castles in the landscape gave American culture a modicum of legitimacy in an era of rising American nationalism.
Late eighteenth-century science aimed to render the body transparent; in contrast, gothic novels of the same period often represented the body as an untrustworthy source of information about the self. In these novels, characters may often be reduced to a bodily or facial map, which may give clues as to personal character, motivation and intention. Yet the practice of reading the body – as practiced in sciences such as physiognomy, phrenology or criminology – also comes under intense interrogation. Through disastrous mis-readings, misdiagnoses and misidentifications, gothic novelists demonstrate how conflating body and self is deeply threatening to ideas of ‘unique’ personhood.
This paper examines Gothic traditions across the survival horror videogame series Silent Hill. Considering Gothic dimensions of the videogame medium, then Gothic themes in survival horror videogames, the paper proceeds to explore Silent Hills narrative aesthetics and gameplay in relation to the Gothic. Considerations include: the intrusion of sinister alternative worlds, fragmented narrative forms, a sense of the past impinging upon the present, and the psychoanalytic dimensions of the series. Throughout this paper attention will be paid to ways in which Gothic themes resonate with or are transformed according to the dictates of the videogame medium.