The Gothic: Danger, Discontent, and Desire

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


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.


Female Identity British Woman Woman Writer Wave Feminism Ghost Story 
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    See Bradford Morrow and Patrick McGrath, Introduction to The New Gothic (New York: Random House, 1991), p. xiv.Google Scholar
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© Sue Zlosnik 2015

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  • Sue Zlosnik

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