• Avril Horner
  • Sue Zlosnik


Although Gothic writing is now safely established within the academy, its comic dimension has received very little critical attention. Indeed, most accepted definitions of Gothic writing resolutely ignore its comic aspect. In his ground-breaking, Freudian-Marxist study of the Gothic, The Literature of Terror, published in 1980, David Punter defines three elements that lie at the ‘heart’ of Gothic writing; these are: the concept of paranoia, the notion of the barbaric and the nature of the taboo — ‘aspects of the terrifying to which Gothic constantly, and hauntedly, returns’.1 The Literature of Terror presents Gothic writing as a textual engagement with profound social collective neuroses, the study of which can teach us much about cultural and political oppression. This set the tone for many critical works of the 1980s and early 1990s, during which time Gothic moved in from the margins to become a respectable area of academic enquiry within literary studies. Despite disputes concerning ever more inclusive definitions of Gothic (which Maurice Levy, for example, thinks far too inclusive2), most critics would probably agree that Gothic writing always concerns itself with boundaries and their instabilities, whether between the quick/the dead, eros/thanatos, pain/pleasure, ‘real’/‘unreal’, ‘natural’/‘supernatural’, material/transcendent, man/machine, human/vampire or ‘masculine’/‘feminine’.


Target Text Inclusive Definition Modern Subject Comic Dimension Textual Engagement 
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© Avril M. Horner and Susan H. Zlosnik 2005

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  • Avril Horner
  • Sue Zlosnik

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