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The Gothic: Danger, Discontent, and Desire

  • Sue Zlosnik
Part of the The History of British Women’s Writing book series (HBWW)

Abstract

The famous 1974 assertion by Angela Carter (1940–92) that ‘we live in Gothic times’ seems to carry even more force now as the appetite for Gothic stories and style in popular culture continues unabated and Gothic studies are firmly embedded in many university departments.1 For some critics it is not surprising that the twentieth-century accumulation of wars and violence offers an inspiration for and a reinforcement of ‘an age in which a Gothic aesthetic flourishes’.2 ‘Gothic’ has proved to be a slippery term, however. Long regarded as denoting a historically defined genre confined to the latter part of the eighteenth century and early decades of the nineteenth, Gothic began to be understood, from David Punter’s ground-breaking work in 1980 onwards, as a mode of expression enduring into the present day.3 It is now widely accepted that Gothic adapts its forms according to cultural context. It can also be argued that even the Gothic sensibility (its preoccupation with ‘horror, madness, monstrosity, death, disease, terror, evil, and weird sexuality’) is inflected differently in different texts and performances so that its tendency to excess becomes on occasion the stuff of comedy rather than terror.4 Characterized above all by transgression and an ambiguous relationship with everyday reality, Gothic shifts according to recognized social boundaries.

Keywords

Female Identity British Woman Woman Writer Wave Feminism Ghost Story 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Angela Carter, ‘Afterword’, Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (1974; London: Quartet Books, 1976), p. 122.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lucie Armitt, Twentieth-Century Gothic (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011), p. 81.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    David Punter, The Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day (London: Longman, 1980).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Bradford Morrow and Patrick McGrath, Introduction to The New Gothic (New York: Random House, 1991), p. xiv.Google Scholar
  5. On comedy, see Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik, Gothic and the Comic Turn (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    David Richter, The Progress of Romance: Literary Historiography and the Gothic Novel (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1996), p. 2.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Ellen Moers, Literary Women (New York: Doubleday, 1976), Ch. 5.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Helene Meyers, Femicidal Fears: Narratives of the Female Gothic Experience (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    See Patricia Duncker, ‘Re-imagining the Fairy Tales: Angela Carter’s Bloody Chambers’, Literature and History, 10:1 (1984), pp. 3–14.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    See Laura Mulvey’s influential essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Screen, 16:3 (1975), pp. 6–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 10.
    Daphne du Maurier, ‘Don’t Look Now’, Not After Midnight (London: Gollancz, 1971).Google Scholar
  12. For a detailed reading of this story, see Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik, Daphne du Maurier: Writing, Identity and the Gothic Imagination (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 11.
    Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms (London: Methuen, 1995), p. 6.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    Susan Hill, The Woman in Black (London: Vintage, 1983), p. 18.Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    Anne Quéma makes this point in ‘Family and Symbolic Violence in The Mist in the Mirror’, Gothic Studies, 8:2 (2006), p. 125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 14.
    See Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), pp. 336–71 for an influential reading of Jane Eyre in these terms.Google Scholar
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    Elaine Showalter, ‘Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness’, Critical Inquiry, 8 (1981), pp. 179–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Matthew Arnold, Letters of Matthew Arnold, ed. George WE. Russell (London: Macmillan, 1896), Vol. 1, p. 34. Cited in Gilbert and Gubar, p. 337.Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), p. 4.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    See Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Chapman and Hall, 1990) andGoogle Scholar
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  22. 20.
    Hilary Mantel, Beyond Black (London: Fourth Estate, 2005), p. 379, p. 387.Google Scholar
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    Terry Castle, The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 30.Google Scholar
  24. 23.
    Ali Smith, Hotel World (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2002), p. 235.Google Scholar
  25. 24.
    For a discussion of intertextuality in the novel in relation to literary reworkings of the Oedipal narrative see Anne Quéma, ‘The Political Uncanny of the Family: Patricia Duncker’s The Deadly Space Between and The Civil Partnership Act’, Gothic Kinship, ed. Agnes Andeweg and Sue Zlosnik (Manchester University Press, 2013), pp. 132–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 25.
    See Alison Rudd, Postcolonial Gothic Fictions from the Caribbean, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2010) andGoogle Scholar
  27. Glennis Byron, ed., Global Gothic (Manchester University Press, 2013).Google Scholar
  28. 26.
    Pauline Melville, ‘You Left the Door Open’, Shape-shifter (London: The Women’s Press, 1990), pp. 148–75.Google Scholar
  29. 27.
    Pauline Melville, The Migration of Ghosts (London: Bloomsbury 1998), p. 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sue Zlosnik 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sue Zlosnik

There are no affiliations available

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