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The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic [1st ed.]
 9783030331351, 9783030331368

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xviii
Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell (Clive Bloom)....Pages 1-28
Front Matter ....Pages 29-29
Latin American Horror (Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno, Inés Ordiz)....Pages 31-47
Dark Tourism (Joan Passey)....Pages 49-62
Two Twentieth-Century Mexican Writers (Antonio Alcalá González)....Pages 63-76
Dark Urbanity (Tijana Parezanović, Marko Lukić)....Pages 77-90
Contemporary Australian Trauma (Jessica Gildersleeve)....Pages 91-104
Postcolonialisms (Gina Wisker)....Pages 105-122
Strains of the South (Naomi Simone Borwein)....Pages 123-142
Indigenous Alterations (Angela Elisa Schoch/Davidson)....Pages 143-162
Hillbilly Horror (Tosha R. Taylor)....Pages 163-180
Southern Agrarianism and Exploitation (Gerardo Del Guercio)....Pages 181-190
Front Matter ....Pages 191-191
British ‘Hoodie’ Horror (Lauren Stephenson)....Pages 193-210
Green Trends in Euro-Horror Films of the 1960s and 1970s (David Annwn Jones)....Pages 211-223
Ecocriticism and the Genre (Emily Alder, Jenny Bavidge)....Pages 225-242
The Wilderness (Kaja Franck)....Pages 243-257
‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations (Paulina Palmer)....Pages 259-273
James Herbert’s Working-Class Horror (Simon Brown)....Pages 275-289
Re-defining the Genre with Mo Hayder (Sian MacArthur)....Pages 291-302
Stephen King (Brian Jarvis)....Pages 303-317
Front Matter ....Pages 319-319
Aleister Crowley and Occult Meaning (James Machin)....Pages 321-335
Aleister Crowley and the Black Magic Story (Timothy Jones)....Pages 337-353
Front Matter ....Pages 355-355
The Gothic Romance (Holly Hirst)....Pages 357-372
Georgette Heyer (Holly Hirst)....Pages 373-389
Front Matter ....Pages 391-391
Abjection and Body Horror (Xavier Aldana Reyes)....Pages 393-410
Torture Porn (Tosha R. Taylor)....Pages 411-429
Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (Mark Richard Adams)....Pages 431-445
Front Matter ....Pages 447-447
The Asylum (Laura R. Kremmel)....Pages 449-465
Psychopaths, Sociopaths and the Psychotic Mind (Lauren Ellis Christie)....Pages 467-484
Beyond the Unfeeling Narcissus to Patrick Bateman (Robert K. Shepherd)....Pages 485-502
Front Matter ....Pages 503-503
Zombie Folklore to Existential Protagonists (Kelly Gardner)....Pages 505-520
The Sentient Zombie (Kelly Gardner)....Pages 521-538
Front Matter ....Pages 539-539
Transmedia Vampires (Simon Bacon)....Pages 541-553
The Post-human Vampire (Simon Bacon)....Pages 555-567
Monstrosity, Performativity, and Performance (Laura Davidel)....Pages 569-585
Front Matter ....Pages 587-587
Encounters with the ‘Hidden’ World in Modern Children’s Fiction (Chloé Germaine Buckley)....Pages 589-607
Gender and Sexuality in Young Adult Fiction (Michelle J. Smith, Kristine Moruzi)....Pages 609-622
Horror Hosts in British Girls’ Comics (Julia Round)....Pages 623-642
Lemony Snicket (Valeria Iglesias-Plester)....Pages 643-657
Front Matter ....Pages 659-659
Ghostly Gimmicks: Spectral Special Effects in Haunted House Films (Laura Sedgwick)....Pages 661-677
Universal Horror (Brian Jarvis)....Pages 679-694
Arthouse Cinema (Stacey Abbott)....Pages 695-709
The Horror Genre in Balkan Cinema (Tanja Jurković)....Pages 711-724
Slavic Cinema (Agnieszka Kotwasińska)....Pages 725-743
Gender Politics in a High-Camp, Lowbrow Musical (Joana Rita Ramalho)....Pages 745-763
Roger Corman (Murray Leeder)....Pages 765-779
David Lynch (Brian Jarvis)....Pages 781-797
Front Matter ....Pages 799-799
Doctor Who: Identity, Time and Terror (J. S. Mackley)....Pages 801-818
Nigel Kneale and Quatermass (J. S. Mackley)....Pages 819-835
Dark Costume in Contemporary Television (Stephanie Mulholland)....Pages 837-851
Wildlings, White Walkers, and Watchers on the Wall of Northumberland’s Borderland (Chelsea Eddy)....Pages 853-863
Grand Guignol, Inside Showtime’s Penny Dreadful Demimonde (Tanja Jurković)....Pages 865-877
Front Matter ....Pages 879-879
The Blasphemous Grotesqueries of The Tiger Lillies (Joana Rita Ramalho)....Pages 881-903
The Return of the Past in the Lyrics of Black Metal (Antonio Alcalá González)....Pages 905-915
Front Matter ....Pages 917-917
Interactive and Movable Books in the Tradition (Jen Baker)....Pages 919-937
The Evolving Genre of the Vampire Games (Jon Garrad)....Pages 939-956
The Digital Haunted House (Erika Kvistad)....Pages 957-972
Anxiety in the Digital Age (David Langdon)....Pages 973-984
Horror Memes and Digital Culture (Tosha R. Taylor)....Pages 985-1003
Virtual Desert Horrors (Alison Bainbridge)....Pages 1005-1018
Immersive and Pervasive Performance (Madelon Hoedt)....Pages 1019-1031
Front Matter ....Pages 1033-1033
Fashion Gothwear (Victoria Amador)....Pages 1035-1048
Walking with the Lancashire Witches (Alex Bevan)....Pages 1049-1062
The Influence of the Genre in High Fashion (Jennifer Richards)....Pages 1063-1074
The Geisha Ghost (Jenevieve Van-Veda)....Pages 1075-1090
Front Matter ....Pages 1091-1091
Three French Modernists (Giles Whiteley)....Pages 1093-1108
Dark Modernisms (Matt Foley)....Pages 1109-1120
Front Matter ....Pages 1121-1121
The Postmodern Genre (Joakim Wrethed)....Pages 1123-1136
Heterotopian Horrors (Marko Lukić, Tijana Parezanović)....Pages 1137-1151
The New Batman (Michail-Chrysovalantis Markodimitrakis)....Pages 1153-1167
Front Matter ....Pages 1169-1169
Global War from Tokyo to Barcelona (Naomi Simone Borwein)....Pages 1171-1190
Posthuman Interstellar Gothic (Holly-Gale Millette)....Pages 1191-1208
Degeneration in H. P. Lovecraft and William Hope Hodgson (Antonio Alcalá González)....Pages 1209-1222
Lovecraft, Decadence, and Aestheticism (James Machin)....Pages 1223-1237
Back Matter ....Pages 1239-1253

Citation preview

The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic Edited by Clive Bloom

The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic

Clive Bloom Editor

The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic

Editor Clive Bloom Ilford, UK

ISBN 978-3-030-33135-1 ISBN 978-3-030-33136-8  (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover image: Angela Waye/Alamy Stock Photo This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

He grappled with a hostile atmosphere that surrounded him with menaces. There came the echo of distant baying, growing louder, reverberating through the empty halls, filling his ears. Stricken with horror, he dashed out as fast as he could. —Guy Endore, The Werewolf of Paris (1934)


The editor would like to thank Lesley Kacher for her help and assistance in organising the manuscript, Ellie Henderson, Emily Wood, Lina Aboujieb, Aishwarya Balachandar and the Production team at Palgrave and the members of the International Gothic Association who all helped to make this volume possible.



The editor wishes to thank the following for permission to quote from their work: Dame Carol Anne Duffy for permission to quote from The Lancashire Witches (2012) ‘One voice for ten dragged this way once’, ‘Superstition’, ‘Ignorance’, ‘Crone’, ‘On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook’, ‘Landscape’, and ‘The same old witness moon’ in Alex Bevan, ‘Walking with the Lancashire Witches’; Martyn Jaques of Tiger Lillies copyright Misery Guts Music Ltd in Joana Rita Ramalho, ‘The Tiger Lillies’; Rebellion Publishing IP Ltd for images from June and School Friend, Jinty, Tammy and Misty in Julia Round, ‘Horror Hosts in British Girls’ Comics’.



Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell . . . . . . . . . 1 Clive Bloom Global Gothics Latin American Horror . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno and Inés Ordiz Dark Tourism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Joan Passey Two Twentieth-Century Mexican Writers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Antonio Alcalá González Dark Urbanity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Tijana Parezanović and Marko Lukić Contemporary Australian Trauma. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 Jessica Gildersleeve Postcolonialisms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 Gina Wisker Strains of the South . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 Naomi Simone Borwein Indigenous Alterations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 Angela Elisa Schoch/Davidson Hillbilly Horror. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163 Tosha R. Taylor Southern Agrarianism and Exploitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181 Gerardo Del Guercio




Hostile Environments British ‘Hoodie’ Horror. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193 Lauren Stephenson Green Trends in Euro-Horror Films of the 1960s and 1970s. . . . . . . . . . . 211 David Annwn Jones Ecocriticism and the Genre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225 Emily Alder and Jenny Bavidge The Wilderness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 Kaja Franck ‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 259 Paulina Palmer James Herbert’s Working-Class Horror . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275 Simon Brown Re-defining the Genre with Mo Hayder. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291 Sian MacArthur Stephen King. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 303 Brian Jarvis Occult Gothic Aleister Crowley and Occult Meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 321 James Machin Aleister Crowley and the Black Magic Story. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337 Timothy Jones Gothic Romance The Gothic Romance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 357 Holly Hirst Georgette Heyer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 373 Holly Hirst The Body in Pieces Abjection and Body Horror. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 393 Xavier Aldana Reyes Torture Porn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 411 Tosha R. Taylor Clive Barker’s Hellraiser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 431 Mark Richard Adams



Psychological Gothic The Asylum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 449 Laura R. Kremmel Psychopaths, Sociopaths and the Psychotic Mind. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 467 Lauren Ellis Christie Beyond the Unfeeling Narcissus to Patrick Bateman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 485 Robert K. Shepherd Zombie Gothic Zombie Folklore to Existential Protagonists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 505 Kelly Gardner The Sentient Zombie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 521 Kelly Gardner New Vampire Gothic Transmedia Vampires. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 541 Simon Bacon The Post-human Vampire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 555 Simon Bacon Monstrosity, Performativity, and Performance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 569 Laura Davidel Young Gothic Encounters with the ‘Hidden’ World in Modern Children’s Fiction. . . . . 589 Chloé Germaine Buckley Gender and Sexuality in Young Adult Fiction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 609 Michelle J. Smith and Kristine Moruzi Horror Hosts in British Girls’ Comics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 623 Julia Round Lemony Snicket. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 643 Valeria Iglesias-Plester Gothic Film Ghostly Gimmicks: Spectral Special Effects in Haunted House Films. . . 661 Laura Sedgwick Universal Horror . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 679 Brian Jarvis



Arthouse Cinema . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 695 Stacey Abbott The Horror Genre in Balkan Cinema . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 711 Tanja Jurković Slavic Cinema . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 725 Agnieszka Kotwasińska Gender Politics in a High-Camp, Lowbrow Musical . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 745 Joana Rita Ramalho Roger Corman. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 765 Murray Leeder David Lynch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 781 Brian Jarvis Gothic Television Doctor Who: Identity, Time and Terror. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 801 J. S. Mackley Nigel Kneale and Quatermass. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 819 J. S. Mackley Dark Costume in Contemporary Television. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 837 Stephanie Mulholland Wildlings, White Walkers, and Watchers on the Wall of Northumberland’s Borderland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 853 Chelsea Eddy Grand Guignol, Inside Showtime’s Penny Dreadful Demimonde. . . . . . . . 865 Tanja Jurković Gothic Music The Blasphemous Grotesqueries of The Tiger Lillies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 881 Joana Rita Ramalho The Return of the Past in the Lyrics of Black Metal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 905 Antonio Alcalá González Interactive Gothic Interactive and Movable Books in the Tradition. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 919 Jen Baker



The Evolving Genre of the Vampire Games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 939 Jon Garrad The Digital Haunted House. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 957 Erika Kvistad Anxiety in the Digital Age. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 973 David Langdon Horror Memes and Digital Culture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 985 Tosha R. Taylor Virtual Desert Horrors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1005 Alison Bainbridge Immersive and Pervasive Performance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1019 Madelon Hoedt Gothic Lifestyle Fashion Gothwear. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1035 Victoria Amador Walking with the Lancashire Witches. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1049 Alex Bevan The Influence of the Genre in High Fashion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1063 Jennifer Richards The Geisha Ghost. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1075 Jenevieve Van-Veda Theoretical Gothic Three French Modernists. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1093 Giles Whiteley Dark Modernisms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1109 Matt Foley Post Modern Gothic The Postmodern Genre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1123 Joakim Wrethed Heterotopian Horrors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1137 Marko Lukić and Tijana Parezanović The New Batman. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1153 Michail-Chrysovalantis Markodimitrakis



Post Human Gothic Global War from Tokyo to Barcelona. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1171 Naomi Simone Borwein Posthuman Interstellar Gothic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1191 Holly-Gale Millette Degeneration in H. P. Lovecraft and William Hope Hodgson . . . . . . . . . . 1209 Antonio Alcalá González Lovecraft, Decadence, and Aestheticism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1223 James Machin List of Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1239 Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1241

List of Figures

Horror Hosts in British Girls’ Comics Fig. 1 Inside front cover from Misty #15. Art by Shirley Bellwood, lettering by Jack Cunningham, writer unknown but likely editor Malcolm Shaw. Misty™ Rebellion Publishing IP Ltd. Copyright © Rebellion Publishing IP Ltd., All Rights Reserved. . . . 629 Fig. 2 ‘The Puppet That Came to Life’. June and School Friend, 13 February 1965. June and School Friend™ Rebellion Publishing IP Ltd. Copyright © Rebellion Publishing IP Ltd., All Rights Reserved . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 631 Fig. 3 ‘The Button Box’, Tammy #632. Tammy™ Rebellion Publishing IP Ltd. Copyright © Rebellion Publishing IP Ltd., All Rights Reserved . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 636 Fig. 4 Tammy and Misty, 19 January 1980. Cover by John Richardson. Tammy and Misty™ Rebellion Publishing IP Ltd. Copyright © Rebellion Publishing IP Ltd., All Rights Reserved. . . . 637 Interactive and Movable Books in the Tradition Fig. 1 Anatomical fugitive sheets. ‘Anathomia oder abcontrofettung eines Weibs leib’ (1564) (Source Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 920 Fig. 2 Promotional poster for David Stewart’s The Secret Journal of Victor Frankenstein (2009). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 922 Fig. 3 Screenshot from Dave Morris’ Frankenstein (2012). . . . . . . . . . . . . . 924 Fig. 4 From Charles Fuge’s, A Spooky House of Horror (1998). . . . . . . . . . 928 Fig. 5 J.H. Brown’s Spectropia; or, Surprising Spectral Illusions (1864). . . 930 Fig. 6 Jacob Marley’s ghost appears A Christmas Carol: Pop-Up Book (1986). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 932 Fig. 7 Frankenstein: A Graphic Pop-Up (2010). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 933



List of Figures

Anxiety in the Digital Age Fig. 1 The image is accompanied by text which reads: ‘One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as “The Slender Man”. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence. 1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13, 1986’ (, 2009). . . . . . . . . . . . . . 978

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell Clive Bloom

In 2019, London was host to an immersive zombie exhibition at the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane in East London attached to the television show The Walking Dead, a new play about Dracula was staged at the London Library and an art installation, sponsored by the Ben Oakley Gallery and called ‘Monster’ by Giles Walker, featuring headless clowns and other freakery, was set to be held in an empty warehouse near Greenwich later in the year if sufficient crowd funds could be raised. Exotic drinks and fried insects may be consumed at tables inlaid with skeletons at the Victor Wynd Museum and cocktail bar in Hackney and elsewhere in East London the enthusiast may visit the Jack the Ripper Museum in Cable Street or eat at the Serial Killer Café in Brick Lane, or even shop at a Romanian convenience store called ‘Dracula’ in the suburbs. In front of the prestigious Royal Academy, Cornelia Parker exhibited a scale model of the Bates Motel (called ‘PsychoBarn’), whilst The Woman in Black, Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel has been playing since 1987 and has been in the West End since 1989, the second longest running non-musical after Agatha’s Christie’s The Mousetrap. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was yet another example of immersive theatre, playing during May of 2019. Last and most significant of all, is the Grand Guignol of The London Dungeon, a horror experience originally devised as a ‘wax museum’ now a horror venue currently with nineteen shows, twenty actors and two thrill rides. One may multiply examples from around the world, but in London alone the gothic experience seems alive and thriving.1 With the appearance of Covid-19 in 2020, London became, for a moment, an empty space: a dead city of a gothic apocalypse. Every new medium, from film to television to the Internet and social media, has remoulded gothic tropes for a new generation. At the same time older gothic tropes are constantly revisited and reworked in new contexts. The gothic sensibility saw the rise of science fiction through Mary Shelley, detective fiction through Edgar Allan Poe and dark romance through the likes of the Bronte sisters. Vampires, wolfmen and zombies fill our screens, video gaming platforms and social media. C. Bloom (*)  London, UK

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



C. Bloom

Frankenstein’s monster make-up, as created by Frank Pierce for James Whale’s film of the same name is perhaps the most important gothic image of the last century, influencing everything from films to toys, to Halloween costumes; and then there is Dracula (1897). Bram Stoker’s tale has not only become the most influential Irish novel, but its protagonist is one of the most popular fictional characters, influencing literature and culture in ways thought most unlikely when the book made its first appearance. Such monsters are the nightmares of modernity. It is a genre that may be deeply serious or simply entertainment of a most visceral kind. Moreover, the very nature of its often popular and pulp appeal is the fact that the very seriousness it avoids allows for serious issues to emerge as a latent set of subtexts, not necessarily fully understood by its author(s), nowhere more obviously than in the work of H. P. Lovecraft who now has a commanding place in gothic and steampunk culture with numerous novelistic homages to the Cthulhu mythos, as well as in pulp video games, artworks and tabletop gaming. Above all, the Gothic is both high culture and a low culture experience of mere pleasure (often at the same moment), destroying barriers of taste and refinement to allow for intellectual debate which incorporates both. Nowhere is this more obvious that in the packed lecture theatres of prestigious universities where the Gothic has become as important in literary, cultural, media, film, feminist and sociological studies as more traditional subjects. Despite the fact that gothic entertainment had flourished in both literature and film from the start of the century to the early 1940s, a taste for atomic, alien and radiation monsters almost extinguished the genre. Now audiences had to ‘watch the skies’ (the last line from Christian Nyby’s 1951 science fiction film, The Thing from another Planet) rather than watch their backs and horrors from outer space replaced terrestrial monsters. Horror and gothic filmmaking were out of favour, but films such as Alberto Cavalcanti’s Dead of Night (1947), with its iconic ventriloquist’s dummy, kept interest alive. The 1950s were also a lean time for gothic fans although later in the decade the taste revived, heralded by the new Hammer horrors and by Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957) based upon M. R. James’s Casting the Runes and rather sillier stuff such as the comedy thriller, The Bat (1959) directed by Crane Wilbur who adapted the story from a book from 1908. The Bat ran as a double bill in the United Kingdom with Terence Fisher’s The Mummy (1959). By the late 1950s, Hammer Films had reinvented the gothic horror genre, going back to the Universal film classics and remaking them as Victorian melodramas, and in so doing recreated Dracula and Frankenstein for the ‘modern’ age. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) was followed by Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959). The new terrors were themselves only able to exist because of the success of Hammer Horror’s profitable adaptations of the science fiction television series The Quatermass Xperiment (1953). The series was first reworked as The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) directed by Val Guest and capitalised on the new X rate horror category. The Hammer horrors followed. Technicolour blood and gore, overt sexuality and psychopathic violence were key features of films whose modernity was a peculiar form of nostalgia for an attenuated Victorianism.

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


Nevertheless, a ‘debased’ and often plagiaristic form of the genre was also invented for children during the 1950s. The appearance of the subculture of gothic comics such as Weird Science, Tales from the Crypt and The Haunt of Fear brought writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft to the attention of younger readers (through highly plagiarised rewriting) who then were free to source the original stories. Despite the horror comic scare and legislation brought in by the British government in 1955 (partially initiated by the Gorbals Necropolis ‘vampire’ scare), gothic tales were back for a new generation. Meanwhile Roger Corman went back to Edgar Allan Poe to produce a series of films whose gothic look influenced (quite unconsciously perhaps) the gothic fashion of the late 1980s. His colour-coded use of mise en scene and strange hallucinatory dream sequences remain part of a psychedelic age. In the 1970s the production company Amicus went back to Weird Tales for its anthologies of shudders, often borrowing Hammer stars like Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee to play in their portfolio stories. Occasionally they even borrowed directors too. As Corman created sensuous landscapes so William Castle created three dimensional gimmicks that have been reinterpreted in even more gothic terms and, of course, in the 1960s with the television reruns of the Universal series and renewed interest in Charles Addams, the supernatural and Gothic became central to children’s television with series like The Munsters (1964–1966), The Addams Family (1964–1966) and Scooby Doo (original series, 1969), not to mention Bewitched (1964–1972) and I Dream of Genie (1965–1970), all being must-see programmes after school. Whilst for many years The Simpsons have produced amusing Halloween specials. Before the growth of academic studies of the Gothic there were dedicated bibliophiles such as Montague Summers, collectors such as Michael Sadlier and enthusiasts such as August Derleth, whose cause was the author they loved or the rare volumes that they catalogued. The extraordinary growth of both the gothic industry and gothic studies is largely due to a combination and coincidence of factors. The academic study of gothic books had at least to wait until the revival of the weird, ghostly and horrific in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Pan, Panther and Corgi as well as other paperback imprints revived the likes of Arthur Machen, R. E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft (without whom we would not have a gothic Batman whose nemesis lives in Arkham Asylum!). This led to the revival of writers like Denis Wheatley whose The Devil Rides Out (1934; film 1968) To the Devil a Daughter (1953; film 1976) and The Haunting of Toby Jugg (1948; film 2006) made both a literary and filmic comeback. Wheatley’s lifelong interest in Satanism, the occult and black magic were later published in his non-fiction account The Devil and All His Works (1971), a book that influenced a generation of younger readers. Ghost hunters such as Harry Price and his investigations at Borley Rectory in the 1940s were rediscovered in the 1960s and 1970s, his books reprinted and his life reassessed in books such as Paul Tabori’s Harry Price: Ghost-Hunter (1974) published by Little Brown in the Denis Wheatley Library of the Occult. The incredible rise in the fortunes of the occultist Aleister Crowley were such that he ended up, alongside Edgar Allan Poe, on the cover of the Beatles ‘Sergeant


C. Bloom

Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1968), not least because Wheatley referenced him in The Devil Rides Out and other novels. Crowley’s own books were reprinted and his ideas widely circulated, whilst novels such as Moonchild (1917) and Diary of a Drug Fiend (1922) were reprinted in American paperbacks in 1970 and 1972. Cheap and lurid paperback covers lured teenagers and young adults to Edgar Allan Poe whilst an older counter culture embraced Poe, Crowley and Tolkien. Because of YouTube it is possible to watch the melodramas of Tod Slaughter or the delights of the films of Val Lewton and fit them into the ‘lost’ history of British or American gothic film and popular entertainment. In the case of Tod Slaughter, a world of forgotten working-class melodramatic entertainment and values is again revealed (his version of Sweeney Todd was played by his company ‘The Barnstormers’ at the Independent Theatre Club, in Great Queen Street, London). In the same way it is possible to watch an Alexander Mc Queen gothic catwalk show or gothic animation. Gothic imagery flourishes in the new social media. Music videos are readily available on numerous platforms and such platforms allow for new gothic culture to emerge in the animations such as Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl or the vlogs of entertainers and lifestyle gurus such as Aurelio Voltaire (The Lair of Voltaire) or the impassioned arguments of amateur horror film critics or television aficionados. The possibility of gothic renewal and of nostalgic revisiting now seem endless. Indeed, the very definition of the Gothic as the expression of an atmosphere filled with anticipation or dread cannot, any longer, properly be applied to gothic lifestyle, fashion or music as it might have been only a few years ago. The term Gothic may have become broad and inclusive, but it must still retain its original features in order to be recognised even if the recognition proves false. Gothic clothing developed in the post punk atmosphere of do it yourself make and mend, defiantly defining its black clothing, tatty lace, jet black hair, white pancake make-up and kohl against mainstream fashion. It was a fashion of exclusion and alienation in keeping with the nihilism and economic depression of the late 1970s and early eighties rather than emulating the aesthetic nihilism of the late nineteenth century. The appropriation of gothic tropes for high fashion labels with its ‘heroin’ thin models and edgy horror subject matter intended to épater le bourgeoisie was itself a form of aggrandisement into the world of youth culture. Horror, now always associated with the idea of the Gothic, on the other hand is a visceral consequence of anticipation and in that sense may or may not be Gothic at all. It is perfectly possible to have a gothic film which is without horror (Rebecca [1940]; Dragonwyck [1946]) and it is possible to have a horror film that has nothing of the Gothic (28 Days Later [2002]; Witchfinder General [1968]; The Wicker Man [1973]), yet gothic horror as a term has existed long enough to make clear distinctions difficult and pedantic. Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic storytelling always leads to a horrific revelatory denouement and as such may claim to be the first set of tales that may be explicitly designated gothic ­horror. It is clear that definitions created by the original eighteenth-century writers have to be heavily qualified, stretched to breaking or abandoned in the face of the modern zombie which have no real origins beyond the 1930s and whose

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


reinvention is a result George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), a visualisation of events during the Civil Rights movement. Study of gothic culture is therefore both dynamic and chronological and has to take into account cross ­influences from diverse areas and be alive to the possibilities of homage, pastiche and irony. The adolescent reading of future academics became a source of serious enquiry in the 1980s when horror and gothic pulp authors were revisited by p­ ost-modernist scholars and when psychological (especially Freudian ideas of uncanniness) and sociological readings (especially Marxist and post-modern readings of popular culture and literature) were in the ascendant. The writers of horror were the ‘other’ of F. R. Leavis’s canonical authors and a breath of fresh air in a restricted academy. This alternative canon was then opened to cultural studies, psychoanalytic readings and research from feminist and later ethnic researchers. Gothic writers whose work had faded or been forgotten, now returned in new scholarly editions ready for dissection and there was a vogue for compilations of essays on the gothic and introductions to what was a fledgling subject, whilst Edgar Allan Poe was given the full attention of French post-modern theory in the journal Yale French Studies. The gothic tales of forgotten authors were republished and their place in literary history rethought; the silent gaps were finally being filled. In this way Ann Radcliffe and the writings of long-forgotten women gothic novelists were put back into the purview of academic research. New terms were mobilised: the uncanny, abjection, liminality, to be replaced by further theorising in the world of disability, gender stereotyping and ecological studies. Yet study could not really begin until the appearance of both published reprints of classic or lost works and the reruns of Universal films on television. This led inevitably to nostalgic pastiches such as Mel Brook’s and Gene Wilder’s Young Frankenstein (1974) (an almost Yiddish pastiche with undertones of Marx Brothers slapstick and verbal wit) and Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show (play 1973; film 1975), a mash-up of science fiction and gothic film elements mixed with a dose of gender confusion and glorious cross-dressing. The real turning point may be considered the appearance of video and Betamax, followed by the appearance of the televisual pause button, and the creation of YouTube uploads and other reproductive media which allowed multiple viewing. DVDs came with sub titles and commentary, and deleted scenes which could be evaluated and discussed by academics and enthusiasts alike. The rediscovery of Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr (1931) and the ability to re-run Hammer films allows for a serious ­re-evaluation of Jimmy Sangster’s scriptwriting, Terence Fisher’s directing and James Bernard’s music and what makes their work ‘classic’. Video and disc technology is central to the re-evaluation of films like Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979) and reworking their themes would be difficult without this technology. Even the return of Ed Wood’s campy low budget films has much to do with new technology. Goth culture needed multiple stimuli that could be revisited and analysed. That having happened, real debate could take place and facts and concepts checked especially with regards to ephemeral or peripheral material.


C. Bloom

We live now in an age of international gothic where the genre has crossed borders, as much alive in Brazil as London or New York and where discussion of zombies and vampires is both an intellectual holiday and a serious focus of attention. Nowadays there is no single overarching definition we can bring to bear on a culture that encompasses literature and club culture, television and fashion, video games and urban studies. The fruit of all these years of focus has been the creation of an academic gothic community and a huge range and diversity of opinion. Yet the Gothic is always meant to entertaining as well as intellectually stimulating. The Gothic as cultural phenomenon has now travelled beyond a limited selection of books or films. This makes it a very dynamic field with new books and new discoveries stimulating further discussion. Such discussion will inevitably change older definitions and invalidate previous boundaries, creating new areas of interest, informed by, but no longer held back by, older theories. The recent translation of an alternative version of Dracula ‘written’ by the Icelandic author Valdimar Assmundson and published in Iceland in 1901 under the title Markt Markanna or Powers of Darkness is an example of a ‘lost’ work providing new areas of discussion. This version, first fully translated into English by Hans Corneel de Roos and published with extensive notes, presents a quite new version of the Dracula tale, apparently, although contentiously, authorised by Bram Stoker himself and indeed, there is much discussion and controversy still regarding the origins of the Swedish and Icelandic versions. In architecture, the restoration of both the Houses of Parliament and Strawberry Hill suggests there will be more to be done in terms of research into neo-gothic buildings as well. How might we define gothic culture, gothic art and gothic taste? On the one hand the Gothic is a sensibility, on the other the effect of having such sentiments. In this equation there is a moment in history when sentiment and cultural expression became one expression of cultural identity. In this equation there is no before and after, but a synchronicity that has gothic effects produced through a gothic way of thought, emotion and expression. Of course the Gothic may be defined by a particular era, as once it was in literary histories of popular reading. We can mark the period exactly from 1764 to 1820 or from Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto to Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer. Thus a beginning and an end, of sorts, is constructed. Nevertheless, it is clear that different gothics and different gothic sentiments pervade the neo-gothic arts dated around the Romantic and post-French Revolutionary period, which are connected to, but different from those feelings and sentiments that fill gothic melodramas in the mid-nineteenth century or which inform gothic fin de siècle dalliance with the occult. Thus, there is a puzzle at the heart of gothic literature. Not only does it develop in a diametrically opposed way to gothic architecture and design, which stands for the most part for the revived medieval and Tudor, imperial aspirations and high Christian virtues, but it does so within that framework as its inherent opposite. Hence it may be argued that gothic literature and culture are both misnamed, through historical accident or is gothic literature the subversively repressed of the virtues listed as the features of the architectural revival? If the gothic’s origins are to be found in historical circumstance and artefacts, they are also a reminder that the sentiments expressed in such artefacts held within

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


them a fascination of a quite different sort. If that is accepted then there must be two gothics, one wholesome and the other unwholesome, one pure and one corrupt, expressing themselves as doppelganger mirror images. Thus the Gothic is both an epistemological conundrum and a history of artistic expression with a chronology that may be followed. It is, perhaps, either and both and this being so the circle cannot yet be closed, either on its historical trajectory or its meaning until the period of its formation and development finally fade into dead history. For the contributors to this volume such problems are significant.2 Giles Whiteley defines the genre with elegant simplicity, for him, the Gothic is a form of macabre writing, either terrific or horrific with supernatural themes and featuring narratives set in the middle ages. Valeria Iglesias-Plester sees ‘the main aspects as foreshadowing, the use of labyrinth-like structures’ including, ‘the haunted’ [which may be a house or a person or family], whilst Marta Vega sees space itself and setting as forming the tone of gothic feelings. Marius Crisan suggests the links is between the real and the imaginary, between man and divinity and between life and death. As such the gothic narrative is effectively one of childhood and adolescence, but as Agnieszka Kotwasinska points out it is also a world of decay and dust. Dust and decay are for Eric Parisot ‘about the artistic articulation of fear(s)— whether personal, social, cultural, political or historical. Some of these fears we may be aware of, but the best gothic art is able to tap into or articulate fears which we are not yet cognisant’ and therefore for James Rattue such fears represent ‘our repulsion from, and attraction to, the potential undoing of the human’. Holly-Gale Millette reminds us of the origins and continuance of gothic themes ‘such as the sublime, the subliminal, the grotesque, the revenant, the uncanny in the aesthetic, political and social structures of sentient life forms – past, present and future’. Whilst Manuel Aguirre sees the early gothic as originating as ‘an aesthetic mode which later crystallized into a historical genre’. For Aguirre, the Gothic postulates a ‘second space’ beyond the limits of the rationalist enterprise and endlessly negotiates the threshold between the human reality and that of the numinous ‘Other’ where the terrors of power (and the power of terrors) act unchecked. We can, of course define the Gothic by its monsters and its relationship with the importance of religion as does Aspasia Stephanou who suggests that, the genre ‘is characterised by the presence of supernatural phenomena, including vampires, ghosts, zombies and the occurrence and repetition of the past and the uncanny. The problem is defining the supernatural as that which comes from without and revolves around the idea of a theistic universe’. Looked at philosophically and from an historical viewpoint, Cleo Cameron comments that, ‘the gothic suffers from delusional dualism, when in actuality it is defined by radical monist materialism—experiencing the sublime gothic supernatural, the individual’s suffering mind, via symbiosis with the nervous system, which tortures and torments the body through its reactive imaginings when exposed to the metaphysical dualism implied by the apparently witnessed supernatural episode’. In all its forms, Brian Jarvis remarks, the Gothic represents a ‘politics of excess’ and ‘delirium’, and Martina Barlett sees this emerging from the collision of ideologies which cannot be reconciled. In this way, encountering the other’s


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foreign-ness in all its physicality may trigger the gothic impulse as a reflection of one’s own culture as Carol A. Senf believes. As Emma Dallamora argues, ‘the gothic is acutely about the unconscious and this argument agrees with Jessica Gildersleeve’s, that such repressions are mainly unconscious. Sandra M. Casanova-Vizcaino believes the Gothic moves through the eras, reflecting the fears, the desires, the spaces, and the bodies that reflect the most salient (and perhaps most ingrained) aspects of society’s deepest recesses. Nowadays those fears revolve around the body, technology and the non-human’. Catherine Redford considers that, ‘the gothic is characterised by an anxiety about otherness, and particularly a fear that this otherness’. Hence, ‘this darkness, speaks to something familiar within us’. The Gothic is a mode of cultural production that pertains to the exploration of otherness and uncanny familiarity, and is therefore focussed on the construction and dissolution of boundaries, the obsession with death, violence and the grotesque. It is often set in claustrophobic spaces, either real or imaginary. One of its most prominent features is its ability to mutate and adapt to different times and spaces, becoming an effective reflection of societal fears. The Gothic is above all a hybrid mode: it often appears in collaboration with other literary forms, modes and genres. Where fear is disguised so may other subject matter. Paulina Palmer points out that this leads to the possibility of a genre as an ‘appropriate vehicle for the representation and analysis of queer sexualities and genders, especially the experiences of secrecy, loneliness, the hidden, liminality, and living on the margins between queer and heterosexual cultures that queer and LGBTI communities often experience’ and the number of gothic novelists from marginalised groups certainly bears this out. Such ideas are widened by Dara Downey who gives this explanation: ‘One of the most useful definitions of the gothic is actually a line from The Turn of the Screw (1898) by Henry James who writes that ‘an unknown man in a lonely place is a permitted object of fear to a young woman privately bred’. Downey thinks ‘that this encapsulates many of the dynamics of class, gender, and knowledge that the genre repeats and rearranges in various ways and thus some of the terms can be moved around or substituted to account for different relations in terms of class, race, gender, and so on’. This being the case Julia Round returns the argument to the world of ‘haunting’ with its connotations of ‘excess and contradiction’ revealing ‘the hidden meanings of fear and attraction’, simultaneously giving us too much information (the supernatural) and also not enough (the spectral and unseen). Antonio Alcalá González points out that, ‘in the gothic [world], human beings find it impossible to escape from the past lurking behind them’. David Ibitson suggests it is genre that allows a ‘willingness to look awry, or askew, at society, to reveal what others may want to hide or ignore; to reveal uncertainties about society that have been rendered monstrous by their being ignored…’. ‘[Or]… it is about the return of social and psychologically repressed neuroses’.  Indeed ‘in broad terms the Gothic is an undead past that disrupts the present…though such temporal discombobulations can haunt the present from the (possible) future as

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


well’ suggests Simon Bacon. Thus, Mark Bernard finds racism at the very heart of the (American) gothic project. He argues that, ‘the most compelling aspect of the gothic is how it depicts anxieties regarding the way the past will consume our present and preclude our future; in America, this past is haunted by Native American genocide, slavery, and other racial injustices, and American gothic tries to contend with the horrors from the past that infect our present’. David Jones points out that the ‘gothic is a hybrid and hybridising term, used [both] to characterise shifting layers of meaning involving expressions of dark, frightening and repressed urges as well as social, sexual and familial transgression and violence, and the perceived barbarism of wilder (sometimes primitive) styles of creativity’. This leads Marie Mulvey-Roberts to conclude that hybridity is central to the very nature of gothic productions. She considers that, ‘the gothic seems to have been a process of moving from the margins to the mainstream and by doing so becoming increasing difficult to define due to its capacity for absorption, hybridity and even appropriation’, a point reiterated by Jarlath Killeen who notes that ‘the term would have to be limited by the meanings circulating in the period, but given the way “Gothic” is promiscuously employed in popular culture now, … it is important to be as open as possible’. Whilst it may be ‘promiscuous’, in a real sense, gothic is the literature of the traumatic, whether it be the physicality of the monstrous or the trauma of bodily disintegration or even the return of the dead, gothic caters for morbid fascination and serious critique. In the present century gothic pleasure may encompass music, fashion, lifestyle, social media, art installations and amusement park rides. Coincident with these conceptual boundaries is the chronology of the Gothic itself. In its chronology is the genesis of gothic ideas, sentiments and tropes, but as might be inferred from its definitions the ideas themselves may belong to a more ahistorical perspective which is greater than the evolution of events. Thus terms such as liminality, abjection or the uncanny may have an interpretive base greater than one or more chronological occurrences. Nevertheless, there is a chronology which we can outline. The first phase is, course, pre-gothic, lasting from the seventeenth century to the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, in 1764. The idea of the Gothic (as distinct mode of expression) originates with a reaction to neoclassicism in thought and ideas with a growing emphasis on indigenous n­ on-Roman British history, such as that of the druids, burial mounds and Stonehenge investigated by clerical antiquarians from the seventeenth century onwards. The term ‘goth’ was adopted in architecture by patrons and architects looking for an ‘authentic’ Christian medieval (English) vernacular style, a style which finds expression in the work of John Vanbrugh and later in Strawberry Hill. This resulted, both by design and by accident, in an interest in revolutionary, unusual, bizarre and outre concepts in design, for which new words such as ‘gloomth’ and ‘serendipity’ were coined (by Walpole) to express the feelings evoked by the architecture. Gothic literature however emerged from a fascination with death and momento mori as threatening rather than consoling, resulting in Walpole’s own nightmare


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induced The Castle of Otranto which combined the natural style of the contemporary novel with the superstitions, supernaturalism and intrigue of an imagined feudal past. Walpole’s ‘amusing’ nightmare regarding his own house joined architectural Gothic to literary Gothic by the merest chance. Shakespearian plotting from Hamlet, Richard III and Macbeth linked eighteenth-century sentiment to medieval imagery and imagined language. The second phase lasted from the 1780s to the 1790s. This is really the height of the gothic revival in literature with over two hundred known examples of the genre produced in English alone. Gothic was expanded to create the theatre of spectacle where there was a split between those who believed gothicism was a metaphor for Godlessness and those who, influenced by De Sade were believers in a Godless universe where only appetite and power succeeded. The contradiction is best described by comparing Ann Radcliffe (whose idea of ‘terror’ leads to God) or Joanne Baillie whose plays suggest the Gothic is a place of lost composure with Matthew Lewis or Charlotte Dacre (who embrace both horror and perversion). The genre was now seen as either the triumph of virtue over evil (the evil usually being entirely human) or the triumph of Luciferian instincts over rationalism. In the last decade of the eighteenth century, we also witness the beginnings of German supernaturalism as originated in Gottfried August Burger’s poem Lenore (1773), based on British border ballads and then reabsorbed into British literature itself and thereafter rewritten and quoted in other gothic novels such as Dracula. Such German influences suggested the Gothic was more attached to demonic disruption and damnation in a universe bereft of spiritual guidance or the hand of God. Major themes also began to emerge such as the ‘corpse bride’ and the necromancer/who first makes an appearance in William Beckford’s Arabian tale Vathek (1782 in French and 1786 in English) which itself introduces the other side of the gothic imagination—orientalism. From 1800 to the 1840s there is the architectural triumph of medievalism as the principle of high Anglicanism and imperialism expressed by the building of the Houses of Parliament and the colonial administration buildings in colonial capitals, the general church building programme and the appearance of new gothic craft wares, silver and furniture, the new garden cemeteries such as Highgate and Kensal Green, the ideology of the ‘Young England’ movement, the later industrialised architecture of Tower Bridge and novels such as Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1818). Scott’s own Scottish baronial style was reflected in the remodelling of Windsor Castle and Bavarian King Maximillian’s building of Hochschwangau in Bavaria. Such reactionary and conservative ideas were the consequence of the threat of the French revolution and the collapse of social hierarchy, but this also led to radical ideologies of the existential self in a non-Christian Godless world exemplified by Mary Shelley’s creature in Frankenstein (1818), John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819) and Charles Maturin’s fantasy about a Kafka-esque bureaucracy in Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). The ideological debates around the break-up of a recognised social order include the rise of the concept of an individualised (Romantic) imagination. This

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


created a new ontological perspective wherein the individual became the basis for the sense of reality. Personal reality soon became personal realities where heightened imagination was both liberating, but also a solipsistic trap leading to ­insanity. Those locked in their own heads would now be subject to doubts regarding the validity of the outside world. The major shift from external dangers to internal fears and the idea that the ‘architecture’ of the mind now became the real landscape of terror, led to the rise of psychologised stories and poems which were concerned with hallucination, perversion, murder and drug addiction. Thomas De Quincey, Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson and Edgar Allan Poe spent much of their literary careers investigating such strange states of mind. By the 1840s, the original eighteenth-century sense of the Gothic had now long descended into popular culture. This older external gothic was now confined to popular journalism and cheap fiction serials like James Rymer and Thomas Pest’s Varney the Vampyre (1845–1847) or serialised melodramas like Rymer or Thomas Prest’s The String of Pearls (1846–1847) which introduced Sweeney Todd. Village magic lantern shows and penny gaffs made up the bulk of common gothic experience. The internal (and more intellectual) gothic and the popular sensational version influenced new genres such as the detective novel and the dark romances of the Bronte sisters. Gothic tropes were now used as ironic decoration or as comic setting by British writers such as Charles Dickens, but had also been taken up in the revolutionary atmosphere of Paris by French artists such as Victor Hugo and Charles Berlioz. By the 1840s, the Gothic has even entered the vocabulary of European revolutionaries such as Max Stirner and Karl Marx, who were fascinated with the resonance of the rhetoric of the spook. The 1850s to the 1880s was the apex of gothic architecture and design. In Bavaria, Ludwig II began building Neuschwanstein as a shrine to Wagnerian values. On the stage and in literature old-style Gothic was eclipsed by ­middleclass social melodrama set in domestic, if (often) gothic, architectural space. Nevertheless, by the 1870s and 1880s, the Gothic revived with the work of Sheridan Le Fanu and Robert Louis Stevenson. This phase is accompanied by the absorption of the new wave of spiritualism coming from America which will influence the occult novels and short stories of the 1890s. Between 1890 and 1918, the Gothic as occult literature made a remarkable revival. This was an amazingly productive period where old tropes were revived and rethought. Not only is there a revival of old defunct tropes such as the vampire, contemporary influences started to take on new gothic nuances. Paramount is, of course, Jack the Ripper in 1888 and the rise of violent anarchism in the 1890s. Spiritualism and séances, occult societies and eastern esoteric beliefs thrived and ghost stories dominated the popular magazines and anthologies. The era includes Richard Marsh and Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and H. G. Wells, M. R. James and Arthur Machen, Ambrose Bierce and Hanns Ewers, M. P. Shiel, Vernon Lee, Algernon Blackwood and Robert Chambers, and the wonderfully named ghost writer, Oliver Onions. In the 1920s and 1930s a remarkable weird literature that embraced magic, esotericism and the erotic came from the pen of Dion Fortune whose influence


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on gothic occult writing has largely been ignored. Roughly between 1890 and the 1930s there occurred the golden age of weird fictions: tales that explored the rent in the veil of reality and the peculiarities which may lurk beyond, taking on occult and phantasmagoric imagery, hinting at bizarre perversities, Darwinian and scientific degeneracy, the peculiarities of modern psychology and spirituality and the ever present opiate paranoia of unseen ethnic conspiracies and apocalyptic horror (as in Lovecraft). Whilst the nineteenth-century version embraces the hidden, occult and the otherness of beyond the grave, the twentieth century has explored the blankness of space and of meaning. Both take on ‘non-meaning’ or that meaning beyond rational explanation on the margins of consciousness. In contrast and in concrete bricks and mortar, the Gothic had been increasingly industrialised (see Tower Bridge and Liverpool Anglican Cathedral) in ways that see its last full flourish. Oddly, both weird fiction and late gothic architecture embrace the fears and aspirations of a world on the brink of modernity. Even more importantly, the first moving image reinterpretations of gothic sensibility were now being produced in films such as Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein (1910). Numerous other short films were produced in the period up to 1919 referencing vampires, golems and other monsters, now all lost. Nevertheless, despite the crumbling of old film reels, from 1918 to the end of World War II, the dominance of cinema was paramount, with film above all, reinterpreting the nineteenth century’s representations in literary and stage Gothic through the use of moving imagery and sound accompaniment. Nowhere is the impact of gothic ideas on modernity stronger than on the birth of surrealism in its relationship to film, where filmic technique was able, for the first time, to show complex patterns of psychological alienation and the distortions of surrounding space, explore the passing of time and of memory, visualise synchronicity, alchemy and psychoanalytic insight. These influences were a revelatory moment for Andre Breton who had just seen Nosferatu (1922) as well as to Luis Bunel and Maya Derren. If Salvador Dali went further back to illustrate Walpole and Dorothea Tanning concentrated on Ann Radcliffe, they still came to their subjects through film. German Expressionist cinema led the way followed closely by Hollywood. American scripts were mostly, but not always rewritings of earlier plays which themselves reworked older novels or stage productions, thereby reusing themes for a visual medium which were previously seen as defunct. Set in imaginary versions of the past or an imagined Bavarian, Ruritanian or Transylvanian setting, films made the world of gothic imagery come alive. Meanwhile, horror literature embraced science fiction with H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch and August Derleth in pulp fiction, and even ‘Marxist’ ideas appeared in Guy Endore’s novel The Werewolf of Paris (1934). As these chapters show beyond the Cold War and through the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, the Gothic has continued to evolve and grow from film and literature to television and comics, to music, fashion and lifestyle, interactive games and now to environmental and identity politics. The Gothic is without doubt the longest lasting popular genre in world literature, continuously reinvented throughout the history of modernity as part of modernity itself. This, perhaps extraordinary statement may be justified by

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


reference to its ubiquity in a whole range of media over the last 250 years. If we take gothic literature to have been first created in the middle of the Enlightenment by Horace Walpole, then we can map its various organic changes up to and beyond the twenty-first century. The gothic sensibility, which grew as a counter to the philosophy of the period soon adapted itself to the politics of the French Revolution and the new psychological sciences of the nineteenth century. It helped form movements from the picturesque to Romanticism and post-Romanticism, and moved through the nineteenth century picking up concepts of personal disturbance, occultism and domestic violence. By the twentieth century it was immediately adopted by film whose visual vocabulary was found perfect for exploring disturbed states of mind, hallucination, trauma and the spectral. The term Gothic is a contradiction: on the one hand, it means a Christian, progressive architecture based on medieval principles, whilst on the other, this same architecture is the setting for suspense, supernaturalism, danger, derangement and horror. The Gothic provides a space to discuss issues otherwise banned or censored or so dangerous to societal norms as to appear revolutionary. It exists to allow cultural prohibitions to be disguised as art in order to create a space to explore themes as diverse as physical and mental alienation, borderline states of being, spirits, ghosts and demons and necromancy, incest, fetishism and necrophilia, drug-induced and hallucinatory disturbance, gender construction, sexuality and perversion, predatory violence, the dangers of the urban landscape and its anonymous crowds (think, for instance, of the importance of Jack the Ripper in German Expressionist films such as Paul Leni’s Waxworks (1924) and G. W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (1929), or the many Ripper films made in the 1960s and 1970s, and even critiques of class, monstrosity, disability and trauma, which may all jostle in disguised form as literary entertainment. German Expressionism, with its distortions of visual imagery, was well suited to represent the political, psychological and cultural trauma of the First World War. Horror and psychological disturbance, plague and monsters fill Expressionist Cinema from Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919/1920) to F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, and from Carl Boese and Paul Wegener’s The Golem (1920) to Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928) and beyond into Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) with its scenes with the scientist Rotwang and the Cathedral clock’s skeleton. German Expressionism converted literature into visual images. Although there had been plenty of nineteenth-century images of the Gothic in both print, lantern shows and theatre, it was the success of the German expressionists to find an exact analogue of gothic tropes in the visualisation of distortion, shadows, lighting and set design. German films incorporated a new filmic sense of the Gothic which was only partially aligned to its literary forbears. Silence and dread were soon incorporated into Hollywood’s vocabulary. Tod Browning’s The Phantom of the Opera (1925; 1929) and James Whales’ Frankenstein (1931) both are cognisant of the influence of German visual tropes as is Alfred Hitchcock, then working in Britain and whose film version of Mrs. Henry Lowndes’ The Lodger (book c.1914; film 1927) incorporates an expressionist palette as does his later Blackmail (1929) with


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its vertiginous walk up to the villain’s rooms. Such visual tropes went into the very language of film with tropes from The Cabinet of Dr Caligari reprised in Merian C. Copper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s King Kong (1933) and Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990), Hitchcock’s entrance scene in The Lodger (1927) being revisited for Peter Blatty’s film of The Exorcist (1973). It is Germanic renaissance medievalism as originally conceived in the middle to late nineteenth century that had its most lasting effect on the work of Walt Disney whose own interest in gothic folk tales and the Brothers Grimm is everywhere evident in his early works such as The Three Little Pigs (1932) and Snow White (1938) with its forest referencing the Klingsor’s Garden decorations in the Singer’s Hall in Ludwig’s II grandiose hermitage, Neuschwanstein which influences the Disney logo and theme parks to this day. Thus twentieth- and twenty-first-century gothic filmic images now vie with, and often are more important than, linguistic tropes to provide another layer for gothic semiotics. The importance of Hollywood even after the absorption of the German Expressionist film style as well as the emergence of American horror actors such as Lon Chaney and Vincent Price and directors such as Tod Browning, William Castle, Roger Corman, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, Eli Roth and numerous others meant that American Gothic looked inward. The phasing out of British directors and European actors in the 1940s meant that the United States could both absorb and replace European Gothic tropes with homegrown ideas. European Gothic slowly became peripheral to the modern American vampire for instance. In 1976, Ann Rice created the Vampire Lestat in Interview with the Vampire, its central characters finally destroying Dracula and European gothicism in an extraordinary act of cultural appropriation. The slick young vampire kid of the small town schoolyard whose qualms about drinking blood sit alongside his immense wealth fit an American modernity far removed from the old-dark-house school of American Victorian horror which grew out of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ambrose Bierce and the early twentieth-century pages of Weird Tales. What replaced the evil of vampirism was Satanism, covens and black magic conspiracies which were ushered in by Ira Levin in Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Peter Blatty in The Exorcist (1971) and by Richard Donner in The Omen (1976). These were themselves pre-dated by Guy Endore’s American-in-Paris wolfman horror, The Werewolf of Paris in which a werewolf tale is intertwined with the siege of Paris and the politics of the Communards. The book’s peculiarly interest in violence, blood and sexual perversity was based on the equally perverse and decadent writings of Hanns Ewers. Nowhere is the occult and Satanic more revisited than in David Lynch whose visual terrors seem to be attached to a demonic parallel universe residing in subterranean ‘lounges’ and corridors decorated in the plush red décor of a 1950s cinema. Demonic characters haunt every episode of Twin Peaks (1990–1991) and Twin Peaks: The Return (2017). We are presented, in episode eight, of the second series which aired in 2018, with the most gothic and surrealist episode in modern television. Lynch’s tours de force of occult weirdness, however are often so convoluted and overlaid as to be ‘meaningless’, instead resonating as a purely visual and

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


hallucinatory or dreamlike experience with a confusion of shapeshifting, demonic possession, Lurch-like characters such as the ‘Giant’/‘Fireman’, portals to hellish ‘waiting rooms in Limbo, parasitic doubles, demons’ (‘Bob’; ‘Judy’;‘the Arm’) and warped or distorted timelines, making the very ordinariness of American small-town life, with its ‘cherry pie’ and ‘damned fine coffee’ seem sinister and superficial, hiding the real hell beneath the surface. All of this is composed, at least in the original series, as a soap opera pastiche, a subject he has originally experimented with in his very black ‘situation comedy’ Rabbits (2002). As agent Dale Cooper reminds his colleagues in Twin Peaks: The Return, ‘we live inside a dream’ in which the Manichean forces of good and evil eternally battle for supremacy. Here, however, fear is produced from the duality of the known and unknown where evil cannot be explained or fully consciously understood. The images of Twin Peaks produce an America made into a demonic landscape, both uncanny and normal, because nebulous and indefinite, a horror of the inexplicable and irrevocably seen, of that which should not exist under the surface of that which does—American diners, 1950s and 1960s pop music, formica tabletops, wholesome American food and small-town neighbourhood communities. American Gothic created its own vocabulary in the nineteenth and early twentieth century from its national characteristics and homegrown fears. Thus American Gothic is full of cursed or ‘haunted’ mansions (both in the eastern seaboard as well as southern states), lonely roads, dense forests, tumbledown shacks and degenerate bayous and swamps. The United States has created its own unique regional concept of the perverse in the southern gothic quagmires of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. H. P. Lovecraft created a whole mythic geography of New England degeneracy around Arkham, Miskatonic University, Red Hook and the dreaded ‘Necronomicon’. Grant Wood’s painting ‘American Gothic’ (1930) added another level of rural degeneracy, at first unrelated, except by coincidence, to the language of American gothic imagery, as did Hopper’s painting ‘House By the Railroad’ (1925). Hopper’s house, with its strange haunting solitude became The Bates Motel and later the home of the Munsters (still later the film set featured in the series Desperate Housewives!) whilst Wood’s iconography became part of the opening sequence of the movie version of The Rocky Horror Show in which Riff Raff and Magenta recreate in tableau the famous pose of the farmer and his wife. The contemporary American monstrous must incorporate such areas as consumerism, physical beauty and wealth (see for instance Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho [1991]), must in a word, be an American businessman’s success story. As such the monstrous, per se, is denuded of horror or threat and instead becomes a metaphor for victimhood and exclusion. Victimhood is a focus of early films such as Browning’s Freaks (1932) and Whales’ The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Hollywood land has its own inherent Gothic, the Gothic of faded Spanish architecture, best described in James Cain’s Double Indemnity (1943) the noir thriller where the trope may have been invented. This idea of the grotesque combined with a nostalgia for a lost golden age of West coast celebrity is reworked in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) as well as Robert Aldrich’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962). Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, played by


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Gloria Swanson and Baby Jane, played by Bette Davis both attempt to return from their own version of a living death, being forgotten by an unforgiving film industry. Their final return surrounded by the corpses of those they loved, provides a fittingly macabre trope for the harsh nature of celebrity culture and faded talent from an age that has already past and should not return. It is, in these films a fate meted out to women who cling to the rags of lost glory like the living revenant Miss. Haversham in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations (1861). Such sentiments also pervade the work of David Lynch with the reprised Spanish Hollywood Gothic of Mulholland Drive (2001) in which a central character, Betty played by Naomi Watts dreams of being famous, finally to be destroyed by the demonic forces of failure. Nowhere is Hollywood homage more obvious than in the work of Tim Burton whose sense of the genre is that of a slightly rye and knowingly arch affection, usually deployed as a reverential, knowing and comic mise en scene rather than that of originality of setting and purpose. His frequent return to rethinkings of classic early Gothic such as in Vincent (1982), Frankenweenie (1984), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Corpse Bride (2005) and Sleepy Hollow (1999) are marked by heightened colour, grotesque make-up and musical numbers, and, like Edward Scissorhands (1990) are often wilfully sentimental. All are marked by a reverence for silent movie gesture and narrative (Edward Scissorhands is a 1990s reworking of Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari) or they hark back to a nostalgia for lost actors of a type of B-movie golden age such as Vincent Price. Where Burton is of account is in his scrupulous rendition of gothic detail and his almost overwrought and caricatured manner of working with both drawings and puppets. Through multiple gothic incarnations he has effectively turned Helen Bonham Carter into the most recognisable ‘gothic female’ in modern film. It is in his re-rendering of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (theatrical musical 1979; film 2007) that he accomplishes both reverence and innovation. With Sondheim’s permission, the choral numbers were rewritten and the story narrated as a nightmare vision of urban depravity and revenge in which everyone goes to the hell that Sweeney’s revenge finally brings. There is no happy ending, only a final blackout laced with fountains of blood, the dwellers of Victorian London being reduced to cannibals eating the flesh of Mrs. Lovett’s meat grinder. In thus referencing James Whale (in Sweeney’s make-up) Burton creates an expressionistic landscape both claustrophobic, isolated and inexorable; rainfall is tainted into urban corruption and turning into blood as it falls. Jonny Depp, eaten up with bitterness, is not Tod Slaughter with his noted melodramatic comic laughter and his sly catch phrase ‘can I polish you off, sir?’, rather here is a type of urban malevolence without hope or pity based on the ghost of Jack the Ripper, a quite different, but equally charismatic bloodthirsty monster. There is always change and mutation according to cultural shifts. America itself is the new gothic landscape. Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven and Rob Zombie have turned the backroads and backwoods of the country into killing grounds where innocent (and usually very good looking) college students head off on vacation, run out of fuel, go seek help at apparently empty shacks or collapsing wooden

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


mansions and are killed off one by one by masked, deformed and otherwise monstrous degenerates who wield power saws, machetes and hammers in order to torture and mutilate their victims. The old dark house was given a new twist in the 1970s when it turned into the haunted and empty small town house where unspeakable murders have been committed, but whose price does not deter a happy nuclear family moving in only to be traumatised by a past that cannot be exorcised (see, for instance Jay Anson’s ‘factual’ retelling of The Amityville Horror [1977] or Stephen Spielberg and Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist [1982]). The shift in FBI strategy in the 1970s from looking for communists to searching for serial killers also changed the focus of American horror and gave urban and campus landscapes a gothicism hitherto ignored, with movies like John Carpenter’s Halloween (1988) and Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the Thirteenth (1980) establishing the slasher movie as a new genre, different in kind to that originating with Robert Bloch’s and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1962). These shifts remade the Gothic in an American image, but in so doing required the Gothic to discover new analogues for its original tropes. American occult terrors lurked in the hidden corners of New York loft apartments and Brownstones and the homes of Washington diplomats and forests around small towns. This very American and almost nihilistic spirituality could not be combatted by anything other than the full weight of a revived Catholic Church, ready with exorcisms, holy water, prayer and candles. Such Catholicism, with its rituals, empty cavernous churches and warrior priests fighting the ancient evils inherent in the American condition, is, ironically, bereft of religious anchors and floating in a secular, consumerist hell—the American dream turned into nightmare. Catholic symbolism is now, however the rather lazy cliche of American gothic filmmakers of recent decades, entirely emptied of its original power and social meaning. Other countries followed suit, their national concerns becoming a national modification of ‘Anglophone’ gothic imagery and language to their particular needs. In Italy the taste for gialli, a peculiar variation on the slasher movie, followed a decade in which British actors such as Christopher Lee were the stars of Hammer horror copycat movies featuring all the paraphernalia of an older nineteenth-century gothic world. These films, mostly made in black and white were eventually replaced by full colour renditions of a modern Italy rendered in ­fascist-modernist architecture that had little to do with the origins of the genre. Dario Argento’s oevre is one based on a dreamlike and nightmarish twilight world where cinematography creates a peculiarly strange and alienated mise en scene inhabited by deranged black-gloved murderers who stalk victims in films in which there is a mixture of sex, violence, knives and extreme violence. In Profundo Rosso (1975) and Tenebre (1982), the slasher film takes on the qualities of type of hallucinatory surrealism peculiarly Italian in feeling and expression. Films for the growing Spanish speaking audiences of America saw Browning’s Dracula reshot at night and acted out for a Hispanic audience with Bela Lugosi replaced by Carlos Villarias and Browning giving way to George Melford. In Spain itself, during the 1970s older gothic stars such as Boris Karloff would make


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appearances in poorly made vampire flicks. Jesus (Jess) Franco also began making highly erotic versions of gothic classics in the 1970s alongside ‘remakes’ and reworkings of classic Dracula and Frankenstein themes. Female Vampire (1975) is one of a number of films which mixes horror and sex. In the film the vampire Irina Karstein (played by Lina Romay who is nude for almost every scene!) has taken to living in modern day Madeira and kills people by draining their vitality during sex. Such overt sexuality was unknown to British or American gothic films where any eroticism was heavily censored. In Franco’s movies the Gothic is eroticised and violence replaced by sexual games. Meanwhile, in Latin America during the 1980s the older European tropes, especially of vampires, were used to ‘gothicise’ contemporary social issues and as political critiques of dictatorial and exploitative regimes. The transition into transcultural ‘Gothico Tropical’ was first used in Luis Ospino’s ‘Pura Sangra’ (1982) as a commentary on Colombian poverty, class division and uncaring dehumanised capitalism.3 In the first decades of the twenty-first century the work of Mexican director Guilermo del Toro has reinterpreted the Gothic through the lens of a fantastical rethinking of the ‘repressed’ history of fascism in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and the romantic possibilities in the old Universal horror franchise with films such as The Shape of Water (2017), whilst the Spanish based tale The Nun (2018), directed by Corin Hardy returns to gothic literature’s earliest tropes whilst referencing American films such as Daniel Meyrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Sean Gillespie’s I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) including, for good measure, a cast of millennial youngsters. Whether in film or literature, television or interactive gaming, the Gothic becomes the space where secular fears reside and may be explored with the bonus of entertainment. Such space may only be relatively safe. As the Gothic grew through the last decades of the twentieth century the boundaries of the genre’s taste and decorum, worked out through long practice, began to change. Stephen King was a relative conservative in reworking essentially 1950s gothicism, but he and James Herbert, although writing within the genre widened it to include scenes of abjection (Carrie [1974]) and disgust (The Rats [1974]). Both however were relatively conservative with references to Universal Films in Herbert’s later books like The Magic Cottage (1988). King has a lasting obsession with a childhood in the 1950s. Herbert looks back to the ruins of the Blitz. Clive Barker changed pulp horror, for he was interested in the sadistic and perverse within occult in suburban England. The creation of the Pinhead universe in The Hellbound Heart (1986) and the Hellraiser films was a Sadeian step into the pleasure of violence and the violence of pleasure. It coincided with the creation of the Torture Garden night club and the gender fluidity of ­sado-masochism. Sado-masochism pleasure combined with the frisson of fear was also to be found in Whitley Streiber’s Communion (1987) a supposedly authentic story of alien abduction recalled through psychological therapy. Thus aliens, extreme sexuality and occult rituals were added to the gothic repertoire with the emphasis on body parts, bodily fluid (all shades of green and white and with the consistency of mucus), dismemberment and, above all blood, not the tomato blood

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


of the Hammer horror films, but a new dark, viscous filmic blood which pools and spurts. Dark oozing or spurting blood, not ‘red’ splatter blood and beheadings seem the new symbol of trauma in gothic film. The appearance of body gothic and torture porn has realigned Gothic with freakdom, but lost the earlier compassionate connection in tales such a Victor Hugo’s moral tale The Man Who Laughs (1869) and the silent film version by Paul Leni, or even Browning’s Freaks. Modern freakdom now combines weird science with zombification. Hence the Second World War may be ‘gothicised’ in ways that teeter on the brink of both racism and bad taste, but, nevertheless, stick closely to the gothic tropes of the dark forest and the subterranean dungeon and dark corridors of the eighteenth century. These are now metamorphosised into the atomic or experimental bunker, apparently abandoned but actually filled with the terrible detritus of a forgotten or repressed past—the past of an abandoned experimental hospital where plastic sheets and coils of electric wire suggest torture chambers and where the lights never work. Into this world the adventurers sally only to find blood-spattered walls and undead mutants. Such tropes are taken from the experiments of Josef Mengele and the horrors of Auschwitz. Most notorious of these films is Tom Six’s The Human Centipede (2009) where the protagonists fall victim to a mad German dissectionist, but there is also the film series originated by Steve Barker in 2012 which pits a hapless group of soldiers against insane Nazi doctors and zombie stormtroopers, on which theme variations abound. In The Devil’s Tomb (2009), directed by Jason Connery. Cuba Gooding Jnr leads a group of mercenaries into a labyrinthine tunnel to fight the Nephalim of the Book of Genesis. Eli Roth seems intent upon reproducing horror from extreme nightmarish trauma. In this way he has dallied with film imagery that teeters upon torture pornography and the extremes of voyeuristic pleasure. His film Inferno (2013) is a version of the banned Italian film Cannibal Ferox (1981) directed by Umberto Lenzi which was itself a type of faux snuff movie about Brazillian cannibals and was banned in a number of countries. Such films seem to cross the line from being ‘political’ critiques of the destruction of the jungle by industrialisation to gruesome pastiches of the innocent American abroad caught up in the extreme violence of primitive savages. Each book or film picks up a number of tropes and wilfully or unknowingly reworks them for its contemporary audience and ecological gothic is an easy and contemporary way of making inexpensive movies with an environmental message. Whether it is a film set in mitteleuropeen backroads (Severance [2006] directed by Christopher Smith), Polish forests (Shrine [2010] directed by Jon Knautz), the depths of the Scottish Highlands such as Neil Marshall’s werewolf adventure Dog Soldiers (2002), Irish bogs or English moors (Paddy Breathnack’s 2002 remake of Shrooms or the Leprechaun series as well as Xmoor [2014] directed by Luke Hyams), each is a return to the exotic and orientalising modes of earlier iterations. Such reinterpretations often also reproduce the racist and xenophobic stereotyping they eschew. Gothic literature has always been both tasteless and perverse as Samuel Taylor Coleridge pointed out in regard to his son’s reading choices. Poe may be considered ‘tasteless’ in tales such as ‘Berenice’ (1835) or ‘Ligeia’ (1838) with


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their necrophilic and fetishistic endings. The decadence of horror movies such as the banned videos of the 1970s and 1980s (the ‘video nasties’ in Britain) or Six’s Human Centipede II (2011) which provide very visceral entertainment may be more than an effect of corruption of taste due to the exhaustion of appetite. The notion of a decadent age suggests, not merely exhaustion, but nostalgia for a golden age, but what age is the golden age of gothic film and how is that to be judged and by what criterion? Gothic taste mutates. Even at its origins the smell of sulphur and bad breeding stuck to works like those of Matthew Lewis, if not to Ann Radcliffe. Tastes change, but one cannot help but think that breaking good taste is partially what subversive gothic art is about and conservative gothic imagination tries to suppress. Hence two gothic worlds utilise the same imagery but for different purposes. The original tropes of the genre include moving from familiar and safer territory into foreign and therefore dangerous lands (mostly Italy, Spain and Germany, sometimes the East, and later, the Carpathian mountains in Transylvania), wicked aristocrats, castles, dark passages, dungeons and cellars, wild mountain landscapes and forests graveyards, bats and moonlight, lightening and thunder, threatened virgins, dark curses and dire warnings, occult practices and livid monsters or the undead which stalk battlement and chapel alike are still the tropes we have in contemporary versions of the genre which remain remarkably unchanged or are changed to mirror contemporary fears which are may not be too far away from their origins in the conservative version the genre. In Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 reworking of Stephen King’s The Shining (1977), an isolated and temporarily abandoned and ‘haunted’ hotel, complete with maze substitutes for a ruined castle; in James Wan’s Saw (2004) it is an abandoned warehouse that substitutes. Tropes are developed and attenuated, but stay true to a distant origin. Peter Blatty’s nove, The Exorcist (1971), ground shifting turn into child possession and occultism, still began in the Middle East and a priest- archaeologist who uncovers ancient evil. Ridley Scott put the Gothic into space complete with fanged monster and dripping passageways in Alien (1979). Thomas Harris reinvented gothic literature with tales of an ‘aristocratic’ and monstrous psychopathic killer with six fingers and oubliettes full of victims, who is chased by a heroine of stoic proportion through museum crypts filled with deaths head moths; Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code (2003) rethought part of the plot of the Matthew Lewis’s The Monk with psychopath albinos and forbidden mysteries hidden deep in the Vatican. Elsewhere, Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005) reconstructs the dungeon as a touristic torture chamber in an abandoned facility in Slovakia, whilst in Hostel II (2007) he includes a scene clearly based on the supposed blood lust of the Countess Bathory and finishes with a pastiche of a Slovakian medieval folk festival. The black comedy, Severance (2009) directed by Christopher Smith, exchanges a Germanic Black Forest for a patch of forbidding nowhere in a former Soviet country (as does Brad Parker in The Chernobyl Diaries [2012]), whilst The Nun returns to ­eighteenth-century tropes regarding the Catholic Church. Indeed, in The Nun we have murder, revenge from a ‘bloody and malevolent bloody nun’, haunted seminaries, graveyards, thunderous skies, doubles and Catholic priests, most of the film

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


centred on Spain as Dan Brown chose Italy. This is gothic nostalgia reworked as contemporary setting. By the first decades of the twentieth century, the Gothic really needed no imagined historical setting to work in film, although allusion to the past was a prerequisite. Modernist Gothic is most evident in the Universal quickie, The Black Cat (1934) directed by Edgar G. Ulmer and starring Boris Karloff as Hjalmar Poelzig and Bela Lugosi as Dr. Vitus Verdigas, a mad architect and a ­revenge-filled doctor fight a strange psychological battle over a female American honeymooner, Joan Allison injured after a bus crash whilst in Hungary. The house that the architect Poelzig lives in is modernist deco dream, but it is built over a prisoner of war camp and fortress. In the old gun casements the architect stores dead women exhibited as fetishistic trophies. Everything in the house is contemporary but everything alludes to the past, the doctor returns as living ‘revenant’, the architect’s wife (Karen played by Lucille Lund) moves as somnambulistically as a vampire and is dressed accordingly, the architect himself is an occultist with a hint of Aleister Crowley and he is finally flayed alive as the house/castle is blown to smithereens killing all inside except for the two honeymooners, typical American innocents abroad. As Verdigas remarks, in this high tech modernist edifice, ‘even the phone is dead’. The old tropes (now clichéd) are often updated as technology changes. Thus the strange environment of a laboratory and of modern technology replaced outdated equipment in Whales’ version of Frankenstein, where the technology of the mad scientist’s laboratory is no longer the vague suggestions of Mary Shelley’s book, stranded in a time when such technological advances were impossible to describe. The electricity of Frankenstein’s lab, Frankenstein’s lab coat and the fact that his assistant Fritz stole the brain from a medical university’s demonstration theatre constitute a modernity quite unlike the actual period of the original book’s creation. Nevertheless, this is counterposed by the fact that the laboratory is in an abandoned tower (with no electrical connection), that Fritz is a hunchback cripple, and that the stolen brain is ‘abnormal’. That the tower is constructed on German Expressionist lines, is at the centre of a horrific mountain storm and has a dungeon, more than compensates for the syringes, van der Graf generators, operating trolleys and surgical equipment, and the cinematic converter lamps that attempt to make the laboratory look ‘modern’. Thus tradition is preserved in modernity. So it is with later films where the banality of modern life is the natural setting for gothic fear, especially for those films set in the United States where suburban houses contain bathrooms (Hitchcock’s Psycho) telephones (I Know What You Did Last Summer) and televisions (Poltergeist) and even toilets (The Nun) that harbour dark malevolence. Nowhere in an American kitchen is ever safe, the basement simply there to avoid. Suburbia contains horrors in ordinary objects as the Japanese film industry understood with Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge (2002 as Ju-On and remade 2004) with its haunted lofts and hallways, Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998) with the fear of video technology, Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo the Iron Man (1989), with its erotic obsession with metal or Nbuhiko Obayashi’s bizarre Hausu (1977). Nowhere has the Gothic been more successfully reinvented


C. Bloom

than in Japanese film of the last three decades with its images taken from folk fears, reproduced through the lens of filmic technique of the modern quotidian and mundane. Equally, platforms such as YouTube offer a smorgasbord of strange photographic images and backstories ever available for gothic appropriation. Even real ‘murders’ such as that of Elisa Lam (Lam Ho Yi) on 30 April 1991 at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles whose bizarre behaviour in a lift and corridor was caught on CCTV and appears even more disturbing than that of the corridor footage central to the weird goings-on in The Grudge may be appropriated. Lam’s inexplicable death has spawned an industry of gothic explanations, conspiracy theories, accounts of serial killers and featured in films such as Dark Water (2005) and a number of television detective/horror stories. Thus art imitates life and life becomes a source of the macabre. Lifts in hotels have been a source of unease since the tsunami of blood which issued from closed elevator doors in The Shining. ‘Found documentary footage’ filmed on grainy handheld cameras, and first used in The Blair Witch Project now inform many low budget gothic horrors set in lonely or abandoned buildings. Yet, staples remain. Haunted asylums and silent hospitals still create a gothic frisson whether it be William Friedkin’s The Exorcist III (1990), Martin Scorcese’s Shutter Island (2010) or The House on Haunted Hill (William Castle 1959; William Malone 1999). Despite a century of change the Gothic holds its own place in popular culture. Children as young as two or three regularly watched the Count von Count (a Bela Lugosi parody complete with purple skin, cloak and fangs) on Sesame Street and he now also appears on The Furchester Hotel, a Muppet show spin-off for very young children. Older children may watch Vampirina, a schoolgirl vampire based on Elvira’s 1960s look, read the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine or delve into Lemony Snicket. At the cinema there’s the cartoon world of Hotel Transylvania, or films such as Scooby Doo for an older child audience. At the same time the Addams family came to the big screen in 1991 and 1993. Dark vampiric heroes now haunt obsessional adolescent females in romance literature similar to that written by Ann Radcliffe at the end of the eighteenth century. Shelves are dedicated in bookshops to this subgenre, whilst in the late twentieth century there were television, film and book series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003), True Blood (2008–2014) and Twilight (2008–2011). Young women may have more agency than in Radcliffe’s day, but the tropes remain largely the same. Wolfmen have been updated from their filmic origins in Stuart Walker’s The Werewolf of London (1935) and George Waggner’s The Wolfman (1941) to inhabit films like John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London (1881) and Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981), which references The Wolfman, but also were reimagined as a ‘feminist’ version of coming of age in movies such as in Ginger Snaps (2000). More than any other film Ginger Snaps seemed the horror film for the millennium. Two EMO sisters of a loving but un-noticing suburban family are faced with harassment and school bullying as well as the onset of menstruation and sexual awareness. Adolescent female ‘trauma’ over periods (constantly referred to in the film as the ‘curse’ or the ‘cramps’ and graphically displayed in blood-red visuals

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


which are both abject and terrifying), allows the narrative to take in both teenage angst and werewolf terrors; one sister growing a phallic tail, fur and fangs as sexuality dawns into animal lust, whilst the other ‘plain’ sister searches for a cure with her scientist boyfriend. The film ends as a type of old dark house slasher without closure or explanation. Yet if Ginger Snaps reinvents the Gothic for the teenager, so Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods (2011) is a film for horror aficionados. The film puts a very final line under the lost-in-the-woods gothic of old. Its comic apocalyptic message, put over by a group of victims clearly based on Scooby Doo’s gang (with ‘Shaggy’ as the central character), makes it both a pastiche and a nihilistic critique of the manipulations of modern horror culture. Of course, it is H. P. Lovecraft’s dreaded ‘Old Ones’ who finally rise to create the apocalypse which in Lovecraft is always avoided. As has been shown the Gothic does not stand still. Reworking old tropes and inventing new ways those tropes may be expressed is central to the gothic sensibility and new analogues follow as technology changes and society evolves. The old battlements and dungeons of the crumbling gothic castle may be rethought within contemporary spaces. Zombies now shamble across apocalyptic spaces and dead little girls descend backwards down the stairs of anonymous suburban houses. New twentieth-century monsters have emerged from the urban landscape too. Zombies and serial killers and urban scare figures taken from German fairy stories fill our films and the Internet. ‘Victor Surge’s’ creation of the Slender Man in 2009 as a ‘creepy pasta meme’ was a modern rewriting of the Pied Piper tale emphasising the closeness of supernatural danger and childhood innocence in an age preoccupied with the fear of paedophiles and with the obsession of constant parent surveillance. Slender Man tells us the world has lost its innocence and danger is always in your peripheral vision. The repertoire has widened too. The psychopathic clown has joined the repertoire of horror monsters. Almost always a deranged and deformed male, the clown has the same liminality as a vampire, an utterly ambiguous figure at once amusing and comforting and at the same time terrifying and monstrous, a mask of sheer malignity on his face and a grin hiding razor-sharp teeth. Moreover, the clown also belongs to the freaks and deformed protagonists who inhabit the horror circus of fear. It is in the circus that children first encounter clowns, who later return as the nightmares of adult memory, both something repressed and something h­ alf-forgotten, creatures who exist neither as reality nor simulacrum. Stephen King thinking about a new book and reminiscing about the Universal horror monsters recalled, I had an idea …that I wanted to write a really long book that had all of the monsters in it. I figured if people think I’m a horror writer… ‘I’ll get all of monsters together…; I’ll get the Vampire, I’ll get the Werewolf, and I’ll even get the Mummy…. But then I thought to myself, There ought to be one binding, horrible, nasty, gross, creature kind of thing that you don’t want to see, [and] it makes you scream just to see it. So I thought to myself, What scares children more than anything else in the world? And the answer was ‘clowns’. So, I created Pennywise the Clown.4

The figure of the psychopathic clown is now ubiquitous, turning the ‘infantalised’ comfort of Ronald McDonald into psychopathic nightmare: the eater eaten.


C. Bloom

Clowns may be found in films such as Killier Clowns from Outer Space (1998), Spawn (1997), House of a Thousand Corpses (2003) directed by Rob Zombie, Zombieland (2009) directed by Ruben Fieschler, Stitches (2012) directed by Conor McMahon, as well as appearances in television programmes and series such as Stephen King’s It from 1990 directed by Tony Lee Wallace (and revived for the screen in 2017 by Andy Muschietti) or American Horror Show, or as a masked rock musician in groups such as Slipnot). The clown is no longer portrayed as an innocent, slapstick comic in a circus with a red nose. Clowns are now figures of terror, malevolent freaks out to kill children, teenagers and party goers; even The Joker (dressed as Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight [2008]) has taken on the motley and King’s Pennywise and Zombie’s Captain Spaulding have now joined the pantheon of memorable filmic horror characters. The reappearance of the voodoo doll in the likes of Chucky (series beginning 1988) and the puppet in Saw (series beginning in 2009), as well as the maniacal laugh, pancake make-up and psychotic intent of the Halloween clown and living doll return us to the early gothic world of the circus freak, occult demon and the physically perfect automaton of European nightmares. With interactive augmented reality games such as Silent Hill Origins (2007), BioShock (2007), Gone Home (2013), Bloodborne (2015) and Night in the Woods (2017) and fairground thrill rides (with names like ‘Vampire’ at Alton Towers theme park) we can experience what once we could only imagine. The Gothic is the genre that describes itself, the genre of mutation continues to mutate into the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, it is in the sphere of goth lifestyle, that mostly problematises the subject. Goths do not, in general, take an interest in gothic literature and may not even like horror movies. Their focus on bands, festivals and clubs which began in the 1980s is not directly tied to gothic history, but was (and remains) rather an independent reaction to dull working life. Gothic tropes inform gothic lifestyle but they have been modified for a new generation, now themselves middle aged. The emphasis on Victorian mourning wear and tight bodices for women and frilled shirts and heavy boots and leather coats for men with steampunk accessories for both genders as well as a considerable interest in Victorian imperial uniforms, cross-dressing and the affectations of Marie Antoinette suggest something quite different from the mainstream of Gothicism and even though the main gothic festival in England is held at Whitby with its associations with Dracula, a Dracula cosplay character is rarely encountered on the street during festival time. Even so, and despite the lack of interest in gothic literature, gothic lifestyle adheres to a tradition of gender fluidity, romanticism and masquerade inherent in gothic art from the nineteenth century, but dressed in an homage to the costumes from a Corman movie or a Hammer film by Terence Fisher. In this case the reproduction of Gothicism is a simulacrum of a simulacrum without origin or history, an experience of pure superficiality which nevertheless, wears a mask. Gothic lifestyle or cosplay amounts to the most serious form of carnival and cabaret where deception and seduction cloak a reticence regarding authenticity and where the authentic self is revealed only in the theatrics of serious play. Goths whose day time jobs may be mundane or tedious ironically become themselves or become their ‘other’

Introduction to the Gothic Handbook Series: Welcome to Hell


inherent or repressed selves in goth-inspired costume—revelation in disguised form. Moreover how does one reconcile bands such as Siouxie and the Banshees, The Cure or The Sisters of Mercy who insisted, despite appearances, that they were not goths, or account for the work of illustrator Edward Gorey (perhaps the purist goth of all) whose Victorian cautionary tales he has referred to as surrealist rather than Gothic. Such conundrums complicate and confuse the issue of what exactly defines the gothic sensibility.5 This book is an exploration of the question: what has the Gothic become in the last hundred years? This volume contains seventy-two chapters covering the full range of gothic developments between 1918 and the present, written by the world’s leading experts in the area. It forms the first volume of a series of three works which explore in the most acute and careful detail the development of the genre since its inception over 250 years ago.

Notes 1.  A full study of the urban gothic of London by the editor will appear in the Palgrave Pivot series (2021). 2.  The following are definitions from contributors to this volume and members of the International Gothic Association. 3.   First brought to my attention by Leanna Talevera. 4.   For the complete discussion see, 5.   ‘Hauntology’ is perhaps the most obvious rethinking of the Gothic for twenty-first-century enthusiasts and appeared around 2003 to express interest in post-1960s popular culture. It not only includes filmic, televisual and online representations but is also interested in new age-ism, homoeopathic cures, occult and pagan ideas and the eerie. It is a culture of edge lands, and liminality, music and nostalgia and may ultimately be a very British phenomenon with the same roots as Edwardian ruralism.

Bibliography Addams, Charles, Drawn and Quartered (London, Hamish Hamilton, 1943). Addams, Charles, Homebodies (London, Hamish Hamilton, 1954). Addams, Charles, Black Maria (New York, Simon Schuster, 1960). Addams, Charles, Monster Rally (New York, Pocket Books Inc., 1965). Addams, Charles, Favourite Haunts (London, WH Allen/Virgo Books, 1977). Addams, Charles, The World of Charles Addams (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1992). Addams, Charles, The Addams Family Album (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1992). Anson, Jay, The Amityville Horror (London, Pan Books Ltd., 1983). Austen, Jane, and Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Philadelphia, Quirk Books, 2009). Barker, Clive, Books of Blood: Volume Two (London, Sphere Books Limited, 1984). Barker, Clive, Books of Blood: Volume Three (London, Sphere Books Limited, 1984).


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Barker, Clive, The Hellbound Heart (London, Fontana, 1991). Bataille, Georges, Literature and Evil (London/New York, Marion Boyars, 1990). Bloom, Clive, Gothic Histories: The Taste for Terror, 1764 to the Present (London, Continuum, 2010). Bogdan, Robert, Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1990). Botting, Fred, Gothic (London, Routledge, 1995). Brunvand, Jan Harold, The Vanishing Hitchhiker: Urban Legends and Their Meanings (London, Pan Books Ltd., 1981). Burton, Tim, Tim Burton by Tim Burton (New York, Museum of Modern Art, 2009). Cain, James, M., Double Indemnity (London, Pan Books Ltd., 1983). Conrich, Ian, and Laura Sedgwick, Eds., Gothic Dissections in Film and Literature: The Body in Parts (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Coolidge-Rask, Marie, London After Midnight (The Imaginary Book Company, [1928] 2012). Davies, David Stuart, The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Ripper Legacy (London, Titan Books Limited, 2016). Davison, Carol Margaret, and Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Eds., Global Frankenstein (London, Palgrave, 2018). Endore, Guy, The Werewolf of Paris (London, Panther, [1934] 1963). Estleman, Loren D. Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes (London, Titan, 2010). Estleman, Loren D. Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula (London, Titan Books, 2012). Forshaw, Barry, British Gothic Cinema (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Gorey, Edward, Amphigorey (New York, Penguin, 1972). Gorey, Edward, Amphigorey Too (New York, Penguin, 1975). Gorey, Edward, The Gashlycrumb Tinies (New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, [1963] 1991). Gorey, Edward, Amphigorey Also (New York, Penguin, 1993). Gorey, Edward, Amphigorey Again (New York, Penguin, 2007). Groom, Nick, The Vampire: A New History (New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2018). Hanna, Edward B., The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Whitechapel Horrors (London, Titan, 2010). Haslam, Jason, and Joel Fafelak, Eds., American Gothic Culture (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2017). Herzogenrath, Bernd, The Films of Tod Browning (London, Blackdog Publishing, n.d.). Hill, Susan, The Woman in Black (London, Mandarin Paperbacks, 1995). Johnston, Derek, Haunted Seasons: Television Ghost Stories for Christmas and Horror for Halloween (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Jones, Darryl, Sleeping with the Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018). Kerr, Gordon, Cthulhu (London, Flametree Publishing, 2014). Killeen, Jarlath, Gothic Literature 1825–1914 (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2009). Lee, Vernon, The Virgin of the Seven Daggers (London, Penguin, 2008). Leroux, Gaston, The Phantom of the Opera (New York, Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1986). Luckhurst, Roger, Zombies: A Cultural History (London, Reaktion Books, 2016). MacArthur, Sian, Gothic Science Fiction: 1818 to the Present (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Manville, Roger, Masterworks of the German Cinema (London, Lorrimer Publishing, 1973). McEvoy, Emma, Gothic Tourism (London, Palgrave, 2016). Moore, Alan, Bolland Brian, and Higgins John, Batman: The Killing Joke (London, Titan Books Ltd., 1988). Moore, Alan, and Eddie Campbell, From Hell (London, Knockabout Comics, 2006). Morrison, Grant, Arkham Asylum (New York, DC Comics Inc., 1989). Nelson, Victoria, The Secret Life of Puppets (Cambridge MA, Harvard, 2003). Nelson, Victoria, Gothicka (Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 2012).

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Olson, Daniel, 21st Century Gothic (Lanham, MD, Scarecrow Press, 2010). Piatti-Farnell, Lorna, Consuming Gothic: Food and Horror in Film (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Piatti-Farnell, Lorna, and Maria Beville, Eds., The Gothic and the Everyday: Living Gothic (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Rice, Anne, Interview with the Vampire (London, Warner Books, 1996). Roberts Chris, Livingstone Hywel, and Emma Baxter-Wright, Eds., Gothic: The Evolution of a Dark Sub Culture (London, Goodman, 2014). Ross, Clifford, and Karen Wilkin, The World of Edward Gorey (New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1996). Round, Julia, Gothic in Comics and Graphic Novels (Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Co., 2014). Scharf, Natasha, Worldwide Gothic (Church Stretton, Shrops., Independent Music Press, 2011). Skal, David, J. Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen (London, Andre Deutsch, 1990). Skal, David, J. The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror (London, Plexus, 1993). Sonser, Anna, A Passion for Consumption: The Gothic Novel in America (Bowling Green, University of Wisconsin Press, 2001). Strieber, Whitley, Communion: A True Story (New York, Avon Books, 1988). Theroux, Alexander, The Strange Case of Edward Gorey (Seattle, Fantagraphics Books, 2000). Thomson, Rosemarie Garland, Ed., Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body (New York, New York University Press, 1996). Wisker, Gina, Contemporary Women’s Gothic Fiction (London, Palgrave, 2016). Wolfreys, Julian, Haunted Selves, Haunting Places in English Literature and Culture, 1800– Present (London, Palgrave, 2018). Wood, Gabby, Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life (London, Faber and Faber, 2002). Woolrich, Cornell, Black Alibi (New York, First Ballantine Books, 1982). Woolrich, Cornell, Night Has a Thousand Eyes (New York, First Ballantine Books, 1983).

Television Addams Family, The Dr Who Munsters, The Penny Dreadful Scooby Doo Whitechapel

Comics Haunt of Fear, The Tales from the Crypt Weird Science


Websites and YouTube Asian horror Phantom

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Global Gothics

Latin American Horror Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno and Inés Ordiz

In his introduction to the influential Antología de la literatura fantástica/The Book of Fantasy,1 Adolfo Bioy Casares defines The Castle of Otranto as representative of a tedious genre of castles, spider webs, storms, and bad taste.2 This judgement summarises the canonical view of the Gothic in Latin American criticism during the larger part of the twentieth century, a rejection that, in many cases, had more to do with terminology than with a dismissal of gothic forms. The Antología includes short stories featuring vampires, ghosts, and old castles; although associated with the Gothic in European countries and in the United States, these were branded motifs of fantastic literature in Latin America. Moreover, the Gothic has been considered by some to be a sort of colonial imposition in Latin America, a foreign mode of representation that does not reflect regional identities. Other forms on non-mimetic representation have also been traditionally rejected in favour of a focus on magical realism and/or lo real maravilloso, defined by Alejo Carpentier as the literary representation of Latin American and Caribbean beliefs, identities, and relationships with reality.3 Even though some critics have put forward gothic readings of magical realist texts,4 the two modes’ relationships with the uncanny or supernatural event are diametrically opposed: whereas magical realism accepts it as a part of reality (therefore defining Latin American understanding of the world as a fusion of realism and fantasy), the Gothic’s representation of said event is often connected to fear. However, more contemporary literary critics and writers—such as Emil Volek, Lois Parkinson Zamora, and Wendy B. Faris5 among others—have pointed to the artificiality of the connection between magical realism and Latin American identity. Some have claimed the need to carry out more inclusive analyses of Latin American literature that go beyond artificial conceptions of

S. Casanova-Vizcaíno (*)  Binghamton University-State University of New York, Binghamton, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] I. Ordiz  University of Stirling, Stirling, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



S. Casanova-Vizcaíno and I. Ordiz

nation and begin considering the multi-territorialised realities of literary products in the era of globalisation.6 But even in this moment of increasing interest in redefining local literatures, it is still more common to use terms such as terror and horror to describe the type of literary imaginations that criticism written in English would call Gothic. It is not our intention here to make a value judgement on the use of one term of the other. Nonetheless, we believe that an understanding of the Gothic as a mode that is possible (and definitely present) in Latin American fictions does not attempt to reject or obscure other readings of regional fiction; but rather aspires to advance and enrich criticism by considering new tools to examine existing cultural products. Following similar premises, there are some critics who have been increasingly centring their attention on Latin American Gothic. Some examples of monographs and edited collections which study this mode in the subcontinent include Ecos góticos en la novela del Cono Sur/Gothic Echoes in the Novel of the Southern Cone (2013) by Nadina Estefanía Olmedo; From Amazons to Zombies: Monsters in Latin America (2015) by Persephone Braham; Tropical Gothic in Literature and Culture: The Americas (2016), edited by Justin D. Edwards and Sandra Guardini Vasconcelos (2016); Selva de fantasmas. El gótico en la literatura y el cine latinoamericanos/ Jungle of Ghosts. The Gothic in Latin American Literature and Cinema (2017) by Gabriel Eljaiek-Rodríguez; Latin American Gothic in Literature and Culture (2018), edited by Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno and Inés Ordiz (2018); and Gothic Imagination in Latin American Fiction and Film (2019) by Carmen A. Serrano. EljaiekRodríguez, interestingly, discusses the process of tropicalisation in relation to Latin American Gothic as a practice of recycling, transforming, and deterritorialising the Gothic, with the aim of highlighting the artificiality of the mode’s construction of Otherness.7 Other critics understand the Gothic as a mode of representation rooted in local realities and histories that mirrors different processes of modernisation including, but not limited to: colonisation and occupation; formation of nation states after independence; and the failure of national projects that lead to violence and inequality.8 Apart from these texts, which specifically use the Gothic to interpret local manifestations of terror and horror, many other volumes have explored the presence of monsters in Latin America and the Caribbean. Some examples include Rosana DíazZambrana’s and Patricia Tomé’s Horrofílmico: Aproximaciones al cine de terror en Latinoamérica y el Caribe/Horrofílmico: Approximations to the Film of Terror in Latin America and the Caribbean (2012) and Eljaiek-Rodríguez’s The Migration and Politics of Monsters in Latin American Cinema (2018). This chapter offers an overview of some of the authors, themes, and tropes which have been studied as gothic in recent criticism with the aim of proving not only the existence of the mode in the subcontinent, but also its relevance in Latin American cultural production. Even though there are a considerable amount of gothic texts in the Latin American canon in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, we have chosen to mention only a few so that we could centre our attention on texts published in the last thirty years. The publication of these works partly coincided with an increasing critical attention to the Gothic, as well as with the inclusion of critical theories that invite an understanding of the Gothic as a mode intrinsically connected to globalisation, such as Glennis Byron’s globalgothic.9 At

Latin American Horror


the same time, our analysis does not intend to become an all-encompassing theory of Latin American Gothic, but rather to look at some fictions that, in our opinion, represent the different ways in which Latin American and Caribbean authors have engaged with the gothic imagination. We have focussed our brief approximation of the Gothic in Latin America into the analysis of three of the mode’s canonical monsters—zombies, cannibals, and vampires—followed by a section describing one of the most recent directions that the Gothic is taking in Latin America: the conscious appropriation of its global tropes to criticise and denounce local issues pertaining to past and present histories of political, social, and gendered violence. Our analysis, thus, attempts to combine the exploration of different manifestations of monstrosity that originated in Latin America and the Caribbean (the zombie and the cannibal) with other international figures of monstrosity which, although native to other parts of the world, have been widely explored by Latin American authors since the nineteenth century—specifically, the vampire. This multifocal approach aims to underline the complexity and transnationality of Latin American and Caribbean Gothic forms, as well as claiming their relevance in contemporary literature written in Spanish. Zombies and cannibals are the Caribbean’s contribution to the gothic mode. The origins of these creatures are rooted in the region’s folklore and history of colonisation. Specifically, the trope of the zombie, or living dead, has its roots in Haitian Vodou culture. At its inception, the zombie was in fact the soulless body of a plantation slave controlled by a Vodou priest or bokor. For Haitians, therefore, the zombie does not represent a menace to the living, but rather to the dead, who risk being resuscitated, zombified, and enslaved. As such, this creature represents lack of freedom and exploitation, and its portrayal, as noted by Dalton and Potter,10 touches on notions of race and colonialism. At the same time, its connection to Haiti—where the first black Republic was proclaimed in 1804 after the triumph of the slave rebellion—makes the zombie the perfect trope to represent social unrest.11 The idea of a controlled body that is both living and dead, exemplified by Haitian zombies, permeated North American culture during the United States’ occupation of Haiti (1915–1934). This can be seen in Victor Halperin’s White Zombie (1932), considered the first zombie film, in which a woman travelling in Haiti with her fiancé is transformed into a zombie by a Vodou master who works in a sugar plantation. The film’s storyline perfectly exemplifies what Braham has identified as the central theme of the Gothic: violence against women. This is also present in other Caribbean gothic texts with zombies or other forms of zombism,12 such as the novel Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Dominican13 writer Jean Rhys; the collection of short stories Pasión de historia y otras historias de pasión/Passion for History and Other Passionate Stories (1987) by Puerto Rican author Ana Lydia Vega; and Cuban writer Mayra Montero’s short story “Corinne, muchacha amable”/Corinne, Amiable Girl (1991).14 Therefore, the image of the Haitian zombie was not originally associated with the gory, monstrous creature who rabidly devours human flesh, as popular culture has come to depict it. It wasn’t until George Romero’s zombie films—Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978)—that the Caribbean zombie and its


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connection to slavery gave way to the metaphor of neoliberal consumption.15 Though Night of the Living Dead explores issues of racial segregation—the hero in the film is Ben, a black man living in rural America who is ultimately killed by a white sheriff—it is in this film that the ghouls (the term used to identify the zombies) first appear as monsters who attack in hordes and feed off the flesh of living humans. As a posthuman creature (whether in the form of a slave without a soul, or of a cannibalistic monster), the zombie in the Latin American and Caribbean imaginary has gone through a variety of intertextual processes that link it to different global models. This has to do with the trope’s fluidity and capacity to convey different meanings.16 As such, the zombie is able to represent multiple social issues—racism, consumerism, and migration among others—in different contexts that reflect a crisis in both modernity and postmodernity. In twenty-first-century Caribbean and Latin American narratives, the zombie appears as a contemporary creature whose presence denounces, or at least makes visible, social injustice, without necessarily resorting to a particularly grotesque appearance. This can be seen in the work of two contemporary Caribbean writers from Puerto Rico: in Pedro Cabiya’s novel Malas hierbas/Wicked Weeds (2010) and in Jotacé López’s short story “Coffea Arabica+” (2016). In Cabiya’s text, the main character—a zombie scientist looking for a cure to his zombism—takes the form of what Emily Maguire has identified as the “sentient zombie”, a creature who is completely aware of his status as living dead.17 But Malas hierbas is also the story of the main character’s colleague, Isadora, a woman of Haitian descent who travels between the Dominican Republic and Haiti on a mission to discover the origins of zombism and the practice of zombie trafficking, and who may or may not be—the plot does not fully reveal this— responsible for the main character’s undead condition. As critics have explained, Cabiya’s novel touches on issues of social alienation18 and national identity or dominicanidad (Dominicanness), and exclusion in Caribbean society.19 As both Braham and Maguire have noted, the novel ultimately deals with the main character’s lack of humanity and desire to connect to something bigger than himself. Human (or zombie) trafficking is also a topic in López’s short story. However, in “Coffea Arabica+”, zombies are presented as merely secondary characters: they are a group of unidentified immigrants brought to an unnamed island in a futuristic setting to work on coffee plantations. This horde of zombies, who according to the first-person narrator are hard to tell apart, are not only reminiscent of the Haitian version of the myth, but they can also be seen as neo jíbaros, or contemporary peasants in rural Puerto Rico. Similar to their Haitian counterpart, these zombies are the victims of a master, in this case a corporation known simply as “La Compañía” (The Company) that controls over 80% of the coffee production on the island. Moreover, the zombified peasants are the silent victims of a black market that kills and dismembers them in order to sell their body parts as lucky charms. The remaining parts of the body are turned into compost and used to fertilise the coffee crops. Like the Romero films, López’s text tackles issues of consumerism and the exploitation of the land. In this sense, the presence of the zombie makes

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visible how enslaved labour is the means to control and, using Kerstin Oloff’s theories, also commodify nature.20 Moreover, in “Coffea Arabica+”, the zombie itself literally returns to the land that he/she works. Its body, either fragmented or as a whole, is what makes consumerism possible and what is consumed. Other representations of the zombie in contemporary Caribbean narrative are more reminiscent of the Romerian monster, a decomposed corpse who wanders around looking to consume. In the short novel El killer/The Killer (2007) by Puerto Rican author Josué Montijo, however, there is a twist to this model: the zombies are actually drug addicts who, instead of attacking humans in hordes, live as homeless and solitary wandering creatures who desperately need to find his or her next fix of heroin. The first-person narrator, named José Aybar, wakes up one day and decides to cleanse the city by killing all the tecatos—the colloquial term used in Puerto Rico to identify homeless drug addicts—that he identifies as “living dead”. For José, these creatures not only contaminate the landscape (their filthy bodies are covered in oozing ulcers) but they also represent the useless excess produced by a capitalist society. Tecatos do not work: they beg for money, steal, live on the margins of the city and society, and take drugs. But, just like a traditional zombie, José himself is a serial consumer, though in his case he devours different forms of visual and written fiction, both from high culture and popular culture. The novel, therefore, resembles an extremely violent video game where the main character feels the urge to kill—a calling of sorts—every single creature that crosses his path, creating a gory spectacle. In Montijo’s splatterpunk novel the zombie is the actual victim, doomed from the start. There is no salvation for the tecato, only death either at the hands of “el killer” or from drugs. This violent form of life (and death) that the novel presents exemplifies some of Puerto Rico’s most pressing issues in the recent past: drug trafficking and addiction, violence, and social inequality. The last part of the novel is José’s diary, in which he describes every single one of his killings and which he sends to a journalist for publication in the island’s main newspaper. Ironically, by silencing and erasing the body of the tecato-zombie, José manages to make it more visible than ever in the form of a chronicle that the whole population will presumably consume.21 Despite presenting two different images of the zombie what López’s and Montijo’s zombie texts seem to tell us is that the perverse logic of late capitalism, defined by materialism and lack of humanity, is inescapable. All that remains is consumerism and human waste. Zombie fictions have also proliferated in Latin American countries outside of the Caribbean. In the last two decades, these monsters have appeared in narratives that deal with specific local histories set in contemporary urban Latin America. Some of the topics explored in these fictions are: Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in the short stories “Setenta y siete”/Seventy-seven (2018) by Francisco Ortega22 and “Nefilim en Alhué” (2011) by Omar Pérez Santiago from Chile; Argentina’s 2001 socio-economic crisis in Leandro Ávalos Blacha’s novel Berazachussetts (2007); and familial relationships in “Auténticos zombis antillanos”/Authentic Antillean Zombies (2001) by Argentinean writer Ana María Shua and “El hombre que fue Valdemar”/The Man Who Was Valdemar (2015) by Mexican author


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Norma Lazo.23 These powerful metaphors prove that terror continues to haunt the literary and cultural imagination of the Latin American continent in the form of cannibalistic consumption. As such, zombies serve as both the witnesses to and the extreme consequences of a traumatic past, as well as an unbearable present. Like zombies, cannibals are posthuman creatures. However, one of the most disturbing features about them is that, unlike contemporary zombies, nothing in their physical appearance necessarily reflects their monstrosity. Moreover, cannibalism is a taboo and, as such, it is always practised in secrecy. As with serial killers, cannibals look like us and live among us, which makes their presence even more uncanny and horrific; they are human yet they lack humanity. They do not adjust to or follow social norms, and their monstrous nature means they are unable to establish relationships with ordinary humans; they live on the boundaries of civilisation and they represent a transgression of social, moral, and even gastronomical boundaries. As Jennifer Brown explains, cannibalism implies both ambiguity and a series of contradictions: to eat human flesh is disgusting, yet it is also an exclusive practice that only a few people can enjoy.24 At the same time, for cannibals, humans are merely meat, as well as a delicatessen.25 The very act of eating, therefore, defines the cannibal as an Other who, in turn, separates and distinguishes him or herself from others. Cannibals repeatedly kill to consume and satisfy their needs. This notion of extreme and violent consumption puts the cannibal at the centre of critical discourses on consumerism, materialism, and power. Cannibals entered Western literary imagination with the arrival of Europeans in the Caribbean—so much so that the Americas became synonymous with cannibalism [or anthropophagy] in literature in the period after the conquest and colonisation of the New World.26 In his seminal study on cannibalism and cultural anthropophagy, Carlos Jáuregui explains how in Christopher Columbus’s diaries, the word cannibal—used to describe the Caribs, the indigenous population of the Lesser Antilles—became the mark of barbarism and Otherness. Even though Columbus himself claims that he did not encounter any such creatures on the islands that he explored, his depiction of the region and its peoples led to the belief that monstrosity was an inherent characteristic of the Caribbean population.27 This can be seen in the cultural and historical evolution of the trope, starting with Shakespeare’s character Caliban (an anagram of the word cannibal) in his play The Tempest: a half-human, half-monster slave who works for Prospero, his white European master. Drawing from Shakespeare’s text, in 1900 Uruguayan author José Enrique Rodó developed the philosophy of arielismo in his essay Ariel to explain what he considered to be the defining ideology of Latin America. Based on the character Ariel from The Tempest, a spirit who works for Prospero after being saved by him, arielismo was conceived as a way to oppose Latin America’s noble and spiritual culture (a harmonious combination of Greco-Roman culture, nineteenth-century thought, and Judeo-Christian custom) to the United States’ utilitarianism. Nevertheless, arielismo has been deemed by critics as elitist and out of touch with the region’s history of colonisation, exploitation, violence, and racism. Years later, in his 1971 essay, Calibán: Notes Toward a Culture in Our Americas, Cuban intellectual Roberto Fernández Retamar instead proposed Caliban as a

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symbol of the resistance of the Latin American people in the face of colonisation, and in the context of the United States’ imperialism vs. Cuba’s newly implemented socialism. As such, both Rodó’s and Fernández Retamar’s works, lay out the grounds for an ongoing cultural debate on Latin America and its people that situates the trope of the cannibal at its centre. As Jáuregui further explains, the concept of cannibals and cannibalism is very rich and complex in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the cultural history of the continent, cannibalism relates more to colonialism and to the act of naming rather than eating.28 It is a powerful metaphor that names or refers to an Other, who is at times a submissive native, and at others a rebellious slave-monster. These ideas of encounter, Otherness, and monstrosity appear in two short stories from twentieth-century Latin American fiction: “Historia de caníbales”/Story of Cannibals (1924) by Peruvian writer Ventura García Calderón and “El hambre”/ Famine (1950) by Argentine writer Manuel Mujica Láinez. In García Calderón’s tale, told in first-person narrative, Víctor Landa tells the story of Lucien Vignon, a French explorer travelling to the Peruvian jungle in Iquitos where he meets a tribe of cannibals. In his efforts to avoid being eaten by the natives Vignon captures and kills an elderly woman and marries a young Indian woman whom he takes to Paris and where she quickly adapts to the European lifestyle. Years later, upon Vignon’s return to Peru to finish his exploration of the land, he is captured by his wife’s tribe, killed, and devoured in an act of vengeance and defiance towards the so-called civilised world. According to the members of the tribe, Vignon’s wife has become “civilised”; that is, she has allegedly become flirtatious, she has learned how to lie, and avoids bathing in the sacred rivers of her native land. In Mujica Láinez’s short story, a group of Spanish settlers during the foundation of Buenos Aires in 1536 have been corralled by the native’s bonfires. With all supplies gone, and unable to escape and search for food, Baitos—the crossbowman—takes refuge in his tent and remembers how he and his brother, Fernando, lived in poverty in Spain and dreamed of a more prosperous life in America. Consumed by an increasing hatred of the nobles who continue to live a life of wealth despite the soldiers’ dire circumstances, and in a desperate attempt to quell his hunger, Baitos attacks Captain Doria—whom he recognises by his fur coat— and, like a wild beast, cuts off and chews his hand. As Baitos desperately eats his kill, he gets a glimpse of a body killed by an Indian arrow in the distance. In a horrific twist, the crossbowman realises that he is actually eating his own brother— Fernando—who was wearing the captain’s fur coat. Fernando is still wearing the ring that belonged to their mother, the same ring that confirms to Baitos that he has become a savage cannibal. Driven to insanity he takes flight, convinced he can feel his brother’s hand choking him to death. Both of these stories challenge Latin America’s defining dichotomy: civilisation and barbarism. For nineteenth-century Latin American thinkers, Europe represented a civilisation that opposed Latin America’s wild and barbaric nature. However, García Calderón’s tale redefines “civilised” and “civilisation” as “treasonous” and “false”, whereas Mujica Láinez’s story attributes cannibalism to white Europeans, who are themselves the victims of the colony’s system of


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oppression. These fictions present gothic characters and atmospheres while also generating and destabilising certain dichotomies—in this case self/Other, civilisation/barbarism—that lie both at the heart of the region’s intellectual and cultural debate and of gothic fiction. In twenty-first-century Latin American and Caribbean narrative, the cannibal resurfaces as a gothic character not directly linked to specific moments of the conquest and colonisation of the region, but rather to some of the socio-economic consequences of neocolonialism and imperialism that have turned Latin America into a space of contention between members of opposing social classes. Ironically, in some of these stories, the act of consuming human flesh is not the true source of horror. Instead, rabid consumerism, materialism, social inequality, and political violence are now the driving forces that produce horror and that potentially lead to the emergence of cannibalism. Some of these issues can be seen in “La dignidad de los muertos”/The Dignity of the Dead (2012) by Puerto Rican writer Ana María Fuster Lavín and “Caníbal”/Cannibal (2018) by Bolivian author Liliana Colanzi. In “La dignidad de los muertos”, the main character, Celedonio Fernández—a poor fisherman living in the coastal Puerto Rican town of Loíza—spends his days recovering the dead bodies of those who have been victims of violence and thrown to the sea, those whose families cannot afford a funeral, and those who have been neglected by the government and died poor and homeless. Fernández’s work is seen by the townspeople as a way to dignify and recognise the poor, and he is therefore considered a hero. This changes when he is incarcerated for allegedly killing and eating Lisamar, the daughter of the island’s governor, who immediately uses his political and economic power to discredit and destroy Celedonio. After pressure from the media and the population, Celedonio is eventually pardoned. However, it is then that both the readers and the governor discover that he did indeed kill and cannibalise the woman. Celedonio claims that he did it to force the governor to hear his pleas for state aid for new housing. What the story suggests is, therefore, that the literal and monstrous cannibalism carried out by Celedonio is merely a tool to expose another type of cannibalism: the one practised by the privileged upper class who not only consumes merchandise but metaphorically “consumes” (lives off) the lives of the poor, left to mend for themselves. Similar to Mujica Láinez’s short story, where Baitos is both a victim of his social class as well as part of the violent colonisation of the territory, in Fuster Lavín’s tale Celedonio is the monster who makes visible the socio-economic inequalities that have been caused by years of colonialism in the island; he is a victim and a murderer, and his only real chance to change his status in the social structure is by eating a person from the class that has marginalised him. In contemporary Latin American narrative, cannibalism does not always have a material presence. Rather, it can linger in the background as a threat that never fully materialises. This is more obvious in Colanzi’s short story, in which two lovers from Bolivia, who are also drug traffickers, arrive in Paris at the same time that the news is reporting that a cannibal is on the loose, attacking people. The security cameras from the airport catch a glimpse of the monster who, in fact, looks more “like a teenage rock star” than a “butcher”.29 The cannibal could

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be anywhere, and he is, indeed, everywhere: his is an omnipresent image in the media, one that is constantly being consumed by viewers. As the first-person narrator watches the newscast her lover, Vanessa, leaves the hotel room to make a ­drop-off and disappears into the streets of Paris. The narrator is left wondering about her whereabouts and worrying about her possible fate at the hands of the cannibal. Meanwhile, she also reflects on her life before she met her lover and how it changed after starting a relationship with her; how, despite Vanessa’s occasional disdain, travelling and living wild adventures with her has actually saved both of them from a life of poverty and from the monstrosity of their suffocating everyday life in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. By the end of the story it is clear that Vanessa will never come back, that the cannibal will never be apprehended, and that the narrator will now be completely lost and at risk of returning to her old life. In Colanzi’s story, therefore, cannibalism is barely an actual practice (it is just glimpses of images and fragments of reports on the television). Instead, it is more of a presence that, although menacing, is far less dangerous than the protagonists’ ­fast-paced world where the dull past is always haunting the present. According to Mimi Sheller, in the context of the Caribbean—though we could extend her analysis to Latin America in general—both cannibals and zombies are tropes that show how the region has been consumed time and again by others, beginning with the European conquest and colonisation in the fifteenth century all the way to contemporary tourist practices, mainly carried out by white Europeans and North Americans.30 In this process, the Caribbean has been constructed as “difference”; it has been incorporated into discourses of modernity only to be expelled afterwards.31 What the stories of cannibals and zombies in twenty-first-century Caribbean and Latin American literature propose, however, is that this process of ingestion and inclusion followed by radical elimination no longer depends on a foreign and powerful Other. Rather, this relationship of domination established in that first encounter between the colonisers and the colonised has created the conditions that have led to what we could call “domestic monstrosity”. That is, these monsters are actually a product of internal racism, violence, and social exclusion that the inhabitants of the region impose on one another. In that new dynamic—a direct result of years of colonialism and of current neocolonial practices—zombies and cannibals can be both killers and victims. Even though vampires are not originally Latin American, their presence in the region’s literature goes far back. Latin American gothic vampires already make an appearance in the nineteenth century, particularly in the context of the modernista movement.32 This is not surprising if we take into consideration the European roots of the vampire myth and the source of inspiration of the modernista authors: French symbolism, the Parnassian movements and some North American authors, including Edgar Allan Poe.33 Some examples of the appearance of this myth in nineteenth-century modernista prose include, among others, the short story “Thanatopia” by Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío (written in 1893 but first published in 1925); “Vendetta” (1908) by Dominican34 author Fabio Fiallo; “El almohadón de plumas”/The feathered pillow (1917) and “El vampiro”/The vampire (1927) by Uruguayan author Horacio Quiroga; “Vampiras”/Female vampires (1912) by


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Peruvian writer Clemente Palma; and Honduran author Froylán Turcios’s novel El vampiro (1910). These works reproduce, to varying levels, the quintessential elements of nineteenth-century European and North American vampires, from female vampires described as supernatural femme fatales to the terrifying ambiguity generated by the possibility of life after death. Both Quiroga’s “El vampiro” and Darío’s “Thanatopia” explore the power of technology to bring a beloved woman back from the dead, with all the consequences that such an endeavour might bring along (which were famously delineated in the English tradition by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). The incorporation of this topic answers to the modernistas particular relationship to scientific progress, characterised by both fascination and rejection. In Fiallo’s “Vendetta”, however, the woman in the story is not dead but asleep, and her beauty and chastity dazzle him to the point of bleeding her to death despite her pleas. These stories, alongside Palma’s “Vampiras”, reproduce the myth of the female vampire—and, to some extent, women in general—as a supernatural femme fatale who is both alluring and lethal to men. Quiroga’s “El almohadón”, on the other hand, equates the coldness of a loveless marriage with vampirism: the vampire, a viscous monster hiding in the newly wed Alicia’s pillow, sucks her blood while she sleeps, in the same way that the coldness of her husband’s demeanour drains her energy until she dies. Because of the structure and topic of the tale, as well as due to the fact that Quiroga considered Poe one of the maestros of short story writing,35 “El almohadón” has been extensively discussed by critics as having a Poesque style. Froylán Turcios’ novel El vampiro exemplifies a similar universal approach to literature which, in general terms, could be attributed to modernismo as a whole.36 Whereas the literary vampire finds its roots in European folklore, the story draws from ­pre-Columbian myths to construct the vampire villain who, according to Carmen Serrano, ­represents fears associated with the detrimental effects of modernity in Central America.37 Contemporary Latin American vampires reflect a postmodern response to nineteenth-century European gothic paradigms: whereas some authors approach the vampiric myth from a parodic perspective (often with the aim of generating a comical effect) others reproduce easily recognisable motifs of vampire fiction that reflect the intertextual conversations established with the gothic tradition. These fictions reappropriate characters, scenes, and key passages of well-known vampire narratives to displace them, transpose its main elements, and, in some cases (and using Eljaiek-Rodríguez’s theoretical background), “tropicalise” them.38 Examples of these processes are the creative appropriation of Dracula’s voyage to London in the ship Demeter in the novellas El viaje que nunca termina/The Journey that Never Ends (1993) by Peruvian author Carlos Calderón Fajardo and La ruta del hielo y la sal/The Route of Ice and Salt (1998) by Mexican writer José Luis Zárate. Zárate’s text is the most obvious homage to Bram Stoker’s original, since it includes a direct translation of the extract from Dracula containing the Demeter’s logbook. This extract, which details the horror of the captain’s last days as he experiences the strange events that make his crew slowly disappear, is combined

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with Zárate’s own contribution: excerpts from the captain’s diary. In it, the captain narrates his obsessive sexual desire for the sailors of the ship who, after being bitten by Dracula, come back from the dead in search of his blood. The predatory desires of the captain are described in a way that makes them parallel to the vampires’ craving for blood, reducing the men to their basic (almost animalistic) instincts. The explicit language used in the captain’s diary distances the novel from Stoker’s Victorian original, but the homage to Dracula and the intention to recreate the lost story of the Demeter are evident. Calderón Fajardo’s intertextual evocation of the ship’s voyage, on the other hand, is less literal but more parodical. El viaje que nunca termina tells the story of Englishwoman Sarah Ellen’s trip from England to Peru. Sarah Ellen is a historical figure who died in the coastal city of Pisco in 1913 to which, according to popular belief, she fled after being accused of vampirism in her home country. In Calderón Fajardo’s story, Sarah Ellen travels across the Atlantic in a ship that also carries her coffin and, as in Stoker’s ­original, witnesses how the members of the crew slowly disappear. The parody resides in the author’s manipulation of gothic tropes, which includes s­ elf-reflective and extradiegetic references to the mode, its characters, and its motifs. El viaje’s homage to Dracula, as well as its ability to intertwine the history and the myth of Sarah Ellen, has been deemed by Rosa María Díez Cobo to be a literary representation of a type of intercultural hybridisation that exemplifies both Latin American postmodernism and Peruvian global Gothic.39 Literary vampires are often described as citizens of the world, figures who are not bound to national frontiers and are therefore related to travel in a broad sense.40 As entities that transgress many boundaries (life/death, human/animal, known/unknown, present/past), vampires are, thus, bound to destabilise limiting conceptions of time and space. This is undeniably true for both Zárate’s Dracula and Calderón Fajardo’s Sarah Ellen and it becomes a defining factor of the main protagonists of Mexican author Adriana Díaz Enciso’s vampire novel La sed/ The Thirst (2001). The novel tells the story of Sandra, a young Mexican woman living in Veracruz who is seduced, bitten, and turned by vampire Samuel. They embark on a trip that takes them sailing around the world in Samuel’s ship with mortal Izhar, lover of both. The novel is focalised through Sandra and Samuel’s perspective, which allows the reader to be familiar (and empathise) with the feelings of the vampires. This process, which humanises the Other by granting it a voice, illustrates the late twentieth-century evolution of the vampire epitomised in English literature by Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. La sed exemplifies a type of contemporary literature written in Latin America that aims to explore universal topics beyond conceptions of nationhood and national identity—the vampire, in this context, becomes the perfect representation of a gothic subversion of these limits. Mexican writer Carmen Boullosa’s “Isabel”, included in the volume of short stories Prosa rota/Broken Prose (2000), also engages in an intertextual dialogue with a global gothic tradition. The gothic elements included in the story are mixed with motifs and tropes from erotic literature and melodrama, which creates a postmodern portmanteau that deconstructs literary genres and narrative devices, such


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as the role of the narrator and the characters in literature. The author Carmen Boullosa becomes a character in her own fiction at the same time that some of the characters turn into narrators. Simultaneously, the line differentiating reality and fiction is constantly put into question by the writer’s proclamation that the story is true and “it’s happening right now”.41 Boullosa’s main character transforms into a vampire after her partner breaks her heart. As a vampire, Isabel leads a chaotic existence defined by sexual encounters and murder, spreading a deadly plague which kills thousands of people in Mexico City and around the world. Isabel becomes a monster who serves her own sexual pleasure, but also a romantic heroine with a broken heart. She is, at the same time, the victim of a man and a victimiser of many men, and therefore challenges the conventions of the horror movie, of melodrama and of historical and societal expectations. Moreover, her sexuality transcends gender, race, and class, as she brings to her bed people from all backgrounds. As a challenge to heteronormative conventions, Isabel puts forward a model of pansexuality that breaks with the imposed decency of the body in the context of patriarchal societies. The subversion of the story can also be interpreted as a critique of the failed discourses that fuelled the creation of Mexican identity in the nineteenth century42 and to the social inequality of contemporary Mexico.43 Considered “the most Gothic of all major Latin American writers”,44 it seems necessary to include Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes in any discussion of this mode in Latin America. Fuentes’s 2004 literary interpretation of Dracula is, moreover, one of the best-known contemporary Latin American literary vampires. The author published “Vlad” as a short story within the volume Inquieta compañía/ Restless company, a collection of gothic tales that reinvented (and Mexicanised) some of the tropes of the genre. The story was published independently as a novel in 2010 and translated into English in 2012. “Vlad” narrates the story of Vladimir Raku, an aristocrat from the Balkans who wishes to move to Mexico City, which, according to Eljaiek-Rodríguez,45 vividly exemplifies the deterritorialisation (or “putting out of place”) inherent to the tropicalisation of the Gothic. “Vlad” is, in fact, a reinterpretation of Dracula with a Mexican tone, which acts both as homage and as parody, not only of Stoker’s original, but also of its adaptations to the big screen, of other literary and cinematic vampires, and of the historical contexts that allegedly inspired the myth.46 Like some filmic adaptations of the myth— including Francis Ford Coppola’s version—Fuentes’ novel evokes Vlad Tepes as a historical figure. Vlad, like Coppola’s Dracula, wears an embroidered long robe and “never drink[s]… wine”.47 Fuentes’ vampire owes his baldness, bright white skin, and “long glassy nails”48 to the undead put onto screen by F.W. Murnau and Werner Herzog. Moreover, the description of Minea (Vlad’s “daughter”) necessarily brings to mind the vampire child Claudia of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles as recreated in the screen by Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire (1994). As in the case of “Isabel”, “Vlad” becomes a pastiche of historical accounts and intertextual references to the gothic tradition and the horror genre with a Mexican tropicalised twist. Vampires infiltrate Latin American literary imagery via the Modernista movement and a series of authors who looked for inspiration in European forms and

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tropes. As a transnational figure that precisely represents infiltration, the vampire has been reinterpreted, reimagined, and reterritorialised by many Latin American authors. These portrayals update this timeless creature and imbue it with local elements, exemplifying some of the transnational movements of cultural products that define the Latin American global Gothic. Whereas it is hard to anticipate what literary cultural productions in Latin American and Caribbean countries might be heading towards (and it is not our intention to attempt to come to an overarching, generalising, and limiting conclusion), many twenty-first-century gothic fictions in the continent seem to reflect a self-awareness of the transgressive possibilities of the gothic mode. In many cases, many Latin American gothic writers are avid readers of gothic literature from different world traditions; most of them, moreover, are aware of the possibilities of the mode to question and criticise social realities. A critical perspective and an awareness of a global terror and horror tradition is combined, in these cases, with an interest in reflecting local systems of oppression, and social and ecological injustices. Examples of these types of fictions include, among others, two internationally acclaimed volumes by Argentinian writers: Mariana Enríquez’s Las cosas que perdimos en el fuego (2016)/Things We Lost in the Fire (2017) and Samanta Schweblin’s Distancia de rescate (originally published in 2014)/Fever Dream (2017). One very clear example of contemporary authors’ self-awareness and international influence when writing gothic fiction is Mariana Enríquez’s proclamation that, with her writing, she is “creating a new tradition of Latin American Horror”,49 that is, laying the foundation for new horror folklore that reflects Argentinian local issues. This is particularly relevant if we take into consideration the worldwide recognition that the author obtained after the publication of this volume, now translated into several languages including English, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Lithuanian, Hebrew, and Japanese. Her stories tackle different societal problems from a fiercely critical perspective. The short story “No Flesh Over Our Bones”, for instance, attempts to take the conversation about mental health issues outside of the medical discourse by focussing on a woman who falls in love with a skull. This macabre romance reminds the reader of the common graves opened during the Argentinian military dictatorship, a historical event that still haunts those from the younger generations as well as many of Enríquez’s characters. This is the case of the adolescent girls of “The Inn”, a powerful story that combines this haunting of the country’s past with the fears associated with a queer coming of age. Many of the author’s stories (and “The Inn” is one of them) explore religious imaginary and traditions as a source of fear and horror, exemplifying what we might call a gothification of religion. This is clearly seen in the author’s treatment of Catholic religion (the faith she was raised in50), although that is not the only system of belief whose horrors she explores: in “The Dirty Kid”, Enríquez tried to recover local superstitions such as San la Muerte, a northern saint that, as the author explains, has its origin in Guaraní traditions and was semiadopted by local Christians.51,52 The story also becomes a penetrating critique of the unjust social systems that, after years of economic crises, have allowed an


S. Casanova-Vizcaíno and I. Ordiz

impoverishment of the disadvantaged in urban areas in Argentina. The horrors of poverty are intertwined with an ecological perspective in “Under the Black Water”, a story in which the pollution of the river Riachuelo, in southern Buenos Aires, hides a Lovecraftian water monster that feeds on sacrifices from poor local neighbourhoods. “Things We Lost in the Fire”, the story that gives name to the volume, adopts a feminist perspective to explore the horrors of inequality and violence against women. A group of Argentinian women decide to start burning themselves to protest a growing wave of femicides and the standards of beauty that oppress them. The year 2015, during the time of writing, witnessed the foundation of “Ni una menos” (Spanish for “Not one [woman] less”), a fourth-wave grassroots feminist movement which was started by a collective of female artists, journalists, and academics in Argentina but has spread across several Latin American countries protesting femicides, the inequality of gender roles and the gender pay gap, sexual harassment and objectification, and defending the legality of abortion and transgender rights. Understood in this context, Enríquez’s story can be considered the literary representative of this contemporary feminist criticism, exemplifying a transgression which is explored through the gothic mode. Schweblin’s Fever Dream also tackles issues of environmental degradation using an intensely claustrophobic mode of narration which reproduces gothic tropes such as the anxieties of motherhood, fear of death, the possibility of life after it, and the interconnection of present and past. The story has the form of a dialogue between Amanda, who tries to recollect the disturbing events that separated her from her daughter, and David, who interrogates her about these memories. The novel takes a critical stance against the use of carcinogenic agrochemicals used in crop fields in the rural areas of the country, commercialised by companies such as Monsanto, which are having disastrous consequences on the health of the inhabitants of these areas. In the novel, as in some of Enríquez’s stories such as “Under the Black Water”, the source of terror is intrinsically connected to the deadly consequences of raw capitalist enterprise for the disadvantaged. In this regard, Schweblin and Enríquez’s fictions represent one of the tendencies of contemporary Latin American Gothic: a self-aware use of the mode as a subversive tool to interrogate and criticise the contemporary status quo and its systems of oppression. The texts discussed in this chapter constitute some of the most salient examples of the different ways in which Latin American Gothic has understood and represented monstrosity. Writers of what we are considering gothic fiction reformulate figures that originated in the region (such as zombies and cannibals), while also appropriating and tropicalising gothic forms produced by other traditions (such as vampires), exemplifying the multi-territorialisation of both Latin American literature and the Gothic. By making these forms visible, gothic narratives are able to draw attention to local realities that represent the consequences of uneven relationships between the centres of political and economic power and the Latin American periphery. While some texts put forth contemporary portrayals of a past of occupation and colonisation, others engage in a critical depiction of twentiethand twenty-first-century systems of oppression, such as social inequality, foreign

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intervention, and neocolonialism. The Gothic, thus, becomes a recurrent fictional tool to express the anxieties of the past and the present in Latin America and the Caribbean; through its constant appeal to the grotesque, fear, and the uncanny—as well as in the use of fragmented, complex, and hybrid narrative forms—the mode proves to be deeply ingrained in Latin American literary tradition. The new directions that the Gothic is taking in the region, moreover, point towards an increasing transnationality of its forms and topics. These forms, we believe, will continue reflecting the social and cultural richness of Latin American countries while also speaking of their common histories.


1. We are including the title of the published translation in italics. For volumes not translated into English, we have included our own translation in romans. 2. Adolfo Bioy Casares, “Prólogo”, in Antología de la literatura fantástica, ed. Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jorge Luis Borges, and Silvina Ocampo (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1976), 7–14. 3. Alejo Carpentier, El reino de este mundo (San Juan: La Editorial UPR, 1994). 4. Lucie Armitt, “The Gothic and Magical Realism”, in The Cambridge Companion to the Modern Gothic, ed. Jerrold E. Hogle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 224–239. 5. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, eds., Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1995); Emil Volek, “Realismo mágico entre la modernidad y la postmodernidad: hacia una remodelización cultural y discursiva de la nueva narrativa hispanoamericana”, INTI 1, no. 31 (1991): 3–20. 6. Ángel Esteban and Jesús Montoya Juárez, “¿Desterritorializados o multiterritorializados?: la narrativa hispanoamericana en el siglo XXI”, in Literatura más allá de la nación. De lo centrípeto y lo centrífugo en la narrativa hispanoamericana del siglo XXI, ed. Francisca Noguerol Jiménez et al. (Madrid: Iberoamericana Vervuert, 2011), 7–13. 7. Gabriel Eljaiek-Rodríguez, Selva de fantasmas. El gótico en la literatura y el cine latinoamericanos (Bogotá: Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2017), 10. 8. Inés Ordiz and Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno, “Introduction: Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Persistence of the Gothic”, in Latin American Gothic in Literature and Culture, ed. Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno and Inés Ordiz (London and New York: Routledge, 2018), 7. 9. Glennis Byron, Globalgothic (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013). 10. David Dalton and Sara Potter, “Introduction: The Transatlantic Undead: Zombies in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Cultures”, Alambique: Revista académica de ciencia ficción y fantasía 6, no. 1 (2018), accessed January 23, 2019, 11. Sarah Lauro, The Transatlantic Zombie: Slavery, Rebellion, and Living Death (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2015), 27–63. 12. Persephone Braham, From Amazons to Zombies: Monsters in Latin America (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2015), 157. 13. From the island of Dominica. 14. Margarite Fernández Olmos and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, Sacred Possessions: Vodou, Santería, Obeah, and the Caribbean (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000), 51–53. See also, Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, “Colonial and Postcolonial Gothic:


S. Casanova-Vizcaíno and I. Ordiz The Caribbean”, in The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, ed. Jerrold E. Hogle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 229–257. 15. Dalton and Potter, “Introduction: The Transatlantic Undead”, 2. 16. Sarah Lauro, The Transatlantic Zombie. 17. Emily Maguire, “The Heart of the Zombie: Dominican Literature Sentient Undead”, Alambique: Revista académica de ciencia ficción y fantasía 6, no. 1 (2018), accessed January 23, 2019, &context=alambque. 18. Braham, From Amazons to Zombies, 163–165. 19. Maguire, “The Heart of the Zombie”. 20. Kerstin Oloff, “Zombies, Gender and World-Ecology: Gothic Narrative in the Work of Ana Lydia Vega and Mayra Montero”, in The Caribbean: Aesthetics, World-Ecology, Politics, ed. Chris Campbell and Michael Niblett (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017), 47. 21. Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno, “‘Matar a todos los tecatos’ y revivir los géneros modernos: gótico y splatterpunk en la narrativa puertorriqueña actual”, Revista Letral, no. 14 (2005): 110–123. 22. Collected in the anthology King. Tributo al rey del terror/King. Tribute to the King of Terror, edited by Jorge Luis Cáceres. 23. Elton Honores, “El zombi en la nueva narrativa latinoamericana”, in Terra Zombi: el fenómeno transnacional de los muertos vivientes, ed. Rosana Díaz-Zambrano (San Juan: Isla Negra Editores, 2015), 237–250. 24. Jennifer Brown, Cannibalism in Literature and Film (London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 4. 25. Ibid., 4. 26. Carlos Jáuregui, Canibalia: Canibalismo, calibanismo, antropofagia cultural y consumo en América Latina (Madrid and Frankfurt: Iberoamericana Vervuert, 2008), 14. 27. Ibid., 48–51. 28. Ibid., 16–17. 29. Liliana Colanzi, “Caníbal”, in Nuestro mundo muerto (La Paz: Editorial El cuervo, 2016), 66. 30. Mimi Sheller, Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 143–145. 31. Ibid., 1. 32. We are using the term modernista in Spanish to differentiate it from North American modernism. 33. Carmen Serrano, “Duplicitous Vampires Annihilating Tradition and Destroying Beauty in Froylán Turcios’s El vampiro”, in Latin American Gothic in Literature and Culture, ed. Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno and Inés Ordiz (London and New York: Routledge, 2018), 71. 34. From the Dominican Republic. 35. Horacio Quiroga, “El decálogo del perfecto cuentista”, in Cuentos de amor, de locura y de muerte (Santiago de Chile: Editorial Andrés Bello, 1996), 159–160. 36. Serrano, “Duplicitous Vampires”, 75. 37. Ibid., 72. 38. Eljaiek-Rodríguez, Selva de fantasmas. 39. Rosa María Díez Cobo, “The Vampiric Tradition in Peruvian Literature”, in Latin American Gothic in Literature and Culture, ed. Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno and Inés Ordiz (London and New York: Routledge, 2018), 215. 40. Ken Gelder, Reading the Vampire (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 111. 41. Carmen Boullosa, Prosa rota (Ciudad de México: Plaza Janés, 2000), 182. 42. Rosana Blanco-Cano, “Revisiones a las narraciones históricas mexicanas en Duerme (1994) e ‘Isabel’ (2000) de Carmen Boullosa”, Espéculo 40 (2008), accessed December 20, 2018,

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43. Inés Ordiz Alonso-Collada, “La reinvención del cuerpo femenino y la deconstrucción de los géneros: Vampirismo y subversión en ‘Isabel’ de Carmen Boullosa”, in La (ir)realidad imaginada. Aproximaciones a lo insólito en la ficción hispanoamericana, ed. Inés Ordiz Alonso-Collada and Rosa María Díez Cobo (León: Universidad de León, 2015). 44. Ricardo Gutiérrez Mouat, “Gothic Fuentes”, Revista Hispánica Moderna 57, no. 1/2 (2004): 297. 45. Eljaiek-Rodríguez, Selva de fantasmas, 144. 46. Inés Ordiz Alonso-Collada, “El vampiro literario mexicano en el s. XXI: entre el homenaje y la parodia”, in Vampiros a contraluz: constantes y modalizaciones del vampiro en el arte y la cultura II, ed. Diego Díaz Piedra and Sandra Rodríguez Fernández (Granada: Comares, 2015). 47. Carlos Fuentes, Vlad (Champaign, Dublin, and London: Dalkey Archive Press, 2012), 37. 48. Ibid., 37. 49. Mariana Enríquez, “Creating a New Tradition of Latin American Horror”, Literary Hub (2018), accessed January 16, 2018, 50. Ibid. 51. Ibid. 52. These topics had been explored by the author in previous publications, such as “El aljibe”/The Well (in the collection of stories Los peligros de fumar en la cama/The Dangers of Smoking in Bed [2009]) which exemplifies a continuation of themes and topics that configure the author’s literary universe and the Argentinian horror tradition.

Dark Tourism Joan Passey

Dark Tourist, a Netflix documentary series released in 2018, follows journalist David Farrier as he “visits unusual – and often macabre – tourism spots around the world”.1 The series includes popular tourist sites and events, including sites of exorcisms, irradiated sites, haunted forests, JFK assassination tours, and World War II re-enactments. The documentary asks how the touristic intersects with the dark—how is the repulsive sometimes attractive? This chapter explores this question to situate ‘Gothic tourism’ in relation to dark tourism and thanatourism. It establishes the relationship between the touristic, the literary, and the Gothic, from the dawn of the railway to Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights. It will begin with an overview of gothic literary tourism in the nineteenth century, before asking how sites associated with gothic novels have become promoted and embraced as tourist sites. It goes on to demonstrate how tropes and motifs associated with Victorian gothic novels have influenced the perception and reception of gothic tourist spaces, tours, and events. Primarily, it will look at how the Gothic can be used to both create a safe distance between the tourist and the horror of the place or event, and is used to generate terror through dislocation, unfamiliarity, and temporal discombobulation. This temporal severance is essential to our understanding of a gothic tourism, as the mode so often relies upon the re-emergence of histories— most often, in these case studies, a distinctly Victorian gothic aesthetic. The railway rose alongside popular literature. The increased popularity and accessibility of both shaped the perception of the Victorian period and its sense of mobility, trajectory, and progress. The first British railway line opened in 1830, and the network spread quickly, reaching tendrils across the country—by 1850 over 6000 miles of track had been laid, by 1880 the network extended for 18,000 miles, connecting towns and cities, and changing the perception of space and mobility across class divides.2 This increased access to cities and regions created a sort of conceptual contraction of space, drawing Britain’s railway stations

J. Passey (*)  University of Bristol, Bristol, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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in towards each other—creating a sense of the claustrophobic exaggerated by booming population growth and the expansion of cities and suburbs. Victorian Britain was loud, bustling, interconnected, and shuttling rapidly towards a notion of modernity both exciting and terrifying. There were worries about landscapes being decimated by railway lines, railway accidents, and the relationship between the rail and other types of transgression—across social and moral boundaries as well as spatial ones. These anxieties surrounding the railway as an unstoppable force of change (both potentially excellent and disastrous) provided ample fuel for writers of the period. Not only were there a multitude of pamphlets, maps, and guides to the railways, but plots and narratives were being driven by the new potential of rail. At the same time, William Henry Smith saw the potential of the relationship between trains and reading and opened his first railway bookstall on 1 November 1848. Passengers wanted cheap books and newspapers with which to wile away the time on board— reading, after all, was significantly easier on a relatively smooth train than a bumping stage-coach. W. H. Smith’s were phenomenally successful book vendors, and popularised yellowback publishing—the sale of cheap, easily reproducible novels backed with yellow boards.3 Of particular interest to the travelling public were sensation novels and gothic novels. There was something, perhaps, about the fear of railway travel that whet the palate for tales of destruction. Maybe something even in the shuttling towards modernity that led to a public craving for re-emergent, ever-present pasts. Ghosts haunted the railway lines—whether victims of the terrible accidents so beloved and sensationalised by the popular press, or attracted somewhat to the thresholds and transgressions created by travelling at such speed. The dark, dank subterranean caverns of the underground system in particular lent themselves to spectral happenings. Charles Dickens’ ‘The S ­ ignal-Man’ is perhaps the most well-known example of a ghost story feeding from the popular perception of railways as dangerous, even fatal, and maybe haunted, places. Since the ghost train has occupied a place in the folkloric and popular imagination. Passengers were not just travelling for work, but for pleasure. Tourism was on the rise, and came in many forms—health tourism, seaside tourism, tourism for intellectual and spiritual enrichment, literary tourism, and the dawn of a gothic tourism. Train tickets were cheaper than ever before, and railway companies laboured to encourage the public to indulge in the traditional summer holiday—to enjoy the sites and pleasures on one’s own doorstep. John Urry argues that much of tourism is dependent upon a desire for ‘difference’, and with the rise of the industrial revolution bringing with it bustling cities and air pollution, tourists from inner cities fled in droves towards the countryside and the seaside for fresh air and a change of pace. This desire for ‘difference’, however, occasionally manifested in more disconcerting or fantastical ways. The longing for ‘difference’ was not just a want for a change of scene, but for an escape from reality. Guidebooks distributed by railways and emerging specialist guidebook publishers geared towards tourists were punctuated with regional folklore, fairy tales, and local monsters. Coastal guidebooks pointed out the locations of drowning and wrecking sites. Others illustrated the horrendous histories of local castles and prisons.

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The Victorian tourist seemingly desired a taste of the strange and horrendous, safe in the knowledge they were soon to retreat back to the warmth and safety of their homes. The temporary nature of the touristic journey provided space for a brief dip into the terrifying, and generated a thirst for gentle thrills, compounded by the novelty and potential dangers of railway travel itself. The complementary growth of popular readerships and railway access meant that tourists were often in pursuit of the literary. Tourists flocked to Tintagel, on the North Coast of Cornwall, in pursuit of Tennyson’s Arthur, following the incredible success of his Idylls of the King (1859–1885). This boom arguably coincided with a rise in celebrity—one could not just travel to a different site in Britain at incredible speed and low cost, but into the mind’s of their idols through the tangible sources of literary inspiration. The Victorian tourist could follow in the footsteps of the greats—and was very much encouraged by the railways to do so. More than that, the traveller could enter the fantastical landscapes of literature and legend. This fascination, too, had a seat in literary realism, where the sites of literature become verifiable, tangible, and believable, as well as accessible. Yet simultaneously literary tourism could be a step into the imaginary, sometimes even into the past, a movement from the real to the unreal. Sometimes this pursuit of the literary celebrity became more explicitly morbid—as in the popular pastime of visiting the graves of poets.4 Sir Walter Scott’s home at Abbotsford, and the Bronte’s Haworth Parsonage, became not just literary tourist sites, but explicitly gothic, haunted touristic sites—places to go to encounter the remains or ruins of literary stars.5 Sarah Chauncey Woolsey’s 1886 children’s book What Katy Did Next describes the eponymous Katy solemnly visiting Jane Austen’s grave with her family, showing how gothic literary tourism (and specifically ‘tombstone tourism’) was not just motivated by literary texts but became subject matter for literature. Of course, there had been a sort of gothic literary tourist long before then—late ­eighteenth-century visitors to Netley Abbey articulate their experience in gothic terms, illustrative of a fixation on the gothic ruin as a site of touristic pilgrimage.6 The definition of ‘Gothic tourism’ has been the subject of some debate, sit­ uated as it is in relation to other modes of ‘dark tourism’, ‘thanatourism’, ‘disaster tourism’, and, as aforementioned, literary tourism and tombstone tourism. Malcolm Foley and J. John Lennon coined the term ‘dark tourism’ in 1996.7 Philip R. Stone, too, has done extensive work on defining dark tourism, most recently in the form of The Palgrave Handbook of Dark Tourism Studies (2018).8 Emma McEvoy’s Gothic Tourism (2015) describes gothic tourism as ‘both more and less than dark tourism’.9 Catherine Spooner rejects a conflation between ‘dark tourism’ and ‘Gothic tourism’ as ‘dark’ does not reflect the internal complexities of the term ‘Gothic’.10 There is a long and complex relationship between darkness and the birth of a consumer-orientated and highly organised touristic industry. In their earliest days travel company Thomas Cook took people on the railway to see hangings in Cornwall—the proximity of the jail and the railway station being such that visitors could simply stick their heads out the window to witness the gory sight (site). There is a thirst here in the gothic touristic mode for a public


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spectacle of gore, and one could perhaps easily draw a line between the furore for public hangings and the queues outside London Dungeon. There is a danger though of oversimplifying the Gothic or evacuating it of meaning entirely. There is, too, a necessity to define ‘Gothic tourism’ in relation to but as distinct from these other forms of morbid tourism. Thanatourism, or death tourism, can be used to encompass tombstone tourism and disaster tourism, but gothic tourism is not always death tourism. It can be more fictitious and fantastical, and more about a dislocation from reality than confronting the horrors of reality. This chapter takes gothic tourism to be something explicitly (if even at times tangentially) literary, as something preoccupied with re-emergent or ever-present pasts (or hauntings), and something which is as much about entertainment as horror—a mode which seeks to attract through repulsion, and repulse through attraction. Gothic tourists recur in literary history. Travel is central to the Gothic, providing opportunity for dislocation, isolation, and representations of otherness and the unknown. To travel somewhere new is to be exposed to the unfamiliar, to provide potential for the uncanny, and to explore engagements with strangers and strangeness. Travel explicitly leads us to the alien, to the thrills of transition and thresholds—the breaching of borders and boundaries generating anxieties over permeability, mobility, and transgression. Loci of travel provide liminal spaces. Where, after all, is more uncanny, more gothic, more liminal, than an airport? The Gothic has lent itself to meditations on the foreign and the far since its inception. Arguably, the gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe with their Mediterranean climes provide the reader with a sort of virtual tourism—the opportunity to be transported to the vineyards and convents of Italy without leaving the safety of one’s home. Indeed, there is something of the experience of reading gothic fiction which in itself is a form of tourism—of venturing out into an imaginary landscape, riddled with danger, safe in the knowledge of inevitable return. We talk frequently of the power of narratives to transport the reader from the everyday, taking them on a journey, an adventure. We discuss reading and the trajectory of narrative in the terms of transport and movement. Our authors and protagonists are our travelling companions. We gain insight into territories (and times) otherwise difficult (or impossible) to access. The Gothic is dependent upon distance, and specifically upon safe distances, where the space (temporal or spatial) provides both room and licence to palate the palatable. As with tourism, there was an anxiety that reading could change you; that a tourist would return different from how they set out, fundamentally altered by the experience of alterity, somehow open and permeable to the excesses of the travelling experience. The same goes for readers, and especially readers of gothic fiction—how could the mind explore such horrors, such extremes of feeling, such perversions of morality, without returning to reality somewhat contaminated? Travelling, whether through a gothic narrative or into a gothic space, seemingly provides licence for transgression. It is worth asking to what extent many celebrated, canonical gothic texts serve as travel narratives. While travel narratives are not always tourist narratives, they share many features and can employ the same gothic tropes of dislocation,

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alienation, and strangeness. Frankenstein (1818), for instance, opens with, and was inspired by, travel. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, while travelling along the river Rhine in Germany in 1914, stopped in Gernsheim, 17 kilometres from Frankenstein Castle, the supposed home of a number of bizarre and mysterious alchemical experiments. Later, while travelling through Geneva, Shelley found the sights (and sites) to motivate her narrative. As a further example, the l­egendary stay in the Villa Diodati is completely inseparable from the history of the Gothic. Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Polidori’s stay in Geneva is perceived as the fertile breeding ground of the Victorian Gothic as it came to be. Not only did it birth Frankenstein’s monster, and spawn the modern, alluring, aristocratic vampire through John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1816), but it provided a mythos implicit in the creation of the Gothic—a fascination with the biography and travels of gothic progenitors. It causes us to ask ourselves—from what terrible minds could these terrible tales occur? It also situates the British ­nineteenth-century gothic revival firmly on the European mainland—close but not too close, foreign but familiar, somewhat strange but increasingly accessible and seemingly encroaching. These stories were only possible due to the frustration of the tourist experience. In the ‘year without a summer’ the abysmal weather conditions forced the young travellers to remain inside, surely a tourist’s worst nightmare. Loathe to waste the journey and eager to wile away the time, they challenged each other to a ghost story competition. It is this sort of boredom, particular to the frustrated tourist, that lends itself to rumination on horrors, and provides imaginative space for the breeding of the fantastical. That there is no reference in Mary Shelley’s journals to the Castle Frankenstein as a potential source of inspiration has by no means impeded the tourist’s desire to explore the location. The Castle has never been developed into a commercial tourist destination on any significant scale, and most of the year it is free to access. Yet, even such a tenuous connection is motivating enough for gothic tourists, and there is a restaurant in the castle promoting ‘Horror Dinners’, a horror-comedy dinner theatre regularly hosting shows based on Frankenstein, Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde, and even Jack the Ripper, bizarrely interspersed with Abba tribute acts.11 The choice of themes is an insight into the perception of the Gothic as a mode seemingly defined in the popular imagination by a particular time and a particular place. The idea of a ‘Horror Dinner’ also provides ample opportunity to reflect on the idea of gothic consumption and the willingness of tourist organisations to capitalise on the camper or kitschier aspects of the Gothic. This camp tourist Gothic presents a digestible mode of Gothic—a defanged version, suitable for the whole family. These wholesome thrills with their recognisable names and iconography provide a tame experience of the Gothic. The universal appeal of such gothic figures as Dracula and Frankenstein may even serve the same comforting effect as seeing a McDonalds abroad—ironically not unfamiliar, and distinctly un-strange. Frankenstein has generated other tourist industry opportunities across Europe. In Plainpalais in Geneva, the site where the monster commits its first murder, stands a grotesque, hulking statue in tribute to the tale. The monster’s stitched faces gurns forth from a hunched body, ribs protruding, bolts shining in the glaring


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light of flash photography. It is common practice for the tourist to stand under the monster’s outstretched arm in an embrace, or they mimic the creature’s hulking posture, or to clutch at its gnarled hand like a small child, dwarfed by its stature. Plainpalais has embraced its status as the famous site of a fictional murder. A local historian charges $140 for a Frankenstein tour of Geneva.12 The Geneva tourist board website proudly claims that “Frankenstein emerged on the shores of Lake Geneva”.13 Clearly the tourist industry is as aware as it was in the nineteenth century of the tourist’s longing to confront monsters far afield. Born on the same shores was John Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’ (1819). This narrative, too, was seemingly inspired by Polidori’s travels as Byron’s doctor around Europe, featuring as it does the young Englishman, Aubrey, accompanying the terrible Lord Ruthven to Rome and Greece. Polidori’s barely failed criticism of his blood-sucking boss takes the form of a travel narrative, where the horror arises from a threat seemingly located in Europe arriving in England. This plot-point may have provided the motivation for another vampire narrative-as-travel narrative—Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). The canonical gothic work is centred on a number of journeys, and opens with Jonathan Harker as tourist and visitor to the border of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Moldavia. Dracula’s resulting ‘collision’ with the coast of Whitby on the wrecked Demeter reverses the roles and renders Dracula himself  a strange visitor to strange shores—curiously, bringing with him the dirt of his homeland. The variety of movements within the novel have presented tourist opportunities across multiple sites. This has been seen to provide some insight into contemporary anxieties about borders, boundaries, and ‘invaders’ in a period of globalisation. While the British revelled in being tourists, tourists  to the country were the source of some concern, as a microcosm of imperial desires. The image of the gothic tourist then is so rife with metaphorical associations as to be projected upon or stretched to accommodate a multitude of contemporary concerns. Bran Castle in Romania is considered to be the inspiration behind Dracula’s castle in Germany, but like Frankenstein Castle in Germany, has only tangential links to the narrative. Unlike Frankenstein’s Castle, Bran is more explicit, energetic, and commercial in its establishment as a gothic tourist destination. Outside of Romania it has come to be known as ‘Dracula’s Castle’, having capitalised on its vague associations with the figure of Vlad the Impaler, a seeming inspiration for Dracula. There is no evidence that Stoker knew anything of Bran Castle, and the Castle plays on its fictive associations—its website claims that “[v]isitors to Bran Castle should make the distinction between the historic reality of Bran and the character of the Count in Bram Stoker’s novel. Dracula exists in the imagination”.14 The Castle’s touristic energies depend on this suspension of the belief— Bran Castle as home of Dracula is as fictional as Dracula itself, and this provides justification for their claim. Gothic tourism necessarily requires the tourist to bear in mind at all times that the experience is either a fictionalisation or an exaggeration or sensationalisation, and it is this cognitive distance which provides safety from the horrors at hand. Gothic tourism, then, is a genre of dislocations and fragmentations acutely dependent upon performance and façade. Because Bran Castle

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is Gothic it is given licence to be inauthentic. The Gothic, after all, is a genre founded on forged manuscripts and false claims to historicity—Bran Castle claiming Dracula as its own mimics the process of Horace Walpole claiming to have found the manuscript of The Castle of Otranto (1764). A certain degree of bold, swaggering piracy is expected of the engineers of gothic tourism as much as it is expected of gothic authors, and it is the waft of suspicion surrounding authenticity which provides space for a distinctly gothic toying with the flimsy boundaries between the real and the unreal—or the real and the perceived. It is necessary to note here that Otranto, while being a canonical mainstay and founding father of gothic criticism, has not possessed the mainstream public imagination in the same way as texts like Frankenstein and Dracula. Regardless, tourist machinations surrounding Otranto in Italy make sure to point out the gothic literary link—indeed, a description of Otranto on a tourist website states that “[t]he bones and skulls of the martyrs of Otranto are now stacked behind glass in the cathedral in a manner that would have satisfied Walpole’s Gothic imagination”.15 The implicit suggestion here is that there is something about these sites which must have conjured gothic feeling and inspired gothic narratives; that it is not just necessary to visit the site in order to immerse oneself in the location of a favoured text, to experience it first hand, but that there may be opportunity to be similarly inspired (or haunted) by the space’s nascent gothic energies. These tourist destinations are not just haunted by their associations with gothic fictions, but were maybe Gothic all along, the fictions just being a natural documentation of their dark powers. Perhaps, then, gothic tourists visit these sites to be similarly possessed or to have their own gothic imaginary potential stoked. A perhaps more thoroughly gothic touristic site in association with Walpole is Strawberry Hill, Walpole’s home in London. The house relies upon a similar transportation of the tourist into the gothic imaginary.16 A recent installation elsewhere in England takes this in more disconcertingly literal terms. While no one would be likely to call Isambard Kingdom Brunel a gothic figure, the tourist destination featuring the restoration of his most famous ship, the SS Great Britain, takes the tourist on a distinctly gothic journey. The new Brunel museum is dominated by a towering, leering head of Brunel, replete with stovepipe hat and cigar. On the mezzanine level the tourist can walk through a spongy, pink corridor, where they slowly realise that they are treading through the soft sinews of Brunel’s brain. They enter a space which they soon realise is behind the eyes of the Victorian great, and projected on the inside of his skull are a series of memories relating to Brunel’s life story, filmed from his own perspective. Jets of steam disorientate the tourist/voyeur, who hears Brunel’s thoughts accompanying the images. The graphically anatomical experience does not necessarily relate to gothic fiction, but is a definitively gothic experience, and illustrative of the preoccupation with entering the mind or imaginary of historic figures, and the very literal ways in which this desire can be met by heritage destinations invested in tourist revenue.17 This preoccupation with visiting the sites of gothic literature clearly continues well into the present day and is motivated by more contemporary texts as well as the Victorian classics. Stephen King’s bestselling novel The Shining (1977)


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draws explicitly on the gothic anxieties of tourism. It centres specifically on the uncanniness of the hotel as structure—as home that it is not a home (unheimlich), a transient space, seemingly unfixed, and made liminal by its very function. The Overlook Hotel in The Shining was inspired by King’s stay in a real hotel, the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, which later became the filming location for the 1997 TV miniseries of the novel. The hotel has since become a site of pilgrimage for horror fans eager to sleep in the building which has inspired so many nightmares. The hotel seems uncomfortable with its role in horror history. The clean, white website refers to King’s novels, and even offers an after-dark tour, but the language used is consciously hesitant to indulge in gothic melodrama. It refers to the ‘hotel’s history, architecture, folklore, and pop culture’, yet leans away from talk of hauntings and paranormal inspiration. It seems to see its brand as an historic luxury hotel at odds with King’s tale of terror. While the hotel does not wear its gothic credentials on its sleeve, it still caters to the needs and interests of visiting King enthusiasts. Room 217, the room in which King stayed, has a framed photograph of the author with the hotelier.18 It seems the hotel may have been more keen on its associations in the past, as successful paranormal tours of the hotel have more recently been scrapped, or are no longer available on the website.19 Not every gothic tourist site is keen to capitalise on its gothic status. Indeed, the tension between attraction and repulsion used for promotional purposes by other sites seems to be read as unattractive or inconvenient for sites wanting to brand themselves in other ways. A gothic tourist destination does not necessarily need to be entrenched in a specific cultural reference point, like a text or an author, but can instead be defined by a more generic sense of gothic aesthetics. The flexibility and slipperiness of any potential definition of the Gothic allows it to be a ‘feeling’ as well as a specific canon. The Independent’s travel section, for instance, offered a list of ‘The Big Six: Gothic Hotels’ in 2010, describing The Night Hotel in New York City as ‘a dark and brooding bolt-hole which lurks just off neon-lit Times Square’. It ‘feels very Gotham City, with sumptuous inky fabrics’.20 The ‘Gothic’ as a term has cultural capital and still functions as a significant signifier for tourist and travel promotional agencies. Ryan Murphy’s anthology television show American Horror Story took inspiration from the Stanley Hotel and the Overlook Hotel for season five, American Horror Story: Hotel (2015–2016). It also clearly derives plot points from the true crime story of H. H. Holmes’ ‘murder castle’. In 1893 Holmes began building a multipurpose building (part of which he intended to open as a hotel) especially designed to torture, murder, and dispose of the bodies of clientele. The narrative captured the public imagination at the time and has persisted through numerous true crime publications, documentaries, biographies, and resurgences in television shows—Holmes features as a ghost in an episode of Supernatural, and is visited by time travellers in an episode of Timeless. An illustration of the murder castle has even been produced as a jigsaw puzzle. The story provided inspiration for Robert Bloch’s 1974 novel American Gothic, and has become a central tenet of America’s crime history. Holmes has been referred to as ‘America’s First Serial

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Killer’, and a 2013 History Channel series entitled American Ripper attempted to both draw Holmes parallel to, and suggest a relationship with, Jack the Ripper. This is demonstrative of the significance of Holmes to America’s history of violence, and how this history is bound up in the uncanny image of the gothic hotel as a site of potential horrors. Tourist company Weird Chicago host the popular ‘Devil & the White City Tour: Chicago’s First H. H. Holmes Tour!’, alongside tours such as ‘True Crime and Mystery Tour: The City’s Most Macabre Tour!’ and the ‘Blood, Guns & Valentines Gangster Tour’.21 While H. H. Holmes is an example of death tourism or true crime tourism, he also feeds explicitly into a narrative of gothic fiction, showing the constant and insistent interplay between the gothic and touristic desire. This relationship is also clearly present in narratives surrounding Jack the Ripper, gothic fiction, and gothic tourism. Importantly, both of these murderous figures are late Victorian—temporally proximal enough to be recognisable monsters, and distant enough to be safe, defanged, and seemingly exploitable without being too macabre. Jack the Ripper has been so extensively rewritten and reimagined in the popular imagination as to have become transformed into a fictive object, effectively erasing the realities of his victims and transforming them, too, into touristic commodity objects. One Jack the Ripper tour in London even includes hand-held projectors, enabling the tour guides to project post-mortem images of the victims onto the walls of their murder sites.22 This ‘tour with Ripper Vision’ seemingly performs the same function as stepping inside the mind of Brunel—allowing the tourist to not just inhabit the site of the events but the mind of the central figure.23 A gothic framework, with its notable associations with the fictional and the literary, seemingly allows the tourist industry to dislocate these sites from their realities. An appeal to gothic sensibilities and aesthetics justifies the severance of touristic entertainment from real-life narratives and enables the seeming evacuation of sympathy or sensitivity. The Jack the Ripper tours become a spectacle, exploiting acts of heinous violence again women through the guise of entertainment. Ripper has become as sanitised and seemingly Disneyfied as the figures of Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein, and Dracula as used in sites like Castle Frankenstein. The kitsch elements of Victorian Gothic have served to obfuscate or confuse the ‘true crime’ aspects of Ripper tourism, allowing tourists to engage in the spectacle as an entertainment due to a level of cognitive dissonance generated by gothic aesthetics. Ripper tours are just one part of a larger industry of gothic tours and city walks. Most regions have some variant of the ‘ghost walk’—a public tour around areas thought to be haunted. These walks sometimes take the form of a ‘paranormal investigation’, allowing tourists to indulge in an element of performance, amplifying the sense of the walk being a simulation and highlighting the gothic distance between the real and the unreal—their function as paranormal investigator is as ‘real’ as the legends. Ghost tours may involve the tour guides dressing up, and if so, this dress is frequently Victorian, feeding from the established relationship between the Victorian period and the Gothic, and allowing tourists to practice temporal tourism as well as spatial tourism. This functions as a mode of gothic


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tourism as it is dependent upon a certain sense of a Victorian uncanny derived from the mainstream popularity of Victorian Gothic fiction. This is a tourism fixed in a specific time period. The promise (or threat) of ghosts—figures of the past manifest in the present—further exaggerates this unreliable temporality, enabling a sort of simulated time travel. This in turn exaggerates the otherness of the tourist in the space, separated in both time and space, and exaggerating the unfamiliarity and thus novelty or ‘difference’ of the experience. The level of morbidity of a ghost tour can vary wildly depending upon the intended audience, from the family friendly to the more adult oriented. One ghost tour in the city of Prague offers the opportunity for tourists to pose with their head in a noose at the tour’s conclusion, posed next to a figure of the Grim Reaper. Another industry to emerge adjacent to ghost walks is the paranormal investigation industry. Companies have arisen to provide the specific experience of a ghost hunt. While ghost tours may sometimes suspend belief to play with the idea of being ghost hunters, paranormal investigation companies geared at tourists tend to take the process more seriously—for instance, From Dusk Till Dawn Events offers the opportunity to ‘become a real Ghost Hunter’. These events, too, are often explicitly associated with a very particular type of Victorian ghost and Victorian and Edwardian Gothic imagery. From Dusk Till Dawn offer a ‘seance experience at the Old Edwardian School Nottingham’, ‘The Old Edwardian School Ghost Hunt’, and experiences at abandoned Victorian asylums and police stations. These tours rely upon a specific set of visual cues to suggest gothicity. Gothic Revival architecture, it seems, is key to the appeal of the ghost hunt. Contemporary ghosts seem like a significantly less attractive option, and there is a definitive shortage of ghost hunts in 1980s brutalist inner-city comprehensives. Instead, these companies prioritise halls, manors, and castles, drawing from a gothic aesthetics shaped by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature. Other gothic touristic experiences are more material. While a ghost walk or ghost hunt offers the tantalising possibility of the whisper of something spectral, other attractions force tourists to confront more visceral figures in the form of actors. The London Dungeon, as an example, recreates gory events from London’s history with sets, special effects, and costumed characters. The theme-park-style attraction has featured sections based upon Bedlam, Sweeney Todd, Mary Queen of Scots, and of course, Jack the Ripper. Like the Jack the Ripper tours, London Dungeon relies upon a certain set of aesthetics of excess which dislocate the experience from its historical realities.24 The London Dungeon is a version of the common ‘haunted house’ format, otherwise known as ‘houses of horror’ or ‘terror attractions’.25 These attractions often promote themselves through extremity, warning that they may not be suitable for visitors with certain health conditions.26 The more exaggerated the warnings, the more desirable the exhibit may be for tourists. This seems to be a mirror to warnings and anxieties surrounding reading sensation fiction in the nineteenth century—a concern that even a simulated experience may be so horrific as to alter one permanently, or cause irreversible physical or psychological damage. There is a worry here that even the fictional can have real-world impact, threatening the

Dark Tourism


boundary between the real and the unreal—there is something contagious about this sort of horror which threatens to seep into the real world. Some of these terror attractions are permanent fixtures and others are seasonal events, usually around Halloween. Fright Nights at Thorpe Park have gained increasing popularity, as one such seasonal example. These events usually market themselves through fragmented CCTV footage compilations of screaming tourists. While these attractions are often updated on an annual basis, they do tend to repeat certain key tropes, such as images of Victorian and Edwardian ghosts, ­nineteenth-century ringmasters, and Victorian asylum sets and patients. Again, these thrills are dependent upon a gothic framework or a set of anticipated motifs which are synonymous with ‘scares’. These gothic signifiers are used as a shorthand for tourists to safely anticipate the event’s thrills, as gothic aesthetics serve the dual function of both familiarising and de-familiarising the tourist. Even the most family friendly and seemingly culturally sanitised theme parks embrace gothic aesthetics. One of the most famous rides in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Tokyo DisneySea, and Walt Disney Studios Park is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The different versions of the Tower of Terror are set in varying historical periods, but all rely upon an idea of a generic, haunted past to generate unease. The Tokyo DisneySea version, for instance, is set on New Year’s Eve 1899, relying upon the liminal uncanniness of the fin-de-siècle. Part of the popularity of the Tower of Terror experience is its simulating of the tourist experience. Tourists staying at hotels while visiting a theme park enter into a hotel as part of the theme park, allowing tourists perform the role of tourists. This feeds into the uncanny simulations of the theme park more generally, capitalising on the uncanniness implicit in the inauthenticity of the various reimaginings and recreations of the Disney Park experience. The uncanniness of the theme park simulation for the tourist was emblematised by the street artist Banksy in the summer of 2015 through the installation of Dismaland. ‘Dismaland Bemusement Park’ was constructed in a disused lido in Weston-super-Mare, coastal tourist town and Banksy’s hometown. Banksy described the experience as a ‘family theme park unsuitable for children’. It included various satirisations of images and logos associated with Disneyland. Its brief opening period across the summer and chosen location are reflective of anxieties surrounding the impact of tourist economies on regions, particularly coastal regions. As a native, Banksy would be acutely aware of the disastrous effect of seasonal trade on local communities, as well as the impact and quantity of abandoned leisure spaces in deprived coastal areas, such as lidos. Dismaland’s ruined lido was surrounded by various tragic perversions of familiar touristic images—a giant sandcastle, replete with multicoloured pinwheel, strikes an uncanny image, towering over the site at a ludicrous scale. A ferris wheel, frozen, glares over an armoured police van sunk into the lido, surrounded by deckchairs. Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage is upended, her body hanging from a window. Frowning workers in neon-pink high-visibility vests and plastic mouse ears hand out black balloons emblazoned with ‘I am an imbecile’. Ariel, the Little Mermaid, perches on a rock in dirty water but is seemingly glitching, a broken


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image. Disneyland is not the only themepark brand under direct attack—a giant killer whale emerges from a toilet to jump through an impossibly small hoop, into an impossibly small paddling pool, the venom aimed this time at SeaWorld. Banky’s installation distilled a number of anxieties surrounding dark tourism and gothic tourism—not only the idea that people are fundamentally attracted to the repulsive, or that tourist industries market themselves according to gothic motifs, but that there is something fundamentally dark, exploitative, and destructive about tourism itself. Banksy glowers at tourism as a seasonal industry, its capitalistic machinations, its artificiality, its impact on local communities, the misery of customer service in tourist industries, the artificiality of marketized, consumable cheer. It is no coincidence that Banksy decided to transform Disney’s iconic castle into a gothic ruin—decayed, blackened, and skeletal. Through Dismaland, Banksy draws explicitly on the semantic relationship between the Gothic and the touristic, the performative, the real and the unreal, to paint gothic tourism as an artificial ruin in its own right.


1. “Dark Tourist,” Netflix. Accessed 17 February 2019. title/80189791. 2. John Mullion, “Railways in Victorian Fiction,” The British Library. Accessed 19 November 2018. 3. Richard Cavendish, “The First W.H. Smith Railway Bookstall,” History Today. Accessed 8 February 2019. 4. Samantha Matthews, “Making Their Mark: Writing the Poet’s Grave,” in Literary Tourism and Nineteenth-Century Culture, ed. Nicola J. Watson (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 25–36. 5. Nicola J. Watson, The Literary Tourist (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). 6. Dale Townshend, “Ruins, Romance and the Rise of Gothic Tourism: The Case of Netley Abbey, 1750–1830,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 37, no. 3 (2014): 377–394. 7. Malcolm Foley and J. John Lennon. “JFK and Dark Tourism: A Fascination with Assassination,” International Journal of Heritage Studies 2, no. 4 (1996): 198–211. 8. Philip R. Stone, Rudi Hartmann, and Tony Seaton, eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Dark Tourism Studies (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). 9. Emma McEvoy, Gothic Tourism (London: Palgrave Macmillan: 2015), 201. 10. Catherine Spooner, Post-Millennial Gothic: Comedy, Romance, and the Rise of the Happy Gothic (London: Bloomsbury: 2017), 166. 11. “Dinnershows,” Frankenstein Restaurant. Accessed 8 February 2019. 12. John Malathronas, “Frankenstein’s Monster Inspires Travel Trail,” CNN Travel. Accessed 8 February 2019. 13. “Celebrate Frankenstein’s 200th Anniversary,” Geneva Live. Accessed 8 February 2019. 14. “Count Dracula: The Myth,” Bran Castle. Accessed 8 February 2019. http://www. 15. “Otranto,” Italy Heaven. Accessed 8 February 2019. puglia/otranto.html and Nina Burleigh, “A Gothic Tour of Italy,” The NY Times.

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Accessed 8 February 2019. 16. McEvoy, Gothic Tourism. 17. Martin Booth, “Stepping Inside the Mind of Brunel,” B24/7. Accessed 8 February 2019. https:// 18. “Ghosts of the Stanley Hotel ad a Night in Room 217,” Amy’s Crypt. Accessed 8 February 2019. 19. Barb Boyer Buck, “Stanley Hotel Ghost Story Supported by Evidence of Room 217 Event,” Estes Park News. Accessed 8 February 2019. estes-park-news/ci_25288538/stanley-hotel-ghost-story-supported-by-evidence-room. 20. Katie Monk, “The Big Six: Gothic Hotels,” The Independent. Accessed 8 February 2019. 21. Weird Chicago. Accessed 8 February 2019. 22. The Jack the Ripper Tour. Accessed 8 February 2019. 23. “Ripper Vision,” The Jack the Ripper Tour. Accessed 8 February 2019. 24. See Emma McEvoy on Gothic tourism and the London Bridge Experience in “London’s Gothic Tourism: West End Ghosts, Southwark Horrors and an Unheimlich Home,” in Gothic Tourism. 25. Terror Attractions UK. Accessed 8 February 2019. terror_attractions.php. 26. House of Horror UK. Accessed 8 February 2019.

Bibliography Booth, Martin. “Stepping Inside the Mind of Brunel.” B24/7. Accessed 8 February 2019. https:// Buck, Barb Boyer. “Stanley Hotel Ghost Story Supported by Evidence of Room 217 Event.” Estes Park News. Accessed 8 February 2019. ci_25288538/stanley-hotel-ghost-story-supported-by-evidence-room. Burleigh, Nina. “A Gothic Tour of Italy.” The NY Times. Accessed 8 February 2019. https://www. Cavendish, Richard. “The First W.H. Smith Railway Bookstall.” History Today. Accessed 8 February 2019. “Celebrate Frankenstein’s 200th Anniversary.” Geneva Live. Accessed 8 February 2019. https:// “Count Dracula: The Myth.” Bran Castle. Accessed 8 February 2019. http://www.bran-castle. com/dracula.html. “Dark Tourist.” Netflix. Accessed 17 February 2019. “Dinnershows.” Frankenstein Restaurant. Accessed 8 February 2019. Foley, Malcolm, and J. John Lennon. “JFK and Dark Tourism: A Fascination with Assassination.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 2, no. 4 (1996): 198–211. “Ghosts of the Stanley Hotel ad a Night in Room 217.” Amy’s Crypt. Accessed 8 February 2019. House of Horror UK. Accessed 8 February 2019. Malathronas, John. “Frankenstein’s Monster Inspires Travel Trail.” CNN Travel. Accessed 8 February 2019. Matthews, Samantha. “Making Their Mark: Writing the Poet’s Grave.” In Literary Tourism and Nineteenth-Century Culture, edited by Nicola J. Watson, 25–36. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. McEvoy, Emma. Gothic Tourism. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.


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Monk, Katie. “The Big Six: Gothic Hotels.” The Independent. Accessed 8 February 2019. https:// Mullion, John. “Railways in Viction Fiction.” The British Library. Accessed 19 November 2018. “Otranto.” Italy Heaven. Accessed 8 February 2019. html. “Ripper Vision.” The Jack the Ripper Tour. Accessed 8 February 2019. Spooner, Catherine. Post-Millennial Gothic: Comedy, Romance, and the Rise of the Happy Gothic. London: Bloomsbury, 2017. Stone, Philip, Rudi Hartmann, and Tony Seaton, eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Dark Tourism Studies. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. Terror Attractions UK. Accessed 8 February 2019. attractions.php. The Jack the Ripper Tour. Accessed 8 February 2019. Townshend, Dale. “Ruins, Romance and the Rise of Gothic Tourism: The Case of Netley Abbey, 1750–1830.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 37, no. 3 (2014): 377–394. Watson, Nicola J. The Literary Tourist. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Weird Chicago. Accessed 8 February 2019.

Two Twentieth-Century Mexican Writers Antonio Alcalá González

The characteristic gothic anxiety about the past found fertile territory in the pens of Juan Rulfo and Carlos Fuentes; two writers with high concerns about the national identity of their country. They explore the borderlands of the real and the unknown to express their view on the effect of the past upon the condition of their country in the twentieth century. Given the fact that the Gothic is considered in Latin America, as an Anglo-Saxon cultural product, until recently their works had commonly been read under the eye of a perspective aligned with Magical Realism. However, in Rulfo and Fuentes gothic fiction, the supernatural element is not accepted as part of the real as Magical Realism would suggest.1 The ghostly presences that perturb the real in their fictions cannot be normalised; moreover, they end up defeating any attempt from the protagonists to eradicate them from their realities. The four texts chosen for the present analysis were published during the 1950s. Fuentes’ “Chac Mool” and “Tlactocatzine del Jardín de Flandes” [Tlactocatzine, from the Garden of Flanders]2 were first published in the collection Los Días Enmascarados [The Masked Days] (1954),3 Rulfo’s novel, Pedro Páramo, was published in 1955 two years after “Luvina” appeared in the anthology El Llano en Llamas [The Burning Plain]. They four exemplify the writers’ adaptation of the Gothic to the Mexican context to express a concern which constantly appears in their works: to explore and interrogate the way Mexico has constructed its identity in relation to its past. Before exploring them in detail and reaching a comparison between the two writers’ use of the Gothic, it is essential to explore that past responsible for shaping their country towards the twentieth century. Carlos Fuentes once defined Mexico as “País inconcluso, México, paciente y sereno, esconde sin embargo la rabia de una esperanza demasiadas veces frustrada. Éste es un país que ha esperado durante siglos, soñado, el tiempo de su historia”. [Mexico, unconquered country, patient and serene. However, it hides the rage of a

A. Alcalá González (*)  Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico City, Mexico e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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hope that has too often been frustrated. This is a country that has waited, dreamed for centuries, the time of its history.] (En Esto Creo, 189). This reflection is the result of looking at the history of a nation that spent three centuries as a European colony to later live a century of uncertainty about its identity, arriving into the twentieth century still missing it. The history of Mexico is but a series of repetitions of events that promise to be crucial in defining the identity of the country but end up bringing a return to the problems inherited from the Colonial past. The process leading to this permanent repetition that makes the past look as inescapable started when the Spanish crown stablished the Viceroyalty of New Spain after having defeated the Aztec empire and replaced its political and economic authority (strongly based on the payment of tribute) over the rest of the neighbouring kingdoms in most of what is the present central and some parts of southern Mexico. After the Independence from a European power, the national project first had to face the challenge of leaving behind social and political practices related to the perpetuation of strongly marked hierarchical groups (called castas [castes]) proper from a colony but not adequate for an independent democratic country. However, this initial fight was lost. The Independence War was started and won by criollos (children of Spaniards but born in Mexico) who achieved to rule the country under the same scheme of hierarchies and oppression but without having to be accountable to the Spanish crown. That is a strong reason why right after Independence, the first form of government in Mexico, though short-lived, was an empire. Joel Poinsett, ambassador in Mexico, wrote the following lines in 1829, just 8 years after the Independence war had been won: The character of this people cannot be understood, nor the causes of their present condition be fully developed without recurring to the oppression under which they formally labored. It would lead you into error to compare them with the free and civilized nature of America and Europe in the Nineteenth Century. They started from a period nearer to the age of Charles the fifth, and it is even a matter of some doubt whether this Nation had advanced one step in knowledge and civilization from the time of the conquest to the moment of declaring themselves independent. (11–12)

For this young nation, that seemed to the foreign eye to be far from the social advances reached in other countries, the nineteenth century was a period of political internal turmoil and two foreign military incursions. On one hand, there was the Mexican-American War in 1846–1848 which was entirely fought in Mexican ground. The peace treaty that marked the end of this conflict made Mexico cede over one-third of its territory as the losing side. On the other hand, there was the Second French Intervention in the 1860s that managed to place a European aristocrat in the throne of a Second Mexican Empire for a period of three years. The difference among classes remained and become even more evident entering the twentieth century; on one hand there were those with power and money (the government and the landowners); on the other, there were exploited peasants who did not even own the land they cultivated since that belonged to the owners of the large estates called haciendas. The Mexican Revolution started as a result of the accumulated social tension; as its name implies, the revolutionary war was but cyclical disturbance that ended at the same point where it had begun: with a

Two Twentieth-Century Mexican Writers


reduced group (the winning side, now formed by the bourgeoise classes that emerged from the war, controlling the country and its economy) while large sectors in the countryside and later in urban areas remained exploited in exchange for low salaries. According to Adolfo Gilly, the ten years that the war lasted rendered only the destruction of one state and its replacement by another, thus establishing a new relationship between those who had power and those who did not (364). In 1915, American Businessman, William O. Jenkins described in the armed forces the Mexican tendency to blindly served an oppressing hand that was inherited from the Spanish conquest and remained after the Independence movement and the subsequent episodes of turmoil in the country: “The country is completely demoralized, and the soldiers have long since lost all conception of personal privilege or property rights, and accept as authority only some whom they fear” (362). Oppression remained, and the new type of interaction was simply a continuity of the tradition of subordination that had existed since Colonial times. The result entering the 1950s was a country in which those who were oppressed and ignored the most were the poor sectors from rural areas most of which were formed by indigenous groups still not assimilated into a Western style of life. Despite the existence of these groups, the different Mexican governments have traditionally insisted upon not looking at themselves as a country that results from the combination of both the Spanish and the indigenous tradition: There has never been a process of convergence, but rather, one of opposition. There is one simple and straightforward reason: certain social groups have illegitimately held political, economic, and ideological power from the European invasion to the present. All have been affiliated through inheritance or though circumstance with western civilization, and with their programs for governing there has been no place for Mesoamerican civilization.4 (Bonfil Batalla 28–29)

As a result of this imposition of a Western perspective over a society that is the result of its Spanish–Mesoamerican past, “the majority of Mexicans have a future only on the condition they stop being themselves” (30). Fuentes himself pointed out at this neglection of the indigenous past in his country: México es un país mestizo e hispanohablante, pero sigue siendo, también un país indio. Un repertorio de posibilidades que hemos olvidado o aplazado o expulsado de nuestros conceptos del tiempo progresista nos aguarda calladamente en el mundo indígena, reserva de todo lo que hemos olvidado y despreciado… [Mexico is a mestizo, Spanish-speaking country, but it is still an Indian country. A repertoire of possibilities that we have forgotten, postponed or expelled from our concepts of progressive time, a reserve of everything we have forgotten and despised, is there, silently awaiting us in the indigenous world…] (En Esto Creo, 278)

To share their preoccupation for this country missing to integrate all the components of its past in a long-postponed search for its identity, Fuentes and Rulfo relied on a recurring borderland trespassed in gothic texts: the line between past and present. According to Jerrold E. Hogle: “The regressive and progressive nature of the Gothic has been and remains [emphasis in the original] necessary to deal with the social unconscious of modern humanity in all its extreme contradictions spawned


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by its looking backward and forward so much of the time” (7). The Gothic constantly hints towards what cannot be recovered; it points to the history that lies behind us without the either linguistic or geographical possibilities to regain what remains as a lost Other when contrasted with the present (Savoy, 6–7). Thus, one of the functions of the Gothic is to remind individuals that the failures in their present can be traced back to the desires and deeds on which their present was founded and built. It attempts to raise awareness of a lost promised (and frustrated) present which has been complicated by past mistakes and, therefore remains a frequent and unresolved motif. Terror arises from exposing these flaws in the present of both characters and readers. In doing this, what we usually take for granted is turned into uncertainties about what went wrong and well. Punter explains that terror can produce questions about memories and reconstruction (Punter, 146). Thus, it provides an opportunity to look at events from a different perspective that challenges the traditionally applied ones. To look at the Mexican past from a different perspective, Fuentes replaces the old European castles and ruins with old large houses in the centre of Mexico City. These structures have their own secrets which lie confined in dark and private inner gardens, upper dark rooms and basements. As for Rulfo, he chooses towns abandoned in the dusty and dry countryside where the advance of time seems to be inexistent. Either set in Mexico or in any other context touched by the Gothic, such spaces resemble the same obscurity governing the characters’ doubts about the limits of their own beings and the surrounding world. Such an uneasy feeling comes from facing and having to accept the terrifying presence of experiences and bodies that breach the limits of the familiar. They force us to acknowledge the fragility of the boundaries we have established to define our world and ourselves. No matter what setting it makes use of, the Gothic always returns to interrogate the conventions on which man and his civilisation have constructed their discourses of meaning and definition. When such cross-examination takes place, the human systems become blurred since operating in deformed ways. The transgressions that break limits and boundaries in the Gothic point at the idea that there are as many versions of the world as perceptions of it can exist. Although there is an official account accepted by the social group, there are always myriad forms of unrecognised versions of events. The Gothic fulfils the role of giving expression to such manifestations of unacknowledged history, and when doing this, it enables authors to question and reveal what lies beyond the realistic accounts of an event: “At all events, the gothic writer insists, ‘realism’ is not the whole story: the World, at least in some aspects, is very much more inexplicable – or mysterious, or terrifying, or violent – than that” (Punter, 186). Being detached from realistic chronicles of events, gothic narratives emphasise that the context surrounding us is much vaster than what we take for granted. Thus, Rulfo and Fuentes rely on the Gothic to point at neglected faces of the Mexican reality and question what went wrong behind the present of his country. These four narratives have in common the irruption of transgressive presences into spaces that trap the protagonists inside them. They end up collapsing after finding it impossible to overcome the haunting of these manifestations from their past.

Two Twentieth-Century Mexican Writers


In “Luvina”, the story that was first published from the four chosen for this study, the narrator, who used to be a rural professor in the fictional town that provides the name for the story, gives his account of the place to a listener, whose condition as a listener gets confused with that of the reader, and who is about to move to that town to do the same job. This voice describes the town providing its complete name: San Juan Luvina. This emphasises the fact of the existence of multiple realities around the town, for, as commonly in Mexico, it can include the name of its santo patrono [patron saint] or just be named without it. The place lies on a stony land of silence and solitude surrounded by ravines where day and night are equally cold. It almost never rains there provoking that “la tierra, además de estar reseca y achicada como cuero viejo, se haya llenado de rajaduras” [in addition to being parched and shrunken like old leather, the land has gotten filled with cracks] (Rulfo Burning Plain, 101) In such a place where nature seems dead, human presence is reduced to minimal evidence: -- ¿Viste a alguien? ¿Vive alguien aquí? –Le pregunté. – Sí, allá enfrente… Unas mujeres… Las sigo viendo. Mira, allá atrás tras las rendijas de esa puerta veo brillar los ojos que nos miran… Han estado asomándose para acá… Míralas. Veo las bolas brillantes de sus ojos… Pero no tienen que darnos de comer. Me dijeron sin sacar la cabeza que en este pueblo no había de comer… [“Did you see anyone? Does anyone live here?” I asked. “Yes, there in front … Some women … I still see them. Look, back there, behind the cracks of that door I see some shining eyes looking at us… They have been peeking here… Look at them. I see the bright balls of their eyes… But they do not have food to share with us. They told me, without taking their heads out, that in this town there was nothing to eat…”] (105)

In this town of monotony and death, “Nadie lleva la cuenta de las horas ni a nadie le preocupa cómo van amontonándose los años”. [Nobody measures the hours. Nobody worries about how the years are piling up] (106). The time of death is people’s only hope as it is death what keeps people around since they express a strong reluctance to leave the bodies of their dead behind: “Pero si nosotros nos vamos, ¿quién se llevará a nuestros muertos? Ellos viven aquí y no Podemos dejarlos solos”. [Who will take our dead if we leave? They live here and we cannot leave them alone] (108). The narrator does not make clear what the townspeople mean by this since the interpretations can be that either they do not want to leave the tombs of their relatives unguarded, or that these ones remain roaming around the town after death. In this place of hostility towards life, where the dead are the only concern of the living, Rulfo made his first experiment with the gothic impossibility to escape from the past. On one hand, there is the strong connection of the living with death. On the other, there is their cyclical way of life which obeys to what they call the law, “Los hijos se pasan la vida trabajando para los padres como ellos trabajaron para los suyos y como quién sabe cuántos atrás de ellos cumplieron con su ley” [The children keep all their lives working for their parents as they did for their own just as countless ones before them obeyed their law] (107). Both instances make the past an unescapable burden that makes it impossible for the inhabitants of the town to leave a place where the geography and time build


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a gothic chronotope of never-ending suffering just like Rulfo’s country cannot escape from committing the same past mistakes once and again. Concerning Pedro Páramo, the figure around whom all the stories in the novel of the same name develop, is a landlord who represents the ruling groups in Mexico; those that have replaced each other over the years. They have imposed their views, like this man who tyrannically governs Comala. On the other hand, Páramo’s neglected son, Juan, stands for the Mexican people, fragmented and confused, caught between the present and the legacy of their own history. The text is divided into nearly 70 fragments, varying in length from less than half a page to several ones. Reading this novel takes the reader into constant switches between Preciado’s narrative time and the events in the life of Pedro Páramo and his last wife, Susana San Juan. Both narrators, Preciado and the omniscient speaker who relates the events from Páramo’s times,5 rely on dialogues to construct their narratives. As a result, the novel is narrated in large part through the connection of different voices, and we come to understand that most of those voices pertain to a number of ghosts who stand for those past memories that Juan, the Mexican present, can only listen to as distorted echoes. The reader is gradually led to realise that every single character, Juan Preciado included, is a ghost connected to different scenarios or times. They are wandering souls who cannot abandon the world of the living, and it is around them that the gothic atmosphere in the text develops. They turn Comala into a claustrophobic prison where the past is permanently haunting Preciado’s present in the form of these ghosts who lived in the town in the times of Pedro Páramo. This produces a flux between three different times, and makes the reader take an active role created by the text structure: Pedro is the past, Juan becomes the present from which he narrates his experience inside a tomb, and the reader is reading the text in a future time after all the events and dialogues in the novel have occurred. This movement between times creates a process in which the past imposes itself upon the present and future since the dead remain in the town haunting the present with their voices—voices that reach us through Juan’s narration. Avery Gordon indicates that “to be haunted is to be tied to historical and social effect” (190); this is confirmed in Comala, where the ghosts cannot leave because, as Juan is told, there are not enough living people who can pray for them: Si usted viera el gentío de ánimas que andan sueltas por la calle. En cuanto oscurece comienzan a salir. Y a nadie le gusta verlas. Son tantas, y nosotros tan poquitos, que ya ni la lucha le hacemos para rezar porque salgan de sus penas. No ajustarían nuestras oraciones para todos. Si acaso les tocaría un pedazo de Padre nuestro. [If you could see the crowds of souls that are loose in the street. They appear right after twilight. And nobody likes to see them. They are so many, and we are so few, that we no longer try to pray for them to alleviate their sorrows. Our few prayers wouldn’t be enough for so many. If anything they would be getting a piece of the Lord’s Prayer]. (Rulfo Pedro Páramo, 55)

Their dialogues are the axis around which we, the readers, move inside the secluded town. When asked if Pedro Páramo was the main character of the novel, the author explained that the story’s focus is the townspeople themselves, the penitents who died in sin.6

Two Twentieth-Century Mexican Writers


They create a present which is haunted by the return of the past but lacks the possibility to establish a proper dialogue with it. Rulfo indicated that his characters break through the boundaries of time and space, given that the dead have neither time nor space (Sommers, 518). The role of these ghosts in Rulfo’s text is to underline the historical absence of a unified society in Mexico. Preciado meets the spirits at different times and places and does not see more than two of them together. And when the voices become too strong, fear makes him collapse. His journey portrays a lack of understanding of the division between past and present, and life and death. Similarly, in a way, to Juan and the Revolution, Mexico seemed to have learned nothing from the war that could have helped plan a better future for the country. As a result of his gradual passive travel from door to door, Rulfo progressively guides Juan and the reader into the recollection and assembly of pieces that give sense to the story of the town around Pedro echoing the fragmented society in the writer’s country. Juan’s journey ends in his tomb from which he hears the reflections coming from Susana San Juan who is in a neighbouring tomb. What makes Susana very important in the text is her perspective of time as a fluid present; in it, current events are moulded by the past, and those in the future are always visible in a very near horizon. When she tells Rentería (the town priest) that he is dead, it is because she knows that everyone is alive as a necessary step prior to being dead. This understanding of time fuses with her relationship with death, which she brings not only to her father but also to the whole town. As a child, when her father sent her into a cave to look for gold coins, the only thing that she could bring to the surface was a skeleton that broke into pieces when she touched it: “El cadáver se deshizo en canillas; la quijada se desprendió como si fuera de azúcar. Le fue dando pedazo a pedazo hasta que llegó a los dedos de los pies y le entregó coyuntura tras coyuntura. Y la calavera primero; aquella bola redonda que se deshizo entre sus manos”. [The body broke into pieces; the jaw fell off as if it were made of sugar.7 She gave him pieces one by one until she reached the toes and she handed him joint after joint. The first part she gave him was the skull; that round ball that fell apart in her hands] (Rulfo Pedro Páramo, 96). She comes back from that experience as a changed person who understands that nothing is permanent. Such a perspective allows her to transcend time and comprehend that death is not to be feared since it is a necessary step in life. She can sense her father when he comes to say goodbye after his death because her mind is trapped between her physical reality and a world of ghosts. However, from the perspective of the omniscient narrator and Pedro, who are limited to a traditional frame of reference that only considers the present, the only conclusion is that Susana is not from our world. During her days at Pedro’s side she manages to remain isolated in her mind, in a semi-conscious state that allows her to live in a world of her own, disconnected from the reality outside: Susana San Juan, metida siempre en su cuarto, durmiendo, y cuando no, como si durmiera. La noche anterior se la había pasado en pie, recostado en la pared, observando a través de la pálida luz de la veladora el cuerpo en movimiento de Susana… Desde que la había traído a vivir aquí no sabía de otras noches pasadas a su lado, sino de estas noches doloridas, de interminable inquietud. Y se preguntaba hasta cuándo terminaría aquello. Esperaba que alguna vez. Nada puede durar tanto, no existe ningún recuerdo por intenso


A. Alcalá González que sea que no se apague. Si al menos hubiera sabido qué era aquello que la maltrataba por dentro, que la hacía revolcarse en el desvelo, como si la despedazaran hasta inutilizarla. Él creía conocerla… ¿Pero cuál era el mundo de Susana San Juan? Ésa fue una de las cosas que Pedro Páramo nunca llegó a saber. [Susana San Juan, always in her room, sleeping, and if not, seeming asleep. The night before he had been standing, leaning against the wall, looking at her body in movement through the dim light of the candle… Since he had brought her to live here, he knew of no nights at her side other than those painful nights of endless concern. And he wondered when it would end. He hoped that someday. Nothing can last forever; no memory, regardless of its intensity, can last forever. If only he knew what was hurting her on the inside, what disturbed her sleep, as if she were being torn apart until rendered useless. He thought he knew her… But what was the world of Susana San Juan? That was one of the things that Pedro Páramo never knew]. (100–101)

This ability to transcend time allows her to evade any attempt by Pedro to impose his authority on her as he has done with the rest of Comala. Her view of time and her contact with death allow her to establish a dialogue with the past. Juan, on the contrary, is unable to understand what happens around him because he lives in a permanent present that blocks his possibilities of perspective. From her early experience with the skull in the cave, Susana learned that corpses are dead and unmoving, while ghosts are dynamic entities. When Juan becomes trapped in the gothic closed space where the past is in constant irruption, he fails to understand what Susana reveals through her reflections; she is the only one in the text who understands that the past lives in the present just as the ghosts of her father and her first husband move beyond the barriers of time and place. On the other hand, throughout the novel, Preciado remains in a passive role, guided from gate to gate towards his final resting place, without resistance. When the two narrative lines are contrasted, Rulfo’s concern is clear for the reader: a passive acceptance of the present will lead only to the tomb, with no understanding of how the process occurred. Rulfo’s gothic discourse on the past as an unavoidable returning burden that imposes itself upon the inhabitants in San Juan Luvina and Comala is directed towards an emphasis on the condition of the rural areas of Mexico where the condition of the people did not change after the Revolution. In the case of Fuentes, he transplants the Gothic into the metropolitan area of Mexico City to similarly highlight the lack of movement towards the construction of a future in which the past can finally be left aside. As the nerve centre of a centralised country, Mexico City is a scenario where buildings and other elements from all the ages that have modelled the present of the nation coexist together. The past is there, right in front of the city inhabitants: “Mexico cannot forsake the gods, myths and superstitions of its Pre-Columbian past, residing just below the surface of the contemporary reality” (Jaeck, 314). Nevertheless, this past, though palpable in the metropolis, is almost ignored and not given its proper importance as the crucial parameter of the city. It lies evident, right in the face of its inhabitants, but almost forgotten inside museums or left to rot behind modern glass and steel. Fuentes himself claims that the once Aztec city of Tenochtitlan lies on a rocky and quaking subsoil on which all its times and identities (pre-Columbian, baroque, neoclassical, nineteenth-century and modern)

Two Twentieth-Century Mexican Writers


have been constructed through many centuries (En Esto Creo, 287). The combination of rock and mud on which the capital of the country has evolved reflects the neglected position given to the Mexican past. While some of its features are solid and permanently present, others have been left to sink in corners of blurred memory. This past is the indigenous heritage that has been related with the bottom of the social ladder from the times of the New Spain. Mexico City gathers the architectural memories of a Mesoamerican and Colonial past, in addition to those of the country that was reborn, first after the War of Independence and then as a result of the Mexican Revolution. When all these times are ignored, the city falls into the category of a gothic one that becomes a space rejected and refused to be acknowledged by the civilised embodied in its inhabitants (Mighall, 54, 61). Fuentes’ protagonists are trapped inside architectural realms within this city, haunted by unavoidable presences of a past they insist on denying. According to Fuentes, the answer for the city and its inhabitants is to acknowledge the presence of these memories of all ages in front of them: A country of simultaneous times, where past is present and all of history happens or can happen, at the very moment… skyscrapers next to shanties, supermarkets near garbage dumps. Mercedes-Benzes run races with burros and the TV antenna is the new cross of faith. The god of fire is a little boy spitting flames in exchange for a few centavos. But couples love each other next to the walls of ancient convents; the veterans of the Revolution survive surrounded by memories… The greatness of Mexico is that its past is always alive, and not as a burden… Memory saves it, filters, chooses, but it does not kill. Memory and desire both know there is no living present with a dead past and no future without both: a living present that transformed into a living past… We know that nothing has an absolute beginning or an absolute end. (A New Time, 216)

For the author, the past is not a closed, passive field, but an active and multidimensional open one that can be reinterpreted through the imaginative space provided by creative writing. In his fiction, he shows an almost obsessive concern with the rewriting of history. In fact, he sees humanity, and everything around it, as containing traces of what was and will be. This happens because we live in our time, but are also ghosts from preceding ages, and omens of those to come (En Esto Creo, 197). In his view, if Mexico’s future has never materialised, thus falling into a never-ending frustration, it is because the country will never be completed as a project until it faces and regains the past it has decided to neglect. His gothic fiction points at the origin of the failure that has prevented Mexicans from reaching a future that never seems to materialise. Their own lack of ability to understand the need for the past in order to look ahead and plan for tomorrow is the root of such evil in his stories. To achieve this, he presents stories full of transgressions of time that bring about conflicts between different ages. The result of this is an uncertainty of identities that fall into a constant struggle between change and continuity generating a doubt concerning limits that is never solved. “Chac Mool” introduces a statue of the same name of which several examples are commonly found in Mesoamerican ruins. It can be described as an idol in a reclining position with his head up and turned to one side, holding a tray over his abdomen. The one in the story breaks the boundaries between stone and flesh


A. Alcalá González

when he starts showing the texture of flesh on his torso and hair on his arms after humidity8 fills the basement where he is kept. After this event, the working and social life of Filiberto, the protagonist and owner of the sculpture, collapses. His career never achieved the promises of his youth, and he now recognises that the little success he had achieved was an illusion. Becoming a servant of the Chac Mool, he begins to wonder whether he is just imagining things or living in a delirium (Fuentes Cuentos Sobrenaturales, 16–17). His common place reality is replaced by what he calls: “otra realidad que sabíamos que estaba allí, mostrenca, y que debe sacudirnos para hacerse viva y presente”. [another, monstrous reality which we knew was there, but left aside, and which must make us tremble to become alive and present] (18). The petrified past becomes incarnated as a body that is not stone, man or animal, but something else: “Tan terrible como su risilla –-horrorosamente distinta a cualquier risa de hombre o animal” [As terrible as his little laugh—horribly different to any human or animal laughter] (21). This fluid entity ends up taking control of the present inside Filiberto’s house. Nevertheless the living idol falls into human temptations turns into a mere perversion of the past unable to dialogue with the present: Apareció un indio Amarillo, en bata de casa, con bufanda. Su aspecto no podía ser más repulsivo; despedía un olor a loción barata; su cara, polveada, quería cubrir las arrugas; tenia la boca embarrada de lápiz labial mal aplicado, y el pelo daba la impresión de estar teñido. [A yellow Indian appeared, wearing a dressing gown and a scarf. His look could not be more disgusting. He smelled like cheap lotion and the powder on his face was intended to cover his wrinkles. The mouth was covered with asymmetrically applied lipstick, and his hair seemed died]. (24)

When Filiberto reflects upon his life and its outcome, it is as if this one was but a mere metaphor of the whole Mexican nation in a race with other countries to achieve a prominent position in the world: No hubo reglas. Muchos de los humildes quedaron allí, muchos llegaron más arriba de lo que pudimos pronosticar en aquellas fogosas amables tertulias. Otros, que parecíamos prometerlo todo, quedamos a la mitad del camino, destripados en un examen curricular, aislados por una zanja invisible de los que triunfaron y de los que nada alcanzaron. [There were no rules. Most of the poor remained there. Others got higher than what we could foresee in those spirited nice social gatherings. Others, like me, who seemed to have extremely promising lives, stayed in the middle of the road, disemboweled in an extracurricular exam, and isolated by an invisible ditch between the successful ones and those who did not reach anything]. (11)

His life is a monotonous and unsuccessful one that he fills with his pastime: his collection of pre-Columbian Mexican art. However, this is but a failed approach that turns the past not into something live, but in a mere inert ornament. About this, Fuentes once wrote that: “No puede haber presente vivo con pasado muerto. Cuando expulsamos al pasado por la ventana, no tarda en regresar por la puerta principal disfrazado de las más extrañas maneras”. [There cannot be a live present with a dead past. When we throw the past through the window, it does not take

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long to come back through the main door disguised in the strangest fashions] (En Esto Creo, 277–278). When the idol takes control of Filiberto’s life, the roles are subverted and what once was becomes so alive that it can take control of a present that never manages to reach a mature age: “Mi idea original era distinta: yo dominaría al Chac Mool, como se domina a un juguete: era, acaso, una prolongación de mi inseguridad infantile; pero la niñez ---¿quién lo dijo?--- es fruto comido por los años, y yo no me he dado cuenta” [My original idea was that I was to control the Chac Mool as one controls a toy. Was that, perhaps, an extension of my childhood. But childhood -who said that?- is a fruit devoured by the passing of years and I have not realised that] (21). Filiberto’s failed attempt to keep the past of his culture alive and under his control plays havoc when the Chac Mool becomes a perverted meeting of the Mexican indigenous legacy and its present. The protagonist’s experience proves that regaining the past is not enough if we are not unable to understand it and establish a dialogue between what was and is. This lack of connection with the past makes Filiberto an unfinished, immature entity that seems to go nowhere, just as the writer’s country is condemned to remain unless it confronts time as a flux in constant change. In “Tlactocatzine, del Jardín de Flandes” the narrator is sent by his boss to inhabit and make warm a house his company has just bought. The place is situated close to the city centre, on Puente de Alvarado Avenue.9 Though guarded against decay by a couple of old servants, this old house has been empty since 1910 when the family that owned it left for France after the Revolutionary turmoil started. Like Filiberto’s the narrative is based on entries from the protagonist’s diary. His boss calling him güero [blondie] (Fuentes Cuentos Sobrenaturales, 40), the way to call a person of lighter hair in Mexico, indicates that he may look like a European rather than a Mexican. The house dates from the times of the military French occupation, the Second Mexican Empire under the rule of Maximilian I (former Archduke of Austria) and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium. The latter suffered a mental collapse after the defeat and resulting execution by the firearm of her husband. Though old, the house is described as a very live place: “La mansion es en verdad hermosa, por más que la fachada se encargue de negarlo, con su exceso de capiteles jónicos y cariátides del Segundo Imperio”. [The mansion is really beautiful no matter how much the façade tries to deny it with its excess of Ionic capitals and caryatids from the Second Empire] (40). It is a place without a phone that seems to have isolated itself from the present in the city. Within its walls, the past is not seen as decay or abandonment, but as something full of vitality. In just one day inside it, the protagonist feels “un fluir que corresponde a otros litorales, me han inducido a un resposo lúcido” [a flux that corresponds to other coasts that have induced me into a lucid rest] (41). Later, on his second day there, he finds the way to open the window that leads to the garden. This space works as a time portal that alienates him from the physical location of the house inside Mexico City. He has realised the urban context where his identity was shaped has been left apart by entering the house. Its geographical centre, the garden, is described by him as


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a space of “siluetas de la memoria” [memory silhouettes] (41) that seem to bring back a repressed remembrance. In it, he meets an old woman who reveals herself little by little. At first, she is only perceived as a face that stares at him. When she turns her back, she is only visible as a small black and bowed lump. On the third day, he sees her more clearly: Era una viejecita… tendría ochenta años, cuando menos, ¿pero cómo se atrevía a entrar, o por dónde entraba? Mientras desprendía las flores, la observé: delgada, seca, vestía de negro. Falda hasta el suelo… Ensombrecía la cara una cofia de encaje negro, ocultando el pelo blanco y despeinado de la anciana. Sólo pude distinguir los labios, sin sangre, que con el color pálido de su carne penetraban en la boca recta, arqueada en la sonrisa más leve, más triste, más permanente y desprendida de toda motivación. Levantó la vista; en sus ojos no había ojos… era como si un camino, un paisaje nocturno partiera de los párpados arrugados, partiera hacia adentro, hacia un viaje infinito en cada segundo. [She was an elderly lady… may be 80 at least… scrawny, dressed in black. Her long skirt reached the ground… A black lace bonnet shaded the face, hiding the old woman’s white and messy hair. I could only distinguish her bloodless lips. They went into the slightest, saddest and most permanent smile which lacked any motivation at all. She raised her sight, but there were no eyes inside her eyes… it was as if a road, a night landscape, went inside every second towards an infinite journey]. (45)

This deadly presence in apparent mourning comes into the garden and leaves it through a pathway that is just there, expanding the borders inside the house. On the following two days he starts receiving letters from her. He listens to her slow steps “sobre hojas secas” [over dry leaves] (46) outside his door every time when she leaves the letter right before midnight. The relationship between the woman and the garden never disappears since it is the portal that allows her to interact with the protagonist. On his fifth day in the house, the last in the diary, he realises it is impossible to open the door of the house. He also confirms the garden and its flowers smell like a tomb. To this point, the reader is aware that the lady and the death that surround her are there to reveal something to the narrator. She becomes a ghost from the narrator’s past whom he had forgotten about. She mourns her having lost him not in the past, but in the present where he has transgressed the limits between the dead and the living. She is there to guide him back to his normal state as her ghost eternal companion. As they come closer to each other, the sights that turned into letters become conversations in which she makes clear to him they are to remain there forever, inside a “Satisfacción de soledades compartidas” [Satisfaction of shared solitudes] (49). She starts calling him Max and her final revelations are condensed in her also calling him “Tlactocatzine” (the royal name given by the indigenous people from Mexico to Emperor Maximilian I). The final piece of the puzzle is his discovery of her own royal seal: “CHARLOTTE, KAISERIN VON MEXIKO” (49). The concluding lines of the narrative confirm to the protagonist that he is no longer who he was before the interaction of space and time in the mansion started. This place works in his experience as the frame that allows the ghost of his past to arrive and remind him of what he had forgotten for the sake of the modernity outside the house. He is the European noble who came to Mexico in order to rule as an emperor and was later mourned by his widow. His final re-encounter with his repressed true self makes it clear that any attempt to leave previous experiences behind is unsuccessful since his past is what defines

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his present just as the city where the mansion is located is the result of a succession of past events. As done by other gothic writers before them, Rulfo and Fuentes point at the existence of more realities than the one traditionally accepted behind the formation of the present. In the “Chac Mool” and “Tlactocatzine del Jardín de Flandes”, Fuentes’ protagonists exhibit the lack of understanding that the indigenous past and the Second Empire from the 1860s, respectively, are an undeniable part of the present of Mexico. Concerning Rulfo, his reflections on the isolated dead towns of the countryside expose the desolation left after the Revolution despite any discourse intended in the present to portray it as having brought an improvement for the country. Their proposals prove that the attempt to build an identity for Mexico is to be based on the flux of multiple realities existing in its past. And only when the country starts acknowledging the existence of these multiple times that have moulded its present, it will be able to build its identity and move towards the future.

Notes 1. Lucie Armitt establishes the role of the supernatural element as the distinctive element between the Gothic and Magical Realism. According to her, the supernatural presence in a gothic story does not transform the realistic context used as the setting for its appearance, nor is it to lose its effect as a startling element; on the contrary, a ghostly appearance in Magical Realism is accepted as an existing part of everyday without producing a shocking effect. In her own words: “Where the magical realism embraces the foreign, whether spiritual or extraterritorial, the Gothic fights to keep the stranger at bay but fails, intimating a cultural failure which Western cultures have perhaps found it easier to identify with than to overcome” (225). 2. All titles and quotations of Fuentes’ and Rulfo’s works present in this chapter are taken from originals in Spanish, and all the corresponding translations have been done by me. 3. More recently, both stories were published again in the collection Cuentos Sobrenaturales [Supernatural Tales] (2007) which, together with Inquieta Compañía [Restless Company] (2004) gathers the supernatural short fiction of Carlos Fuentes. 4. Mesoamerica, meaning “Middle America” in Greek is a name that experts have given to a region from Central Mexico to Nicaragua whose indigenous peoples at the time of the Spanish conquest shared a cultural heritage. 5. The time difference between the two story lines is at least that of one generation since Pedro, who is told to have died many years ago, is also Juan’s father. 6. Juan Rulfo once commented that according to popular belief in Mexico, dead characters cannot leave their place of death (Sommers, 518). 7. During the traditional Mexican celebration known as the Day of the Dead, people pay homage to their deceased relatives by placing on an altar a decorated sugar skull with the dead person’s name on the forehead. 8. Fuentes‘ text mentions a blurred relationship between the stone idol and the Aztec god of rain, Tlaloc. 9. Contrary to the rural settings of Rulfo that can stand for a multiplicity of isolated towns in the arid countryside of central Mexico, Fuentes makes use of real names of streets and neighbourhoods in the centre of Mexico City in most of his fiction. That is the area of the metropolis where all its times can still be appreciated; there are some pre-Columbian ruins here and there, at the side of multiple architectonical styles from the different times of Mexico as an independent nation.


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Bibliography Armitt, Lucie. “The Gothic and Magical Realism.” Modern Gothic. Ed. Jerrold E. Hogle (Cambridge: CUP, 2014), 224–239. Baldick, Chris. “Introduction.” The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales. Ed. Chris Baldick (Oxford: OUP, 2001), xi–xxiii. Bonfil Batalla, Guillermo “The Problem of National Culture.” The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Ed. Gilbert M. Joseph and Tomothy J. Henderson (Durham: Duke University, 2002), 28–32. Fuentes, Carlos. A New Time for Mexico. Trans. Marina Gutman Castañeda and Carlos Fuentes (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997). ———. Cuentos Sobrenaturales (Mexico City: Alfaguara, 2007). ———. En Esto Creo (Mexico City: Alfaguara, 2002). Gilly, Adolfo. La Revolución Interrumpida (Mexico City: Editorial Era, 2007). Gordon, Avery F. Ghostly Matters (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2008). Hogle, Jerrold E. “Introduction.” The Cambridge Companion to the Modern Gothic. Ed. Jerrold E. Hogle (Cambridge: CUP, 2014), 3–19. Jaeck, Lois Marie. “Houses of Horror or Magical Kingdoms? Past Times Revisited with Miguel Ángel Asturias, Carlos Fuentes and Julio Cortázar.” Ciencia Ergo Sum, Vol. 6 (No. 3), 1999, 312–318. Jenkins, William O. “Mexico Has Been Turned into a Hell.” The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Ed. Gilbert M. Joseph and Tomothy J. Henderson (Durham: Duke University, 2002), 357–363. Poinsett, Joel. “The Mexican Character.” The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Ed. Gilbert M. Joseph and Tomothy J. Henderson (Durham: Duke University, 2002), 11–14. Punter, David. The Literature of Terror Vol. 2, The Modern Gothic (Essex: Pearson Education, 1996). Rulfo, Juan. “Luvina.” El Llano en Llamas (Mexico City: RM, 2012). ———. Pedro Páramo (Mexico City: RM, 2012). Savoy, Eric. “The Face of the Tenant: A Theory of American Gothic.” American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative. Ed. Robert K. Martin and Eric Savoy (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998). Sommers, Joseph. “Los muertos no tienen tiempo ni espacio (un diálogo con Juan Rulfo).” La ficción de la memoria: Juan Rulfo ante la crítica. Ed. Federico Campbell (Mexico City: Ediciones ERA / UNAM, 2003), 517–521.

Dark Urbanity Tijana Parezanović and Marko Lukić

The impact of the unprecedently rapid development of cities in the latter half of the nineteenth century extended far beyond contemporary industrial requirements and immediate social and political consequences. The changing landscapes of urbanity have to this day maintained a strong influence on literary, cultural, and popular imagination, which does not cease to respond to the challenges posed by the constant growth of modern cities. For nearly two centuries, the existence and survival of the modern man, as well as people’s perception of their surroundings and the place humanity occupies within it, has been directly dependent on physical aspects and mental consequences of city streets, buildings, waterfronts, any edifices or features of the urban landscape. Urban landscapes have always presented an architectural reflection of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’s interdependence, with their twofold aspect of a progressively entrepreneurial spirit on the one hand, and the poverty and social problems this spirit bred on the other, the latter being easily located in slums or else different parts of the city which inspire visitors with unease as unknown, uncharted, and potentially dangerous zones. The allure cities hold for imagination is also twofold, with delight and fear working as two sides of the same coin. This can be noticed in some of the earliest narratives which incorporate urban space as a crucial element: Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, which feature a detective well-versed in the city labyrinth, with the powers of reasoning that he uses to successfully confront and conquer the unknown, were at the peak of popularity precisely in the period when London newspapers were weaving the story of Jack the Ripper, his mysterious presence and murderous haunting of the gloomy alleys of the East End. Both figures, the detective and the serial killer, are products of the same modernity that gave birth to the city, and both are inextricably linked with different aspects of the urban imagery. More recent

T. Parezanović (*)  Alfa BK University, Belgrade, Serbia M. Lukić  University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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narratives, such as the two that will be analysed in this chapter: The Midnight Meat Train (2008), directed by Ryûhei Kitamura, and Candyman (1992), directed by Bernard Rose, both based on Clive Barker’s stories, exemplify the gradual development of the criminal and investigator figures—the development that, following the given comparison to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, moves towards the elimination of any crucial differences between the two. This merging of two seemingly opposing drives is conditioned precisely by their original rootedness in the rise of urbanity. In order to explain the changing aspects of individual relationships with urban life, this chapter will rely on the concept of the flâneur, the stroller or loafer, first introduced tentatively by Charles Baudelaire to represent a type of the modern man in the increasingly more urbanised world. Furthermore, the chapter will also briefly explore the approaches to urban environments as elaborated by the human geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, whose contributions provide a potential theoretical outline of the dark alleys and locations so typical for the topography of the gothic city. In The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (1863), Baudelaire presents the figure of (necessarily male and usually well-to-do) idler, a connoisseur of city streets who, intoxicated with the buzzing urban surroundings, indulges in close and long observation of the crowds of people and their activities. Baudelaire refers to this figure as the man of the crowd, basing the concept on Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 short story with the same title. The man of the crowd is an anonymous watchful observer who initially takes pleasure from the mere practice of observing, which also justifies his idleness: he does not do anything or otherwise take participation in the activities he witnesses on the pretext of getting to know people, their past and present circumstances, by watching them meticulously. In the proneness of his senses to receive the pulse of life in all its variety, the man of the crowd most resembles a child, or a convalescent, who seems to be breathing in the essence of life with great rapture. However, while he may admire life and draw strength from it, the man of the crowd refrains from consuming it: although ravenous, his appetite for living within the crowd remains unsatiated, and the man of the crowd preserves his solitary individuality—his “I”—by denying himself any identification or merging with the “non-I” that appears in the forms of people or the increasing offer of merchandise provided by the growing urban economy.1 The earliest and greatly multifaceted take on Baudelaire’s essayistic description of the flâneur came from Walter Benjamin, who initiated a surge of scholarly interest in the meaning and significance of this figure as exemplary of urban living. The flâneur was, in Benjamin’s sketches collected into the unfinished Arcades Project (1991) and written during the 1930s, still largely tied to Paris, although this connection was merely convenient. The Parisian Arcades, covered passages built in the early nineteenth century as shopping areas, were a distinctive feature of Paris as much as a symbol of modernised trading practices and the mentioned urban economy. In Benjamin’s view, they provided space in which the flâneur could feel at home and where his fascination with the surrounding urban life could acquire a more specific manifestation in the shape of the goods exhibited in the windows of numerous stores under the arcades. Exposed to the rapidly increasing variety of stimuli, the flâneur can no longer preserve his initial detachment or refrain from

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consuming, and the progress of his gradually developing interaction with what the surrounding space offers—the transformation of his “I” into the other, “non-I” entity—takes different directions, two among which bear relevance to any analyses of the urban modern gothic narratives. The first of these is the very obvious and logical growth of the observing flâneur into a detective or investigator. This can even be seen in Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd”, where the narrator is, among other things, able to recognise gamblers in a large crowd of people by the fact that their thumbs are slightly separated from the other fingers.2 Such inductive reasoning is at the root of his observations, and it leads towards making generalisations about people, classifying them in accordance with their profession, status, background, and affinities. The crucial point of the process, as Benjamin notices, is the search for the criminal, with whom the observer/detective becomes inextricably linked. As modern cities grow into urban jungles, with different sorts of predators lurking behind every corner, the idleness of the flâneur in the midst of the entrepreneurial spirit of progress is legitimised primarily through the role of hunter he acquires as he starts to identify and track down criminals. As Benjamin observes in his considerations of Charles Baudelaire as a poet in the era of capitalism, every lead the flâneur follows inevitably takes him to the source of crime.3 There is, however, an ambivalence at the very heart of this statement, which has more recently been critically addressed,4 while it also forms the foundation of numerous contemporary urban horror narratives, including The Midnight Meat Train and Candyman. Namely, if every lead the flâneur follows takes him towards crime, does that imply that he is the perfect detective, never failing to catch the dangerous criminal, or that he himself becomes entangled in the world of crime? The flâneur’s anonymity in the midst of multitudes, which he preserves regardless of his evolution from the initial detached position, also potentially makes him the perfect—untraceable—criminal. Detective fiction depends on the reasonable preservation of this binary opposition, the clear distinction between the detective and the criminal. Still, the similarity between the two does not go unnoticed in the very classics of the genre. Thus, Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem” describes his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty as “the Napoleon of crime”, “the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans”.5

The distinction between the two is stressed by the fact that the ultimate criminal sits motionless, whereas the detective is searching as he walks the streets; most of the other characteristics, however, are the same. The genius thinker, the one that remains undetected/anonymous while letting nothing escape his observation, the connoisseur of the web that urban jungle is woven into, positioned right in its centre, the idler who does little but think and plan—this provides an adequately complementary description of Baudelaire’s man of crowds, but as thinking and planning take a criminal (in the case of Professor Moriarty) or crime-solving turn (in the case of Sherlock Holmes), it becomes clear that detachment is no longer an


T. Parezanović and M. Lukić

option, as the web forces the flâneur to stay inside, leaving him merely with the option of choosing the side he will work for. The gothic sensibility of modern horror, on the other hand, works precisely by shattering the established binary opposition. The aggressive flâneur6 that is the product of the intersection between the gothic/horror genre and the social concept of flânerie functions like a Jekyll/Hyde figure, mirroring at the same time all that is good and progressive and all that is murderously primitive. Detectives/investigators/hunters in both The Midnight Meat Train and Candyman become themselves master criminals while maintaining the original outlook of observant infatuated strollers. The second direction in which the flâneur develops is conditioned by his inability to resist the allure of commodities in the conspicuously more ­consumerism-oriented society. He gradually stops refraining from mere admiration of the exhibited goods and starts consuming them.7 He becomes a buyer, an archetype of the p­ resent-day visitor of the malls, which are merely our contemporary manifestation of Parisian Arcades. What the genre offers as a specific take on this consumer stroller is, however, a bleaker vision of an individual whose appetite can no longer be satisfied by commercial merchandise. Relying on the tradition of serial murderers such as Jack the Ripper, the aggressive flâneur, as the central figure of modern urban gothic narratives, treats people as goods, consuming their lives in acts of sacrifice, vengeance, or preservation of a mystically dark order that operates below the level of city streets. While attempting a reading and an in-depth analysis of the phenomenon of a gothic or dark city, it becomes almost immediately obvious that the analytic approach cannot be limited to the understanding of the subjective experience of the individual characters that are usually either stranded or somehow left to the devices of the harsh, dangerous, and potentially morbid urban surroundings entrapping them. It becomes, in fact, necessary to address its symbolic value achieved through the interaction between actual space—that which can be defined in geographical and topographical terms, and the later emotional inscription done by human beings. More precisely, the gothic city is constructed on the binary relationship between the notions of space and place, where the notion of space once again is defined by the actual topography, an urban project or architecture, while the idea of place, marked by the moment of inscription of meaning and emotions into space, assures countless interpretative opportunities. This theoretical polarity, promoted by numerous human geographers such as Yi-Fu Tuan, Tim Cresswell, and others, allows for an interesting first step in understanding what a (dark) city may look like. Tuan, for example, among different theoretical readings of space, relates the idea of fear as a key characteristic of any larger city, in spite of the logical and obvious initial attempts to create a safe environment. He elaborates on how the cities become disoriented environments, with houses collapsing on their inhabitants, fires breaking out, and heavy traffic threatening the citizens.8 This is amplified, as Tuan continues, by the growth of cities, by the imposed increasing spatial division between the rich and poor population, as well as the increasing crime rate. London in the eighteenth century, for example, was

Dark Urbanity


characterised by ill-lit streets and the reluctance of townspeople to venture outside after dark due to criminals operating boldly in the heart of the city.9 This sensation of fear exalted by the dark urban surroundings becomes additionally emphasised by Tuan in his elaboration of the importance of light in the process of articulating and defining space. In his text, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Tuan presents the evolutionary process of creating a “place” premised on an anthropocentric concept and the organisation of space according to the body of an individual.10 This theoretical concept presents an individual lost within a forest, subjected to the disappearance of any source of light. In that precise moment, the individual becomes utterly lost in a sea of darkness. He or she can move, but the movements are purposeless since they are leading nowhere, while simultaneously being dangerous. It is only after the reappearance of a distant light that a person is able to discern what is in front of his/her body and what is behind, what is on the left side and what is on the right, with the promise of a safe place shining in the distance. This combination of an anthropocentric perception and articulation of space/place, together with the inherently dark and dangerous urban settings offered by most gothic/dark cities, proposes a unique insight into the functioning of this type of spaces. The ominous absence of light characterising these spaces conditions the proposed narratives to have characters placed within various gothic urban narratives that are no longer exclusively exposed to the potential monstrous threat, but instead are imperilled by the surrounding space itself. The simple promise of a potential demise offered by the looming urban surroundings, coupled with the self-perpetuating fear and anxiety amplified by the individual himself, leads to the creation of a very specific kind of narrative construct as well as atmosphere. The specificity of the setting becomes even more relevant with the introduction of the image and concept of the previously analysed flâneur. More precisely it is only with the introduction of the concept of the flâneur that the actual nature of the gothic city gradually, in dependence of the narrative at hand, becomes exposed. Furthermore, it is only through the introduction of this (potentially aggressive) urban stroller that the viewers are allowed to appreciate the initial exposure of a potentially gothic space, as well as its later corruption while transitioning into a gothic place. It is the flâneur, through his human and anthropocentric articulation of space, combined with his specific movement patterns, that provides a unique insight and the possibility to further explore the dark aspects of an urban environment, as well as to metaphorically “consume” (or be consumed by) his findings. Ryûhei Kitamura’s film The Midnight Meat Train could therefore be used as a fitting example through which to observe not only the close connection between the dark city and the flâneur, but also the previously mentioned crucial (de)evolutionary process and final birth of the aggressive flâneur as an active staple within the horror genre. The film’s narrative develops around Leon Kauffman, and his attempts to make it as a photographer. His work, focused almost exclusively on the urban environment of New York City, allows him to roam the streets, connecting and merging with the large crowds, while distantly observing and documenting various life segments and moments, confirming in such a way his almost perfect status of a flâneur. However, the same status prevents him from actually


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interacting with his surroundings. In his use of photography—which, especially as street photography, in addition to journalism provides yet another modern take on flânerie11—he finds a perfect instrument for the urban realities, while attempting to understand what the city really is. When questioned why the city is at the centre of his attention, he simply responds that no one has ever captured it, that no one succeeded in seeing what it really was, what the actual heart of the city looked like. He is therefore situated between the actual status of the flâneur, together with his detachment from the surrounding life and crowds, and his actual need to venture outside of his position of an observer. His photographs consequently remain undetermined, retaining and projecting a sense of uncertainty, and conclusively unable to portray what the city really is. As a gallery owner comments while evaluating Leon’s work, “It’s melodrama, arresting but empty. I want to know what comes next. I want to see the face of the businessman when the filth touches him. The next time you find yourself at the heart of the city stay put, be brave, keep shooting”.12 Consequently, Leon now decides to expand his detached “flâneur-based” behaviour and initiate a more dynamic interaction with his surroundings, transitioning from a romanticised observer of the city into a chronicler of its (darker) realities. This moment is marked by his following of a group of delinquents, who after a night in the city decide to take the subway towards an unknown destination. Leon follows them and soon discovers that instead of taking the train they decided to attack a young girl. Instead of helping the victim, he opts for taking some pictures first, and only after that goes on to directly oppose the assailants. The leader of the group, surprised by the interruption and the fact that he is being photographed, tries to confront Leon, only to be faced with more clicking of the camera and Leon’s question—“Ever starred in a movie before?”,13 while pointing at the surveillance cameras located above them. The assailant decides with the rest of the group to flee, leaving Leon to console the victim. This is a turning point within the narrative, rearticulating the passive flâneur into an active participant through his decision to intervene in the occurrences that are taking place around him. This is confirmed a moment later by the final breaking down of the initially defined construct of the flâneur by Baudelaire and Benjamin when the surveillance camera records his interaction with the assailants. The camera objectively records the events, but also creates a new reality for Leon, now pushed forward and exposed to the dark parallel reality of the city. Although his position as a flâneur has now been transmuted into something else, he still retains his role as an observer. After being praised for his new photographs, Leon is encouraged to continue with his newly discovered approach to observing the city, which in turn leads him towards the last stage of his transition. While walking the streets of New York City one night, he observes a strange figure of an elegantly dressed man. The man leaves the subway, checks his suit, and continues walking, while carrying a leather case, towards an unknown destination. Intrigued by the appearance and behaviour of the figure, Leon starts following him and taking pictures, only to be suddenly stopped by the man himself now aware that he has been followed. During the brief scuffle, Leon notices a strange ring on the man’s finger, a detail that will later on reveal the connection between the death of the

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previously saved young woman and the mysterious dark figure. After more following and some research, Leon discovers the name of the man to be Mahogany, that he lives in a hotel, and that he is employed as a butcher at a local meat processing factory. These details, however, become almost irrelevant with the discovery that Mahogany was the primary suspect for a series of murders which occurred during the past one hundred and fifty years, and Leon, now further intrigued and driven by his desire to discover the metaphoric (and actual) secrets of the city, starts obsessively following Mahogany. The culmination of this obsession occurs when Leon, during one of his stalking expeditions, remains trapped in a subway car within which Mahogany murders and butchers a number of passengers. The earlier analysed relationship between the flâneur and crime emerges again, and Leon is simultaneously horrified with the scene in front of him, and also unable to stop discovering and observing. This exposure of the main character to the darker side of his urban surroundings, to the horrors which are dwelling and taking place in the physical innards of the city, directly affects him, and the flâneur is now exposed to yet another change. The initially established dynamic of the flâneur—the follower/observer and the followed, of the curious stroller attracted to crime, disappears, or more precisely becomes inverted. Now aware of his stalker, it is Mahogany who starts following Leon, observing him together with his friends and girlfriend. The final climactic confrontation, in accordance with the customs of the genre, shows Leon trying to stop the monster. Dressed almost exactly like Mahogany, wearing a metal apron, and equipped with hooks and knives taken from Mahogany’s workplace, he enters the same subway wagon as the previous night, only to find his girlfriend trapped, as well as Mahogany waiting for him. Their visual resemblance emphasises once again the inverted and now mixed roles, accentuated even more by their violent physical confrontation, further blurring their distinctions. The end of their confrontation, and their metaphoric unification, occurs almost ritualistically, with Leon killing Mahogany, and Mahogany’s haunting last words “Welcome”.14 The main character is now exposed to the final reality of the city he was exploring. By questioning the conductor of the train, he discovers that at the heart of the city there is an underground world inhabited by creatures that thrive on human flesh. Mahogany’s job was to act as a butcher and provider for these creatures whose existence preceded even humanity itself, a position that now belongs to Leon. The ending, although conforming to gothic and horror narrative traditions, points out the successful completion of the flâneur’s exploration. Leon Kauffman starts as a simple stroller, an observer of the emotionally void space(s) of the city, which reflects on his objective but emotionally barren photography. It is only through his need to push forward and explore the city much deeper, to become involved with its individuals and its (violent) dynamics, that he discovers and accepts his own attraction to what is actually beneath the city’s surface. By doing so, by inscribing emotions into the surrounding urban space, he discovers a different city, a place of death and darkness, a place within which the flâneur’s actual, and until then suppressed, desires can be realised.


T. Parezanović and M. Lukić

In one of the early scenes of Candyman, Trevor Lyle, a University of Illinois professor and husband of the protagonist Helen, ends his lecture on urban legends with the following words: “these stories are modern oral folklore… they are the unselfconscious reflection of the fears of urban society”.15 The film focuses on one such urban legend—the story of Candyman, a talented artist and well-educated son of a slave who by the end of the nineteenth century had become a prosperous man with a successful business. However, Candyman—who remains anonymous despite the familiar background story—committed the one offence against social order that an African-American must never make: he fell in love and conceived a child with a white woman. The retribution was prompt and savage: his hand was sawed off, honey poured over him and his body left to the mercy of bees; finally, his dead body was burnt on a pyre. Urban legend has it that, a century later, he still appears to people who pronounce his name five times looking in the mirror; the apparition is anything but ethereal because those who dare invoke him face immediate brutal death as Candyman slaughters them with the hook that stands in place of his lost hand. The Candyman story most certainly is a reflection of the fear of retribution that the modern society might feel due to the bloody history it was built upon—the history of lynching in this particular case. Although rarely made explicit, this fear is omnipresent and forms the dark side of the urban progress of the twentieth-century American society. This is a motif stressed visually at the very beginning of Candyman: as the busy expressways in Chicago give way to the skyline filled with high-rises, thus stressing the architecture of urbanity, what appears to be an immense swarm of bees starts gradually looming behind the buildings, a tenebrous cloud made up of the sins and dreads of civilisation. In a method similar to that applied to The Midnight Meat Train analysis, the workings of the dark side of urbanity can in this case also be observed through the concept of flânerie, which is in Rose’s film given a fresh innovative perspective. The story of Candyman comes into the focus of Helen Lyle, a graduate student working on a thesis on urban legends. This position establishes Helen immediately as a flâneur type, although perhaps an uncommon one for the simple fact that she is a woman. The positioning is made based on several of Benjamin’s notes in the Arcades Project and Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, some of them already referred to. For instance, she is intoxicated with the mystery of the story she explores, and she is indeed led straight towards crime whichever route she takes. Research of digital databases does not suffice for Helen; in order to write a groundbreaking thesis, she considers it necessary to actually visit some of the legendary locations of Cabrini Green, the housing project over which Candyman’s ashes were scattered, now the site of some gruesome murders attributed to him and a ghetto quarter cut off from the “respectable” parts of the city, where Helen’s friend and fellow student Bernadette would not even drive past as “the gangs hold this whole neighbourhood hostage”.16 As the film progresses, brutal crimes indeed appear wherever Helen finds herself as either the victim or the (still unrevealed) perpetrator. These include her being beaten up by a gang in a men’s toilet on Cabrini Green, as well as her sudden waking up in Anne-Marie’s apartment after the encounter with Candyman, all

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covered in blood. Flâneurial intoxication is clearly evident in numerous scenes which feature Helen’s eyes in close-up, accompanied usually with Philip Glass’s “Helen’s Theme”, but is perhaps the most evident when she first spots the mural of Candyman in the apartment of the murdered woman on Cabrini Green, or when she first sees the “real” Candyman in the University parking area. Helen experiences vertigo and what appears to be a strong headache in both cases marks the fact that what intoxicates her also starts absorbing her entirely. It is, additionally, clear that this intoxication is, in Benjamin’s words, anamnestic, imbued with a recollection of the (collective) past.17 It is a trademark of the flâneur that every street leads him not solely towards crime but into the past as well. The layers of history and collective memory, which is in Candyman well represented through urban legends, unfold before the flâneur’s steps and hold him under the spell.18 It is, as has been mentioned, necessarily him that in traditional critical and historical approaches assumes the role of the urban stroller. Scholars have largely denied the possibility of the existence of a woman flâneur, or flâneuse—the term that would have, as noted in a recent study by Lauren Elkin,19 embodied the female spirit of idle strolling had it ever been used in any context similar to the one in which the masculine form appears. Women who had any connections with the open spaces of the city were usually, even in the period of rising modernity, portrayed as streetwalkers, prostitutes who can perhaps only be observed as commodity on offer in one particular branch of the market. Within the structure of gendered space, women’s respectability relied upon their relegation to the confines of their home and, possibly, ladies’ lunch clubs, or, in the event of the ­working-class women, their place of work.20 Women were not supposed to loaf about the streets, and even those who unfortunately did, the streetwalkers, were not to follow anyone but rather attract attention and be followed. (We might at this point evoke yet again the narrative of Jack the Ripper and its various forms, such as the one given by Alan Moore in From Hell: prostitutes are reduced merely to those elements of the streets that the stroller might take interest in. In gothic narratives such as this one, they might only evolve inasmuch as they take on the role of the hunted, the victim.) In other words, the dialectic of flânerie (in the phrasing of Walter Benjamin)21 could not have applied to women. The follower and the followed, the observer and the observed, the viewed by all and the hidden—these descriptors always refer to a man. Introducing a woman in this role is an emancipatory contribution of Candyman, but gender in the case of the present narrative does not serve to postulate the idea of the flâneuse as generically different from the flâneur (as Lauren Elkin emphasises in Flâneuse, speaking of a figure inspired and formed in its own right). Instead, it serves to stress the liminal position, or the instability, of the stroller.22 The stroller is an individual in the state of liminality, not quite belonging to the wealthy classes he (or she) originates from because he is overly infatuated with life on the streets, yet not completely becoming part of the street life as he refrains from taking active participation in it. Similar liminality is inherent in the position of Helen Lyle and subtly stressed throughout the film. As an aspiring scholar and simultaneously a university professor’s wife, she finds it difficult to build a career in a world largely dominated by men (of this world,


T. Parezanović and M. Lukić

the viewer is given a glimpse through two of Trevor’s colleagues, whose smug intellectualism appears to bear no tolerance for women scholars intruding upon their areas of interest) and preserve her marriage in the face of young admiring female students with whom her husband inevitably interacts. Between these two places, her home and the university, Helen is in fact placeless, and this is brought to clear focus by the end of the film when, her apartment being now occupied by Trevor’s student lover Stacey, she has nowhere to go and can find her sole retreat in Candyman’s den. We might take this to be the turn given by Candyman to the possibility of the flâneuse: she is not anonymous—Helen’s identity and name are all too well established in the narrative,23 unlike those of Candyman—but atopos, and it is her placelessness (made explicit at the end but hinted at throughout the film through the liminal position she occupies) that inspires the horror she comes to experience through the Candyman story. The position of Candyman is, according to the canonised story of his historical background, initially also that of a flâneur type, like Helen. His flâneurial impulse is artistic: as Professor Philip Purcell clearly emphasises in his account given to Helen, Candyman “had a prodigious talent as an artist”,24 documenting and capturing the lives of the wealthy upper classes in portraits (similarly to Helen, who in reverse captures the lives of the poor in photographs, but also not unlike Leon Kauffman, the artist of The Midnight Meat Train). As an artist, he is at first detached from the subjects of his paintings, but his involvement with the world he observes begins with the romance with a wealthy landowner’s daughter whose portrait he is commissioned to paint. The liminal position of such a person is quite obvious: his education and talent make him appear out of place in his surroundings, but, being a black man, he cannot find any place within the white-dominated society. It is precisely at the moment when their placelessness becomes irremediable that both Helen and Candyman become part of the oral folklore, which, in the quoted words of her husband, reflects the fears of urban society. A black man and a white woman are perhaps the two types most prone to the representation of liminality in such a society. However, the initial structuring provided by the film narrative makes a clear distinction between the two, developing the artist flâneur Candyman into a serial, albeit imaginary, murderer, and the researcher flâneur Helen into a detective who aims to expose the past and hunt down whichever murderer has taken on Candyman’s identity. It is through a series of structurally significant scenes that a parallel and, finally, identification between the two of them is established, and this process relies entirely on the aspects of urban spatiality. A closer look into one of the early scenes might be useful in order to explain the spatially based parallelism between Helen and Candyman. As she embarks on her research of the urban legend, Helen realises that the condominium in which her pricey apartment is located, Lincoln Village, was initially built as a housing project to accommodate the poor, just like Cabrini Green. Once it was built, the city authorities discovered that there was no barrier between Lincoln Village and the rich historic Gold Coast—nothing to keep the “ugly” urban landscape of poverty and crime away from the sensitive eyes of the upper classes

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(Cabrini Green is, on the other hand, separated by a highway)—so they decided to adapt the apartments slightly and turn the project into a fanciful apartment block. While the structural difference between the two clearly delineated places is striking, with all the social and class associations it bears, they are essentially the same. Once a careful observer moves beyond the surface level (graffiti-­covered vs. whitewashed corridor walls, for example), it transpires that the layout of apartments in both blocks is identical. It is this spatial experience of the sameness that allows both Helen and Candyman to move freely around places from which they are otherwise socially isolated. Whenever Helen visits Cabrini Green, she repeats to anyone she meets that she is not a cop. Pretending to be one would suit her fine to put the guise of a detective over her stroller’s curiosity; however, she seems to feel at home where she is. The easiness with which she manages to orient herself in the apparently “non-I” surroundings of Cabrini Green anticipates her subsequent identification with Candyman, through which the narrative sustains the Jekyll/Hyde metaphor of urban living. The progress of this identification is easy to follow. Helen first calls Candyman’s name five times in front of the mirror—something which, as she has learnt from her interviews with different people, no one ever dares to do. The next step leads her literally inside the bowels of Candyman. Just as the street, once covered with arcades, comes to be experienced as the interior by the flâneur,25 so does the dilapidated Cabrini Green apartment of a murdered woman give way to recesses that are perceived by Helen (and visually represented) as the interior of Candyman—whether man or story. As she explores these dark insides, the camera pictures her going through a hole in the wall; the wall is covered with a mural showing Candyman’s face, and the hole stands in the place of the gaping mouth— passing through it, Helen symbolically leaves his body, and the overwhelming intoxication she experiences now acquires the value not of a simple stroller’s fascination with the surroundings but of the looming knowledge of the imminent destiny her strolling would meet. Finally, the identification process is completed when Candyman meets Helen in the parking area, explaining that he has come for her. He is himself casually striding across the university premises—the space not unknown or forbidden to him, but through the newly forged interaction turned into the space he now consumes by taking Helen away. The focus is, however, on her: the scene narratively marks her final transformation into an aggressive flâneur, or rather flâneuse, who would, albeit unknowingly, commit a series of murders. Her evolution now follows a clear line from a detached researcher, through voyeuristic photographer and amateur detective, to violent killer—and this is not the end of her path. If anything, the image of the nineteenth-century flâneur came to be, primarily through Benjamin’s sketches, prone to different kinds of inscriptions and interpretations, a liminally open concept onto which, depending on the social and historical context, different ideas have been superposed. His image has thus become part of the lore of modernity, and the same happens to Helen as she in the end sees her face painted on a wall on Cabrini Green, accompanied by the words “It was always you, Helen”.26 She becomes part of modern oral folklore, shedding off the individuality which might have been inscribed with different models

T. Parezanović and M. Lukić


(of a mother and housewife, or a university lecturer), but which was instead, in the specific context of the 1980s-rising tide of urbanisation, taken over by the dark forces lurking beneath the construction of the city. Conclusively, it could be proposed that gothic or dark cities cannot exist without the complex narrative and phenomenological structures that lurk beneath their urbanised and apparently calm surfaces. Although different narrative cases can be approached in different ways, such as for example the role and function of the flâneur within the context of a city, the idea of the nature of a dark urban setting relies strongly on its symbolic structures, on the mythical constructs surrounding it. By starting with Walter Benjamin’s and Charles Baudelaire’s notion of the flâneur, and then moving on towards Poe, Doyle, or any of the contemporary incarnations of the stroller, a clear evolutionary line can be traced. Starting with a progressively more inquisitive approach to flâneurism, to the indulgence of interest towards crime and the interaction with the criminals themselves, the flâneur acquires unprecedented qualities, both as a theoretical construct as well as a, now active, character within a narrative. This progression of interests and dynamics is not however limited to the character himself or herself. It is in fact the nature of the flâneur, and his interactivity with the urban surroundings, that allows for the proper articulation of a dark urban setting. It is the flâneur that locates and observes the darkness in a city, and it is once again through his (de)evolution and acceptance of criminal and violent behaviour that this hidden urban darkness perpetuates itself over and over again. Such a polarity which progressively becomes a unity allows for the (aggressive) flâneur to function within the gothic and horror genre as a gradual explorer of dark spaces, which he critically assesses, only to give in to his or her fascinations, desires, or simply nature. The consequence is the discovery and further articulation of a very specific type of place, a dark and foreboding urban backdrop set as an (im)perfect reflection of our own realities.


1. Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, trans. and ed. Jonathan Mayne (London and New York: Phaedon Press, 1964), 7–9. 2. Edgar Allan Poe, The Portable Edgar Allan Poe, ed. J. Gerald Kennedy (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 231. 3. “[N]o matter what trail the flâneur may follow, every one of them will lead him to a crime.” Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, trans. Harry Zohn (London: Verso, 1985), 41. 4. Tom McDonough, “The Crimes of the Flâneur,” October, no. 102 (Autumn 2002): 101–122. 5. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Penguin Classics: New York, 2001), loc. 8998. 6. Marko Lukić and Tijana Parezanović, “Strolling Through Hell—The Birth of the Aggressive Flâneur,” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 7, no. 4 (2016): 322–333. 7. “The flâneur’s disregard of the commercial has itself become utopian. This disdain puts him outside the bourgeois pale, a deviant within the larger utilitarian model of society.

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Not even the artist – especially not the artist – can keep the commercial at a safe distance.” Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, “The Flâneur On and Off the Streets of Paris,” in The Flâneur, ed. Keith Tester (London and New York: Routledge, 2015), 33–34. 8. “[T]he city itself becomes a disorienting physical environment in which tenement houses collapse on their inhabitants, fires break out, and heavy traffic threatens life and limb.” Yi-Fu Tuan, Landscapes of Fear (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 146. 9. Ibid., 160–161. 10. Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 36. 11. The development of the idle stroller into a street photographer, with all the voyeuristic implications it bears, has been developed by Susan Sontag: “photography first comes into its own as an extension of the eye of the middle-class flâneur, whose sensibility was so accurately charted by Baudelaire. The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. … The flâneur is not attracted to the city’s official realities but to its dark seamy corners, its neglected populations—an unofficial reality behind the façade of bourgeois life that the photographer ‘apprehends,’ as a detective apprehends a criminal.” Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: RosettaBooks, 2005), 42–43. 12. Ryûhei Kitamura dir., The Midnight Meat Train (2008). 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid. 15. Bernard Rose dir., Candyman (1992). 16. Ibid. 17. “That anamnestic intoxication in which the flâneur goes about the city not only feeds on the sensory data taking shape before his eyes but often possesses itself of abstract knowledge – indeed, of dead facts – as something experienced and lived through.” Walter Benjamin, Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1991), 417. 18. “The street conducts the flâneur into a vanished time. For him, every street is precipitous. It leads downward – if not to the mythical Mothers, then into a past that can be all the more spellbinding because it is not his own, not private.” Benjamin, Arcades, 416. 19. Lauren Elkin, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017). 20. This refers in particular to the canonical artistic and novelistic representations of women, as well as socially conditioned women’s own representations of women. See, for example, Griselda Pollock’s chapter on “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity,” in Vision and Difference: Feminism, Femininity and the Histories of Art, ed. Griselda Pollock (London and New York: Routledge, 1988), 70–127. 21. “Dialectic of flânerie: on one side, the man who feels himself viewed by all and sundry as a true suspect and, on the other side, the man who is utterly undiscoverable, the hidden man. Presumably, it is this dialectic that is developed in ‘The Man of the Crowd.’” Benjamin, Arcades, 420. 22. “Both surveyor and surveyed, the flâneur is an unstable figure, a beguiling but empty vessel, a blank canvas onto which different eras have projected their own desires and anxieties. He appears when and how we want him to.” Elkin, Flâneuse, loc. 204. 23. According to Lauren Elkin, “[t]he argument against the flâneuse sometimes has to do with questions of visibility” because women are, while made historically invisible, still excessively conspicuous when they do appear in the context of the city. As Elkin states, “[w]e would love to be invisible the way a man is. We’re not the ones who make ourselves visible, … in terms of the stir a woman alone in public can create; it’s the gaze of the flâneur that makes the woman who would join their ranks too visible to slip by unnoticed.” Elkin, Flâneuse, loc. 244.

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24. Bernard Rose dir., Candyman (1992). 25. Walter Benjamin stresses this repeatedly in the Arcades Project. For example, “[m]ore than anywhere else, the street reveals itself in the arcade as the furnished and familiar interior of the masses.” Benjamin, Arcades, 423. 26. Bernard Rose dir., Candyman (1992).

Bibliography Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Translated and edited by Jonathan Mayne. London and New York: Phaedon Press, 1964. Benjamin, Walter. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. Translated by Harry Zohn. London: Verso, 1985. Benjamin, Walter. Arcades Project. Translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1991. Conan Doyle, Arthur. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Penguin Classics, 2001. Elkin, Lauren. Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. Lukić, Marko, and Tijana Parezanović. “Strolling Through Hell—The Birth of the Aggressive Flâneur.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 7, no. 4 (2016): 322–333. McDonough, Tom. “The Crimes of the Flâneur.” October, no. 102 (Autumn 2002): 101–122. Parkhurst Ferguson, Priscilla. “The Flâneur On and Off the Streets of Paris.” In The Flâneur, edited by Keith Tester, 22–42. London and New York: Routledge, 2015. Poe, Edgar Allan. The Portable Edgar Allan Poe. Edited by J. Gerald Kennedy. New York: Penguin Books, 2006. Pollock, Griselda. “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity.” In Vision and Difference: Feminism, Femininity and the Histories of Art. London and New York: Routledge, 1988. Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: RosettaBooks, 2005. Tuan, Yi-Fu: Landscapes of Fear. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.

Filmography Candyman. Directed by Rose Bernard. TriStar Pictures, 1992. The Midnight Meat Train. Directed by Kitamura Ryûhei. Lionsgate, 2008.

Contemporary Australian Trauma Jessica Gildersleeve

As a nation haunted by the spectres of its colonial past—or, indeed, its colonial present—Australia has for decades looked to the Gothic as a genre capable of grappling with its complexities. Precisely because of this fraught historical context, it would not be an overstatement to say that the Australian Gothic is dominated by a discourse of trauma. Indeed, it is through trauma, both Steven Bruhm and Jerrold E. Hogle have argued, that the Gothic is best understood: ‘the Gothic itself is a narrative of trauma’, argues Bruhm.1 To be sure, the Gothic as it appears in Australia has always been concerned with the representation of national and cultural anxieties.2 In the nineteenth century and the early parts of the twentieth century, when Australia was still developing a sense of its global and historical position, these were most often expressed as anxieties about any kind of a homogenous or independent national identity. While these themes do remain present in the contemporary Australian Gothic, in the later parts of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, however, these concerns are primarily to do with a sense of shame or guilt about the consequences of Australia’s colonial origins as well as the significance of its early mythologies, such as the Australian Legend. In this way, it can be seen that it is not the topic which has altered in contemporary Australian Gothic, as opposed to earlier gothic narratives of the emerging nation. Rather, it is the attitude to those topics which changes, and which reveals contemporary concerns about the traumas of Australia’s colonial past and their ongoing effects in the present. Thus, in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Australian gothic literature and film has become a site for political resistance and for social and cultural disruption. This can be seen in the key themes which remain consistent in the genre over this time, as well as in a range of key contexts for the Australian representation of the Gothic. This chapter will explore these themes and contexts, demonstrating their dependence on a discourse of trauma (and its association with guilt, shame, anxiety). It begins with a discussion of cinema and

J. Gildersleeve (*)  University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



J. Gildersleeve

its adaptations in the 1970s and beyond as a significant site of the Gothic in the Australian imagination: in the visual medium the broad and terrifying expanse of the Australian landscape and its strange inhabitants are brought to the fore. Drawing on the notion of a collective ‘villain’ or site of fear in these works, the chapter then moves to an exploration of the female Gothic, from its mid-century conceptualisation of women’s isolation and entrapment, to its more visceral and psychological representation in contemporary literature. The nation’s historical traumas are then examined in detail with a focus on the term ‘Gothic’ for understanding work by Aboriginal authors in this context. Finally, the chapter turns to narratives which consider the relationship between Australia and Europe as Gothic in a return to the genre’s origins and the refusal of resolution which is repeatedly posited in these examples of the contemporary Australian Gothic. As such, the chapter aims to demonstrate the ways in which the Gothic is particularly suited as a structural representation of trauma and oppression in Australia’s fraught historical and social context. Since the ‘New Wave’ of Australian cinema in the early 1970s, film has been one of the most prominent forms the Gothic has taken in Australia. More than this, these examples of gothic cinema are frequently adaptations of earlier novels, establishing a clear link—even dialogue—between Australian gothic literature and film. Indeed, in its focus on themes of oppression, violence and isolation, those critical themes of the Gothic, the history of Australian cinema is also predominantly a history of Australian gothic cinema; Jonathan Rayner even begins his study of contemporary Australian cinema with a chapter on the Australian Gothic.3 Indeed, this tendency towards adaptation (or mutation) in the Australian gothic film also suggests the desire to return to and rework the past, whether that is the colonial past or a later history. Wake in Fright and Picnic at Hanging Rock have remarkably similar journeys as narratives for public consumption. Both were published as novels in the 1960s (the former in 1961, the latter in 1967), both were adapted to film in the renaissance of Australian cinema in the 1970s (1971 and 1975, respectively), and both were recently adapted again for television (2017 and 2018). Wake in Fright and Picnic at Hanging Rock thus appear as haunting in their irresolution and their insistence on return. Both films take the eeriness and isolation of the Australian landscape as a source of fear. The unwelcoming expanse of the desert is established in the opening shot of Wake in Fright, a 360-degree panorama of empty plains, shimmering in the heat, interrupted only by the small hotel and schoolhouse, and the ghastly stretch of the railway into the distance. Indeed, the implicit association between this landscape and horror is attested to by the title under which the film was released in the United Kingdom and the United States: simply, Outback. It is a space from which schoolteacher John Grant is only too keen to escape as he begins his days-long journey back to the civilisation of Sydney and the woman he hopes to marry. That emptiness is quickly contrasted with the claustrophobia of John’s effective imprisonment in the small town of Bundanyabba, where he becomes trapped after losing his entire savings in a game of ‘Two-Up’, and the cloistering ‘hospitality’ of the locals, whose persistent invitations to share a beer

Contemporary Australian Trauma


and queries of John, ‘where ya gunna go?’ become horrific in their repetition and the impossibility of refusal. Like Jonathan in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), John is first seduced and then repulsed by this hospitality and, also like Jonathan, finds it impossible to escape: each time he attempts to leave the town he is returned in a horrific cycle of uncanny repetition and nightmarish regression. For Rayner, the hard-drinking, roo-shooting, gambling locals of ‘The Yabba’ signify the dark Other of stereotypical Australian masculinity.4 In this way, Wake in Fright might be seen to represent a national anxiety about the consequences of upholding such an identity and the chaos of its free rein outside the civilisation of the urban centres on Australia’s coast. However, it is not the land or even the township and its inhabitants which are ultimately the source of violence or horror. Rather, it is John himself, the ostensible locus of civilisation, who is the true monster: the horror at the heart of Wake in Fright is in John’s unknown capacity for terrible actions, such as the strange figure he shoots under cover of darkness and the influence of drugs and alcohol, and which is never explained. Under the conditions of the narrative’s uncanny returns, at the film’s end John is returned to the school, his threatening self now dormant but not destroyed. The threat has not been dealt with, the narrative suggests; rather, John’s acceptance of a beer (when on his trip out he had only drunk water) indicates his transformation into a monstrous Other. Picnic at Hanging Rock differs from Wake in Fright in its self-conscious construction of artistry: it is a period film (set in 1900), aimed in part at establishing the serious intellectualism of Australian cinema at the time. Yet, it is a gothic narrative nonetheless, thereby making clear the genre’s interactions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. On Valentine’s Day, 1900, two schoolgirls and their teacher vanish while picnicking at the eponymous ‘hanging rock’. It therefore belongs to the ‘lost child’ subgenre of the Australian Gothic, a grouping of texts which speak to the terrifying nature of the New World and its strange sounds, animals and landscape. Where Wake in Fright derives part of its horror from the empty expanse of the desert, however, Picnic’s gothic landscape is constructed by the thick bush scrub, so difficult to read and to navigate for the European colonisers, as well as the strangeness of the rock itself, rising from the bush and marked by crevasses and steep drops. The film is marked by its eerie soundscape, the slow and otherworldly music of panpipes, combined with an effect director Peter Weir created by slowing down the sound of earthquakes.5 The otherworldly effect is completed by the girls’ spectral costuming: all dressed in white, and speaking very little, they float across the screen and disappear all too quickly. The film thus establishes a haunting sense of the ineffable that is underscored by its narrative irresolution. Two of the girls and their teacher are never found, and no explanation is provided. Yet, that the rock is also suggested to be a site for Aboriginal spirituality positions Picnic as a narrative which, like the Australian Gothic of the nineteenth century, sees the nation’s Indigenous people as Other, mysterious and unknowable, exploiting them for the purpose of a gothic fear of the foreign. The consequences of this for the gothic genre will be returned to later. Perhaps one of the most popular Australian horror films of the twenty-first century, Wolf Creek (2005) also draws on aspects of Australia’s landscape to inform


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its production of fear: the film is named for the site of a meteor crater, a natural wonder in the middle of the desert to which three backpackers travel. Here, in a nod to the establishment of the Australian Gothic in Picnic, their watches mysteriously stop and their car breaks down. The film thus sets up the viewer to expect a narrative of disappearance, as in the earlier work. While it does uphold that expectation in some respects (the bodies of the two female backpackers are never found), Wolf Creek abruptly disrupts those certainties in its explicit representations of horrific violence. In a similar way, the film disturbs our expectations in its casting of John Jarrett in the role of the murderous villain. At the time, Jarrett was best known for his work on the lifestyle television programme, Better Homes and Gardens, which he co-hosted with his then-wife Noni Hazlehurst, herself primarily associated with her long-time role on the children’s television programme, Play School. Jarrett (and Hazlehurst) had come to represent the figuration of domestic comfort and inoffensive family programming. For Jarrett to transform so entirely constituted an uncanny turn which produced for the viewer a shock similar to that experienced by the characters, as the jovial outback stranger turns into the perpetrator of nightmarish horror. It is true, then, that Wolf Creek should be seen as an originating work in the ‘torture porn’ genre of horror cinema.6 However, the way in which the film constructs this in direct connection to expectations established by an understanding of the Australian Gothic as well as the ways in which these constitute a direct response to the familiarity of everyday life should not be overlooked. In a similar way, the Australian gothic tradition possesses a strong thread of what may be termed the ‘female Gothic’: the adoption of the Gothic to signify the structural oppression at work in gender power relations. For example, the work of Elizabeth Harrower and Thea Astley, both of whom are primarily seen as part of an Australian modernist tradition, can also be identified as adopting features of the Gothic in order to facilitate their feminist critiques of Australian culture and its construction of national identity. Astley’s work has often been compared to the Southern Gothic, particularly for its regional focus and its interest in the stranger or outsider.7 Perhaps its most striking affinity to this genre, however, is in its representation of the quiet abuses conducted behind closed doors, and thus the gothic structures of domestic life. In her first novel, Girl with a Monkey (1958), for example, the accusation of monstrosity is ambiguous, teetering between ‘unkind’ Elsie and her ‘monkey’, her abusive and threatening lover, Harry. Just as in Wake in Fright the heat and dust of the desert had been used to signify John’s claustrophobic imprisonment, so too Girl’s setting in the tropics establishes a stifling humidity which mimics Harry’s stalking of Elsie as she prepares to escape the small town. However, its implicit critique of Elsie’s snobbishness towards the working-class Harry complicates our conceptualisation of the gothic villain and victim. Harrower’s novels of the 1950s and 1960s explore similar themes and, like Astley, she links these to a critique of Australian masculinity and its dependence on concepts of class and wealth. Thus, The Watchtower (1966), is often cited as a gothic representation of the Bluebeard narrative, in which the selfish and controlling Felix traps his wife and her sister in the beautiful birdcage of his Sydney

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home. However, the psychological torture represented in The Watchtower is figured in more subtle ways in Harrower’s first novel, Down in the City (1957). It also depicts the gothic nature of an insidious unkindness at work in a seemingly ordinary marriage, and as in Astley’s novel, it depicts the ways in which this is informed by Stan’s self-consciousness about the class distinction between him and his wife, Esther.8 Importantly, however, the novel shifts the focus of the Australian Gothic from the outback to the urban centre of Sydney, although the uncanniness of the Australian landscape is still pervasive: ‘At the entrance to the suburban cricket ground grows a weird grey tree, ghostly grey and leafless; its flowers carve a scarlet arc across the sky. A coral tree, stark and glorious’.9 Even though Stan is not as deliberately violent or oppressive as Felix, he is perhaps more frightening. Thus, Harrower exposes the gothic discourse of everyday relationships between men and women in mid-century. That Esther’s final words are a greeting to Stan confirms her imprisonment in these structures. Elizabeth Jolley’s The Well (1987) is perhaps one of the most prominent examples of the female Gothic in Australia. Whereas Astley and Harrower’s works depicted the oppression of women by men, Jolley’s novel describes women’s complicity in their oppression of one another. Lonely Hester unofficially adopts the impressionable Katherine, treating her more as a doll than as a child or even a sister, friend or lover.10 However, one night while driving home the two women hit a mysterious object. The object or creature is never revealed to the reader, and Hester deposits it into the well, but when the women arrive home Hester tells Katherine that there is money missing, so the creature they hit must have been an escaping burglar. The ‘man’ in the well comes to divide the women, as Katherine claims she is regularly speaking with him, that he wants to marry her, and pleads with Hester to free him. The well itself and the mystery it houses thus clearly constitute a site of gothic repression; these can be seen as both individual and collective anxieties about women, their sexuality, and the structures of authority which manage them and in which they participate.11 Indeed, it is in this way that Hester might be understood as not only the villain but the constructor or author of this gothic narrative, demonstrated among the novel’s closing scenes in Hester’s memory of her childhood loss of a favourite doll. In this primal scene of loss, Hester accompanies her father to visit a friend. Playing alone in the shed, she discovers an old toy pram and attempts to use it to ferry her doll, but its lack of ‘covers or pillow’ mean that the doll ‘slip[s] down into the deep well of the pram in a most awkward way’ and becomes ‘wedged somehow’. The doll cannot be rescued: She poked at the small round head of the doll marking and scratching, without meaning to, the sleek shining paint which the doll had for hair. Not wanting to tell anyone, she had pushed the pram back into the shed upset by the offended and hurt look the doll seemed to have on its red-cheeked face.12

The memory is striking for the way in which it figures Hester’s repression of her guilt and what might be seen as a kind of maternal failure. The loss, damage and hiding of the doll thus act as precursors to her injury of the mysterious figure and her covering up of this act. That the memory makes specific use of the term ‘well’ to indicate the space in which the doll is trapped only confirms the association, but


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it is critical to note Hester’s insistence on her lack of blame: the doll slips because the pram does ‘not have any covers or pillow’, she does not ‘mean’ to scratch its head, and she deliberately avoids such an accusation by returning the pram to its dark place in the shed. The description of the doll’s ‘small round head’ with its ‘sleek shining paint’ also recalls the image, just a few pages earlier, of her seeing in the well the mysterious ‘man’s head which, because of being drenched, was small, sleeked and rounded’.13 Hester’s horror at this sight of the man attempting to emerge from the well is in this way shown not simply to be a fear of his revenge or retribution, but more precisely a fear of being found out, of that which she has attempted to repress literally coming to light. Ultimately, Hester permits the well to be closed by a well-meaning neighbour, and thus absolves herself of this inevitably murderous act. That she then converts the experience to a story to be told to some local children suggests her attempt to place it firmly in the realm of the fictional, but the fact that she is the teller (or author) of the scary story for which the children clamour implies a responsibility or guilt which Hester unconsciously recognises. It is on this gothic uncertainty that the novel concludes, with Hester’s threat uncontained. Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things (2015) and Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident (2016), both nominated for the Stella Prize (in 2016 and 2017, respectively), Australia’s premier women’s writing prize, constitute more contemporary examples of the female Gothic. Maguire’s An Isolated Incident is in many ways a typical example of contemporary crime fiction or the thriller, focused on the murder of a young woman in a country town. Like Wake in Fright and Picnic at Hanging Rock, it also calls up the traditional Australian gothic trope of the small outback town as a site of danger. Yet, in its cultural comment on the structural violence which accompanies this individual act, An Isolated Incident also constitutes a contemporary form of the female Gothic in Australia. Indeed, the novel presents an explicit critique of the solution proffered by the crime narrative: the arrest and punishment of the perpetrator. ‘I know it’s how it has to go’, says journalist May Norman, one of the novel’s protagonists; Finish with a last memory of the pretty dead girl and the sound of the jail door slamming shut on the monster who killed her and everyone can feel like the world has been set to rights. … All that’s ended is one man’s freedom to hurt people. Bella’s death isn’t fixed and neither is the world that she died in. The idea that locking up one man could do that, could make everything okay … that’s bullshit.14

Instead, An Isolated Incident emphasises the female friendship and community forged between May and Chris, Bella’s sister, and their determination to seek justice, not just for Bella, but for all of the women suffering under the violence and oppression of this global female gothic narrative. Wood’s novel describes a strange dystopia which takes Maguire’s concerns much further. Several young women awaken to find themselves literally cast out, made Other, as they are imprisoned in an isolated compound, somewhere in the harsh Australian bush, apparently for speaking out about sexual offences committed against them (a gang rape involving a high-profile football player, and an affair with a prominent politician, for example). Wood based the narrative on the true

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story of the Hay Institution for Girls, a ruthless prison designed to punish girls deemed too ‘wayward’ even for the Parramatta Girls’ Home from which they were taken.15 That the novel takes place in an unidentified time, as well as the prison’s administrative title, ‘Phaedra’, suggests that this is a simultaneous past, present and future in which this structural form of the female Gothic is always already happening.16 In their old-fashioned prison dress and the obvious association of the ‘madwoman’ locked in an asylum, the girls’ fate not only recalls the gothic narratives of the past, but perhaps more frighteningly, the inherently gothic ‘management’ of women over centuries. The women are immediately reduced to animals, kept in cells described as ‘kennels’, shorn of their hair, and sent ‘sprawling, exactly as a sheep would totter down a slatted chute into the shocking light and shit and terror of the sheep yard’.17 Yet it is ultimately in the animal that some of the women find safety: when the prison finally collapses and the women think they are to be freed, it is only Yolanda and Verla who realise their manipulation through gifted packages of expensive cosmetics. While the other women are distracted by these material markers of femininity, and thus the milder forms of entrapment in which they have always participated, both Yolanda and Verla escape through their imaginative or magical transformation into animals: a rabbit and a trout. That these metamorphoses are both signified by animals introduced to Australia (rather than native to it), and which are considered pests to the natural environment, complicates this escape of sorts, for it refuses to position Yolanda, Verla and their fellow prisoners as simply small, innocent, victims—cute, furry rabbits caught in a trap. Rather, their out-of-placeness in the bush environment which they will now inhabit constitutes an environmental disruption with its own potentially gothic consequences. Wood thus puts the Gothic to work as a mode for understanding not only the structural abuses bound to gender, but also the ways in which these extend to the colonial impacts of white Europeans on Australia and its First Peoples. Australia’s colonial history is perhaps the richest theme of the nation’s contemporary Gothic, underscoring the way in which this genre is particularly well suited to an understanding of national identity in the past, present and future. Indeed, for Bruhm, it is precisely for the way in which the spectres and nightmares of the Gothic bring us face-to-face with the unsettling past and the traumas of history that it constitutes a confrontation of who or what we think we are.18 The violent history of Australia’s ‘colonial scene’ is a common theme of the contemporary ‘Aboriginal Gothic’.19 However, the very term ‘Aboriginal Gothic’ is a controversial one. The representation of ghosts, vampires and other forms of human or inhuman monstrosity in contemporary Australian Aboriginal literature is not best identified as gothic precisely because of the genre’s European and colonial tradition and the common ‘exploitation’ of Indigenous cultures in gothic works.20 The writer Mudrooroo (Colin Johnson), in fact, refers to the appearance of the ‘Gothic’ in Australian Aboriginal literature as ‘Maban Consciousness’, a sense of the magic and mysticism which is central to an Aboriginal conceptualisation of the world.21 Instead, Katrin Althans makes clear, we should recognise how ‘Aboriginal authors engage critically with the Gothic and enter into a state of creative resistance’.22


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Kathrin Bartha has suggested that even the term ‘postcolonial Gothic’ is insufficient to describe the work of this genre, preferring instead to identify them as trauma narratives.23 Thus, where we might see Australian Aboriginal writing come closest to the Gothic is in its engagement with the disturbances and transgressions of colonial history; it is the colonial encounter, then, that is gothic, rather than the Aboriginal ways of thinking and knowing. In work by Vivienne Cleven, Melissa Lucashenko and Alexis Wright, for example, ghosts frequently stand in for the traumas of Australia’s colonial history and the abuses which took (and take) place at both individual and institutional levels.24 Cleven’s Her Sister’s Eye (2002) draws wry attention to a number of tropes of the Gothic: the wealthy and abusive landowner, Reginald Drysdale, his timid wife, Caroline, and their equally violent son, Donald; the strange and traumatised misfit characters of Archie Corella, Sofie Dove and Murilla Salt; the haunted homestead, personified in its sadness, ‘as though the house was a living thing, crying its protest’.25 Even the local store is portrayed in gothic terms—‘Hanging near the window on a coat-hanger was a white dress, the sleeves tattered and the collar frayed. Like everything else in the shop, the dress was covered from neckline to hem in a film of dust’—while outside, in the bush, ‘[t]he skeletal trees bend in death, their gnarled branches reaching skyward like the grasping talons of a witch’.26 Everywhere is haunted in this small town, the ‘grasping’ branches of the trees reaching out to touch, to grab, to clutch passersby, refusing to allow them to be free of the horror of the past. In this sense, Reginald and Donald Drysdale stand in to represent the abuses of the colonial scene but also, critically, the ways these abuses linger in the present because of the refusal or impossibility of telling those secrets: ‘The town could be full of abused women and children – all the hands of Drysdale – and none of em would say a word. That’s small town life; the shame and guilt would keep his secrets forever buried’.27 For this reason, then, for both Murilla and Archie, Donald is ‘[a] ghost so vivid his skin shrinks at the memory’, and Caroline too finds it impossible to remember that her husband and son are dead.28 Indeed, Archie too is figured as a ghost, and it is finally revealed (to both him and to the reader) that he took on the identity of his dead childhood friend in order to seek revenge on the Drysdales for the death of his sister.29 It is only when these characters confront the past—a task led by the fish-like Sofie, who expresses through a fragmented narrative her experience of trauma (her years of abuse at the hands of Donald) and her eventual murder of her abuser—that anything like resolution can be achieved. Like An Isolated Incident, Her Sister’s Eye does figure this in one way through the establishment of female community and friendship at the novel’s end. However, there is no happy ending offered up for Archie/Raymond.30 Connection is one way to escape from the clutches of the Gothic, the novel suggests, but some traumas cannot ever be resolved. Australia’s history, in this sense, will always be a gothic one. Lucashenko’s Mullumbimby (2013), on the other hand, explicitly establishes an opposition between the expectations and assumptions of the Gothic genre and the historical connections offered by ‘Maban consciousness’. The eerie songs Jo hears and of which she is initially so afraid are ultimately revealed to be the call of the

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lyrebirds, repeating the stories of the local people as if their voices can be heard directly from the past. She felt the hard burden of superstitious fear inside her evaporating ..,.. … ‘So it’s not mooki!’ she laughed joyfully. ‘Just lyrebirds! Jesus Christ, I was so scared of that talga for so long.’ … The lyrebirds were repeating the song they had heard, and passing it down through hundreds of generations.31

Similarly, although her daughter Ellen is so afraid of the way in which she is marked as belonging to this place—the lines on her palms are a perfect map of the valley—that she puts her hands in the fire in an attempt to destroy this ghostly legacy, both women ultimately come to realise this too as a connection to the past: a sacred responsibility, rather than a traumatic burden. In Mullumbimby, then, the Gothic comes to symbolise a European way of understanding the world and thus a fear of and blindness to the legacies of the past. The explicit reframing of these apparently gothic elements in terms of a Maban consciousness, or even more simply the threads of connection to one’s familial past, means that the ghosts actually come to constitute futurity and hope: … it gradually dawned upon Jo that to destroy the talga of the rockhole, the dugai would have to kill every last Goorie who knew it. They would have to clear the World Heritage forest, and then they would need to destroy every lyrebird in the valley as well, probably every lyrebird for hundreds of miles around …. They would all live, now, with the knowledge of their sacred story place, budharum kalwunybah. Just as the old people had wanted.32

The ‘haunting’ of the past thus enables a reconnection to a history from which Jo and Ellen had been separated. Recognising these ghosts in this way comes to be a recognition of themselves and their place in the past, present and future. This positioning of the nation in relation to its past also takes its form in contemporary Australian gothic narratives which make clear the influence of Europe on its colonies, even now. In Christos Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe (2005), for example, Isaac returns to the Greek homeland of his ancestors in a kind of perverse ‘Grand Tour’, subconsciously seeking an explanation for the trauma and turmoil of his parents’ lives and his own childhood. However, as Isaac moves deeper into Europe, leaving behind the tourist traps and uncovering the horrific truth of child exploitation, drug abuse and violence motivated by racism, sexism or homophobia, he transforms into a kind of vampire—a monstrous symbol of the way terror is derived from the collapse of boundaries, whether those are corporeal, geographical or temporal.33 Indeed, since the Gothic is so often concerned with ‘the anxious permeability of borders of nations, races and identities’, Roger Luckhurst argues, ‘then it must also always be bound up with the questions of transnational interaction and empire’.34 In this permeable and transient figuration, then, Tsiolkas represents Isaac as both consuming and consumed by the traumatic past of his own family and of Europe (and the world). His collapse into the mindless violence of his frenzied attacks on ‘the Russian’ and ‘the American’ towards the novel’s end symbolises the way in which we are manipulated and destroyed by an irresponsible attitude to history. Isaac’s gothic narrative is the only outcome of a failure to


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understand and recognise the abuses of the past. Here, resolution is made possible through the care of Isaac’s partner, an Australian man who acknowledges his own faults and past errors, signified by the swastika tattoo he sincerely regrets. Similarly to Mullumbimby, then, Dead Europe emphasises this connection to the past as critical to the resolution of the gothic narratives of the present. Julia Leigh’s Disquiet (2008) makes a similar point in its interaction between the gothic narratives of Australia and Europe. As in Dead Europe, the middle-aged Australian returns to her ancestral (her childhood) home in France—an imposing, imperious house, filled with memories of her strict and emotionally, if not physically, abusive childhood—fleeing with a broken arm, which remains unexplained, and her two confused children. Olivia’s brother and his wife have also returned home, bringing with them their newly stillborn daughter, whom they refuse to bury. The unhappy home thus calls up every evocation of the gothic haunted house and its symbolisation of what has not been laid to rest. Like Dead Europe, Disquiet is striking for its representation of the Australian Gothic in a European setting, emphasising the way in which the nation’s haunted past and its colonial roots extend beyond its own borders. That the novel ends over the eventual funeral of the baby, and Olivia’s vision of hope for her son, might be seen to suggest a futurity similar to that presented in Dead Europe. In the return from Australia to Europe Leigh, like Tsiolkas, depicts the necessity of confronting the ghosts of the past. However, it is also clear that the real problems raised in Disquiet have not been resolved. Rather, only a temporary peace has been achieved. The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent, 2014), one of the most successful recent examples of the contemporary Australian Gothic, is similarly tentative in its resolution of trauma. In some respects it can be read as another example of Australia’s female Gothic, particularly in its presentation of female ‘madness’ and its association with post-natal depression, as well as Amelia’s unresolved grief at the death of her husband as they travelled to the hospital to give birth to their son, Samuel. However, by way of conclusion, I want instead to focus on the way in which The Babadook insists on the persistence of the Gothic in everyday life. Amelia’s care of Samuel has only ever been cursory, and the film’s opening scenes juxtapose the traumatic re-enactment of the accident in her nightmares with Amelia’s performance of motherhood when Samuel cries out in fear of monsters: opening the wardrobe and checking under the bed for monsters but without comfort to the child clutching at her waist, reading to the boy robotically, allowing him into her bed to sleep, but turning away from his small body.35 The true monster of the film, however, is Amelia’s sense of her own failed motherhood. The horror she has faced daily since Samuel’s birth is the horror of being an insufficient mother, a shadow of a mother. In this sense, the Babadook is actually a manifestation not of her trauma but of her own monstrous maternity. Indeed, that Amelia echoes the words and behaviour of the Babadook drives this home. ‘Talk, talk, talk!’ she shouts at the cowering Samuel, in echo of the knock at the door in the Mr Babadook story: ‘Dook, dook, dook’. And later, mimicking both the psychosis of the traumatised father in The Shining and the Big Bad Wolf of the Three Little Pigs—the story she reads Samuel after destroying Mr Babadook—Amelia hangs

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grotesquely from Samuel’s doorway, pounding at his door while shouting, ‘Let me in!’, and then chasing him, calling, ‘Run, run, run, fast as you can!’ Just as she had only ever performed maternity before, now she exposes that performed maternity as monstrous, turning the words of the caring mother—‘Didn’t I tell you not to play with weapons?’—into those of the snarling monster. In the film’s closing scene, the happy reunion of mother and child in the sunlit garden is undermined as Amelia returns to the basement with a bowl of worms to feed the Babadook now living there. As in Disquiet, the best this gothic narrative can offer is a truce with the traumas of the past. There is no way to destroy these monsters: rather, all one can do is appease them. Ultimately, the contemporary Australian Gothic appears to suggest that the Gothic’s promise of conservative resolution can only placate us. If, as Bruhm has it, we need the Gothic because of its ability to dramatise or narrativise the terrible loss of coherence and order we have suffered and continue to suffer in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, then this articulation of our fears is the only solace the genre appears to offer in the present iteration.36 The Australian Gothic of recent decades articulate Hogle’s assertion that it is in the Gothic that we find a way to make meaning of the traumatic, conflicted, and chaotic world of the contemporary moment.37 It is in the Gothic that we come to recognise and acknowledge the traumas of the modern nation, and through which we attempt to come to terms with the radical unsettling of that context.


1. Steven Bruhm argues that ‘it is finally through trauma that we can best understand the contemporary Gothic and why we crave it’ (‘The Contemporary Gothic: Why We Need It’, The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, ed. Jerrold E. Hogle [Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002], 259–76 [268]). Jerrold E. Hogle agrees, noting that ‘Gothic fiction has always begun with trauma’ (‘History, Trauma and the Gothic in Contemporary Western Fictions’, The Gothic World, ed. Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend [London, Routledge, 2014], 72–81 [72]). 2. ‘The Gothic, then, is inherently about deep-seated and large-scale, even national and international, traumas that are intimated and yet masked behind hyperbolic symbols of them’ (Hogle, ‘History, Trauma and the Gothic’, 73). 3. Jonathan Rayner, Contemporary Australian Cinema: An Introduction (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2000). Rayner identifies the key themes of the Australian Gothic as: ‘a questioning of established authority; a disillusionment with the social ­reality that that authority maintains; and the protagonist’s search for a valid and tenable identity once the true nature of the human environment has been revealed’, and ­suggests that these ‘reflect a doubt or dubiety in the assertions of national character and ­confidence in national institutions which characterised earlier examples of Australian film’ (26). 4. Ibid., 28. 5. Jonathan Rayner, The Films of Peter Weir (London, Continuum, 2003), 68. 6. Jessica Balanzategui, ‘The Babadook and the Haunted Space Between High and Low Genres in the Australian Horror Tradition’, Studies in Australasian Cinema 11.1 (2017), 18–32 (22).


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7. Kerryn Goldsworthy, ‘Thea Astley’s Writing: Magnetic North’, Meanjin 42.4 (1983), 478–85. 8. Delia Falconer, Introduction to Down in the City, by Elizabeth Harrower (Melbourne, Text, 2013). Falconer notes that the novel depicts ‘a self-made man stripping a woman of privilege until she is his slave’ (ix). 9. Harrower, Down in the City, 7. 10. Gerry Turcotte, Peripheral Fear: Transformations of the Gothic in Canadian and Australian Fiction (Brussels, Peter Lang, 2009), 193. 11. Pilar Baines sees the well as ‘a source of anxiety and a repository of desires, repressed fears and memories – both individual, regarding the female protagonists, and collective, regarding Australian society at large’ (‘Down in Elizabeth Jolley’s The Well: An Essay on Repression’, Journal of Language, Literature and Culture 61.1 [2014], 46–59 [47]). 12. Elizabeth Jolley, The Well (Camberwell, Penguin, 1987), 163. 13. Ibid., 148. 14. Emily Maguire, An Isolated Incident (Sydney, Picador, 2016), 336. 15. ‘The Stella Interview: Charlotte Wood’,, 11 April 2016. 16. Phaedra falsely accused her stepson (Hippolytus, son of Theseus) of rape. Theseus punished him by death for the crime. 17. Charlotte Wood, The Natural Way of Things (Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 2015), 17. 18. ‘The Gothic continually confronts us with real, historical traumas that we in the west have created but that also continue to control how we think about ourselves as a nation …. Each of these social and national traumas was caused by human agency, yet they have rendered humans unable to tell any kind of complete story about them. Thus the Gothic renders them in fits and starts, ghostly appearances and far-fetched fantasies, all attempting to reveal traumatic contradictions of the collective past that cannot be spoken’ (Bruhm, ‘The Contemporary Gothic’, 271–72). 19. ‘Built upon its dispossession and killings of Aboriginal people and its foundational systems of punishment and incarceration, the colonial scene … continues to shadow Australian cultural production and helps to keep the Australian Gothic very much alive’ (Ken Gelder, ‘Australian Gothic’, The Routledge Companion to Gothic, ed. Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy [London, Routledge, 2007], 115–23 [122]). 20. Katrin Althans, ‘White Shadows: The Gothic Tradition in Australian Aboriginal Literature’, A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature, ed. Belinda Wheeler (Rochester, Camden House, 2013), 139–54 (139). 21. Mudrooroo, ‘Gothic Imagination or Maban Reality?’, Australian Women’s Book Review 22.2 (2010), au/awsr/new_site/awbr_archive/AWBR_150_print.pdf; Mudrooroo, ‘Maban Reality and Shape-Shifting the Past: Strategies to Sing the Past Our Way’, Critical Arts 10.2 (1996), 1–20. 22. Althans, ‘White Shadows’, 139. 23. Kathrin Bartha, ‘The Spectre of Landscape: The Postcolonial Gothic, Preternatural, and Aboriginal Spiritual in Alexis Wright’s Plains of Promise’, Preternature 5.2 (2016), 189–212. 24. In Cleven, Lucashenko and Wright, ‘the ghosts conjured … are not the unresting souls of the long dead who wish to take revenge for their deaths; instead, they represent a repressed memory that manifests itself as the shadows of colonial history’ (ibid., 150). 25. Vivienne Cleven, Her Sister’s Eye (St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 2002), 10. 26. Ibid., 7, 38. 27. Ibid., 168. 28. Ibid., 2, 31. 29. Ibid., 76.

Contemporary Australian Trauma


30. In Her Sister’s Eye, ‘[t]here is the traditional tale of the heroine locked up in a mansion at the mercy of the Gothic villain …. The Aboriginal equivalent to this is the story of the Gothic wanderer Raymond, who is finally confronted with, and overwhelmed by, his long-repressed memories. For him, there is no happy ending and no restoration of order, but a mental and corporeal breakdown’ (Althans, ‘White Shadows’, 152). 31. Melissa Lucashenko, Mullumbimby (St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 2013), 276–77. 32. Ibid., 278. 33. ‘Terror comes from the breach of boundaries’ (Roger Luckhurst, ‘Gothic Colonies’, The Gothic World, 62–71 [62]). 34. Ibid., 63. 35. Shelley Buerger, ‘The Beak That Grips: Maternal Indifference, Ambivalence and the Abject in The Babadook’, Studies in Australasian Cinema 11.1 (2017), 33–44 (39). 36. ‘We need [the Gothic] because the twentieth century has so forcefully taken away from us that which we once thought constituted us – a coherent psyche, a social order to which we can pledge allegiance in good faith, a sense of justice in the universe – and that wrenching withdrawal, that traumatic experience, is vividly dramatised in the Gothic’ (Bruhm, ‘The Contemporary Gothic’, 273). 37. ‘We need fictions to better understand the meaning for us of anything we choose to represent from the world we have observed, even if that meaning turns out to be traumatic contradictions in our own minds and cultures, and I find that the best of the post-9/11 uses of Gothic in fiction achieve that purpose for attentive readers by using the conflicted un-naturalness basic to the Gothic itself to help us concurrently grasp and conceal how profoundly conflicted we are about the most immediate and pervasive cultural “woundings” of our western world as it has come to be’ (Hogle, ‘History, Trauma and the Gothic’, 75).

Bibliography Althans, Katrin, ‘White Shadows: The Gothic Tradition in Australian Aboriginal Literature’, A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature, ed. Belinda Wheeler (Rochester, Camden House, 2013), 139–54. Astley, Thea, Girl with a Monkey (1958; Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 2012). Baines, Pilar, ‘Down in Elizabeth Jolley’s The Well: An Essay on Repression’, Journal of Language, Literature and Culture 61.1 (2014), 46–59. Balanzategui, Jessica, ‘The Babadook and the Haunted Space Between High and Low Genres in the Australian Horror Tradition’, Studies in Australasian Cinema 11.1 (2017), 18–32. Bartha, Kathrin, ‘The Spectre of Landscape: The Postcolonial Gothic, Preternatural, and Aboriginal Spiritual in Alexis Wright’s Plains of Promise’, Preternature 5.2 (2016), 189–212. Bruhm, Steven, ‘The Contemporary Gothic: Why We Need It’, The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, ed. Jerrold E. Hogle (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002), 259–76. Buerger, Shelley, ‘The Beak That Grips: Maternal Indifference, Ambivalence and the Abject in The Babadook’, Studies in Australasian Cinema 11.1 (2017), 33–44. Cleven, Vivienne, Her Sister’s Eye (St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 2002). Cook, Kenneth, Wake in Fright (1961; Melbourne, Text, 2001). Gelder, Ken, ‘Australian Gothic’, The Routledge Companion to Gothic, ed. Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy (London, Routledge, 2007), 115–23. Goldsworthy, Kerryn, ‘Thea Astley’s Writing: Magnetic North’, Meanjin 42.4 (1983), 478–85. Harrower, Elizabeth, Down in the City (1957; Melbourne, Text, 2013). ———, The Watchtower (1966; Melbourne, Text, 2012).


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Hogle, Jerrold E., ‘History, Trauma and the Gothic in Contemporary Western Fictions’, The Gothic World, ed. Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend (London, Routledge, 2014), 72–81. Jolley, Elizabeth, The Well (Camberwell, Penguin, 1987). Kent, Jennifer, dir., The Babadook (Umbrella, 2014). Kotcheff, Ted, dir., Wake in Fright (United Artists, 1971). Leigh, Julia, Disquiet (London, Faber and Faber, 2008). Lindsay, Joan, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967; London, Vintage, 2013). Lucashenko, Melissa, Mullumbimby (St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 2013). Luckhurst, Roger, ‘Gothic Colonies’, The Gothic World, ed. Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend (London, Routledge, 2014), 62–71. Maguire, Emily, An Isolated Incident (Sydney, Picador, 2016). McLean, Greg, dir., Wolf Creek (Roadshow Entertainment, 2005). Mudrooroo, ‘Maban Reality and Shape-Shifting the Past: Strategies to Sing the Past Our Way’, Critical Arts 10.2 (1996), 1–20. ———, ‘Gothic Imagination or Maban Reality?’, Australian Women’s Book Review 22.2 (2010), awbr_archive/AWBR_150_print.pdf. Rayner, Jonathan, Contemporary Australian Cinema: An Introduction (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2000). ———, The Films of Peter Weir (London, Continuum, 2003). Rymer, Michael, Larysa Kondracki, and Amanda Brotchie, dir., Picnic at Hanging Rock (Fremantle, 2018). Stenders, Kriv, dir., Wake in Fright (Roadshow Entertainment, 2017). ‘The Stella Interview: Charlotte Wood’,, 11 April 2016. Tsiolkas, Christos, Dead Europe (London, Atlantic, 2005). Turcotte, Gerry, Peripheral Fear: Transformations of the Gothic in Canadian and Australian Fiction (Brussels, Peter Lang, 2009). Weir, Peter, dir., Picnic at Hanging Rock (British Empire Films, 1975). Wood, Charlotte, The Natural Way of Things (Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 2015).

Postcolonialisms Gina Wisker

Introduction Postcolonial Gothic is doubly uncanny. It takes received, formally legitimated versions of histories, cartographies and lives and opens them up like a suddenly raw, unhealed cut, revealing an ostensibly calm landscape interlaced with livid scars and putrid with hidden, historical violence. Suddenly, everywhere, history and the present evidence the invasion and domination of the lives and locations of those defined (by invaders) as others. The postcolonial Gothic disturbs the calm surface of received and accredited versions of events, offers alternative versions, recovers and retells stories. Its subject is what has been defined as foreign, other to the Northern, often Western and European invaders whose interpretations have historically dominated. It deals in haunted places, haunted lives, silences and hidden secrets and brings a cutting clarity, a suddenly stark horror, dissolving complacency and collusion which established and maintained those received accredited versions, those cartographies and demarcations, those preferences of identity and world view on which colonialism and imperialism thrive. One of its main aims is decoloniality, dealing decisively with colonial traces in knowledge generation traditions, psychological enslavement and a sense of worthlessness engineered through colonial institutions.1 Postcolonial gothic writers use the power of the Gothic, its revelations of dark hidden secrets, legacies and hauntings in the present to expose, then move beyond oppressive misrepresentations of people, places and cultures historically constructed as different, ‘othered’ in colonial and imperial contexts. The postcolonial condition of absence, silence, loss and recuperation from these traumatic states is understood through the lens of the postcolonial Gothic which seeks to explore the melancholic mourning and loss, the invasive violent disturbance of

G. Wisker (*)  University of Brighton, Sussex, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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those colonially affected histories and lives which have been hidden and denied. Postcolonial Gothic exposes and devalues a westernised ‘Dracularity’,2 which bled dry the life and ways of people constructed as Other. Using strategies of ghosting and haunting of people and places, figures of vampires, were beasts, zombies, ghosts and mer-creatures, postcolonial Gothic disturbs and defamiliarises the complacent and familiar representations of histories, of ‘norms’, revealing the partial and oppressive. The ever-present colonial past can be ironised, exposed, dubious histories uncovered and wrongs potentially righted through events in the text and suggestions beyond it. Postcolonial Gothic deals with issues of difference, otherising and acceptance, needing to address and redress racism, marginalisation, theft and oppression and to reinstate the histories and myths of a largely hidden ancestry. It can help to reclaim and rewrite the past, revision a lived present and speculate about the future. Postcolonial Gothic intersects with the recent globalgothic,3 which sees transnational flows between Western gothic figures and those from broader global contexts, with exciting interaction between differently originated gothic figures. The pontianak is an example of this, spreading throughout South East Asia and into the US and UK (Zen Cho, ‘The House of Aunts’, 2011),4 the Caribbean soucouyant and duppie moving from Jamaica to Toronto (Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring, 1998).5 Postcolonial Gothic globalises the Gothic, while seeing globalisation, and its destructive relatives, imperialism and colonialism, as themselves Gothic because they defamiliarise and abject people, places and worldviews. It also intersects with Afrofuturism6 (Bould 2007; Lavender 2011; Womack 2013) in its desire to recuperate and rewrite murderous and oppressive histories from a positive perspective, moving forward into new magical, liberating, creative futures (Nalo Hopkinson, The New Moon’s Arms, 2007).7 There is a dark moment in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)8 when with a sudden sweep the light is momentarily removed from the invasive, vital, pirate crew and their stolen hoards of glittering gold and silver, revealing them corpses, skeletal, colourless, their theft worthless, the cavern preserving their soulless booty a crypt. Like such spectral revelation, postcolonial Gothic strips away the ostensible respectability of centuries of duplicitous theft, of plundering and erasing the lives of those constructed as other, stealing their lands and property—material, spiritual and human. Imperialism and colonialism were, and are, much worse than just piracy. With pirates at least there was a brutal honesty—the skull and crossbones flag let you know they intended to steal and kill, hiding the evidence at the bottom of the sea, or in a buried chest. Imperialism and colonialism, on the other hand, entered another country and the lives of others by stealth, offering friendship, godliness and improvement. Postcolonial places are haunted places; everywhere there are traces of erasure of cultures and resistance, built over by the physical and psychological constructions of the imperial governors, the invader settlers. Like the cutting of the light to reveal only death, postcolonial Gothic reveals the damage done to places and people, both the invaded and the enriched ‘back home’. It does so using familiar gothic figures: the ghost, vampire, zombie and mer-creatures.



Abjection, seen as rejection with disgust, springing from fears generated from within the self and offloaded onto a constructed, then rejected foreign Other (Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, 1982; Strangers to Ourselves, 1991)9 is at the heart of the evils exposed by postcolonial gothic writing. According to David Punter, abjection and absence haunt both those invaded, enslaved and silenced and those whose lives were enriched by that invasion and enslavement: The process of mutual postcolonial abjection is, I suppose, one that confronts us every day in the ambiguous form of a series of uncanny returns.10

In the postcolonial imagination, there are haunting presences in the streets of our (once) rich, industrial city streets in the UK, as there are, for example, in the liana-covered, decaying, colonial grand mansions of Jamaica (the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century big houses), Singapore and Malaysia, and the impoverished rural ‘homelands’ where black South Africans were displaced (early twentieth century). It is the job of literature to make links and revive the phantoms to remind of the oppressions and problematic gains of the past. …the peculiar condition of the literary will always be to effect a link between the actuality, the presence of such conditions, however powerful & terrifying, & the imaginary, universality ….in its proper position, in absence.11

Traces and memories return from objects, music, stories, and from buildings and spaces though built over or hidden. In the traces of historically colonised others, we see the mixed histories we all share. It is a perpetual reminder, a mutual haunting. Colonialism and imperialism are also vampiric, leaving victims as drained husks, dead or forever in servitude.12 In discussing Thomas Pynchon’s definition of ‘Dracularity’, the narrator of Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) defines it as ‘the West’s ancient curse’. Joel Nicholson-Roberts13 building on the work of Anidjar,14 talks of an initially religious-based European and then American ‘obsession’ with the ‘purity of blood’,15 which underpins colonialism and racism. Colonialists and imperialists vampirise and also zombify oppressed people removing and denying education, religion and selfworth. In Erna Brodber’s Myal, for example, postcolonial Gothic exposes entertainment, a musical, misrepresenting people as performative puppets, and worse because ubiquitous, education replacing critical creative thinking with facts and interpretations based on colonial and imperial worldviews, zombifying all concerned. Invasion and transportation were historically often by sea, and some postcolonial gothic writers express the dangers and the opportunities for reconfiguration and change with ghostly vanishing islands (Tash Aw, The Harmony Silk Factory, 2005),16 sea creatures such as the octopus representing collusion with invading Japanese imperialist forces (Sandi Tan, The Black Isle, 2012),17 and more positively in Nalo Hopkinson’s The New Moon’s Arms, mer-people, free, recuperated ex slaves. Hopkinson ‘s Afrofuturist postcolonial Gothic offers a positive, speculative retelling and reimagining of dark histories, here the murder of transported slaves.


G. Wisker

When considering what we mean by the term postcolonial Gothic, one of the first issues is the way in which the postcolonial relates to the colonial, always a troubled area of discussion. The many theorists of the postcolonial18 argue extensively about whether it means ‘after’ or ‘against’ or, as it is used here, ‘after and against’. Colonial Gothic which perpetuates imperialist and colonial values is rife in periods and places under colonial or imperial rule19 and equally possible in the contemporary period if work is representing as uncanny, foreign in a grotesque and worrying fashion the lands, places, (often seen as empty spaces) which have been invaded and settled, otherising the rightful owners of those lands. The postcolonial exposes the damage of colonial and imperial ways. Postcolonial Gothic uses the strategies of the literary Gothic in that exposure and critique. It focuses on defamiliarisation and damage, the trespassing and theft, traducing of other people’s values, spaces and lives, the betraying of ways of seeing the world and modes of being and the devastation which laid to waste civilisations and human rights. Postcolonial Gothic looks back on the representation or lack of representation of people in places which have been invaded, settled, renamed, exposing as problematic and deadly the core of the colonial, imperialistic turn which saw the people in invaded and settled places as being lesser beings, and often not human at all, which gave invader settlers a wonderful excuse to deny them their human rights and often their lives. Postcolonial Gothic retells the tales of those moments of invasion and settlements, exposing the denigration of others and the destruction of their lives and worldviews. It reinhabits, reconfigures spaces and places, returning the value they had to the people who initially were the traditional owners of the land. In exposing destruction and retelling tales, it offers the opportunity to revalue and restore worldviews, languages, customs, practices, religions, and the invaders found other and so threatening to the historical imposition of their own dominant culture and worldviews. Postcolonial Gothic takes a new and different turn. It otherises the invaders, exposes their destruction, their illegitimate reconfiguration of the lives of others. It also, therefore, revitalises spaces and places by reimagining, writing and bringing them back to new life. Wilson Harris suggests that imagination and writing are powerful, the prison house of history can be destroyed and new futures and interpretations, new stories, constructed. He speaks of: the imagination of the folk involved in a crucial inner re-creative response to the violations of slavery,’ and that ‘the possibility exists for us to become involved in perspectives which can bring into play a figurative meaning beyond an apparently real world or prison of history.20

Considering phantoms, revenants (including vampires), personal and cultural haunting, Abraham and Torok argue it is necessary to uncover hidden histories, re-embrace differently focused versions of the past and move on: the phantom is meant to objectify, even if under the guise of individual or collective hallucinations, the gap produced in us by the concealment of some part of a love object’s life, the phantom is therefore also a metapsychological fact: what haunts us are not the dead but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others…



…those we are concerned with are the dead who were shamed during their lifetime or those who took unspeakable secrets to their grave.21

Much postcolonial Gothic is written and critically discussed exposing the dark past and the legacy of shame, absence and silence and moves beyond any mere ‘frisson’, or ‘pleasure’ of Otherness.22 Instead, it faces up to violent and unpleasant truths. Postcolonial writer Lauretta Ngcobo points out that this is not a pleasurable, anodyne experience, particularly for white readers: We as Black writers at times displease our white readership. Our writing is seldom genteel since it springs from our experiences which in real life have none of the trimmings of gentility. If the truth be told, it cannot titillate the aesthetic palates of many white people, for deep down it is a criticism of their values and their treatment of us throughout history.23

Like the sudden cold clarity in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), postcolonial Gothic reveals uncomfortable, shocking, historical and contemporary truths. However, its revelations are as those of much gothic, value-based and a call to change, revision, to act differently rather than being paralysed, only silenced and shamed or driven either to appropriate histories or camouflage response with layers of academic discourse which distance the issues. As critical, concerned, engaged readers of postcolonial Gothic, we explore how and why writers say what they say, as they do, what might enable or prevent their expression, the conditions of its production and consumption at home and abroad (wherever these are located, from whatever perspective). In doing so, some postcolonial feminist critical responses are helpful to focus reading practices. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Sneja Gunew stress the importance of engagement, and rejection of the silencing produced by inherited guilt. They emphasise the dynamic of positive interaction with writers and the histories of people whose stories these writers tell, even if and probably because this interaction first stirs discomfort, then leads to new shared understandings. The problems of speaking about people who are ‘other’ cannot, however, be a reason for not doing so. The argument that it’s just too difficult can easily become a new form of silencing by default… But whites can never speak for Blacks.24

White audiences reading postcolonial texts (including the Gothic here) are urged: Why not develop a certain degree of rage against the history that has written such an abject script for you that you are silenced?25

Engagement and articulation are powerful and important, and stories vehicle this, as Chinua Achebe reminds ‘storytellers are a threat. They threaten all champions of control, they frighten the usurpers of the right-to-freedom of the human spirit— in state, in church or mosque, in party congress, in the university …’26 In writing of Australia, Thea Astley uses the defamiliarisation of postcolonial Gothic to reveal the cover-ups, lies, genocide and horror in the disorienting, tropical heat during the settlement of Australia and emphasises both the destructive power of language in erasure and its restorative and enabling powers of revaluation of the lives of colonised, silenced others in her postcolonial Gothic It’s Raining in Mango (1987).27 Astley exposes the deceit of linguistic cover-ups and


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the deep-seated damage done to all concerned when colonial settler-invader genocide is redescribed to render it necessary and lives irrelevant. Jessica and her young son in tropical North Queensland come across the dead bodies of two old Aboriginal men, butchered by those clearing to settle the bush. She is told: ‘[T] hey’re not human’. ‘“They looked human”, she persisted. “They had all your features”’.28 Her son, going off a little later, finds a heap of stinking corpses and is scarred for life, but the lies, the violence and the casual redescribing to devalue and normalise violence, the power of words to reveal or hide is clear. Shocked, now wanting the truth, Cornelius the journalist, Jessica’s husband writes publicly of the mindless violence, brutality and theft in his piece for a Sydney paper but this is never published, censoring the truth. Language, like education in Brodber’s Myal (1988) falsifies facts and experiences hiding gruesome horrors of mass death, and dehumanisation. Postcolonial Gothic lenses are ‘beady eyes without Anglo Saxon attitudes’29 (as Salman Rushdie characterised the perspective of immigrated settled people in the UK looking at the behaviours around them) and writings offer new versions of the invaders and invasions, the theft, silencing and occlusions of the past. The postcolonial gothic writers considered here are not merely revealing the desolations, they cast a new cold light on the lies and violence, the destruction, and the collusions of colonialism and imperialism, since to survive it was necessary to be silent, and often to embrace or suffer the forced embrace of the foreign invading Other. However, the positive revisioning turn of some postcolonial Gothic can be seen as underpinned by valuing rather than abjecting difference, arguments found in African American and postcolonial writers such as Audre Lorde, who declaims against the destructive underside of constructions of difference underlying colonialism and imperialism and emphasises the personal and wider politics, recognition and celebration of difference, part of the task of postcolonial Gothic: In our work and in our living we must recognise that difference is a reason for celebration and growth rather than a reason for destruction.

The postcolonial Gothic and wide-ranging, globalgothic revengeful figure of the South East Asian originated, vampiric pontianak, a young woman murdered when pregnant with an illegitimate or unwanted child, who preys mostly on other pregnant women (but can happily gut and disembowel men and children with her razor-sharp fingernails) is reimagined positively in Zen Cho’s YA gothic tale ‘The House of Aunts’ (2011). Cho reintegrates a teenage (necessarily orphaned) pontianak cared for by special aunties (who cook parts of people for supper). The girl, Ah Lee, explains her condition to a prospective boyfriend as more complex than being just a vampire. He is unphased and accepts her as she is. Writing is powerful. Returning to pirates and sea analogies with which this essay began, we now focus not on the usual vampires, zombies or werewolves but, recognising that invasion was often by sea, on mer-creatures and mer-people, relating postcolonial Gothic also to the newly defined nautical Gothic. In her introduction to a special issue of Gothic Studies: ‘Through Oceans Darkly: Sea Literature and the Nautical Gothic’,30 Emily Alder explores the breadth of



nautical Gothic, looking at histories of travel across the sea, and at interest in the sea, mentioning ghost ships, Tennyson’s poem ‘The Kraken’ (1830)31 and contemporary fascination with sea creatures represented as monsters, such as the Jaws series (1975–1987).32 Alder notes that Mariaconcetta Costantini (Venturing into Unknown Waters, 2008)33 explores twenty-first-century sea monsters in Dan Simmons’s The Terror (2007)34 and Tim Curran’s Leviathan (2013),35 which recreate the Leviathan, dealing with varied ecological and sociopolitical issues, as did Jules Verne’s earlier, highly influential Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870),36 with its monstrous octopus and exposure of political power, capitalism and slavery. Finally, splicing postcolonial Gothic and Afrofuturism we look at retelling the stories of the past and reclaiming powerful futures. Gothic writers are far from innocent in their treatment of the colonised/foreign Other and directly or inadvertently many postcolonial gothic writers write against that tainted past. Living as he did in Providence, H. P. Lovecraft’s terror and disgust at foreign Others often took the form of powerful, vile, deadly, revolting sea creatures, the many-tentacled Cthulhu and others lurking in the deep sea, poised to invade and take over the world. Depicted as possibly more disgusting and terrifying are the sea creatures, mer-people, fishy folk of ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ (1936)37 in which a young traveller, drawn to the small fishing town of Innsmouth, discovers that the bizarre locals, some interbred from the alien deep-sea fishy folk, are actually remote relatives. The creatures from the sea persuaded local people to accept precious ornaments and endless shoals of fish, a good catch forever, but the price is miscegenation, inter-breeding. Lovecraft’s notorious racism emerges here. He was alarmed at the mass immigration he saw around him in Providence and worse still in New York. It is intriguing and ironic that the fishy folk are at once the monstrous others of his nightmares, infecting and morphing the race, and also if read with newly open-ended postcolonial Gothic, they are duplicitous settler invaders. Three of the texts considered here focus on sea creatures, and coastal places of potential invasion, transportation, or dreaming, and in so doing can be seen to write in relation to and against Lovecraft’s disgust and terror. Tash Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory and Sandi Tan’s The Black Isle are set in Malaysia (then Malaya) and Singapore. Each exposes the fanciful constructions offered by the ostensibly charming and initially friendly representatives of imperial and colonial powers intent on invasion, destruction, erasure, theft and incorporation. Their expose reveals lies and corruption, and retaliation. Nalo Hopkinson’s speculative Afrofuturist The New Moon’s Arms, however, uses postcolonial Gothic to rewrite negative histories and imagine forward into positive futures. Tash Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory rewrites history, demonstrating the role of both recorded versions and myth, depending on who is the recorder and who the reporter. Jasper Lim, son of the in/famous Straits Chinese/Malaysian Johnny Lim, retells the local legends of his father and his own role in Malaysia and Singapore, just before the Japanese invasion. Johnny Lim races through legitimate and illegitimate spaces on his bike, in which he resembles a metaphorical crosser of spaces


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and sides. He is initially seen in a positive light as an entrepreneur, but as with all legends and histories, some of the details are missing and interpretations shift with time. As is revealed, Johnny Lim was often in league with robbers and men of dubious power. Jasper’s first-person narrative paints Johnny as a mythic figure of dubious entrepreneurial crookedness, which is itself both a colonial interpretation of the kinds of effective space and class/culture crossers and identity changers who were able to live under the vagaries of colonial times, especially latterly with wartime rules in a largely liminal free-market state. And it seems to record an upbringing of neglect and deception and deals with querying the myths of power and success which operate in history. Jasper, telling his father’s tale, takes on the role of the transmitter of both a mythical and a more ‘accurate’ history, a role that many postcolonial writers adopt because someone has to remind of the myth and remind of the silence, and also to rewrite and differently interpret the moment. The moment of which Jasper writes is a liminal one, that of the time of British rule and plantation owning, and the crucial moments just before the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore in the Second World War. The history of his father shows him regularly colluding with criminals, political radicals, renegades and some dangerously deceptive invaders. Johnny’s own involvement was to inadvertently welcome and let in a suave intellectual Japanese officer, a precursor of the entire invading imperial army. A similar suave intellectual, dangerous and ultimately deadly, violent figure appears in Sandi Tan’s The Black Isle. The places of myth at the periphery of Malaysia, are seven vanishing islands. There are many fantasies of potential futures, represented in the vanishing islands which rise from then disappear back into the sea at different times. They are both a myth of the place and also a way of representing the power of different myths, those of finding final havens and love, and of false promises of imperial and colonial invaders such as the British plantation owners who represented order but who lost their focus and control, lapsing into drunkenness. Peter and the Japanese commander both have violent histories to hide. Peter, drinking up in the cooler area of the heights, leaves broken, derelict buildings and derelict ways. The Japanese commander, with his suave storytelling inveigling himself into a rich family invades in the most subtle way. Johnny Lim’s son Jasper identifies his father as a monster who inveigles his way into people’s lives and makes a success of his work. Excessively clever at manipulating machinery and minds, Johnny removes the opposition so he kills both a shopkeeper and the mine sub-manager for his own advancement. He is representative of the alternative energies of a version of existence under imperial and colonial rule. To survive you must both collude and do things your own way—challenge, undermine and perform. For Jasper’s mother, Snow, from an old established rich family, this is a story which confuses histories, bloodlines and inheritance, since Jasper might in the end be the son of the Japanese officer rather than of Johnny Lim. The potential mixed or muddled heritage is a form of Dracularity, mixing and invading of blood38 and resembles that of once invaded lands whose spaces and people move on with rather than perhaps truly beyond colonial and imperial histories. Tash



Aw’s Harmony Silk Factory returns and reuses the mythological places as well as the popular cultural versions, Johnny Lim and his activities and life, in order to expose the subterfuge, the violence, the defamiliarisation and destruction of the imperial invaders, the British and the Japanese, and the collusion of many of the people which enabled them to get in and to take over, and enabled them to efface and silence. Jasper Lim’s story starts out relatively confused, but in piecing things together, he begins to expose contradictions, what really happened and what was thought, and what was constructed, fabricated and imagined, that twin lived experience of factual history and the imaginary. As a postcolonial gothic narrative Jasper’s reimagining and rewriting of this period recuperates the myths, re-understands them, and replaces people, events and interpretations back into history. Simultaneously it exposes the way in which people are confused by or collude with dominant views, even when those dominant views are set to erase them, otherise them, silence them, marginalise them and dehumanise them. The postcolonial Gothic treats places, spaces, people, histories, mythologies, dreams, the imaginary, and tells the story, mixing fact and imagination, representation, metaphor, in order to show there are parallel readings, one perhaps being the one perpetrated historically by those who won, others that operate as popular cultural stories, and others which, when you piece together historical fragments, utterly undercut previously received versions, redescribing people and places which have had certain established meanings. The imposition of and collusion with the invaders’ ways becomes clear, and a reconfiguration of and retelling of stories becomes possible. The imagination, spaces, places, bodies and values are turned around by the postcolonial Gothic and the strategies of the Gothic, of otherising, defamiliarising, of making the familiar frightening in order to destabilise dangerously conventional, silenced kinds of approaches and views, turns things on its head and lets you see history and peoples lives differently—re-empowered and revoiced, and the places perhaps then renamed or newly named, and certainly mapped differently as are people’s lives and values. Like the new Malaysia, Jasper cannot locate his own origins, and they are indeed mixed. Colonial and imperial histories are troubled by the postcolonial Gothic which unpicks old interpretations and rules, revealing the temporary nature of seemingly fixed versions of lives, spaces and places, revealing them to only seem controlled, managed, settled, but actually fabricated, traversed, reconstituted. In Beth Yahp’s Crocodile Fury 39, the great man’s house sits on Mat Salleh hill, named after the legendary historical insurgent Mat Salleh (rather than merely a mad sailor) and his band of men who fought against the British invasion and the modes of being imposed upon them in Borneo, Malaya and Penang (1894– 1905). The imperial settlement entailed the theft of riches, both local and forced foreign imports, deforestation, replanting, reconfiguration, imposition of a dominant other language and semi slave labour. In the case of The Crocodile Fury this is the enforced labour of abused bondmaids, the girl protagonist’s mother and her ghost-fighting grandmother.39 The grand imperialist on the hillside steals treasures, beautiful ornaments and furniture from around the world to bedeck his new


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construction on someone else’s land, and steals his woman from the people of the sea to be his wife. The rich man cut back the jungle and built the mansion from stones carved from a foreign country… Only the natives who built it left traces of a local presence in the rich man’s mansion: their drops of sweat mixed in with the foundations, their blood and crushed limbs marking the beams that held the ceilings up.40

The house has layers of history seeping through its cracks. Both the spatial and ideological fabric are each undermined by the bandit and crocodile power of the jungle. The house is: A mansion abandoned for years by everyone except the jungle. The mansion had been ransacked long ago. It was filled with rubbish and decaying furniture, its fine marble floors were heaved and prised apart by jungle roots as thick as a young girl’s thigh. Its windows were hung with jungle creepers allowing only a feeble light.41

Here magic, superstition and ghosts are tangible presences and the grandmother wields power because she can speak to and manage ghosts. The imperialist landowner capturing his shape-shifting mermaid lover was a violent theft of the place and its life energies and of a woman: The sharp glint of a knife. The rich man gripped. He pulled. The catch of breath in his throat scraped at my throat. The suck of the sea on his mermaid shape almost pulled my arms from their sockets. My feet thrashed wildly in bed… His fingers on the dragon shape, the reptile-shape, the fish-shape eased themselves around a single scale.42

However, as the alternative power of the place and its radical bandit and crocodile energies start to take over from the great man’s rule, down through time, the young girl aligns herself with the sea woman lover and fights against the great man’s control. The rich man could not hold her. The dragon-shape twisted to savage him, the ­reptile-shape slashed its tail, the fish-shape pressed serrated teeth to his flesh.… I reached to tear the lover’s gown from my neck. My face was wet with tears.43

The radical, bandit crocodile, ghostly energies of Mat Salleh’s band, react against the theft and abuse brought by the great man, whose illegitimate power represents that of imperialism. The energy of the crocodile is the energy of the bandit, and of the stolen local woman, probably part sea serpent, with whom the girl aligns herself and at times feels herself merge. It acted against an imperial invasion, a dismemberment of his people, his past and the replacements of all of that with another language and another set of customs. In this place, a grand house falling into ruin, and through the postcolonial Gothic novel the powers, lives and stories which were repressed and hidden come back to haunt, to invade, to rewrite histories, and to offer renewal and re-empowering of those who were considered other. This powerful novel uses mer-creatures, the sea snake woman who comes from the water, bandits, and a shape-shifting crocodile to expose a history of imperialist abuse, and a reclamation of land, space and being. Beth Yahp’s crocodile and sea snake woman represent the active energies of revolt, while in Sandi Tan’s The Black Isle, a huge octopus coupling on the shore



with Mrs. Nakamura, a fisherman’s wife, originates in a Japanese legend and here presages the imperialistic invasion of Singapore and Malaysia by the Japanese in the Second World War. This version of sex with a sea-creature indicates both the impending violence and collusion with the invading Japanese. They brutally, if only temporarily, took over from the imperial invasion by the British, who wished to develop rubber plantations and make Singapore, on the spice route, the international hub of trade that it still is. So, the violent invasive other is also somehow camouflaged within the people with whom he or they initially reside in order to gain favour, find out and slightly transform, shape change themselves, transmute them. Mrs. Nakamura colludes with the octopus, a creature from the sea in the way that the residents of Singapore were quite happy to collude with the Japanese until the moment at which they started bombing, pillaging and murdering them. So in that story, that particular incident represents gullibility, changing sides, the embrace of the other and its strangeness, all of which are part of the history of imperial and colonial Gothic, and it gothics that invasion through representing it as creature-oriented, and based on naivety, gullibility and a certain amount of selling your own soul. Singapore is both a jewel of an isle (recalling The Jewel in the Crown, imperial India in Paul Scott’s 1966 novel),44 and a black isle ‘dirty with ghosts’. Like so many vital, imperial positions it is a small island at a crossroads of the sea, poised on the edge like a ‘teardrop’ of the Malay peninsula in the spice and silk routes, a key location for trade and then for war. In terms of British Imperialism, Malta, Cyprus, Singapore, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and the Falklands are similarly places on the edge, crossroads between cultures, resting places for invaders and crucial military outposts. Singapore is particularly multicultural, its history of Malay, Chinese, Tamil and European. The moment of which Sandi Tan writes is that just before the Second World War, and through it to beyond. Tan’s Malaysian Singapore-set novel traces the story of twins Li and Ling, who travel with their father from Shanghai and settle first in Malaya, where they try and run a plantation for a white owner. On the plantation are the angry ghosts of young pregnant women who were sacrificed, some of whom turn into pontianaks and take revenge on other young pregnant women, or anyone available, including the bullying, drunken, European plantation owner. The twins and their father move to Singapore just before the Japanese invasion of World War II. Ling is a postfeminist character transiting from a relative innocent through manipulating relationships to enable herself to stay alive. Meanwhile, her greatest gift is her constant perception of the many ghosts lurking in homes, on street corners, angry at development and the erasure of their home spaces (Chinese graveyards in particular). She develops her powers, speaking for them when high rises in Singapore are torn or burnt down and metros forced through graveyards. Her gothic character, as ghost seer, enables her to survive and to physically offer a window into the bustling spirit world with its everyday or revengeful dead in a fast-growing and changing city before, during then after the wartime period. One morning, on a romantic escape to the beach house owned by Daniel’s family, Ling and her wealthy fiance come across a terrible sight, an enormous octopus


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seems to be devouring the fisherman’s wife, Mrs. Nakamura, half in and half out of the water. This is an enactment of a Japanese myth depicted in one of Hokusai’s pictures, ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’, itself based in Japanese octopus mythology from the Edo period, when Shinto was making a resurgence. Mrs. Nakamura the fisherman’s wife might seem to be being devoured or raped but she is in a love embrace, colluding with the violent power of the octopus, invading other, presaging the violence to come with the Japanese invasion: this was no turtle or manatee but a beautiful woman naked, on her back, being crushed alive by a great octopus, its legs were coiled around her fair torso and its slimy head – the size of two pillows – had pressed itself against her face, so close that they were eye to eye. The monster had trapped her so absolutely it was hard to tell if she was still breathing.45

What they see then is not a brutal bestial rape but the entangled bodies of two lovers, one the monstrous Other of the octopus, one the collusive enthralled Mrs. Nakamura. Lovecraft could have written this and shuddered; it emphasises the thrill of embracing the utterly overwhelming Other, and the collusion of the host country, unaware of invasion. It heralds the invasion of the Japanese, who have inveigled their way into families and businessmen’s lives, promising rich futures. Japanese officers such as Taro are authentic, well mannered, charming, and on the point of war, devastatingly brutal and deadly, killing everyone in their way. They are an advance guard, followed by low flying bombers smashing the city. The representatives of the previous imperial power, the British, are arrogant, lazy and drunken. They party through their last moments, hiding their possessions, boozing and breaking their precious bottles of scotch on the pavements below, while Singapore goes up in flames. Their promise of order is revealed as a total sham. Reminding again of Japanese monsters from the sea (the huge Octopus, Godzilla and tsunamis), the planes and forces are invaders from both myth and nature: A tsunami was upon us, a towering wave that would vomit from the bottom of the world creatures far worse than jellyfish … It’s coming! High above, piercing the fog and the gray clouds, were flying metal crosses, appearing one by one until they formed a V. As the planes passed over our heads, the red circles on the base of their wings stared down upon us like blood-filled eyes.46

People, including hosts, are slaughtered in their homes. Women, including Ling, are taken up by the invaders, but Ling colludes in this as a rescue. Taro uses her as his mistress but she survives the downfall of the Japanese, and deploying her sexuality and powers with ghosts, goes on to be an adviser to property developers who need to know where and what friendly or hostile sorts these ghosts are, either for new build, or new purchase, and how to live among them or be rid of them. Survival and change her gender and her special powers are her tactics, but her seeing and communing is with the alternative voices of the people, the dead, the ghosts who sit in the corners of every home, every pavement and in large numbers inhabit the burial grounds sought after for new metro lines and stations. When money and high rise, high stake building takes over the small capitalist consumerist island she warns of bad or good spiritual accompaniment to various



deals and survives, having used the power of her gender as well as her spiritual power to do so. A postcolonial gothic novel, this relates change in society to everyday and wartime ghosting and seers, speaking for the ordinary people or not, and the trading of sex for survival. So, she uses the system. Postcolonial Gothic, science fiction, fantasy, Afrofuturist writer Nalo Hopkinson challenges the ways in which much fantasy and Gothic derives from a past which saw colonialism, imperialism, slavery and so it is important to revalue, reimagine, recreate the magical tales and ways of seeing the world from postcolonial contexts, from Southern, Eastern contexts, including her own origins, the Caribbean. In speaking of her stories, she differentiates between those of the global North and of Northern history and her own magical legacy: The stories invoke a sense of fable. Sometimes they are fantastical, sometimes absurd, satirical, magical, or allegorical. Northern science fiction and fantasy come out of a rational and sceptical approach to the world: That which cannot be explained must be proven to exist, either through scientific method or independent corroboration. But the Caribbean, much like the rest of the world, tends to have a different worldview. The irrational, the inexplicable, and the mysterious exist side by side each with the daily events of life. …. Best instead to find ways to incorporate both the logical and the illogical to one’s approach to the world, because you never know when life will just drop you down in that hole, into a ceiba space where none of the rules you know operate.47

In her work there are several soucouyants (Caribbean flying vampiric balls of fire) and duppies (ghosts, kept semi alive, preying on blood), mer-people and a variety of traditional Caribbean beings, such as the Lagahoo (part donkey) and Papa Legbara. Her recasting and rewriting works against the constraints and forms of the dominant culture. Nalo Hopkinson’s postcolonial gothic writing links the geographies of the mind with place and history, reclaiming, reinscribing, reconfiguring the Caribbean and Canada, …we certainly inhabit a metaphorical landscape, but how do our histories and our experiences in the world lead us to paint that landscape?…So another strategy I have is to sometimes refuse to write yet another plea to the dominant culture for justice, and instead to simply set the story of the “othered” people front and center and talk about their (our) lives and their concerns.48

Postcolonial gothic writing exposes and writes against essentialising and otherising; avoids seeing postcolonial writers solely in terms of speaking from a subaltern position; rather emphasising how they speak out against oppression, and do so through the imaginative powers of the Gothic, upsetting complacency, silences and absences, and revealing both dark, cruel, destructive secrets and histories, indicting the perpetrators, and celebrating the rich voices, stories, alternative histories and worldviews of those once silenced, absented and destroyed. It can often be seen as moving beyond revelation and denouncement into the rewriting of histories from a positive perspective and so very close to the work of Afrofuturism, which rewrites African-originated histories spliced with speculative fictions to reimagine the history and imagine the positive future. Nalo Hopkinson combines postcolonial Gothic with Afrofuturism to tell the story of Calamity Lambkin, who is ageing gracelessly, wears clothes which

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are an embarrassment to her daughter and refuses to be called mother or grandmother. Resisting her ageing, and in a period of liminality and loss, of her father, of her youth, Calamity rescues a mer-child, Agway, washed up when his parents drowned, and begins to care for and raise him. When she was only a child herself, Calamity (then Chastity) swam too far out with a blue mer-girl, and found her own toes and fingers beginning to fuse together into flippers. Agway realigns her with her childhood, and offers a lifeline. Simultaneously, she learns to respect herself and her ageing, regaining her magical powers as a finder of lost things, while her father’s cashew nut orchard returns and flourishes. The postcolonial Gothic here is magical, evident in Calamity’s powers as a finder and producer. It is also there to retell hidden stories and recuperate celebratory histories. Fictional Caribbean islands Dolorosse and Cabaya carry the secret of a magical survival from the brutality and death of transportation and slavery, when, to avoid death, historical transatlantic slave trade victims jumped overboard (the real history of the Zong, 1781). ‘The people’s arms flattened out into flexible flippers. The shackles slipped off their wrists’.49 They turned into mer-people and now inhabit the waters around those islands, a well-kept secret. Agway goes back to his people, the captive zooquarium seals escape, and Calamity joins protests against the life-destroying corporations. Calamity and her family are released from a stagnating present. Valuing hybrid life in the sea might offer a challenge to over-fishing, and begin to turn the tide against the monopoly capitalism of multinationals. Ecological awareness and hybridity offer some hope for the future. Alternative histories, magic, rejuvenation make this a positive, celebratory narrative. Postcolonial Gothic is dark, exposing the way the other has been constructed and made abject and terrible, the dehumanisation, erasure, silencing. Much postcolonial Gothic does not stop with revelation, instead it moves on from exposure and damage. It reinstates or replaces those invader worldviews with the mythic, magical, spiritual non-imperialistic, non-colonial, often indigenous worldviews and ways. Some postcolonial Gothic splices with, for example, Afrofuturism, using gothic strategies to offer historical re-readings and magical alternative opportunities in the present and future.


1. Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Empire, Global Coloniality and African Subjectivity (New York: Berghahn Books, 2013); Boaventura de Sousa Santos, ‘The University at a Crossroads’, in Ramon Grosfoguel, Roberto Hernández, and Ernesto Rosen Velásquez (eds.), Decolonizing the Westernized University: Interventions in Philosophy of Education from Within and Without (Lanham, MD: Littlefield, 2016), 3–14. 2. Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (London: Pan Books, 1973), 263. 3. Glennis Byron (ed.), ‘Introduction’, in Globalgothic (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), 4. 4. Zen Cho, ‘The House of Aunts’,, 2011. 5. Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring (New York: Time Warner International, 1998).



6. Mark Bould, ‘The Ships Landed Long Ago: Afrofuturism and Black SF’, Science Fiction Studies, 34.2 (2007), Afrofuturism, 177–86; Isiah Lavender, Race in American Science Fiction (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2011); and Ytasha Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2013). 7. Nalo Hopkinson, The New Moon’s Arms (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2007). 8. Gore Verbinski, dir., Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). 9. Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 1982); Strangers to Ourselves (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991). 10. David Punter, Postcolonial Imaginings: Fictions of a New World Order (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), vi. 11. Ibid., 189. 12. Tabish Khair and Johan Hoglund (eds.), Transnational and Postcolonial Vampires (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Gina Wisker, ‘Celebrating Difference and Community: The Vampire in African American and Caribbean Women’s Writing’, in Tabish Khair and Johan Hoglund (eds.), Transnational and Postcolonial Vampires (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). 13. Joel Nicholson-Roberts, ‘On the Road with the Blood of This Kingdom: Theology, Economy, and Blood in The Crying of Lot 49’, Textual Practice, 33.3 (2019), 399–414. 14. Gil Anidjar, Blood: A Critique of Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 122. 15. Ibid., 63. 16. Tash Aw, The Harmony Silk Factory (London: HarperPerennial, 2005). 17. Sandi Tan, The Black Isle (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2012). 18. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (eds.), The Empire Writes Back (London: Routledge, 1989); Elleke Boehmer, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). 19. Melissa Makala Edmundson, Women’s Colonial Gothic Writing, 1850–1930: Haunted Empire (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). 20. Wilson Harris, History, Fable & Myth in the Caribbean and Guiana (Georgetown: Ministry of Information and Culture, 1981), 27. 21. Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, The Wolf-Man’s Magic Word: A Cryptonomy, trans. Nicholas Rand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 171. 22. Jean Franco, ‘Beyond Ethnocentrism: Gender, Power and the Third-World Intelligentsia’, in Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988), 508. 23. Lauretta Ngcobo (ed.), Let It Be Told: Black Women Writers in Britain (London: Virago Press, 1988), 40. 24. Gayatri Spivak and Sneja Gunew, ‘Questions of Multiculturalism’, Hecate, 12.1/2 (1986), 137. 25. Ibid. 26. Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savanna (London: Heinemann, 1987), 153. 27. Thea Astley, It’s Raining in Mango: Pictures from the Family Album (New York: Putnam, 1987). 28. Ibid., 27. 29. Salman Rushdie, ‘The Empire Writes Back with a Vengeance’, Sunday Times, 2 July 1982. 30. Emily Alder, ‘Through Oceans Darkly: Sea Literature and the Nautical Gothic’, Gothic Studies, 19.2 (2017), 1–15. ISSN 1362-7937. 31. Alfred Tennyson, ‘The Kraken’, in Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, Cornhill, 1830), 154. 32. Steven Spielberg, dir., Jaws (1975); Jeannot Szwarc, dir., Jaws 2 (1978); Joseph Sargent, dir., Jaws: The Revenge (1987).

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33. Mariaconcetta Costantini, Venturing into Unknown Waters: Wilkie Collins and the Challenge of Modernity (Pescara: Edizioni Tracce, 2008). 34. Dan Simmons, The Terror (Boston: Little, Brown, 2007). 35. Tim Curran, Leviathan (Melbourne: Severed Press, 2013). 36. Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Paris: Pierre-Jules Hetzel, 1870). 37. Howard Phillips Lovecraft [1936], ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’, in ‘The Lurking Fear’ and Other Stories (London: Panther, 1970). 38. Anidjar, Blood. 39. Gina Wisker, ‘Showers of Stars: South East Asian Women’s Postcolonial Gothic’, Gothic Studies, 5.2 (2003), 64–80, 75. 40. Yahp, Crocodile, 4–5. 41. Ibid. 42. Ibid., 135–6. 43. Ibid., 281–2. 44. Paul Scott, The Jewel in the Crown (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1966). 45. Tan, Black Isle, 183. 46. Ibid., 224–5. 47. Nalo Hopkinson, in conversation with Alondra Nelson, Social Texts, Vol. 71 (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2002), xii–xiii. 48. Ibid., 101. 49. Hopkinson, New Moon’s Arms, 316.

Bibliography Abraham, N., and Torok, M. (1994) The Wolf-Man’s Magic Word: A Cryptonomy, trans. Nicholas Rand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Achebe, C. (1987) Anthills of the Savanna (London: Heinemann). Alder, E. (2017) ‘Through Oceans Darkly: Sea Literature and the Nautical Gothic’, Gothic Studies, 19 (2), 1–15. ISSN 1362-7937. Anidjar, G. (2014) Blood: A Critique of Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press), p. 122. Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G., and Tiffin, H. (eds.) (1989) The Empire Writes Back (London: Routledge). Astley, T. (1987) It’s Raining in Mango: Pictures from the Family Album (New York: Putnam). Aw, T. (2005) The Harmony Silk Factory (London: HarperPerennial). Boehmer, E. (1995) Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Bould, M. (2007) ‘The Ships Landed Long Ago: Afrofuturism and Black SF’, Science Fiction Studies, 34 (2), Afrofuturism, 177–86. Brodber, E. (1988) Myal (London: New Beacon Books). Byron, G. (ed.) (2013) ‘Introduction’, in Globalgothic (Manchester: Manchester University Press). Cho, Z. (2011) ‘The House of Aunts’, Costantini, M. (2008) Venturing into Unknown Waters: Wilkie Collins and the Challenge of Modernity (Pescara: Edizioni Tracce). Curran, T. (2013) Leviathan (Melbourne: Severed Press). Franco, J. (1988) ‘Beyond Ethnocentrism: Gender, Power and the Third-World Intelligentsia’, in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, C. Nelson and L. Grossberg (eds.) (Basingstoke: Macmillan), p. 508.



Harris, W. (1981) History, Fable & Myth in the Caribbean and Guiana (Georgetown: Ministry of Information and Culture), p. 27. Hopkinson, N. (1998) Brown Girl in the Ring (New York: Time Warner International). Hopkinson, N. in conversation with Alondra Nelson (2002) Social Texts, Vol. 71 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press). Hopkinson, N. (2007) The New Moon’s Arms (New York: Grand Central Publishing). Khair, T., and Hoglund, J. (eds.) (2012) Transnational and Postcolonial Vampires (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan). Kristeva, J. (1982) Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (Columbia: Columbia University Press). Kristeva, J. (1991) Strangers to Ourselves (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf). Lavender, I. (2011) Race in American Science Fiction (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press). Lorde, A. (1984), Interviewed in Black Women Writers at Work, Claudia Tate (ed.) (New York: Continuum). Lovecraft, H. P. (1928) ‘The Dunwich Horror’, Weird Tales, Vol. 29, April, pp. 481–508. Lovecraft, H. P. [1936] (1970) ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’, in ‘The Lurking Fear’ and Other Stories (London: Panther). Makala Edmundson, M. (2018) Women’s Colonial Gothic Writing, 1850–1930: Haunted Empire (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan). Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. J. (2013) Empire, Global Coloniality and African Subjectivity (New York: Berghahn Books). Ngcobo, L. (ed.) (1988) Let It Be Told: Black Women Writers in Britain (London: Virago Press), p. 40. Nicholson-Roberts, J. (2019) ‘On the Road with the Blood of This Kingdom: Theology, Economy, and Blood in The Crying of Lot 49’, Textual Practice, 33 (3), 399–414. Prawer Jhabvala, R. (1975) Heat and Dust (London: John Murray). Punter, D. (2000). Postcolonial Imaginings: Fictions of a New World Order (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press). Pynchon, T. (1975) Gravity’s Rainbow (London: Pan Books), p. 263. Rudd, A. (2010) Postcolonial Gothic Fictions from the Caribbean, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Cardiff: University of Wales Press). Rushdie, S. (1982) ‘The Empire Writes Back with a Vengeance’, Sunday Times, 2 July. Santos, B. de Sousa. (2016) ‘The University at a Crossroads’, in Decolonizing the Westernized University: Interventions in Philosophy of Education from Within and Without, in R. Grosfoguel, R. Hernández, and E. Rosen Velásquez (eds.) (Maryland: Littlefield), pp. 3–14. Scott, P. (1966) The Jewel in the Crown (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann). Simmons, D. (2007) The Terror (Boston: Little, Brown). Spivak, G., and Gunew, S. (1986) ‘Questions of Multiculturalism’, Hecate, 12 (1/2). Tan, S. (2012) The Black Isle (New York: Grand Central Publishing). Tennyson, A. (1830) ‘The Kraken’, in Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, Cornhill), p. 154. Verne, J. (1870) Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Paris: Pierre-Jules Hetzel). Wisker, G. (2012) ‘Celebrating Difference and Community: The Vampire in African American and Caribbean Women’s Writing’, in Transnational and Postcolonial Vampires, T. Khair and J. Hoglund (eds.) (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan). Wisker, G. (2003) ‘Showers of Stars: South East Asian Women’s Postcolonial Gothic’, Gothic Studies, 5 (2), 64–80, 75. Womack, Y. L. (2013) Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books). Yahp, B. (1992) Crocodile Fury (Sydney: Angus & Robertson).


Filmography Jaws, dir. Spielberg, Steven (1975). Jaws 2, dir. Szwarc, Jeannot (1978). Jaws: The Revenge, dir. Sargent, Joseph (1987). Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, dir. Verbinski, Gore (2003).

G. Wisker

Strains of the South Naomi Simone Borwein

In a recent article, Mississippi author Jamie Kornegay describes inadvertently penning a Southern gothic novel1; elsewhere, the American thriller writer Todd Robinson pointedly remarks that he has moved away from a Southern gothic aesthetic.2 In 2015, the Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro tells the anecdote about ­wanting to write a Southern gothic story set in Bournemouth, England, using the style of Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams: “It’s a nice setting but I can’t get it to fit in with any deeper ideas”, extending this issue to cultural representations of setting and metaphor3—as figurative language embodied by an object. The examples of Kornegay, Robinson, and Ishiguro are symptomatic of an underlying complexity in translocating style across geographic and genre boundaries. Southern gothic, as a critical and literary form, exists in a plethora of sub-categorisations and modal expressions. These range from Australian to ­ Japanese subgenres and from realistic, popular, and romantic to horror, thriller, and noir variants, all of which reflect the diaspora of the Gothic as a critical mode. On one level, this trend showcases expansive and inclusive global gothic aims, but also the modification of Southern gothic style by authors—as an artistic mode. Indeed, the formation and continued proliferation of Southern Gothic is equally affected by aesthetic approaches, as writerly practise, that get used to critically define the genre: where tenor, pacing, metaphor, extravagance or economy of words, harsh contrast, and overall structure burgeon out of national conventions of language and culture—for example, distinctive Germanic or Australian narrative models. In these various traditions, changing novel conventions (like realist or fantastic) similarly impact the construction of Southern gothic narratives—often divided between supernatural and realistic forms—that exponentially increase the fragmentation of Southern Gothic in criticism. The problem of strains, or what Bridget Marshall, Allan Lloyd-Smith and others call subspecies of Southern Gothic,4 is critically inspected by scholars like Thomas Ærvold Bjerre in 20175

N. S. Borwein (*)  Western University, London, ON, Canada

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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and Meredith Miller in 2013 who seek to differentiate them.6 Jason Haslam and Joel Faflak’s recent description of the genre, embedded in American gothic culture, implicitly reveals changing media and influences that helped evolve early forms of Southern Gothic into new ones—from the Dark or Negative Romantic era of Poe and Hawthorne to the contemporary fusion of aesthetics associated with Southern gothic novels written by horror icons and speculative writers.7 In Southern gothic criticism, debates repeatedly address the limits of genre and the problem of realism, region, and supernaturalism inside and outside the American South—visible in works by Charles L. Crow and Susan Castillo Street, Jay Ellis, Christopher Lloyd, and Michael Kreyling. Of import are issues of social realism in gothic “escapist” fiction that negate the binary of multiplicity—an uncanny praxis of a constantly shifting Other in an increasingly global context, where authorial output creates stylistic simulacra (or anisomorphisms) in divergent cultural spaces. In this chapter an examination is undertaken of strains of Southern Gothic and the complexity around the translocation of style in regional, national, and global variants. It offers useful overviews and definitions, places contemporary examples in current context, and explicates how authorial style and literary outputs juxtapose critical perspectives and classification systems. The argument is bipartite. First, strains are critically encapsulated in and move through definitions in different capacities, thus highlighting the tension between realism, regionalism, and supernaturalism—which stem from various traditions and histories, co-evolving over time. Second, this extends the idea of the critical to the authorial, where the analysis focuses on (a) how key aesthetics in these critical representations manifest across a spectrum of narratives that draw attention to consistent elements of contemporary genre forms; and (b) how narrative structure and form affects these aesthetics and helps develop an understanding of global Southern Gothic and it’s variants. Finally, the analysis in this chapter exposes the powerful stylistic affect of Southern gothic metaphor(s) and themes on the diaspora of genre. Southern Gothic is a cultural cache, a barometer of current sociocultural context in America. It is used as a lurid catchphrase, a by-line to sell news about white supremacy, racial tensions, and murder. Today it is apparent in the Southern gothic rhetoric of American mass media (images of white trash, “draining the swamp”, Civil War symbolism, and futuristic, apocalyptic Southernscapes) as much as in the influx of mainstream reviews and books on the topic: for example, Kat Eschner’s 2017 Smithsonian article on “Why We Love Southern Gothic” to Sam Sacks’s 2018 Wall Street Journal piece “Revitalizing the Southern Gothic Style”. These examples suggest a revision of style, and an increasingly global approach that is typical of much genre criticism and prose. The term “Southern Gothic” was once viewed as an opprobrious, verboten stain—defiled by horror and sensationalism in the era of Ellen Glasgow’s 1935 review “Heroes and Monsters”, itself a rebuttal to Gerald Johnson’s 1935 description of those “horror-mongers-in-chief”, “the real equerries of Raw-Head-and-Bloody-Bones” violence in “The Horrible South”.8 Yet early twenty-first-century American popular culture embraces the term. Recently, authors like Kornegay and M. O. Walsh promote their fictions as Southern Gothic. Kornegay’s 2015 Huffington Post article, “The Evolution of

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Southern Gothic”, and Walsh’s 2015 Guardian article, “Why Southern Gothic Rules the World”, suggest a significant change in the popular reception of the genre over the course of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. In mass media, where the politics of the apocalypse and the imagery of Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy fuse, clearly discernible are the socio-historical underpinnings of the Southern Gothic, the “turf wars” still waged over the geographical and literary scope of the term, and its negotiation of region, realism, and stereotype, as part of what Lloyd calls the long “debate over Southern Gothic”,9 largely fuelled by Southern literati and gothicists. A brief survey of Southern Gothic identifies five distinct periods in the evolution of the critical construction of the genre—derived from inspection of literary production and reception. From the 1800s to 1934, before the term Southern Gothic has been coined by critics, the style is dominated by Poe, though, distinct forms are visible through early figures like George Washington Cable, John Pendleton Kennedy, William Gilmore Sims, and William Bulloch Maxwell; Naturalist-Gothic gestalts created by writers like Ambrose Bierce; and a generation later, the works of Old Southern Gothicists from Katherine Ann Porter, and William Faulkner, to Erskine Caldwell, and Andrew Lytle with critics like Henry Seidel Canby in 1931 calling Faulkner the “prime example of American sadism” in his nascent “school of cruelty”.10 From 1935 to 1960 much of what is considered the modern canon is dismissed by critics as grotesquery or pulp fiction. In this period, the term “Southern Gothic” and the “Southern Gothic School”11 are dubbed a national cliché by Cleanth Brooks in 1942,12 while embraced by Louise Bogan in “The Gothic South” (1941).13 The mark of this cliché, the derogatory innuendo, burgeoned from the unspoken stain that haunted Southern Gothic much like it once did European Gothicism.14 Yet in this period, Eudora Welty, Crews, O’Connor, and McCullers produce Southern gothic literature, while Davis Grubb makes mass-marketed Southern gothic pulp. The 1960s to 1990s showcase the emergence of a distinct Southern gothic tradition in criticism with key texts by Edward Stone (1960), Irving Malin (1962), Lewis P. Simpson (1985), and Fred Botting (1996). The rise of classic Horror in the 1980s leads to the incorporation of icons like Stephen King in definitions. From 1990 to 2015, Southern Gothic is increasingly present in the canon. With this increase in critical and literary output comes more fragmentation of Southern gothic styles, diffused between romantic-supernatural, hyperrealist, horror-thriller, and other global forms. From 2015 to 2019, an engagement with horror-realism and fantastical, apocalyptic imagery is dispersed across subgenres, in a postmodern milieu, that mirror the global expansion of research and authorship. This overview of the canon itself is deceptive, because, for example, if one tries to differentiate Old (Realistic) Southern Gothic (circa 1935) from the African American tradition, it is necessary to explore gothic outliers and insiders of the Southern Literary Renaissance critically constructed by Rubin Jr. and Jacobs (1929–1950s)—from Faulkner to Crews, to William Styron, Cormac McCarthy, Walker Percy, or Barry Hannah—and its parallel in the politically charged


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Harlem Vogue, or Renaissance—typified by authors like Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Zora Neale Hurston, and extended to Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison. These two sets of authors represent veins of “black” and “white” Southern Gothic implied by scholars like Miller.15 The same complexity is clear when differentiating popular and scholarly texts, or supernatural Horror and the Gothic from Southern literary forms; doing so traverses mainstream and canonical versions of literary history. Strains of Southern Gothic in definitions highlight aesthetic tension. They have multiple originating sources, and thus multiple aesthetic forms under the umbrella of Southern Gothic that are impacted by first, the mechanics of the diaspora of genre elements within modes used by authors—like John Frow, Wai Chee Dimock describes this phenomena as modal, living, and absorptive16; and second, in contrast, the determinism of genre used by critics, through imperatives to classify and analyse. Recently, Lloyd-Smith (2004, 2006), Bailey (2010, 2011, 2016), Miller (2013) and Bjerre (2017) begin the process of investigating strains. Lloyd-Smith explores four sub-variants: popular, realistic (or Faulknerian), African American, and supernatural17; but, his analysis does not address the global movement of the genre that has emerged in recent years. In 2016 Bailey subdivides the Southern Gothic into the supernatural supranatural (romantic), and realistic.18 Bjerre outlines a larger spectrum of variants, in 2017, extending into the global.19 In literature, issues of style also have an important affect on these ‘subgenres’—from the intensity of Faulkner’s “wild lyrical style” in the pursuit of “a single effect of somber violence and horror”20 to the homogenised suggestiveness, harsh juxtaposition, and exposition in contemporary forms. Modern Realistic Southern Gothic, set in the South is typified by graphic fictions of Southern horror and sadism, tinctured by True Crime elements. Southern horrors evoke slave experience, race, class, criminal, naturalistic, or apocalyptic violence. Human excess is a facet of Southern grotesquery and absurdism. Movements of American literary realism and naturalism (or posthumanism) fortify metaphors of memory, soil, and place. Many modern fictions are metafictive and self-reflexive; narratives engage with the discourse of Southern Gothic as ­socio-literary realism. Realism is a part of standard Southern gothic tropes once utilised in books like Faulkner’s Sanctuary or Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, and revitalised by texts like Tyson’s The Past Is Never. Such tropes include psychologically haunting images of antebellum plantations transformed into urban domiciles, historical fixations projected onto contemporary anxieties; diseased Spanish moss-covered oaks, swamps and bayous; decadence seen as moral and social decay, the villain as deviant, outcast, misfit, and simultaneously victim of his own actions; and bleak nostalgia as a failure of the Romantic ideal, complicated by a postmodern aesthetic.21

These elements mutate into more supernatural and metaphysical manifestations—variously in Morrison’s 1987 Beloved, Martina Boone’s 2014 Compulsion, Cynthia Bond’s 2014 Ruby, or Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (1976–2018). In contemporary global and multinational modes, realism and region in many different permutations are balanced against different forms of spiritualism and cultural contexts. However, they generally incorporate localised discourses utilising the

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mode, increased hyperrealism over gothic realism, modern surrealist equivalents, social realism within fantasy narratives (in America, harnessing conspiracy theory and extremism), and the transcription of Southern atmosphere over Southern places—for instance, through metaphors that link tropes, stereotypes, characterisations, and settings. These aspects appear across genre strains as broad terms with many variables, where aesthetics and styles are affected by new media, platforms, and traditions. Consider how narrative impacts genre. Many novels of Southern gothic style are marketed globally under labels like horror or thriller with descriptors like romantic, supernatural, and realistic. The following textual analysis explores works by a spectrum of authors who engage with “Southern Gothic” across geographic, stylistic, and genre lines: (a) Mo Hayder and Craig Silvey (international); (b) Karen Russell and Tiffany Quay Tyson (regional with multinational perspectives); (c) Elizabeth Massie (horror); (d) Greg Iles (realistic regional extension of Old Southern Gothic); and, (e) Cynthia Bond (African American supernatural) and Poppy Z. Brite aka Billy Martin (popular). Together, their prose is indicative of the way style affects genre, and as such extends the idea of the critical to authorial. Additionally, this analysis addresses the nature of Southern gothic metaphor, as a theoretical object that helps construct style, and is a nexus of cultural, literary, and ideological referents. Metaphors tend towards what is essentially anisomorphism. That is an absence of exact corresponding meaning between genre types, directly correlated with how the metaphors are embedded in, and evoked through, the narrative and its settings. In the canon, Southern gothic metaphors encompass, but are not limited to, the following examples: blood and bloodline, home and heredity, enslavement and slavery, the Mississippi River, swamp, plantation and decaying manor house, exquisite and debauched surcease, wraiths and haunting, the Civil War, wounds, magnolias and moonlight, and metaphors of difference—from good and evil to light and darkness—wrapped up in dichotomies of reality and fantasy. In the texts that are analysed here, metaphors include Mississippi blood, voodoo, the hang tree, strange fruit, undeadness, and more. The translation of metaphor across genre strains suggests what M. B. Dagut more generally posits: the great complexity of factors determining the ontology of metaphors—why certain metaphors are created and other not; why a metaphor that is strikingly effective in one language becomes peculiar or even unintelligible if transferred into another.22

Understanding metaphorical anisomorphism is essential to an analysis of style, “metaphors and genres that organize them”23 in various settings. Indeed, Southern gothic metaphors are transcribed across the region with different results. Take the examples of Mo Hayder and Craig Silvey; both authors engage with global Southern gothic aesthetics. While Silvey writes to the Australian and the Southern gothic canon in Jasper Jones (2009), Hayder produces a British form in Poppet (2013). Indeed, genre conventions are altered in these texts; for instance, they use other forms of paganism, animism, and spiritualism (e.g. voodooism(s) and dark representations of Aboriginal Dreamtime), while engaging with aspects of Southern gothic discourse and tradition.


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The beginning of Poppet is stylistically reminiscent of Welty’s 1942 The Robber Bridegroom. Surrealism in Hayder’s passage suggests the macabre, ­horror-filled fairy tales of Welty, which are bound to lyricism and experimental fusions of aesthetics from American folklore to Southern modernism. Indeed, Poppet starts with the “Invisible” silent “MONSTER MOTHER”24 and incorporates the play of shadow and light typical of the Gothic: “light under the door flickers. It moves, dancing sideways”, and “settles”.25 This is followed by physical responses to fear: “heart thumping”, foreshadowing a looming threat: “out there, waiting”.26 The lamp metaphor makes trees unnatural and consumptive through silhouettes that “shift and bend”, alive and twisted.27 Hayder extends this metaphor to contorted doll parts and the practise of voodoo. Through the marketisation of myth, she connects the American South to “the popularized fiction of voodoo”28; she emphasises the translation of strains of myth and metaphor through “Haitian strand[s] of voodoo” juxtaposed to dolls “only” surfacing “in New Orleans”.29 Indeed, the title Poppet is a translation of voodoo metaphors. The etymology of Poppet suggests two antithetic meanings with disparate cultural associations: one an innocent young child, the other a demonic tool of witchcraft. It is likened to dismembered corpses as doll parts. In the novel, the character Caffery “UNPICKS THE dolls and finds they contain a grotesque array of body parts and excretions”.30 Graphically rendered, they “are objects of terror”, relics of fear, that “obey a fixed set of rules”31—evoking the determinism and naturalism of Southern Gothic. As a deconstruction of the poppet metaphor, Hayder describes flesh, “tough and organic-looking in the earth”, reburied in shallow graves in the woodland and garden, and reformed into “dolls”.32 The crime narrative utilises new regional Southern gothic tropes like soil: connected to forensics, investigations, and “fallow pastures”.33 Interestingly, through currency like “the Pakistani and zlotys”, Hayder makes the imagery global and mercantile; in this passage the economy of doll parts is expanded to the composition of “Martian soil” infested with otherworldly contagions.34 A transnational intersection of images is brought back to the sensory perception of pain and the quantification of its duration. Hayder does not directly reference the genre, or invoke the names of canonical Southern gothic writers. Her dark lyricism and use of crime procedurals is part of the British thriller tradition—its gothic rise signposted by Devendra P. Varma in the second edition of The Gothic Flame.35 The style is ultimately embedded in a British aesthetic with local atmosphere and place: “Kingston Blacks”, “kedgeree”, and “the Ghostly village of Priddy”,36 where one can find ancient Neolithic monuments, circles used for ritual purposes, much like Stonehenge, hinting at a more arcane, local, occult tradition in “the Bristol docks” and the Mendips. This multifoliate set of associated imagery is connected to the geological formation of the land,37 adding a local and spatial dimension to the metaphor she employs. Furthermore, these geographical metaphors explored through regional genre often connote globalisation. The novel Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey is global Southern Gothic with a palpable Australian aesthetic. As will be seen, the Southern gothic metaphor of the hang tree—a site of cultural trauma, history, and memory—is transposed onto the

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outback, and against a backdrop of Indigenous and colonial Australian markers. Unlike Hayder, Silvey draws overt attention to Southern gothic genre tropes and figures, including “Southern writers” like Welty, Faulkner, O’Connor and Harper Lee, while referencing Faulkner’s 1929 masterpiece The Sound and the Fury, and Mark Twain’s 1894 Pudd’nhead Wilson with naturalistic scenes of body bisection and lynching.38 Yet, the metaphor of the lynch tree is made Australian: a young girl hanging from “the bough of a silver eucalypt” “[i]n the silver light”, in her “dirty cream lace nightdress”39; she is a ghostly visage reminiscent of the Victorian schoolgirls in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967) an early Australian gothic text metaphorically invoking Ayres Rock, an Indigenous sacred space; where, gothic terror is reflected on the outback and connotes the fear of colonial children wandering into the primordial wilderness and disappearing forever. This imagery of the hang tree bears similarities to Donna Tartt’s hanging of Robin Cleeves from the bows of a Black Tupelo in The Little Friend—a searing 2002 novel of Southern gothic atmosphere.40 But, Silvey makes the outback “the stuff of nightmares”, through aridity and infestation, hovering insects, “worms burrowing into” “soft flesh”.41 “[T]his is a nightmare” becomes a constant refrain that extends the metaphor to create “a horrible sense of foreboding”.42 As with Hayder, dead bodies are “haunting and surreal” like “wax doll[s]”.43 The character Jasper Jones is a half-Aboriginal figure defined through clichés of Indigenous spiritualism, and the nightmarish events that happen around him. He is described in stark colonial Australian terms; where, Aboriginality and the Aborigine has historically been absorbed into the outback, rendered criminal, deviant, a supernatural figure of white Australian fear.44 Extending the tree metaphor, the landscape is stylistically made alive and monstrous: “the paperbark trees” “leer and lean, their scabby skins hanging from their limbs”.45 They “shroud us”, “look[ing] eerie and ethereal in the silver light”, “in the gloom”,46 using the language and phrasing of the Gothic. Silvey mimics Southern gothic aesthetics. Yet, the Australian style and traditional imagery of “weird melancholy” reconceptualises Southern gothic metaphor through complex white Australian cultural associations of images like eucalypts, marsupials, and Indigenous and colonial themes—drawing heavily on the Australian gothic mode. Sinister in their aspect, analogs of heat, dust, and light are broad metaphors that transcend both the Australian landscape and the American South. Metaphor and setting reveal the interplay between those elements that dominate Silvey’s aesthetic form. Setting is “inevitably stamped with” a regional “set of local interests, views, standards” where “social context” and “institutional setting”, which incorporates genre itself, is affected by the “political position” of the author. Historical context is “contingent” on time and place.47 In Silvey’s novel, “dominant physical metaphor[s]” of the outback leech into and reconstitute acquired Southern gothic ones. Contemporary writers produce regional forms of the genre in the American South, with international and national perspectives, as many Souths and nation spaces in the South. The rhetoric and reality of multiple Souths—where myriad immigrant voices and histories are superimposed onto modern Southern landscape and experience—creates a “local” that can be transnational and global, making


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room for multinational regional narratives and forms. Some examples of texts that exhibit this tendency are Ann Pancake’s 2007 Strange as This Weather Has Been, and works by Tyson, Karen Russell, Amanda Baldeneaux, and Lauren Geroff. They incorporate national or immigrant experience and perspective—through memory, tradition, and voice—into representations of Self and Other that inform Southern gothic elements. On the far end of the spectrum, Karen Russell’s 2013 short story “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” transforms the supernatural vampire into an ecumenical creature—through international atmospheres that mix Southern place and themes, and the humanisation of monsters. Vampires banter about global travel and blood substitutes from coffee to coke that are elixirs with “magical quenching properties”: “We have lived everywhere” from Tunis, to “Bogotá, Dakar, rural Alabama”, “in the blue boot of Italy”.48 The discussion occurs while they reside in a Southern lemon grove, where “fangs in apples, fangs in rubber balls”, “only these lemons” give them “any relief”.49 Russell’s story is an example of the translocation of Southern gothic tropes; through blood she plays with cultural transparency and hints at the diversity of the vampire tradition—for example, putting the European vampire in a bone-bleached Western Australian environment with images reminiscent of the antipodean sanguivores in Jason Nahrung’s novels. Blood lemons situated in the South become metaphors for vampirism and myth as the “strange fruit” conventionally associated with religion, gender, class, and sexuality in the South. Here, the metaphor is stylistically almost unrecognisable from earlier representations, notably Lee Smith’s Strange Fruit, except for the discursive system of images that are built around the lemon grove, which sustain its relationship to Southern gothic tropes. As more quintessentially regional Southern Gothic, take the example of Tyson’s 2018 novel The Past Is Never. The title is a play on Faulkner’s prose from Requiem for a Nun (1951), which is cited in Tyson’s epigraph: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”.50 Through her text, the phrase is a reconceptualisation of the past and the genre. It denotes a vanishing point scattered across time, and it brings with it historical memory and “undeadness” as a Southern gothic metaphor. Tyson’s novel is a redistribution of Southern Gothic in a contemporary America impacted by global perspectives, and a reallocation of Other, as insider and outsider, where “undeadness” is deeply associated with the stylistic reinvention of the genre.51 Faulkner’s quote has become a standard discursive trope of regional and national criticism of the Southern Gothic seen in scholarship from Anderson, Hagood, and Turner; Street and Crow; to Ellis. Kornegay notes in an interview with Tyson that she draws on a “strong tradition of southern writers” like Faulkner, Welty, Tartt, Ellen Gilchrist, Beth Henley, and Tennessee Williams.52 The novel is marketed by Skyhorse Publishing in the tradition of Dorothy Allison and Flannery O’Connor: “an atmospheric, haunting story of myths, legends, and … good and evil”.53 But, it includes national perspectives and multiple Souths typical of New Southern literature. Like Poppet, the novel begins with monstrosity: in capitalisation, as forte, “THE CREATURE WATCHED AND”, dropping into sotto voce, “waited”. This

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is juxtaposed to mellifluous metaphors of the four elements. It gives the scene an ethereal aspect—both sublime and horrible. The narrator is floating “beneath the hot sun”, drifting “in the land of alligators and crocodiles, where men walk on water … where the dead rise up to live again” as monsters.54 It is a palpable motif in modern transnational narratives about the global Other, part of transnational discourse on monstrosity implicated by scholars like Jeffrey Weinstock et al.55 Tyson makes metafictive allusions to Southern gothic tales, where backwoods locals “wouldn’t believe a crazy story about some monster in the woods”.56 This reworking of the genre incorporates contemporary fantasy and sci-fi as near social realism. Tyson self-reflexively contrasts science and fantasy, extending this to American conspiracy theory and religion: “You’ll believe in science … in the Devil and monsters and fairy tales … in flying saucers and government conspiracies”.57 From this popular discourse as social realist commentary cloaked in elements of speculative fiction, “[t]here were tales of a Southern Bigfoot” the “Swamp Ape. Every community had its legends”.58 Thus, Tyson ties legend to Southern gothic myth. She makes allusions to contemporary American life, where men search for truth and reason when the world makes no sense, when bombs blow up buildings, when tyrants are elected, when friends hang themselves.59

She links this Southern gothic vision of populist rhetoric to “the curse of the quarry and the secrets of the swamps”.60 The memory of Southern gothic myth is enveloped by the metaphor of Southern history and decay as the dissolution of concrete systems and hierarchies. The novel ends in metaphor, with the water as a conduit to Southern backwoods otherworldliness: “on the edge of the world, where alligators and crocodiles live”61 addressing the reader “You”, as a contemporary global representation of American national Other and Self: “born from cotton slaves and plantation owners”, “healers and murderers”, “liars and truth-tellers”, “criminals and lawmakers”, and “from monsters and saints”.62 She returns, cyclically, to the original image of creatures lurking, voyeuristically watching from a liminal space beneath, above, and beyond: “they aren’t beasts or ghosts or aliens come to read your dreams”,63 but nevertheless, they are inverted into the nightmares of American popular culture. In the American South, Tyson and Russell skew Southern metaphors with national or international allusions. Yet Tyson’s novel retains immutable echoes of the South and its gothic metaphors. Consider how modern Southern gothic style is affected by horror genre conventions—seen in fantasy-horror writers like Robert McCammon, Joe Lansdale, or Cherie Priest. Elizabeth Massie is described as the “reigning champion of the modern Southern Gothic” by the Horror Writers Association.64 Her 1992 novel Sineater is reliant on fanatical sectarian horror and Southern gothic tropes seen in early popular antecedents like Grubb’s 1953 Night of the Hunter. The title of the novel and the figure of the Sineater together function as a complex metaphor for Southern gothic horror. The prologue is a blend of Horror and Southern gothic aesthetics that subvert the Welsh and Appalachian mythology of the sineater—a character absorbing


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the sins of the dead to allow them to ascend to heaven; the story begins with the response to horror by white trash in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia: a boy’s “own fear terrifies him” while other peoples’ “fear excites him”.65 This extends fear to dread, from “the dream” to “the nightmare” as a murder “past the dense thicket”, where the Sineater waits for its victim66—a hollow Southern gothic trope actualised through Horror techniques. Massie presents two “image[s] of the Sineater”; one is a description of monstrosity that is transmitted from person to person like a anthropomorphic virus: “clawed”, “spiked”, and brutally “twisted”.67 The second is a photograph of a terrified character allegorically representing the “natural image” of monstrosity: “a photograph, a statue … stopped in time”, “staring into the woods towards the Sineater”.68 Thus, Massie juxtaposes the unreal with photorealism. Stylistically, the novel draws on corporeal and sensory effects: “surrounded by a dull, soft coating of unrealness”.69 In this space, she reinscribes backwoods religion: “we was assigned of God” in lower-class vernacular.70 The ecclesiastic tenor is punctuated by a fairy tale element; characters “go into the woods alone at night” where “trees” become “the crack[s]” in their “imagination”, swaying, “bowing”, “opening the night”71 into a nightmare. Spectacle is conveyed through funerary images, “a wake” depicting satanic violation: a “crowd swarms” over a corpse “making cuts and hunkering down to suckle the body like a frantic gathering of obscene hairless kittens over a wrinkled decaying mother”,72 as the sexualisation of the macabre, grotesque and autophagic. Spectacle continues through a gasoline-soaked goat, an offering purified by immolation. It “jumps and twitches”; “cries of horror” and torment “cheer the onlookers further”,73 in absurd degenerate caricature. Resonating with the o­ ft-cited protocol of horror evocation described by King in Danse Macabre (1981): terror is “the finest emotion”; “terrorize the reader” then “try to horrify”, failing that, disgust them.74 In Massie’s novel, horror is represented through its aesthetic “movement”, “in disgust”, as a palpable character.75 Sadism and horror-pleasure responses create a sensory dimension to her Southern gothic scenes. For example, coarse sandpaper is applied to a star tattoo on a man’s arm; “[d]ermis is churned up and spit out like tilled soil”, washed away in rivulets of blood.76 Deep layers of flesh beneath the epidermis are a soil metaphor for buried Southern memory used in contemporary regional Southern Gothic.77 The novel ends with the transformation of the protagonist into the Sineater, who is a religious zealot bearing similarities to fanatical false prophets like Enoch Emery in O’Connor’s 1952 Wiseblood. Yet, Massie’s description of backwoods murder and mountain ranges has the atmosphere of James Dickey’s (1970) Deliverance. Thus, Massie envelopes stereotypes of Appalachian mountain folk and Southern white trash in contemporary aesthetics of Horror. Greg Iles’ 2017 Mississippi Blood is a contemporary Realistic Southern Gothic set in the Natchez Trace; it is catalysed by True Crime, like works by Berendt, Walsh, and Kornegay. The novel starts with a grave “in the Natchez City Cemetery”, near a “Turning Angel” chiselled from “white Alabama marble”,78 reminiscent of Styron’s graveyard in his 1951 text, Lie Down in Darkness.79 The novel concludes with the landscape of “Natchez and Vidalia”, where the trace runs

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from Louisiana into the heart of the Mississippi. This is metafictively trussed to “Mississippi blood”,80 the damaged heredity examined by authors like Dorothy Allison or Ron Rash. Within the narrative, Iles actively engages with Realistic Southern gothic discourse through terms like “Southern Gothic” and “white trash”, and themes of apocalypse from natural disasters like Katrina81: indeed, Iles states, “the most dangerous” elements are “a staple of Southern gothic fiction”, connecting this to class, race, miscegenation, and criminality. Iles portrays old racial tensions, where “[n]o exclamation of horror follows”, “but a state of hyperalertness” takes “possession”,82 seemingly a reflection of the polarisation of race relations. The narrator addresses blue-collar paranoia through “white trash” “Flunkies” during the civil rights movement.83 He self-reflexively examines genre tradition, its discourses, and critical issues: for example, concomitant black-white Southern gothic production in the 1930s–1940s between Wright and Hurston and Faulkner and McCullers: “Because my first point of comparison is a mixed-race writer”, James McBride, “and not just” “McCullers” or “Welty”.84 In that vein, Iles repurposes Old Southern gothic images of violation in the bayou, where a black woman is raped by white men at “Lusahatcha Swamp”; they lynch “her husband in front of her”85—but unlike Richard Wright’s 1945 novel Black Boy or Caldwell’s 1931 short story “Savannah River Payday” the imagery is subdued. Through emphasis on this “terrible case”,86 Iles connects these details to crime narrative. He uses surreal imagery reminiscent of Welty in the Natchez to explore realism. “The land seems peopled by luminous ghosts”, but he controverts this spectral presence by stating that “the explanation is simple enough”.87 Indeed, literary realism is heightened by the underlying True Crime plot related to the 1960s “Double Eagle murders”.88 Graphic clinical representations of cadavers, “procedural details” and “FBI agents” who “after examining the corpses” “couldn’t hide” their “excitement” because of the “insignia on those jackets” such as blackletter “neo-Gothic script”.89 The metaphor of Southern blood is tied to crime and the neo-gothic minuscule, as a self-reflexive nod to the construction of the novel. Indeed, the complex use of style and metaphor in Mississippi Blood accentuates True Crime aesthetics within regional Southern gothic conventions, which influence the form metaphors take. Finally, permutations of the genre that oscillate around standard texts—from Charlaine Harris and Anne Rice to Stephanie Meyer—blend popular, fantastic, and supernatural with romantic elements. Martina Boone’s Compulsion is darkly speculative popular fiction, with a transsexual godfather and a haunted, decaying plantation house. Marketed as Southern Gothic by Simon and Schuster, Boone’s novel invokes themes of phantasmal heredity. Supernaturalism and blood are often the catalytic force of spectral layers of these narratives exacted onto “material reality”—usually populated by vampires or wraiths.90 Through these creatures, the soul becomes a metaphor for the spectral nature of the mind. New black Southern gothic exhibits supernatural and posthumanist manifestations of American literary naturalism, folklore, and apocalypse seen in early works by Charles Chestnut, and Hurston, as well as Walker and Morrison: for example


N. S. Borwein

Cynthia Bond’s 2017 Ruby and Deborah Johnson’s 2014 The Secret of Magic. A Harper Lee Award recipient, Johnson incorporates elements of True Crime into her narrative; while, Bond repurposes magical realism. Both Bond and Johnson evoke richly metaphoric Southern landscapes. Set in Texas, Ruby is a reconstruction of the old black feminine metaphor of sexualised wilderness represented in works from Hurston to Conrad. Upon publication, Hurston’s 1937 Their Eyes Were Watching God was criticised by Wright for “facile sensuality” that perpetuated white caricatures of African Americans.91 The metaphor is still problematic because of its association to racial stereotype. In Bond’s text, the central figure Ruby Bell is described as “Strange” and likened to a haint (a ghost in Southern dialect): “Spittle” running over her lips, she slips “into madness”.92 Visual passages of her body swathed in mud, emicting on the soil, as the Grotesque, give way to supernaturalism as she flies “long and graceful” into the piney woods.93 This image is tied to the otherworldliness of the landscape: “Aging night gathered it’s dark skirts and paused in the stillness”,94 itself elusive and foreboding. Bond incorporates hurricane imagery as apocalypse,95 and the bending of trees, as Southern metaphors96 like the iconic lynch tree etched in keloid scars on Sethe’s back in Beloved. In Ruby, the figure, Ephraim, is a metonymy for hoodooism—reflecting the phases of the moon in his purple-rimmed irises, “[t]en crescent moons held captive in his fingernail”.97 He parallels the voodoo priestess, Minerva, in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994) with her moon-shaped face, and amethyst hues, used to contest popular voodoo myth.98 In Ruby, madness and black femininity are bound to folklore and supernaturalism, which is slowly subverted through the narrative point-of-view. As part of an African American tradition, novels like Ruby redefine metaphors of sexualised femininity through reappropriations of Southern wilderness. Approximations of popular and romantic Southern gothic stretch from the supernatural excesses of Rice to the graphic extremes of Brite as in the “Exquisite Corpse” (1996). Take the example of Brite’s short story, “The Heart of New Orleans” (2003), which centres around a mortuary. The protagonist, a coroner, describes the morgue in great detail, evolving the tale into a ghost story. The coroner dissects the heart and washes away “blood that had clotted there”, revealing Carolingian-esque script etched into “its inner chambers”.99 The corpse is buried without its heart; he keeps it to read, and transcribe the secret history of New Orleans—as a metaphor for Southern memory. Conversely, Brite’s most recent piece “Last Wish” (2016) is a story of suicide that uses the imagery of the hang tree, “ancient”, “bent, and probably cursed”.100 She stylistically juxtaposes a realistic writing style with intimations of voodoo and supernaturalism through folkloric elements, such as “The horror” elicited by a “raven perched on” a “corpse’s shoulder”.101 Yet, she also utilises claustrophobic Southern images that double as metaphors like the strangler vine and the hang tree. As Sivils notes, trees are “temporal, spatial, and spiritual nexuses”.102 They are metaphors that truss “the character to the land”.103 “Southern literary trees” like the hang tree “are markedly different from” those “found in other regional literatures”.104 Thus, because

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the story is not placed geographically in the South, through overt use of names and locations, Brite binds the narrative to region through metaphor. Conversely, Brite produces the Southern atmosphere in India, an inherently exoticised representation. “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” (1995) starts not in the heart of New Orleans, but in the heart of Calcutta, at midnight.105 It is necrophilic and vampiric, and alludes to somnambulatory zombies through anecdote. The narrator postulates about “what made the dead walk”: “the latest theory” of reanimation involves the mutation of a “genetically engineered microbe” that consumes plastic, “eating” and “replicating” “human cells, causing” reactivation.106 Playing with contagions of zombification and vampirism, the story is stylistically noteworthy. First, Brite is critically positioned within popular (regional) Southern Gothic, and many of her texts conform to this categorisation. However, “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” showcases how style is impacted by different geographic considerations, and the careful incorporation of the weird and fantastic as metaphors and intimations. Zombies, as an allegory for the dalit caste, autophagy, and necrophilia, are linked to imagery of historically accurate ritual punishment for adultery in India,107 but instead of rodents eating the women from the inside, in the gutter, it is the dead.108 The point-of-view is staggered, addressing “you”, stating “I”, and describing “they”.109 Thus, Brite comments on the horror of difference: Who is Other? “This is not horror”, but “simply more of Calcutta”.110 This melodic style relies heavily on contrast: beautiful metaphors of “smoky clouds and pale pink light”111 redolent of Capote, Styron, and Faulkner, juxtaposed to “intestines sliding from the shredded ruin of” wombs.112 The final image is framed “among the dead” in “the mud and glory of Calcutta”, where the sky “seemed” “to burn”.113 There, Brite lingers on the metaphor of light and dark, and pain and beauty. In each story, Brite takes nominally supernatural tropes (like non-Haitian zombies) and embeds them in prose written in a realistic tenor often found in memoir, and then redistributes the realism and supernaturalism of the setting and tropes—again harnessing the use of antithesis typical of Southern Gothic. Based on the textual analysis in this chapter, there is a significant distinction between the feel, or atmosphere, of a Southern gothic tale, and those texts that merely mimic genre tropes. While region and realism are palpable influences on the translocation of style, and work in tandem with anisomorphic metaphors, the complex use of Southern gothic metaphor is essential to transferring aesthetics. It is derived from the classic dichotomy of gothic binaries, the graphic Southern juxtaposition of oppositional elements actualised through antithetical terms and metaphors embedded at the level of the sentence, and through contrasting images with setting; as a part of genre convention, it is seen in the imitation of metaphoric style by earlier writers. Metaphors in texts analysed in this chapter include Mississippi blood, voodoo, the hang tree, strange fruit, the madwoman, undeadness, monstrosity, and fanatical religious zealots. But, Southern gothic metaphors appear difficult to translate across regions except as simulacra or hollow figurative images. Take the example of global Southern gothic (International) aesthetics like Craig Silvey or Mo Hayder produce. In these texts, metaphors are tinctured by Australian


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and UK landscapes, cultural normatives, and traditions. Because metaphors are exacted onto narrative landscape, and help constitute themselves in chains of corresponding meanings and implications, and reflect other complex institutional, regional factors, they do not read like authentic Southern Gothic. It is iconoclastic and has its own distinct pace and tenor that stems from three major aspects: (1) regional landscapes and atmospheres; (2) the acquired ontogeny of an object or word fortified by different epistemological systems; and, (3) the Southern gothic metaphors that get mistranslated, but still help create pacing, atmosphere, style, and setting in the narrative. For example, Brite’s “smoky clouds” contrasted to sexual depravity in the Calcutta “gutter” makes this case114; the strong imagistic metaphor used, seemingly drawn from Capote’s n­ ow-canonical lyricism and visualisation, mirrors Southern gothic metaphor from a drastically different region, which gives the feel of a Southern Gothic reflected onto the untouchables (the dalit caste). It is not archetypical of a genre that is bound to the cultural resonance of the American South. Clearly, this style is an extension of the dense metaphoric language of Southern modernism—evolved by authors like Styron, McCarthy, and Hannah—as much as Romantic gothic precursors. Conversely, Massie uses horror cliché, which limits the effect of Southern gothic tropes and themes. Pacing varies in Sineater as a facet of the sensory affects of horror. In “Last Wish”, the languishing, distilled moment of gothic horror is punctuated by brevity; the short story functions as an intense moment—a captured image much like a visual metaphor that forces the narrative to conform to genre. But, strains of Southern Gothic are altered by how metaphor is applied, because metaphors are complex and rich with association: sociocultural, stylistic, and literary. The case of Ishiguro, Kornegay, or Iles reinforces that “Southern Gothic” simultaneously exists, much like the Gothic, as an aesthetic movement, rhetorical tool, and complex nexus of (sub)genres. While critical discourse around the Southern Gothic often amplifies the generic categorisation of global gothic forms, novels in “Translocations of Style” clearly showcase the diaspora of aesthetics in-line with genre scholarship by critics from John Frow to Franco Moretti, exposing the complexity of how style and content are formed in various contexts, across regions and traditions—against conflicting setting, morphology, and nomenclature, through diverse systems and signs. Strains of Southern Gothic are encapsulated in, and move through, critical definitions, always highlighting aesthetic tension between elements. Narrative structure and form affects these aesthetics and succours an understanding of a global Southern gothic mode and it’s variants. They remain unique subgenres in their own right: for example, the Realistic Southern Gothic of Faulkner, Caldwell, Crews, McCarthy, Berendt, and Kornegay; the Global Southern Gothic of Silvey or Timothy Mo; the Supernatural Romantic Southern Gothic of Rice or Harris; the African Southern Gothic of Hurston, Wright, Morrison, Walker, Johnson, and Bond; the Regional Southern Gothic of Tyson or Pancake; the Rural Southern Gothic of Rash or Steadman; and more. They move from regional Southern and multiple Souths to Southern atmospheres across international boundaries. The distribution of genre elements in the novels examined in this chapter is oscillatory; in criticism it is based primarily on three

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main aesthetic factors: realism, regionalism, and supernaturalism. But, in practise, it is shaped in various cultural contexts by novelists who employ a range of stylistic devices. They reconceptualise Southern gothic tropes and metaphors in strange and marvellous combinations that continue to evolve the strains of Southern Gothic.


1. Jamie Kornegay, “The Evolution of Southern Gothic”, Huffington Post, April 2, 2015, 2. Todd Robinson, “Interview: Todd Robinson”, Shotgun Honey, December 19, 2012, 3. Anita Singe, “Kazuo Ishiguro: The Book I’ll Never Write—And Other Stories”, UK Telegraph, May 25, 2015, Kazuo-Ishiguro-The-book-Ill-never-write-and-other-stories.html. 4. Bridget Marshall, “Defining the Southern Gothic”, in Southern Gothic Literature, ed. Jay Ellis (Salem, MA: Salem P, 2013), 5; Allan Lloyd-Smith, “Key Texts”, in American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction (New York: Bloomsbury, 2004), 61–62. 5. Thomas Ærvold Bjerre, “Southern Gothic Literature”, in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2017), 1–27, literat u r e . o x f o r d r e . c o m / v i ew / 1 0 . 1 0 9 3 / a c r e f o r e / 9 7 8 0 1 9 0 2 0 1 0 9 8 . 0 0 1 . 0 0 0 1 / acrefore-9780190201098-e-304?print=pdf. 6. Meredith Miller, “Southern Gothic”, in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, eds. William Hughes, David Punter, and Andrew Smith (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 632–636. 7. Jason Haslam and Joel Faflak, eds., American Gothic Culture (Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh UP, 2016). 8. Gerald Johnson, “The Horrible South”, The Virginia Quarterly Review 11, no. 2 (April 1935): 352, 357. 9. Christopher Lloyd, “What Remains? Sally Mann and the South’s Gothic Memories”, in Rooting Memory, Rooting Place: Regionalism in the Twenty-First-Century American South (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 85. 10. Henry Seidel Canby, “The School of Cruelty”, Saturday Review of Literature, March 21, 1931: 673–674. 11. Ellen Glasgow, “Heroes and Monsters”, Saturday Review of Literature, May 4, 1935: 4. 12. Cleanth Brooks, “What Deep South Literature Needs”, The Saturday Review, September 23, 1942: 29. 13. Louise Bogan, “The Gothic South”, Nation 153 (December 6, 1941): 572. 14. Devendra P. Varma, The Gothic Flame (London: Morrison & Gibb, 1960), 25. 15. Miller, “Southern Gothic”, 632–636. 16. Wai Chee Dimock, “Introduction: Genres as Fields of Knowledge”, PMLA 122, no. 5 (October 2007): 1377. 17. Lloyd-Smith, “Key Texts”, 61–62. 18. Peggy Dunn Bailey, “Talismans of Shadows and Mantles of Light: Contemporary Forms of the Southern Female Gothic”, in The Palgrave Handbook of the Southern Gothic, eds. Susan Castillo Street and Charles L. Crow (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 446. 19. Bjerre, “Southern Gothic Literature”, 1–27.


N. S. Borwein 20. Malcolm Cowley, “Poe in Mississippi”, New Republic, November 4, 1936: 22. 21. Naomi Simone Borwein, “The Critical Construction of Realistic Southern Gothic in the American literary Canon” (PhD diss., University of Newcastle, 2018), 22. 22. Menachem B. Dagut, “Can Metaphor Be Translated?”, Babel XII 22, no. 1 (1976): 32. 23. G. Tuathail, “Foreign Policy and the Hyperreal”, in Writing Worlds, eds. Barnes and Duncan (New York: Routledge, 1992), 157. 24. Mo Hayder, Poppet (London, UK: Bantam Press, 2013), 7. 25. Ibid., 7. 26. Ibid., 7. 27. Ibid., 7. 28. Ibid., 272. 29. Ibid., 271. 30. Ibid., 286. 31. Ibid., 272. 32. Ibid., 265, 271. 33. Ibid., 265. 34. Ibid., 177. 35. Varma, “Appendix III”, 1966. 36. Hayder, Poppet, 260. 37. Ibid., 260. 38. Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2009), 6, 7, 16. 39. Ibid., 9–10. 40. Donna Tartt, The Little Friend (New York: Random House, 2011), 14–15. 41. Silvey, Jasper Jones, 303. 42. Ibid., 252. 43. Ibid., 12–13. 44. Ibid., 154. 45. Ibid., 251. 46. Ibid., 5. 47. Trevor Barnes and James Duncan, eds., “Introduction”, in Writing Worlds (New York: Routledge, 1992), 3. 48. Karen Russell, “Vampires in the Lemon Grove”, in Vampires in the Lemon Grove: And Other Stories (London: Chatto & Windus, 2013), 7. 49. Ibid., 7. 50. Tiffany Quay Tyson, The Past Is Never (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2018), n.p.; William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun (New York: Vintage International, 2011), 73. 51. Eric G. Anderson, Taylor Hagood, and Daniel Cross Turner, eds., Undead Souths: The Gothic and Beyond in Southern Literature and Culture (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2015), 1–2. 52. Jamie Kornegay, “The Evolution of Southern Gothic”, n.p. 53. Tyson, The Past Is Never, n.p. 54. Ibid., n.p. 55. Donna McCormack, “Monster Talk”, in Somatechnics 8, no. 2 (2018): 247–248. 56. Tyson, The Past Is Never, 14. 57. Ibid., 274. 58. Ibid., 243. 59. Ibid., 274. 60. Ibid., 274. 61. Ibid., 274. 62. Ibid., 274. 63. Ibid., 275. 64. Garrett Peck, “Praise”, in Desper Hollow, by Elizabeth Massie (Lexington, KY: Apex, 2013), n.p.; Stokercon 2018, 65. Elizabeth Massie, Sineater (London, UK: Pan Books, 1992), 9.

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66. Ibid., 386. 67. Ibid., 291. 68. Ibid., 291. 69. Ibid., 385. 70. Ibid., 22. 71. Ibid., 119. 72. Ibid., 284. 73. Ibid., 289. 74. Stephen King, Danse Macabre (Mumbai: Everest House, 1992), 37. 75. Massie, Sineater, 132. 76. Ibid., 201. 77. Lloyd, “What Remains?”, 91. 78. Greg Iles, Mississippi Blood (London: HarperCollins, 2017), 2. 79. William Styron, Lie Down in Darkness (Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1951), 27. 80. Iles, Mississippi Blood, 680. 81. Ibid., 153. 82. Ibid., 189. 83. Ibid., 70. 84. Ibid., 97. 85. Ibid., 45. 86. Ibid., 45. 87. Ibid., 14. 88. Ibid., 9. 89. Ibid., 22. 90. Bailey, “Talismans of Shadows and Mantles of Light”, 446. 91. Richard Wright, “Between Laughter and Tears”, New Masses, October 5, 1937: 23–25. 92. Cynthia Bond, Ruby (London: Hodder & Stroughton, 2014), 4. 93. Bond, Ruby, 5. 94. Ibid., 5. 95. Ibid., 7. 96. Matthew Sivils, “Reading Trees in Southern Literature”, in Southern Quarterly 44, no. 1 (2006): 62. 97. Bond, Ruby, 7. 98. John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story (New York: Random House, 1994), 242. 99. Poppy Z. Brite, “Heart of New Orleans”, in The Devil You Know (Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2003), 150. 100. Poppy Z. Brite, “Last Wish”, in Last Wish and The Gulf (New Orleans and Los Angeles: Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2016), Kindle Edition, Loc. 28–32. 101. Brite, “Last Wish”, Loc. 54–57. 102. Sivils, “Reading Trees in Southern Literature”, 88. 103. Ibid., 88. 104. Ibid., 88. 105. Poppy Z. Brite, “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves”, in His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood (New York: Penguin, 1995), 30. 106. Brite, “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves”, 39. 107. Sukla Das, “Punishment”, in Crime and Punishment in Ancient India (Delhi: Abhinav Publishing, 1990), 65–66. 108. Brite, “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves”, 33. 109. Ibid., 33. 110. Ibid., 33. 111. Ibid., 33. 112. Ibid., 45. 113. Ibid., 45. 114. Ibid., 33, 45.


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Bibliography Anderson, Eric G., Taylor Hagood, and Daniel C. Turner, eds. 2015. Undead Souths: The Gothic and Beyond in Southern Literature and Culture. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP. Bailey, Peggy Dunn. 2010. “Female Gothic Fiction, Grotesque Realities, and Bastard Out of Carolina: Dorothy Allison Revises the Southern Gothic”. Mississippi Quarterly 63, nos. 1–2 (Winter/Spring): 269–290. ———. 2011. “Coming Home to Scrabble Creek: Saving Grace Serpent Handling, and the Realistic Southern Gothic”. Appalachian Journal 38, no. 4 (Summer): 424–439. ———. 2016. “Talismans of Shadows and Mantles of Light: Contemporary Forms of the Southern Female Gothic”. In The Palgrave Handbook of the Southern Gothic, edited by Susan Castillo Street and Charles L. Crow, 445–460. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Barnes, Trevor, and James Duncan, eds. 1992. “Introduction”. In Writing Worlds, 1–17. New York: Routledge. Berendt, John. 1994. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story. New York: Random House. Bjerre, Thomas Ærvold. 2017. “Southern Gothic Literature”. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature, 1–27. Oxford: Oxford UP. Bogan, Louise. 1941. “The Gothic South”. In Nation 153 (December 6): 572. Bond, Cynthia. 2014. Ruby. London: Hodder & Stroughton. Borwein, Naomi Simone. 2018. “The Critical Construction of Realistic Southern Gothic in the American Literary Canon”. PhD diss., University of Newcastle, Australia. Botting, Fred. 1996. Gothic. London, UK and New York, NY: Routledge. Brite, Poppy Z. 1995. “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves”. In His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood, 161– 182. New York: Penguin. ———. 2003. “The Heart of New Orleans”. In The Devil You Know, 147–162. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press. ———. 2016. “Last Wish”. In Last Wish and the Gulf, Loc. 25–52. New Orleans and Los Angeles: Amazon Digital Services LLC. Kindle. Brooks, Cleanth. 1942. “What Deep South Literature Needs”. The Saturday Review, September 23: 8–9, 29–30. Canby, Henry Seidel. 1931. “The School of Cruelty”. Saturday Review of Literature 55 (March 21): 673–674. Cowley, Malcolm. 1936. “Poe in Mississippi”. New Republic, November 4: 22. Dagut, M. B. 1976. “Can Metaphor Be Translated?” Babel XII 22, no. 1: 21–33. Das, Sukla. 1990. “Punishment”. In Crime and Punishment in Ancient India, 55–82. Delhi: Abhinav Publishing. Dimock, Wai Chee. 2007. “Introduction: Genres as Fields of Knowledge”. PMLA 122, no. 5 (October): 1377–1388. Donaldson, Susan V. 2015. “Making Darkness Visible: An Afterword and an Appreciation”. In Undead Souths, edited by Anderson, Hagood, and Turner, 261–265. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP. Ellis, Jay, ed. 2013. Southern Gothic Literature. Salem, MA: Salem P. Eschner, Kat. 2017. “Why We Love Southern Gothic”. Smithsonian, May 11. Faulkner, William. 2011. Requiem for a Nun. New York: Vintage International. Frow, John. 2015. Genre. New York: Routledge. Glasgow, Ellen. 1935. “Heroes and Monsters”. Saturday Review of Literature, May 4: 4–5. Haslam, Jason, and Joel Faflak, eds. 2016. American Gothic Culture. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh UP. Hayder, Mo. 2013. Poppet. London, UK: Bantam Press.

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Hughes, William. 2006. “Gothic Criticism: A Survey, 1764–2004”. In Teaching the Gothic, edited by Anna Powell and Andrew Smith, 136–152. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Hurston, Zora Neale. 1931. “Hoodoo in America”. The Journal of American Folklore 44, no. 174 (October–December): 317–417. Iles, Greg. 2017. Mississippi Blood. London: HarperCollins. Johnson, Gerald. 1935. “The Horrible South”. Virginia Quarterly Review 11 (April): 201–217. King, Stephen. 1997. Danse Macabre. Mumbai: Everest House. Kornegay, Jamie. 2015a. “The Evolution of Southern Gothic”. Huffington Post, April 2. www. ———. 2015b. Soil: A Novel. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Kreyling, Michael. 2016. “Uncanny Plantations: The Repeating Gothic”. In The Palgrave Handbook of the Southern Gothic, edited by Susan Castillo Street and Charles L. Crow, 231–243. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Lee, A. Robert. 1998. “Southern Gothic”. In The Handbook to Gothic Literature, edited by Marie Mulvey-Roberts, 217–220. New York: New York UP. Lloyd, Christopher. 2015. “What Remains? Sally Mann and the South’s Gothic Memories”. In Rooting Memory, Rooting Place: Regionalism in the Twenty-First-Century American South, 85–116. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Lloyd-Smith, Allan. 2004. “Key Texts”. In American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction, 37–64. New York: Bloomsbury. ———. 2006. “American Gothic.” In Teaching the Gothic, edited by Anna Powell and Allan Lloyd-Smith, 136–152. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK and New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Malin, Irving. 1962. New American Gothic. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP. Marshall, Bridget M. 2013. “Defining the Southern Gothic”. In Southern Gothic Literature, edited by Jay Ellis, 2–18. Salem, MA: Salem P. Massie, Elizabeth. 1992. Sineater. London, UK: Pan Books. McCormack, Donna. 2018. “Monster Talk”. Somatechnics 8, no. 2: 248–268. Miller, Meredith. 2013. “Southern Gothic”. In The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, edited by William Hughes, David Punter, and Andrew Smith, 632–636. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. Peck, Garrett. 2013. “Praise”. In Desper Hollow, by Elizabeth Massie, n.p. Lexington, KY: Apex. Robinson, Todd. 2012. “Interview: Todd Robinson”. In Shotgun Honey, December 19. https:// Russell, Karen. 2013. “Vampires in the Lemon Grove”. In Vampires in the Lemon Grove: And Other Stories, 3–22. London: Chatto & Windus. Sacks, Sam. 2018. “Revitalizing the Southern Gothic Style”. The Wall Street Journal, July 19. Silvey, Craig. 2009. Jasper Jones. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. Simpson, Lewis P. 1985. “Introduction”. In 3 by 3: Masterworks of the Southern Gothic, by Doris Betts, Mark Steadman, and Shirley Ann Grau, vii–xiv. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers. Singe, Anita. 2015. “Kazuo Ishiguro: The Book I’ll Never Write—And Other Stories”. UK Telegraph, May 25. Sivils, Matthew. 2006. “Reading Trees in Southern Literature”. Southern Quarterly 44, no. 1 (Fall): 88–102. Stokercon. 2018. Homepage. Accessed March 1, 2018. Stone, Edward. 1960. “Usher, Poquelin, and Miss Emily: The Progress of Southern Gothic”. The Georgia Review 14, no. 4 (Winter): 433–443. Street, Susan Castillo, and Charles L. Crow, eds. 2016. The Palgrave Handbook of the Southern Gothic. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Styron, William. 1951. Lie Down in Darkness. Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill.


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Tartt, Donna. 2011. The Little Friend. New York: Random House. Tuathail, G. 1992. “Foreign Policy and the Hyperreal”. In Writing Worlds, edited by Barnes and Duncan, 155–175. New York: Routledge. Tyson, Tiffany Quay. 2018. The Past Is Never. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. ———. 2018. Interview by Jamie Kornegay. Authors Round the South. Varma, Devendra P. 1966. The Gothic Flame. 2nd edition. New York: Russell & Russell. Walsh, M. O. 2015. “Why Southern Gothic Rules the World”. The Guardian, July 4. Welty, Eudora. 1942. The Robber Bridegroom. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Company. Wright, Richard. 1937. “Between Laughter and Tears”. New Masses, October 5: 23–25.

Indigenous Alterations Angela Elisa Schoch/Davidson

The study of the Indigenous Gothic is largely in its infancy. To date, I have found no major study attempting to outline the history of Indigenous authors writing in the gothic mode, though there are quite a few studies that approach singular texts. The state of Indigenous gothic study can be illustrated by the title of Michelle Burnham’s contribution to Cambridge’s A Companion to American Gothic; her chapter begs the question, “Is There An Indigenous Gothic?”.1 While the dearth of scholarship on these texts is partially a product of low Indigenous representation among authors more generally, the gothic mode has historically been a problematic one for Indigenous peoples. This chapter will briefly outline the historical and literary background which modern Indigenous authors are forced to contend with before moving on to an exploration of the definitional challenges and problematic nature of the “Indigenous gothic” label. Anna Lee Walters’ Ghost Singer (1998),2 I will argue, represents a particularly effective example of an Indigenous text that utilises the gothic mode to confront “the discourse of Indian spectrality”, an early American mode of writing that perceived Indigenous peoples to be dead or dying. Walters’ novel is also illustrative of the epistemological and spiritual differences present in many Indigenous cultures; these differences trouble the use of Western theoretical approaches to a gothic genre that originally began as the dark side of the Enlightenment. There are two gothic tropes in Ghost Singer that this analysis will largely focus upon. When scrutinised closely, it becomes apparent that the novel’s frightening effects operate on two distinct levels: her Indigenous characters experience the ghost differently than do her white, or “Anglo” characters. Another trope of gothic storytelling is the “return to the psychical normal”; the ending of a gothic tale generally explains away, or eliminates, the threat of the Gothic. Indigenous gothic texts often align with the subjectivities of Indigenous characters forced to interact with mainstream, or Euro-American, culture; different moral and epistemological

A. E. Schoch/Davidson (*)  California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, CA, USA

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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outlooks make re-establishing that “psychical norm” challenging, if not impossible. While this “return” is understood as a structural hallmark of American and British gothic storytelling, the oppressive force of Euro-American fracturedness often obstructs psychical normalcy; this is particularly apparent in Ghost Singer, a novel that effectively illustrates how the Anglo mainstream has institutionalised the transgression of Navajo taboos. This survey will rely on a diverse collection of sources, drawing from gothic literary theory, scholarship on Ghost Singer and other commonly identified Indigenous gothic texts, and interviews with Walters herself. In deference to the sensitive subject matter of Walters’ novel, I try, whenever possible, to include the works of Indigenous scholars such as Gerald Vizenor, Sandy Grande, and others. Without these contexts, we run the risk of appropriating Indigenous writing in a way that is not unlike the Anglo scholars working in Walters’ Smithsonian. Before analysing Ghost Singer, I feel it is important to understand that through her “ghosting” of Tall Man (the titular character), Anna Lee Walters is in conversation within what scholar Reneé Bergland has referred to as the “discourse of Indian spectrality”.3 The “discourse of Indian spectrality”, which saw its heyday in the nineteenth century, is a form of literary annihilation whereby America’s Indigenous inhabitants were already presumed dead and gone. It has been argued that authors who engaged with the discourse of Indian spectrality helped “enact a literary Indian Removal that reinforced and at times even helped to construct the political Indian Removal”; in this figuration, removal is achieved through insistent focus on the Indigenous dead, as well as lack of acknowledgement that many Indigenous peoples survived colonisation.4 The tenor of these literary texts varies; some, like poet Philip Frenau, author of the 1787 poem “The Indian Burying Ground”, were drawn to the romantic notion of a noble people vanished from the earth. Use of the “Vanishing Indian” motif is common in the works of other Romantic writers. Some authors, like James Fenimore Cooper, viewed their writing on Indigenous peoples as a kind of preservation effort. Yet, in “preserving” the Native American, these white authors presupposed the inevitability of their departure from the landscape. In his short story “Otter-bag, The Oneida Chief” (1829), John Neal characterises the Indigenous people as “the live wreck of a prodigious empire that has departed from before our face within the memory of man; the last of a people who have no history, and who but the other day were in possession of a quarter of the whole earth”.5 By emptying the American landscape of its Native population, authors help do the work of justifying westward expansion. Neal’s passage, which evokes both drama and romance, creates an Indigenous population that is ripe for imaginative use in the literature of the new nation, while at the same time justifying the displacement of that population in service of that nation. Indigenous people and their “eroding” society, then, are likened to the dilapidated ruins and castles of Europe; the Vanishing Indian becomes a gothic literary device.6 The destructiveness of the “discourse of Indian spectrality” as a rhetorical strategy that depopulated the Americas and undermined moral objections to Manifest Destiny cannot be understated. However, it is important to understand

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that the earliest rhetorical uses of “Indian spectrality” were both Indigenous and subversive; the canonical white-authored texts came later.7 In her study on the discourse of Indian spectrality, Bergland traces how one Indigenous ghost, the mother of the sachem of Passonagessit, was rhetorically resurrected in the oratory and writings of white and Indigenous authors alike for over two hundred years. In 1620, the year of the landing at Plymouth, many Indigenous burial sites were disturbed by the English colonists; these graves included that of the sachem of Passonagessit’s mother. In the speech that resulted, the sachem stated that his mother’s ghost had appeared to him in his sleep; she told him that he must resist the thieves who were trespassing on their land. “I shall not rest quiet”, the sachem reported her as saying. This speech is seen as the first example of the rhetorical use of “Indian spectrality”. She would not be the last Indigenous ghost to populate the white imagination. Nor would she be allowed to rest: the sachem’s mother later makes an appearance in William Hubbard’s A Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New England (1677), an historical volume. In 1813 her ghost is written into Washington Irving’s “Traits of Indian Character”, as well as The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon (1819). In 1829, William Apess (1798–1839), a Pequot author, activist, and Methodist minister, invokes the sachem’s mother in his biographical piece, A Son of the Forest (1829).8 Apess’ usage of the sachem’s spectral mother represents a cyclical return; once again the Indigenous ghost is used as a rhetorical tool of resistance. It is important to realise that there is room for Indigenous authors to engage with the discourse of Indian spectrality in ways that are productive and resistant to white American hegemony. Indigenous authors who choose to engage with the discourse of spectrality are not simply subverting it; historically speaking, they are wresting it from a white authorship that has co-opted it for colonial purposes. Interestingly, Apess’ A Son of the Forest was an inherent act of resistance against the Indian spectrality practiced by white American authors; by writing about his own life, as a member of the Pequot, Apess “made himself present within a discourse that figured Indians as absent, voiceless, and silenced”.9 I predict that increased scholarly interest in the recovery of Indigenous literacies will yield more examples of early Indigenous engagement with the discourse of Indian spectrality, and with “gothic” tropes more broadly. Recent scholarly efforts have sought to expand the definition of literacy in the early Americas. By complicating the division between oral and written culture, the range of Indigenous “texts” is enlarged. These texts, despite having no resemblance to written language as understood by Western convention, still communicate Indigenous connections to family, community, and the spirit world across the centuries.10 Without looking to an expanded range of literacies for early evidence of Indigenous interaction with the gothic mode, there are still examples that precede the “Third Wave” initiated by Gerald Vizenor’s The Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart. Robert Dale Parker, through his compilation of Changing is Not Vanishing, an anthology of Native American poems written before 1930, intended to correct the perception that Indigenous writing began in the 1960s. He notes that although Native American literature is beginning to be taught in schools and

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analysed by critics, very little of this writing precedes N. Scott Momaday’s 1968 novel House Made of Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Prize and was a part of an outpouring of Indigenous writing in the late 1960s.11 Parker’s work, leading to the expansion of Indigenous literary history, has yielded some undeniably gothic gems. The life details of Wa Wa Chaw (1888– 1972), likely of the Payomkowishum, are largely unknown to us; the poet believed that she had been sold to the woman who adopted her, and tragically was never able to rediscover family relations or lost tribal affiliations.12 Two of her poems, “Haunted Brains” and “The Indian’s Spirit”, both published in 1922, are imbued with a deep sense of hauntedness. “The Indian’s Spirit” is a poem in direct dialogue with the “discourse of Indian spectrality”: Down in the deep my spirit will creep Out of the window into the air No one knows where. Deathless and lifeless, sleepless of fears Indians will keep their spirits nearCreeping about in the open air No one knows where Down in the deep my spirit will creep, Fearless of sorrow and fearless of time, Indian will seek a spirit to help his creed. Out of the window into the air No one knows where. Indian spirits shall share Deathless and lifeless, sleepless of fear The noise of my spirit shall speak very clear. Out of the windows into the air No one knows where When far into the darkened night a change in the air The Indian spirit shall creep out of no where.13

Wa Wa Chaw’s poem imagines agent possibilities for the Indigenous spectre. The spirit, despite its dubious corporeality, is able to speak and articulate; even more importantly, the poem anticipates an unexpected return from “no one knows where”. While the poems of Wa Wa Chaw, largely written in the 1920s, can be read for their explicitly gothic content fairly easily, other earlier works of Indigenous writing require a more cautious approach. Scholars are increasingly looking for signs of self-expression by reading “against the grain” in documents as diverse as church documents and execution and court statements: seemingly coerced writings may yield signs of resistance while the works of seemingly agent authors may be constrained by historical circumstances. The tension between autonomy and constraint in Indigenous writing is perhaps most evident in the works produced by students in the missionary boarding schools of New England.14 If the Gothic naturally asserts itself in writing that seeks to describe “gothic” circumstances, a “gothic” reading of boarding school documents would not be so far fetched.

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Anna Lee Walters’ Ghost Singer is generally viewed as part of a wave of Indigenous novels that employ the gothic mode. The first, and perhaps most widely known, of these works is Gerald Vizenor’s The Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart, a 1978 novel that inverts frontier gothic portrayals of Indigenous peoples as demonic Others.15 Vizenor’s novel, and the novels of many Indigenous writers working in the gothic mode, take part the process of “writing back”, a strategy that reverses the point of view from which a canonical text (or in Vizenor’s case, an entire genre) is written; “writing back” is a way to respond that is both creative and disruptive to hegemonic discourses.16 In Bearheart, the inherently violent Wild West is seen through the Indigenous perspective as Vizenor’s protagonists face off against a diverse cast of white villains, including cowboys and fascists.17 Commonly identified works of Indigenous gothic fiction include Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road (2005),18 Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer (1996)19 Owl Goingback’s Crota (1999),20 and Martin Cruz’s Nightwing (1977),21 among others.22 In recent years, scholars have expanded their focus beyond these “canonical” Indigenous gothic texts from the North American continent. Looking to television, one scholar investigated the possibility that New Zealand’s Mataku (2002–2005), a supernatural anthology series casually described as a “Maori X-Files”, was a transcultural production of “Maori gothic”.23 The idea that Indigenous gothic writing must be understood as a “transcultural” form will be explored more closely as I detail some of the problematising aspects of the Indigenous gothic label. Theorising an Indigenous gothic body of literature inevitably presents a series of challenges. Before analysing Anna Lee Walters’ novel as a gothic text, I feel it is important to acknowledge the problematising elements of the genre. As you will notice throughout this paper, there will be reference to Indigenous gothic “texts” written by authors with widely varying tribal affiliations. While this is not ideal, the number of “gothic” texts written by Indigenous authors is not always substantial enough to break texts into categories based on tribal affiliation, and admittedly, the term “Indigenous gothic” a little too broad. Mainstream ignorance of tribal distinction often leads to a “flattening” of widely diverse cultures through the use of a single moniker. Scholars have also noted the American tendency to “equalize indians as symbolic essences”.24 Some studies have found it more useful to classify Indigenous gothic texts by grouping works by authors with similar tribal affiliations; in this way more discrete categories such as “First Nations gothic” are created.25 This, I argue, is important: understanding tribal worldviews, and taboos, is vital in understanding the transgressions of a text. In “reading” Walters’ Ghost Singer, I argue that approaching Indigenous gothic literature by looking at taboos may be an effective way to understand the tribally specific elements of the text. This lens mitigates certain criticisms related to genre and postcolonial readings, because it actually opens up the possibility of a gothic literature based solely on Indigenous worldviews. Cherokee scholar Thomas King has objected to the labelling of Indigenous literature as postcolonial because this configuration requires the arrival of Europeans as a catalyst for Indigenous literary creation; similar arguments have applied to the labelling of Indigenous literature as “gothic”.26


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This “dependence” on European intrusion as a catalyst is undeniably problematic, as are other aspects of the gothic genre. One of the obvious incompatibilities between Indigenous worldviews and the gothic is the treatment of the natural world. Traditionally, “landscapes in the Gothic…dwel{l} on the exposed, inhuman and pitiless nature of mountains, crags, and wastelands”.27 Of course the “wastelands” described throughout the American gothic canon were the traditional homes of Indigenous peoples. For them, the “wilderness was not hostile, but home”.28 Gerald Vizenor’s Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart engages in a reversal of the frontier gothic value system that views the woods as a source of evil and death. Scholars have seen an engagement with the pastoral tradition in Vizenor’s text, especially in relation to the novel’s protagonist, Proude Cedarfair, whose ancestors lived among the cedars and considered them sacred.29 Specific relationships with the natural world vary between Indigenous cultures, but some are particularly demonstrative of the incompatibility between Indigenous worldviews and the negative representations of the natural world which proliferate in traditional gothic narratives. The Maori (Maoritanga) have a cultural understanding of spiritual phenomena such as possession, haunting, and a variety of creatures (including tree-like humanoids, or maero/mohoao), as a part of the land, or whenua. Even more imposing entities, like the maero or the heavily clawed ponaturi, share a profound connection to the Maori because whenua is connected to turangawaewae. Turangawaewae, or “a place to stand” is a concept that empowers the Maori in their relationship to the environment, constructing that identity as tangata whenua, or “people of the land”.30 Thus, the creatures, hauntings, and possessions that exist in Maori culture are not cast aside as aberrant forces worthy of gothicisation; they are seen as a part of the chain that ties the Maori to the land, defining their identity in a profound way. For this reason, scholars have stated that any discussion of the “Maori gothic” needs to be approached through a transcultural lens.31 Despite the issues detailed above, allegorical readings of Windigo cannibalism demonstrate how the Indigenous Gothic may work on both transcultural and intra-cultural levels. As popularly understood, the Windigo is simultaneously a folkloric creature and an illness. In folklore, the spirit associated with the bitter north woods, it is known for its cannibalism and appears as an impossibly tall giant with a heart of ice. The illness causes normal humans to “go Windigo” and engage in cannibalism themselves. The Algonquian word from which “windigo” derives is “wetikowatisewin”, a word denoting “diabolical wickedness or cannibalism”. Grace Dillon explains that the Algonquian taboos against self-interest relates to both Windigo cannibalism and imperialism; both represent “the consumption of one people by another”.32 Put another way, the Windigo expresses Algonquian cultural taboos against hyper-individualism and “destructive consumption”.33 The figure of the Windigo has been used in writings that have been classified as First Nations Gothic, and this reading of the creature reveals gothic possibilities that operate on the level of intra-cultural taboo while also expressing, in a transculturally “gothic” way, the horrors heaped upon Indigenous populations by imperialism. Understanding tribally specific worldviews and taboos are an important start point for Indigenous-centred

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readings of gothic texts: fully interpreting Windigo, and his folkloric function in maintaining communal harmony, requires cultural understanding. Gothic literature has historically been a genre that investigates boundaries and pushes extremes.34 Indigenous gothic texts will explore boundaries and tabooed subjects relevant to its own tribally specific context; thus, while they may veer away from more traditional gothic themes in American and British texts. Epistemological differences may also confuse traditional gothic understandings of the “supernatural”, but wherever there are culturally prescribed boundaries, there is space for the Gothic. As explored earlier in this paper, the act of “writing back” is a productive way of reversing foundational gothic texts and subgenres that have been harmful to the cause of Indigenous peoples. Anna Lee Walters’ Ghost Singer illustrates the successful reversal of the discourse of Indian spectrality. However, before moving on to Walters’ text, I think it worth noting that while some scholars insist that the Gothic is a transcultural form,35 others insist that there is a vibrant process of cross-fertilisation between American and Indigenous gothic traditions. Indigenous authors draw on a tradition of tribal storytelling that has always included “horror” stories, as well as the effects, sensations, and storytelling strategies that are not dissimilar to those used in canonical gothic literature.36 Commenting on the challenges of distinguishing between conventions of Euro-American gothic tradition and Indigenous storytelling traditions, Michelle Burnham has described ‘these two cultural and historical sources braid{ed} together in a hybrid production of textual haunting and supernatural horror”.37 Anna Lee Walters’ novel operates against a backdrop of tragic wisdom, a kind of reason that is both straightforward and profound, issuing from the inauspicious experiences of colonialism and Euro-American hegemony; Anishinaabe author Gerald Vizenor has defined tragic wisdom as “a pronative voice of liberation and survivance, a condition in native stories and literature that denies victimization”.38 The tragic wisdom of Walters’ Indigenous characters, representing a variety of tribal backgrounds, is juxtaposed against the profound lack of understanding demonstrated by her white, or Anglo characters; their inability to take advantage of the knowledge offered them is highly ironic, considering that the major Anglo characters of Walters’ novel are anthropologists working at Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian museum. “Opposing epistemic views” have been identified as the root cause of the profound divide in understanding between Walters’ Anglo and Indigenous characters.39 Furthermore, the sense of cultural superiority demonstrated by Donald Evans and the ironically named Geoffrey “Newsome” disallows their incorporation of knowledge generously offered by Indigenous characters: that knowledge, and those warnings, provide a context through which the “supernatural” events of the novel can be understood and dealt with. As I shall discuss later in this chapter, using white frameworks to understand the titular Ghost Singer imbues the character with a level of horror absent from Indigenous understanding. The inability to understand and respect Indigenous contexts in Ghost Singer is a metaphor for the work performed by both real and fictional anthropologists. The publication of Ghost Singer coincides with increased awareness surrounding scholarly abuses of Indigenous remains and artefacts. The novel


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anticipates the 1990 passage of NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Rebecca Tillett writes extensively on the state of anthropology contemporary to Anna Lee Walters’ novel.40 However, a quick run of figures gives one of the sense of how grim the situation was: in 1986, two years before the publication of Ghost Singer, the Smithsonian alone held 185,000 Indigenous remains in its collection.41 Some bodies were whole, while others, like the string of ears in Walters’ novel, were held in fragments. The goal of NAGPRA is twofold. Firstly, legislation establishes equal respect and consideration of tribal perspectives in anthropological contexts, especially where ancestral remains are concerned; secondly, NAGPRA legislation aims to prohibit all traffic in Indigenous remains and to “repatriate” all Indigenous remains and artefacts, whether held in private or museological collections. Significantly, the term use of the term “repatriate” echoes tribal suggestion that these remains, often collected from the sites of historical battles and massacres, are effectively being held as “prisoners of war”.42 The 1990s saw a number of challenges regarding NAGPRA, however, the decade also witnessed more positive examples of Indigenous/anthropologist relations. In 1990, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council authorised anthropological study of twenty-three graves in a cemetery, now referred to as Long Pond, which were disturbed during the construction of a private home. Importantly, the anthropologists agreed to rebury the bodies of the tribal members.43 Writing about the contents of a grave belonging to an 11-year-old girl, McBride acknowledged the controversial nature of the medicine bundle and let the reading audience know that he had chosen not to include a photo of the bundle for this reason.44 This instance of Indigenous and scholarly collaboration stands in stark contrast with the treatment of Indigenous dead at the Smithsonian Institute in Anna Lee Walter’s Ghost Singer. Importantly, Walters’ assessment of the situation at the Smithsonian is made more plausible by the fact that the author herself worked at the National Anthropological Museum at the Smithsonian.45 In her study on the discourse of Indian spectrality, Reneé Bergland wrote that when early Native American orators and writers “figured themselves as ghostly, they gained rhetorical power at the cost of relinquishing everything else”.46 Of course, the primarily Indigenous and very-much-alive cast of characters in Anna Lee Walters’ novel mitigates the sacrificial aspects of this rhetorical trade-off. It has also been asserted that the use of Indigenous ghosts represents an acknowledgement that important battles for sovereignty have already been lost.47 As discussed earlier in this chapter, Ghost Singer is a comment on the state of scholarly disrespect that led to the active political struggle of Native peoples to wrest control of their ancestral remains and artefacts. As I will demonstrate, Anna Lee Walters’ novel is engaging with the discourse of Indian spectrality, but spectrality is at work very differently in Ghost Singer; this is in large part due to different understandings of time. Walters herself has commented on her interactions with older people while she was working at Navajo Community College (now Diné College); according to her, the Diné elders did not see time fragmented or broken down, but saw it as “a path ahead of them as well as behind”.48 Other scholars writing about

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Ghost Singer have understood the compartmentalisation of time, and its linear orientation as one way that Indigenous peoples are denied a future and banished from the present; this view of time also supports the separation of the individual from surrounding communities and the environment.49 This is interesting, as Indigenous beliefs about time and ethics predate the Derridean concept of the “new scholar”; in Spectres of Marx, Jacques Derrida writes about the coming of a scholar who is able to engage equally in intellectual commerce with the living, the dead, and those not yet born, or the “arrivants of history”.50 This radical cognitive reorientation begets an ethical reorientation in which the dead and those who have yet to be born have equal rights that need to be taken into account. This orientation, while “radical” to the Western mind, is fairly typical of Indigenous belief systems, and is employed throughout Ghost Singer. In writing her novel, Walters was inspired by her culture, and in particular by elders she’s met; her approach to temporal understanding has a significant impact on the type of “ghost” story the novel becomes, and she acknowledges writing the novel with an Indigenous audience in mind.51 Throughout Ghost Singer Walters includes chapter subheadings describing place and time, as well as “cast of characters” in the first few pages that outlines important characters and relationships. The inclusion of this information serves a dual purpose: Indigenous readers would expect tribal and family distinctions to be made clear, and the “cast of characters” aids Anglo readers with less knowledge about tribal context. Walters has herself commented on the difficulties of writing with both audiences in mind.52 There is another aspect of Walters’ “cast of characters” that may be surprising to the Western sensibility: LeClair, who is dead long before the events of Ghost Singer, is included with the simple entry “LECLAIR WILLIAMS deceased; friend of Wilbur and Anna Snake”. The presence of a known and loved “ghost”, or spirit person (as the Snakes would refer to him), offsets possible misconstruance of the “ghost” or deceased person as necessarily frightening. The titular Ghost Singer is another type of entity, and is not representative of the majority of spirit people in Walters’ novel. Leclair is so “present” to Anna Snake that when she is discussing plans to travel to D.C. with her husband, she tells Wilbur that he should have asked LeClair if he wanted to go too.53 Speaking to Russell Tallman, Wilbur also mentions that he has seen LeClair, once out in his fields and another time is a dream.54 The ever-presence of LeClair, friend to Wilbur and Anna Snake, establishes important precepts of the novel: seeing spirits is not necessarily a cause for alarm. The presence of LeClair also humanises “ghosts”, which is an interesting reversal of the discourse of Indian spectrality, which has the potential to “reinforce the intractable otherness of Indians”, making them “so other that they are otherworldly”.55 About midway through the novel, it is revealed that Anna has seen spirit people: her people taught her not to fear the dead, nor to feel shame for seeing them. Smiling, Anna muses that “seeing beyond the world” was normal; by her people’s way of thinking, if she couldn’t see dead people it would be considered a kind of handicap of the senses. Every time she encountered spirit people “Anna had learned a fraction more about living and dying”.56 Walters’ novel often privileges the knowledge gained through experience over book learning.


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This is not surprising, as Indigenous scholars have identified “high-context situations” and experiential learning as a hallmark of Indigenous education: “true understanding is based on experiencing nature and life directly”.57 The elders of Walters’ text, through their long life experience, have encountered entities and know how to approach them with respect. This respect is also inherent in the difference in terminology employed throughout the novel. After anthropologist Donald Evans takes the office of a colleague who recently committed suicide, George Daylight, a tribal official of Creek and Cherokee heritage, tries to warn him about the supernatural happenings in the attic of the Smithsonian.58 Throughout the exchange, George uses the term “spirit people” to describe the spectral inhabitants, while Donald mocks his belief in “ghosts”.59 The conversation becomes more heated as Donald refuses to listen to the vital knowledge George is offering. Sighing, George tells Donald about the Tall Man, “this man is what you call a ‘ghost’”.60 George Daylight confers humanity upon Tall Man through his insistence on referring to him as a man, and as a spirit person. This is yet another illustration of one of the fundamental differences between American and British gothic texts and those produced by Indigenous authors: “ghosts”, or spirit people, are not necessarily gothic presences. Spectrality is presenting itself differently in Walter’s novel, and interestingly, the “horrors” of the text are not universal: Walters’ Anglo characters are experiencing different horrors than her Indigenous characters are. It is important to note that the sense of dread produced by Anna Lee Walters’ Ghost Singer operates on two distinct levels. The gothic experiences of Willie Begay and other Indigenous characters are far more nuanced than the sheer terror characterising the experiences of Anglo characters such a Jean Wurley, Geoffrey Newsome, and Donald Evans. These parallel, yet divergent, gothic moments in the text are important: they demonstrate the potential for Indigenous gothic writing to simultaneously engage with and subvert traditional gothic tropes, especially those involving “Indian others”. It is telling that while the Gothic often intersects obliquely with cultural anxieties in Euro-American texts, Anna Lee Walters makes the subtext of her novel painfully clear. As expressed by Allan Lloyd-Smith, “the relationship of the Gothic to cultural and historical realities is like that of dream, clearly somehow ‘about’ certain fantasies and anxieties, less coherent in its expression of them”.61 Past rhetorical uses of the Indian ghost in white writing has been highly destructive to Indigenous causes; in light of this history, Indigenous authors such as Walters are obliged to offer a level of clarity to readers, lest readers misunderstand her use of the “Indian” spectre. In addition, the “dream-like” quality of Euro-American gothic works may itself be a function of “the return of the repressed”, of a deep guilt bubbling to the surface, present but unacknowledged. In any case, the experiences of Walters’ white characters are much more recognisable in terms of genre conventions. As has been established earlier in this paper, “ghosts” in Indigenous gothic texts are not necessarily figures of uncanny terror.62 However, terror plainly characterises the experiences of Ghost Singer’s Jean Wurley, Geoffrey Newsome, and Donald Evans. All three of these characters worked with the Smithsonian’s

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“controversial” collection of Indigenous remains and artefacts in the Smithsonian attic: by the end of the novel two have died under unusual circumstances, and the third, Donald, remains convinced that “this thing wants {him} dead”.63 Again, I draw attention to Donald’s reference to the Tall Man as a “thing”, as something apart from humanity. This “othering” of Tall Man makes him far more frightening than he is to the Indigenous characters in the text. In addition, his assumption that Tall Man is some sort of ravening monster is in keeping with the “gothicized” ghost which will be familiar to readers of the genre. The horror experienced by the Anglo anthropologists in Ghost Singer is related to what the disturbance of what Quechua scholar Sandy Grande refers to as “the deification of reason and measure”.64 The supposed superiority of reason and measure, importantly, is at the heart of anthropology’s dominance over Indigenous study. In Ghost Singer, Anglo anthropologists consistently belittle Indigenous belief systems that they see as inferior and uneducated. Scholars have noted the long history of colonial condescension towards Indigenous epistemologies, but it is important to note that while part of this condescension stems from perceived primitivism, Indigenous beliefs have also been perceived as threatening.65 Anthropology’s authority is largely derived from its control over “dominant ways of seeing;” there is an inherent power imbalance in anthropological study and museological collection through its construction of the “observer” and the “observed”.66 As anthropologists, Walters’ Anglo characters enjoy an elevated hierarchical position over the Indigenous artefacts and people whose remains they have control over; they also enjoy the privilege that comes with the dominance of one’s own worldview. Throughout the text, it becomes apparent that part of the fear felt by Walters’ anthropologists is tied up in the threat they feel to their hegemonic and epistemological dominance. This sense of threat expresses itself in a variety of ways. Geoffrey Newsome is extremely territorial about his attic workspace, and is incensed by the idea that Jean Wurly, who is already dead, might have “violated” it.67 Donald Evans demonstrates an extreme unwillingness to work with Indigenous characters on an “even” footing. Speaking to Wilbur Snake, whom he asks for help, Evans states upfront that he doesn’t want to divulge information about the collection, nor does he want to debate the existence of “ghosts”.68 In other words, he can’t discuss topics that shake his understanding of “reality”, nor will he relinquish his sense of control over the collection of Indigenous remains. The elder Snakes agree to visit the Smithsonian attic to assess, and possibly heal the situation, yet they still have to badger Donald before he will admit what is kept in the boxes that Tall Man has been rummaging through.69 Donald still needs to exert his control of the situation through his tight hold on the museological collection. In many Euro-American gothic texts anxiety is caused by the sneaking suspicion that colonial activity is likely to “bring home an unwanted legacy”.70 Donald’s predecessor, Geoffrey Newsome, experienced this “coming home” in a highly literalised way: a cloth sack filled with the bones of an Indigenous child follows him back to his apartment, appearing on his terrace.71 Loss of control over the colonial legacy represented by the collection at the Smithsonian haunts the Anglo anthropologists of Walters’ novel.


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The sense of “losing control” is particularly potent in scenes where Anglo anthropologists have to confront the reality of a living Indigenous population. Donald and Geoffrey still operate under the assumptions of the nineteenth-century discourse of Indian spectrality, which views Indigenous people as relics of the past with no stake in a shared future.72 Controlling the histories, bodies, and artefacts of a people who has already vanished is much easier than trying to dominate a living, breathing people. Geoffrey’s extreme dislike of George Daylight, even upon first meeting,73 is illustrative of this colonial insecurity: Geoffrey is particularly “disgusted” by George’s culturally unambiguous fashion choices.74 For Geoffrey, George isn’t just challenging his dominance as the curator of the Smithsonian’s controversial collection, he is challenging his worldview that sees Indigenous people as extinct. Donald feels similarly, seeing George’s kind as “overextended”, and living “on borrowed time”.75 It has been pointed out that a creeping understanding of the collection’s humanity is what “haunts” the curators at the Smithsonian; as they start to smell living, breathing people in the attic the dominance of their “way of seeing” is disrupted.76 They are made to question their own beliefs about the veil between life and death, while also being forced to understand that they are complicit in the morally reprehensible anthropological institution. The experiences of the anthropologists in Ghost Singer are largely predicated on what gothic scholars have referred to as “the terror of what might happen”, rather than any explicitly horrific event.77 Throughout the Walters’ novel, it is implied that the Anglo anthropologists are just scaring themselves.78 Talking about Donald’s situation, Junior Snake, son of Wilbur and Anna, tells Russell Tallman that “all this is Evans’s show”, and that “he’s the one who was opened up to it;” continuing on, he explains to Russell that everything is in the mind, that “our minds are the boundaries of our physical selves”.79 Junior’s plastic understanding of mind and body contrasts sharply with the hard boundaries that Donald and other Anglo characters share: their cognitive inflexibility disallows them from sensing the humanity of the collection. This forces the collection to express its humanity, through scent, movement, and finally through the embodiment of Tall Man, the titular Ghost Singer: the collection forces understanding in the face of extreme denial. George, trying to explain the situation in Washington to Russell Tallman, says that “their senses were too damn plugged up!”80 The Ghost Singer, the child whose bones are kept in a sack, and a myriad of other Indigenous hostages of the Smithsonian really have to work hard to “unplug” Donald Evans’ senses: he doesn’t accept the reality of the spirits until Tall Man physically lifts and throws him across the room.81 George Daylight, speaking of the senses, privileges the importance of experiential learning over the book learning of Western education; he echoes Indigenous scholars who identify that this important feature of Indigenous education as culturally distinct.82 The Indigenous characters of Walters’ Ghost Singer come from varied tribal backgrounds, though the text appears to be written with a largely Navajo, or Diné, perspective in mind. “Diné”, the name Navajo peoples use for self-identification, translates as “The People”83; this is how Willie Begay and his grandfather Jonnie Navajo refer to themselves throughout the novel.84 Anna Lee Walters is herself

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affiliated with the Pawnee and Otoe-Missouria, though she taught at Navajo Community College for many years, and dedicates Ghost Singer to its students, past and present. Her own children are fluent in Navajo, her having married a Diné man.85 In reading the “horrors” of Walters’ Ghost Singer from an Indigenous perspective, privileging the Diné worldview makes sense, especially in light of the fact that while other tribal affiliations are made clear, specific tribal practices are rarely referenced. In addition, the two connected story arcs that weave in and out of Ghost Singer’s main narrative revolve around Jonnie Navajo’s family history and the wider history of Diné enslavement by the Spanish. The novel opens in 1830 as Red Lady, great-grandmother to Jonnie Navajo, is kidnapped along with one of her twin daughters86; the other storyline revolves around Anita, the granddaughter of the lost twin, who discovers her Indigenous heritage as her mother lies on her deathbed.87 Despite tribal differences there is a sense of pan-tribal cooperation throughout the novel; Diné epistemology and spiritual understanding does not seem to conflict with those of the Snakes, described as “medicine people from Oklahoma”.88 After Willie Begay begins displaying disturbing behaviour, his friends demonstrate this sense of intertribal cooperation; George is affiliated with the Creek and Cherokee, while Russell’s tribal affiliations are widespread and include Kiowa, Caddo, Pawnee, Comanche, and Cheyenne heritage.89 After they tie Willie up so he can’t hurt himself, George proposes that they help him; Russell is initially unsure, worrying that they don’t “know anything about Navajos!”90 George calms Russell’s anxieties, telling him “it can’t be too different from what your people and my people know;” he also makes it clear that Willie, isolated in Washington DC, has no one else to aid him.91 In evoking Willie’s isolation in D.C., George is making it clear that tribal distinctions, while important, are easily bridged compared with the gap of understanding that exists between Indigenous and Anglo worldviews. As I will explain, Willie’s immersion in the Anglo world is the root cause of his illness; the fracturedness of Anglo thought puts Willie in a position to betray some of his tribe’s most basic cultural taboos. As Rebecca Tillett has noted, Ghost Singer indicates that the “monstrous” is a product of the Euro-American worldviews; these views sustain the abuses of academic institutions against the Indigenous peoples through notions of ownership that are equally applicable to museological “collecting” and slavery.92 One day, while accessing the Navajo collection held by the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, a scalp is brought to Willie and he touches it before he realises what it is.93 Thus, he inadvertently violates strict Diné taboos prohibiting physical contact with the dead.94 Scholars have noted that when Indigenous peoples are “infected” by European contact, ghosts carry “the weight of {that} originary infection”.95 This explains the Ghost Singer’s insistence on showing himself to Willie. Willie’s transgression has put him out of harmony with Diné values. The accidental disrespect he caused through his handling of the scalp, I argue, is an affront to k’é, the Diné system of kinship.96 After the major events of the novel have ended, Willie speculates on the identity of the scalp’s owner. He tells his grandfather Jonnie that during his research in Washington he


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discovered that Narbona, one of the Diné’s most respected leaders, was scalped; Narbona’s scalp later ended up in Washington, along with thousands of other taken for bounty. Remembering his own family history, Willie recalls that the Spanish unsuccessfully tried to scalp White Sheep (father of Red Lady, Jonnie’s ­great-great-grandmother); had they been successful, Willie might have held White Sheep’s scalp in his hands.97 Walters herself never specifies what artefact or body part the Ghost Singer was searching for, because the remains at the Smithsonian are “so mixed up themselves”.98 The profoundly confused nature of the fragmented bodies in Washington means that Indigenous people working in archives run into the possibility of violating not just the taboo, but respectful kinship relations. Thus, immersion in the Euro-American world lays Diné people open to moving out of step with hózhǫ́, the desirable state of being.99 Epistemologically speaking, the Indigenous process of “coming to know” is expressed through metaphors that shared, and internalised.100 Sa’ąh Naagháí Bik’eh Hózhǫ́ǫ́n (SNBH) is the shared metaphor of the Diné, and it outlines how the Diné should strive to live a life of harmony, beauty, and balance.101 It is the desired state of being.102 After Willie’s transgression, he falls out of step with hózhǫ́. While Jonnie prays for his grandson, he tells him that effectiveness of the prayer is lessened through its invocation in a foreign land. To truly “go forward with {his} life”, he must return home and undergo a ceremony.103 The ritual suggested by Jonnie Navajo is likely that of nayee’ijí, a protectionway ceremony that which aims to restore hózhǫ́.104 There are recorded examples of medicine people using this ceremony to restore hózhǫ́ after accidental transgressions: in the 1950s a Diné boy inadvertently trespassed on the sacred grounds of the Mesa Verde on a school field trip because his school didn’t recognise Diné ancestral teachings and taboos.105 This real-world anecdote exemplifies the spiritual peril that Diné, and other Indigenous people, face when operating in the wider Euro-American world. It has been argued that Indigenous spirituality does not mesh well with the Gothic, dominated as it is by Eurocentric epistemologies that create natural/supernatural dichotomies; conversely, Indigenous cultures suffuse the natural world with spiritual presence.106 While this is an astute observation, I argue that the “Indigenous gothic” of Anna Lee Walters’ novel does not require separate natural and supernatural spheres to function: Ghost Singer articulates the horrors created by the breed of cognitive separation that allows the barbarity at the Smithsonian. In this way, Walters’ text is aligned with George (Maungwudaus) Henry’s An Account of the Chippewa Indians, written in 1848. Henry recounts his experience as an Ojibway performer and his journey through the United States and Britain. At one point he describes his visit to a medical theatre in Edinburgh; he notes that seventy young men “who are to be medicine men”, were dissecting and skinning thirty bodies in the same way that the Ojibway would have prepared venison.107 Like Walters, Henry recognises the unusual ability of the Euro-American mind to divest the dead body of its humanity. The final pages of Euro-American gothic narratives, whether British or American, tend to reinforce culturally prescriptive morality after allowing the reader to engage with darker forces and alternate realities. This “turn” in the

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text is often referred to as “the return to psychical normalcy”.108 In many novels and short stories, this turn is a conservative one which undermines subversive or tabooed elements of a text. However, in works of the Indigenous Gothic this is problematised; Indigenous characters, whose moral and spiritual understandings are at odds with the Euro-American world that they are forced to negotiate, struggle to “return” to a state of psychical normalcy. American morality has the tendency to be selective and fragmented; this is evidenced by the course handling of Indigenous remains in Anna Lee Walters’ Ghost Singer. The comforts of the return to psychical normalcy are difficult to attain for characters who cannot be sure that their most basic cultural values will be respected. The one-page epilogue of Walters’ novel ends with the death of Jonnie Navajo. Having died in the autumn of 1975, he was buried in a mound in a nearby sandstone valley. Jonnie’s grandchildren Nasbah and Willie, accompanied by Willie’s wife, visit the grave and discover pottery sherds lying about; this discovery casts a pall over the party, and Nasbah speculates on the likelihood that the sherds and bones might be hauled away. The novel ends ominously with Willie wishing he knew “that his grandfather’s grave would be safe there.…”109 The uncertainty is punctuated by Walters’ use of ellipses, making it apparent that anthropological trespass is an issue for all Indigenous peoples, not only those who have been dead many years. Walters’ unresolved ending parallels the unsettled anguish of the Ghost Singer; by the end of the novel we are still unsure what Tall Man is searching for in the Smithsonian. If his loss is as simple as a bone, could Jonnie Navajo suffer the same fate? The ending of the novel leaves readers in uncertainty regarding the paths of the younger Indigenous characters. Russell Tallman decides to leave Washington D.C., telling Donald that he was taught to know when fear was appropriate.110 Russell is often told by other Indigenous people that he is out of touch, that he has lived in Washington too long; initially, he has a hard time wrapping his head around the goings-on at the Smithsonian. By contrast, the education that Junior Snake received watching his father help people deal with mysterious forces has better prepared him. When Russell why it all has to be so complicated, Junior chides him, saying that if he really didn’t understand then it was time to go home, and to “touch the earth and taste it again”.111 Russell’s long contact with the Euro-American world of Washington D.C. has dulled his senses, “plugged them up” a bit. Walters’ Ghost Singer begs the question: is it possible to live a life in isolation of tribal people without undergoing ill effects? This is another issue that confounds “the return to psychical normalcy” in Walter’s novel, and in other Indigenous gothic texts. Diné scholars have sought to understand how the oppressive forces of colonisation have disrupted the Diné pursuit of the harmonious path and the practice of k’é, or “compassionate interdependent kinship relations”.112 The irreversibility of colonial contact forces Indigenous peoples into a constant state of liminality and negotiation. Populations affected by colonial encroachment can never wholly return to a state of “cultural purity”, though that impossible desire often may linger.113 While “purity” may be illusory, the relationship between traditional Diné those who choose less orthodox paths is a figuration that aids the preservation of culture while also avoiding identity essentialism. A

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traditional Diné is one who nurtures kinship ties, speaks the language, relies on subsistence farming, participates in tribal governance, and engages with ceremonial obligations; in addition, traditional Diné people are the storehouses of cultural and tribal history. Traditional Diné people are very much respected, and while many different authentic Diné identities are accepted, it is the ancestral knowledge of these traditional individuals that is the tribe’s foundation. Importantly, it is the responsibility of all tribal peoples to protect the rights of individuals to practice ancestral ways of living, regardless of their own life choices.114 The study of the Indigenous Gothic requires an acknowledgement of the challenges presented by hybridity and an understanding that spiritual and epistemological differences produce texts that do not conform with traditionally identified gothic structures. However, the gothic thrives in liminal spaces; the gothic text often dramatises dissention within the self through conflicts between external forces.115 These conflicts are clearly present in Ghost Singer as the Indigenous youth of Walters’ novel struggle to remaining cognizant of traditional ways of seeing while navigating modernity. During an interview about Ghost Singer, Anna Lee Walters was questioned about her choice of Bagels and Lox as the preferred food of one of her Indigenous characters. With typical humour, Walters responded, “I lived in Washington for a while and I had lox, and I liked it….[laughing]… you have to remember, we are a changing people!”116 The interviewer’s question, while surprising, is also symbolic of Americans’ imaginative struggle to visualise Indigenous people living in the present day. This same imaginative failure is exposed by Walters’ Ghost Singer.117 Early Indigenous authors often felt constrained by the discourse of Indian spectrality; William Apess felt a strong need to banish Indigenous spectres because he understood their use as a means of imaginative oppression.118 Conversely, Anna Lee Walters’ use of the Ghost Singer.


1. Michelle Burnham, “Is There an Indigenous Gothic?” A Companion to American Gothic (Hoboken, NJ, Wiley, 2013), 223. 2. Anna Lee Walters, Ghost Singer: A Novel (Albuquerque, NM, UNM Press, 1994). 3. Renée L. Bergland, The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects (Hanover, NH, University Press of New England, 2000), 3. 4. Ibid., 3. 5. Teresa A. Goddu, Gothic America: Narrative, history, and nation (New York, Columbia University Press, 1997), 58. 6. Ibid., 55. 7. Bergland, 20. 8. Ibid., 1–2. 9. Ibid., 122. 10. Kristina Bross and Hilary E. Wyss, eds., Early Native Literacies in New England: A Documentary and Critical Anthology (Amherst, MA, University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), 3–4. 11. Robert Dale Parker, Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930 (Philadelphia, PA, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 3.

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12. Wa Wa Chaw, “Selected Poems,” in Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930, ed. Robert Dale Parker (Philadelphia, PA, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 310. 13. Ibid., 314. 14. Bross & Wyss, Early Native Literacies, 9. 15. Gerald Vizenor, Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart (St. Paul, Minn., Truck Press, 1978). 16. Alison Rudd, Postcolonial Gothic Fictions from the Caribbean, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2009), 12. 17. Alan R. Velie, “Gerald Vizenor’s Indian Gothic.” Melus 17, no. 1 (1991), 76. 18. Joseph Boyden, Three Day Road (New York, Penguin, 2005). 19. Sherman Alexie, Indian Killer (New York, Warner Books, 1998). 20. Owl Goingback, Crota (New York, Signet, 1998). 21. Martin Cruz Smith, Nightwing (New York, Ballantine Books, 1990). 22. Burnham, “Is There an Indigenous Gothic?” 228. 23. Ian Conrich, “Maori Tales of the Unexpected: The New Zealand Television Series Mataku as Indigenous Gothic,” Globalgothic (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2015), 36. 24. Grace Dillon, “Foreward,” in Dangerous Spirits: The Windigo in Myth and History, wrt. Shawn C. Smallman (Victoria, BC, Heritage House Publishing Co., 2015), 16. 25. Burnham, “Is There an Indigenous Gothic?” 229. 26. Cynthia Sugars, Canadian Gothic: Literature, History, and the Spectre of ­Self-Invention (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2014), 214. 27. Alan Lloyd-Smith, “What Is American Gothic?” American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction (New York, Continuum Publishing, 2004), 7. 28. Velie, “Gerald Vizenor’s Indian Gothic,” 76. 29. Ibid., 84. 30. Conrich, “Maori Tales of the Unexpected,” 40–41. 31. Ibid., 41. 32. Dillon, “Foreward,” in Dangerous Spirits: The Windigo in Myth and History, 19. 33. Burnham, “Is There an Indigenous Gothic?” 231. 34. Lloyd-Smith, “What Is American Gothic?” 5. 35. Conrich, “Maori Tales of the Unexpected,” 36. 36. Burnham, “Is There an Indigenous Gothic?” 230. 37. Ibid. 38. Gerald Vizenor, Native American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology (New York, Longman, 1995), 6. 39. Erika Aigner-Alvarez, “Artifact and Written History: Freeing the Terminal Indian in Anna Lee Walters’ Ghost Singer.” Studies in American Indian Literatures (1996), 45. 40. Rebecca Tillett, “‘Resting in Peace, Not in Pieces’: The Concerns of the Living Dead in Anna Lee Walters’s Ghost Singer.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 17, no. 3 (2005), 85–114. 41. Ibid., 91. 42. Ibid., 91–92. 43. Kevin A. McBride, “Bundles, Bears and Bibles: Interpreting Seventeenth-Century Native Texts,” in Early Native Literacies in New England: A Documentary and Critical Anthology, ed. Kristina Bross and Hilary E. Wyss (Amherst, MA, University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), 133–134. 44. Ibid., 132–133. 45. Tillett, “‘Resting in Peace, Not in Pieces’,” 90. 46. Bergland, The National Uncanny, 3. 47. Ibid., 3–4. 48. Rhoda Carroll and Anna Lee Walters, “The Values and Vision of a Collective Past: An Interview with Anna Lee Walters.” American Indian Quarterly (1992), 70.


A. E. Schoch/Davidson 49. Aigner-Alvarez, “Artifact and Written History,” 46. 50. Jacques Derrida, Spectres of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (New York, Routledge, 1994), 176. 51. Norma Wilson, “Anna Lee Walters (1946–),” in The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story, Vol. 69, ed. Blanche H. Gelfant and Lawrence Graver (New York, Columbia University Press, 2000), 549. 52. Carroll and Walters, “The Values and Vision of a Collective Past,” 67. 53. Walters, Ghost Singer, 120. 54. Ibid., 73–74. 55. Bergland, The National Uncanny, 5. 56. Walters, Ghost Singer, 143. 57. Gregory Cajete, “Foreword,” in Diné Perspectives: Revitalizing and Reclaiming Navajo Thought, ed. Lloyd L. Lee (Tucson, AZ, University of Arizona Press, 2014), x. 58. Walters, Ghost Singer, 122. 59. Ibid., 123. 60. Ibid., 128. 61. Lloyd-Smith, “What Is American Gothic?” 9. 62. Sugars, Canadian Gothic, 214. 63. Walters, Ghost Singer, 239. 64. Ibid., 225. 65. Sugars, Canadian Gothic, 215. 66. Tillett, “‘Resting in Peace, Not in Pieces’,” 87. 67. Walters, Ghost Singer, 42. 68. Ibid., 197. 69. Ibid., 214. 70. Lloyd-Smith, “What Is American Gothic?” 7. 71. Walters, Ghost Singer, 48. 72. Bergland, The National Uncanny, 15. 73. Walters, Ghost Singer, 45. 74. Ibid., 46. 75. Ibid., 123. 76. Tillett, “‘Resting in Peace, Not in Pieces’,” 100. 77. Lloyd-Smith, “What Is American Gothic?” 8. 78. Walters, Ghost Singer, 148, 217. 79. Ibid., 203. 80. Ibid., 21. 81. Ibid., 130–131. 82. Gregory Cajete, “Foreword,” in Diné Perspectives, x. 83. Farina King, Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century (Lawrence, KS, University Press of Kansas, 2018), 189. 84. Walters, Ghost Singer, 25. 85. Carroll and Walters, “The Values and Vision of a Collective Past,” 66. 86. Walters, Ghost Singer, xi–xviii. 87. Ibid., 37–38. 88. Ibid., “Cast of Characters.” 89. Ibid., 52–53. 90. Ibid., 57. 91. Ibid., 57. 92. Tillett, “‘Resting in Peace, Not in Pieces’,” 85–86. 93. Walters, Ghost Singer, 50. 94. Tillett, “‘Resting in Peace, Not in Pieces’,” 95, 102. 95. Rudd, Postcolonial Gothic Fictions, 11. 96. King, Earth Memory Compass, 190

Indigenous Alterations


97. Walters, Ghost Singer, 206–207 98. Carroll and Walters, “The Values and Vision of a Collective Past,” 64. 99. King, Earth Memory Compass, 190. 100. Cajete, “Foreward,” in Diné Perspectives, ix. 101. Ibid., ix. 102. King, Earth Memory Compass, 190. 103. Walters, Ghost Singer, 181. 104. King, Earth Memory Compass, 191. 105. Ibid., 69. 106. Ibid., 215. 107. Sugars, Canadian Gothic, 215–216. 108. Lloyd-Smith, “What Is American Gothic?” 5. 109. Walters, Ghost Singer, 248. 110. Ibid., 240. 111. Ibid., 203. 112. Larry W. Emerson, “Diné Culture, Decolonization and the Politics of Hózhǫ́,” in Diné Perspectives: Revitalizing and Reclaiming Navajo Thought, ed. Lloyd L. Lee (Tucson, AZ, University of Arizona Press, 2014), 56. 113. Rudd, Postcolonial Gothic Fictions, 11. 114. Grande, Red Pedagogy, 240. 115. Lloyd-Smith, “What Is American Gothic?” 6. 116. Carroll and Walters, “The Values and Vision of a Collective Past,” 71. 117. Tillett, “‘Resting in Peace, Not in Pieces’,” 86. 118. Bergland, The National Uncanny, 16.

Bibliography Erika Aigner-Alvarez, “Artifact and Written History: Freeing the Terminal Indian in Anna Lee Walters’ Ghost Singer.” Studies in American Indian Literatures (1996), 45–59. Sherman Alexie, Indian Killer (New York, Warner Books, 1998). Renée L. Bergland, The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects (Hanover, NH, University Press of New England, 2000). Joseph Boyden, Three Day Road (New York, Penguin, 2005). Kristina Bross and Hilary E. Wyss, eds., Early Native Literacies in New England: A Documentary and Critical Anthology (Amherst, MA, University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), 1–13. Michelle Burnham, “Is There an Indigenous Gothic?” A Companion to American Gothic (2013), 223–237. Gregory Cajete, “Foreword,” in Diné Perspectives: Revitalizing and Reclaiming Navajo Thought, ed. Lloyd L. Lee (Tucson, AZ, University of Arizona Press, 2014). Rhoda Carroll and Anna Lee Walters, “The Values and Vision of a Collective Past: An Interview with Anna Lee Walters.” American Indian Quarterly (1992), 63–73. Ian Conrich, “Maori Tales of the Unexpected: The New Zealand Television Series Mataku as Indigenous Gothic.” Globalgothic (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2015), 3–49. Martin Cruz Smith, Nightwing (New York, Ballantine Books, 1990). Jacques Derrida, Spectres of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (New York, Routledge, 1994). Grace Dillon, “Foreward,” in Dangerous Spirits: The Windigo in Myth and History, wrt. Shawn C. Smallman (Victoria, BC, Heritage House Publishing Co., 2015). Larry W. Emerson, “Diné Culture, Decolonization and the Politics of Hózhǫ́,” in Diné Perspectives: Revitalizing and Reclaiming Navajo Thought, ed. Lloyd L. Lee (Tucson, AZ, University of Arizona Press, 2014).


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Teresa A. Goddu, Gothic America: Narrative, History, and Nation (New York, Columbia University Press, 1997). Owl Goingback, Crota (New York, Signet, 1998). Farina King, Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century (Lawrence, KS, University Press of Kansas, 2018). Alan Lloyd-Smith, “What Is American Gothic?” American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction (New York, Continuum Publishing, 2004), 3–10. Kevin A. McBride, “Bundles, Bears and Bibles: Interpreting Seventeenth-Century Native Texts,” in Early Native Literacies in New England: A Documentary and Critical Anthology, ed. Kristina Bross and Hilary E. Wyss (Amherst, MA, University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), 132–141. Robert Dale Parker, Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930 (Philadelphia, PA, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 1–44. Alison Rudd, Postcolonial Gothic Fictions from the Caribbean, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2009). Cynthia Sugars, Canadian Gothic: Literature, History, and the Spectre of Self-Invention (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2014). Rebecca Tillett, “‘Resting in Peace, Not in Pieces’: The Concerns of the Living Dead in Anna Lee Walters’s Ghost Singer.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 17, no. 3 (2005), 85–114. Alan R. Velie, “Gerald Vizenor’s Indian Gothic.” Melus 17, no. 1 (1991), 75–85. Gerald Vizenor, Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart (St. Paul, MN, Truck Press, 1978). Gerald Vizenor, Native American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology (New York, Longman, 1995), 1–15. Wa Wa Chaw, “Selected Poems,” in Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930, ed. Robert Dale Parker (Philadelphia, PA, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 310–320. Anna Lee Walters, Ghost Singer: A Novel (Albuquerque, NM, UNM Press, 1994). Norma Wilson, “Anna Lee Walters (1946–),” in The Columbia Companion to the ­Twentieth-Century American Short Story, Vol. 69, ed. Blanche H. Gelfant and Lawrence Graver (New York, Columbia University Press, 2000), 549–554.

Hillbilly Horror Tosha R. Taylor

Modern horror boasts a conspicuous fascination with rurality. Yet critics have pointed out that rurality has not received the same attention as race, gender, or sexuality in wider studies of the genre.1 While recent scholarship has worked to remedy this relative lack of concern for the ways rural gothic and horror media engage with cultural discourses of rurality, depictions of rural spaces and people still have not yet garnered mass critical fervour.2 Furthermore, contemporary invocations of rural people in mainstream political discussions, particularly in the United States following the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump, invite new scrutiny of the relationship between horror and rurality, and particularly of the construction of the “hillbilly” figure found within it. “Hillbilly horror” arises from the rural gothic and is indeed often studied under that label. It also owes some of its origin to the Southern gothic literary tradition (exemplarily expressed in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor). At times, it is nearly identical to horror set in regions that technically are not inhabited by hillbillies, such as the western and midwestern plains. Yet while hillbilly horror, rural horror, Southern gothic, and what McCollum labels Heartland horror are not precisely identical, they overlap significantly and indeed inform each other.3 In all, fear of the landscape as well as of local inhabitants creates a rich literal site for horrific acts to be carried out and for the viewer, a means of ideologically engaging with a dreaded Other. This chapter focuses on treatments of American rurality due to its prominence in the genre’s history. For instance, while the Australian rural horror film Night of Fear (1972) precedes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), American entries have been the main critical concern in the study of the subgenre, and it is the latter that is credited as having cemented the commercial value of hillbilly horror itself.4 Tropes of hillbilly horror pervade mainstream cinema, even rural gothic films that do not belong to the subgenre proper. Perhaps the most famous rural gothic film is

T. R. Taylor (*)  Manhattanville College, Harrison, NY, USA

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



T. R. Taylor

one that is not technically a horror film at all. Deliverance (1972) adeptly embodies the urban–rural tension that exists as a discursive backdrop for larger fears of rurality, which are themselves invoked in rural horror films, and does so through deployment of the monstrous hillbilly. While some find the term “hillbilly horror” reductive for its failure to include more innovative approaches in rural horror, the figure of the hillbilly nonetheless looms over much of the study of the rural gothic.5 Indeed, with the ­hillbilly emerging as an ideal cultural villain and scapegoat in nineteenth-century America, modern and contemporary rural horror undoubtedly developed, in part, under this trope.6 My concern in this chapter is less in providing a comprehensive overview of the subgenre or in repeating its history and tropes, which have been welland thoughtfully-documented by previous scholars, and more in approaching rural horror, and specifically “hillbilly horror”, through a lens of cultural awareness of not only “hillbilly” tropes and geographies but also the situating of such rural inhabitants within larger frameworks. Of particular interest to this chapter is the figure of the “hillbilly” not only as a significant manifestation in fictional horror but also as it exists in contemporary social criticism, which may or may not implicitly respond to horror fictions themselves. To that end, while attention will be given to more highly visible works within rural horror such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, films that deploy rural characters from unconventional positions will also be discussed. This chapter, then, regards both the subgenre known as hillbilly horror and the horror of the hillbilly. Although, with some exceptions, they typically focus on interactions between evil rural inhabitants and victimised outsiders, the first source of horror in rural and hillbilly horror films is rurality itself. The place that provides a home to the rural villain becomes an active oppressor of the victim, indeed in many films serving as a prison for them. Isolated roads, sometimes hazardous themselves, create a nearly impenetrable isolation into which people may disappear without a trace. Dilapidated structures look unlikely to house human inhabitants but double as homes and torture chambers. Forests stand as barriers against civilisation and hunting grounds for deranged locals. Open plains and deserts present miles of nihilistic oblivion. The natural world, perhaps at first bucolic, turns treacherous at any moment. In the rural gothic film, no part of the rural is safe. Rural and hillbilly horror still echo the patterns of imperialism and colonialism found in previous gothic literature. The imperial explorer finds both geography and local inhabitants to be dangers to him, and both thus receive a gothic characterisation.7 Indeed, the geographic landscape of the American gothic owes much to the historical guilt of colonialism and slavery, both phenomena in which land carries a particular significance.8 Treatment of place in rural horror is in stark juxtaposition to the frontier narrative.9 Here, rather than celebrating the arrival of a conquering explorer, the narrative presents the explorer figure as an outsider or intruder who will first become imperilled due to their own lack of knowledge of their surroundings. Dangerous locals overpower the outsider, and even if the latter achieves victory in the end, it is only over their immediate attacker, not the landscape itself. In this way, place itself is a locus of haunting. Rather than ghosts, the

Hillbilly Horror


landscape is haunted by what remains of a person or people who have been, in some way, forgotten by larger society.10 Herschell Gordon Lewis’s 1964 exploitation film Two Thousand Maniacs!, one of the earliest films to be associated with the term hillbilly horror, creates one of the most conspicuous explorations of American historical guilt figured through rural caricatures. Arriving in Pleasant Valley, Georgia, travellers find themselves in the midst of a society that fetishises the Confederacy. Referring to the Civil War as “the War of Northern Aggression” (a reference to actual Southern Confederacy apologia), the people of Pleasant Valley proudly display symbols of the slave-holding antebellum South as they set upon the travellers, torturing and dismembering them in gleeful celebration. Their acts, the travellers learn, are revenge for Union troops burning their town during the war. To accompany the film, Lewis composed the song “The South’s Gonna Rise Again”, which punctuates its title claim with cries of “yee-haw!”, a common means of emphasising a sense of rurality. When survivors Tom and Terry escape the town and return with the police, they find that the town is completely gone. What they have encountered instead, they soon learn as the officer recounts the legend, is the ghost of the town itself. While the historical trauma explicitly invoked in the film is the razing of civilian towns, the constant presence of Confederate flags, as well as images of white crowds gathered around the torture of captive (albeit white) victims, cannot fail to call to mind the legacy of slavery in Georgia. The film’s millennial update, 2001 Maniacs (2005) largely repeats the narrative of its predecessor and includes Lewis’s song in a revelrous scene of torture led by Mayor Buckman. Southern racism expands beyond bigotry against African Americans when community matriarch Granny Boone refers to one of the tourists as “China doll” and “China girl”. The film updates acknowledgments of historical bigotry by also having characters express homophobia towards gay ­ tourist Ricky. This prejudice is revealed to be hypocritical when young townsman Rufus seduces Ricky. While this scene is revealed to be part of a plan to entrap Ricky, it is clear that the scene is meant to link hypocrisy to bigotry. Ricky’s murder further invokes this reading, as the public spectacles of the first film are again updated here as Ricky is impaled through the anus by a spear. The film’s conclusion underscores the ghostly haunting of the first. As the survivors flee, they are decapitated by a barbed wire that has been strung across the road. Their heads are then collected by a ghost, who promptly disappears. While brutal acts are typically carried out by people in such films, place enables them and indeed, the acts may not be possible without, first, recognition of the place in which they occur. Fear of the rural landscape is integral to American literary history. For early colonists, the rural space was a wilderness, either in the form of the forest or the open plains, with particular recognition of the former as a site of great spiritual and physical danger. Their writing interprets the forest in dichotomous terms, either an untouched reflection of Eden or a space belonging to the devil.11 Early captivity narratives, among the first bestsellers in what would become American literature, conspicuously conflate the wooded landscape with indigenous peoples, who are invoked almost exclusively as backwards villains.12


T. R. Taylor

In order to foreground place as a source of anxiety and to invert the frontier myth, rural horror requires outsiders as focalisers for the audience and thus intersects with road horror. Narratives in this subgenre centre on the experiences of travellers who are beset upon by locals or those familiar with the alien landscape. Travel, a purported sign of freedom, often delivers protagonists into the opposite. Travellers and tourists are stalked, hunted, and killed, often after being tortured. In addition, road horror inverses the spatial anxiety of the slasher film, in which the familiar space is intruded upon by a malicious force, by presenting familiar figures entering and even intruding upon the unfamiliar space.13 Central to road horror and a frequent protagonist of rural horror is the white, middle-class traveller or tourist.14 While these racial and class identities historically emerge from tensions between groups of people, as discussed later in this chapter, they are first integral to place. In the contemporary context, the white, middle-class traveller replaces the mythological frontier explorer. They are economically equipped to travel and have the leisure time to do so. They possess cultural capital. Yet because protagonists’ lack of knowledge about the space into which they travel is essential to road horror, their identities implicitly contribute to that lack. Encounters with malevolent entities (whether human or monster) and locations are unexpected.15 Even in films in which protagonists, self-aware of the cultural narrative in which they participate, express disdain for the landscape (which is wilder and dirtier than they are accustomed to) or the locals, they do not anticipate the degree to which they will be assaulted. Rather, they assume the capital that privileged them in their home environs will continue to do so here, an illusion that is typically put to rout when violence causes them to realise their geographic isolation. This landscape aids evil locals and creatures, making clear the thematic significance of (un)familiarity with the land. Many rural horror films feature shots revealing that the travellers are being observed, imbuing even the wilderness with a panoptic quality. Foucault’s panopticon is one in which subjects are under constant, omnipresent watch.16 While the panopticon is more readily apparent in urban and even suburban locations, especially with the continuous development of surveillance technology, the rural landscape is no less conducive to surveillance in these films. Trees and brush readily provide cover for rural villains as they stalk their intended victims while simultaneously preventing those victims from being able to orient themselves within the space. Forests are particularly useful for providing malicious agents cover as they observe their prey. Similarly, in The Hills Have Eyes (1977), whose title even suggests surveillance, rocky hills above the open desert fulfil this function just as well. Unlike the surveilling figures of urban and suburban horror, who perhaps more resemble agents of the state and thus more easily correspond to Foucault’s explication, rural villains take on an animal quality as they move through the wild after their prey. Rural geographic features and isolation result in a lack of infrastructure or nearby community that enables many such villains to continue stalking their prey. It is the landscape that drives the four city boys towards the violent mountain men who will rape one of them in Deliverance. Isolated roads may seem to promise

Hillbilly Horror


victims an escape, but often this escape is revealed to be a false promise, as rural isolation keeps the victim from any potential notice by those who might help them while leaving them obvious to anyone in league with their attackers. At the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sally manages to escape captivity and gets into the back of a pickup truck but watches in terror as, wielding his chainsaw, Leatherface gives chase. Injured by his own weapon, Leatherface cannot catch the truck and proceeds to swing the chainsaw. Here he is visually constructed as a dominant figure of the landscape. Sally’s continued shrieking as she observes him reminds the audience that he remains part of this place. In the reminiscent conclusion of House of 1000 Corpses (2003), Denise runs to the secluded road and flags down a car driven by Captain Spaulding, who is revealed to be an accomplice to the evil Firefly family when Otis Firefly sits up in his backseat. Its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects (2005), establishes Spaulding not only as an accomplice but a member of the family. While place is integral to all rural horror films, it has been frequently overlooked in discussions of the subgenre in the context of The Descent (2005). This is a rare film depicting outsider protagonists venturing into Appalachia who are not menaced by locals. Rather, the largely British spelunkers become trapped in an undiscovered cavern system. While the women eventually discover they are being hunted by subterranean humanoid monsters, in the first half of the film, the rural landscape is the primary threat. The women must go far from any signs of human society to enter the caverns and instead of walking freely into an open cave, they must immediately repel downward, reinforcing a sense of entrapment. In one of the film’s tensest scenes, they must drag themselves through a tight, curving tunnel as it begins to collapse. As they are sealed within the earth, they realise they are too deep underground within the isolated Appalachian mountain range to be rescued. The cavern’s geography simultaneously foils them and enables the monstrous creatures to hunt them. Visually, the film remains focused on the internal landscape even as its narrative focus shifts to the women’s attempt to escape the creatures. Eventually, the discovery of old mountaineering equipment reveals to them that, rather than a space waiting to be colonised, the cavern is a tomb for the creatures’ victims. Yet, while the film devotes considerable attention to an internal rural space and indeed takes an innovative approach by locating the rural conflict underground, it does not take an innovative approach to the other major concern of rural horror— rural people. By largely forgoing a road horror plot and showing only a few seconds of the spelunkers’ journey into the Appalachian mountains, the film avoids depictions of any locals. This avoidance allows the film to remain a significant (albeit critically overlooked) entry in recent rural gothic film but prevents it from entering the realm of hillbilly horror, despite being set in the quintessential hillbilly location. Typically, however, fear of the land yields as narratives progress to fear of the hillbilly. What has come to be known as rural horror still requires a human villain.17 In this way, rural horror intersects closely with the slasher.18 The precise construction of that villain may differ according to variations in rural cultural landscapes


T. R. Taylor

wherever the story is set, with Mick Taylor of Australia’s Wolf Creek (2005) being a prominent example of regional variation. The dominant figure of the rural horror film, however, is the hillbilly. The hillbilly and its equivalent in similar subgenres typically reflects and responds to right-wing politics, especially right-wing populism.19 Ideological, spiritual, racial, and sexual diversity in real rural spaces is typically shirked in such films in favour of a hegemonic monolith: the rural inhabitant is, with very few exceptions, white, poor, uneducated, backwards, and hyper-conservative. Gender roles are rigidly old-fashioned. The rural space stands as a rightwing dystopia, and its people are figured as caricatures of u­ltra-conservatives. (That the fictional hillbillies of rural horror have little overlap with conservative politicians does not seem to matter in such films, just as it does not seem to matter in nonfiction media that also popularly conflate the two.) Particularly in recent years, rural horror and its children seem to issue a warning: if right-wing populism is not checked, this is not only a backwards past but the future. Much gothic and horror criticism has neglected the link between rural caricatures found in such films and the hillbilly’s discursive cousin, “white trash”. Emerging in the mid-nineteenth century to describe lower-class whites characterised by uncouth behavior, the term further enabled a construction of whiteness that was simultaneously racist and classist, positioning socioeconomically privileged whites as truly white and “white trash” as an implicit ethnic Other.20 Efforts by white critics to ascribe the term’s origin to antebellum slaves in the South typically overlook the role of the white ruling classes in fostering animosity among poor people of all races and ethnicities.21 As critics and academics from rural and/or working-class and/or poor backgrounds gain slightly more of a foothold in larger discussions of rurality, there is some debate over whether or not the term constitutes a slur, which is worth noting but not within the scope of this chapter to unpack.22 However, despite some academic and critical discouragement of its use, at present, it is still common for the use of the term by non-rural whites to be defended for the purposes of maintaining a sense of a strict but reductive ­rural/non-rural dichotomy.23 The term is a strongly imagistic one that relies on culturally understood markers of lower-class, often rural, whites.24 Such markers include loud, socially unaware, crass behaviour, vulgar speech, failure to achieve hegemonic beauty standards (often accompanied by achievement of a counter-aesthetic), nonstandard dialect features and accents, and a preference for low material culture. Dwellings include the rundown shacks associated with hillbillies but also encompass trailers or, conversely, larger houses as long as they are in disrepair, such as the house depicted in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Beyond its implicit imagery, the term promotes a sense of geographic, moral, and even genetic superiority of non-rural to rural whites and indeed so functioned in the eugenics movement, which included measures to “breed out” poor rural whites in addition to ethnic minorities.25 Furthermore, it represents a liminal abjection due to its racist and classist connotations.26 Emerging from an antebellum racist framework in which people of colour are assumed to be “trash”, the term creates a paradox within that same framework as it seeks to name people not of colour who share the social and economic position expected by a white supremacist society to

Hillbilly Horror


be reserved for those who are not white. In its original use, the term expresses a simultaneous disdain for people of colour who, due to systemic racism, lack social mobility and for whites who, due to varying forms of classism, share that lack to a degree. The existence of “white trash” people historically challenged constructions of whiteness, which cannot be divorced from class, and white supremacist ideology. An overt insult to poor, rural whites, it is also a covert insult to people of colour across the socioeconomic spectrum. Indeed, it is out of such covertly racist notions that disdain for lower-class whites has been propagated by other whites.27 The continued deployment of rural tropes in horror owes something to the discourse of white trash. While white trash is not precisely identical to the hillbilly, their overlaps often result in synonymous usage. Furthermore, by itself, the hillbilly figure also occupies a position of quaintness in non-horror media treatments, such as The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies, whereas white trash is almost exclusively constructed as a societal pariah who deserves that status. The hillbilly can be a cute, humorous Other, but white trash is an abject one. Thus, white trash conspicuously echoes in the hillbillies of rural horror. Unlike, for instance, their suburban counterparts, hillbilly villains do not appear benevolent at first. Their marked difference, constructed through coded white trash images and speech, identifies them as a danger—not only because of their malicious intentions but also their potential to defile simply through proximity, a fear associated with those deemed white trash throughout the term’s history. Implicitly informed by the cultural baggage of white trash, hillbilly horror boasts a typical set of stock characters who each embody particular discourses. The most prominent hillbilly image is the rural man who is physically strong but morally degenerate. Stereotypical depictions reveal that, first and foremost, hillbilly horror cannot escape the specter of class. As a character trope, the hillbilly may only belong to what is often termed the underclass of America’s socioeconomic spectrum. While some films, such as Two Thousand Maniacs!, do combine imagery of a rural bourgeois—usually through evoking antebellum plantation owners—with a rural underclass, the villains of much subsequent hillbilly horror visibly lack socioeconomic power and resources, as well as the explicit investment in reproducing political and social ills found in the Maniacs films. They are isolationists. Their appearances often bear signs of untreated health conditions, which manifest as congenital deformities, missing teeth, or scars. Their clothes are usually dirty and unfashionable, with plaid flannel, bib overalls, and their like being a favourite visual code. Deliverance, for instance, prominently features a toothless, grinning hillbilly in filthy overalls in close-up as he and his partner, who wears unfashionable suspenders, menace the travellers. During the film’s infamous rape scene, multiple shots frame the hillbillies’ faces in close-up, emphasising their poor dental hygiene. In these shots, their faces become part of the abject horror of the rape itself. The ill-fitting clothing of the Old Man and the Hitchhiker in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre conspicuously mirrors the style of photographs of rural people following media interest in the War on Poverty. Leatherface’s butcher’s apron fulfils a similar visual function as bibbed overalls—both, notably, clothes associated with manual labour. Whereas Two Thousand Maniacs! creates


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its stereotypical hillbilly representation primarily through Rufus who, in stark contrast to most other ghosts of Pleasant Valley, wears bibbed overalls, a dirty sleeveless shirt, and a straw hat, 2001 Maniacs visually codes most of the town in clothes more associated with rurality, leaving town leaders Mayor Buckman and Granny Boone as visual outliers in keeping with their status. In one of its more graphic episodes, The X-Files translates the evil hillbilly for 1990s television. “Home” (season 4, episode 2) sees FBI agents Mulder and Scully travelling to the rural town of Home, Pennsylvania (whose name immediately emphasises the importance of place) to investigate the death and burial of a severely deformed baby. In further reference to Appalachia, the episode makes multiple references to Mayberry, the fictional Appalachian town of The Andy Griffith Show, including naming the local sheriff after Mayberry’s Sheriff Andy Taylor. Sheriff Taylor casts suspicion on the Peacock family, who live in isolation in a house reminiscent of the Sawyer home of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Peacock men, Taylor informs the agents, are so inbred that he doubts they are still human. Scully soon identifies inbreeding as the cause of the infant’s deformities. Furthermore, she believes the Peacock men are holding a woman captive in order to breed. In the episode’s climax, however, the woman is revealed to be the family matriarch, who is toothless, facially deformed, and limbless due to an accident and who willingly engages in incest with her sons. The horror of this scene borrows from the same cultural discourses that characterise rural inhabitants as willing prisoners to their own abuse within larger social and economic hegemonies. Tension between the urban and the rural space, manifest in rural horror, forms its own kind of mythos, one in which the rural space enables inbreeding and a dangerous insularity.28 The sense of humour and horror within this mythos relies on the fear that, if separated enough from modern society, man will undergo an evolutionary regression, as Sheriff Taylor believes has occurred within the Peacock family and as is suggested regarding the desert hillbillies of The Hills Have Eyes.29 Physical deformities gain further emphasis in more recent hillbilly characters, further hearkening myths of widespread incest in rural areas. The Wrong Turn franchise (2003–present) features extremely deformed West Virginians as its principle villains. In the first half of the franchise, these characters are even given names that suggest deformity such as Three Fingers and One Eye. The 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes visually reinvents Pluto to emphasise the effects of inbreeding. While the original Pluto’s merely unconventional appearance is owed to actor Michael Berryman’s hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, the new Pluto bears actual facial deformities, which are achieved through prostheses. His updated appearance greatly resembles the incestuous hillbillies of Wrong Turn and “Home”. The unique realism of the original is here replaced by more active participation in a visual trope. In addition, the remake introduces other characters with extreme deformities, including one colloquially labelled Big Brain, who suffers from severe hydrocephalus. Despite statistics that show rural women at higher risk of certain violent crimes than women in non-rural areas, women of rural and hillbilly horror are typically

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constructed as co-conspirators with villainous men rather than sympathetic victims of the same abuses.30 Yet outright deformity is less common in rural women’s depictions, as they are likelier to be depicted as rural translations of the crone archetype or as hypersexual nymphs.31 As the former, they are made abject through their aesthetic divergence from hegemonic beauty standards. They may be older and/or overweight and rendered sexless. As the latter, their beauty helps them lure in their outsider victims, but they may then be revealed to be more psychotic than their male counterparts. A prominent example in millennial horror is Baby Firefly of House of 1000 Corpses, who is conventionally beautiful, seductive in demeanour, and dressed in revealing clothes. While she is not the leader of the Firefly family, she does appear to be the most deranged, as she takes the most obvious pleasure in the suffering of their victims. The same film offers an abject treatment of the white trash woman through Mother Firefly, who believes she is attractive but has moved to crone status. Displaying discoloured teeth, speaking softly, and dressed in lingerie, she exudes an attempt at sex appeal that, to the tourists, is abject in its ridiculousness. She looks cheap. As the family matriarch, she is a caricature of feminine beauty that falls short of her intention due to class markers. In constructions of rural class and aesthetics, there are few opportunities for dynamic challenges to stereotypes. Hillbilly horror especially revels in displaying signs of rural people’s societal disempowerment, but in very few cases does it challenge the audience to recognise these signs as such. For instance, the potentially painful deformities described above are, in keeping with the genre’s larger concern for bodily destruction, treated as cause for horror, but the lack of medical resources that could mitigate such problems is not included as such. Just as the local police of Home simply accept the abuses perpetrated within the Peacock family and thus normalise them, visual and narrative linkages between rural deprivation and its causes within a larger, national context are normalised. Poverty is equated with filthiness and moral degeneracy, which then leads to violence and incest. In such constructions, there can be no positive, benevolent rural experience. Escape and upward mobility are frequent prescriptions for rural people in non-rural discussions, but in these films, they may result in punishment, especially for women.32 Before we meet the villains of The Hills Have Eyes, we are introduced to Ruby, the young daughter of the incestuous cannibal clan who inhabits the rocky hills. Ruby wishes to escape from her family and flee the area, but her wishes are rebuffed by a local even though he himself is preparing to leave. Since rural horror does not frequently depict any upward mobility by rural people, this is more apparent in films of adjacent genres. In the gothic drama Winter’s Bone (2010), Ree faces violence from her own community as she deals with her mother’s mental illness and acts as surrogate mother for her younger siblings in a violent, drug-addled community in the Ozarks. Like many young rural people, she views the military as a means of attaining mobility and escaping the violence that surrounds her. However, a school counsellor encourages her to stay and to continue raising her siblings on her own, which she ultimately elects to do. The film does not reveal how precisely she will provide for the children, despite her age


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and the film’s previous characterisation of her hometown making her economic prospects and access to resources seem bleak if not nonexistent. Remaining in a violent situation even after she has already been victimised is presented as the only ethical option for the rural woman here. Yet, in keeping with societal prescriptions that are contradicted by concurrent disdain for rural people, other films present leaving the rural space as the only way to avoid its horrors, even for the occasional local who is not a villain. The Tall Man (2012) invokes the horror meme Slender Man in a narrative that further suggests rurality itself is a villain. Using imagery similar to that of the meme and borrowing from the meme’s frequent narratives of a mysterious supernatural entity in a suit who abducts children, the film depicts the experience of a teenage girl, Julia, in a rural Washington mining town as, amidst a backdrop of domestic violence, a series of young local children go missing. In the film’s climax, Julia herself is abducted, only to learn that her abductor is not a supernatural entity derivative of Slender Man but a human group who kidnaps rural children and rehomes them in cities. This practice echoes historical prescriptions for eugenics in Appalachia, which themselves echo eugenics and genocide against Native Americans and African Americans.33 The film, however, does not call this practice into question; rather, abduction into the urban landscape is depicted as a positive outcome and perhaps the only solution for rural children and the only way they can escape the certain doom of becoming rural monsters. Taken altogether, these depictions do not create a dynamic treatment of rural spaces or their people. Just as examinations of treatments of women and ethnic minorities have gained traction in the study of American gothic and horror fiction, the larger genre also warrants scrutiny and, on part of its makers, introspection for its relationship to rurality. Some critics argue that the continued proliferation of the hillbilly stereotype in horror contributes to larger anti-rural discourses that normalise the marginalisation of rural people and indeed, filmic depictions of the rural are implicated in the association of the rural landscape with “white trash” inhabitants.34 This is in part due to a tendency to accept embodied stereotypes as indicative of a universal rural reality.35 While we must always exercise caution in linking fictional representations to real-life events, it is clear that the fictions of rural and hillbilly horror may potentially promote acceptance of their mythologies. Reactions to Deliverance, for example, echoed early American frontier narratives, praising the fictional travellers for their bravery and even expressing enthusiasm for the deaths of villainous hillbillies as if they were real people.36 In this way, rural and hillbilly horror invite greater exploration of cultural attitudes implicit in their reception. Furthermore, their continued perpetuation warrants examination of films that do not uphold the typical constructions of the hillbilly. The remainder of this chapter turns its attention to two such films. Often overlooked in horror scholarship, Pumpkinhead (1988) interweaves a road horror plot, a parental revenge narrative, and a demonic monster. On their way to a cabin in the Appalachian Mountains (the location is not specified in the film, but some of its paratexts, including a trailer, identify its setting as being “deep in the Appalachian mountains”), six travellers stop at a general store, run

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by Ed Harley, a widowed father to a young son, Billy. Two of the city boys, Joel and Steve, proceed to ride dirt bikes over the land outside Ed’s store. Joel accidentally collides with Billy, mortally wounding him; the child dies shortly thereafter in his father’s arms. Enraged by grief, Ed travels deep into mountains to ask the grizzled mountain man Wallace for help in finding the witch Haggis. Ed believes Haggis can help exact vengeance on the city kids by summoning the demon Pumpkinhead, whom Ed, as a child in the film’s opening flashback, once saw kill a man accused of murdering a young woman. Wallace refuses but his teenage son, Bunt, directs Ed to Haggis. Using Ed’s and Billy’s blood, Haggis raises the demon, setting it on an unstoppable course of revenge against the six outsiders. The film’s innovative treatment of hillbillies does not shy away from typical rural horror codes. The mountain forests become more foreboding the deeper one goes into them, and the quintessential Appalachian hollow in which Haggis lives (and from which Pumpkinhead must be summoned) is dark, misty, and menacing. The landscape hides Pumpkinhead from his quarry but also aids in his dramatic entrances, as his arrival is immediately preceded by high winds and a diegetic sound similar to that of cicadas. The simplicity of Ed’s lifestyle is shown in stark contrast to the brash, modern ways of the “city folks”. Wallace’s family is a great brood of multiple generations living in ramshackle homes, surrounded by livestock and junk, and, mostly evidenced by the children’s clothes, covered in dirt from their work. Haggis serves as a literal image of the crone. Pumpkinhead himself takes on the role of the deformed rural inhabitant, particularly when the film’s ending reveals that the body of the previous person to invoke him (here, Ed Harley), becomes the next iteration of the demon. Yet the film’s deployment of these images forgoes their standard treatment in horror. The mountain folk are not truly the villains of the film, nor is the audience visually or narratively encouraged to disdain them. Ed is presented as a hard-working, loving father. The first present-day scene of the film establishes a kind relationship with his son, who appears vulnerable even prior to the arrival of the city folk. Ed accepts a handmade necklace from Billy with genuine affection and his promise to “never take it off” is indeed fulfilled in the film’s conclusion when it is visible on the new body Haggis buries in Pumpkinhead’s grave. His desire for vengeance in the immediate aftermath of his son’s death, which could potentially villainise him, cools once he realises the demon tortures its victims before killing them. Plagued by live visions of Pumpkinhead’s actions, he goes to Haggis to beg her to call the demon off, even at the expense of his own life. From this point, he aids the surviving city folks, becoming a sympathetic hero as he offers them shelter and, seeing that any harm he sustains is also inflicted on the demon, attempts suicide. Wallace’s mountain family, too, has great potential for a crude, stereotypical treatment that the film forgoes. Wallace and his kin are gruff, hard folks, but not malicious. Indeed, their refusal to help the city kids who seek shelter with them is a means to protect their own children, as Pumpkinhead “only kills what it’s called upon to kill – them and whatever gets in its way”. He thus stands in stark contrast to the rural patriarchs of other horror films. The film also refrains from the trope of incest within such families. The only potential for incest occurs through the visual


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establishment that Bunt shares a bedroom with his sister; however, the film does not suggest any incest occurs within the family, and the shared room likely only shows the common arrangement of many large families living in small, impoverished spaces. Even Haggis does not quite fit the stereotype. While she lacks the benevolence of the traditional Appalachian “granny witch”, her power is not treated as an object of mockery. It is clear that the locals respect her even as they fear her, and the visual coding of her home presents grotesque objects without cynical humour. As Pumpkinhead comes to life and grows larger beside her in silhouette, Ed and the viewer unironically recognise Haggis’s power. She alone out of the mountain characters appears malicious, but her malice is quietly expressed in her dealings with Ed, whom she views as too “weak” to accept the full price of his request, not the demon’s victims. The sense of moral degeneracy typically imposed upon rural characters here belongs only to Haggis, and so anomalous are her crimes that she has been damned by God and her community. The creature himself, though enough of a monster to horrify locals, is nonetheless part of the local culture as its manifestation of extreme justice, not degeneracy or malice. In the opening flashback, Ed’s parents’ clear understanding that the creature will be hunting that night and their preparation for it by securing the house and barn indicate an acceptance of the creature’s role in the community. Tom Harley’s stern assurance to his wife and son that they will not be harmed as long as they do not offer aid to the creature’s quarry treats the creature as a more acceptable inhabitant of the landscape than the man it hunts, who must necessarily be removed from society for his crimes. While the creature’s legend has not yet been imparted to the viewer, even the first minutes of the film encourage the viewer to realise that the hunted man is not a hapless outsider being tortured by insane hillbillies but, rather, is a local who probably is guilty of the murder for which Pumpkinhead punishes him. The film’s use of a monster does separate it from most hillbilly horror, yet it should be considered within the context of that subgenre as a challenge to its tropes and, furthermore, to the discourses of rural spaces and people from which those horror tropes emerge. Another notable subversion of the hillbilly horror film is Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010). Unlike Pumpkinhead, this film deliberately challenges the genre’s traditions through self-aware inversion of them. Appalachian locals Tucker and Dale travel to their new “vacation home”, a dilapidated shack they intend to fix up, at the same time that nine “college kids” from the city travel to the same area. The film playfully engages with typical visual codes that are interpreted differently by the different characters. In their first encounter with the college kids at a local gas station, Tucker encourages the shy, awkward, sensitive Dale to speak to the girls; to the girls, however, Dale appears as a figure from a horror film, approaching them with a scythe that he, in his fear of them, forgot to put down and laughing erratically. The two parties are brought together again at the lake, when an accident leaves college kid Allison unconscious in the water. Tucker and Dale rescue her, but the other college kids interpret their actions as an abduction. One insists that he saw the hillbillies trying to cannibalise her. Unable to return Allison to her

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friends, Tucker and Dale take her to their cabin where they care for her injury. Upon regaining consciousness and realising that the hillbillies mean her no harm, Allison reveals that she, too, had a rural upbringing and begins a friendship with Dale as Tucker continues working on the house. Meanwhile, led by the increasingly erratic Chad, the college kids mount a rescue attempt. They continue to misinterpret what they see as signs that the hillbillies have kidnapped and are abusing Allison; in one such scene, Allison volunteers to help Dale dig an outhouse hole, but her friends believe she has been forced to dig her own grave. Their efforts to save her are thwarted by a series of fatal accidents: running from the chainsaw-wielding Tucker as he himself runs from a swarm of angry bees, college kid Mitch is impaled on a tree, and, meaning to tackle Tucker, Mike jumps headlong into a wood chipper. Just as the college kids interpret the hillbillies’ actions as Allison’s kidnapping and torture, the horrified Tucker and Dale conclude that her friends have formed a suicide cult from which they must save her. Tucker and Dale are clearly marked as hillbilly characters, and indeed stereotypical interpretations of their dress, speech, and demeanour on part of the college kids lead to the misinterpretation of their actions. To the college kids, these men can only be monstrous villains hellbent on hurting outsiders. Their continued insistence on their interpretation of events leads to their deaths. Having fewer frames of cinematic and cultural reference, however, Tucker and Dale are themselves forced to create their own narrative of what these outsiders must be doing. Their attempts to defend themselves continuously go awry until they themselves must confront the absurdity of the situation. Eventually, however, they become the victims of the narrative as Chad kidnaps Tucker and tortures him. In the film’s climax, Chad reveals that, like Allison, he also has an early connection to the rural, as he is the product of his mother’s rape by a hillbilly. Believing himself to be “part hillbilly”, Chad accepts the typical narrative of hillbillies and attempts to enact it by kidnapping Allison (it is implied he means to rape her) and trying to kill the actual hillbillies. Dale ultimately defeats him not through violence but by exacerbating his allergies. The ultimate villain of the film, thus, is not the hillbillies themselves but the insistence upon and acceptance of the typical hillbilly horror narrative. Despite the long history of negative hillbilly depictions in film and some scholarly challenges to these, there has yet to be major, widespread criticism by the populations most affected by these depictions. There are a number of possible reasons for this, which likely intersect. Social mobility and academic capital are still difficult to achieve for many in rural regions. Indeed, the systemic problems that have affected rural regions that now further manifest in the opioid epidemic that has ravaged places like Appalachia unchecked, geographic and economic barriers to medical care, and conservative policies that limit the quality of primary and secondary education, discourage or even prevent many from gaining the platforms necessary to issue greater critical challenges to anti-rural discourses in genre fiction. Another possibility is a lack of interest within popular media in challenging these stereotypes. Disdain for the rural poor is a common cultural attitude even among


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many progressives. Indeed, following the election of Donald Trump, a number of progressive, liberal, and left-aligned news media websites encouraged maltreatment of rural populations, some even explicitly disregarding outcries by progressive and left-aligned rural critics. The historical pleasures taken in denigrating rural populations, especially if they can be labelled “white trash”, are echoed in such discourses. Because those discourses are normalised and even celebrated, few media outlets appear to find challenges to them worthy of consideration. Continued acceptance of such discourses, exacerbated by urban–rural tension that posits the former as the home of progressive politics and the rural as the home of a particularly backwards conservatism, discourages a recognised need for such challenges. Ethnic, sexual, and ideological diversity within rural regions, is ignored. To many, it seems, the tropes found in hillbilly horror, if not true, may as well be. It is certainly not a lack of awareness of the damning tropes of the subgenre by rural people. Horror is consumed within rural regions just as readily as it is elsewhere, including its rural and hillbilly horror offerings. Self-aware humour invoking rural horror tropes exists within rural spaces. For instance, ­Deliverance-inspired jokes about “purdy mouths” and duelling banjos are no less likely to be made by rural people familiar with the film’s impact than by non-rural people, even though the film’s rural characterisations come at the former’s expense. An ironic pleasure in invoking the images of the rural gothic and hillbilly horror may even serve a subversive function. However, another likely possibility, at least in the Appalachian context, lies in the fatalism that has been documented among many rural inhabitants, especially those who occupy lower places on the socioeconomic spectrum. Here, immediate needs take primacy over concerns for the future, as it is understood that the ability one has today is not guaranteed the next. Literature on Appalachian fatalism has predominantly concerned its relationship to health in the region, as it has been proposed as an explanation for Appalachian people declining seeking medical treatment.37 Fatalism also contributes to an avoidance, when seemingly possible, of distressing tasks, and overlaps with a sense of hopelessness.38 The barriers discussed above undoubtedly bolster fatalistic tendencies. When faced with such barriers and the lack of greater cultural or infrastructural support, it is impractical to devote attention and resources to arguing against the stereotypes found in a subgenre of horror films. We may here recall Wallace’s prioritisation of his family’s safety as Pumpkinhead lurks outside. The purpose of this analysis is not to disparage rural and hillbilly horror or to discourage its viewership. As horror scholars have demonstrated, the larger horror genre is rife with problematic treatments of its subjects, yet these offerings still perform one of horror’s functions: bringing the viewer into contact with cultural fears. Certainly, we may find enjoyable offerings in hillbilly horror even as we call into question its relationship to its subjects. Indeed, some of the subgenre’s entries, such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, boast larger cultural value that has been continually demonstrated in both scholarship and filmmaking. Yet there is a need for more dedicated development of this particular area of horror studies, especially with the cultural baggage of history in mind.

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1. Walter S. DeKeseredy, Stephen L. Muzzatti, and Joseph F. Donnermeyer, “Mad Men in Bib Overalls: Media’s Horrification and Pornification of Rural Culture,” Critical Criminology 22 (2014): 180; Gary S. Foster and Richard L. Hummel, “Wham, Bam, Thank You, Sam: Critical Dimensions of the Persistence of Hillbilly Caricatures,” Sociological Spectrum 17, no. 2 (1997): 157, quoted in DeKeseredy, Muzzatti, and Donnermeyer, 180. 2. Bernice M. Murphy, The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); Victoria M. McCollum, Post-9/11 Heartland Horror: Rural Horror Films in an Age of Urban Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 2017). 3. McCollum, Post-9/11, 1. 4. Elise Rosser, “A Place for Monsters: Wolf Creek and the Australian Outback,” Monsters and the Monstrous 3, no. 2 (2013): 74; Jacqueline Pinkowitz, “Down South: Regional Exploitation Films, Southern Audiences, and Hillbilly Horror in Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Two Thousand Maniacs!” Journal of Popular Film and Television 44, no. 2 (2016): 118. 5. McCollum, Post-9/11, 14. 6. See Nancy Isenberg, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (New York: Viking, 2016). 7. James Proctor and Angela Smith, “Gothic and Empire,” in The Routledge Companion to Gothic, eds. Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007): 96. 8. Robert Mighall, “Gothic Cities,” in Spooner and McEvoy, 58. 9. David Bell, “Anti-Idyll: Rural Horror,” in Contested Countryside Cultures, eds. Paul Cloke and Jo Little (London: Routledge, 1997): 94. 10. Barry Curtis, Dark Places: The Haunted House in Film (London: Reaktion Books, 2009): 10. 11. Michael Lewis, “American Wilderness: An Introduction,” in American Wilderness: A New History, ed. Michael Lewis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 5. 12. Tosha R. Taylor, “American Captivity in Contemporary Horror Cinema” (doctoral dissertation, Loughborough University, 2015), 192–93. 13. Finn Ballard, “No Trespassing: The Post-Millennial Road-Horror Movie,” Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies 4 (2008): 15–18. 14. Ibid., 22. 15. Ibid., 19. 16. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978; Repr. 1995), 216. 17. Bell, “Anti-Idyll,” 93. 18. Ibid., 94. 19. McCollum, Post-9/11, 2. 20. Isenberg. White Trash, 135–36. 21. Ibid., 150; Julia Leyda, “Reading White Trash: Class, Race, and Mobility in Faulkner and Le Sueur,” Arizona Quarterly 56, no. 2 (2000): 37–38. 22. See John Hartigan, Jr., “Who Are These People?: ‘Rednecks,’ ‘Hillbillies,’ and ‘White Trash’ as Marked Racial Subjects,” in White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism, eds. Ashley W. Doane and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (New York: Routledge, 2003): 95–112; Robin Jeshion, “Slur Creation, Bigotry Formation: The Power of Expressivism,” Phenomenology and Mind 11 (2016): 130–9; Annalee Newitz and Matt Wray, Introduction to White Trash: Race and Class in America, eds. Annalee Newitz and Matt Wray (New York: Routledge, 1997), 1–2; Matt Wray, Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 3. 23. Wray, Not Quite White, 1.


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24. Ibid., 1. 25. Stephen T. Young, “Wild, Wonderful, White Criminality: Images of ‘White Trash’ Appalachia,” Critical Criminology 25 (2017): 105; Isenberg, White Trash, 194–205. 26. Wray, Not Quite White, 2. 27. Constance Penley, “Crackers and Whackers: The White Trashing of Porn,” Pornography: Film and Culture, ed. Peter Lehman (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2006), 100; Leyda, “Reading,” 37–38; Isenberg, White Trash, 136; bell hooks, Belonging: A Culture of Place (New York: Routledge, 2009), 54. 28. Karen Hayden, “Inbred Horror: Degeneracy, Revulsion, and Fear of the Rural Community,” in Studies in Urbanormativity: Rural Community in Urban Society, eds. Gregory M. Fulkerson and Alexander R. Thomas (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014), 181. 29. Ibid., 95. 30. DeKeseredy, Muzzatti, and Donnermeyer, “Mad Men,” 189. 31. Ibid., 191. 32. Ibid., 183. 33. Isenberg, White Trash, 174–205. 34. DeKeseredy, Muzzatti, and Donnermeyer, “Mad Men,” 191; Young, “Wild,” 105. 35. Young, “Wild,” 104. 36. Isenberg, White Trash, 277. 37. See, for instance, Elizabeth L. McGarvey, MaGuadalupe Leon-Verdin, Lydia F. Killos, Thomas Guterbock, and Wendy F. Cohn., “Health Disparities Between Appalachian and Non-Appalachian Counties in Virginia,” Journal of Community Health 36, no. 3 (2011): 348, 354; Elaine M. Drew and Nancy E. Schoenberg, “Deconstructing Fatalism: Ethnographic Perspectives on Women’s Decision Making About Cancer Prevention and Treatment,” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 25, no. 2 (2011): 164–82. 38. Tommy M. Phillips,“Influence of Appalachian Fatalism on Adolescent Identity Processes,”Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences 99, no. 2 (2007): 12–15.

Filmography 2001 Maniacs, dir. Tim Sullivan (2005). Deliverance, dir. John Boorman (1972). House of 1000 Corpses, dir. Rob Zombie (2003). Night of Fear, dir. Terry Bourke (1972). Pumpkinhead, dir. Stan Winston (1988). The Descent, dir. Neil Marshall (2005). The Devil’s Rejects, dir. Rob Zombie (2005). The Hills Have Eyes, dir. Wes Craven (1977). The Hills Have Eyes, dir. Alexandre Aja (2006). The Tall Man, dir. Pascal Laugier (2012). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, dir. Tobe Hooper (1974). The X-Files, “Home,” dir. Kim Manners (1996). Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, dir. Eli Craig (2010). Two Thousand Maniacs!, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis (1964). Wolf Creek, dir. Greg McLean (2005). Wrong Turn, dir. Rob Schmidt (2003).

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References Ballard, Finn. “No Trespassing: The Post-Millennial Road-Horror Movie.” Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies 4 (2008): 15–28. Bell, David. “Anti-Idyll: Rural Horror.” In Contested Countryside Cultures, edited by Paul Cloke and Jo Little, 91–104. London: Routledge, 1997. Curtis, Barry. Dark Places: The Haunted House in Film. London: Reaktion Books, 2009. DeKeseredy, Walter S., Stephen L. Muzzatti, and Joseph F. Donnermeyer.“Mad Men in Bib Overalls: Media’s Horrification and Pornification of Rural Culture.” Critical Criminology 22 (2014): 179–97. Drew, Elaine M., and Nancy E. Schoenberg, “Deconstructing Fatalism: Ethnographic Perspectives on Women’s Decision Making About Cancer Prevention and Treatment.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 25, no. 2 (2011): 164–82. Foster, Gary S. and Richard L. Hummel. “Wham, Bam, Thank You, Sam: Critical Dimensions of the Persistence of Hillbilly Caricatures.” Sociological Spectrum 17, no. 2 (1997): 157–76. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978; Repr. 1995. Hartigan, John, Jr. “Who Are These People?: ‘Rednecks,’ ‘Hillbillies,’ and ‘White Trash’ as Marked Racial Subjects.” In White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism, edited by Ashley W. Doane and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, 95–112. New York: Routledge, 2003. Hayden, Karen. “Inbred Horror: Degeneracy, Revulsion, and Fear of the Rural Community.” In Studies in Urbanormativity: Rural Community in Urban Society, edited by Gregory M. Fulkerson and Alexander R. Thomas, 181–206. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014. hooks, bell. Belonging: A Culture of Place, 54. New York: Routledge, 2009. Isenberg, Nancy. White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. New York: Viking, 2016. Jeshion, Robin. “Slur Creation, Bigotry Formation: The Power of Expressivism.” Phenomenology and Mind 11 (2016): 130–9. Lewis, Michael. “American Wilderness: An Introduction.” In American Wilderness: A New History, edited by Michael Lewis, 3–13. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Leyda, Julia. “Reading White Trash: Class, Race, and Mobility in Faulkner and Le Sueur.” Arizona Quarterly 56, no. 2 (2000): 37–64. McCollum, Victoria M. Post-9/11 Heartland Horror: Rural Horror Films in an Age of Urban Terrorism. New York: Routledge, 2017. McGarvey, Elizabeth L., MaGuadalupe Leon-Verdin, Lydia F. Killos, Thomas Guterbock, and Wendy F. Cohn., “Health Disparities Between Appalachian and Non-Appalachian Counties in Virginia,” Journal of Community Health 36, no. 3 (2011): 348–56. Mighall, Robert. “Gothic Cities.” In The Routledge Companion to Gothic, edited by Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy, 54–62. Abingdon: Routledge, 2007. Murphy, Bernice. The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Newitz, Annalee, and Matt Wray. Introduction to White Trash: Race and Class in America, edited by Annalee Newitz and Matt Wray, 1–12. New York: Routledge, 1997. Penley, Constance. “Crackers and Whackers: The White Trashing of Porn.” In Pornography: Film and Culture, edited by Peter Lehman, 99–117. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2006. Phillips, Tommy M. “Influence of Appalachian Fatalism on Adolescent Identity Processes,” Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences 99, no. 2 (2007): 11–15. Pinkowitz, Jacqueline. “Down South: Regional Exploitation Films, Southern Audiences, and Hillbilly Horror in Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Two Thousand Maniacs!” Journal of Popular Film and Television 44, no. 2 (2016): 109–19. Procter, James, and Angela Smith. “Gothic and Empire.” In The Routledge Companion to Gothic, edited by Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy, 95–104. Abingdon: Routledge, 2007.


T. R. Taylor

Rosser, Elise. “A Place for Monsters: Wolf Creek and the Australian Outback.” Monsters and the Monstrous 3, no. 2 (2013): 73–82. Taylor, Tosha R. “American Captivity in Contemporary Horror Cinema.” Doctoral dissertation, Loughborough University, 2015. Young, Stephen T. “Wild, Wonderful, White Criminality: Images of ‘White Trash’ Appalachia.” Critical Criminology 25 (2017): 103–17.

Southern Agrarianism and Exploitation Gerardo Del Guercio

Rising as its own genre out of an aspiration and illusory need for mainstream, Southern literature privileged white Southerners to consider their individuality free from the apparent misjudgment of the north. Commencing prior the Civil War would mark the American Southern states as an indisputably distinctive body within the United States, Southern writing has, from its origins, wrestled with complicated questions of individuality and self-recognition. At war’s end, the Southern Gothic at first filled a call for conversing about this new individuality in more stylish although still slippery and tapered terms. Ultimately, this perceived harrying and unadulterated otherness fashioned a means for authentic outcasts and outsiders to communicate themselves in important ways. The Southern gothic genre is a predominantly apt genre for subalterns to express their tales since it was deliberately fashioned to confer and comprehend quirkiness and singularity. The mistrustful white upper class of the New South forged, through a set of erroneous ingenious efforts, an artistic path for authors including as Dorothy Allison to retrieve as a form for the exact individuals they made outcasts. Originally planned as yet another avenue for the proliferation of the narrative of an advantaged small number has created a fictional bastion of the many incidents of Southern life. The scholastic discipline of Southern Studies occurred partly to characterise Southern mores on Southerners’ provisos. In the Civil War years, numerous Southern pro-Confederate efforts to curate writing of the South’s white cultural elite, and convinced designs of Southern exceptionalism without doubt branch from that sequence; yet, Southern Studies as a discipline fulfils an obligatory task in the overall revision of US writing. Southern Studies departments, situated mainly in the Southern states, permit academics to classify and argue rudiments of Southern customs in less prejudiced terms than that of the national lexicon. Stigmatisation against the South the North along with an enthusiastic attentiveness of an exceptional and explicit history are the motivations for the naissance

G. Del Guercio (*)  Montreal, QC, Canada

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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of American Literature. The majority of Southern universities started to take on programmes on Southern culture in the mid-1970s, with academic circles settling on the name “Southern Studies” at approximately the same time. In these departments, the research focuses typically on gender, ethnicity, and sexuality, exploring the entire Southern population, particularly individuals marginalised by the elite class. Southern history stories typically fail in their dialogue of the past as a sequence of performances carried out by advantaged Caucasian men. This propensity towards curtailing the existence of the remainder of the nations is visualised in early curations of Southern way of life that almost wholly discusses the life of white genteels, reducing slaves and poor people as little more than panorama and wealthy women desirable household decorations. Southern Studies, on the other hand, takes for granted institutionalised bigotry, plantation life leftovers, and a glorified male order as a cultural centre and from that point consider the histories of everyone else. The South’s communal alleged “otherness”, although significant as well as interesting, can make murky the stories of the truthfully marginalised. The opening chapter Away Down South, entitled “Cavalier and Yankee: The Origins of Southern ‘Otherness’”, James C. Cobb tries to situate the point in American cultural history “at which ‘southern’ began to convey sociocultural as well as geographic distinctions”.1 Despite the fact that Cobb considers his challenge “largely a matter of perception”,2 he nevertheless advocates this instant is most perfectly traced back to a time previous to American sovereignty. With the advent of African slaves in the Seventeenth Century and the South’s prevalent implementation of chattel bondage commenced almost instantaneously to differentiate Southern living from that of the rest of the nation. The affluence afforded by indentured labour turned the Southern landowner into a natural aristocrat. In this chapter, Cobb cites James Fenimore Cooper’s reflections on his exchanges with Southerners: “the South had ‘more men who belong to the class of what is termed gentlemen’ than ‘any other country of the world’”.3 In doing so, a new cultural establishment was well under way in the United States. This perspective of the Southern history and legacy, nevertheless, is, as Cobb continues to argue, narrow: it defines the Southern daily life and distinctiveness of in terms of what honoured white men practised throughout decades and centuries of methodical domination of black Americans (initially as slaves and then s­ econd-class citizens), women, and the lowly. This identity yet impelled the American South to deem themselves a part of a distinctive if not influential cluster within the United States, and years before the Civil War’s outbreak strengthened the longing to discern Southern literature from writing in other parts of the United States. Established in 1834, The Southern Literary Messenger is conceivably the earliest cognisant endeavour to define the South as a matchless intellectual entity within the United States in the logic that contemporary academics term the area, chiefly within the decades connecting the Reconstruction Era and the end of the Civil Rights era. In its first publication, The Messenger’s editorial staff beseeched Virginia’s citizenry to maintain their challenge to curate Southern individuality:

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[i]t would be a mortifying discovery, if instead of kindness and good will, [our benefactor] should be repulsed by the coldness and neglect of a Virginia public. Hundreds of similar publications thrive and prosper north of the Potomac. “Shall not one be supported in the whole South?” they ask, relying on separatist sentiments to create a moral desire to support the South-centric publication.4

With its approach succeeding the Messenger was in print rather frequently up until the Civil War’s closing year when the drain on Richmond’s financed shut the publishing house down. The Southern Literary Messenger’s second edition released in October 1834 applauded its audience for their loyalty in an editorial titled “To the Public, and Especially the People of the Southern States”: “The appeal to the citizens of the south…was not in vain. That such a paper is to be desired in the southern states no one will controvert”.5 These editorials reproduced smugness in the South’s exclusive identity but in addition make public the apprehension surrounding the South’s shaky lifestyle. The paper’s fizzling out in the Civil War’s last year can be merely correlated to a lack of money, although the impugned Southern identity after a financially crippling loss likely influenced results to discard the paper, too. First iterations of the Southern Gothic are traceable to one from t­ime-totime editor of The Southern Literary Messenger, Virginian Edgar Allan Poe. Although Poe’s aesthetic dealt less with explicit Southern gothic metaphors, his acceptance of the gothic visuals persists as one of the initial flowing together of markedly American literature and gothic images. As a consequence, at the same time as Poe is best distinguished as a Gothic or, at for the most part, US gothic author, his association with the forging of the South’s narrative and predilection for the gothic artistic is impossible to downplay, rendering the affiliation among Southern uniqueness and nationalist sympathies even more slippery to unravel. The Southern Gothic rose as a divergent mythical genre near the beginning of the twentieth century, with writer including William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, providing an independent autonomist faction in the face of the bigotry- and woman-hating fueled New Agrarian discipline of writing. Though more stylish than their generation, their works were not impervious to the difficult tropes of Southern individuality. First Southern gothic authors were usually white, often men, and studies; still, the genre’s fascination with Southern exceptionalism produces an apt imaginative legroom for the outsider in American writing. Subsequently the call for studying the American South is as authentic as the call for the Southern Gothic. Through this lens, professors are capable to scrutinise the South and all its shades without the romanticism or sightless censure that have a propensity to govern debates of Southern way of life on a public scale. Within the academic world, it suggests a mode into the complicated and multifaceted cultural contexts that have shaped some of the United State’s most noteworthy talent. Contemporary intellectual debates on William Faulkner’s text in particular tend to centre on his vigilantly curated, manifestly Southern tropes as a method of sympathising with the white Southern consciousness in the 1930s, when lifestyles and customs were not only in jeopardy but on the threshold of experiencing an


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important revamp. Faulkner’s works do not take particular issue with what are now recognised as unmerited biased and socioeconomic realities in the first decades of the twentieth-century South; instead, these truths establish a well-known backdrop in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County. At stake when it comes to Faulkner are, indeed, history and its place in the present. Later in Away Down South, in a chapter titled “Southern Writers and ‘The Impossible Load of the Past”, Cobb considers the closing stages of an exacting sort of Southern segregation in the wake of World War I, citing Allen Tate’s adherence that “the South re-entered the world – but gave a backward glance”.6 Cobb advocates, on the other hand, that this “‘backward glance’ that marked the full flowering of the literary phase of the Southern Renaissance came primarily in the 1930s…in the absence of a critical historical tradition”.7 Questions of the history’s glory turned overpowering, Cobb advocates, in a quickly altering South. Southern individuality was even more in danger, Cobb argues, with the market triumph of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind that he portrays as “more critical and complex than it appeared”.8 While the narrative is doubtlessly romantic in its treatment with plantation existence, Cobb disputes that the apprehension of the New South are straightforwardly distinguished in the runaway best-seller, noting that although “as a young woman, Mitchell had rebelled personally against the New South’s Victorian social and gender traditions”9 and that the novel itself in the end puts “material comfort”10 at stake, forgoing disapproval of that highly ordered social order and in its place adhering to hope for the lavishness afforded to honoured whites in the Old South. Still, Cobb and others advocate Gone with the Wind is at minimum a ­protoprogressive novel, its edifying impact, if nothing else, is unquestionably communally regressive, and its dependence on socioeconomic, gender, and ethnic standards within both the New South and Old South circles bans any consequential debate of the challenging basis of Scarlett O’Hara’s society. At its finest, the Southern Gothic moves outside reminiscence and pseudo-romance, assuming a universal culture as a backdrop and transitioning to confer history as part of the present. The Southern Gothic thrives as a cultural snapshot when it confines a South that, while inspired with convention, is sceptical, conscious of its unstable state, and “glancing back” with eyes wide open. Faulkner’s work is indisputably discernible by a fascination with character and time. As an author perceptibly and mainly concerned with the history of his community, Faulkner’s achievement as a novelist and commemoration in the literary canon is perhaps ascribed as much to the situations of his time as to his aptitude as a writer. Specifically, since Faulkner was composing in this moment, the general topics of his work are sharpened by the socioeconomic and political certainties of his era. At stake in Faulkner is more than the destiny of a few country Mississippians. For Faulkner, at risk are the potential of the South and the protection of the past. Parley of the Southern Gothic, like parley of the South itself, over and over again delegate into a string of clichés and redundant stereotypes. In 1960, Flannery O’Connor had already grown weary of the sweeping statement of

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Southern writing, stating, “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it’s going to be called realistic”.11 The Southern Gothic is repeatedly epitomised by its staggering metaphors and uncanny sexual norms; however, the Southern Studies academic takes note of the overarching premise of characteristics and disquiet over safeguarding and later reconciling with, a genuinely disconcerting, aggressive, and abusive history. Simply put, whitewashed stories of Southern living have pleaded to the public for decades. From Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling Gone With the Wind to Herbert Ross’ 1989 blockbuster film Steel Magnolias, countrywide spectators have made it apparent that fascination about these testimonials of Southern life and, predominantly, Southern women. Faulkner’s experimental novel As I Lay Dying did not earn the same instantaneous monetary achievement of Gone With the Wind. Elizabeth Jane Harrison advocates Female Pastoral: Women Writers Re-visioning the American South that Gone With the Wind petitioned to readers and movie-goers with what she terms as “Scarlett’s heroic qualities”12 as well as “the 1930s’ neo-Confederate cause”.13 Harrison fails to concede past a concise dismissal, on the other hand, are “the problematic aspects of the novel”.14 To define Gone with the Wind a “Feminist Farm Fantasy”15 is to overlook what Scarlett is struggling for—a continuation of the Old South and the plantation standard of living. While individuality is indeed at stake in Gone with the Wind, it is so ingrained in Scarlett’s rapport to the agricultural estate that the reader is never enquired to believe the likelihood that the Old South has no genuine position in 1930s America. On the contrary, Faulkner’s work takes for granted the intricate nostalgia and rearward glances of Southern society and scrutinises it as a part of a larger edifying backdrop. In fact, many Faulkner texts, most remarkably As I Lay Dying¸ mark the start of progressive thought within the establishment group of Southern authors. At the same time as labouring through the fascinations and concerns of the time, Faulkner’s works, often challenging, by design antiquated, commence to create the questions that will acclimatise the Gothic to be on the whole wellsuited for those marginalised not solely by the neo-Confederate empathy in a few words discussed in Female Pastoral but by the male ruling class, racism, and strict collective prospects that branch from those principles. As I Lay Dying offers numerous cases in points of Faulkner’s more nuanced liaison with the American South, its history, and its people. In reading As I Lay Dying from a feminist point of view, the reader must mull over Faulkner’s motivation for investigating his own fixations through the female speakers in the novel. Decisively, the male’s chapters in the narrative are inclined to shift the story along while the women’s telling crafts and extends much more of the legends and folklore of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. These female voices in addition proffer musings on the theme that most mesmerise Faulkner: family, beginnings, and his own perception of blood. Tracing the principle of the Southern Gothic back to Faulkner instead of his more predictable colleagues women are not merely the chosen tellers of tales but the logicians and myth guarders. As Faulkner’s characters Darl, Jewel, and even Cash arrive to imperative pious


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and theoretical recognition, the women in As I Lay Dying use up almost all of their time pondering on the philosophical queries that appear over much of Faulkner’s canon. In the sole chapter told by Addie, Faulkner investigates themes of cynicism and lays out a good part of his perception of blood. At the moment Addie starts her narrative she has already passed on and is telling the tale of her sacred death from her casket. Even in death, her dissatisfaction with her kin and her plight in life are apparent, and she has not achieved real lucidity on the important queries of her life. After summoning up her endeavours to unite with her young students through vicious hostility, she narrates the account of how she came to wed Anse. Addie’s cynicism turns out to be a sort of family similarity when she recalls revealing to Anse that her “people” have all died: “‘…I have people. In Jefferson.’” His face fell a little. ‘Well, I got a little property. I’m forehanded; I got a good honest name. I know how town folks are, but maybe when they talk to me…….’ ‘They might listen,’ I said. ‘But they’ll be hard to talk to.’ He was watching my face. ‘They’re in the cemetery.’ ‘But your living kin,’ he said. ‘They’ll be different.’ ‘Will they?’ I said. ‘I don’t know. I never had any other kind.’”16

In this poignant scene Addie endorses Faulkner’s famous appellation, that the past “isn’t even past.”17 Previously in this chapter, she discloses her father’s fascination with passing away, and that he said it was “the reason for living.”18 The book’s scenes take place simply because Addie is dead. Even as Addie still lives in her children’s recollections as a caregiver, mother, source of reassurance, or letdown, her self-written story remains one of brutality and repentance. To Addie, childbirth and motherhood are sacred deaths. She becomes indignant, and her remoteness is noted by her offspring. Faulkner’s representation of Addie as a woman profoundly hurt by her society’s prospects for her and the principles of marriage in the 1930s rural South tolerate her to verbalise to more than domesticity and motherly harmony. As specified by the memories of violent behaviour in her classroom, Addie is emotionally distressed by the lack of union in her life, and her informal conformity to get married to Anse expose just how frantic she is for an attachment. When this bond is not realised by marriage or motherhood, Addie turns indignant and is a secluded figure to most of her children. For Southerners fretful with beginnings and individuality as not only Faulkner but Hurston, O’Connor, as well as Mitchell were, the history impends as a type of originator in that the New South works to search for what came into being only as a result of the South’s disturbed and disturbing history, and for gothic writers, mother figures serve as images for this history and its space in everyday life. Mitchell’s Ellen O’Hara, Scarlett’s mother, the representative Southern belle, is a long-suffering, saintly person who does not live long after the plantation falls. Scarlett’s dedication to and adoration of her mother, an artefact of the Old South, is introspective of neo-Confederate nostalgia and yearning to homecoming to so-called antebellum grandeur. In Faulkner’s viewpoint, origins are not to be

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merely sacred and left in the past. In As I Lay Dying, Addie’s existence is felt most intensely once she dies, and she herself exists in a limbo-like state, not gone from the world and progressing to seize great supremacy in her family’s everyday life nevertheless a manifestly insentient force in the earthly world. To Allison, these questions of character, origin, and blood are additionally intricate by her work’s more tinged and developing declarations on motherhood. Anney is an enabler, a remnant of the underprivileged white division disenfranchised by the plantation scheme. In her essay, “Female Gothic fiction, grotesque realities, and Bastard Out of Carolina: Dorothy Allison Revises the Southern Gothic”, Peggy Dunn Bailey concedes Allison’s opposition to being labelled a “Southern Gothic writer”, citing a 1994 interview in which Allison, when asked to classify her literary convention, replied, “I belong to the tradition of iconoclastic, queer, southern writer”.19 Although Allison obscures her place in the overall picture of American literary folklore, Bailey associates the arguments and personas of her writings with the protracted history of the Southern Gothic. What Bailey identifies as “distinctly American, frequently Southern, aspect of the Gothic” is the donation of “human beings…as the ultimate sources of horror”.20 Bailey talks about the inevitability of Southern Gothic as a means for the deprived, subjugated, and expelled in the orb of writing from the United States and puts in plain words the dissimilarity flanked by texts in the genre and accepted works featuring gothic or uncanny elements: “The Southern Gothic is fueled by the need to explain and/or understand foundational trauma, the violation or loss of that which is essential to identity and survival but often irretrievable”.21 In doing so, the Southern Gothic becomes essential as an art type, trying to fill a significant opening in the comprehension of the human understanding. The widespread motifs of family and home point to a fixation with origins and their definitive importance in a person’s life, that “foundational trauma”22 Bailey explains. In several Southern Gothic works, the fascination with beginnings is symbolised in queered or otherwise out of the ordinary reproductions of maternity. Keira V. Williams discourses on topics of parenthood in the Southern Gothic in her critique, “‘Between Creation and Devouring’: Southern Women Writers and the Politics of Motherhood,” in which she spotlights on the tapered values put in place for Southern women, the perils of challenging those in the least, and the consequence of nuanced depictions of successions of violence, centring on Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina in conjunction with more customary pictures of the Southern mother. In Allison’s book, deprived Caucasian life starts and finishes with indignity and is tainted entirely by pessimistic awareness, both from the more affluent of white southern culture and within the proletariat itself. Although the “white trash” and “ILLEGITIMATE”23 stereotypes compromise both Bone’s and Anney’s logic of identity and independence, the circumstances of Bone’s “white trash” actuality in addition burden her with a simple understanding of her mother, obliging her to contextualise Anney’s submissiveness as more than what Williams terms an


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“uncomplicated [act] of evil”.24 Along with a class-based indignity is the narrow distinctiveness of women in Southern culture. Bone, Anney, and among other women in Allison’s novel fall short both to live up to what the public imagines of them as women and to discover contentment, accomplishment, sanctuary, and autonomy within their class’s own exclusive gender order. The subordinate position women occupy in this Southern culture at large paired with the rejection of individual the Boatwrights experience as deprived whites become an appearance of community preparation for sexual cruelty. The disgrace associated with womanhood by conventional culture and the criticism of the Boatwrights’ collapse to achieve idyllic whiteness and white femininity disgrace Bone and her own mother not just into accepting she merits Glen’s neglect but that she is to be held responsible for his loathsome propensity. According to Faulkner, this minor, domestic position sanctions the women in his novels to serve as prophesies and erudite, but Allison shifts Southern women, still shrewd, still trained to carry on, into a pragmatic interpretation of the twentieth-century South. Thoroughly cast off by the majority and embraced merely as a dominated group by their subculture, the females in this novel have little expectation of discovering a voice within their social order or making ample and consequential modifications within their own lives. The audience perceives this organisation most perceptibly and noticeably queered in Aunt Raylene, the woman landowner on the fringes of town. Satisfied there, where “‘[t]rash rises’”,25 as she informs Bone when she starts spending more time with her. Williams Faulkner’s contentions regarding Southern motherhood are applicable As I Lay Dying as well. The disgrace, or at minimum disquiet, adjoining not only the South’s hope but the forces that established its present naturally motivated its authors to dread their maker. The society that created the New South was certainly grotesque, and instead of dealing with that actuality, the first Southern gothic writers must wrestle with the disquietude of a people that is, like Bone’s domestic life, “held together with lies”.26 These early dialogues, however still centred on white people and over and over again anxious with safeguarding of a problematical history, generates archetypes of the outsider and marginalised that make the Southern gothic genre exclusively, if unintentionally, customised to queer and otherwise condemned writers. While following her in the footsteps of predecessors including Faulkner, Hurston, and Walker, Allison asserts these tales as Southern literature with her roaring success Bastard Out of Carolina. Indeed, the Southern Gothic sustains in the American canon. Bastard not only released a countrywide debate on child molestation and monetary disparity but conveyed to the limelight of modern American writing the veracities and involvedness of Southern living. Without justification or regret, Allison narrates this queer, womanist tale inside the imaginative custom of the Southern Gothic, maintaining the genre for the exile on a worldwide extent.

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1. James C. Cobb, Away Down South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 9. 2. Ibid., 9. 3. Ibid., 9. 4. James Ewell Heath, “Publisher’s Notice, Southern Literature”, Southern Literary Messenger 1.1 (1834): 1–3. 5. T. W. White, et al. “To the Public, and Especially the People of the Southern States”, Southern Literary Messenger 1.2 (1834): 1. 6. Cobb, Away Down, 130. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid. 9. Ibid. 10. Ibid. 11. Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners (New York: Noon Day, 1969), 109. 12. Jane Elizabeth Harrison, Female Pastoral, Women Writers Re-visioning the American South (Knoxville: University of Tennessee, 1991), 43. 13. Ibid., 44. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid., 43. 16. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text (New York: Vintage, 1990), 171. 17. Ibid. 18. Faulkner, 169. 19. Peggy Dunn Bailey, “Female Gothic Fiction, Grotesque Realities, and Bastard Out of Carolina: Dorothy Allison Revises the Southern Gothic”, Mississippi Quarterly 63.1/2 (2010): 269. 20. Ibid. 21. Ibid. 22. Ibid. 23. Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina (New York: Plume, 2012), 4. 24. Keira V. Williams, “Between Creation and Devouring: Southern Women Writers and the Politics of Motherhood”, Southern Cultures 21.2 (2015): 27. 25. Allison, 171. 26. Ibid., 248.

Bibliography Allison, Dorothy. Bastard Out of Carolina. New York: Plume, 2012. Bailey, Peggy Dunn. “Female Gothic Fiction, Grotesque Realities, and Bastard Out of Carolina: Dorothy Allison Revises the Southern Gothic.” Mississippi Quarterly 63.1/2 (2010): 269. Cobb, James C. “Cavalier and Yankee: The Origins of Southern ‘Otherness’.” Away Down South. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 9–33. Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage, 1990. Harrison, Elizabeth Jane. “Margaret Mitchell’s Feminist Farm Fantasy: Gone with the Wind.” Female Pastoral, Women Writers Re-visioning the American South. Knoxville: University of Tennessee, 1991. 43–64. Heath, James Ewell. “Publisher’s Notice, Southern Literature.” Southern Literary Messenger 1.1 (1834): 1–3. O’Connor, Flannery. Mystery and Manners. “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction.” Eds. Sally Fitzgerald and Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Noon Day, 1969.


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White, T. W., et al. “To the Public, and Especially the People of the Southern States.” Southern Literary Messenger 1.2 (1834): 1. Williams, Keira V. “‘Between Creation and Devouring’: Southern Women Writers and the Politics of Motherhood.” Southern Cultures 21.2 (2015): 27–40.

Hostile Environments

British ‘Hoodie’ Horror Lauren Stephenson

There are several stock landscapes that have become iconic of the horror film at large. The haunted house, the forest wilderness, and claustrophobic suburbia are particularly recognisable as monstrous landscapes, and from The Haunting (Wise, 1963) to Deliverance (Boorman, 1972) and The Blair Witch Project (Myrick and Sanchez, 1999) to It Follows (Mitchell, 2014), these landscapes have become so integral to horror as to take on a life of their own within the narrative. The importance of the landscape is explicit in the categorisation of several horror subgenres, exemplified by home invasion, wilderness horror or haunted house narratives, all of which are defined by their setting, and whose setting dictates the conventions and narrative expectations of each film. Similarly, the hoodie horror is defined in part by its use of landscape; the spaces present in hoodie horror are both rural and urban, and draw inspiration from wilderness horror, survival horror and haunted house narratives in order to create a dominant presence which allows the landscape to become a character in its own right. Not only are these landscapes visually powerful but they are also psychologically and physically affecting. The male bodies within these spaces have intense, symbiotic relationships with their environments, and this chapter will articulate not only how landscape is employed to evince commentaries on class, but also how the relationship between men and space speaks to both the history of class conflict in Britain and the contemporary understanding of the male working and middle-class bodies. In her book on the history of Britain’s council estates, Lynsey Hanley observes: ‘to anybody who doesn’t live on one (and to some who do) the term “council estate” means hell on earth’.1 Having grown up on the Chelmsley Wood Estate on the outskirts of Birmingham, Hanley’s work is an enlightening account of the perceived stigma attached to estate living, felt keenly by both residents and outsiders. She continues: ‘the crushing inevitably [sic] of the saddest lives lived on council estates lends itself to a pejorative shorthand used by the rest of the population’.2

L. Stephenson (*)  York St. John University, York, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



L. Stephenson

It is these ‘saddest lives’ that have captured the public imagination and the interest of the media, yet garnered little sympathy or empathy from either, leading to ‘poverty porn’ TV programming and a particularly poisonous class rhetoric which refers to the least fortunate in British society as a ‘feral underclass’.3 These representations paint the estate as the habitat which fosters said underclass; a dystopian landscape which has become prolific in British Horror Revival texts. The council estate plays a prominent role in the modern British class narrative, integral to the defamation and fetishisation of the poor. Its use in film and television is reliant upon the audience’s implicit understanding of the estate as a ‘poor space’—a site of both financial and moral bankruptcy. The implicit understanding of the estate as an ‘othered’ space, apart from the gentrified spaces of the city or the bucolic rural backdrop of the English countryside, makes for an effective horrific landscape. The contemporary mythology attached to the estate presents a stark, uncomfortable space with a pre-existing narrative of crime, substance abuse and violence. This mythology, Imogen Tyler argues, is a recent development, compounded if not instigated by Tony Blair’s government. She observes: ‘under New Labour…a powerful consensus emerged that council estates were abject border zones within the state which were not only liminal with regard to wider societal norms and values but were actively antisocial spaces’.4 This ‘territorial stigma’, as Tyler puts it, leads to a blanket condemnation of not only the estate landscape, but also the entirety of its population, encouraging a ‘revolting class discourse that was inscribed upon the bodies of those who lived in these abjectified zones’.5 Hoodie horror, therefore, understands contemporary workingclass Britain as a world of devolution. The working-class are characterised by moral decay, which sometimes also manifests as physical decay, and the regression of this demographic is mirrored in the dilapidation of their ­surroundings. More often than not these landscapes resemble the dystopian worlds of apocalypse narratives, and are set up to emphasise the supposed degeneracy of the space and its residents. The inscription of working-class bodies, both figuratively and literally, is a major preoccupation of the hoodie horror film, as this chapter will demonstrate. However, despite this particular incarnation of classist discourse being a recent development, the classing, and subsequent devaluation, of a landscape and its inhabitants is nothing new. In order to locate this symbiotic relationship between the inscribed male body and its landscape in a specifically British context, one must first investigate past class narratives and realities from which the stereotypes of the ­working-class body and landscape emerged. In 1865, Henry Mayhew published an early example of investigative ­journalism in a collection of three volumes entitled ‘London Labour and the London Poor’, within which he provided a platform for the poor of London to begin telling their own stories to a wider public. However, Mayhew’s work is problematic in its insistence upon identifying the poor by their physical appearance. Within the first volume, ‘London Street Folk’, Mayhew qualifies the ‘folk’ of the title as such: ‘we must allow that in each of the classes above mentioned [beggars, prostitutes, street performers, street sellers etc.] there is a greater development of the animal than of the intellectual or moral nature of man, and that they are all more or less

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distinguished for their high cheek bones and protruding jaws’.6 The implication of this belief is that the poor are inferior not only aesthetically, as suggested by the physical description Mayhew provides, but also intellectually. By likening the ‘street folk’ to the animal, Mayhew effectively removes signifiers of humanity from the poor—they become physically, psychologically and morally deficient. There is no scope here for considering the poor as intelligent, autonomous or morally sound, as such privileges are written off as impossibilities. Instead, the poor are distinguished by ‘their lax ideas of property — for their general improvidence — their repugnance to continuous labour — their disregard of female honour — their love of cruelty — their pugnacity — and their utter want of religion’.7 Whilst Mayhew does indeed speak of both men and women throughout his tome, his assertions and his case studies are often centred on the male population. His pointed criticisms of the poor’s violence, pugnacity and lack of respect are certainly gendered as male issues. Furthermore, upon his visit to a cheap London lodging house, Mayhew observes that the tenants are all male and that the majority are under 20 years old. He speaks of his concern regarding the idolisation of such penny dread characters as Jack Sheppard, the tales of whom are read on an evening for the men’s entertainment. As has elsewhere been observed of the penny dreadful, and much later the video nasties scandal, once again the middle-class moral guardian troubles himself with the leisure-time consumption habits of the poor, sure that this must be a partial cause of their delinquency. Throughout his study, Mayhew employs the medical expertise of a Doctor Pritchard, who believes that one can physically identify the ‘three principal varieties’ in mankind, and claims that men, specifically, can be categorised using certain facial features and/or skull shapes. He asserts: ‘The most civilized races… have a shape of the head which… may be termed oval or elliptical’ whilst ­‘hunters’ or ‘savages’ possess an ‘extension forward of the jaws’. Lastly, he speaks of the ‘wanderer’, with his ‘broad lozenge-shaped’ face.8 Quoting from a medical professional such as Pritchard not only lends authority to these assertions, but also effectively pathologises the poor as being genetically different, suggesting that poverty is almost predetermined by your genetic makeup. In 1876, Cesare Lombroso would use similar physical identifiers to pathologise the criminal, stating in his book Criminal Man: ‘[b]orn criminals, programmed to do harm, are atavistic reproductions of not only savage men but also the most ferocious carnivores and rodents… these beasts are members of not our species but the species of bloodthirsty beasts’.9 The conflation, therefore, of poor spaces and criminal spaces is a result of the qualification of the poor and the criminally disposed as a species apart. Following this route of thinking, the poor space becomes a habitat, a zone which must be quarantined to prevent a contagion of crime and poverty from spreading to the higher classes. The language used by Lombroso, Pritchard and Mayhew requires the use of such medicalised terms to articulate the necessity of enforced separation; just as would be necessary were there an outbreak of disease. By marking the poor as physically different, the disparity in fortunes between the richest and poorest is made reassuringly visible for the middle- or upper- class reader. We can see the same kind of codification applied to the working-class


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space, a space of darkness and decay juxtaposed with the light and progress of the upper-class space. The symbiosis between body and space in class narratives works to distance both from the rest of society. Pritchard, as a medical professional, legitimises the need for solid differentiations between the classes, as Swafford articulates: ‘By putting the poor on display, late-Victorian slum narratives work to solidify and naturalize the boundaries of class’.10 In this way, the paternalism for which Mayhew has been commended is no less damaging than the condemned discourse used by the Blair government over a century later, encouraging the public to accept the inevitability of poverty and poor behaviour within certain British landscapes. Mayhew’s London slums have made way for the modern ‘sink estate’, yet the perception of these spaces, and the rhetoric that surrounds them, remains markedly unchanged. All of the concerns communicated in Mayhew’s work remain the subject of political debate to this day. He notes the poor quality of the education afforded to poor areas, the lack of opportunity and fears that some ‘vagrants’ may be taking advantage of, and abusing, the Ward house system—a ‘benefit’ that was supposed to support men whilst they searched for work. Mayhew, for all his derogatory observations and beliefs, does recognise these failings to be, at least in part, the responsibility of the state and the higher classes. Mayhew could therefore be considered as a social realist long before the cinematic movement came to be. His attempt to shed light on the world of London’s poor is as tonally misguided and voyeuristic as the class tourism and spectacle Andrew Higson recognises within certain social realist films.11 The hoodie horror film, taking its lead from the widely revered social realist tradition, exemplifies the long-standing British fascination with, and fear of, working-class spaces and stories. The hoodie horror is in many ways reminiscent of the Victorian slum narrative, both in its treatment of its subject, and in the context which seemingly inspired it. Both hoodie horror and the slum narrative found popularity during a time of economic insecurity and societal shift, both highlighting concerns around the urban poor. As Kevin Swafford observes of the slum narrative: we might speculate that as [Victorian] Britain faced the horizon and reality of economic decline… The narrative focus upon empire, the condition of the working-class, slum life, and, to some extent, full-scale class conflict served a variety of social and historical purposes, not the least of which was to provide imaginary and symbolic solutions to real social problems in ways that were palatable and reassuring to the status quo.12

This claim highlights the need to consider the hoodie horror film not just as coincidentally similar to the slum narrative, but as part of a cyclical historical phenomenon: the attempt to work through and respond to economic crises via an examination of contemporary social conflicts. As Britain lingered on the precipice of the 2008 financial crash, hoodie horror gained momentum (Eden Lake [Watkins, 2008] kick-started the cycle, fully realising themes present in the earlier The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael [Clay, 2005] and was released just months after the crash was first reported in 2008). In light of Swafford’s observation, the hoodie horror increasingly appears to be a contemporary equivalent to the slum narrative, affirming the necessity of class hierarchy whilst appearing to offer

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solutions in the form of incarceration or murder. The narrative then becomes a tool for misdirection, encouraging the audience to direct their vitriol towards the lower end of the class spectrum, and away from those culpable for the country’s financial misfortune. It would be convenient to condemn the hoodie horror as politically sanctioned exploitation of the working-class, and investigate the cycle no further. However, this approach denies the hoodie horror its importance as an artefact, and would continue down a path of reactionary criticism which devalues horror texts based purely upon their disreputability amongst cinephiles and highbrow intellectuals, preventing a rigorous interrogation of the films and of the world they reflect. Instead, this chapter seeks to situate the working-class landscape and its inscribed bodies within a larger narrative of class conflict, of which the slum narrative is only a small part. In the interim between the First and Second World Wars, providing a better standard of living for those in the slums was prioritised, and the need for housing became even greater when almost 4 million homes were lost to the bombs between 1939 and 1945.13 Throughout the first half of the twentieth century the slums were gradually cleared. However, in the early twenty-first century, the attitude towards and representations of council housing are scarcely different to the nineteenth-century portrayals of the slums; the working-class landscape today, however dissimilar in appearance it may be, still inspires the same fascination and horror as the Victorian slums. The council estate also serves as an unavoidable, unwelcome reminder of the enormous chasm between the country’s richest and it’s poorest. The hoodie narrative exposes both fear and guilt on behalf of the state and those further up the class ladder, whose wilful or accidental perpetuation of the class structure often precedes working-class vengeance. The hoodie character has inherited Mayhew’s faceless, transient characterisation and the estate, itself a strange place, enables the hoodie to remain strange to the observer. In his criticism of modern life, David B. Clarke states: ‘the stranger…was immediately proximate in physical space yet distant in social space… [this] gave rise to a new kind of virtual or spectral presence…characteristic of the stranger’.14 On the council estate, where the majority of the population is transient, the tenants can indeed seem spectral and elusive. There can be hundreds of tenants within a single tower block, but with little communal space and no local amenities, the landscape dictates an insular and isolated existence. Nowhere is the essence of Clarke’s statement captured as successfully as it is within Ciaran Foy’s Citadel (2012). Whilst our protagonist Tommy is not the only resident of his estate, the spaces he traverses are so empty, and his exchanges with others so devoid of connection or emotion, that one could be forgiven for thinking that the estate was a post-apocalyptic landscape. Any genuine, human connection Tommy experiences with another person is fleeting and often ends in death, an extreme allegory for the challenge of sustaining meaningful relationships within such an isolated and isolating landscape. Conditions being as they are, it is simpler and less traumatic to remain strangers to each other. Hoodie horrors such as Citadel, Comedown (Huda, 2012) or Community (Ford, 2012) allege that the state has exercised a manipulative control over working-class bodies, using the estate


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space as a kind of quarantine zone for the necessary, but abject, lower classes. Tommy’s estate, whilst largely unoccupied and left to rot, is denied demolition or rejuvenation. Instead, the state persists in housing vulnerable people, such as Tommy and his newborn child, in buildings that are not fit for the purpose. In Community, we see an entire estate’s population supporting and perpetuating a drug ring, with the only interference coming from liberal filmmakers who are easily disposed of. State surveillance in this instance is conspicuously absent, as though the estate has become an island, governed by its own and abandoned by the institutional structures that originally created it. The estate has become a space which stunts social mobility and keeps the working-class firmly at the bottom of the ladder, and the powers that be advocate the preservation of this landscape precisely because it encourages crime and moral bankruptcy. The estate landscape allows the state to justify its vilification of the working class, and prevents the bottom from falling out of Britain’s entrenched class hierarchy. Furthermore, whatever world there may be outside of the estate is completely unknown and unacknowledged. There is no discernible relationship between the estate and the outside world, as close as it may be, and this is a pattern which continues across many hoodie horror texts. The estate is the perfect tool to exemplify this paradox, being a space which is so often in immediate proximity to ­middleclass communities, and yet always apart from them. The boundaries between these classed spaces are permeable, but—in hoodie horror at least—rarely crossed. In literal terms, the distance between the estate and what surrounds it can be a matter of metres, but within hoodie horror the estate functions in much the same way as the Nostromo in Alien (Scott, 1979) or Summerisle in The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973) Once the threshold is crossed, the protagonists become aware that they do not belong, finding themselves trapped within the confines of the estate. Jack Halberstam argues that: ‘skin houses the body and it is figured in the Gothic as the ultimate boundary… slowly but surely the outside becomes the inside and the hide no longer conceals or contains, it offers itself up as text, as body, as monster’.15 In the hoodie horror film, not only can this analysis be applied to literal, physical skin, but it also can be further put to use in analysing the estate. As a body of class significance itself, the perimeters of the estate can be imagined as the skin to which Halberstam refers. As with the skin on the human body, the ‘skin’ of the estate is made up of several layers of meaning. For example, the estate in Community has multiple literal and figurative boundaries. A road runs parallel to the estate, separating it from the nearest town and the surrounding countryside, and inside of that, a band of woodland also forms a barrier. The estate has also gained a fearful reputation of mythological proportions which surrounds and isolates it from the larger landscape. Finally, the patchwork of fences and garages on the periphery of the estate adds yet another layer to the skin which isolates the estate as a cohesive body from the outside world. This ‘ultimate boundary’ between two differently codified spaces is c­ onstantly penetrated by those who leave the estate, and those who enter it (usually uninvited). This constant movement and violation of the estate’s skin weakens it, threatens to destroy it, making it redundant in containing or concealing what

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is within. The estate’s perimeters, therefore, create the monster, which serves as a constant reminder of the fragility of a boundary as exposed and permeable as skin. It is the potential of the skin to fail in its duties that gives it its monstrous status. The estate’s potential to allow the working-class beyond its boundaries, or failure to keep them within, creates a monstrous body. The idea of multiple boundaries can also allude to the idea of the landscape and its boundaries being sutured together. Community director Jason Ford noted himself that his intention for the film was to create ‘a Frankenstein picture about modern day Frankenstein monsters’.16 The act of suturing in the literal sense is a mainstay of horror, and the image of abstract pieces being brought together to form a monstrous whole has been reworked time and again, most notoriously for the antagonists of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974) and The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991). In hoodie horror, the suturing does indeed happen to human bodies, as we will later explore, but the suturing of the estate is equally evident. Considering Community or Comedown and their estate landscapes, each is notable for its haphazard, chaotic appearance. The various buildings are distinctly council-built in style, and yet the sum of the parts is not aesthetically cohesive—different heights and age of buildings affords the impression of disparate parts being pulled or sutured together. This suturing also suggests that the isolation of the estate, and its incompatibility with the world around it, has developed over time, with greater, newer boundaries joining with the old. In the broader, more figurative idea of the cinematic suture, as explored by Kaja Silverman, the audience become the suture, effectively stitching themselves into a subject position within films where they, as subject, do not exist.17 This encourages the audience to forget the camera’s presence and suspends the artificiality of the cinematic experience. The meaning is made at the joining of the two disparate parts, each needs the other to exist in interpretation. Unpacking this idea with regard to the sutured landscape of the council estate, the intruder is therefore characterised as suture—inserting themselves into the signifying space and giving themselves meaning. As Silverman notes, however, this pursuit of meaning comes at the expense of being.18 What it was to ‘be’ middle-class outside of the signifying space ceases to matter, and the middle-class suture invariably ceases to exist inside of the estate. The middle-class visitors to estates in Harry Brown (Barber, 2009), Community and Attack the Block (Cornish, 2011) find themselves in a place where their ­middle-class identities, and the perceived privileges and wealth that come along with them, crumble or are punctured and dismantled, along with their bodies and other signifiers of their status. The middle-class protagonist does not belong in the ­working-class landscape, and the structures and expectations that would protect them elsewhere were abandoned at the threshold to this unheimlich space. Life appears to lose its value—there is very little to attribute value to the working-class body here, and the middle-class body, particularly to Community’s drug-addled antagonists, is merely a commodity. Often the value of the middle-class male body is perceived as superficial and external to the body itself—denoted by a nice car, an expensive video camera, or designer sunglasses, all of which take on a kind of phallic resonance in the signification of power and maleness. The working-class


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man is seen to covet these possessions far more than the middle-class body itself. We therefore witness a self-inflicted devaluing of middle-class life and the ­middle-class body in the pursuit of a consumer-driven image of middle-classness. In her response to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, Hanley acknowledged that the architecture itself has the symbolic power to erode individual identity to such an extent that class identifiers become irrelevant. Inhabiting space within these structures is enough to invite indifference and contempt from the state and the wider public. In articulating the particular stigma attached to social housing architecture, and how it puts residents in danger, Hanley observes: ‘It’s the perception of social housing, particularly high-rise, as being “for poor people” that leads to the maltreatment of residents, regardless of their class or income’.19 This statement, when considered in conjunction with the estate’s characterisation in hoodie horror, paints a picture of a landscape so tainted by public perception and state neglect, that it poses a danger to any and all within that landscape, w ­ orkingclass or middle class, employed or unemployed, resident or non-resident. The tower block, in particular, is a central focal point in many hoodie horror narratives; perhaps precisely because of how powerfully it signifies class in the public imagination. As a setting for hoodie horror, the tower block is a gothic gift; floor upon floor of endless corridors and identical flats, mimicking the anxiety-inducing characteristics of the labyrinth. The unstable, unusual and disturbing behaviour of residents of the estate in hoodie horror support Hanley’s concern that the estate ‘has insanity designed into it’.20 As Hanley notes, the standard design of council-owned housing works to instantly codify the building as ‘council’ and this design typically relies on row upon row of uniform houses encircling a brutalist tower block. The uniformity of such designs creates a landscape where, to the outsider at least, each street, house and corridor can look the same. Council estate architecture, therefore, is an ideal contemporary gothic landscape, an urban labyrinth where tales of violence and entrapment reside. Like the trope of the haunted castle, the tower block is visually imposing, and its influence and mythology extend beyond its walls, achieving a notoriety that keeps most intruders at bay. Additionally, many of these buildings are in a state of disrepair, and many await an uncertain future as the effects of gentrification seep into city estates. In both Comedown and Tower Block (Nunn & Thompson, 2012), the shadow of gentrification is directly addressed, with each narrative making a centre point of a condemned tower block, bought up by developers and destined to become middle-class space. These reclaimed spaces quite literally throw shadows over the estates below, a visual metaphor for the so-called regeneration of working-class space, which succeeds in driving out working-class residents and moving in the middle classes. As once notorious estates, such as the Thamesmead, are bought up to become artist’s housing, or apartments for young professionals, the obsolescence of the working-class space seems increasingly possible. Once again, the estate and its residents are seen only as commodities, as potential business ventures, compounding the resonance of such spaces being labelled ‘brutalist’. Owen Hatherley suggests: ‘the remnants of brutalism are in the popular imagination precisely what the old slums always were

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— places of crime and intrigue, places where you could easily get lost, where strange people do strange things, and from whence revolt and resistance might just emerge’.21 It is this fear of revolt and resistance which we see exaggerated and allegorised in hoodie horror. Tower Block uses the brutalist landscape to particularly claustrophobic effect. The last remaining residents of a condemned block, due to be demolished to make way for a gentrified middle-class space, are targeted by a lone sniper. It transpires that the sniper is the father of a teenage boy, murdered in the block a year previous. The residents did not act to help the boy, and as punishment find themselves trapped on the top floor, imprisoned in the space that is supposed to be their home. This entrapment is particularly lethal for the men of the block, who desperately try to salvage some of their tough, fearless exterior as the prospect of death edges ever closer. Kurtis, played by hoodie horror regular Jack O’ Connell (Eden Lake, Harry Brown), is a particularly fascinating character in this regard. Initially performing the same thuggish, alpha male role as O’Connell had undertaken for Brett in Eden Lake, Kurtis’ posturing does eventually erode to reveal a moral code and a vulnerability that has long been disguised under a veneer of hostility. This erosion of Kurtis’ masculine performance happens in synchronisation with his physical mutilation and alongside the gradual destruction of the block itself. The destruction of the block is inextricably linked with the male characters’ corporeal destruction. Kurtis’ adaptation, or at the very least acceptance, of the changing balance of power, is reflective of R. W. Connell’s assertion that ‘when the conditions for the defence of patriarchy change, the bases for the dominance of a particular masculinity are eroded’.22 Where Kurtis’ previous persona was built upon a delicate patriarchal structure, internal to the block, which he upheld as alpha, his adaptation is required when an external patriarchal force destabilises the block’s hierarchy. That the block was due for demolition by the external forces of state and big business suggests that even without the threat of the sniper, Kurtis’ masculinity would have been eroded eventually as the parameters of his power were forcibly destroyed by external patriarchal structures. This allegorically speaks to a prior erosion of masculine roles, identified by Andrew Spicer in social realist texts of the late twentieth century: ‘[the men’s] male confidence is eroded because they lack the traditional strengths of working-class masculinity: a secure place as the principal breadwinner of the family, and comradeship with mates at work or in a union’.23 A generation on, Kurtis has replaced the security of breadwinning with the security of superior positioning within a criminal hierarchy, and replaced mates with henchmen, which in and of itself represents the dissolution of meaningful relationships in the working-class male sphere. O’ Connell’s form for playing working-class, roguish characters across a wide range of British film and TV marks him as a pivotal character from the film’s outset—his brand of working-class masculinity suggests a tenacity and pragmatism that makes him a likely candidate for survival. As the siege begins, Kurtis cuts a desperately unlikeable character. His swagger and notoriety as the block’s drug dealer marks him as dangerous and unpredictable When he discovers that Mark and Gary, two of his associates, are responsible for the death of the


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sniper’s son he exacts his own brand of vigilante justice. It is unclear whether this justice is meted out on the behalf of their victim, or Kurtis himself, who is angered that his henchmen have endangered him by acting without his authorisation. Kurtis challenges Mark, who is already suffering with a gunshot wound to the leg, to fight him—a cruel and deliberate move by Kurtis to make a fool of Mark and reassert his authority. The scene ends with Kurtis quite calmly throwing both Gary and Mark into the sniper’s line of fire, apparently unaffected by the violence he is a party to. Many of the characters in estate-based hoodie horrors seem to have a similar blasé attitude to violence, and it is represented as an inevitable consequence of an environment whose hierarchies and profits grow from gang activity and the drug industry. Not only this, but it also suggests that a wider violence in the form of state negligence and police brutality hardens estate residents to what would otherwise be exceptional, violent circumstances. During the narrative, Kurtis effectively moves from one realm of violence to another, and it is his pragmatic attitude to the extremity of his existence that ultimately enables him to persevere when under attack. As he descends from the top of the block to reach salvation on the ground, his returning humanity and the revelation of his sensitivities become more pronounced. The correlation between Kurt’s isolation from wider society and his antisocial behaviour is clearly drawn. Moreover, his descent represents a deflation of ego and a realisation that he does not hold the power he had assumed prior to the attack. In a landscape that is not only brutalist in aesthetic but also in practice, Kurtis has always been under attack in one way or another—the landscape has conditioned him to survive an existence defined by violence. Perhaps it is only his displacement from the top of the hierarchy of violence that will provide an escape from it. The filmmakers’ fascination with the architecture of council estates is evident in that, even in the few hoodie horror films where the hoodies become the victims of greater threats (aliens, serial killers) the estate is still the prevailing setting for the murderous intentions of the antagonists. The estate’s labyrinthine and disorienting nature, particularly potent for those who come into the estate from outside, physically represents the confused, perhaps unstable, psychology of the characters within it, borrowing from a trend which Andrew Higson recognised within ‘kitchen sink’ films (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning [Reisz, 1960], A Taste of Honey [Richardson, 1961], etc.): ‘place becomes a signifier of ­character, a metaphor for the state of mind of the protagonists, in the well-worn conventions of the naturalist tradition’.24 However, where Higson identified the gaze in social realism to be ‘the sympathetic gaze of the bourgeoisie’,25 the estate and its inhabitants in hoodie horror are only occasionally regarded with any sympathy, and only afforded it when the threat they pose has been superseded by a greater one. The gaze here shows not just patronisation but also outright contempt towards the working-class which was not present in its ‘kitchen sink’ predecessor. Walker observes: ‘the hoodie horrors were often discussed by the press as lacking a sympathetic outlook for their protagonists’,26 a feature which stands in stark contrast to the perceived sympathetic nature of social realism. Hoodie horrors present the council estate as a concealed, identifiable environment, even when it is not central

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to the narrative, towards which moral outrage and vitriol can be directed. Even in the suburban-set Cherry Tree Lane (Williams, 2010) the spectre of the estate is arguably ever-present; its existence insinuated in the protagonists’ concerns about local drug dealing and by the feature on a local news programme, blaring from the couple’s television, in connection with antisocial behaviour. Neither assumption about the space is flattering but reinforces the idea of the estate as the locus of the horrific. However, for many hoodies, the estate is also the site of their redemption, and so the estate remains ambiguous in its position in much the same way as the films do, moving backwards and forwards between transformative space and destructive power. As with Kurtis in Tower Block, the landscape is often seen as an extension of, or contributor to, the hoodie’s masculine power and identity. For example, within the perimeters of a social housing estate, there are accepted hierarchies of authority which would not hold sway in the world outside of this particular landscape. This link between a working-class man’s power and his landscape is articulated most often by showing many working-class characters exclusively within the boundaries of their estate (Community, Comedown, Attack The Block and Citadel). In several of these films, if working-class men are seen in any other environment, they are transformed from a leader to a marginalised and mocked individual, making their perceived authority conditional upon their environment. Jason Ford’s Community is particularly provocative in its representation of the hoodie and the estate; seemingly drawing inspiration from Deliverance and its hoodie horror predecessor Eden Lake, with its feral, backwoods dwelling antagonists, and Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) with its cross-dressing character ‘Auntie’, as well as fitting neatly into the hoodie horror cycle. The residents of the Draymen estate are similar in characterisation to what Bernice M. Murphy calls ‘the bad backwoods family’.27 Predominantly male (there is a conspicuous absence of female children) and completely self-sustaining thanks to a successful marijuana industry, the community in question is an insular and hostile one. To quote Murphy once more, ‘[t]hey survive, but at the cost of their humanity’.28 The estate in this instance is characterised more as a habitat than housing: a place that the animalistic and inhuman community have made their home. The estate is the culmination of familiar, ­anxiety-inducing stereotypes which have been consistently propagated by the media since the turn of the century. It is therefore pertinent to discuss how the bleak characterisation of the Draymen estate influences the identity of its male inhabitants, as well as exploring the possibility of gendering the estate landscape as male itself. Community opens with some amateur interview footage, within which members of the public speak about the estate with a sense of morbid fascination, echoing the American horror hit The Blair Witch Project. Their responses serve to mythologise life on the estate—none of the interviewees have visited Draymen, nor do they know the people who live there, their stories are based purely on speculation and rumour, and mimic the discourse surrounding class and its signifiers. The filmmakers ask their participants; ‘would you mind answering some questions about the Draymen Estate?’ The replies vary in nature, from banal to dramatic,


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from bickering over the existence of the estate to tales of kidnap and murder. Again, the film borrows from outsiders’ perceptions and misconceptions to create the estate itself. The buildings are in a state of disrepair, there are items of furniture abandoned in gardens, and several windows are boarded up. The houses are stained with damp and visibly decaying. Every view of them is obscured by fences, garages and wire mesh, providing one of several visually imposed barriers to the outside world. The initial shots of the estate communicate an oppressive, confining, claustrophobic space within. Throughout the film, the recurring motif of aliens, seen in graffiti and on children’s clothing, again solidifies the impression that the estate and its residents are somehow unknowable and strange to outsiders. This practice of ‘tagging’ provides a nod to the earlier hoodies who used the garment to prevent identification whilst spray painting, and represents a similar reclamation of public space by the working-classes. It also gives the estate an irreverent, post-apocalyptic feel, recalling the graffiti that litters the dystopian spaces of The Walking Dead (Darabont, 2010–present) or Stake Land (Mickle, 2010). More directly linked to British trauma, the graffiti serves as a warning to outsiders not to approach, recalling the red cross on the doors of plague victims to prevent contagion. This echoes the pathologisation of the poor by Mayhew and Lombroso, and encourages the idea that this poor population have to be contained or quarantined. However, to some degree, the residents of the estate actively encourage a continued isolation from the outside world. Whilst they may not have originally chosen to be placed in class quarantine, Draymen’s men, in particular, have used their alienation to their advantage, creating a microcosm unfettered by social expectation or police interference. The youngest boys on the estate are prepubescent—and with a period of physical development imminent, have begun to train themselves to go into the estate’s main line of business; farming marijuana and using the bodies of intruders as a fertiliser to give the product a unique potency. They are preparing to graduate to murder by torturing and killing smaller animals, establishing with glee their superiority over smaller creatures and their ability to destroy others’ bodies. Unlike several other hoodie horrors, which make a playground the focal point of the estate (Attack the Block, The Disappeared (Kevorkian, 2008)), there is a conspicuous absence of any such childhood iconography here. Instead of adhering to common ideals of childhood and youth, the boys and young men on the estate develop along a similar curve to an alpha predator. While young, they are encouraged to hone their killing skills on small prey—as they grow, their prey gets bigger until, as young adults, their prey becomes other people. The young adult men are lean and muscular in order to hunt effectively, whilst the older men are slower, larger, on account of their backseat role in the ‘hunting’ process. The animalistic nature of these characters is compounded by the way that they communicate through guttural screams rather than using language. The ‘urban jungle’ environment of the estate bleeds into the surrounding woods, suggesting a crucial slippage from civilised space to wild space, from human to animal. Their primitive behaviour is contrasted with middle-class filmmaker Will, whose naivety and clean-cut appearance eventually makes him ideal prey. The children first appear as the filmmakers arrive at the estate—their approach is not seen or heard, suggesting a predatory pursuit,

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and alluding to the ability they possess to navigate the estate unseen. Despite a clear intellectual division between the adult visitors and the children, it becomes apparent that the children have control of the situation, and skilfully manipulate Will and fellow filmmaker Isabelle to keep them inside the parameters of the estate, their knowledge of and relationship with the estate overwrites the apparent physical and social disadvantages. Despite the all-encompassing, and overwhelmingly negative influence of the estate, it does privilege the men on it with the superior knowledge of its ‘body’ which they then utilise to hunt and/or survive. In some cases, the estate and the male bodies within it begin to resemble each other in discreet ways. Graffiti on the walls match images on the men’s clothing and bodies (tattoos) and the physical uncleanliness, aging and deterioration of the men’s bodies are mirrored in the dilapidation of their surroundings, suggesting that the men’s relationship with the estate has transcended psychogeographical bounds and become physically affecting. The close relationship these representations suggest gives the impression that these landscapes belong more to the men on them than any overarching authority. Directly contrasting with this characterisation is Will. Dressed in a casual shirt and beanie hat, he has the stereotypical look of a college student, which again is a privilege we assume the estate’s residents have not experienced (with the exception of Auntie, we never see any of the characters leave the estate, and doubt that they are ever given the opportunity to leave). He is, as Murphy suggests, a typical victim from a backwoods horror—white, middle class and suburban.29 This appearance does not last long, however, as once the sun begins to set the young, feral men come out to hunt, and Will’s body is beaten and brutalised. His status does little to protect him from his torture, in fact it only guarantees it, and throughout the latter half of the film, the residents of the estate take great pleasure in destroying Will’s body, which is recognised as representative of the middle-class social body at large. In this way, Community subverts the use of the de-individualising logic ordinarily targeted at the working-class, refocusing the same irrational and poisonous disregard towards the middle-classes. Paradoxically, despite the ownership that the films’ men exert over ‘their’ estate, the very premise of the social housing estate suggests a lack of ownership on behalf of the tenants. Therefore, this sense of ownership is no more than a performance, and yet it is a performance that convincingly threatens middle-class characters. The residents of the estate are aware of the lack of legitimate ownership, and in some ways their abuse of the estate’s body, as a state-owned space, mirrors the destruction of Will’s middle-class body, a rejection of middle-class values such as home ownership, and a rejection of what social housing has become. In this way, they exert ownership over their situation, but not the landscape itself, a characteristic often associated with survival horror, within which the landscape seems to conspire against the protagonist and take on a life of its own. Compounding the sense that the estate has its own sense of motive, the ­middle-class body politic do not control the landscape either, bringing us back to the conclusion that this particular estate has transcended human ownership and has become a vast, unwieldy space that can no more be controlled than the ocean in Jaws (Spielberg, 1975) or the forests in Long Weekend (Eggleston, 1978).


L. Stephenson

It stands to reason, then, that in hoodie horror the working-class man is equally as likely to be under threat within the estate landscape as the middle-class man. Films such as Comedown, The Disappeared and Attack the Block create spectacle from the brutalised working-class body. Attack the Block is an anomaly here, given that its narrative is the only one to feature an external, as opposed to internal, threat to the estate and the working-class (physical and social) body. This changes the dynamic between the landscape and the working-class body considerably. With the estate under attack, it is no longer envisioned as a horrific landscape, but rather as a valued home, endangered by the presence of external forces. In this way, Attack the Block is a home invasion narrative on an unusually large scale, and it provides rare glimpses of the estate as a home, with all the accompanying connotations of comfort, family and security. The block of the title can be understood as a patriarchal figure within the film, with a power and authority greater than the petty criminals we are introduced to at the film’s opening. Several shots place the gang in the foreground, with the block towering behind them, illustrating the influence the block has upon them. In lieu of father figures, who are conspicuously absent throughout the film, the block represents shelter, familiarity and constancy. When the attack on the block threatens to destroy it and all it provides, the boys respond by taking on the outside force with improvised weapons and the type of heroism that would not be out of place in The Goonies (Donner, 1985) or Home Alone (Columbus, 1990) two films which also see children attempting to protect the familial home, in the absence of parental figures. Again, as with the aforementioned films, it is only the young men of the gang who can defeat the evil—police are shown to be ineffectual, and the presence of any other adult authority is scarce to non-existent. In the absence of any assistance from a wider community, the gang effectively shed the limitations and low expectations that are pushed upon them, both by other characters and the audience themselves. In their desire to protect the block, they discover a potential for intelligence and bravery that had not been evident in their previous behaviour associated with petty crime and drug culture. Nevertheless, it is possible that the affection and loyalty the gang feel towards the block is misplaced. The tower stands as an emblem for the failed paternalism of the welfare system, and in this way contributes to the trend of failed father figures within hoodie horror. When analysed more closely, the relationship between the block and the gang takes on a darker tone. The aforementioned shots of the gang and their block reveal the real power dynamics within the estate, suggesting that the state-owned building possesses far more power and control than either the young gang or the estate’s fearsome resident drug lord. As Foucault would suggest, the tower represents: ‘an omnipresent and omniscient power that subdivides itself in a regular, uninterrupted way even to the ultimate determination of the individual, of what characterizes him, of what belongs to him, of what happens to him’.30 It is this environment that seems to be encouraging the boys into a life of crime. It is also the environment which fosters a thriving drug culture, a culture that the boys are in danger of being engulfed by. The patriarchal influence of the block is damaging to the boys, and yet it also offers them a semblance of stability. Importantly, this problematic characterisation of the block communicates the

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plight of those relying on the failed paternalism of the welfare system in Britain— the block offers both sanctuary and condemnation. The films discussed here exemplify the inherent Gothic qualities of not only the classed space, but the British relationship with, and perception of, class itself. In British hoodie horror cinema, landscapes are constantly, and noticeably, shaping, influencing and endangering characters and their bodies. The working-class body is seen as both indebted to, and entrapped by, the landscape around it, a paradox that mirrors the one surrounding the cycle itself as it treads the line between exploitation and exploration of the British class system. The symbiotic relationship between body and landscape comes to represent the long-standing treatment of the British working class as ‘other’—this relationship facilitates moral and behavioural codes that oftentimes stand in direct opposition to the supposed societal norm. For the British horror filmmaker, these landscapes have become as iconically bleak and exceptionally dangerous as the moors at night or the abandoned house on the hill. These spaces are part of the fabric of British society and British identity, and can be found in multiplicity in any town or city countrywide. It is the proximity of these spaces and bodies to everyday that resonates so profoundly within the films. This chapter locates the hoodie horror cycle in a liminal space somewhere between exploitation and exploration, between social condemnation and social commentary, which seems appropriate given the extensive discussion of boundaries, borders and liminality throughout this chapter. Hoodie horror is in good company—many of the films considered as influential texts throughout the thesis also reside somewhere on this fragile boundary between art and excess. The Wicker Man, Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960) and many of their contemporaries presented extreme, exploitative imagery which has, at various times, overshadowed the insidious and incisive commentaries which underpin their narratives. Whilst hoodie horror does not perhaps match the iconic, canonical nature of these films, they do stand as important artefacts of a country struggling with austerity and a confused political identity in the early years of the new millennium. Hoodie horror has captured a very specific moment, not only within British society but with filmmaking history itself. Even as new folk devils appear to give hoodies a rest from the limelight, one can comfortably predict, having looked back across centuries of class conflict and its cinematic representation, that it will not be so long before the working class has reinvented itself and reappeared, like any good monster, within the realm of the British horror film, to terrorise the comfortable middle classes once more.


1. Lynsey Hanley, Estates: An Intimate History (New Edition) (London: Granta Books, 2012), 5. 2. Ibid., 8. 3. Ken Clarke, ‘Punish the Feral Rioters, But Address Our Social Deficit Too’, The Guardian (05/09/11). 4. Imogen Tyler, Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain (London: Zed Books, 2013), 160. 5. Ibid., 162.

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6. Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor: The Condition and Earnings of Those That Will Work, Cannot Work, and Will Not Work (London: Charles Griffin & Co., 1865), 4–5. 7. Ibid., 4–5. 8. Pritchard in Mayhew, 3. 9. Cesare Lombroso, Criminal Man (5th ed.) (London: Duke University Press, 2006), 348. 10. Kevin Swafford, Class in Late-Victorian Britain: The Narrative Concern with Social Hierarchy and Its Representation (New York: Cambria Press, 2007), 20. 11. Andrew Higson, Dissolving Views: Key Writings on British Cinema (London: Cassell, 1996), 143–150. 12. Swafford, Class in Late Victorian Britain, 19–20. 13. Hanley, Estates, 51. 14. David B. Clarke, ‘Introduction: Previewing the Cinematic City’, in David B. Clarke (ed.), The Cinematic City (London: Routledge, 1997), 4. 15. Judith Halberstam, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (London: Duke University Press, 1995), 7. 16. Jason Ford in M. J. Simpson, ‘Interview: Jason Ford’, M.J. Simpson: Film Reviews and Interviews (14/03/13). [accessed 06/07/18]. 17. Kaja Silverman, The Subject of Semiotics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983). 18. Ibid. 19. Lynsey Hanley, ‘Look at Grenfell Tower and See the Terrible Price of Britain’s Inequality’, The Guardian (16/06/17). [accessed 17/06/18]. 20. Hanley, Estates, 44. 21. Owen Hatherley, Militant Modernism (Winchester: Zero Books, 2008), 42. 22. R. W. Connell, Masculinities (2nd ed.) (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005), 77. 23. Andrew Spicer, Typical Men: The Representation of Masculinity in Popular British Cinema (London: I.B. Tauris, 2003), 188. 24. Higson, Dissolving Views, 134. 25. Ibid., 150. 26. Johnny Walker, Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre and Society (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 87. 27. Bernice M. Murphy, The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 149. 28. Ibid., 149–150. 29. Ibid., 150. 30. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London: Penguin, 1991), 197.

Bibliography Clarke, D. B. (ed.), The Cinematic City (London: Routledge, 1997). Clarke, K. ‘Punish the Feral Rioters, But Address Out Social Deficit Too’. The Guardian (05/09/11). [accessed 01/03/15]. Connell, R. W. Masculinities (2nd ed.) (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005). Foucault, M. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London: Penguin, 1991). Halberstam, J. Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (London: Duke University Press, 1995).

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Hanley, L. Estates: An Intimate History (New Edition) (London: Granta Books, 2012). Hanley, L. ‘Look at Grenfell Tower and See the Terrible Price of Britain’s Inequality’, in The Guardian, 16/06/17. [accessed 17/06/18]. Hatherley, O. Militant Modernism (Winchester: Zero Books, 2008). Higson, A. Dissolving Views: Key Writings on British Cinema (London: Cassell, 1996). Lombroso, C. Criminal Man (5th ed.) (London: Duke University Press, 2006). Mayhew, H. London Labour and the London Poor: The Condition and Earnings of Those That Will Work, Cannot Work, and Will Not Work (London: Charles Griffin & Co., 1865). Murphy, B. M. The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Silverman, K. The Subject of Semiotics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983). Simpson, M. J. ‘Interview: Jason Ford’. M.J. Simpson: Film Reviews and Interviews, 14/03/13. [accessed 06/07/18]. Spicer, A. Typical Men: The Representation of Masculinity in Popular British Cinema (London: I.B. Tauris, 2003). Swafford, K. Class in Late-Victorian Britain: The Narrative Concern with Social Hierarchy and Its Representation (New York: Cambria Press, 2007). Tyler, I. Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain (London: Zed Books, 2013). Walker, J. Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre and Society (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015).

Filmography A Taste of Honey (dir. Tony Richardson, 1961). Alien (dir. Ridley Scott, 1979). Attack the Block (dir. Joe Cornish, 2011). The Blair Witch Project (dir. Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, 1999). Candyman (dir. Bernard Rose, 1992). Cherry Tree Lane (dir. Paul Andrew Williams, 2010). Citadel (dir. Ciaran Foy, 2012). A Clockwork Orange (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1971). Comedown (dir. Menhaj Huda, 2012). Community (dir. Jason Ford, 2012). Deliverance (dir. John Boorman, 1972). The Disappeared (dir. Johnny Kevorkian, 2008). Eden Lake (dir. James Watkins, 2008). The Goonies (dir. Richard Donner, 1985). The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael (dir. Thomas Clay, 2005). Harry Brown (dir. Daniel Barber, 2009). The Haunting (dir. Robert Wise, 1963). Home Alone (dir. Christopher Columbus, 1990). It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell, 2014). Jaws (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1975). Long Weekend (dir. Colin Egglestone, 1978). Peeping Tom (dir. Michael Powell, 1960). Psycho (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1960). Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (dir. Karel Reisz, 1960).

210 The Silence of the Lambs (dir. Jonathan Demme, 1991). Stake Land (dir. Jim Mickle, 2010). The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (dir. Tobe Hooper, 1974). Tower Block (dir. James Nunn & Ronnie Thompson, 2012). Urban Ghost Story (dir. Genevieve Jolliffe, 1998). The Walking Dead (Creator: Frank Darabont, 2010–Present). The Wicker Man (dir. Robin Hardy, 1973).

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Green Trends in Euro-Horror Films of the 1960s and 1970s David Annwn Jones

As prime examples of Euro-horror films from a peak period of production (1968–1971) the four films under discussion, as well as each possessing a bewildering array of alternative titles in different languages, have been called examples of Eurotrash, slasher movies, video nasties (two appeared on the proscribed list during the relevant release period), Euro-pulp and exploitation horrors. Each of them also draws on distinctive strains of Gothic visual culture. Mel Welles’s Maneater of Hydra/La isla de la muerte (1968) reveals that modern botanical science can breed vegetative monsters as frightening as Mary Shelley’s hybrid nemesis. In watching the film, we follow a series of murders by a voracious bloodsucking plant in a mansion, crypt and overgrown chapel on Baron von Weser’s mysterious island. Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood/Bahia de Sangre (1971), often viewed as a seminal slasher film anticipating Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th (1980), deals with the most venerable of Walpole-esque gothic themes, evoking murderous feuds over the inheritance of lands including a wealthy chateau, and deploys a narrative of violence involving secret heirs and illegitimacy. In Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue/No profanar el sueño de los muertos (1974), we encounter dangerous Frankenstein crop-like scientific developments resulting in the raising the dead in a rural Lake District village (actually the Peak District) and local churchyard. There are acts of cannibalism (living dead battening onto the living) and rumours of satanism. Gothic Science Fiction is also evoked in echoes of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954). In Pupi Avati’s The House with Laughing Windows/La Casa Dalle Finestre Che Ridono (1976), we follow the progress of Stephano, a restorer of the wall paintings, through a complex of incest, torture, necromantic rites and sadistic voyeurism in a ruined villa. Gothic themes are also embodied in a hidden corpse preserved for

D. A. Jones (*)  Open University, Milton Keynes, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



D. A. Jones

devotion and a church as the site of recurrent evil. However, it has been more rarely noticed that each film is also a work of nascent Euro eco-horror cinema.

II Maneater, a Spanish-German-Italian production, is Euro-horror cinema’s most sustained and revealing explorations of horticultural collecting and tourism as forms of postcolonial intrusion and theft. In a teasing proleptic visual joke, the film opens with Cecilio Panagri’s camera resting upon neat rows of trees (trimmed and domesticated rather than hostile) on a resort boulevard and then tracking past a row of coaches. Each coach tour guide speaks a different European language. The film’s director, Mel Welles had famously played Gravis Mushnik, a florist who temporarily prospers after encountering a carnivorous plant in Roger Corman’s satirical The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). The theme of aggressive plants has a rich pedigree in Neo-Gothic literature and cinema. Charles Darwin’s Insectivorous Plants (1875) and Swinburne’s poem The Sundew (1862) influenced H. G. Wells’s The Flowering of the Strange Orchid (1894) and The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896). In Island of Lost Souls (1932), Erle C. Kenton’s filmic adaptation of the latter tale, the eponymous villain (Charles Laughton) reveals the threat and wonder of his man-eating tree. It was possibly the success of Steve Sekely’s film: The Day of the Triffids (1962) and then Jack Curtis’s The Flesh Eaters (1964), showing a gorier side of plant appetites, which persuaded Welles to revisit the theme of mutant plants battening on humans, this time in a Euro-horror context. In Maneater, in order to extend his botanical knowledge and save rare and blooms from global extinction, Von Weser (Cameron Mitchell), ironically a vegetarian, nurtures a garden of carnivorous plants in a protective setting and feeds them by luring tourists to his island. The tour chauffeur, Alfredo (Ricardo Valle) who ferries the small group of visitors to the island and drives them to the chateau, eulogises about the sequestered gardens to his party of mixed guests: the elderly James (Rolf von Nauckhoff) and much younger and promiscuous Cora Robinson (Kai Fischer), the botanist, Professor Julius Demerist (Herman Nehlsen), the suspicious hero, David Moss (George Martin), the ingénue, Beth Christiansen (Elisa Montés) and Myrtle Callahan (Matilde Muñoz Sampedro). Demerist chimes in: ‘This island is a horticultural wonderland’, responding enthusiastically to the idea of nature defined by human husbandry. Myrtle seems the most hard-nosed tourist, pausing to photograph one of the Baron’s servants felled by the visitors’ car as if he is no more than an immobilised part of the local scenery, but all the tourists suspect that the strange hole in the dead man’s cheek is more than the ‘incurable illness’ cited as caused by the Baron. The film was shot in a large mansion and its grounds in the Arenys de Mar area of Barcelona and the house is revealed to be a treasure trove of tapestries, statues, armorial shields and axes and dating back to the fourth and fifth century. In a speech following the first evening’s meal (composed exclusively of plants which taste like meat), the Baron regales his guests with his own vision of the

Green Trends in Euro-Horror Films of the 1960s and 1970s


natural world. He accepts that nature can be ruthless but is more interested in ‘the interplay of nature’ than the Darwinian survival of the species: ‘We, all of us, are dependent for our existence on the lowly earthworm’, he says, closely echoing Victor Frankenstein’s evaluation of worms as a vital principle. Yet the Baron has not left this ‘interplay’ to nature and worms. He is an expert in mutation breeding in the mould of Lewis Stadler, the geneticist (whose work emerged in the 1950s) and he has painstakingly irradiated the germplasm of the plants’ seeds with X-rays and Ultraviolet rays to produce mutations. It is clear that the Baron’s experiments are designed to reverse the usual contemporary bias where humans were routinely clearing hundreds of acres of rainforest. As an affront to the aloof objectivity of science, Cora, rapidly becoming drunk and attempting to strip, turns on the assembled men in their evening suits, saying: ‘That’s my game! I’ll tell you about nature! What do you stuffed shirts know about nature!?’ The ability of the Baron’s plants to incapacitate their prey becomes obvious as the Baron warns James about one of his paralysing blooms: the porcupine plant which releases its thorns against the perceived threat: ‘Don’t touch that plant!’ Soon after, we cut from the sight of Alfredo’s death, the chauffeur salivating in agony in the car outside the mansion, to the Baron’s twitching nursery plants and we are left in no doubt of their deadliness. The Baron’s collecting and scientific manipulation of insectivorous plants from Africa, Asia and South America, though based on a desire to preserve, is closely associated with European colonialism, theft and despoliation of native resources. The Baron’s statue of Shiva the destroyer is an admirable symbol of the revenge of the continents despoiled by Western incursion. After a series of his own ad hoc experiments where Demerist (testing the local soil with his own blood and observing a plant devour a rabbit), the Professor guesses the truth. Regretting the killing of a fellow botany enthusiast, the Baron nonetheless cannot allow this knowledge to be made public, so he turns a button in the Shiva statue and its hidden blade despatches Demerist. Cora falls victim to the killer-tree in her room, the plant making suggestive sucking and gurgling noises as it moves in on her. As the dead bodies accumulate (the Baron making one excuse after another), they are placed in the family vault by Baldi, a servant and his role as an undertaker means that he becomes wrongly identified as the killer. Eventually the Baron and David corner Baldi in the derelict family chapel and he is killed. David recalls that Baldi shouts ‘Arms’ before he dies, giving a clue to the real murderer which the heroic guest takes to be a link to the Shiva statue; in fact, it is a reference to the many-branched tree. As Myrtle is attacked by the tree, we see the plant’s murderous methods in close-up for the first time: its creeping lianas and glistening, phallic stamens which extend to pierce the victim. Beth discovers Myrtle’s body and is herself wrapped in the trees’ grasping branches. James hears her screams and rushes downstairs but is attacked by von Weser, who uses the porcupine plant to immobilise him and


D. A. Jones

then hacks at his face with an ancestral axe from an armorial display. David, having taken another axe from this shield, rushes outside and cuts at the tree, its tendrils and trailers oozing vivid red blood. Distraught with the perceived suffering of his prize specimen, the Baron attacks David and a fierce axe fight ensues in a Mediterranean storm. Von Wesser stabs the tree by accident, saying: ‘My God, My God, my dearest, my darling, what have I done? You are bleeding. Forgive, I didn’t mean it. You can’t die!’ Of course, this is an adaptation of Christ’s words on the cross: ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me’? (Matthew 27:46) ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:34) Though the initial effect of the Baron wailing for his tree is risible, Mitchell brings a surprising conviction to this scene. In trying to supplant God and manipulating his hybrid, this expert in plant breeding finally takes on a Christlike role, laying down his life for his creation. ‘I’m sorry my dearest: take my blood. I’ll be with you. Die with you. I’ll save you!’ The gibbering and spluttering of the tree as its stems ooze gouts of blood over von Wesser’s hands, the roaring of wind and rain, and the Baron’s cry of pain as the camera pulls back to show that the plant has finally accepted his invitation by piercing his eye from behind are the most effective scenes in the film. In a reversal of Prospero’s release of Ariel in The Tempest, von Wesser, scientist-magician of his island is pulled into the tree’s gaping trunk. The last shot: a high, slow and very distorted zoom moving over of the lower trunk and the baron’s drained face, is perhaps the first imagined visualisation from a plant’s point of view in cinematic history. Bay of Blood opens with a wide, diffuse focus on flashing water highlights musically accompanied by an eerie string, drum and harpsichord theme. We track along lakeside and pier and glimpse the expanse of an attractive bay. The film was shot at Lago Sabaudia and in the villa Frascati. We are then given three seconds view of upright cross (a mast), as if to instate the role of the Catholic church in the slaughter which ensues. Our point of view then begins to circle jaggedly as if we are lapsing into insect movement or a demented person’s consciousness and then see an external shot of something plopping into the lake. Early in the development of modern ecology, Bava provides a devastatingly pessimistic vision of efforts to save nature from human exploitation. In discussing his father’s film, Lamberto Bava has remembered how, at the time of working on the production, he and the other writers were starting to talk routinely about ecology though he recalls their lack of real understanding. For a period in considering possible titles for the film, the suggestion Ecology of a Crime (Ecologia del delitto), surfaced yet the production is also a study of ecology as it existed in public consciousness in the early 1970s. The film reveals a cycle of killing and mutual surveillance where characters are seen watching through binoculars, staring between leaves, shining headlights and stumbling round each other menacingly in the lakeside woods. Bava’s role as a

Green Trends in Euro-Horror Films of the 1960s and 1970s


painter perhaps hints at a knowledge of Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ and the Dutch painter’s manner of showing corrupt sinners circling round a lake and being impaled in highly imaginative ways. Throughout the film we are confronted by humans acting as ruthlessly as insects for territorial gain. Bava invites us to view his characters in a de-familiarised way as if through a microscope. Born in 1914, Bava saw the rise of Mussolini’s fascism and the Second World War ravage his country. Those aristocrats who collaborated with fascism and oppressed the peasant class receive consistent condemnation in his films. Perhaps it is not surprising in the wake of the 1960s ‘Miracolo economico’ with its rapid and largely unregulated expansion of industries, air and water pollution and the ecological disasters at Vajont Dam and the Seveso chemical leak that Bava should generate such pessimism. Simultaneously James Lovelock was beginning to promulgate, as part of the Gaia hypothesis, that the synergies of organic and inorganic life on earth could survive the ongoing mutual self-destruction of humans. The film is as remarkable for the range of views expressed regarding the treatment of the environment as for its graphic violence. In the film’s second scene, Countess Federica Donati (Isa Miranda) is abruptly noosed and her wheelchair kicked from under her. In a flashback later in the film, she reveals her’s to be a patrician, aristocratic vision of nature. Her killer is Count Filippo Donati (Giovanni Nuvoletti), who has previously tried unsuccessfully to develop the lake into a holiday resort and has been lured into this murder by his sexual obsession with a younger woman. Soon after, Filippo is stabbed to death and we cut to the bedroom of Frank Ventura (Chris Avram) and Laura (Anna Maria Rosati), his secretary. Ventura (‘Fortune’ in Italian,) is a callous architect, who has neither regard for nature nor the animals whose habitat will be destroyed by his plans for the Donati estate. His one reference to animal life is to ridicule Laura by calling her a ‘squonk’, a mythical beast that whimpers, a sexist jibe at women as imaginary creatures. Frank’s crucifix revealed here in a post-coital context, his murderous greed and the African shields and crossed spears (seen in his apartment later) link him to phallic greed and a Christian heritage of exploitative colonialism. We return to the lakeside with a close-up on the character, Simon’s (Claudio Volonté’s) mouth biting down on a live squid. He encounters his lakeside neighbour, Paolo Fossati (Leopoldo Trieste) an amateur entomologist. Paolo is a conservationist, anxious to protect the lake’s wildlife against the ‘devilries’ of modern development. He justifies his collecting of insects by referring to his own human, civilised values (implying his moral distance from and superiority to insect life). Later revealed to be Federica’s illegitimate son, Simon, who has been brought up largely in isolation like a wild animal, gives his laissez-faire, instrumental vision of the lake and its resources. Paolo’s vision is that of the romantic scientist yet both their revealed viewpoints are destructive of nature, even if on a smaller scale than those of the Count and Frank.


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Simon says: ‘Man should live and let live, and without any interfering’. but Paolo reminds him of his own violence against nature: ‘Even that poor squid was free once, Simon, eh? I study Coleoptera because I love them’. Simon cannot abide such sentimentalism: ‘Sure, but the squirming little creatures still end up under your microscope. Yeah, he’s dead all right but at least I eat my squid. But I don’t kill as a hobby like you do’. Our knowledge of the Donati’s murder gives Paolo’s response to this a real dramatic bite: ‘Good lord, Simon. You make me feel like a murderer’. Simon replies: ‘If you kill for killing’s sake, you become a monster’. Paolo protests: ‘But, man isn’t an insect […] We have centuries of civilization behind us, you know’. Simon counters: ‘No, I don’t know. I wasn’t there’.

He ‘wasn’t there’ because he wasn’t alive centuries ago. Additionally, as an illegitimate son rejected by the Christian church, he has been reared outside the so-called benefits of civilisation. It is a murderously humorous, haunting statement and typical of Bava’s mordant outlook that he situates his transition to films with more challenging violence and nudity within such conflicting dialectics of nature. Further insight into the film’s murders and conflicting views of nature is supplied in a flashback where Frank had formerly visited the Countess in her mansion. Frank tells her: ‘With a property as interesting as the bay we’d feel obliged to improve on its natural beauty: we could make it into a Paradise—’, a view typical of many contemporary arriviste developers. The countess interrupts with ‘-- of bricks and reinforced concrete and sewer pipes. No! I don’t feel the obligation you speak of, social or otherwise, to improve on nature’s innate beauty. I have no greed for property but I was born to this land and you cannot coerce me into selling it, nor usurp it […] The bay is my little acre’. The countess clearly lacks any notional sense of noblesse oblige or social conscience. Her last sentence also shows how she has subverted the position of God shown in Anthony Mann’s film God’s Little Acre (1958). A Roman emperor’s bust is glimpsed fleetingly as the pair talk and we see it standing by her side as she leaves, associations with Italian fascism accordingly evoked. Another vision of natural order, this time as linked to the supernatural is supplied by Anna Fossati, Paolo’s wife (Laura Betti). Regarded as nothing more than a ‘babbling’ fortune teller by her husband, she is a Tarot-reading mystic rather too fond of wine. Nonetheless, as a carefree group of young tourists arrive on the far side of the lake, she predicts their fate accurately by consulting the ‘lines of fire, water and all the earth’, saying: ‘The sickle of death is about to strike!’

Green Trends in Euro-Horror Films of the 1960s and 1970s


The youths carelessly tear blossom from trees and break into Frank’s home. Brunhilda (Brigitte Skay), swimming in the lake, dislodges the count’s submerged body and the killer, Simon, fearful of discovery, slays her and Bobby (Roberto Bonanni) with a roncola billhook, a good approximation of Anna’s ‘sickle’ and apt enough symbol for an aristocrat’s son reared as a peasant. As Brunhilda dies, we cut to a close-up of the sun’s pulsing orb which sets in a pink-red sky reflected in the lake, the whole of nature tinged with slaughter. Once again, the cross appears at centre screen. Another youth, Duke (Guido Boccaccini) has found an African tribal mask and spear in Frank’s house and as he and Denise (Paola Montenero) have sex, Simon impales them both on the spear. Conflicting views of nature permeate the whole film. In talking to Renata Donati (Claudine Auger), the count’s estranged daughter and another heir to the estate, Anna says that, if the bay is full of insects, the newly arrived Donatis should fit in very well and that if Filippo possessed a soul, so do insects. Reversing his previously stated views on human superiority to insects, Paolo says to Fernando, (one of his captured water beetles): ‘You live in a much saner world than mine’. Later, when Laura goes to look for Paolo, there’s a live beetle cruelly impaled on his table: a direct reference back to the skewering of Duke and Denise. Ironically, it is an accident involving Renata’s children which will restore the ecological balance of the lakeside. House of laughing windows is set in 1951 in a dilapidated village in the Emilia Romagna countryside which used to be a popular thermal spa although, at one point a hotelier confesses that the tourist trade here was always: ‘Non-existent. The only tourists were those German bastards from the 1940s’, an ironic reference to Italian collaboration with the Nazis. To bring back tourists, the mayor, Solmi (Bob Tonelli), afflicted by dwarfism, has been paying Dr. Antonio Mazza, (Giulio Pizzirani) to endorse the quality of the local water and has hired Antonio’s friend, Stefano (Lino Capolicchio) to restore a fresco of St. Sebastian, created by the mentally disturbed artist, Legnani. The church of the fresco was, we are told, used in the last war by the S.S. to store piles of corpses. Avati was evacuated from Bologna into the countryside during the war and his work is influenced by rural fairy tales and the paranormal, particularly a tale about the exhumation of a dead priest who turned out to be a woman. The film opens with a sepia tableau of a hanging man being stabbed by unseen assailants and, at one point, the knife-blade slices towards the camera and audience. Simultaneously, a voice intones: My colours are like syphilis And they contaminate everyone Oh my Lord I must purge myself Get them out – purity. There is a quickening edge of sexual climax in the words: ‘Here we come my Lord, I feel death coming’.


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On meeting Stefano, Solmi intimates: ‘We need to create a native celebrity like Ligabue at Guestalla. Without tourists this town is dead’. Antonio Ligabue is one of the most famous European naïve painters, his feral activities, self-harming and smearing his blood on paintings are important for Avati’s portrayal of Legnani, the so-called ‘Painter of the Agony’, who used to specialise in painting villagers close to death. Avati is also keen on referencing repressed memories of Italian collaboration with the Nazis early in the film and his painter’s name provides another link: Antonio Legnani was a wartime celebrity who endorsed Italian unity with Germany. The stabbing of the suspended man in the opening scene also recalls the methods of fascist torturer, Pietro Koch. Stefano is driven to the village, Pasquale Rachini’s camerawork showing the luxuriant fields of poppies yet, as the restorer starts his job and meets more of the local populace: Lidio, (Pietro Brambilla) the church altar boy and Francesca (Francesca Marciano), a local teacher, we become aware that nature is out of joint here. As Stefano begins to receive phoned warnings to leave the village, we see a boatman, tellingly named Foresti (‘forests’: ‘foreste’ in Italian) bringing Mazza samples of water at the lagoon quayside. Mazza comments: ‘There’ll be no more eels in this river’ as he realises that ‘war surplus’: abandoned equipment and machinery from the last war is decaying in the water. It is clear that ecology is, in this film, also a correlative for attempts to cleanse the psychic health of the community. As Mazza tests the waters, he becomes aware of the continuing activities of the remaining Legnani family members; he tries to warn Stephano but the biologist is pushed from the upper window of his room. Though the ecology of the area has been seriously damaged, the visual schema of the film, paradoxically, seems dominated by rampant growth. After Stephano is ejected from the hotel, the overgrown bushes on the path of the villa to which Lidio takes him to seem to close in around them. On a day’s boating after Mazza dies, the village priest (Eugene Walter) belies the biologist’s words about ‘no more eels’ by saying: ‘Fishing is good around here’ and promptly catching a fish. As Stefano discusses Legnani’s deathly legacy, he sees a woman gathering flowers on the opposite riverbank, the sun blazing behind her, outlining her figure. She is Signora Poppi (Flavia Giorgi) and the blooms which she gathers will later come back to life in sprays which she places in the church. The wildlife of the region is continuously emphasised. Lidio puts a live mouse in Mazza’s coffin to rattle around as he is buried, seemingly mocking the biologist’s attempts to revivify the area. The altar boy also eats rats and Francesca dreams of phallic snails and finds them in her fridge. When the house of laughing windows is located, its fenestration painted with lipsticked, supposedly female mouths (evoking a predatory gaze which laughs and consumes), it features a motif of flowering banks on its façade. The camera cuts from the purple flowers in church to the floral frieze in the trattoria.

Green Trends in Euro-Horror Films of the 1960s and 1970s


Local songs emphasise the ineluctable rounds and cruelty of nature. Francesca’s schoolchildren’s sing: Round and round the world Round and round the garden To pick a bunch of flowers This version of the traditional ‘Giroi girotundo’ song also hints at the secret sacrificial cult. Mazza had written in his diary: ‘Imagine when they started to run out of dead people’ and the singing children little imagine that they may be ‘picked’ like flowers by the concealed murderers. Francesca is subsequently tortured and killed by the surviving Legnani sisters. Lidio’s sadistic and misogynistic song about his bike being the offspring of a tricycle and a prostitute (‘what a bitch’) which glides on under the sun, crushing crickets anticipates the way he too will be sacrificed. The final revelations that a local paraplegic and a village priest are, in fact Legnani’s surviving sisters who use human sacrifice to contact their dead brother, reinforce our impression of an unholy pact between church and state, blood and soil. The ecological impulse of the film represented by Solmi, Mazza and Stephano remains frail. Solmi is the one villager who seems torn between knowing about the sacrificial rites sustained and hidden by the Catholic church on one hand and the cleansing of the waters on the other. Will his final phone call to the Ferrara police save Stephano’s life? After all, he is responsible for the bringing of Mazza and Stephano to the village and so, indirectly, for their fate. Conversely, will the atavistic hold of superstition and the church controlling the rural population and forcing them to sacrifice their children finally prevail? The Living Dead’s focus opens on a psychedelic blue and red torso to the left of frame and to the right a female African statue, with one of her hands resting on her breast. George Meaning (Ray Lovelock) is setting out on his motorbike to take this statue from his ‘Antiques and Modern’ shop in Manchester to a friend’s house in the Lake District. As he leaves the premises, the words ‘Meaning’ and ‘Closed for holiday’ are playfully juxtaposed. Much has been made of the apparently vicarious inclusion at this point of a naked woman, making a v for victory sign and sprinting from the porch of Manchester Cathedral; everyone caught in the traffic congestion seems to ignore her making us suspect that she is the fantasy embodiment of the lusts of the bus and taxi drivers. Yet we also remember the African statue, (the feminine sacred) and this glimpse of a woman in her natural state prefigures the scenes of male scientists manipulating agriculture and the oppressed and controlled women of the film (one whose breast is destroyed). As in the contemporary song by Neil Young, mother nature seems to be running away in the 1970s. Grau’s Manchester is obviously a highly polluted environment with its cooling towers, dead bird, men wearing pollution masks and taking pills and car exhausts


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spewing smoke. As George drives north, these scenes are all interspersed with shots of green countryside. In a petrol station, Edna Simmons (Christina Galbó) mistakenly reverses her car onto George’s bike, and he bullies her into letting him drive her car to their respective destinations. He switches on the car radio and they hear a commentator saying that ecological problems have been exaggerated, advising against hysteria and citing Goldsmith and Allen’s ‘so-called project for survival […] signed by 33 scientists’ as causing panic. Edward Goldsmith and Robert Allen’s A Blueprint for Survival was first published in The Ecologist in January 1972, subsequently developed as a book and which sold in excess of 750,000 copies. The article, signed by prominent scientists, promoted the restructuring of society to prevent the destruction of ecosystems. This diegetic reference to the book is extraordinarily direct. In talking of his film, Grau also commented that humanity had been poisoned by a type of progress that was unconcerned about its consequences. George comments: ‘What rot – ecological problems exaggerated! Of course, when we all die, only the scientists will survive!’ It is a deeply ambiguous response since, presumably, he approves of the scientists signing the article but also mistrusts their privileged capacity to anticipate ecological calamity. Immediately afterwards, the mini is impeded by the City of Manchester Mortuary lorry which tries to stop them from passing in the narrow lane. As George goes up to up to the Lewis farm, asking for the Maddison’s house where Katie (Janine Mestre), Edna’s sister is staying in Southgate, he hears a strange whining and sees a machine in the field. It is a device designed by the Agricultural Department experimental section to destroy insects and parasites with ultrasonic radiation. Simultaneously, Edna by the river-ford below is attacked by a figure recognised later from her description to be ‘Guthrie the Loony’ (Fernando Hilbeck). The zombie goes on to attack Katie, a heroin addict, and to kill her photographer husband (José Lifante). The belligerent Detective Sergeant (Arthur Kennedy) who arrives to investigate the killing, jumps to all the wrong conclusions. In finding Katie’s heroin stash he immediately starts to blame herself and George and Edna as her accomplices in the killing. Katie suffers a breakdown and is taken to Southgate hospital. As we approach the hospital, we see a lorry with men in white costumes and uniforms removing bodies in steel coffins. Doctor Duffield (Vincente Vega) teases George with the idea of booking a refrigerated coffin for himself but alarms sound suddenly because one of the babies has blinded a nurse in the hospital nursery. The baby goes on to bite George. A puzzled Duffield says: ‘Third one born since yesterday with incredible aggression’ The babies all originate from the Southgate river area. Convinced that this aggression and the zombie attack have a scientific explanation, George goes with Duffield to view the agricultural machine again. The technicians demonstrate how the generated sound waves act on the insects’ nervous system to kill one another. Grau seems thoroughly aware of contemporary

Green Trends in Euro-Horror Films of the 1960s and 1970s


scientific developments. As early as 1963, Andrew G. Gordon written in the magazine Ultrasonics (Vol. 1, Issue 2) of how ultrasound could accelerate seed germination of seeds and destroy bacteria and insect pests. Grau’s film is obviously indebted to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) but the Spanish director has consciously ‘earthed’ the radiation disrupting the ecosystems in his film, the source of this menace being the English Agriculture Department rather than Romero’s outer space probe. ‘Better than DDT’ says one technician of the machine, but George counters: ‘DDT causes cancer’, referencing Rachel Carson’s environmental study Silent Spring (1962). ‘If you want to go back to nature’, replies the operator ‘Why don’t you find yourself a nice, quiet Pacific atoll?’ ‘Oh great’. George replies: All I’d have to worry about then would be atomic fall-out’ referring to the infamous Bikini atoll bomb tests. After recognising Guthrie’s picture in a newspaper, George and Edna investigate his grave in a local church. In some of the most chilling scenes in the film, the couple find themselves in a locked vault attacked by Guthrie. George stabs him repeatedly with a stave but the zombie seizes a spade and sends George sprawling. Guthrie marks the closed eyelids of the dead with blood to revive them in a kind of parody of the Christian rites. More of the corpses arise. Craig (Giorgio Trestini), a policeman instructed to follow the couple, arrives and rescues Edna. Pursued by the zombies, the trio take refuge in the church. As this episode develops, the references to a Christianity which, at best, has allowed the ecological cataclysm to occur and, at worst has bolstered the reactionary forces of the establishment, multiply. One zombie prises up a cross-shaped headstone to batter the church-door. George says: ‘Christ, there’s no way out […] Christ only knows what brought them back to life again!’ which would be weak puns if it weren’t for the ecclesiastical setting and the travesty of resurrected life surrounding the church. Nevertheless, it is in the church setting that George guesses that humans, like cut flowers, might survive for a short time after they die and that the radiation is using this vestigial life to create zombies. Craig is cannibalised but George manages to burn the zombies and he and Edna escape. At the start of the film, George is seen as something of a selfish and sexist young thug but, as the action develops, we see his compassion for Edna and the accuracy of his judgements about the source of the zombies; as his surname denotes, the meaning of the film does rest with him. He runs to the Lewis Farm and smashes the radiation machine. Ironies increase as a coroner who accompanies Kennedy to the site of the slaughter at the church, associates the young couple with Satanists who vandalise cemeteries. Later, when George is temporarily captured, his African statuette is used to bolster this connection, revealing the Detective Sergeant’s overwhelming cultural ignorance. As the undead multiply and the action grows more frenetic, Kennedy’s policeman becomes increasingly focussed upon George and Edna as his enemies,


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mirroring the contemporary resurgence of Spanish reactionary forces against the so-called permissive generation, that ‘permissive rot’ as the policeman terms it. Meanwhile the Agriculture Dept. men have switched the machine back on and it now has a range of five miles. As the bodies of zombies are taken to the hospital, so they come back to life and infect other corpses. In one of the funniest and darkly self-reflexive moments of the film, a hospital receptionist (Isabel Mestre) talks on the phone to her friend unaware of the zombies behind her: ‘So how was the film?’ she asks, painting her nails ‘Tell me all about it’ as if inviting the cinema audience to pass judgement on the film they are viewing. She is as oblivious to her danger as Grau perhaps feels his audience is to the real ecological threat. A zombie looms forward and strangles her with the phone flex as another tears off her breast, a moment towards which we have moving since the opening scenes. Kennedy finally kills George and we cut to a future scene where the policeman is lauded as a hero by the public. Returning to his hotel room, passing fields where the Agricultural machine still operates, he climbs to his room only to be killed by a newly zombified George. The final shot is of the radiation machine’s red turret with rotating lights, the most dystopian of endings. As in Maneater and Bay, the human urge to improve nature and create a wonderland or paradise has given rise to horrifying nightmares. As late in the development of Euro-horror as Dario Argento’s Phenomena (1985), we see the influence of Bava’s Bay most tellingly in the figure of Argento’s entomologist, Professor John McGregor (Donald Pleasance) and Jennifer Corvino’s (Jennifer Connelly’s) power over insects. Yet it is rare to find such an intensity and range of interest in ecology in horror films created over such a short period as the ones discussed here. At the very least, such a convergence deserves our critical attention. From Darwinian themes to concern for ecosystems, from ultrasonic pollution to direct citation of environmentalist theory, these works are remarkable in their emphasis, formulation and reappraisal of eco-issues. Critics have often been drawn to the graphic violence of these productions, to their visual impact and to their relative positions in the development of different strains of horror. Yet each also draws a great deal of its power from anxieties and foreboding about natural cataclysm. They are green screams still heard from that which was, in its own day, a new horizon of fear.

Filmography Bay of Blood/Bahia de Sangre, dir. Mario Bava, 1971. The Day of the Triffids, dir. Steve Sekely, 1962. The Flesh Eaters, dir. Jack Curtis, 1964. Friday the 13th, dir. Sean S. Cunningham, 1980. God’s Little Acre, dir. Anthony Mann, 1958. The House with Laughing Windows/La Casa Dalle Finestre Che Ridono, dir. Pupi Avati, 1976.

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Island of Lost Souls, dir. Erle C. Kenton, 1932. The Little Shop of Horrors, dir. Roger Corman, 1960. The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue/No profanar el sueño de los Muertos, dir. Jorge Grau, 1974. Maneater of Hydra/La isla de la muerte, dir. Mel Welles, 1968.

Ecocriticism and the Genre Emily Alder and Jenny Bavidge

This chapter explores an urgent and topical dimension to Gothic studies—the ecogothic. Definable on the one hand as attentiveness within and by gothic texts to that thing we call ‘nature’, ecogothic is also a mode of thought, one both critical and enabling, and an ethical stance. We begin by tracing a route through the varied terrain of the ecogothic, from its places of emergence to where it might lead, and end with a series of three case studies through which we explore some frameworks of ecogothic thought. Gothic stories and horror narratives have traditionally given us a mode in which to confront, allay, or even to laugh at our fears. But how does Gothic, and perhaps even more so horror, that guiltiest of genres, make a claim to be a space fit to host questions of environmental justice or to bear witness to the real-world horrors of extinction or geocide? In justifying the study of ecogothic we might find ourselves bumping into some familiar objections to the study of Gothic in general: in the face of the existential threat of climate disaster and the terrors of environmental degradation, isn’t it hopelessly indulgent to enjoy horror stories about that horror? As Catherine Spooner has suggested, there has been a tendency to justify the study of Gothic with reference to its ‘utility’, a need to prove that ‘it is instrumental to some larger good’.1 Defenders of Gothic argue that it is transformative and transgressive, that it is cathartic and a necessary expression of the repressed of any era, that it holds the potential for an ethical encounter with otherness that deseats the primacy of the human, the unitary subject, or the master culture. These are claims which have a strong synergy with the aims and effects of ecocriticism. In common with other analyses of gothic texts, ecocritics can ask what it is that can be said in the gothic mode that could not be brought into representation by

E. Alder (*)  Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK e-mail: [email protected] J. Bavidge  University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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any other genre or style of writing. Given the disciplinary affinities in ecocriticism with the sobrieties of nature writing and literary realism, some ecocritics have been sceptical about what gothic narratives and motifs might have to offer: in his entry on ‘Environment’ in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, Greg Garrard identifies a potentially powerful source of ecological thinking in queered or postcolonial questioning of human/non-human categories in some gothic works, but dismisses those which belong to the genre of fantasy, arguing that the stock characters of ‘supernatural melodrama’ such as vampires and werewolves ‘contribute little to environmental discourse beyond shallow stereotyping of the “beast within”’.2 Ecocritic Richard Kerridge argues that ecocriticism seeks out work or identifies those elements in work which promotes ‘care’ in readers: care for the environment, care for each other, care for the powerless. No one genre, he suggests, will be capable of effecting this change on its own and the job of ecocriticism should be to ask what any given work or genre is doing to move us out of the impasse caused by the onset of a fearful paralysis in the face of a frightening future. In his essay ‘Ecocritical Approaches to Form and Genre’ Kerridge divvies up the work that can be done by different forms and genres: ‘stark literary realism’ and ‘confessional literary poetry’, he argues, can best address the evasions and ‘splitting’ (itself a good gothic motif) that result from this paralysing fear.3 Kerridge also champions the powers of literary realism and of nature writing as the forms most likely to awaken positive social action and acknowledges the experiments of avant-garde practices and the modernist ‘open field’ practice of poets such as Harriet Tarlo or Peter Riley, which offers the reader an encounter with the material world beyond the lyric-human perspective. Gothic writing does not feature in Kerridge’s analysis of different genres’ responses to climate change and their efficacy in bringing about a response, and he is uneasy about the inclusion of disaster narratives, SF, and horror. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) and its subsequent film adaptation (2009) are cited as a prime example of the latter; its gruelling catalogue of terrors is ‘reminiscent of sadistic slasher movies’. There is a concern here over the ethics of darkness in literature, but, nevertheless, widening the remit of what ecocriticism is prepared to examine might find room even for those slasher movies as part of its enquiry. Recent critical work in ecogothic foregrounds a range of uses for the Gothic in ecocritical thinking and understands that different kinds of learning emerge from the study of gothic texts. The primary job of gothic ecocriticism might be to spot an ecophobic motif or narrative structure, but alongside the diagnosis of our ambivalent relationship to the natural environment is a separate set of concerns identifying fearfulness and anxiety as motivating forces that break free of a simple rehearsal of nightmare scenarios. Andrew Smith and Bill Hughes, for example, describe the scope of enquiry in their essay collection EcoGothic (2013) as both ‘the Gothic through theories of ecocriticism’ and ‘an ecologically aware Gothic’.4 The distinction is worth dwelling on because it signals the way ecogothic identifies and analyses gothic traces in texts inflected by environmental or other natural sciences, as well as examining the non- or more-than-human world in texts already enrolled to a gothic or horror mode.5

Ecocriticism and the Genre


The essays in EcoGothic draw a variety of environmentalist conclusions from their study of gothic texts. For example, Lisa Kröger describes a ‘Gothic ecology’ derived from early gothic novels as ‘one that suggests it is best for humanity and nature to live harmoniously with one another’6; Catherine Lanone hopes that ‘EcoGothic narratives may be able to shock capitalist logic into changing while there may still be time’.7 Gothic texts may awaken us to other ways of being, William Hughes argues, in ‘the possibility of rapturous, fully engaged experience which is otherwise not available to us’.8 Elsewhere in the volume, gothic fears may be ‘revalued’ when they bring to light erased histories buried by ‘colonial overtones, biases and cultural erasures’.9 Other conclusions are even more concrete, where they identify the advocacy of environmental causes in the work of authors such as Margaret Atwood, where ecogothic becomes part of a narrative drive to ‘critique environmental destruction and advocate restoration’.10 More generally, a feeling often emerges from work in ecogothic that in exposing ourselves to ourselves, in all-out fearfulness and monstrosity, we move closer to ‘understanding our own ambivalent relationships to the environments in which we live’.11 There are important ethical moves going on in gothic tellings, to which we’ll return. Ecogothic has been around longer than it has been named, but Smith and Hughes’s collection helped to cohere it as a critical term that has since gained considerable traction.12 Writers and scholars recognise Gothic, Eleanor Byrne summarises, ‘as always already “green” literature’ in which the more-than-human world possesses agencies of its own.13 Through its sublime environments and experiences, monstrous others, and probings of the limits of the human body and self, the gothic mode is obviously concerned with ‘nature’. Sublime, untamed, and unruly environments—seas, mountains, forests, ruins, cities—ripple through gothic literature and criticism while monsters—animal, human, psychological, technological, theoretical—populate its pages and screens. To an extent, then, gothic criticism has long leaned towards the ecological; the difference has been made by noticing it. Christopher Hitt, in a 1999 essay, saw in the sublime ‘a unique opportunity for the realization of a new, more responsible perspective on our relationship with the natural environment’, through its expressions of ‘encounters with a nonhuman world whose power ultimately exceeds [ours]’.14 Yet the sublime’s own conventions limit it: dependent on the human self ultimately emerging successful from an encounter that never truly threatened it, the sublime ‘describes the validation of the individual through an act of transcendence in which the external world is domesticated, conquered, or erased’.15 In the contemporary day, however, we (and the ‘we’ we use throughout this chapter is ourselves and our culture, call it the west, the developed world, the global north) can no longer maintain such distance; ‘the threat is of [our] own making. And worse, the danger is all too real’. The possibility of no victory against this immediate threat, Hitt suggests, risks producing inertia rather than invigoration; a genuinely ecological sublime would ‘restor[e] the wonder, the inaccessibility of wild nature. In an age of exploitation, commodification and domination we need awe, envelopment, and transcendence’.16


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Whether we can have all three at once is another question. Paradigms that maintain nature’s otherness, with humans either enveloped in the middle or left inaccessibly outside, maintain a problematic anthropocentric perspective. Lee Rozelle, writing in 2006, negotiates the difficulty by proposing that ‘ecosublime’ texts can prompt a double realisation of one’s ecological place along with how uncertain, broken, and unfixable the world is, in order for ‘viewers and readers to realize their purpose as a niche in a realized organic system’.17 As an ecocritical lens, the sublime can move beyond its roots in patriarchal philosophies of human– nature relations—whose structures, nonetheless, persist in modern culture. The safe position of a reader or character as a spectator was comfortably distant from the non-human. It was also aligned with Enlightenment reason and its dominant ontologies: the superiority of thought over matter and the separation from intellectual man from unreasoning nature described by Bruno Latour as the ­‘mind-in-a-vat’.18 Leading to numerous other binary accounts of self and other, hyperseparation from ‘nature’ has had serious social and ecological impacts now and in the (especially western imperial) past.19 Simon Estok characterises the result as ‘ecophobia’, ‘an irrational and groundless hatred of the natural world, as present and subtle in our daily lives and literature as homophobia and racism and sexism’.20 Just like these comparable stances, the consequences of ecophobia are violent. ‘Ecophobia’, Estok sums up in a recent article, ‘is what allows humanity to do bad things to the natural world’.21 And we are embedded in it. As Estok goes on (not excluding himself), ‘[o]ur participation in toxic lifestyles, our enmeshment with matters of death, pain, and suffering, is something from which we would like to have ethical exception. Toxicity amnesia and eco-exceptionalism are our guides, and we fall into their hands’.22 A form of the resultant guilt and shame is closely allied to fear in texts such as The Road, which reteach an old lesson from gothic tales, which is that the external aggressor is always a figure for the monstrous self: we really have turned out to be the monsters in this story. To examine ecophobia is also to examine our own complicity in the problem—a complicity that may in fact be necessary if we are to examine it at all (field and lab research, wildlife documentaries, and ecocritical research papers are all alert to the problems, but generating them demands certain levels of consumption and travel). What could be more Gothic than finding we are inside the other, and that other is not ‘nature’ after all, but us. Responding to Estok in 2009, Tom Hillard immediately saw rich potential in the Gothic for critical attention to ecophobia.23 Ecocriticism, Hillard points out, ‘largely over-looked representations of nature inflected with fear, horror, loathing, or disgust’, privileging more positive, biophilic representations and attitudes because gothic nature writing ‘doesn’t tell the stories most of us wish to hear’.24 Much contemporary nature writing feels elegiac in tone and speaks the language of loss and memory, while hoping for the best. It seeks to remind us of our connections with the natural world and to promote an ethics of care and a passion to protect. At first, discussions of ecophobia, humanity’s distrustful hatred and fear of the natural world, might seem to stand in nihilistic opposition to such biophilia. Estok, however, calls for the study of ecophobia precisely because focusing

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on biophilia has not worked; while valuable, he sees it as eliding an ­underlying fear of the natural world that impedes meaningful change. By contrast, ‘[a]nalyzing ecophobia allows us to develop an entirely new ethical paradigm within which to house our thinking about nature’, taking ecophobic representations and actions as seriously as we do sexist and racist ones.25 One way of conceiving ecogothic, then, is as the study of ecophobia. Where ecophobia is ‘rooted in and dependent on anthropocentric arrogance and speciesism, on the ethical position that humanity is outside of and exempt from the laws of nature’, the Gothic ‘is wont to remind us that we are shaped not only by where we come from, but by what we eat, and how we interact with the environment and all forms of life’.26 In Gothic, ecophobia might manifest as fear, or disgust, or anxiety, either overt, repressed, or displaced—such as whether the boundaries between human and non-human being are too complete or not complete enough, or a culture’s guilt or denial about its violence against non-human others or against bioregions. David Del Principe asserts ecogothic’s ‘nonanthropocentric position […] the EcoGothic serves to give voice to ingrained biases and a mounting ecophobia - fears stemming from humans’ precarious relationship with all that is nonhuman’ including an estrangement from it.27 Ecogothic faces that relationship in all its precariousness; retreat can lead only back to hyperseparation. The alternative is inevitably feminist, given feminism’s potentials for promoting the kind of ethical relations between people, species, and things that just social and ecological flourishing requires.28 Yet this biophilic, utopian goal needs the Gothic, too, since the state of modernity itself appears rather gothic. Ecocritic Kate Soper reflects that in the twenty-first century we are suffering unprecedented forms of unease precisely in virtue of our new found powers to control and even create ‘nature’, and caught up in new anxieties verging on panic about the ways in which environmental ‘nature’ is, or seems to be, spinning out of control because of climate change and its unpredictable character and consequences. To add to the confusion, there is the seeming incapacity of affluent Westerners to act in any but the most contradictory ways in response.29

Ambivalence over our power against and vulnerability to a lively nature, contradictions in our behaviour governed by psychological responses as well as political and social structures, unease and anxiety—all point us towards ecogothic. After all, the Gothic has traditionally been ‘a means for confronting (safely) that which is threatening, frightful, and culturally or socially reprehensible’.30 The early gothic novels accordingly sited their frightening material at a distance away in space and time from the reader’s world but spoke to recognisable anxieties; contemporary readers of dystopian novels or players of video games with narratives set in an apocalyptic future (such as Fallout [1997] or The Last of Us [2013]) may feel equally distant and yet closely involved in the scenarios described. Gothic is a site where we can safely encounter and examine fear. It thrives on the complexities of fearful responses and shows us the fissures and blind spots in our everyday, rational minds and worlds into which more unruly unconscious energies might worm their way. It can also become a place where we critically rethink fear and try to unpick cultural ideas about who or what is considered


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monstrous or inhuman. In cases where the object of fearful or appalled response is entirely rational (we might think of Toni Morrison’s Beloved [1987] using the gothic mode to confront the realities of slavery) then stories which involve the supernatural, horror, or motifs of haunting might be a way of articulating anxieties which are unspeakable in any other way. No wonder that unspeakabilities may be repressed by an individual, or by a culture—in this case, the facts of ecological crisis as well as, scariest of all, our own complicity in perpetuating them and our fears that escape may be impossible. But what if escape isn’t the answer? In 2019, it is increasingly evident that a safe position is no longer tenable—or no longer exists.31 Estok, Timothy Morton, Val Plumwood, Donna Haraway, and others assert the necessity for confronting what is disavowed and the impossibility of doing so from a safe distance. Not the least striking feature of much recent ecocritical theory is a persistent recourse to gothic language. Shadows are particularly widespread, good at hiding the stories we don’t wish to hear, the monstrous truths we abject or deny or find hard to accept—for example, recognition of unfamiliar forms of agency: ‘the material agency or effectivity of nonhuman or not-quite-human things’, Jane Bennett notes in Vibrant Matter (2010), is ‘typically cast in the shadows’.32 Hillard draws attention to Rinda West’s book Out of the Shadow (2007), summarising its argument as the way ‘a mature, healthy, and sustainable relationship with place depends on directly confronting the shadow’ or what the psyche attempts to repress.33 In this way we are brought swiftly to gothic lands. Jerrold Hogle has argued that the reason that Gothic others or spaces can abject myriad cultural and psychological contradictions, and thereby confront us with those anomalies in disguise, is because those spectral characters, images, and settings harbour the hidden reality that oppositions of all kinds cannot maintain their separations, that each “lesser term” is contained in its counterpart and that difference really arises by standing against and relating to interdependency.34

Gothic narratives (such as Frankenstein, of which more later) enable a displacement of fears onto monstrous avatars (biological, technological, psychological), but also confront us with them, and may or may not ultimately resolve or contain them. Hogle is ostensibly not writing about gothic ecology here—yet he articulates an ecocentric ethic, a gothic equivalent of the kind promoted by feminist and postcolonial critics like Val Plumwood. A split in our sense of self, especially in attachments to place, Plumwood argues, causes the global north to disavow its impacts on ‘shadow places’ in the global south: ‘These places remote from self, that we don’t have to know about but whose degradation we as commodity consumers are indirectly responsible for, are the shadow places of the consumer self’.35 Recognising the whole globe, including the places we pollute or scour for resources, as our own dwelling place means accepting responsibility, accepting others, human and more-than-human, as entities too, and accepting damaged places. To tackle the construction of nature as Other and the homogenising, polarising, dismissive, and assimilative moves that accompany it (in other words, to counter ecophobia and its effects), requires

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a double movement or gesture […] a depolarizing re-conception of non-human nature that recognizes the denied space of our hybridity, continuity and kinship, and which is also able to recognize, in suitable contexts, the difference of the non-human in a ­non-hierarchical way.36

The Gothic is deft at double movements and at displacing anxieties into denied spaces, only to have them surface again, and it can also force recognition (by readers if not always by characters) of the other as self. This means accepting a number of premises or situations we might not want or find counter-intuitive—the intrinsic value of non-human life, the agency of inanimate things of nature, our complicity in the problems, the imperfections and vulnerability both of ourselves and of the seas and landscapes we once imagined as pristine and durable, the irreversibility of environmental brokenness. To get to this point, as Morton has consistently argued, abandoning our attachment to the idea of ‘nature’, a ‘nonexistent ghost’ that haunts capitalist modernity and impedes the development of ‘the ecological thought’, is essential.37 Instead, Morton conceives a ‘dark ecology’, an ‘ecological kitsch’, in which, using the example of Frankenstein’s creature, [t]he task becomes to love the disgusting, inert, and meaningless. Ecological politics must constantly and usefully reframe our view of the ecological: what was “outside” yesterday will be ‘inside’ today. We identify with the monstrous thing. We ourselves are ‘tackily’ made out of bits and pieces of stuff. The most ethical act is to love the other precisely in their artificiality, rather than seeking to prove their naturalness and authenticity.38

Morton challenges us to understand that we have no choice now but to embrace the unpleasant, and Donna Haraway has made an extended case for ‘staying with the trouble’, ‘the trouble of living and dying in response-ability on a damaged earth’.39 ‘Our task’, she declares, ‘is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places’.40 There is not space here to go very far into Haraway’s arguments, but what we’re getting at is the way that our ecological crises call for new forms of ethical thinking, and writers find resources in gothic language and ontologies. Among other arguments, Haraway promotes a way of being she calls ‘chthonic’, unsafe monsters that make ‘fierce reply to the dictates of both Anthropos and Capital’, and she advocates multispecies kinship or ‘making odd kin’: ‘we require each other in unexpected collaborations and combinations, in hot compost piles. We become-with each other or not at all’.41 Although Morton’s theoretical standpoint is very different from Haraway’s, they broadly concur on this point: ecology, Morton summarises, is ‘a vast, sprawling mesh of interconnection without a definite centre of edge. It is radical intimacy, coexistence with other beings, sentient and otherwise’.42 Some variety of radical intimacy, then, rather than repression, disavowal, elision, or hyperseparation, emerges consistently from these theorists’ work. Gothic may be not just useful here, but essential. Adept at transgressing boundaries and creating monsters without pretending such moves aren’t scary or unproblematic, Gothic can go where other aesthetics cannot. Ecocritical attention to gothic and horror texts (including the most


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culturally and aesthetically disreputable) unearths the elements of such works, with the potential to awaken or challenge readers, to appal us into action, to help us to confront mysteries or difficult subject matter, or to articulate political and cultural trauma caused by racism, genocide, and geocide. ‘Gothic’ is not ‘eco’ just because it includes landscapes and animals or constructs and critiques ecophobia, but because an ecological stance is already built into critical gothic theory; like ecocriticism, critical Gothic draws on feminism, Marxism, post-colonialism, animal studies, and post-humanism—and ecocriticism, as we have seen, draws on the Gothic too. Putting ecocriticism together with Gothic need not have taken so long, and perhaps, in practice, it hasn’t. In the following sections, we test out some of the ecogothic frames outlined here on literary examples, starting with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). Frankenstein can be read as an ecogothic text on several scales. As a story of unintended consequences, it remains a story for our time as well as for our culture (broadly, that of the global north). In its own moment, Catherine Lanone suggests, it can be seen as a ‘proto-ecocritical text’, responsive, for example, to the temporary climate change of the ‘year without a summer’, 1816.43 We explore here the ways that Frankenstein interrogates ethical positions in human relations with the more-than-human world, using the figure of the creature to problematise those, presciently. The creature and the construction and telling of the overall narrative together invite ecological readings—Walton’s narrative provides the frame in which we position the other elements of the story, a guide to our interpretation of what we learn, and it begins with a vision of nature. Walton’s first letter, ahead of his departure in search of the north-west passage, exhibits his ambitions for the discoveries to come and his idealising of the Arctic region. In St. Petersburg, a ‘wind of promise’ inspires him to imaginative heights; ‘sailing over a calm sea’, he enthuses, ‘we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe. […] What might not be expected in a country of eternal light?’44 Walton’s imagined descriptions of the Arctic reflect contemporary myths of the poles as lost Edens or as sites of access to unknown lands inside a hollow earth.45 As Jessica Richard has shown, the Arctic setting of Walton’s framing narrative is not incidental but embeds the tale in its immediate historical context of polar exploration.46 Drawn by the Arctic’s romantic lure, Walton dwells on its ‘undiscovered’ emptiness as well as its readiness to be ‘imprinted by the foot of man’ and yield its ‘eccentricities’ to the regulation of scientific observations. Walton’s Arctic, sublime yet submissive, exemplifies the natural world’s function as an empty canvas onto which human concerns, ambitions, and fears can be projected. Walton’s desires express dominant assumptions arising from the Enlightenment that the phenomena of the universe are intrinsically knowable and will ultimately give up their secrets to the steady advance of science, of which exploration was a significant tool; nature will bend to human mastery and control as natural philosophers, in the words of M. Waldman, ‘penetrate into the recesses of nature and shew how she works in her hiding places’.47

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The parallels between Walton’s ambitions and Frankenstein’s are clear, as ‘Victor’s tale of over-reaching scientific undertakings is deliberately situated against the Arctic expeditions that were about to set sail’.48 Walton’s hopes for his voyage are reflected in Victor’s belief that ‘in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder’, and it similarly requires a single-minded dedication to the point of obsession.49 The ‘inestimable benefit’ that Walton imagines he will ‘confer on all mankind to the last generation’ is mirrored in Victor’s hopes that he will ‘pour a torrent of light into our dark world’ and ‘[a] new species would bless me as its creator and source’.50 Like the men of science who have inspired him, Victor described how he ‘pursued nature to her hiding places’ and ‘disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame’.51 Relentless application of the scientific method, ‘examining and analysing all the minutae of causation’ of bodily decay, yields the discovery of ‘[w]hat had been the study and desire of the wisest men of science since the creation of the world’—‘so astonishing a power [was] placed within my hands’.52 Frankenstein’s account links his discoveries and ambitions with those Walton seeks. The Arctic and the practices of exploration form a blank canvas for Walton’s desires; the human body and the practices of experimental, alchemical, and anatomical science form another one for Victor’s. The parallels collapse snowscape and bodies into a single construction of ‘nature’ as passive, knowable, controllable, and subservient to the needs of the (white, male, European) scientist. Victor constructs his creature as much out of ideas as out of body parts, out of imagination as well as matter; Walton, too, creates the Arctic through his ambitious imaginings (Richard points to his use of poetry) and through the verbal accounts and myths that have come to him from other explorers and writers. The Arctic is Walton’s own Frankenstein’s creature, pieced together by himself, but nonetheless with agency of its own, ending up as a place of danger and terror instead of wonder and beauty. Neither, of course, live up to their makers’ hopes once Walton and Victor are forced to confront their material reality. Victor, famously, is immediately horrified at his own success as the creature he tried to make beautiful instead looks hideous, while the Arctic becomes, to Walton, oppressive, antagonistic, and deadly: ship and crew are ‘surrounded by mountains of ice, still in imminent danger of being crushed in their conflict’.53 Ideas about science and nature are one thing; reality is another. Smith and Hughes point out that ‘[t]he creature’s function is to challenge what is meant by nature and to erode Victor’s sense that nature represents a transcendent category of experience’.54 The creature does so in a number of ways. He is a being of uncertain epistemological status, sentient and feeling yet artificially manufactured. Often invoked in discussions of genetic modifications and the boundaries of the ‘natural’, the creature exists on a border between subject and object, both person and thing. Morton, one of the few ecocritics openly to acknowledge gothic tones in his writing, draws attention to Frankenstein’s capacity to prompt ecological recognition of the more-than-human world. For him, the creature stands for the environment. Morton observes that the idea of ‘the environment’ is so indistinct but


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enveloping that most of the time we don’t grasp it, unless something drags it into view and forces us to face up to it. Frankenstein’s creature is such a catalyst: Frankenstein’s creature is the distorted, ambient category of the environment pulled around to the ‘front’ of the reader’s view, the ‘answer of the real’ whose very form embodies a terrible split: the horrific ugliness of alienated social cruelty, and the painful eloquence of enlightened reflection. […] If a poisoned rainforest could speak, it would sound like Frankenstein’s creature.55

Like our damaged bioregions, the creature is a human creation that has turned out ugly rather than beautiful; like shadow places, he is unwanted and disavowed, but yet will not stay silent. The creature draws attention to the injustice of how he has been treated: he might look like a monster, but it’s humans who behave like them. He draws attention to the agencies of place and of things that are usually easy to ignore; if we did not, we might behave differently towards them. As Richard notes, the creature’s own approach to the Arctic does not participate in the structures and attitudes that Walton’s and Frankenstein’s approaches do. Instead, he has some intimate connections to landscapes—the Alps and the Arctic—that are surprising, because he is not a creature of them, but also serve to highlight contrasts between him and his creator. Locating the creature in sublime landscapes links him with wild nature instead of human creation. His superhuman capacity to ‘exist in ice caves’ alarms Victor, and he can move fleetly in terrain Victor finds laborious; in the Alps, he ‘descend[s] the mountain with greater speed than the flight of an eagle’ until ‘lost […] among the undulations of the sea of ice,’ while Victor’s woes make ‘my heart heavy and my steps slow’.56 However, because the creature is not a purely ‘natural’ being, putting him there does something to those landscapes too and distorts a simple sense of their wildness or sublimity. His presence as an unnatural figure in the Arctic draws attention to the nonliving agency of ice and ocean that push back against the endeavours of Victor and Walton. To Walton, the creature is an ‘apparition’, an unexpected sight on the Arctic ice which produces ‘unqualified wonder’ and leads them to believe they are closer to land than they thought. That rational interpretation is incorrect; rather it is the creature’s unreal, artificial qualities of strength and agility that make him a marvellous figure capable of undertaking an improbable journey. His unexpected appearance here prompts a new readerly noticing of the Arctic, no longer just an imagined space of desire but a realm of interaction. In the journey through the Arctic, as he is in the Alps, the creature is better equipped to survive in the frozen world, and again, he merges with it. Trapped on the ice-bound ship, Walton’s crew can only watch ‘the rapid progress of the traveller with our telescopes, until he was lost among the distant inequalities of the ice’.57 The instruments of scientific observation prove limited against the irregularities of the Arctic ice as well as irrelevant to the actions of the creature. The crew themselves are cut off from that world, prisoners ‘[s]hut in’ by the ice. For Lanone, ‘[t]his cautionary Gothic tale suggests that Arctic regions are best left alone, lest they might prove home to mankind’s most monstrous progeny rather than a haven for conquerors’, but only if the creature is considered as

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separate from humankind.58 Language, feeling, and agency all declare this not so, but he is not separate from the rest of the world either. The creature emerges from and, in the final lines, disappears into the icy Arctic darkness, claiming it as the space of his funeral pyre and imagining his ashes mingling with the sea. An odd kinship emerges between the creature and landscapes he should not belong to, after the kinship of maker and mate are both denied him by Victor. Half natural, half unnatural, the creature is an unrecognised bridge between the human and ­more-than-human worlds, pulled into view. Frankenstein, we have suggested, operates ecocritically on multiple levels, showing the consequences of failure to redress human-nature ethical relations and to recognise odd kin at the same time as offering, through the creature, a normative vision of what else could be possible. These are conveyed as much in the manner of telling as they are in the narrative events. Greg Garrard’s short essay ‘Ecocriticism as Narrative Ethics’ posits an ethics of reading ecocritically that focuses not just what texts can do in the world, their utility, and not just what they say we should do (or not do), but how the ‘ethics of their telling’ influence us. Instead of dwelling on debates about hierarchies of form or genre, the discussion moves on to the ethical relations modelled within any given text. Garrard discusses the relationship of ecocritical reader to text as a series of negotiations and recalibrations to character, plot, and narrative voice, from which subjective experience an outward-looking politics may arise. Garrard argues that concentrating on the ethics of the telling is the job of the literary critic—not merely to criticise the form in which the author may have chosen to write but to pay attention to how the specificities of narrative form and representation of character alert us to a form of telling which is about negotiation rather than statement, looking at the specifics of the way form and address work on an individual reader without requiring them to sign up to a general theory or set of politics beforehand. The End We Start From (2017) by Megan Hunter, like Julie Myerson’s Then (2011), is about motherhood in the apocalypse, or actually it could be about motherhood as apocalypse, in the way that Emma Donohue’s Room (2010) is not about motherly love surviving criminal abduction but about love surviving the abduction of self that is motherhood. The End We Start From is the first person narrative of a woman who gives birth to her first baby just as a catastrophic flood destroys London and heralds the swift collapse of civil society. A short, sparse novel, The End We Start From embraces some dystopian tropes (in the first few pages we learn that the uninhabitable part of the South of England is known as ‘The Gulp’) but also often slips into an impressionistic, gothic mode more reminiscent of a domestic nightmare like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (1892) than the realist mode of a dystopian thriller. The oblique narrative is cut through with brief italicised paragraphs, sections which sound like biblical stories or myths, stories of creation or destruction. Beyond these moments we have no other context or narrative for what is happening other than the focalisation of the narrator. Sentences are often elliptical and poetic; similes have a Katherine Mansfieldesque slide into odd comparisons, people are often described


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in zoomorphic terms: even the beloved baby is said to have eyes like a shark’s; the narrator’s labouring pregnant body is like a ‘gorilla’, the baby looks at his father ‘as you would a fly’. Alternatively, characters are ghostly: the narrator’s husband and father-in-law become like ‘people fading from a photograph’.59 The novel opens as the narrator is about to give birth, and a series of mysterious phrases distance and disorientate the usual narrative of such an event: the narrator fears the birth of her child as she fears death, and there are whispers of something outside the immediate horrors and pains of the maternal body. From the very first lines, similes and metaphors crowd in on the short sentences with connections to monstrous or terrifying scenarios: the attending nurse has ‘hunched shoulders like the start of wings’. The baby later ‘insists I carry him as if I am rescuing him from a fire’.60 Survivors watch television while the electricity is still on, staring at compilations of TV talent shows where the competitors step forward to plead their case, crying ‘as if begging for mercy’; when refugees arrive in the hills their noise and the anxiety they cause ‘flatten the pillow, they crush the sheets into the crest of a wave. They carry the night away hour by hour’. Like The Road, it’s a story of ‘complete terror and complete devotion’,61 and it could be described as taking place in a similarly gothic setting, although its Gothic belongs to a British rural tradition rather than the frontier Gothic which Andrew Smith identifies in American ‘road’ stories. Unlike The Road, though, the moments of horror are seen as if through latticed fingers over the eyes; the narrator hints obliquely at the worst things that happen or undercuts them with a kind of bleak parental humour—as the family flee their temporary refuge, the narrator realises she has left something vital behind: ‘Nappies’, she whispers to the baby. Louise Squire has argued that certain strands of environmentally attuned contemporary fiction are ‘death-facing’ in a way that anthropocenic culture has, disastrously, not been. Instead of fetishising the ecophobic thrills of fictions which see nature as monstrous, Squire cites examples from environmental crisis fiction (Doris Lessing’s Mara and Dann (1999) and Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods (2007) among others), which use death as a theme to explore the limits of subjectivity and human-centred definitions of ‘life’ and seek to repair our relation with death.62 The End We Start From is legible in this way in the sense of what it is prepared to admit. Hunter’s own eloquent description of her novel’s treatment of trauma identifies a ‘kind of silence at the core of the book, a sense that the events leave the characters speechless, literally, and also that anything they do say is relatively meaningless in the face of such cataclysmic change’.63 Characters’ names are reduced to initials—the baby is known only as ‘Z’. This leaves the reader with much space to fill and the gothicised sentences allow in a different more-than-human, or ­end-of-human, maybe even ‘death-facing’ acknowledgement among the general humanist thrust of the book which wants to maintain its faith in the survival of love and care, and to pass that on to its readers through an ethical telling. With its strong sense of place and linguistic affinity with the north-east of England, David Almond’s novels for young people stretch from a mythically inflected Northumberland coast to the ex-mining towns around Newcastle, and

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track his characters’ journeys towards self-knowledge or exorcism of dark forces through a patchwork of edgelands and liminal places (back gardens, beaches, abandoned industrial sites). Within these settings, Almond’s stories are full of transformations, becomings and hybrid forms (paper to animal, man to animal/angel, gods, monsters), and breaks in the surface of the everyday opened by grief, desire, or growing up. Throughout his work an ethics of noticing or witnessing the emotional lives of children is matched to a concentrated ecological attentiveness, informed by an interest in dark pastoral. A narrative tradition of digging deep into the landscape and excavating the shadow side of the British countryside has long been apparent in the work of other British children’s and YA literature authors, particularly Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, and Robert Westall. There are ecogothic lines to be traced through this tradition, along themes of fantasy, time travel, weird narratives, and rural occultism. Owls, pits and graves, angels, and dead gods are all part of the shared phantasmagoria of this group. Much ecocriticism of YA fiction has tended to focus on the ecodystopia and the teenage hero navigating such worlds: the Hunger Games trilogy (2008–2010), Julie Bertagna’s Exodus series (2002–2011), or Saci Lloyd’s The Carbon Diaries (2015) and Momentum (2011), for example. In Almond’s work, coming-of-age narratives don’t require the backdrop of full-scale environmental destruction but there is certainly an awareness of a post-nature cast to the world and further investigations into the nature and status of scraps of surviving ‘wilderness’. This is often narrated through appeals to an uncertain supernatural or awakening of ghosts and myth: Skellig (1998) casts its owlish fallen angel into a tumbledown shed in Newcastle, to be found by Michael, a boy trying to cope with family trauma as his baby sister lies near to death in hospital. Kit’s Wilderness (1999) tells the story of Christopher, newly arrived in the ex-mining village of Stoneygate who joins a gang led by the charismatic John Askew, who leads his friends into the village’s ‘wilderness’ to play the game of ‘Death’. One at a time they are ‘killed’ and then enclosed alone in an underground space, in a re-enacting of the deaths of nineteenth-century children who really died working in the mines. The narrator records: In Stoneygate there was a wilderness. It was an empty space between the houses and the river, where the ancient pit had been. […] Askew had carved pictures of us all, of animals, of the dogs and cats we owned, of the wild dog, Jax, of imagined monsters and demons, of the gates of Heaven and the snapping jaws of Hell. He wrote into the wall the names of all of us who’d died in there…64

A Song for Ella Grey (2014) is a reworking of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The book believes in the myth: Orpheus is real and he comes to claim a new Eurydice—the Ella Grey of the title, from modern-day Tyneside. There are two important wild places which structure this novel, places wild in their reality and their imaginative force. In contrast to the known urban world and the family houses that contain and sometimes confine teenage passions is the urban playground near to the narrator’s home in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle and, further afield, the beaches of Northumberland. The characters grew up around this area;


E. Alder and J. Bavidge

they drink and make out on the grass outside the Cluny arts centre; in the wall which runs along the bank of the muddy little Ouseburn river is a grate guarding a tunnel, and in this gothicised geography, the tunnel leads to the underworld. As an end of year celebration they head north on the bus for a riotous few days on the beach, looking for Greece in Northumberland. The wildness of the children on the beach is idealised and idyllic and forgiving. Its glamour is rough-edged but Almond writes of the adolescent experience of the natural world as ecstatic, visionary, and epic. Later, they’ll return to the same spot to marry their Ella to the mysterious Orpheus who appears among them. The music moved our bodies and we danced. We felt it thrumming in our chests and throats. [...] We felt it running with our blood. We felt it scattering out thoughts. We felt it annihilating us, turning this bunch of Tyneside kids into a single being in which we existed with birds and snakes and dolphins, a single being that blended with sea and sand and sky, a single being with Orpheus at the heart.65

The word ‘annihilating’ here is an interesting one. In one of the novel’s moments of horror, Orpheus will end up torn to pieces by the Furies but as well as such a moment of explicit violence, the child and adolescent’s apprehension of nature also contains within it an apprehension of death, not just an ecstatic communal ‘annihilation’. Almond’s works are not, at least directly, works of environmental crisis but they are ‘death-facing’ in the way that Squire defines. In so doing, Almond employs the gothic mode to talk to his readers about their place in the world and their relationship to place, life, and death. An encounter with Skellig is for the reader an encounter with an unclassifiable being and one who can ruminate on his uncertain epistemological state: “What are you?” I whispered. He shrugged again. “Something,” he said. “Something like you, something like a beast, something like a bird, something like an angel.” He laughed. “Something like that.”66

Gothic is a mode which allows an author to say things impossible in any other register, and is a critical attitude which allows us to do a different kind of noticing, producing a different kind of ecological awareness. And its particular strength in talking about uncertainty offers another way of thinking about its ethics. If we think of Brian Massumi’s definition—‘Ethics is about how we inhabit uncertainty, together. It’s not about judging right or wrong’67—then Gothic has been dealing in this kind of awareness for a long time, both in literature and film and in the criticism which responds to it. Recent ecocritical theory consistently argues the need for a fundamental change in conceptions of our relations to the rest of the natural world, including what we think that ‘natural’ world consists in. This is a conceptual, imaginative, theoretical move, perhaps, but one that has to take place before practical changes in policy and governance can follow. ‘There will be no greening of the economy’, Jane Bennett writes, ‘no redistribution of wealth, no enforcement or extension of rights without human dispositions, moods, and cultural ensembles hospitable to these effects’.68 It seems strange to suggest that gothic moods could make homes

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for these aspirations, but as we have argued, ecogothic can generate ethical positions for tackling uncertain, uneasy, frightening times. As Hilary Scharper asks, ‘in coming to understand the role of terror and aversion in our attitudes toward the natural world (and how these pattern destructive interactions), can we make different choices for the future?’69 Gothic is a vital mode through which to promote that change in thinking, and as we have seen, many ecological responses are already Gothic.70 Gothic is good at boundary transgressing; it is not afraid to batter at borders that are normally left unassailed. It is open to mixtures or situations that are unsettling or uncomfortable or hard to admit but won’t go away, and capable of embracing what’s ‘bad’ without having to insist on reinstating the ‘good’. In its variety of forms, ecogothic has the capacity to not only enact, bolster, and critique the damaging structures and subjectivities associated with our modernity but also to transgress or subvert them for more progressive ecological ends.


1. Catherine Spooner, Post-Millennial Gothic: Comedy, Romance and the Rise of Happy Gothic (London, Bloomsbury, 2017), 17. 2. Greg Garrard, ‘Environment’, in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, eds. William Hughes, David Punter, and Andrew Smith (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 212–18 (218). 3. Kerridge, Richard, ‘Ecocritical Approaches to Literary Form and Genre: Urgency, Depth, Provisionality, Temporality’, in The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism, ed. Greg Garrard (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014), 361–76 (374). 4. Andrew Smith and William Hughes, eds. EcoGothic (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 1. 5. Tom J. Hillard, ‘“Deep into That Darkness Peering”: An Essay on Gothic Nature’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 16, no. 4 (2009), 689; Jennifer Schell, ‘The Annihilation of Self and Species: The Ecogothic Sensibilities of Mary Shelley and Nathaniel Hawthorne’, in The Gothic and Death, ed. Carol Margaret Davison (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2017). 6. Lisa Kröger, ‘Panic, Paranoia and Pathos: Ecocriticism in the Eighteenth-Century Gothic Novel’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes, 26. 7. Catherine Lanone, ‘Monsters on the Ice and Global Warming: From Mary Shelley and Sir John Franklin to Margaret Atwood and Dan Simmons’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes, 28. 8. William Hughes, ‘“A Strange Kind of Evil”: Superficial Paganism and False Ecology in the Wicker Man’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes, 55. 9. Alanna F. Bondar, ‘Bodies on Earth: Exploring Sites of the Canadian Ecogothic’, in Ecogothic, eds. Smith and Hughes, 74. 10. Shoshannah Ganz, ‘Margaret Atwood’s Monsters in the Canadian Ecogothic’, in Ecogothic, eds. Smith and Hughes, 87. 11. Tom J. Hillard, ‘From Salem Witch to Blair Witch: The Puritan Influence on American Gothic Nature’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes, 105. 12. A new journal, Gothic Nature, publishes its first issue later in 2019. See 13. Eleanor Byrne, ‘Ecogothic Dislocations in Hanya Yanagihara’s the People in the Trees’, Interventions 19, no. 7 (2017), 964.


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14. Christopher Hitt, ‘Towards an Ecological Sublime’, New Literary History 30, no. 3 (1999), 605, 609–10. 15. Hitt, ‘Towards an Ecological Sublime’, 611. 16. Ibid., 620. 17. Lee Rozelle, Ecosublime (2006), 8–9. 18. Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1999). 19. Val Plumwood, ‘Shadow Places and the Politics of Dwelling’, Australian Humanities Review 44 (2008). 20. Simon C. Estok, ‘Theorizing in a Space of Ambivalent Openness: Ecocriticism and Ecophobia’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 16, no. 2 (2009), 208. 21. Simon C. Estok, ‘Ecomedia and Ecophobia’, Neohelicon 43, no. 1 (2016), 132. 22. Ibid., 137. 23. Hillard, ‘“Deep into That Darkness Peering”’; Estok, ‘Theorizing in a Space of Ambivalent Openness’. 24. Ibid., 688. 25. Estok, ‘Ecomedia and Ecophobia’, 142. 26. Estok, ‘Theorizing in a Space of Ambivalent Openness’, 216–17; David Del Principe, ‘The Ecogothic in the Long Nineteenth Century’, Gothic Studies 16, no. 1 (2014), 1–8. 27. Del Principe, ‘The Ecogothic’, 1–2. 28. This is a point long argued by ecofeminists as well as Estok himself; see, e.g., Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (1993). 29. Kate Soper, ‘Unnatural Times? The Social Imaginary and the Future of Nature’, The Sociological Review 57, no. 2 (2009): 222–35 (222). 30. Hillard, ‘“Deep into That Darkness Peering”’, 691, 694. 31. In autumn 2018, the IPCC released a special report highlighting the likelihood of increasing global temperatures exceeding 1.5oC within the next two years. See https://, accessed 22 January 2019. 32. Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham and London, Duke University Press, 2010), ix. 33. Hillard, ‘“Deep into That Darkness Peering”’, 693. 34. Jerrold E. Hogle, ‘Introduction: The Gothic in Western Culture’, in The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, ed. Jerrold E. Hogle (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002), 11. 35. Plumwood, ‘Shadow Places and the Politics of Dwelling’. 36. Val Plumwood, ‘Decolonizing Nature: Strategies for Conservation in a Post-colonial Era’, in Decolonizing Relationships with Nature, eds. William M. Adams and Martin Mulligan (London, Earthscan, 2003), 60. 37. Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2010). 38. Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007), 195. 39. Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham and London, Duke University Press, 2016), n.p. Kindle edition. 40. Ibid. 41. Ibid. 42. Morton, The Ecological Thought. 43. Lanone, ‘Monsters on the Ice and Global Warming’, 30. 44. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1996), 7. 45. See, e.g., Hester Blum, ‘John Cleves Symmes and the Planetary Reach of Polar Exploration’, American Literature 84, no. 2 (2012). 46. Jessica Richard, ‘“A Paradise of My Own Creation”: Frankenstein and the Improbable Romance of Polar Exploration’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts 25, no. 4 (2003).

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47. Shelley, Frankenstein, 28. 48. Richard, ‘“A Paradise of My Own Creation”’, 296. 49. Shelley, Frankenstein, 29. 50. Ibid., 8, 32. 51. Ibid., 32. 52. Ibid., 31. 53. Ibid., 148. 54. Smith and Hughes, Ecogothic, 2. 55. Morton, Ecology Without Nature, 195. 56. Shelley, Frankenstein, 101. 57. Ibid., 12. 58. Lanone, ‘Monsters on the Ice and Global Warming’, 30. 59. Megan Hunter, The End We Start From (London, Picador, 2017), 32 60. Ibid., 19, 61. Ibid., 33. 62. Louise Squire, ‘“I Am Not Afraid to Die”: Contemporary Environmental Crisis Fiction and the Post-theory Era’, in Extending Ecocriticism: Crisis, Collaboration and Challenges in the Environmental Humanities, eds. Peter Barry and William Welstead (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2017), 14–29. 63. Lucy Unwin, ‘Q&A with Megan Hunter About The End We Start From’, https://, accessed 31 January 2019. 64. David Almond, Kit’s Wilderness (London, Hodder, 2005), 2–3. 65. David Almond, A Song for Ella Grey (London, Hodder, 2014), 158. 66. David Almond, Skellig (London, Hodder, 1998), 158. 67. Brian Massumi, ‘Navigating Movements: An Interview with Brian Massumi’ (2003). Interview by Mary Zournazi, 68. Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, xii. 69. Hilary Scharper, ‘The Ecogothic’ (2018),, n.p., accessed 22 January 2019. 70. See, for example, Anna Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubant, eds., Arts of Living on a Dying Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene (2017).

Bibliography Bennett, Jane, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham and London, Duke University Press, 2010). Blum, Hester, ‘John Cleves Symmes and the Planetary Reach of Polar Exploration’, American Literature 84, no. 2 (2012): 243–71. Bondar, Alanna F., ‘Bodies on Earth: Exploring Sites of the Canadian Ecogothic’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 72–86. Byrne, Eleanor, ‘Ecogothic Dislocations in Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees’, Interventions 19, no. 7 (2017): 962–75. Del Principe, David, ‘The Ecogothic in the Long Nineteenth Century’, Gothic Studies 16, no. 1 (2014): 1–8. Estok, Simon C., ‘Theorizing in a Space of Ambivalent Openness: Ecocriticism and Ecophobia’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 16, no. 2 (2009): 203–25. ———, ‘Ecomedia and Ecophobia’, Neohelicon 43, no. 1 (2016): 127–45. Ganz, Shoshannah, ‘Margaret Atwood’s Monsters in the Canadian Ecogothic’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 87–102.


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Garrard, Greg, ‘Environment’, in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, eds. William Hughes, David Punter, and Andrew Smith (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). Haraway, Donna, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham and London, Duke University Press, 2016). Hillard, Tom J., ‘“Deep into That Darkness Peering”: An Essay on Gothic Nature’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 16, no. 4 (2009): 685–95. ———, ‘From Salem Witch to Blair Witch: The Puritan Influence on American Gothic Nature’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 103–19. Hitt, Christopher, ‘Towards an Ecological Sublime’, New Literary History 30, no. 3 (1999): 603–23. Hogle, Jerrold E., ‘Introduction: The Gothic in Western Culture’, in The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, ed. Jerrold E. Hogle (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002), 1–20. Hughes, William, ‘“A Strange Kind of Evil”: Superficial Paganism and False Ecology in the Wicker Man’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes, 58–71. Kröger, Lisa, ‘Panic, Paranoia and Pathos: Ecocriticism in the Eighteenth-Century Gothic Novel’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 15–27. Lanone, Catherine, ‘Monsters on the Ice and Global Warming: From Mary Shelley and Sir John Franklin to Margaret Atwood and Dan Simmons’, in EcoGothic, eds. Smith and Hughes (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 28–43. Latour, Bruno, Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1999). Morton, Timothy, Ecology Without Nature (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007). ———, The Ecological Thought (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2010). Plumwood, Val, ‘Decolonizing Nature: Strategies for Conservation in a Post-colonial Era’, in Decolonizing Relationships with Nature, eds. William M. Adams and Martin Mulligan (London, Earthscan, 2003), 51–78. ———, ‘Shadow Places and the Politics of Dwelling’, Australian Humanities Review 44 (2008): n.p. Richard, Jessica, ‘“A Paradise of My Own Creation”: Frankenstein and the Improbable Romance of Polar Exploration’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts 25, no. 4 (2003): 295–314. Rozelle, Lee, Ecosublime: Environmental Awe and Terror from New World to Oddworld (Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press, 2006). Scharper, Hilary, ‘The Ecogothic’ (c. 2018): n.p.,, Accessed 22 January 2019. Schell, Jennifer, ‘The Annihilation of Self and Species: The Ecogothic Sensibilities of Mary Shelley and Nathaniel Hawthorne’, in The Gothic and Death, ed. Carol Margaret Davison (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2017). Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein (New York and London, W. W. Norton, 1996). Smith, Andrew, and William Hughes, eds., EcoGothic (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013). Soper, Kate, ‘Unnatural Times? The Social Imaginary and the Future of Nature’, The Sociological Review 57, no. 2 (2009): 222–35. Spooner, Catherine, Post-Millennial Gothic: Comedy, Romance and the Rise of Happy Gothic (London, Bloomsbury, 2017). Squire, Louise, ‘“I Am Not Afraid to Die”: Contemporary Environmental Crisis Fiction and the Post-theory Era’, in Extending Ecocriticism: Crisis, Collaboration and Challenges in the Environmental Humanities, eds. Peter Barry and William Welstead (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2017), 14–29. Unwin, Lucy, ‘Q&A with Megan Hunter About The End We Start From’, https://shinynewbooks., Accessed 31 January 2019.

The Wilderness Kaja Franck

The Gothic has been particularly effective in disseminating a visual language which has insinuated itself into the human psyche. Though the Gothic may be defined as more mode than genre, it is not difficult to identify its use in modern culture.1 The idea of a gothic landscape or animal brings to mind a clear set of images—wolves, bats, ravens, bears living amongst darkened forests, craggy mountains, windswept moors and frozen tundra. Fred Botting suggests that the gothic landscape can be defined by its remoteness and, in particular, its wilderness.2 Central, then, to the (eco)Gothic is the idea of the ‘wilderness’: defining what is and is not wilderness helps humanity define itself. Wilderness exists in opposition to civilisation, wild animals in opposition to humans. These simple binary structures help to demarcate places that are safe for humankind and those areas, and species, that threaten us. The wilderness is to be tamed, overcome and survived with the hope of creating a fruitful landscape in which civilisation can flourish. As ecological concerns regarding the human impact on the natural world move to the cultural forefront, combining ecocriticism and animals studies with the analysis of the Gothic has offered a prescient way of looking at how humanity perceives our places and spaces. Ecogothic as a contemporary field of study serves as a timely reminder that human fear can have lasting repercussions on that which engenders it. This chapter considers how the idea of the wilderness has impacted both human imagination and behaviour, bringing the wilderness from a zone of liminality to the very heart of the ecogothic. The idea of fearing the wilderness and the creatures within can be broadly described using Simon Estok’s term ‘ecophobia’ which he defines as an irrational hatred of the natural world fuelled by a need to control it—in particular by using (and abusing) both its flora and fauna.3 Estok’s discussion of the term ‘ecophobia’ suggests that humanity’s relationship with nature is pathological. The use of non-human resources is not objective and pragmatically utilitarian, rather it stems from an emotional and subjective revulsion to the natural world, specifically when

K. Franck (*)  University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



K. Franck

untouched or unused by humans. Anger often stems from revulsion. Both terms, moreover, have a close relationship to fear: we are repulsed by what scares us and this in turn leads to anger and a need to contain anything that incites this sense of fear. Drawing on ecophobia and centralising the notion of fear, Tom J. Hillard elucidates the concept of ‘Gothic Nature’.4 In his exploration of this concept, Hillard uses the gothic idea of the Other, typically defined as anything that exists entirely outside of human understanding. The Other stands in absolute opposition to the human subject; the Other can never be comprehended, and this epistemological and ontological violence threatens to obliterate us. Whilst it is not this chapter’s intention to define the ecogothic, it is integral to the understanding of gothic landscapes, and in particular gothic wilderness, to briefly engage with some of the core aspects of this new field of analysis. In their introduction to Ecogothic (2013), Andrew Smith and William Hughes argue that the gothic problematises the Romantic conceptualisation of nature as whole, instead it becomes fractured and complicated by the presence of the human viewer.5 The concept of ambivalence, central to the Gothic, disturbs a simple, holistic view of nature; Smith and Hughes express the sense that Romantic idealism saw nature as ‘natural’, offering an escape or return to the past, rather than ‘cultural’ thereby ignoring the social and cultural significance of the word.6 Ecogothic readings reframe the sense of nature as an arbiter of beauty and truth. Nature in the Gothic is amoral, it offers nothing but what is read onto it by the viewer. The idea of projecting ourselves onto the natural world versus being overwhelmed by its forms leads us to a discussion of the sublime. Drawing on Romanticism, the sublime is a central tenant of the Gothic, particularly in regard to nature. Edmund Burke explains the importance of the wilderness in creating a sense of awe and terror, which categorises the sublime, in the human viewer: ‘it [the sublime] comes upon us in the gloomy forest, and in the howling wilderness’.7 Landscapes that are not controlled by humans or remain unshaped by humanity’s needs threaten to obliterate human consciousness. As they do not confirm to human ideas of order or reason, they cannot be fully comprehended. However, Burke’s understanding of the sublime does not lead to the destruction of the human rather it leads to a heightened awareness of the divine, acting as a reminder that humans are at the behest of a higher power. This becomes a reassertion of the human subject viewing the wilderness; in a complex reversal, the power of the human subject over the landscape is returned and human identity is never fully subsumed. In his discussion of the relationship between the Gothic and the sublime, Vijay Mishra defines the gothic sublime as ‘purely negative’, lacking a moral centre, unlike Burke’s religiously infused sublime.8 Rather, the gothic sublime fails to provide the reassurance of an All-Knowing and Compassionate Creator, offering the very real possibility that the human protagonist may be overcome. In the ecogothic, this ‘purely negative’ form of the sublime is found within the wilderness, and threatens to transform and consume the human subject, making them only object. A recent meme on social media succinctly demarcated the two extremes of viewing the wilderness: it showed a sublime landscape, pine-forests and mountains, over which has been written ‘Get lost in nature and you will find yourself’.

The Wilderness


The phrase ‘find yourself’ had been crossed out and replaced with ‘quite possibly die’. Amusing as this takedown of inspirational quotations is, it effectively shows the manner in which humanity has vacillated in its depiction of the wilderness—which I will return to later in this chapter. The ambivalence of the ecogothic can be argued to be centred on this vacillation: an indecisiveness in which nature offers both safety and oblivion—indeed this oblivion is sometimes offered as an escape from the horrors of the human world. Throughout the differing (re)conceptions of the wilderness, what becomes apparent is that humanity, particularly Westernised humans, describes the wilderness to fulfil their needs at particular points in societal evolution.9 The wilderness is shaped by a form of pathetic fallacy which exists beyond fictional narratives, conforming to the needs of the viewer. As such wilderness is less an actual place than a concept. That is not to say that there is no natural world but that the language of the wilderness reflects more about the viewer, writer or filmmaker than the landscape. While an increasing awareness of the impact of humans on the natural world has led to more positive depictions of nature, earlier negative idealisation of both the wilderness and the wild animals has had and continues to have serious impact on the natural world. In many ways the artifice of the Gothic does not attempt to obscure the fact that the concept of wilderness is not an absolute. However, its ambivalence towards the natural world and use of terror has also ensured that certain landscapes and creatures remain intricately connected to their most horrifying depictions. In order to consider the role of the wilderness, as both concept and physical space, and its relationship to ecogothic, this chapter considers the ideas which are central to how it has been depicted and understood. Firstly, the physical landscape, excluding living creatures, is analysed, exposing themes of ecophobia and the fear of the wilderness implicit in many gothic texts. However, the perceived passivity of the wilderness landscape, often disturbed in the ecogothic, contains a multitude of wild creatures. To these ends, it is important to analyse the role of wildlife within wilderness narratives and how they embody the fear, hatred and threat contained within the gothic landscape. Finally, the chapter considers the concept of wilderness today; particularly the effect of the ecological movements and the crisis of the Anthropocene. Wilderness is no longer something that can be easily demarcated. Instead the boundaries between wilderness and civilisation have become blurred. Thus urban locations, such as cities, have become new wilderness zones into which magical and natural elements intrude, creating new hybrid genres. It is not the case that the wilderness is always depicted as dangerous within Gothic narratives. The relationship between the (eco)Gothic and the wilderness has always been complicated, vacillating between fear and desire; the wilderness is often seen as a source of succour away from the dishonesty and violence of the human world. In early gothic novels, characterised in the work of Ann Radcliffe, Horace Walpole and Matthew Lewis, the wilderness takes a more fluid role. In comparison to the ‘purely negative sublime’, described by Mishra, Radcliffe’s use of natural world and the explained supernatural, follow the format of the uplifting sublime described by Burke. When Emily St Aubert, the gothic heroine of The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), travels to the nefarious Montoni’s castle where she


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is to be imprisoned, the landscape augurs her predicament. Near her arrival, ‘a vista opened, that exhibited the Apennines in their darkest horrors; and the long perspective of retiring summits, rising over each other’.10 Through frequent use of pathetic fallacy, the emotions of Radcliffe’s protagonists are transferred onto the landscape which remains passive, acting only as beautiful backdrop. The explained supernatural ensures that no part of the natural world cannot be explained through the logic of the Enlightenment. Moreover, in a Rousseauesque use of the wilderness, the natural world is shown by Radcliffe to be an antidote to the corruption of the urban, offering respite in a moment of religious sublimity.11 Later gothic texts, especially those written by British authors towards the end of the British Empire, offer more cohesive examples of the gothic sublime as ‘purely negative’ and, as such, lay bare the ecophobia that is central to many ecogothic texts. Here, the human subject, typically defined in nineteenth-century Gothic as white, male and heterosexual, exhibits ecophobia towards the wilderness since it stands in opposition to all that is logical and rational within Western logocentric thought. The wilderness is the Other, implacable and unable to be known. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) is a striking example of the threat of the wilderness to the British protagonist. The narrator, Marlow, explains that as a child he was attracted to the ‘many blank spaces on the earth’.12 However, his experience of travelling into the Congo destroys his dreams, displaying instead the cruel ambivalence of the wilderness. Though the novel expresses racist colonial views towards the Congolese people, a postcolonial analysis of this is beyond the remit of this chapter. Instead, I want to concentrate on the landscape itself. Conrad’s depiction of the landscape of the Congo is one of an obscene proliferation of plant life; its growth is almost violent, overwhelming the Western protagonist. Marlow describes the river he travels as ‘heavily overgrown with bushes. Above the bush the trees stood in serried ranks. The twigs overhung the current thickly’.13 When looking back at this claustrophobic experience, Marlow explains that the ‘mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungle’14 is ‘incomprehensible, which is also detestable’.15 His comments seem to encompass the dark heart of ecophobia, elucidating an essential aspect of ecogothic. This fearful representation of flora is explored by Dawn Keetley who suggests that the vegetal genre of plant horror is typified by the human fear of the ‘wildness’ of plants—they are entirely unfeeling to human suffering and impossible to interpret, ‘incomprehensible’.16 Plant life’s implacability becomes deadly violence when the plant world refuses to remain passive in the face of humanity’s destruction, specifically its need to control and tame the natural world.17 Accordingly, Conrad’s novel ends with the death of Kurtz, the white man who attempted to make a home in the Congolese wilderness. His infamous final words, ‘The horror! The horror!’,18 can be understood as perhaps the most effective invocation of ecophobia. His statement encompasses the sense of despair and fear that the wilderness engenders in ecogothic texts: it cannot be comprehended and defies interpretation. Kurtz appears to have been overcome by the jungle, choking on the effusion of greenness, and his death is the revenge of the landscape which he failed to overpower. By failing to maintain a gentlemanly distance, he has been subsumed by the landscape, never to return to the safety of civilised Europe.

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Similar themes regarding the gothic wilderness are discussed by Camilo Jaramilo in regard to Amazonia. Starting with the publication of José Eustasio Rivera’s La vorágine [The Vortex] (1924) and charting the depiction of the Amazon through the twentieth century, Jaramillo contends that there is a continuous theme of the Occidental eye viewing this landscape as a ‘green hell’.19 Previously this landscape had offered a paradise for European natural historians and adventurers to continue their work of ‘discovering’ and classifying flora and fauna. Doing so was an attempt to bring reason and order to the chaos of the wilderness, as evidenced in the work of Carl Linnaeus and Comte de Buffon amongst others.20 Rivera’s exposé of the cruelty of the rubber trade, particularly for indigenous peoples, undermined this image instead suggesting that the landscape was fighting back against its degradation. Jaramilo uses the example of the film Anaconda (1997) as a continuation of this theme. As in Heart of Darkness, the film centres on a group of Westerners travelling into the heart of the jungle. They are beset with disaster and disease, before being attacked by a preternaturally large anaconda. This simplistic narrative continues to present wilderness as Gothic and threatening, particularly to European colonisers. However, whilst this can be read as a call for further violence against the landscape in order to tame it, there is also possibility of reading the use of ‘green hell’ imagery as an ecogothic act of resistance in which plant life responds in kind to colonial violence.21 These examples stand in contrast to the depiction of the wilderness in another fin-de-siècle gothic novel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Where Heart of Darkness is about colonial incursions into a foreign wilderness, Dracula exemplifies, according to the critic Stephen Arata, ‘reverse colonization’, characterised by a narrative in which the coloniser becomes colonised.22 Written by an ­Anglo-Irish author, Stoker’s novel depicts the protagonist’s journey into the wilderness of Transylvania, relying on second-hand descriptions from Victorian travelogues. Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor, has travelled to this alternative ‘dark heart’ or ‘land beyond the forest’23 in order to meet with the eponymous Count Dracula. Harker’s arrival to Castle Dracula is an iconic image within the Gothic, which has been replicated in numerous filmic adaptations: In the heart of the forests, or wilderness, there lies a crumbling edifice. As he travels to the castle, Harker feels the oppressive weight of the forest: ‘we were hemmed in with trees, which in places arched right over the roadway till we passed as through a tunnel’.24 Similar to Marlow’s use of language, Harker’s description creates a sense of claustrophobia; the trees are encroaching on the road which his carriage takes. The language anthropomorphises the trees suggesting that they are sentient and actively attempting to prevent travel into the wilderness. When the carriage finally arrives at human habitation it looks to be void of life; Harker looks up at ‘a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the moonlit sky’.25 The castle appears to have sprung up from the landscape, being nature-made rather than constructed by humans. The lack of lights suggests that it is haunted by the landscape which has put out any evidence of human inhabitants. The only natural light exists in the form of the moon, an example of the terrifying ‘purely negative sublime’; it shines above the scene with no concern for humanity and remains implacable, unreachable.


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The concept of ‘reverse colonisation’ becomes apparent when, later in the novel, it is made clear to Harker and his comrades that the Count plans to ‘invade’ the British Isles. Moreover, Dracula’s wish is to transform Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker, Jonathan’s wife, into vampires. The novel moves from the wooded wilderness of Transylvania to the civilised safety of Britain. Britain’s identity as an island nation meant that it had been almost entirely cultivated; even Radcliffe had to find her ecogothic visions outside of the British Isles due to its lack of wilderness space. Britain’s version of nature was pastoral, a landscape which had been cultivated and made useful. In stark contrast to this benign idealised ‘nature’ was the wilderness of Romania. Rather than use a postcolonial reading of the text, I would suggest that an ecogothic reading shows that this reversed colonisation can be considered in regard to the natural world. Dracula’s arrival on the shores of Britain threatens to bring a return of the wilderness, undoing the work of generations of Englishmen in civilising their nation’s landscape.26 Unlike Heart of Darkness, Stoker’s novel ends with the vanquishing of Dracula. The characters are, with the exception of Lucy and Quincey Morris, untouched. Mina and Harker go on to produce a healthy son who will grow up to be the ideal English gentleman. The fecundity of Mina stands in stark contrast to the final image of Transylvania; when she and Jonathan return to the Count’s castle they find it ‘stood as before, reared high above a waste of desolation’.27 Despite the proliferation of tress which Harker previously described, this wooded ecosystem can only be negatively coded as a ‘wilderness’—one which remains unfruitful and untamed. What is clear in the examples that have been discussed is that previous and current ideas of the wilderness ignore the presence of Aboriginal peoples. As I am discussing the wilderness and its relation to ecogothic, my analysis has also tended to concentrate on the plants, animals and landscape that create the ‘wilderness’. This is clearly problematic. Wilderness has come to be defined as a place which has not been affected by human habitation; this definition has been used to both celebrate and violate the natural world. It has also denied the existence and societies of Indigenous populations. In order to analyse the ‘wilderness’, this chapter has consciously adhered to the narrow definition of the wilderness as without humanity. The previously mentioned gothic narratives are therefore haunted not simply by the demonisation and pacification of the natural world but also the denied voices of Aboriginal people. Equally, the author is not writing about their native landscape but projecting their fears onto a foreign wilderness. Turning to North America offers a more complicated perspective, in which both the identity of the wilderness and the nation are more firmly entwined, and, of particular importance, how the presence of carnivorous animals has helped to shape the gothic wilderness. Stories have shaped how humans regard the wilderness: these can be ornate literary texts, popular films or, stemming from childhood, fairy tales. Wilderness stories tend to contain a didactic element—a reminder that the wilderness can consume us, both literally and figuratively. An early and influential example of this is ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. The two versions with which most people are familiar are the Brother Grimms’ ‘Rotkäppchen’ (or ‘Redcap’) from Children’s

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and Household Tales (1812), a collation of folk tales from Germany, and Charles Perrault’s more literary, though previous, version ‘Le Petit Chaperon rouge’ (Little Red Hood), published in his collection Mother Goose Tales (1697). In each, a little girl, wearing a red garment, is asked by her mother to take treats to her grandmother’s house in the woods. Straying from the path, she finds herself meeting with a wolf who wants to eat the little girl and tricks her by dressing as her grandmother. This fairy tale introduces many young readers and listeners to the character of the Big Bad Wolf, a rapacious carnivore who hides amongst the trees. Whilst the Big Bad Wolf has been read as a metaphor for masculine violence,28 in regard to ecogothic and the wilderness, I am choosing to regard him as simply a wolf, a much maligned character. The wolf, in this narrative, can be read as a (eco)Gothic animal, an animal ‘other’/Other who embodies the danger of wild animals in the wilderness. This fairy tale, then, becomes a far simpler and more direct warning: stay out of the woods as it is full of wild beasts. Yet, more subtly, there is also an engagement with the importance of pathways and the manner in which humans write themselves into the wilderness. Though biologists and natural historians have provided evidence that animals create their own routes across the landscape, the path in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is human-made. Straying from the path is not just a directive to confirm to gendered ideals of obedience in young women, but a reminder that the wilderness is a threat to the human subject. Human ingressions into the wilderness are dangerous. However, through the use of maps, pathways and roads the landscape becomes knowable and, more importantly, controllable.29 The potential excitement of discovering lands untouched by humanity gives way to the need to remove the threat of the landscape. The wilderness becomes ‘landscapes of the imagination’ defined more by the perception of the individual than by the landscape itself, as suggested in the previous section.30 Despite this, moving away from networks of human ownership of the land, such as paths, causes the individual human to become vulnerable. Though this can be exhibited as a psychological threat, in regard to the wild animal, it becomes a more simple somatic fear: humans can be eaten. Large predatory animals threaten human subjectivity by making humanity potential prey. Viewing one’s self through the eyes of the predator forces the human to see themselves not as subject but as object, in the same manner that humanity views their prey. The presence of the predator disrupts the clear delineation between animal and human. An apex predator, the wolf has become a symbol of the wilderness made flesh.31 ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is a reminder that the position of humanity is vulnerable and can only be maintained by constantly policing the wilderness and the animals within it. The wolf’s trickery and anthropomorphism may be seen as literary invention or allegory but it also suggests that animals, especially other predators, are terrifyingly close to the human. In ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, this is both spatially— the wolf is close by in the woods, and ideologically—the wolf exhibits behaviours we associate with humanity. The perception and depiction of animal intelligence causes discomfort in the human viewer as it is another area where the assumption of human superiority is challenged.32 Indeed, in an important piece of animal


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studies, John Berger streamlines the impact of the animal’s presence to its gaze. The act of looking at an animal and having it return your gaze puts the human viewer in the position of the observed as well as the observer; the implicit sovereignty of the human subject is undermined at this moment as we must see ourselves as the ‘other’ through the animal’s regard.33 A brief analysis of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ shows that the presence of the ecogothic animal ‘other’ is an integral part of how the wilderness is depicted and understood. The impact of the wild animal in ecogothic texts, specifically in regard to the wilderness, is more easily expressed through an analysis of New World literature, specifically American Gothic. Though the Gothic started as a British genre, through the self-conscious invention of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), it has become more mode than genre being absorbed and utilised in multiple mediums and cultures. The Euro- and Anglocentric view of the wilderness has been challenged and reconceived by non-European societies, drawing attention to the often colonial focalisation of other spaces. In the New World, these ideas tend to find fruition. The beginning of American Gothic literature is marked by the publication of Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly (1799). Much like Walpole’s inaugural British Gothic novel, there is a sense of awareness in how Brockden Brown views the place and purpose of the Gothic in this new landscape. He dismisses the need for ancient ruins and superstition which had characterised British Gothic novels. Instead, he suggested that the wilderness of the newly independent USA could act as inspiration for the American Gothic novelist: ‘The incidents of Indian hostility, and the perils of the Western wilderness, are far more suitable [for American Gothic novels]; and for a native of America to overlook these would admit of no apology’.34 The natural landscape provides inspiration for the authors of American Gothic. But it is not simply the landscape that it is inspirational but the beings who inhabit it. Brockden Brown’s point of view is shaped by colonial narratives regarding Indigenous people and the animals of the wilderness. The perils of the ‘Western wilderness’ are elucidated in the novel as the protagonist, Edgar Huntly, finds himself attacked by a cat o’ the mountains, known in modern vernacular as a puma, he then kills and consumes it. This attack by a wild animal is integral to the fear of wilderness as suggested in the analysis of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. It is the presence of wild animals that typically invokes the most fear in the human observer; the wild animal paces the line of subject and object. The destruction of the predatory animal suggests the taming or overcoming of the wilderness. Huntly’s baptism in the blood allows him to become a citizen of the New World, born of the wilderness but still ultimately human. The importance of the wilderness is expressed by American ecocritic Roderick Nash who explores the etymology of the word ‘wilderness’ in order to show the irrefutable connection between wild animal, wildness and wilderness, arguing that if the animals were removed then the wilderness would lose its essence.35 His definition of the wilderness comes from the Old English ‘wildeornes’ which he takes to mean ‘the place of the wild beast’.36 The wilderness is defined by the presence of the wild beasts. A notion furthered by Burke who argues, in regard to the sublime, that the wilderness is inseparable from the wild beast; the sublime can be found in the ‘howling

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wilderness, in the form of the lion, the tiger, the panther, or rhinoceros’.37 The predatory animal embodies the wilderness. His previous statement that the sublime ‘comes upon us’ can be connected to the form of the wild animal showing the potential violence embodied by these animals. Wild beasts are a greater threat than the geography of the wilderness. Where the landscape remains still, passive, waiting to be ‘discovered’ by the Western viewer, wild animals are able to intrude upon human habitation. They rupture the divide between civilisation and wilderness, drawing attention to its inherent weakness and questioning its validity. Brockden Brown’s viewpoint is informed by numerous depictions of the wilderness that had been expressed by European settlers to the Americans. The early settlers to the New World, specifically the Puritans of New England, used religious imagery drawn from Christianity to present the wilderness as a hellish space replete with dangerous predators. Early Puritan writers described the areas surrounding their settlements in the New World as wooded wildernesses filled with dangerous savages and savage animals. William Bradford described the Puritan’s Plymouth settlement as a ‘hidious and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men’.38 The language depicts the wilderness as aesthetically unappealing: a place that evokes a sense of disgust, fear and hatred in the civilised settler. Puritan language made the idea of the wilderness a powerful symbolic notion in American Gothic literature.39 The Puritans felt that their time in the wilderness of New England would lead to the Promised Land as long as they were able to civilise this wild space.40 Writing about the early years of New England, one contemporary commentator wrote ‘that within a few Years a Wilderness was subdued before them [the Puritan settlers], and so many Colonies Planted, Towns Erected, and Churches Settled’.41 The wilderness can only be useful once it has been transformed into a place suitable for human habitation. Any living creatures that prevented the wilderness becoming a useful pastoral settlement were threats to human prosperity. Thus hunting the animal of the wilderness become integral to taming the land itself. In the USA, this could be seen in the almost pathological desire to kill wolves, an idea which appeared to have been transposed from the Old World. One of the earliest laws in Puritan New England was the trapping and killing of wolves enacted by the Plymouth Colony in 1642.42 Wolves were certainly not the only wilderness animal that was hunted to semi-extinction nor destroyed in an attempt to extirpate the wilderness of all dangers. During the height of the British Empire, in the 1800s, there became an increasing trend for hunting narratives set in both British-colonised Africa and India. Though not necessarily Gothic narratives, these texts cohered to the format seen in ecogothic regarding the gothic wilderness. They stressed the dangers and difficulties of venturing away from civilisation in order to hunt wilderness animals.43 Whereas Gothic narratives prioritise fear and ambivalence, often ending in tragedy, these stories promoted the idea of colonial power, reasserting a sense of control over nature—especially foreign nature. In particular, the tiger provides a striking example of how animals have been gothicised. Prior to the British invasion of India, Linnaeus had categorised the tiger as a cowardly creature that ‘plunges his head into the body of the slaughtered animal,


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and sucks the blood’.44 Though the idea that the tiger sucks blood has been disproved by modern ecologists, the image of the cowardly tiger became central to the colonisation of India by British forces. Tigers were depicted as duplicitous and deserving of death. The tiger came to metonymically represent India, particularly the Indian landscape and ‘wilderness’ where disease was rampant and the heat was intolerable. Killing tigers became a symbolic act, a continuation of colonialism in which the wilderness—often a nebulous term when applied to foreign environs—was being civilised through British invaders.45 The metonymic relationship between the wilderness and wild animals is a defining feature of the gothic wilderness. Though a human can leave the wilderness behind, animals are capable of following and invading human civilisation. The power over nature exhibited in hunting narratives is inverted in ecogothic depictions of the wilderness, or at least victory cannot always be certain. However, towards the end of the 1800s it was becoming clear that the destruction of wild animals, particularly apex predators, was having a negative impact on the landscape. The wildernesses which had appeared to be the source of ­never-ending number of animals was becoming depleted and, with it, the concept of the wilderness. In a reversal of fortune, the wilderness was become an increasingly sacred space in which the human could find peace and solitude away from urban life, much as Radcliffe used wilderness landscapes in her gothic novels. This would bring about two effects: firstly, the wilderness would come to be protected, typically as national parks which acted as designated wilderness, and secondly, the concept of the wilderness would come to be applied to cities as well as the natural world. In his description of the Yosemite National Park, located in California, USA, Bill McKibben explains how John Muir, who wrote about ‘discovering’ the valleys in 1870, found a wilderness which was independent of humanity.46 For him, the wilderness is necessarily an unpeopled space, even when this has not historically been the case. Wilderness in this case is restorative. Though McKibben criticised the idea that wilderness should exist as an anthropocentric project for the benefit of wilderness visitors,47 his ignorance about the history of Yosemite is telling. The USA started to secure National Parks and areas of wilderness by the nineteenth century. This was consolidated by The Wilderness Act (1964) which described the wilderness as ‘an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled [sic] by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain’.48 Though the intention of this legislation is to preserve and protect areas of nature, this definition of wilderness denies the complex reality of the relationship between humans and the natural world. As Benjamin Johnson argues regarding ‘wilderness parks’, the wilderness in the twentieth century did not exist until wilderness activists invented it.49 In order to save the wilderness, it needs to be defined. The definition that was offered continued to depict the wilderness as being in direct opposition to civilisation and humanity. Its survival became dependent on its ‘purity’. The requirement to demarcate wilderness zones causes these spaces to become gothic texts themselves. When Muir arrived in Yosemite, he stated that ‘not mark of man is visible upon it’ and that the valley was ‘like an immense hall or temple lighted from above’.50 Despite refuting the presence of humankind at Yosemite,

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he immediately uses a simile, based in human structures, in order to express its appearance. As a European-American, Muir transposes his culture knowledge and attitude onto this ‘wilderness’. Moreover, his particular use of the word ‘temple’ heightens his experience to a quasi-religious one; thus his descriptions conform to Burke’s discussion of the sublime. Muir’s language begins the process of framing and containing Yosemite as an object to be enjoyed. (Entirely negating the existence the Miwuk Native Americans who made this area their home.) This was then consolidated when Yosemite became a national park in 1864. As a national park, Yosemite became a place to visit but not too stay; where visitors were able to immerse themselves in the wilderness for restorative effects but without it transforming them to a less-civilised state. The linguistic framework for viewing Yosemite, evidenced in Muir’s description, became physical framing, once it was designated as a national park. The ‘natural’ wilderness was being understood through cultural artistry. Indeed, much like an early gothic novel, the creation of Yosemite National Park was effected through the idea that it had been ‘found’ or ‘discovered’. One oft-used gothic literary device is the ‘found’ text: typically a preface purports that the narrative is much older than its publication date. The effect of this is that ‘found’ gothic novels perform a historicity which they lack. The deliberate obfuscation of the age of the text makes it appear more authentic. Whilst the creation of wilderness spaces such as Yosemite may not be as ­self-conscious in the use of this conceit, nonetheless, the idea that it was ‘discovered’ undisturbed by humans generates a similar sense that the ‘wilderness’ is timeless, antediluvian, a way of returning to an idealised past.51 William Cronon offers a supernatural dimension to the wilderness in his discussion of the movement from Puritan ecophobia to environmental preservation. He argues that in order to justify preserving it, the wilderness needed to be seen as continuously under threat: always just about to be discovered or destroyed. Yet Cronon notes that viewing the wilderness as fragile often meant that it was idealised: a place where the human and non-human mingled, at once natural, preternatural and supernatural.52 The term ‘supernatural’ continues to frame the wilderness in gothic language. More broadly Timothy Morton argues that our continued attempts to define and protect ‘nature’/nature ensure that it remains trapped in liminality between the sacred and the physical so that it becomes ghostlike.53 The battlefield regarding the ideological and real-world place of wilderness has been exacerbated by an increasing sense of urgency surrounding the destruction of nature. Though first used in 1876 by Ernst Haeckel, the idea of ecology and its relationship to the emerging environmental movement of the 1960s has become both more politicised and complex.54 The evidence of humanity’s historical ecophobia has ushered in the Anthropocene, a new era in which humankind must acknowledge the lasting damage it has committed on the natural world. Here an understanding of how we have and continue to depict the wilderness as a gothic space can help to navigate the concomitant emotions of fear and desire that frame human understanding of the world in which we live. Recent ecogothic has, therefore, both acknowledged historical fears surrounding the gothic wilderness whilst closing the gap between wilderness and civilisation.

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In contemporary ecogothic, urban zones are starting to resemble wildernesses. The opening scenes of I Am Legend (2007), an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic novel of the same name published in 1954, features Manhattan in desolation. With seemingly only one human survivor of a z­ ombie-vampire pestilence, the cityscape is overlaid with the same tropes of the gothic wilderness that can be seen throughout ecogothic narratives. Skyscrapers tumble like ruined castles, there are no other humans in existence, and the plant life is reabsorbing human-made structures. This depiction of the city-as-wilderness can be found outside of twentieth- and twenty-first-century gothic texts.55 However, as the environmental crisis continues to be writ large in the media, the idea of the city-as-wilderness and post-apocalyptic Gothic has becoming a growing aspect of the ecogothic. These tropes recur in a number of genres. Zombies run riot as civilisation crumbles and fairies no longer live in woodlands but have moved to the city. The clear lines of definition between the wilderness and civilisation appear to become weaker the more humanity attempts to strengthen them. Such depictions uncover the wilderness at the heart of civilisation, the human-as-animal. Thus the ambivalence of the gothic wilderness has returned to haunt us, a timely reminder of past violence against a depleted world which has committed and a threat that nature may return this violence.


1. Catherine Spooner, Contemporary Gothic (London, Reaktion Books, 2006); Alexandra Warwick, ‘Feeling Gothicky?’, Gothic Studies, 9: 1 (May 2007), 5–15. 2. Fred Botting, Gothic (New York, Routledge, 2014), 4. 3. Simon C. Estok, ‘Theorizing in a Space of Ambivalent Openness: Ecocriticism and Ecophobia’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 16: 2 (Spring 2009), 203–25 (208). 4. Tom J. Hillard, ‘“Deep into That Darkness Peering”: An Essay on Gothic Nature’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 16: 4 (Autumn 2009), 685–95 (688–9). 5. Andrew Smith and William Hughes, ‘Introduction: Defining the Ecogothic’, in Andrew Smith and William Hughes (eds.), Ecogothic (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 1–14 (1–2). 6. Ibid., 1–2. 7. Edmund Burke, Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (London, F. and C. Rivington, 1801), 94. 8. Vijay Mishra, ‘The Gothic Sublime’, in David Punter (ed.), A New Companion to the Gothic (Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 288–306 (294). 9. Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology (New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1991), 95–111. 10. Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998), 226. 11. Lisa Kröger, ‘Panic, Paranoia and Pathos: Ecocriticism in the Eighteenth-Century Gothic Novel’, in Andrew Smith and William Hughes (eds.), Ecogothic (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 15–27 (17–18). 12. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (London, Penguin Books, 2000), 21. 13. Ibid., 74. 14. Ibid., 19.

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15. Ibid., 20. 16. Dawn Keetley, ‘Introduction: Six Theses on Plant Horror: Or, Why Are Plants Horrifying?’, in Dawn Keetley and Angela Tenga (eds.), Plant Horror: Approaches to the Monstrous Vegetal in Fiction and Film (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 1–30 (1). 17. Ibid., 10–1. 18. Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 112. 19. Camilo Jaramillo, ‘Green Hells: Monstrous Vegetations in Twentieth-Century Representations of Amazonia’, in Keetley and Tenga (eds.), Plant Horror: Approaches to the Monstrous Vegetal in Fiction and Film (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 91–110. 20. Harriet Ritvo, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1987), 11–13; Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness, 105–7. 21. Jaramillo, ‘Green Hells’, 104–5. 22. Stephen D. Arata, ‘The Occidental Tourist: “Dracula” and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization’, Victorian Studies, 33: 4 (1990), 621–45. 23. This term is taken from one of Stoker’s sources, Emily Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest: Facts, Figures, and Fancies from Transylvania (1888). 24. Bram Stoker, Dracula (Ware, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Classics, 1993), 12. 25. Ibid., 13. 26. For a comprehensive Ecogothic reading of ‘Reverse Colonization’ in Dracula, see Kaja Franck, ‘“Something That Is Either Werewolf or Vampire”: Interrogating the Lupine Nature of Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, in Robert McKay and John Miller (eds.), Werewolves, Wolves and the Gothic (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2017), 135–52. 27. Stoker, Dracula, 315. 28. Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (London, Thames & Hudson, 1976), 168–71; Jack Zipes, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, 2nd edn. (New York, Routledge, 1993). 29. Estok, ‘Theorizing in a Space of Ambivalent Openness’, 210–1. 30. Bill McKibben, The End of Nature (London and New York, Viking, 1990), 53. 31. Helene Figari and Ketil Skogen, ‘Social Representations of the Wolf’, Acta Sociologica, 54: 4 (2011), 1–16. 32. Rob Boddice, A History of Attitudes and Behaviours Toward Animals in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain (Lampeter, Wales, Edwin Mellen Press, 2008), 290–303. 33. John Berger, About Looking (London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1980), 5. 34. Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly: Or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (Philadelphia, M. Polock, 1857), 4. 35. Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (London, Yale University Press, 1982), 1–8. 36. There have been a number of possibilities put forth for the etymology of the word ‘wilderness’, however, this is the one that Nash chooses. 37. Burke, Philosophical Inquiry, 94. 38. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (Boston, Wright & Potter Printing, 1898), 95. 39. Allan Lloyd Smith, ‘Nineteenth-Century American Gothic’, in David Punter (ed.), A New Companion to the Gothic (Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 163–75 (165). 40. Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 23–43. 41. Anonymous, ‘An Attestation to this Church History of New England’, in Cotton Mather (ed.), Magnalia Christi Americana, or, the Ecclesiastical History of New England, from Its First Planting in the Year 1620 unto the Year of Our Lord 1698 (London, Thomas Parkhurst, 1702), 1. 42. Carolyn Merchant, Ecological Revolutions (Chapel Hill, University of North Caroline Press, 1989), 65. 43. Ritvo, The Animal Estate, 257–9.


K. Franck

44. Carl Linnaeus, The Animal Kingdom or Zoological System of the Celebrated Sir Charles Linnaeus, trans. by Professor Gmelin of Goettingen (London, J. Murray, No. 32. ­Fleet-Street; and R. Faulder, No. 42. New Bond Street, 1792), 147. 45. John Miller, Empire and the Animal Body: Violence, Identity and Ecology in Victorian Adventure Fiction (London, Anthem Press, 2012), 37–44. 46. McKibben, The End of Nature, 61. 47. Ibid., 160–1. 48. The Wilderness Act (1964), PDF/The_Wilderness_Act.pdf, accessed 5 January 2019. 49. Benjamin Johnson, ‘Wilderness Parks and Their Discontents’, in Michael Lewis (ed.), American Wilderness: A New History (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007), 113–30 (115). 50. John Muir, The Yosemite (Corelo, CA, The Yolla Bolly Press Book, 1989), 34. 51. Kaja Franck, ‘The Development of the Literary Werewolf: Language, Subjectivity and Animal/Human Boundaries’, PhD dissertation, University of Hertfordshire, 2016. 52. William Cronon, ‘The Trouble with Wilderness: Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature’, in William Cronon (ed.), Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (London, W. W. Norton, 1996), 69–90 (72–3). 53. Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (London, Harvard University Press, 2007), 14. 54. Andrew Jamison, ‘Ecology and the Environmental Movement’, in Astrid Schwarz and Kurt Jax (eds.), Ecology Revisited (London, Springer, 2011), 195–204. 55. Robert Mighall, ‘Gothic Cities’, in Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Gothic (Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge, 2007), 54–62.

Bibliography Anonymous, ‘An Attestation to This Church History of New England’, in Cotton Mather (ed.), Magnalia Christi Americana, or, the Ecclesiastical History of New England, from Its First Planting in the Year 1620 unto the Year of Our Lord 1698 (London, Thomas Parkhurst, 1702). Arata, Stephen D., ‘The Occidental Tourist: “Dracula” and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization’, Victorian Studies, 33: 4 (1990), 621–45. Berger, John, About Looking (London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1980). Bettelheim, Bruno, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (London, Thames & Hudson, 1976). Boddice, Rob, A History of Attitudes and Behaviours Toward Animals in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain (Lampeter, Wales, Edwin Mellen Press, 2008). Botting, Fred, Gothic (New York, Routledge, 2014). Bradford, William, Of Plymouth Plantation (Boston, Wright & Potter Printing, 1898). Brockden Brown, Charles, Edgar Huntly: Or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (Philadelphia, M. Polock, 1857). Burke, Edmund, Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (London, F. and C. Rivington, 1801). Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness (London, Penguin Books, 2000). Cronon, William, ‘The Trouble with Wilderness: Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature’, in William Cronon (ed.), Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (London, W. W. Norton, 1996), 69–90. Estok, Simon C., ‘Theorizing in a Space of Ambivalent Openness: Ecocriticism and Ecophobia’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 16: 2 (Spring 2009), 203–25. Figari, Helene, and Ketil Skogen, ‘Social Representations of the Wolf’, Acta Sociologica, 54: 4 (2011), 1–16.

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Franck, Kaja, ‘“Something That Is Either Werewolf or Vampire”: Interrogating the Lupine Nature of Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, in Robert McKay and John Miller (eds.), Werewolves, Wolves and the Gothic (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2017), 135–52. Franck, Kaja, ‘The Development of the Literary Werewolf: Language, Subjectivity and Animal/ Human Boundaries’, PhD dissertation, University of Hertfordshire, 2016. Gerard, Emily, The Land Beyond the Forest: Facts, Figures, and Fancies from Transylvania (1888). Hillard, Tom J., ‘“Deep into That Darkness Peering”: An Essay on Gothic Nature’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 16: 4 (Autumn 2009), 685–95. Jamison, Andrew Jamison, ‘Ecology and the Environmental Movement’, in Astrid Schwarz and Kurt Jax (eds.), Ecology Revisited (London, Springer, 2011), 195–204. Jaramillo, Camilo, ‘Green Hells: Monstrous Vegetations in Twentieth-Century Representations of Amazonia’, in Keetley and Tenga (eds.), Plant Horror: Approaches to the Monstrous Vegetal in Fiction and Film (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 91–110. Johnson, Benjamin, ‘Wilderness Parks and Their Discontents’, in Michael Lewis (ed.), American Wilderness: A New History (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007), 113–30. Keetley, Dawn, ‘Introduction: Six Theses on Plant Horror: Or, Why Are Plants Horrifying?’, in Dawn Keetley and Angela Tenga (eds.), Plant Horror: Approaches to the Monstrous Vegetal in Fiction and Film (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 1–30. Kröger, Lisa, ‘Panic, Paranoia and Pathos: Ecocriticism in the Eighteenth-Century Gothic Novel’, in Andrew Smith and William Hughes (eds.), Ecogothic (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 15–27. Linnaeus, Carl, The Animal Kingdom or Zoological System of the Celebrated Sir Charles Linnaeus, trans. by Professor Gmelin of Goettingen (London, J. Murray, No. 32. ­Fleet-Street; and R. Faulder, No. 42. New Bond Street, 1792). Lloyd Smith, Allan Lloyd, ‘Nineteenth-Century American Gothic’, in David Punter (ed.), A New Companion to the Gothic (Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 163–75. McKibben, Bill, The End of Nature (London and New York, Viking, 1990). Merchant, Carolyn, Ecological Revolutions (Chapel Hill, University of North Caroline Press, 1989). Mighall, Robert, ‘Gothic Cities’, in Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Gothic (Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge, 2007), 54–62. Miller, John, Empire and the Animal Body: Violence, Identity and Ecology in Victorian Adventure Fiction (London, Anthem Press, 2012). Mishra, Vijay, ‘The Gothic Sublime’, in David Punter (ed.), A New Companion to the Gothic (Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 288–306. Morton, Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (London, Harvard University Press, 2007). Muir, John, The Yosemite (Corelo, CA, The Yolla Bolly Press Book, 1989). Nash, Roderick, Wilderness and the American Mind (London, Yale University Press, 1982). Oelschlaeger, Max, The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology (New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1991). Radcliffe, Ann, The Mysteries of Udolpho (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998). Ritvo, Harriet, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1987). Smith, Andrew, and William Hughes, ‘Introduction: Defining the Ecogothic’, in Andrew Smith and William Hughes (eds.), Ecogothic (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), 1–14. Spooner, Catherine, Contemporary Gothic (London, Reaktion Books, 2006). Stoker, Bram, Dracula (Ware, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Classics, 1993). The Wilderness Act (1964), Wilderness_Act.pdf. Accessed 5 January 2019. Warwick, Alexandra, ‘Feeling Gothicky?’, Gothic Studies, 9: 1 (May 2007), 5–15. Zipes, Jack, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, 2nd edn. (New York, Routledge, 1993).

‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations Paulina Palmer

References to urban and rural locations appear frequently in gothic fiction, contributing to the vividness of the narrative and its uncanny dimension. Karl Bell, defining their differences, argues that whereas ‘rural supernatural imaginings tend to be inspired by an agoraphobic sense of vulnerability, the urban supernatural is more likely to be engendered by the unsettling claustrophobia of the built environment and the press of its multitudinous inhabitants’.1 Locations of different kinds, both urban and rural, also play a key role in contemporary gothic texts focusing on queer sexuality and relationships, with writers employing them to evoke the context of the narrative and metaphorically illuminate the characters’ emotional responses. Sarah Waters portrays her protagonist Margaret in Affinity (1999), on making her way through the fog-bound London streets in search of the spiritualists’ reading room, fancifully thinking that, ‘There might have been a dome about me – a dome of gauze’.2 The description, as well as furnishing an eerie image of the city, serves as a metaphor for Margaret’s ­self-deception, deluded as she is by the spiritualist Selina’s false protestations of love. In contrast, illustrating the importance of rural terrain, Jim Grimsley, situating the narrative of Dream Boy (1995) in North Carolina noted for its mysterious Indian burial mounds and derelict slave plantations, portrays the teenage Nathan, on whose discovery of his queer sexuality the novel focuses, encountering, while visiting a ruined mansion in the woods, the ghost of the deceased slave owner and recognising its resemblance to his own homophobic father. The description of the mansion, overgrown with creepers and trees, as well as enhancing the uncanny atmosphere of the episode, metaphorically signifies the concept of familial inheritance. Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (1992) and Elizabeth Knox’s The Vintner’s Luck (2000), the two novels discussed in this essay, though both focusing on queer sexuality and utilising rural and urban sites as settings for the narrative and to evoke the characters’ affective life, differ significantly in historical

P. Palmer (*)  University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



P. Palmer

and intellectual context. Whereas Condé locates her novel in Barbados and North America and explores the contrary representations of the witch in the two cultures, Knox situates hers in nineteenth-century Burgundy and refers to debates between Roman Catholics and ‘free thinkers’. However, the two texts also reveal features in common. As well as making significant use of Gothic motifs of secrets, spectrality, the uncanny and the monster, in depicting their protagonists’ queer sexual attachments they both focus on mixed relationships. Condé, in recasting the life of black slave Tituba and interrelating the slave narrative with the witch story, describes the interracial erotic attachments that she forms with some of the white women she encounters. Knox in contrast, moving into the realm of paranormal fantasy, focuses on the inter-species involvement that the young vintner Sobran Jodeau forms with the angel Xas whom he encounters in the fields at harvest time. Although the sexuality of both characters is depicted as mobile, with them portrayed forming heterosexual as well as queer attachments, the emphasis is placed on their queer sexual relationships. The themes and emotional situations referred to above are echoed and reworked, as we shall see, in the two writers’ varied representations of landscape. Condé’s aim in writing I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, as Ann Armstrong Scarboro describes in the ‘Afterword’ is, by means of fictional reconstruction, to ‘fill in the blank spaces from lost history’3 by redressing the marginalisation that the black slave Tituba, remembered for her association with the Salem witch trials, has suffered in both historical accounts of slavery and Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. As Condé complains, Miller, having assigned to Tituba the play’s opening lines and portrayed her rejecting accusations of trafficking with the devil, quickly banishes her from the stage. Condé explains Tituba’s marginalisation in both history and drama as due to the fact that ‘She was a black woman’ and, as a result, ‘was forgotten’ (‘Afterword’, pp. 209–10). Condé’s novel is a hybrid text. As well as being an example of historiographic metafiction that introduces intertextual reference to works as varied as Miller’s The Crucible, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and protest songs by Billie Holiday, it interrelates several different literary genres. These include, in addition to the slave narrative that, as Justin D. Edwards illustrates,4 frequently introduces gothic motifs of the haunted house and secrets relating to race, Caribbean fiction portraying the practitioner of Obeah or ‘witch’ as a wise woman and healer. Examples include Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) and Rosario Ferré’s Sweet Diamond Dust (Maldito Amor) (1986). A more recent influence on Condé’s novel are texts by American and British theorists and novelists working in the 1970s and 1980s that celebrate the witch as a signifier of the newly emerging l­esbian-feminist movement, associating her with women’s liberation and lesbian sexuality. Whereas the American radical feminist theorist Mary Daly portrays the witch in Gyn/ Ecology (1979) as exemplifying the attributes of female strength and independence that patriarchy seeks to suppress, the French theorist Catherine Clément, utilising a psychoanalytic approach, depicts her in the ‘The Guilty One’ (1987) as a transgressive outcast associated with the feminine realm of the Imaginary. Emphasising the witch’s familiarity with wild rural terrain, Clément portrays her

‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations


living ‘in bramble forests on the heath’ and inhabiting ‘impossible places’.5 As I illustrate in Lesbian Gothic: Transgressive Fictions (1999), ideas of this kind furnished the inspiration for numerous works of lesbian feminist fiction celebrating the figure of the witch.6 Examples include Jeannine Allard’s Légende (1984), a lesbian romance associating the witch with the forest, and Barbara Hanrahan’s The Albatross Muff (1978) that refers to the protagonist’s Aboriginal ancestry. Condé’s novel introduces similar topics. As well as exploring Tituba’s friendships and erotic involvements with women and emphasising her black identity, she foregrounds her love of rural areas and distaste for urban locations on account of their association with slavery. Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert describes how, with the introduction in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of colonial and Caribbean elements into British and European fiction, ‘a new sort of darkness - of race, landscape, despair - enters the Gothic genre’.7 Condé opens her novel with reference to this darkness, both elemental and metaphorical. She portrays Tituba’s mother Abena, a house slave to the wife of the owner of a slave plantation near Bridgetown, while lying in bed with her mistress and ‘playing with the long plaits of her hair’ (p. 3), seeking to ‘conjure up the forces of nature … to appease the darkness and prevent the vampires from draining them white before dawn’ (p. 4). Tituba, as a child, cannot understand why Abena, though emotionally and physically close to her white mistress, shows herself little affection and never cuddles her. However, as she discovers on reaching her teens, Abena’s neglect is not deliberate but reflects the ‘darkness’ that entered the Caribbean with the institution of slavery. Her refusal to make physical contact with Tituba is explained by the fact that her daughter’s existence reminds her of the rape by a sailor she suffered on the voyage to Barbados that resulted in Tituba’s birth. Although Abena’s black partner Yao tries to compensate for her emotional neglect of her daughter, his attempts are rendered futile by another disaster. While defending herself against a second act of sexual assault, performed this time by the white plantation owner, Abena seizes a knife and stabs him. Though merely gashing his shoulder, she is sentenced to hanging, the punishment meted out to a slave who attacks a white man. Here the text moves into the realm of body horror as Abena, in the flower of her youth, with her young daughter witnessing the event, is brutally hanged ‘from the lower branches of a silk-cotton tree’ (p. 8). The image haunts Tituba’s childhood and the tree that she previously associated with the beauty of nature now assumes connotations of death. When her stepfather Yao is sold to another master, Tituba herself escapes into the forest fringing the plantation. Here she encounters the elderly Mama Yaya who educates her in the medicinal and spiritual practices of Obeah. As well as discovering how to transform herself into ‘a bird on the branch or a frog croaking in the mud’ (p. 10), Tituba learns to communicate with the spirits of the dead. On encountering the spectre of her deceased mother—‘not’, she thankfully perceives, ‘the disjointed, tormented puppet swinging round and round among the leaves’ (p. 9) that she had seen hanging on the tree but a living woman—she runs into her arms, enjoying the experience of maternal love. As she euphorically describes,


P. Palmer

emphasising the interrelation between the location’s material and spiritual facets and the emotional response it inspires, ‘These were the happiest moments of my life… because my invisible spirits were all around me and the violet sky of the island stretched above my head at night like a huge handkerchief against which the stars sparkled’ (p. 11). However, on remembering her mother’s violent death, she is overcome by a desire for retribution and angrily thinks, ‘I should have liked to unleash the wind like a dog from its kennel so that the white Great Houses of the masters would be blown away over the horizon!’ (p. 12). Though appreciating the safety of Mama Yaya’s cabin and its association with nature, Tituba, impelled by the imperative of sexual desire, impetuously decides to move to the urban site of Bridgetown. While walking in the forest, she chances to encounter John Indian, an attractive young slave from the town. He flirts with her playfully, teasing her about her unkempt appearance. Ignoring Mama Yaya’s warning that ‘He’s a shallow nigger full of hot air and bravado’ (p. 15) and, since he is indentured to the white Susanna Endicott, becoming involved with him will ‘return her to the white man’s world’ (p. 16), she agrees to accompany him. However, on later accepting his invitation to live with him, she is alarmed to discover that she will have to agree to Susanna’s demands to marry him and be baptised into the Christian faith. Life in Bridgetown and Susanna’s home epitomising it turn out to be more oppressive than Tituba had envisaged. Though enjoying the sexual aspect of her relationship with John, she recognises, on perceiving his drinking habits and flirtations, ‘How frivolous was this man my body had chosen!’ (p. 40). Susanna, meanwhile, turns out to be a harsh mistress who frequently criticises her. It is from her lips that Tituba first hears the Anglo-American word ‘witch’, one previously unfamiliar to her. She is horrified to discover that Susanna regards the witch or practitioner of Obeah not as a positive figure who performs spiritual and herbal practices but an evil necromancer who traffics in dangerous spells. On hearing that a slave reputed to be a witch has recently been burnt in the area, she is terrified that Susannah will discover the secret of her involvement in Obeah. Some weeks later, however, while in the act of serving tea to the minister’s wife, Susanna is unexpectedly afflicted by a sudden cramp and shortly afterwards dies. Condé leaves unresolved the question of whether Tituba herself or possibly Mama Yaya, to whom she confided her fears, engineered Susanna’s demise by means of their spiritual powers or whether it is coincidental. However, though no longer capable of dominating Tituba in the flesh, Susanna continues like a vengeful ghost to exercise a destructive influence from beyond the grave. As Tituba and John Indian discover to their horror, she has previously sold them both to the Reverend Samuel Parris, a figure familiar to readers from Miller’s The Crucible as a hypocrite and preacher of hellfire sermons. His entry into the narrative introduces a vividly drawn figure of white monstrosity. Elizabeth Grosz portrays the monster as ‘an ambiguous being whose hybridity endangers and problematizes categories and oppositions dominant in social life’8—and Tituba attributes to Parris human, animal and demonic characteristics. On first encountering him stalking through the Bridgetown streets, she describes him ‘as tall, very tall,

‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations


dressed in black from head to foot’ with a ‘chalky white skin’ and ‘greenish, cold eyes’ resembling those of ‘a snake’ (p. 34). Whereas his black costume resembles Dracula’s austere attire, his snakelike eyes recall the threat the creature voices to Victor Frankenstein, ‘I will watch [you] with the wiliness of a snake that I may sting with its venom’.9 Vijay Mishra describes the Gothic as ‘a genre of fissure and fracture’ with texts evoking on occasion ‘a discourse of instability’ verging on ‘laughter’10—and Tituba’s melodramatic description of Parris borders on the darkly humorous. In fact when she announces to John Indian that ‘I’ve just seen Satan!’ (p. 34), he ridicules her words, playfully observing that ‘Satan doesn’t like daylight. He’s a creature of the night’ (p. 34). Tituba, however, regards Parris as an evil spirit haunting the town, interpreting the hurricane that bombards it that night as provoked by him. She also fears from his penetrating gaze that he has discovered the incriminatory secret of her involvement in Obeah. Becoming a member of Parris’s household, however, benefits Tituba in one respect since it enables her to encounter his wife Elizabeth. The two women’s experience of Parris’s tyranny creates an emotional bond between them and, as Tituba explains with her habitual frankness, ‘We devised a thousand tricks to be together in the absence of this devil’ (p. 41). Elizabeth, as well as sharing with Tituba the intimate details of the oppressive nature of her marriage, including her disgust for Parris’s sexual attentions, astonishes her by exclaiming, ‘How lovely you are, Tituba!’ (p. 38) and comparing her hands to black flowers. Encouraged by these signs of affection, Tituba allows herself to become emotionally and physically close to her. The erotic relationship the two women enjoy, as well as recalling that between Abena and her mistress, looks forward to the lesbian involvement that Tituba subsequently forms with Hester Prynne when imprisoned in Salem gaol. These relationships, while having racial and queer significance, also have feminist import. Challenging what Eve Sedgwick terms ‘the plot of male homosociality’11 that dominates much Western fiction, Condé enables the reader to glimpse the submerged narrative of female attachments. Parris, of course, is unaware of the intimacy existing between his wife and slave. He harshly tells Tituba that ‘The colour of your skin is the sign of your damnation’ (p. 41) and rebukes Elizabeth for ‘Letting this Negress sit next to you’ (p. 39). The urban location in gothic fiction and film, as Emily Alder describes, is typically represented as ‘a dark, claustrophobic space, refracting personal or political concerns onto the Gothic terrain and haunted by doubles and secrets’.12 Condé’s representation of Boston where Parris, while seeking to obtain a post in Salem, lodges with his family for a year, agrees with Alder’s description, though also emphasising its connection with racial oppression. On entering the square where the prison and courthouse are situated, Tituba is appalled to see a public hanging taking place. Feeling that she is being forced to ‘relive my mother’s execution’ (p. 49), she is momentarily deceived into thinking that ‘It wasn’t an old woman hanging there. It was Abena in the flower of her youth’ (p. 49). John Indian increases her gloom by reporting he has heard rumours that the slave trade is in fact gaining momentum, with native Americans as well as Africans being coerced into slavery by poverty.


P. Palmer

Parris’s role in supporting white domination is signified metaphorically by the image that Tituba glimpses of him standing on the quay one morning ‘in the greyish mist … like a ghost in the dirty foggy light’ (p. 43). The spectral simile, while evoking Freudian connotations of the return of the repressed, also portrays him as a signifier of the racial oppression haunting the black community. As Andrew Smith pertinently observes, ‘Ghosts are never just ghosts; they provide us with an insight into what haunts our culture … and are messengers about the preoccupations of a particular age’.13 On arriving at Salem, Tituba perceives, as a result of Elizabeth, influenced by Parris, turning against her and their daughter Abigail pestering her with accusations of witchcraft, the dangers threatening her intensifying. When, in order to escape the oppressive atmosphere, she spends the evening in the wilderness fringing the settlement, she finds herself accosted by neighbours who have followed her there. Regarding her as a servant of Satan on account of her skin colour, they request her in hushed tones to concoct a potion to enable them to get rid of a neighbour or even a family member. Allan Gardner Lloyd-Smith describes the wilderness as a source of uncanny themes for writers of Gothic on account of ‘the profane presences that it might harbour’14—and Tituba’s description of the way in which ‘Animals, crouched in the dark trees, screeched evilly as I went by’ (p. 64) vividly evokes its uncanny dimension. In both contributing to and reflecting her fears, it forms a pronounced contrast to the benevolent associations of the forest where she previously lived with Mama Yao. Meanwhile Parris’s animosity towards Tituba increases in intensity. Parodically recasting the well-known lyric ‘Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees’ sung by Billie Holiday in protest at the lynching of African Americans in the 1930s and 1940s, Condé portrays him looking forward to her arrest for witchcraft and seeing, when she is hanged, ‘a magnificent fruit swinging from the trees of Massachusetts’ (p. 75). The words, in addition to recalling the hanging of Tituba’s mother Abena, accentuate the narrative’s sociopolitical significance by prompting readers to compare the brutal treatment of Afro-Caribbean slaves in the seventeenth century with that of black Americans in the twentieth. Another intertextual reference that Condé daringly introduces, appropriated this time from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), is her portrayal of Tituba, on being accused of witchcraft and imprisoned in Salem prison, unexpectedly encountering Hester Prynne. Having described how she herself was imprisoned for becoming pregnant outside marriage, Hester teases Tituba about her feelings of sexual attraction to men. After playfully observing that ‘You’re too fond of love’ (p. 100), she adds, in an intertextual reference to the 1980s feminist movement, ‘I’ll never make a feminist out of you!’ (p. 101). The conversation, developing Tituba’s previous erotic involvement with Elizabeth, concludes with Hester embracing her and, as Tituba describes, ‘showering me with kisses’ (p. 101). Tituba meanwhile pillows her head on ‘the soft curve’ (p. 99) of Hester’s pregnant body and shortly afterwards becomes her lover. As Luce Irigaray, commenting on ‘the multiple and diffuse nature of female sexuality’, observes,

‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations


‘Woman does not have a sex. She has at least two of them. Indeed she has many more of them than that. Her sexuality, always at least double, is in fact plural’.15 In addition to encouraging Tituba to acknowledge her sexual attraction to women, Hester is instrumental in persuading her to confess publicly to the crime of witchcraft. In doing so she in fact saves her life since prisoners who refused to confess were sentenced to hanging. On confronting her three judges, one of whom is Parris, Tituba gives them, again on Hester’s advice, a parodically lurid version of her activities, describing how she encountered the devil in the form of a dog. Although she herself recognises the absurdity of her performance, her white judges regard it as the truth. Here she engages in the practice that Homi Bhaba terms ‘colonial mimicry’,16 ironically performing the role that her white judges expect of her, while secretly exposing their naivety. The masks resembling birds of prey that they wear enhance the episode’s gothic dimension since they resemble those worn by the inquisitors in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk. Condé concludes the novel by portraying Tituba, on eventually being released from prison, fulfilling her dream of returning to her Caribbean homeland of Barbados. Tituba’s lyrical description of her initial view of the island, with ‘the sun brushing the contours of the hills with light’ and ‘the sugarcane in flower, like a purple cloud above the fields’ (p. 143), as well as evoking her joyful mood, lures the reader into assuming that Condé is creating a conventionally happy ending to Tituba’s narrative. However, as if determined to emphasise the dangers threatening the freedom fighter and practitioner of Obeah, Condé in fact concludes it by recapitulating the theme of violent death that runs as a leitmotif throughout the novel. On hearing that a number of slaves have escaped from the plantations and are embarking on a struggle for freedom, Tituba, still intent on destroying ‘the white Great Houses of the masters’ (p. 12), volunteers to join them. However, she is betrayed by one of her fellows and, on being declared guilty of bewitching the inhabitants of the local village by invoking Satan, is sentenced to hanging. She has little fear of death since she looks forward to re-encountering the spirits of her mother Abena and Mama Yao, who has recently died. Tituba is the last of the prisoners to be executed and, as she grimly notes on walking to the gallows, ‘All around me strange trees were bristling with strange fruit’ (p. 172). Knox’s The Vintner’s Luck, as mentioned above, focuses on the queer relationship that the young vintner Sobran Jodeau, a resident of nineteenth-century Burgundy, forms with the angel Xas and the pleasures and problems that the two encounter. The novel, while differing radically from Condé’s in storyline and historical context, resembles it in its focus on queer sexuality and utilisation of gothic motifs of the secret, the uncanny and the monster. It is also similarly constructed around vivid descriptions of rural and urban landscapes that comment indirectly on the narrative and the characters’ emotional circumstances. Novels focusing on paranormal relationships between angels and mortals, though less numerous than those focusing on the witch, have nonetheless appeared in print. Sharon Shinn’s Archangel (1997), the plot perhaps inspired by the Genesis account of angels descending to earth and, on finding the daughters


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of men fair, forming relationships with them, portrays the angel Gabriel marrying a mortal woman, while Lauren Kate’s fictional series, known by the title Fallen, focuses on a group of rebel angels who form similar inter-species attachments. In addition, regarding queer same-sex relationships, Elizabeth Brownrigg’s Falling to Earth (1998) describes the lesbian involvement that develops between Alice, the manager of a USA computer software firm, and her guardian angel Phoebe. However, although the plot is neatly constructed, like the other ‘angel’ texts cited above, the novel reveals little of the emotional and psychological complexity and range of gothic reference that typifies Knox’s narrative. Knox opens The Vintner’s Luck with reference to a locational motif appropriated from nineteenth-century fiction with gothic associations: the representation of an encounter between two characters in a moonlit landscape. Charlotte Bronte portrays Jane Eyre’s initial meeting with Rochester taking place in the light of ‘the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud, but brightening momentarily’,17 while Wilkie Collins represents Walter Hartright’s encounter with Ann Catherick, the mysterious ‘woman in white’ whom he initially mistakes for a ghost, occurring on a night when, as he describes, ‘the moon was full and broad in the dark blue starless sky’.18 Knox opens her narrative in a similar manner by portraying the ­eighteen-year-old vintner Sobran Jodeau, in summer with ‘the moon just off full’19 at an hour when, as he admits, ‘decent people were in bed’ (p. 1), secretly leaving the farmstead where he lives. He takes with him two bottles of wine with which he aims ‘to baptise’, as he melodramatically describes, ‘the first real sorrow of his life’ (p. 1). Not only has the beautiful Céleste, the neighbour’s daughter with whom he is sexually infatuated, rejected his advances but also his father, worried by her ­lower-class affiliations, has forbidden him to court her. On climbing the hill overlooking the vineyard where he intends to sit, with ‘the air sweet with the smell of fermenting cherries’ (p. 2), he is surprised to see what appears to be a statue appropriated from the church perched on the crest. A moment later he faints, perceiving with incredulity that what he sees is not a statue but, on the contrary, a living angel. On collapsing, he feels himself rescued not by an arm but, as Knox describes, ‘a wing, pure sinew and bone under a cushion of feathers … the pinions around his ankle’ (p. 3). Nicholas Royle associates the uncanny with ‘a secret encounter’, describing it as generated by ‘strange sights’ and ‘revelations, by what should have been out of sight’20—and Sobran’s encounter with the angel resembles this. On regaining consciousness, he is astonished by the angel’s grotesque appearance reflected especially in the unfamiliarity of his magnificent wings. Maria Parrino describes the grotesque as ‘a protean form that joins trivial and serious elements in such a way that it can be monstrous, absurd and contradictory’21—and the angel’s appearance interrelates all three. However, warmed by a sip of wine and the angel’s apparent friendliness, Sobran plucks up the courage to converse with him and confide in him his problems with his love life. On shamefacedly admitting that, on account of his emotional turmoil, he has failed to take communion for some weeks, he expects him to issue a rebuke—but to his surprise none occurs. Announcing that his name is Xas and predicting that

‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations


Sobran’s future may turn out to be happier than he assumes, the angel promises to meet him again the following year at harvest time (p. 6). Sobran watches spellbound as Xas rises to his feet, ‘the angel wings snapped open, a slack sail suddenly fully fed, and angel and whirlwind were a league away’ (p. 6). The only evidence that the encounter is not a dream is, as Sobran perceives, ‘a few black tipped, fawn feathers sprinkled down over the northern slope of the vineyard’ (p. 6). Knox’s description of the Burgundian landscape, as well as setting the scene for Sobran’s uncanny encounter with the angel, introduces themes that assume importance as their relationship develops. The sensuous description of the countryside and the reference to ‘decent people’ (p. 1) going to bed at a respectably early hour while Sobran himself defies convention by being outdoors drinking late at night hints at his movement into the enjoyable but, he fears, shameful realm of queer sex when he and Xas become lovers. In addition his reference, while walking up the hill, to the ‘crumbling shadow’ (p. 1) that accompanies him on the moonlit grass signals the increasingly intimate involvement between the two characters. As their relationship develops, Xas assumes the role of Sobran’s ‘shadow’, visiting him in secret. Xas’s prediction that Sobran’s courtship of Céleste will be successful proves to be correct. With Sobran’s father unexpectedly withdrawing his objections and Céleste accepting Sobran’s proposal, the courtship flourishes and the marriage takes place. Some years later, however, when misfortune befalls the couple and their young daughter Nicolette dies, Xas, in an attempt to console Sobran, cradles him in his arms, embracing him tenderly with his wings. Up to now Sobran has regarded him merely as a friend and confidant but now, on experiencing this physical intimacy, his attitude changes. He recognises that he loves Xas and desires him physically. Justifying the sexual attraction he feels for him with dubious logic, he reasons that ‘His desire was a triumph. Xas was so fine that of course he, Sobran, should love him. God had made Xas beautiful and framed his subtle tongue’ (p. 50). To his consternation, however, Xas rejects his expressions of love. Acknowledging his fallen status, he confesses that instead of being associated with heaven, as Sobran assumed, he was cast into hell on account of rebelling against God. His personal heresy was to subscribe to the view that God did not make the world but merely discovered it. Sobran reacts angrily to Xas’s confession. Furious at what he regards as his act of deception and fearing that he himself is damned on account of his queer sexual desires, he rejects his friendship. Gay shame, as David Halperin and Valerie Traub illustrate in their study of that name,22 commonly afflicts queer people on account of the oppressive treatment they encounter— and Knox treats the topic vividly. She portrays Sobran taking refuge in the Roman Catholic faith and—to the surprise of his neighbours—reverting to regular attendance at mass. Xas, however, does not desert him but visits the vineyard at night in the hope of encountering him. Meanwhile the secret of Xas’s visits to the area is starting to haunt the local community, with the sight of a man conversing with a winged figure in the fields provoking gossip and comments circulating about an elderly woman, while


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gathering fire wood, discovering an angel sleeping under a bush. Rumour also circulates that Sobran is engaging in an extramarital affair, although his neighbours, to their frustration, are unable to discover his partner’s identity. Friedrich Schelling, as Sigmund Freud notes, describes the uncanny as ‘the name for everything that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light’,23 and the secret of queer sexuality and the emotional stress the individual can experience in concealing or disclosing it are key topics in queer writing. Eve Sedgwick, discussing Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, two novels referring to the topic, mentions ‘the unspeakable secret … the open secret … and the secret of the closet’.24 It is, in fact, the Countess Aurora de Valday, the widowed owner of the local chateau, who accidentally discovers the content of Sobran’s secret. Knox, linking the location where the event takes place to the consternation it initially causes, describes the vineyard and fields where it occurs as notably bleaker than when they formed the context for Sobran’s initial encounter with Xas. The river is ‘monstrously swollen’ (p. 119) on account of the heavy rain and the fields partially flooded. On returning home in her coach at dusk from visiting neighbours, Aurora sees in the ‘the broken light of the moon’ (p. 121) and the ‘trees with the light lancing through them’ (p. 122) what she thinks is a swan with open wings falling dramatically from the sky. A moment later, however, as Knox describes, ‘when her eyes at last did their duty and made nonsense of the size of the wings and the body that fell’, she perceives with astonishment ‘an angel drop onto the ground’ (p. 122). Shortly afterwards she sees Sobran, on emerging from the bushes, help the angel get up and take refuge in a nearby wood. On watching the event from her coach, she finds, as Knox describes, ‘her world unexpectedly as full of holes as the casing on a spider’s nest after a shower of hailstones’ (p. 122). Having spent her teenage years living in Paris and mixing with friends with Enlightenment views, she now privately identifies as an atheist. However, the sight she has witnessed makes her rethink her convictions for, as she reasons, ‘If there was an angel there was also a god’ (p. 134). Sobran and Xas, on the contrary, though worried about their discovery, are nonetheless secretly overjoyed to be unexpectedly reunited and, on reaching the shelter of an outhouse, collapse in a spontaneous embrace. Embracing Sobran with his wings, Xas, echoing a comment that Sobran previously voiced about his encounter with an angel bringing him ‘good fortune’ (9), playfully enquires, ‘Do you no longer believe in your luck?’. Forgetting his moral reservations about queer sex in the pleasure of the unexpected reunion, Sobran joyfully replies, ‘You’re not just my luck, fallen angel, or even my dearest friend. You’re my love. My true love!’ (p. 143). To Sobran’s surprise neither Aurora nor her coachman, the latter following her instructions, divulges his encounter with Xas to the local community and, with his wife Céleste, on tiring of his dour demeanour and obsession with religion having embarked on an affair with a neighbour, he feels relatively safe from scrutiny. He is eager to learn about Xas’s earlier life and, as a result, Knox’s description of location moves from the terrestrial landscape of Burgundy, with its changing seasons, harvests and floods, to the regions of heaven and hell.

‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations


Xas’s account of the heaven, rather than being sublime and celebratory, is pejorative. After depicting the route to the site as involving a mountainous ascent buffeted by ‘winds full of ice like powdered glass’ (p. 78) resembling ‘the fearsome iciness of upper space’25 that Lovecraft depicts in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and ‘the glacial labyrinth’26 in At the Mountains of Madness, he describes how, on arrival, he was met by a burly angel blocking his path. Announcing that he is unwelcome on account of rebelling against God, the angel promptly ‘knocked him out of the air and down onto the permafrost’ (p. 78), injuring his face. As Xas scornfully observes, ‘Angels have cold hearts and thick skulls!’ (p. 149). His description of the landscape is also negative. Parodying Milton’s famous description of Satan’s lament for his loss of access to heaven in Paradise Lost, ‘Farewell happy fields / Where Joy for ever dwells’,27 he refers mockingly to ‘the preposterous grass of heaven, no blade with a corroded edge for in heaven the insects are never hungry’ (p. 46). He also criticises the regularity of the ‘great forest’ (p. 46) fringing it since ‘every tree is the same height’ (p. 46). Whereas the eighteenth-century poet James Thomson describes the city in his poem The City of Dreadful Night (1873) in imagery recalling hell and limbo, Xas, like Milton, describes hell itself as a city, representing it in gothic imagery of darkness. After telling Sobran the story of how he and his fellow angels, on being expelled from heaven, found themselves ‘incarcerated in a horrible sanctuary’ (p. 87), a phrase recalling Milton’s description of hell as ‘a Dungeon horrible’ (Paradise Lost, bk 1, p. 7), he describes the edifices they constructed. However, in contrast to the impressive ‘Fabrik huge…Built like a temple’ with its ‘doric pillars’ (Paradise Lost, bk 1, p. 23) that Milton describes, Xas mentions a gloomy ‘dark walled citadel’. It functions, he tells Sobran, not as a council chamber but a library since it is packed with transcripts of books. As he explains, parodying the concept of the Platonic Forms, heaven contains no transcripts since ‘Angels are in fact the only copies that God tolerates’ (p. 144). Whereas his fellow angels devote themselves to the punitive task of ‘herding the damned in dungeons’ (149), he himself takes refuge in reading while also attempting, despite the heat and semidarkness, to create a small garden. His description of the oppressive and claustrophobic nature of both celestial regions enables Sobran to understand his preference for earth with its regional and cultural diversity. Though having revealed to Sobran his fallen status, Xas has another secret that he has not divulged. This is that Lucifer, who is now officially his master, is ignorant of both his visits to earth and his relationship with Sobran. However, on hearing of them, Lucifer promptly descends from hell to administer punishment. It is Aurora de Valday, who herself has recently become sexually attracted to Sobran, unexpectedly witnesses his arrival. Worried that she has recently seen little of Sobran and concerned about his well-being, she visits the coach house near his home where she knows that he sometimes lodges and, on entering the upstairs room, finds him sleeping with Xas at his side. The angel’s appearance astonishes her for, as she describes, ‘his beauty made many human lovelinesses that she had seen seem like tricks of the light’ (p. 159). While she is engrossed in contemplating him, Lucifer arrives. Knox describes the latter as a terrifying figure


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almost eight-feet tall, ‘immense and perfect’ (p. 164), his huge wings ‘perfumed and opulent’ (p. 164) and his body ornamented with ropes of pearl. Remarking sardonically to Sobran, ‘I’m sure you won’t love him less if there’s a little less of him!’ (p. 165), he unsheathes his sword and, ignoring Sobran’s efforts to protect Xas, proceeds to amputate his wings. After achieving the brutal task, he turns with grim efficiency to ‘sealing the wound where the wing joined the body with a flap of skin, stitching it closed’ (p. 165). The episode of body horror alerts attention, as Xavier Aldana Reyes claims that it frequently does, ‘to the vulnerability of human flesh to attack’,28 while Lucifer’s bawdy comment recalls Mishra’s reference to the dark humour that gothic fiction on occasion displays (Mishra, ed. cit. p. 55). Although, as a result of Sobran’s and Aurora’s care, Xas eventually recovers his health, depressed and humiliated by the loss of his wings he has no wish to remain at the vineyard and leaves the region secretly one night. After being employed by a member of the French aristocracy who is attempting to construct a flying machine and assisting him with the necessary science, he joins a group of itinerant gypsies and travels with them to Paris where, having recovered his balancing skills, he performs in the Funambules district of the city, famous for its carnivalesque associations, as a trapeze walker. The location, peopled as it is by ‘tumblers and freaks’ (p. 190), suits his new persona for, in addition to performing as a carnivalesque entertainer, he now poignantly regards himself as a freak on account of the loss of his wings and inability to fly. Here again reference to location echoes and illuminates the character’s emotional life. Sobran, though devastated by Xas’s sudden disappearance, initially has no way of locating him. However, while staying with relatives in Paris, he happens to come across a handbill advertising ‘a man who walks on the points of swords’ and, remembering Xas’s former balancing skills, visits the Funambules area in the hope of finding him. On eventually discovering him at the theatre, he playfully observes, referring to his shifts of role, ‘I’m surprised to find you alone - Xas, the sword walker, scientist…’ Delighted to be reunited with him, Xas promptly replies, ‘I’m not alone. Here you are!’ (p. 193). He accepts Sobran’s invitation to return with him to Burgundy, agreeing to his proposal that he explains his sudden appearance by appointing him as tutor to his teenage son. Xas proves to be ­well-suited to the role. Sobran’s son, though unaware of his history and his experience of terrestrial and extraterrestrial locations, is impressed by his range of knowledge, especially with reference to the disciplines of history, geography and, of course, theological controversy. The two lovers are eventually separated not by human or angelic intervention but by the inescapable facts of mortality. Unlike Sobran who, like the rest of humanity, ages and eventually dies, Xas, though having lost his wings, preserves his immortality and remains eternally youthful. The novel concludes with him, having lost both his wings and his lover, leaving Burgundy once again. The last image we see of him portrays him ‘turning to face the road’ (p. 237) with its promise of new locations and countries to explore. Condé’s and Knox’s two novels, as well as being of interest for their representation of queer sexuality and utilisation of gothic motifs, are significant, as illustrated above, for their vivid delineation of landscape and location. In

‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations


employing rural and urban areas as contexts for the narrative and to reflect the characters’ moods and affective responses, they link the material dimension with the invisible. The description of the eerie darkness of the Salem wilderness in Condé’s novel where Tituba senses ‘the thousand malevolent eyes’ (p. 64) of the nocturnal creatures gazing at her contrasts with the peaceful sky ‘against which the stars sparkled’ (p. 11) in the forest where she lived with Mama Yaya. Urban regions, associated as they are with slavery, are depicted throughout the novel as uniformly oppressive. Knox’s The Vintner’s Luck, in contrast, moves from representing the rural location of Burgundy with its abundant grape harvests, fragrant summers and provincial gossip to depicting the extraterrestrial sites of heaven and hell and their oppressive regimes and inhabitants. The Funambules district of Paris where Xas works as a trapeze performer, in addition to reflecting his image of himself as a freak on account of circus-style performance and the loss of his wings, also illustrates the unorthodox nature of Knox’s narrative with its interrelating of gothic motifs with paranormal angel fiction and the movement from the landscape of France to the realms of heaven and hell. Together, the two novels give an insight into the varied roles that reference to rural and urban locations play in queer gothic narrative.


1. Karl Bell, ‘Phantasmal Cities: The Construction and Function of Haunted Landscapes in Victorian English Cities’, in Ruth Heholt and Niamh Downing (eds.), Landscapes: Super-Nature and Environment (London, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 97. 2. Sarah Waters, Affinity (London, Virago, 1999), 126. 3. Ann Armstrong Scarboro, ‘Afterword’, in Maryse Condé (ed.), I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, trans. Richard Philcox (Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press, 1992), 204. Subsequent references to the novel are to this edition and in the text. 4. Justin D. Edwards, Gothic Passages: Racial Ambiguity and the American Gothic (Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 2003), 16, 79. 5. Catherine Clément, ‘The Guilty One’, in Clément and Helene Cixous (eds.), The Newly Born Woman (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1987), 54. 6. Paulina Palmer, Lesbian Gothic: Transgressive Fictions (London and New York, Cassell, 1999), 29–58. 7. Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, ‘Colonial and Postcolonial Gothic: The Caribbean’, in Jerold Hogle (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002), 229. 8. Elizabeth Grosz, ‘Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks as/at the Limit’, in Rosemary Garland Thomson (ed.), Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body (New York, New York University Press, 1996), 182. 9. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus (Oxford, Oxford World’s Classics, 2008), 140–1. 10. Vijay Mishra, The Gothic Sublime (New York, New York State University, 1994), 54, 55. 11. Eve Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York, Columbia University Press, 1985), 36.

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12. Emily Alder, ‘Urban Gothic’, in William Hughes, David Punter, and Andrew Smith (eds.), The Encyclopedia of the Gothic (Oxford, Wiley and Blackwell, 2013), vol. 1, 703. 13. Andrew Smith, ‘Hauntings’, in Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Gothic (London, Routledge, 2007), 153. 14. Allan Gardner Lloyd-Smith, Uncanny American Fiction: Medusa’s Face (London: Macmillan, 1989), 151. 15. Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One (New York, Cornell University Press, 1985), 45. 16. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London, Routledge, 1994), 13. 17. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre [1847] (Harmondsworth, Penguin English Library, 1983), 143. 18. Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White [1859–60] (Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1974), 46. 19. Elizabeth Knox, The Vintner’s Luck (London, Vintage, 2000), 1. Subsequent references are to this edition and in the text. 20. Andrew Royle, The Uncanny (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003), 2, 45. 21. Maria Parrino, ‘The Grotesque’, in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, ed. cit., 1, 47. 22. David Halperin and Valerie Traub, Gay Shame (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2010). 23. Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, in Angela Richards and James Strachey (eds.), The Pelican Freud Library (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1985), vol. 14, 145. 24. Eve Sedgwick, The Epistemology of the Closet (Brighton, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990), 136–7, 164–7. 25. H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath’, in S.T. Joshi (ed.), The Dreams of the Witchhouse and Other Weird Stories (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 2005), 181. 26. H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness, ed. August Derleth (London, Panther, 1968), 89. 27. John Milton, Paradise Lost (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1952), vol. 1, Book 2, 11–12, lines 249–50. 28. Xavier Aldana Reyes, Body Gothic: Corporeal Transgression in Contemporary Literature and Horror Film (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2014), 18.

Bibliography Aldana Reyes, Xavier, Body Gothic: Corporeal Transgression in Contemporary Literature and Horror Film (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2014). Alder, Emily, ‘Urban Gothic’, in William Hughes, David Punter, and Andrew Smith (eds.), The Encyclopedia of the Gothic (Oxford, Wiley and Blackwell, 2013), vol. 2, 703. Armstrong Scarboro, Ann, ‘Afterword’, in Maryse Condé (ed.), I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press, 1992). Bell, Karl, ‘Phantasmal Cities: The Construction and Function of Haunted Landscapes in Victorian English Cities’, in Ruth Heholt and Niamh Downing (eds.), Landscapes: ­Super-Nature and the Environment (London, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). Bhabha, Homi K., The Location of Culture (London, Routledge, 1994). Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre [1847] (Harmondsworth, Penguin English Library, 1983). Clément, Catherine, ‘The Guilty One’, in Clément and Helene Cixous (eds.), The Newly Born Woman (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1987). Collins, Wilkie, The Woman in White [1859–60] (Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1974). Condé, Maryse, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press, 1992).

‘Queer’ Representations of Rural and Urban Locations


Edwards, Justin D., Gothic Passages: Racial Ambiguity and the American Gothic (Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 2003). Freud, Sigmund, ‘The Uncanny’, in Angela Richards and James Strachey (eds.), The Pelican Freud Library (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1985), vol. 14, 145. Gardner Lloyd-Smith, Allan, Uncanny American Fiction: Medusa’s Face (London: Macmillan, 1989). Grimsley, Jim, Dream Boy (Chapel Hill, NC, Algonquin, 1995). Grosz, Elizabeth, ‘Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks as/at the Limit’, in Rosemary Garland Thomson (ed.), Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body (New York, New York University Press, 1996). Halperin, David, and Traub, Valerie, Gay Shame (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2010). Irigaray, Luce, This Sex Which Is Not One (New York, Cornell University Press, 1985). Knox, Elizabeth, The Vintner’s Luck (London, Vintage, 2000). Lovecraft, H.P., At the Mountains of Madness, ed. August Derleth (London, Panther, 1968). Lovecraft, H.P., ‘The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath’, in S.T. Joshi (ed.), The Dreams of the Witchhouse and Other Weird Stories (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 2005). Milton, John, Paradise Lost [1667] (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1952). Palmer, Paulina, Lesbian Gothic: Transgressive Fictions (London and New York, Cassell, 1999). Paravisini-Gebert, Lizabeth, ‘Colonial and Postcolonial Gothic: The Caribbean’, in Jerold Hogle (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002), 229–59. Parrino, Maria, ‘The Grotesque’, in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, 1, 47. Sedgwick, Eve, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York, Columbia University Press, 1985). Sedgwick, Eve, The Epistemology of the Closet (Brighton, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990). Waters, Sarah, Affinity (London, Virago, 1999).

James Herbert’s Working-Class Horror Simon Brown

When he died in March 2013, James John Herbert was Britain’s most successful modern horror author, having sold more than 54 million books worldwide. This in itself is enough to cement Herbert’s place as an important voice in contemporary horror literature (a place which, as will be discussed, he has largely been denied in critical writings on horror), but what is more significant is that his early novels were responsible for a revolution in British gothic literary horror. His first innovation was to recognise changes happening in horror cinema and introduce far more explicit depictions of graphic violence and sex. His second, and far more important impact, was to update British horror writing, setting it within a specifically modern and deliberately working-class milieu. Between them these new approaches not only made his horror novels accessible to a very wide readership, thus ensuring his blockbuster success in terms of sales, but also allowed him to introduce a strong element of contemporary social critique. It is the nature of the shift in British horror that Herbert precipitated, and its legacy, that this chapter will explore. What makes his achievement all the more remarkable is the unconventional origin of Herbert’s writing career, and the fact that the revolution he instigated was done seemingly without any intention on his part. In 1972, when he was 28 years old and working as an art director for a London-based advertising firm, Herbert, in need of a challenge, simply sat down one day and started to write a book about killer rats terrorising London. He wrote it in longhand on a jumbo pad with a ­felttip pen, as he would do with all his books, and completed it in just nine months, working around his full-time job in the evenings and weekends. Herbert’s manuscript was typed up by his wife Ellie (another tradition that continued throughout his career) and he then sent it to six publishers in the spring of 1973. Within three weeks it was picked up by New English Library (NEL), a press that at the time was famous for its pulp paperbacks.

S. Brown (*)  Kingston University, Kingston, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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Despite including graphic depictions of humans being mutilated and eaten by two-foot-long vermin, Herbert did not set out explicitly to write a horror novel. He enjoyed horror books and films, but the genre did not hold a particularly strong fascination for him. Instead he drew inspiration for the tale largely from his impoverished working-class childhood, living in a condemned building at the back of Petticoat Lane street market in London’s Whitechapel in the years following the Second World War. The closeness of his home to the market and the stables behind it, in which the fruit and vegetables were stored, meant that around where he lived rats were rife. A second key aspect that influenced The Rats was the numerous as yet un-developed World War Two bomb sites in the East End where Herbert played as a child, which not only provided a suitably derelict location in which the action could take place, but also the source for the social commentary that would underpin the work. The third element that influenced his choice of subject was a late-night viewing of Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). Herbert was struck by a speech by Renfield (Dwight Fry) recounting a dream he had about millions of rats with blood-red eyes, and as a visual artist, this stuck in his mind as a particularly powerful image. Putting these aspects together, Herbert took Renfield’s dream and developed it into his tale of murderous mutant rats rampaging through the wastelands of his East End childhood. The Rats was released in hardcover by NEL in the spring of 1974, with a paperback version following in November. The first hardcover print run of 100,000 copies sold out, despite some negative reviews and a degree of controversy. Appalled by the violent content, Martin Amis, writing under the pseudonym of Henry Tilney, slated the book in The Observer, and for similar reasons The Rats was banned from sale in the popular British bookstore WH Smith, which was ironically the chain where Herbert purchased the jumbo pads on which he would write all his novels. Keen to exploit their new asset, NEL asked Herbert what other manuscripts he had for them, but The Rats was his only book, and he did not know if he had another in him. He also still had a day job. However, shortly after, while sitting in a meeting in his high-rise offices, Herbert watched a colleague walk over to the window and open it, and imagined the man suddenly leaping to his death. Herbert then wondered what would happen if all over London workers began to jump from their office windows, gripped by a kind of mass hysteria. Searching for inspiration as to what could cause such behaviour, he once again drew on his youth and the foul-smelling, yellow London smog that blighted the capital until the late 1950s, and hit on the idea of a huge chemical cloud released from the earth, exposure to which would drive everyone mad. Within a year, NEL had published Herbert’s second novel, The Fog (1975), which again became a bestseller. Still, Herbert saw himself as a part-time writer. He refused to sign a contract with NEL, preferring instead to write a book and then negotiate with his publisher, a system that he would maintain until he left NEL for Hodder and Stoughton in the 1980s. By the end of the 1970s, Herbert had written a further four novels (The Survivor, 1976, Fluke, 1977, The Spear, 1978 and a sequel to The Rats entitled Lair, 1979) and had finally, in 1977, stopped working in advertising to write full-time. Before considering how The Rats and The Fog in particular revolutionised British horror writing, it is necessary first to examine the context from which Herbert’s

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work emerged. In keeping with the fact that he wrote The Rats mainly for his own amusement, Herbert was always keen to stress that there was no calculation in what he attempted. He did not try to tap into any prevailing trend or to appeal to a specific audience; rather, he wrote what he wanted and the audience, and the trend, found him. Herbert’s contemporary and friend Stephen King aptly sums up what Herbert achieved by equating him with the punk rock movement that was developing at the same time as Herbert’s writing career in the ­mid-1970s.1 Bands like The Ramones in America and The Sex Pistols in the UK set out to shake the establishment with their raw, unpolished sound, provocative lyrics and in-your-face relationship with their audience in their live performances, a deliberate contrast to the distant, stadium-based concept shows of the early 1970s supergroups. Instead of being cerebral and polished, punk was visceral and confrontational, spitting and shouting obscenities into the front row, much the same way that, King argues, in The Rats and The Fog Herbert grabs the reader and screams in their face, forcing them to pay attention as vermin devour a baby in a crib, or naked schoolchildren pummel the penis of their gym teacher with a cricket bat.2 However, it is not only the connection with punk that makes the timing of Herbert’s first novels both fortuitous and significant. Herbert presented NEL with The Rats just as William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist (1971) was riding high in the bestseller charts, and The Rats was released by NEL just a few months before they also published King’s first book, Carrie (1974). The following year The Fog appeared in UK bookshops around the same time as King’s follow up novel, Salem’s Lot (1975). This proximity to King, undoubtedly the most famous modern horror author, has ensured Herbert’s place at the forefront of the renaissance of horror writing in the 1970s, but it has also meant that Herbert’s contribution is often mentioned as a mere add-on to the more influential King, when in fact the context from which he emerged, and his influence, is markedly different to his American counterpart. Partly this is because Blatty, King and Herbert were contemporaries, but it is also due to the fact that Blatty and King were part of the vanguard of a transformation in horror that was taking place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Herbert wrote The Rats in 1972, by which time The Exorcist, along with Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Thomas Tyron’s The Other (1971), had begun to establish a new form of contemporary-based horror writing in America. A similar movement was also happening in US cinema through Roman Polanski’s film version of Levin’s novel, released in 1968 alongside George A. Romero’s landmark zombie film Night of the Living Dead (1968). As is well established in horror history, the likes of Romero’s film, as well as later movies such as Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left (1972) and William Friedkin’s adaptation of The Exorcist (1973), forced the horror film into the modern world and signalled the death knell for the historically set gothic tradition of Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations for AIP in America, and for Hammer films in the UK. The impetus was therefore coming mainly from America, and this has tended to obscure the cultural specificity of Herbert’s role and influence as a UK writer. For while he may well have been familiar with Tyron, Levin, or Romero, for these American books and films circulated in the UK, he was equally familiar with


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the works of Dennis Wheatley, who was by far the most popular horror writer in Britain in the early 1970s, and was a particularly home-grown talent whose novels did not travel and sold poorly in the US. Born in January 1897, shortly before the publication of Stoker’s Dracula, Wheatley became an officer in the merchant navy before taking over his family’s wine business after World War One. When the company declined in the early 1930s, Wheatley turned his hand to a new career as a writer. Although his output encompassed many genres from spy thrillers to historical romances, Wheatley was most famous for the books he wrote about the occult, a subject he researched thoroughly over the years, even meeting the famous British occultist Aleister Crowley. Wheatley’s first such novel was The Devil Rides Out (1936), which featured the character of the Duc de Richleau, an aristocrat, adventurer and occult dabbler, who saves his friend Simon from the clutches of a group of Satanic worshippers, led by the evil Mocata. The Duc would appear in a number of Wheatley adventure and/or demonic-based stories until his final outing, Gateway to Hell (1970), and by the 1960s Wheatley was selling a million books a year, with his Satanist tales by far the most successful. It is therefore not surprising that in 1968 the bastion of English cinematic gothic, Hammer Films, should produce back to back adaptations of two of his stories. The first, Uncharted Seas (filmed under the title of The Lost Continent), is a ‘Lost World’ adventure-style narrative featuring shipwrecked survivors battling sea monsters and old civilisations (in this case a group of Spanish Conquistadors) in a land hidden from modernity. In contrast, the second, an adaptation of The Devil Rides Out, takes a deathly serious view of Satanism as Christopher Lee’s Duc pits his wits against Charles Gray’s Mocata. It is a testament to Wheatley’s popular success in the UK that Hammer should choose to add him to their canon of adapted horror writers alongside Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson and H. G. Wells, and it is equally indicative of Wheatley’s peculiarly English appeal that The Devil Rides Out, renamed The Devil’s Bride, was a notable failure at the US box office. Despite being set in the 1920s, a more modern period than Hammer’s usual Victorian era (the novel was set in 1935), The Devil Rides Out is a comfortable fit for Hammer, since Wheatley’s world was as determinedly aristocratic as that of Count Dracula and Baron Victor Frankenstein. In the film The Duc de Richleau, referred to as ‘Your Grace’ by his servants, is both entitled and phenomenally rich (at one point a friend asks if he can borrow a car, and the Duc dismissively replies, ‘yes, yes, take any one you like’), and those who engage with the occult and those who battle it are equally wealthy and impeccably well-bred. When Mocata arrives at the elegant country home of the Duc’s friends Peggy and Richard Eaton to retrieve two of his Satanic flock who are hiding there, he is immaculately dressed and presents his business card to the servant before being shown into the drawing room where he proceeds to politely threaten Peggy before hypnotising her into compliance. He even returns the Duc’s Rolls Royce, left behind in a forest the night before. The Duc’s companions in the fight against Mocata, in addition to Peggy and Richard, included the aviator Rex van Ryn, and the aforementioned Simon Aron, a wealthy banker, who after being lured into Satanism by Mocata responds by buying a large house with a fully equipped observatory so that the coven can meet in private.

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Yet while The Devil Rides Out fits the Hammer mould, albeit updating it slightly by replacing the traditional coach and horses and hansom cab with an impressive collection of classic cars, its appearance the same year as Night of the Living Dead and Rosemary’s Baby marked the beginning of the end not just of Hammer’s American backing, but also for its traditional period-set gothic milieu. The historical and the aristocratic settings were becoming increasingly u­ n-relatable in a post-Empire Britain of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, a situation exacerbated in the early 1970s not only by the success of American contemporary set cinematic and literary horrors, but also through the increasing irrelevance of traditional gothic monsters in a Britain rife with economic decline and rampant inflation. In an attempt to stay competitive Hammer responded by placing Dracula in the modern era in Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972), and in 1976 they incurred the wrath of Wheatley by updating his 1953 novel To the Devil a Daughter to the mid1970s, a modern setting of which Wheatley did not approve. He also did not care for the increased emphasis on sexuality in the film (including a full-frontal nude scene featuring Nastassja Kinski, who is alleged to have been only 14 years old at the time), but sex was one of the main tools in Hammer’s arsenal as it battled for relevance in the 1970s, beginning with the first of the so-called Karnstein trilogy, The Vampire Lovers (1970). This series of films, which also included Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971), was loosely based on J. Sheriden LeFanu’s Carmilla (1872), and while The Vampire Lovers was somewhat restrained, the sequels introduced ever-greater amounts of female nudity and ­soft-core lesbian sex into the Hammer mix. Hammer also upped the levels of gore and bloodletting in its films in the 1970s, which not only drew upon the unprecedented levels of cinematic violence emerging from America in both horror films like Night of the Living Dead and films such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Wild Bunch (1969) but also upon another British literary horror antecedent. In the 1960s and 1970s Wheatley’s principal rival in the horror publishing field was Bertie Maurice Van Thal, who under the name of Herbert Van Thal had started in 1959 to edit The Pan Book of Horror Stories, a series of compilations of classic and new horror short stories featuring strikingly provocative covers and, as the years progressed, increasingly violent content. While not a particular horror aficionado, Herbert was doubtless familiar with Wheatley and Van Thal’s work, as well as having grown up reading the EC horror comics of the 1950s such as Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Terror, which did not shy away from graphic images of shambling, oozing zombies and dismembered corpses. In his writing therefore Herbert would emphatically reject and subvert Wheatley’s aristocratic milieu, while at the same time enthusiastically embrace the violence of Pan Horror and EC, and the explicit sex permitted by the liberalisation of censorship in Britain. In doing so, regardless of whether he intended to or not, he took the gothic tropes of Stoker’s fin de siècle vampire tale that had inspired him, filtered them through his working-class background, and democratised horror for a modern British, and later worldwide, audience. This process is visible right from the prologue of The Rats, which takes place in an old, seemingly deserted house. Herbert describes the house in gothic terms,


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referring to it as being detached and faded, set back from the road and surrounded by foliage and undergrowth that hides it from view. Despite its abandoned appearance, the house is inhabited by an old woman who, in the style of Dickens’ Miss Haversham, never leaves, until one week she fails to pick up the food delivery left on her doorstep, and the police break in to find her mad. A crumbling house encircled by undergrowth and isolated from the world, and a strange, reclusive old woman who has lost her mind are clearly gothic tropes, but as Herbert continues he reveals that this is no crumbling mansion in acres of fog-enshrouded moorland, but rather an old lockkeepers’ house by a disused canal off the East End’s Commercial Road. Likewise, there is nothing supernatural about the rats, which are the indirect descendants of Frankenstein’s monster. They are genetic mutants created by atomic testing in New Guinea, and then returned to London and ­cross-bred with native species in this house by a professor of zoology, who of course is also mad. The theme of mad science overreaching itself continues in Herbert’s second novel, in which the fog is not a natural gothic phenomenon but a man-made chemical creation, manufactured by scientists researching bacteriological weapons at the Ministry of Defence science facility at Porton Down in Wiltshire. Considered too dangerous, the chemical is buried beneath the earth, until underground explosive testing by the army creates a fissure that releases the chemical in the form of a yellow, gaseous fog. As with the old house that opens The Rats, Herbert once again begins The Fog by evoking traditional gothic imagery. As the cloud crosses Salisbury Plain to the west of London, Herbert describes fog-shrouded countryside and aristocratic, isolated dwellings. Early scenes feature a country priest taking a walk through the fields near his church, so lost in thought about his forthcoming sermon that he does not notice when what he refers to as a mist appears around him. At the same time a poacher is encircled by the fog while hiding out on a nearby large estate owned by the unpleasant Colonel Meredith. Driven mad by the chemicals, the poacher breaks into the Colonel’s huge country residence and murders the family, while the more sedate Reverend’s madness manifests by him urinating over his congregation from his pulpit. Meanwhile at an expensive private boys’ school near Andover, housed in a looming, isolated red brick building at the end of a long driveway, the students, in a fit of sexual ecstasy, watch silently as the Deputy Head is castrated with a pair of garden shears. The action therefore begins in a traditional gothic, privileged world in a countryside landscape, but Herbert’s story becomes increasingly democratic and urban in its scope as the fog drifts towards London. After reaching the coast, where the entire population of Bournemouth commit suicide by walking into the sea, the fog heads inland towards the capital, its imminent arrival heralded by two key events. First a group of homing pigeons which flew through the fog over Salisbury Plain return to Hackney and peck their owner to death, and then the pilot of a commercial jumbo jet, which also flies through the fog on its way to London, crashes it into the West End’s Post Office Tower where his unfaithful wife works. Just as The Rats begins in what appears to be a country-based gothic ruin that turns out to be just off the Commercial Road, so too the mayhem of The Fog begins in a more

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traditional-seeming and rarefied upper-class gothic world before arriving among ordinary people in urban environments. This distinction between city and country, the latter wealthy, traditional and gothic, the former mundane, modern and working class, became a significant theme in Herbert’s work, which is replete with large country residences where evil lurks and to which the hero, who is always male, urban and working class, must go. In Lair, Herbert’s hero, an extermination expert named Pender, travels to Epping Forest on the outskirts of London to investigate a sighting of the mutant rats, and finds that they have their lair in a dilapidated, abandoned manor house. In Sepulchre (1987), kidnap and ransom expert Liam Halloran is asked to protect the mysterious Felix Klein, who works for the global Magma Corporation. Halloran’s mission takes him from his company offices in St. Katherine’s Dock to the Magma Corporation headquarters in London’s financial district, and finally to an enormous country estate in Surrey called Neath, where Klein reveals himself to be immensely old and granted immortality by his worship of an ancient Sumerian god named Bel-Marduk. In The Spear, the investigation undertaken by ­ex-British Forces intelligence officer Harry Steadman into arms dealer Edward Gant leads him from his home in London’s Knightsbridge, first to Gant’s mansion in Guildford and then to his enormous estate in Devon. There Gant has sequestered the Spear of Destiny, the object that pierced Christ’s side on the cross, in order to bring about the resurrection of Heinrich Himmler. In all three novels an aristocratic country property hides terrifying evil—natural in Lair, supernatural in The Spear and Sepulchre—and nowhere in Herbert’s work is this equating of old and wealthy country life and sinister forces more evident than in his trilogy of novels featuring the parapsychologist David Ash. Herbert’s Ash trilogy began in 1988 with Haunted, and continued with The Ghosts of Sleath (1994) and Herbert’s final novel, Ash in 2012. Ash is a paranormal investigator working for an organisation called The Psychical Research Institute, and in keeping with Herbert’s theme of city versus country, and the mundane and modern versus the Gothic, the Institute is London based but Ash’s three cases take him outside the city. Haunted leads him to Edbrook, a large house set in substantial grounds near the small village of Ravensmoor, some hundred miles outside of London. The Ghosts of Sleath has him travel to the small, hidden village of Sleath, in the Chiltern Hills close to Oxford, and finally in Ash he must visit the enormous and remote Comraich Castle in Scotland. In all three places Ash is forced to confront a form of evil inextricably bound to history, wealth and privilege. In Edbrook he meets the Mariell family, comprising brothers Robert and Simon and sister Christina, all watched over by their nanny and aunt, Tess Webb. The Mariells are clearly rich. Christina picks up Ash in a vintage Wolseley car, and her brothers meet him in Edbrook’s cavernous oak panelled entrance hall. Like the characters in Wheatley’s novels, the Mariells are as old fashioned and as impeccably well-mannered as their lavish home implies. Robert asks Ash to ‘Permit me to introduce myself’, while Simon responds to meeting Ash with the word ‘Marvellous’. As Ash explores and investigates Edbrook’s library, drawing room, well-stocked wine cellar and formal


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gardens, he discovers Edbrook is haunted by the ghost of a young girl. Despite the decision to bring in an investigator, the Mariells, with the exception of Nanny Tess, are not disturbed by the entity, finding the whole situation amusing rather than frightening. Ultimately it is revealed that they are in fact the ghosts, and that years ago Robert and Christina had died in a fire at Edbrook, and as a result Simon hanged himself. Specifically to torture Ash, the three restless spirits had made an alliance with the spiteful ghost of his sister, Juliet, who drowned when still a child. Ash’s experiences at Edbrook cause a nervous breakdown, but once his recovery is complete he is sent to Sleath, where numerous ghosts have been sighted, including that of a young boy drowned in the bathtub only days before, who appears to his grieving mother. Ash is called in by Grace Lockwood, daughter of the local vicar, and the last descendant of the wealthy family that owned the land and ran the village from their ancestral home of Lockwood Hall, now a ruin on the outskirts of Sleath. Grace and her father seem to be decent people living a frugal but comfortable life, the family having lost its fortune and Lockwood Hall generations earlier and the estate now being owned by a rich magazine magnate named Beardsmore. However, it is revealed that their ancestors were precisely the kind of evil, amoral aristocratic villains that filled the pages of Wheatley’s novels. In the mid-eighteenth century Sebastian Lockwood was a friend of the real-life figure of Sir Francis Dashwood and along with Dashwood founded the notorious group of pagan worshippers known as the Hellfire Club. Herbert specifically links the Hellfire Club to Satanism, although in reality it is more probable that they were simply a group of wealthy and powerful men who met to indulge their various debauched tendencies. The Lockwoods however were genuinely evil. Sebastian was one of a number of Lockwoods who were convinced they were psychopomps, conductors of souls from this world to the next, and to investigate further they murdered people, especially children, and used black magic to try to capture their souls in an attempt to understand the mysteries of death and to grant themselves immortality. The obscene obsessions of the Lockwood family continued right up until Grace’s father, who also indulged in dark rituals at Lockwood Hall. Only Grace is innocent, and it is revealed at the end that Beardsmore is also a Lockwood, the last in a line begun with the bastard son of Sebastian. The inclusion of Beardsmore in The Ghosts of Sleath is significant, since unlike the Mariells and the Lockwoods he is a self-made man, and his presence specifically links old and new money in the practices of evil. Beardsmore may be nouveau riche, but like the corporate puppet Felix Klein in Sepulchre, and the NeoNazi arms dealer Gant in The Spear, he is connected to the same sinister forces as the landed gentry that built the estate that now belongs to him, and in this respect, Herbert again democratises and modernises the traditional gothic trope of past sins influencing and impacting upon the present. Not only does ancient evil endure, but it does so in old buildings owned by new money that stand as atavistic reminders of an aristocratic past that has no place in the modern urban-centric world. Herbert therefore equates timeless evil not only with old money and the aristocracy, drawing upon gothic traditions, but also with new money in the form

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of modern capitalism. This theme reaches its conclusion in Comraith Castle in Ash. Comraith is an ancient Scottish castle that now operates as a sequestered retreat for the super-wealthy, under the watchful eye of a secret society of the UK’s rich and powerful known as the Inner Court. Surrounded on three sides by extensive and heavily guarded grounds, and on the fourth by a sheer cliff, Comraich is built for hiding in, more often than not as a last resort, and so the majority of the guests never leave. Among those living there are Lord Lucan, the British peer who disappeared in the 1960s, Robert Maxwell, the newspaper magnate who supposedly drowned in 1991, several elderly Nazis, an African dictator, a Serbian general and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, all granted shelter by the Inner Court, and by extension absolution for their crimes. At the opposite extremes of Cromraich’s residents, both literally and figuratively, are two special individuals, one a symbol of ultimate innocence, the other of irredeemable corruption. Living in a room at the top of one of the castle’s many towers is Lewis, whose real name is Louis after Prince Philip’s uncle Lord Mountbatten. Lewis is the son of Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Charles, born prematurely at only 18 weeks and hidden from the public at the behest of his father due to a condition that left his skin translucent. At the other end of the castle, sequestered in the deepest dungeon, is an un-named misshapen, deformed abomination, a woman who is revealed to be the daughter of Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler. Her psychic abilities, born of her nefarious parentage and decades of isolation and abuse, allow for the emergence of ghostly manifestations from Comraich’s ancient past that terrorise the residents. Once again old and new evil, both born of wealth and privilege, work together as monsters of the modern world are beset by an ancient curse, muttered by Comraich’s original Laird at the time of the reign of King Edward III, as he watched his family thrown from the castle battlements by vengeful Scottish clans. Comraich itself is a combination of high-tech maximum-security residence, luxury hotel and gothic citadel, the ancient dungeons beneath the castle sitting directly below a ­well-appointed cutting-edge hospital. Gloomy stone-clad corridors branch off of elegantly carpeted hallways, and a state of the art surveillance system is monitored from a control centre close to a stone-walled room filled with displays of ancient weaponry such as pikes and axes. David Ash is the readers’ entry into the secretive, debauched, advantaged and haunted worlds of Edbrook, Lockwood Hall and Comraich. Not only is Ash a city dweller who makes his home in Central London, he is also resolutely working class, a smoker, drinker and sceptic, who has as little time for the supernatural as he does for the rich. He is an everyman figure, immediately distrustful of both the sightings he is asked to investigate, and of those who request he do so. Sullen and uncommunicative, and traumatised by the death of his sister, in each novel Ash is progressively isolated by Herbert who has him travel first to the country, then to a large and old property, and finally to a world populated by spirits and manifestations. Ash is therefore typical of Herbert’s central characters, who are another essential aspect of his democratisation of the Gothic. Whereas Stoker’s novel pitted a series of skilled middle-class professionals—Professor Van Helsing, Doctor Seward, the lawyer Harker and the hunter Quincey Morris—against the aristocratic


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Count Dracula, The Rats established Herbert’s theme of a working-class male hero who is both a loner and an outsider to the establishment that he serves in the story. In The Rats Herbert’s hero, Harris, is not a scientist equipped to battle the rat infestation, but rather an ordinary secondary school teacher whose only skills in dealing with the outbreak are bravery, common sense and an in-depth knowledge of the area. In The Fog, Holman works for the Ministry of the Environment, and so is technically more suited to deal with the fog than Harris was with the rats, but Holman too is an outsider, actually working undercover within the government to seek out and report practices dangerous to the environment. The main reason he becomes involved in the battle against the fog is that having been the first person to be infected, and then the only one to be cured because he is exposed before it becomes fully potent, he is immune to the fog’s murderous effects. Halloran in Sepulchre is an expert in the field of personal protection, but while he knows how to undertake a handbrake turn and reverse a car out of an ambush, he is utterly illequipped to handle ancient Sumerian evil. Likewise, Steadman in The Spear is a former spy, enjoying a peaceful life as a private detective, who is dragged back into his old life against his will. While he can handle himself when posing as an arms dealer, he is out of his depth when faced with the zombiefied corpse of Himmler. As a paranormal investigator Ash’s skills are more germane to the situations he faces, but his main focus is in debunking the paranormal and so while he brings with him all the tools of his trade such as remote cameras and talcum powder to capture ghostly (or human) footsteps, he too is unable to cope with genuine supernatural phenomena, so much so that the ghosts of Edbrook drive him to the edge of insanity, and over the threshold of alcoholism. Herbert’s heroes are therefore rationalists, pragmatic men who feel they know and understand the worlds that they inhabit and believe what they are involved in can be solved and understood in a rational manner, but who are all ultimately, in true gothic style, forced to come face to face with the primal, the irrational and the uncanny. Ash, Halloran, Steadman and Harris therefore are meant to represent the reader, or at least the male reader. They are everyday professional men for whom the world of demons, spectres and monsters is unfamiliar and inconceivable, and who belong in untidy London flats, offices and bars rather than manor houses and medieval castles. Like the reader, they are outside of the world into which they are thrust, and this is another example of Herbert’s marshalling and modernising of gothic tropes. Not only do the likes of Ash and Halloran echo Harker and Morris in Stoker’s Dracula, with their decency, tenacity and pragmatism in the face of incomprehensible events, but also the journeys they take to Neath and Edbrook have echoes of Harker’s arrival at Castle Dracula, Jane Eyre finding herself at Thornfield Hall, or the heroine who arrives at Manderlay in Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938). Herbert’s heroes update the gothic ingénues, the innocent thrust into a world of ancient secrets that reach into the present to baffle and terrify them. In Herbert’s work, these central characters also serve the political subtext which is another key aspect of Herbert’s modernising of the Gothic, for it is through them that Herbert articulates his anger at those responsible for contemporary society’s lack of support for working-class people, specifically modern corporations and the

James Herbert’s Working-Class Horror


UK Government. This theme emerges in The Rats and stemmed from Herbert’s own childhood. He escaped his poor background by gaining a place at grammar school, and then by entering Hornsey College of Art in Highgate at 16. This led to his lucrative career in advertising, and a move out of the East End, but Herbert retained a sense of injustice and frustration at the poor conditions of his youth due to the lack of urban regeneration. It is therefore deliberate that the forces of the establishment in The Rats have so little familiarity with an area of London they had ignored for years that they need Harris to show them around. Alongside the rats, Herbert sees the government as the villain, as they first ignore, and then clumsily try to solve, the rat problem. Indeed, Herbert saw the government and the rats as equivalents, telling Fangoria magazine in 1983, that the rats represented the system, and that the novel ended with some of them surviving because in life the system is never fully defeated.3 Harris is therefore an outsider to the government, forced to work with them in the same way that Ash is an outsider in the aristocratic and corporate worlds of Edbrook, Lockwood Manor and Comraich. By equating both old and new money and forms of power with evil, Herbert is able to extend the traditional gothic critique of wealth and privilege normally reserved for the gentry to include contemporary forms of overbearing oppression and corrupt authority, from incompetent and indifferent government departments to the military, to global business and to secret societies, such as the Inner Court who sequester the guilty rich, the Magma Corporation who turn a blind eye to Klein’s deviant and murderous pursuits, and the wealthy members of the Thule Gesellschaft, the Neo-Nazi group led by Gant in The Spear. In Shrine (1983) Herbert even turns his critical eye to the Catholic Church, with his tale of a deaf-mute girl who apparently has a vision of the Virgin Mary in a field by St. Joseph’s Church in the Sussex village of Banfield, and then magically regains her speech. It gradually emerges that all is not what it seems. Alice was conceived out of wedlock on the same spot where she had her vision, and also where, 500 years previously, a sorceress named Elnor was put to death by the Church, an act of violence that means the Church is complicit in what turns out to be Alice’s demonic possession. Alice is the victim, a child from a poor family living in a council house who is beset by Herbert’s ‘system’, forces beyond her control including two unscrupulous businessmen attempting to capitalise on Alice’s fame and healing powers, the corrupt cleric whose seduction led to Elnor’s execution, the demonic evil that infests Alice/Elnor, and the lustful nature of her conception. Underlying all this is a warning about the detrimental effects of poverty and economic decline. Alice’s family is connected to St. Joseph’s not only through her visitation but also by the fact that her mother, Molly, cleans the church for minimum wages. St. Joseph’s itself has fallen on hard times, its congregation steadily dwindling, while Banfield is in the grip of economic decline. In Shrine deprivation, as much as depravity, is responsible for Alice’s fate. Alice’s story is witnessed by a reporter named Gerry Fenn, who is the first to witness Alice speak. Fenn once again is the typical Herbert outsider, confronted by a world he does not understand and cannot initially accept. As with most of Herbert’s tales, however, he is assisted in his entry to this world by an insider,


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who is invariably female and is always on the periphery of the evil world, with one foot inside it (making them privy to some of its secrets) and one outside (meaning they are able to relate to the hero outsider in an ambiguous but ultimately ­non-threatening way). In Shrine this figure is Fenn’s girlfriend Sue, who is Catholic and thus able to interpret some of the meanings of the events surrounding Alice. Having allowed her faith to lapse, what she witnesses with Fenn draws her back to the church and she becomes involved with the organisation of a procession through the village and a mass at the base of the tree where Alice had her first vision, which is where the novel reaches its apocalyptic denouement. Sue however is uncharacteristic of the typical Herbert female character in that she already knows the hero before the story begins, and because during the course of the book she does not sleep with him, mainly because the supposed miracle of Alice renews her flagging faith. In Shrine the role of the hero’s sexual partner is taken on by Nancy, a reporter from The Washington Post, who is therefore even more of an outsider than Fenn. More often however this dual role of insider and sexual partner is the same person. In Sepulchre Halloran learns about Felix Klein’s past through his relationship with Cora, Klein’s personal assistant, whom Klein has corrupted by introducing her to sadomasochistic sex, something which Cora subsequently forces upon Halloran. When Harry Steadman first meets Gant in The Spear, the arms dealer is accompanied by a journalist, Holly Miles, who is related to Gant’s wife and thus has privileged access. After she and Steadman are almost run over by a tank, they sleep together. In The Ghosts of Sleath Ash begins a relationship with Grace Lockwood, based upon a mutual and instant attraction that is the result of some kind of psychic link between them. Grace not only is able to help him navigate his way around the village and people of Sleath, as a Lockwood she is also able to fill him in on the family history before becoming his lover. In Ash the parapsychologist enjoys a relationship with Delphine, a psychologist working at Comraith Castle. She is thus able to reveal its secrets to Ash, while at the same time remaining distant from its corruption, having been manipulated into working for the Inner Court by her father. Like the residents at Comraith, she too cannot leave, and has learnt to turn a blind eye to the Inner Court’s misdeeds, partly by focussing her attention on helping the innocent Lewis. As figures who are both part of the evil but also removed from it, facilitating its downfall through the help they give the hero, Herbert’s female characters represent a merging of the gothic tropes of the innocent and the fatal woman, though not always in equal balance. In the case of Cora in Sepulchre, her seduction of Halloran is deliberate and calculated, albeit under coercion, as part of a ploy by Klein to keep Halloran distracted. Equally in Haunted, Ash is seduced by the ghost Christina as part of his sister’s plan to drive him mad. More often than not, however, as in the case of Delphine and Grace Lockwood, the main female character simply falls for the hero and gives him her body along with her insight. In The Spear, Holly does the same, but is also revealed to be a CIA agent whose mission is to infiltrate Gant’s inner circle and to protect Steadman. While often problematic in the sense that Herbert tends to develop these relationships in a somewhat clunky fashion—the women tend to throw themselves at the hero with remarkable

James Herbert’s Working-Class Horror


speed—it is also possible to argue that Herbert simply assigns his female characters perfectly normal sexual agency. While it is true that they often end up dead—Grace Lockwood for example is torn apart by vengeful ghosts before Ash’s eyes—they are rarely punished because they are sexually active. Herbert therefore includes his semi-pornographic depictions of sex not as a moral indicator but rather because sex is simply a part of adult life, and although his female characters are always seen through the eyes of the protagonist in order to preserve their inside/outside ambiguity, and therefore lack an interior voice and are frequently objectified, he does not judge them for their active sexuality. These women, like the traditional gothic heroine, are trapped in a labyrinth and need saving by the male lead, the difference being that in reaching out to the hero they actively seek their salvation. Here again Herbert brings to bear the notion of class. Despite her titled heritage, Grace Lockwood works in a museum of Medieval Art in France before returning to Sleath to look after her father. Delphine comes from money and power, but is indifferent to it, staying at Comraich because of her selfless commitment to Lewis’ care, and because of a promise to her father. Even though she is more complicit, Cora in Sepulchre is a working-class girl doing a secretarial job at Magma before being hand-picked by Klein to be his PA because he sees in her an English Rose that he can corrupt. These are ordinary women and are thus able to relate to Herbert’s heroes on that level; they are connected to wealth but they, like the men for whom they fall, are not part of it. Only Christina in Haunted is set apart as deliberately evil and manipulative, embracing as she does her aristocratic heritage. Herbert therefore builds his tales around a series of opposites—good versus evil, country versus city, and wealth/privilege versus the working class. But behind all of these is a fundamental clash between the old and the new, between ancient evil and modern misanthropy, and between the traditions of classic gothic literature and the modern world. In the 1970s, Herbert’s work acted as a bridge between the gothic writings of Dennis Wheatley and the evermore creaky Victorian melodramas of Hammer, dragging British horror traditions into the late twentieth century and paving the way for a new generation of British horror writers. The result however is that the legacy of James Herbert is often seen, somewhat unfortunately, as being primarily a slew of pulp paperbacks featuring Britain being attacked by multitudes of evermore absurd killer creatures. These included crabs in Guy N. Smith’s series, the first three of which were Night of the Crabs (1976), Killer Crabs (1978) and The Origin of the Crabs (1979), slugs in Shaun Hutson’s novel of the same name from 1982, and worms, jellyfish and caterpillars in John Halkin’s books Slither (1980), Slime (1984) and Squelch (1985), respectively. Richard Lewis in 1983 produced Night Killers which featured murderous cockroaches, and even cats and dogs had an appearance thanks to Nick Sharman’s The Cats (1977) and Robert Calder’s The Dogs (1979). Printed with lurid covers, just as Van Thal’s collections had been in the 1960s, these books varied in quality and critically have been largely dismissed as lurid exploitation. Their association with Herbert through their short, high concept titles and killer creatures served to drag down his reputation and obscure his very real and


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significant contribution to modern British horror and modern literary horror in general, a situation exacerbated by the fact that Herbert was neither a sophisticated nor a particularly literary writer. His books have a pared-down, simple prose style that simplifies character motivation in favour of narrative momentum. It does not matter for example why the leading female character and the hero sleep together, it only matters that they do, and what they get up to as they do it. Yet two of the most celebrated modern British horror authors, Clive Barker and Ramsay Campbell, cite Herbert as a significant influence, with Campbell for example contributing a new introduction to a limited edition of The Fog published by Centipede Press in 2010, and leading a tribute to Herbert at the Liverpool Other Words Literary Festival in the week after Herbert’s death. Ultimately when it comes to modern literary horror since the 1970s, it is Stephen King, alongside his predecessors and contemporaries such as Levin, Blatty, Peter Straub and Anne Rice that tend to be considered the most influential authors, since with works like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Salem’s Lot, Ghost Story (1979) and Interview with the Vampire (1976) they updated traditional horror monsters (the Devil, ghosts, demons and vampires) into the modern world. Yet each of these tales is American-set, and indeed King is notable for the ways in which he uses familiar brand names to counterpoint the supernatural evil and root his stories in a very real-seeming world. His is, exclusively, a world of Americana, and while American culture undoubtedly has a global familiarity, and King’s tales of good and evil have a transnational reach, it was James Herbert who fundamentally and almost single-handedly broke the hegemony of the Victorian Gothic in British horror writing, and made horror relevant again for a new generation.

Notes 1. Stephen King, ‘Introduction’, in Stephen Jones (ed.) James Herbert: By Horror Haunted (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1992), 9–16. 2. Stephen King, Danse Macabre (New York, Everest House, 1982), 339. 3. Martin Coxhead, ‘From Rats to Riches: The Horror Fiction of James Herbert’, Fangoria 30, 1983, pp. 34–37.

Bibliography Cabell, Craig (2013) James Herbert: The Authorised True Story 1943–2013 (London: Metro). Coxhead, Martin (1983) ‘From Rats to Riches: The Horror Fiction of James Herbert,’ Fangoria 30, pp. 34–37. Fisher, Terrence, dir. (1968) The Devil Rides Out. Freeman, Nick (2006) ‘A Decadent Appetite for the Lurid: James Herbert, The Spear and Nazi Gothic,’ Gothic Studies 8:2, pp. 80–97. Grixti, Joseph (1989) Terrors of Uncertainty: The Cultural Contexts of Horror Fiction (London: Routledge).

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Herbert, James (1974) The Rats (London: New English Library). Herbert, James (1975) The Fog (London: New English Library). Herbert, James (1978) The Spear (London: New English Library). Herbert, James (1979) Lair (London: New English Library). Herbert, James (1983) Shrine (London: New English Library). Herbert, James (1987) Sepulchre (London: Hodder and Stoughton). Herbert, James (1988) Haunted (London: Hodder and Stoughton). Herbert, James (1994) The Ghosts of Sleath (London: HarperCollins). Herbert, James (2012) Ash (London: Harper Collins). Jones, Stephen, ed. (1992) James Herbert: By Horror Haunted (London: Hodder and Stoughton). King, Stephen (1982) Danse Macabre (New York: Everest House). Shober, Adrian (2004) ‘Writing the Possessed Child in British Culture: James Herbert’s Shrine,’ Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 14:4 (56), pp. 447–458. Spark, Alasdair (1993) ‘Horrible Writing: The Early Fiction of James Herbert.’ In Clive Bloom (ed.) Creepers: British Horror and Fantasy in the Twentieth Century (London: Pluto Press), pp. 147–160. Tudor, Lucia- Alexandra (2014) ‘King of the Rats,’ Romanian Journal of Artistic Creativity 2:3, pp. 67–81. Wisker, Gina (1993) ‘Horrors and Menaces to Everything Decent in Life: The Horror Fiction of Dennis Wheatley.’ In Clive Bloom (ed.) Creepers: British Horror and Fantasy in the Twentieth Century (London: Pluto Press), pp. 99–110. Wisker, Gina (2016) ‘Dennis Wheatley.’ In William Hughes, David Punter, and Andrew Smith (eds.) The Encyclopedia of the Gothic (Chichester: Wiley), pp 737–739.

Re-defining the Genre with Mo Hayder Sian MacArthur

If there was any doubt that Tokyo is a novel in which the past and the present have imperative roles then this opening sentence certainly makes this intention clear. In keeping with Gothic tradition whereby ‘the legacies of the past’ create ‘burdens on the present’1 Tokyo is indeed a text in where old and new are positioned side by side; where history and the present are linked in ways far deeper and far darker than can possibly be imagined. Tokyo is a complex novel, one which explores the extent to which the ‘repercussions of the past within the present’2 can consume, overwhelm and ultimately destroy if they remain unaddressed. There is much within Tokyo that can be considered ‘Gothic’ in theme; there is the requisite villain, the innocent female victim, danger lurking at every turn in old and abandoned buildings as well as shameful and forbidden history—but these are oft-replicated and simple tools; Tokyo has a gothic validity and a gothic intent that far exceeds mere ‘hackneyed’3 convention or the clever working of ‘staple Gothic ingredients’.4 The novel is multi-layered and complex and is indeed an example of a contemporary gothic discourse that echoes ‘earlier Gothic traditions while expressing at times an entirely different range of cultural agendas’.5 At first glance Tokyo is not necessarily recognisable as a gothic novel, in that it follows the trend of contemporary ‘Gothic narrative patterns’ which work themselves ‘free of the texts in which we are most accustomed to recognize them…’.6 It is a novel that adopts all of the tropes of the traditional gothic text, but handles them with such skill that (as is true of much contemporary Gothic) whilst we may ‘search for a genesis’ we ‘find only ghostly manifestation’.7 At its heart, Tokyo is a novel that follows the path from innocence to experience. Whilst this is a theme very much a part of traditional Gothic, within Tokyo this theme is granted a modern perspective that includes heavy onus on ­self-awareness and personal growth. This degree of introspection is one of the more easily recognisable features of contemporary or modern Gothic, and it is

S. MacArthur (*)  London, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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crucial regarding the extent to which the protagonist will escape from his or her heavy burden of ignorance. In modern Gothic the labyrinths and underground tunnels of old are replaced by a different sort of prison; the prison of the mind. Protagonists are imprisoned by their ignorance and their lack of understanding. In Tokyo knowledge is indeed power and it is only through the acquisition of knowledge that the character Grey can escape the horror of her past. In this rite of passage that distinguishes naivety from knowledge, Hayder calls upon one of the oldest gothic conventions, that of an undisclosed history; a secret that has not only shaped, but continues to influence the present. So in what context exactly does this theme manifest itself within the novel? Certainly, the very structure of the text permits the connections betwixt past and present to be readily made; the novel moves seamlessly between the past and the present in the form of diary entries pertaining to the invasion of Nanking by the Japanese Imperial Army in 1937. In a contemporary twist, Hayder replaces the ancient manuscript that was a common feature of traditional Gothic, and gives it a very personal relevance in the form of Chongming’s personal diary. The Gothic has long had a ‘problem of assimilating social anxieties…into a personal narrative in some way that connects the Gothic protagonist to the reader’8 and the diary solves this conundrum wonderfully, but it serves another purpose too—and that is to introduce to the text the traditionally gothic theme of repression. Chongming is a man imprisoned by his personal history, an elderly man haunted by the demons of his past. His diaries and the words written within them are literally the verbal manifestation of these demons—and he has forbidden himself from ever looking upon them again. He fears them, and yet at the same time is drawn to them in much the same way as the monk Ambrosio was drawn to the beguiling Rosario in Lewis’ novel The Monk. Desiring the forbidden has long been a feature of gothic writing, dating as far back as Otranto and even present in more hybrid forms of the genre such as Shelley’s Frankenstein. No matter where it occurs, the result is always the same, and the allure of the forbidden speaks as loudly of compulsion as is does repression. Ultimately Chongming is overwhelmed by compulsion and desire: In all these years I have kept my vow never to revisit that winter, never to read the words I wrote that year. I have kept the vow rigidly, and yet today, for a reason that is totally beyond my understanding…I instinctively reached into the desk drawer for the battered old diary… Why, I wonder, why after all these years do I itch to open the first page?…9

As is typical of the Gothic the weight of the Chongming’s past signifies ‘both beauty and terror’10 and perhaps it is this rather heady combination that makes the diaries and their contents so compelling. Whilst it is true that ‘every society has to insist on repression in order to function’,11 this ‘dominant feature’12 has also to be said of the individual. What it means within the Gothic is that in confronting ‘events of their past of which they do not want to be reminded, but need to address in order to move on’13 protagonists are able to rid themselves of their ghosts, break free of their shackles and ‘come all the way back to the beginning’14 in order that they can continue towards the next stage in their lives.

Re-defining the Genre with Mo Hayder


Within the text, the significance of the past upon the present affects not only characters, but is an essential part of the complex psycho-geographical aspect of the novel. Readers of gothic fiction will be more than familiar with the concept of psycho-geography within the genre; simply put the link between person and place—specifically the extent to which we are influenced by our physical environments. In traditional gothic writing, this motif manifested itself in a fairly singularly dimensional manner—complex, secret passageway and tunnels beneath a building became physical representations of the dark and dangerous networks operating within the mindset of the villain. As the genre developed and grew in complexity so did the extent to which writers engaged with the concept of ­psycho-geography; single dwellings such as the Otranto castle morphed into multiple dwellings such as the house and the motel in Bloch’s Psycho. In due course, entire towns and cities (Inspector Wexford’s Kingsmarkham and Rebus’ Edinburgh for example) took on significance in understanding the motivations and behaviours of their (fictional) inhabitants. Tokyo adopts this trope to fantastic effect; juxtaposing the old and the new, the traditional and the modern aspect of the city wonderfully. The gloss, glitz and glamour of modern Tokyo with its subways and skyscrapers shows the city in all its modernity, but turn a corner and it is easy to lose yourself in the streets of old Tokyo: Away from the electric roar of commerce there were silent, cool alleys: a warren of cranky little streets jammed into the crevices behind the skyscrapers…15

That Tokyo has a sinister side complete with ‘carnivorous-looking plants’ and ‘dark, breathing’16 spaces is very apparent, but it is also touchingly gentle and sentimental; the Zojoji temple demonstrates beautifully the depth and soul behind this city with its violent and very brutal past. It is a city that is hard to define, difficult to identify with and consequently falls in line with the long Gothic tradition of ‘things not being what they seem’.17 There is more to this than just being simply a source of duplicity however. Of course, this modern city should be a safe place, but as a consequence of careful description and disturbing imagery Tokyo city becomes instead becomes ‘abject…monstrous’18 and we are left in no doubt that there are strong and dangerous forces at work here. Within the text this dangerous force takes the form of the seemingly frail and benign Junzo Fuyuki. With a physical presence that speaks nothing of his capability for utter evil, Fuyuki really is the perfect modern gothic villain, invoking terror in almost all of those who come into contact with him. At first introduction it seems hard to understand the reaction that the ‘diminutive insectile man’19 being pushed in his wheelchair has upon those working in the ‘Some Like It Hot’ bar: …twenty hostesses turned nervous eye to Strawberry, who was moving among the tables, whispering names, calling them up to sit with the group. In her face there was a strange, bloodless look of something like anger. For a moment I couldn’t place that expression, but when she threw back her head and clipped her way across the floor to me, I saw it. All the muscles in her face were twitching. Strawberry was nervous.20


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Those who fear Fuyuki are right to do so; for this modern gothic villain is truly a dangerous man. With crimes limited to neither one place nor one particular time, Fuyuki has an omnipresence and he is just as dangerous a man in present Japan day as he was back in Nanking in 1937. Like Hannibal Lecter, Patrick Bateman, Norman Bates and very many others, Fuyuki wears his mask well; disguise and fakery might well be gothic fodder, but when executed well, they are indeed the source of ‘the most striking Gothic effects’.21 The other villain within the text, and the source of immediate evil and danger for Grey is Jason; arrogant, manipulative, spoiled Jason—who just loves ‘to fuck freaks’.22 Jason is a sexual predator, seeking to control and overwhelm through sexual ownership. His possession of Grey is not limited to just the physical—he intends fully to consume every part of her in order to fulfil his dark and twisted sexual fantasies: He gave a short, dry laugh. ‘You forget I can tell when you’re lying.’… He looked down at it with a long, slow smile. ‘I’m going to get all the way inside you,’ he said quietly. ‘All the way. But don’t be scared, I’m going to do it very, very slowly.’23

Fuyuki’s desires go way beyond sexual gratification. Of course he enjoys the company of the hostesses at the clubs, but what Fuyuki really wants is to stay alive. Immortality has always been a predominant theme within the Gothic; in the earliest manifestations of the genre this theme presented itself through the need of the villain to beget a male heir through which his ancestral lineage could continue. As the genre grew and developed so too did the ways in which this trope was explored; immortality through reincarnation, reanimation, pacts with the devil, and in this example the firm belief that eternal life can be achieved through the consumption of human flesh. Fuyuki’s particular elixir of course has absolutely nothing to do with his surviving into old age, but nevertheless what it does reveal to us is the ongoing importance of ‘imaginative excess and delusions, religious and human evil’ and ‘social transgression’24 within the Gothic. Fuyuki is a man who certainly enjoys many of the comforts of modern life and the privileges that wealth can bring. He is a man of excess; and the Gothic, if nothing else, is ‘a writing of excess’.25 Fuyuki falls within that bracket of gothic villains who operate with neither shame, guilt or any kind of inner torment. It is a feature of some modern Gothic to blur the boundary between villain and victim (consider the abuse that young Francis Dolarhyde suffered at the hands of Grandmother in Red Dragon or the domineering Mother Bates in Psycho), but this simply can not be said of Fuyuki, who falls quite nicely within that camp of despicable individuals who torment and kill just because they want to. Fuyuki, like Hannibal Lecter (pre-Hannibal Rising—certainly he was a far more compelling character when it was believed that he killed just for pleasure and indulgence) and like Temple Gault or Patrick Bateman, has complete and absolute faith in his methods and practices. He commits his transgressions out of an unshakable sense of entitlement and indulgent desire; he does it simply because he can.

Re-defining the Genre with Mo Hayder


What this does of course is reject that feature of contemporary Gothic that encourages ‘sympathy for the monster’,26 and as a consequence Fuyuki, although powerful, becomes more singularly dimensional in character. It also rejects that tendency within traditional Gothic to focus ‘on the psychology of the villain rather than [the] heroine’.27 The focus within Tokyo largely focuses upon Grey and Chongming and the events in their personal histories that have brought them to Tokyo. Grey’s position within the narrative is complicated. On the one hand she has committed a great atrocity, but it was an act not committed out of malice, rage or spite. Certainly she carries a very great and heavy burden of guilt and shame surrounding the loss of her daughter; an act that was committed in ignorance rather than evil, but nevertheless resulted in the death of her unborn child. It is this notion of shame that leads us to question repression and the role that repression has within the narrative. Repression has always been a fundamental part of the Gothic; traditionally this theme manifested itself in the revealing of a secret that the villain had long tried to keep buried. This ‘haunting return of past trangressions’28 would more often than not take the form of evocative dreams, ghosts or apparitions or the discovery of a letter or diary that ultimately brought about exposure, but in more contemporary Gothic repression is much more to do with unresolved personal trauma. Characters who experience excessive ‘disruption of domestic history’ often suffer deep ‘psychological complications’ that ‘continually interrupt [their] perception of the world’. Consequently ‘the protagonist of the contemporary Gothic often experiences history as mixed up, reversed, and caught up in a simultaneity of past-present-future’.29 This confused chronology manifests itself in the very structure of the novel, which constantly shifts between past and present, but it also defines both Grey and Chongming as characters suspended between past and present, unable to move forward or consider any kind of future until they are able to restore ‘fluidity’ and ‘linear progression’30 to their understanding of their personal histories. Both Grey and Chongming are characters with secrets; unresolved issues from their pasts. It is shame that has forced Chongming to keep his secret for so long, and shame that forces Grey to cover herself so completely, hiding her scars from Jason. Much of Grey’s shame is of course attached to her sexuality; something that she is simultaneously fascinated and frightened by: I didn’t dare say how much I wished I had a boyfriend…if I said anything they’d tell me my outrageous impulses were the root or a greater evil, that I was walking round with a wolf living inside me…I was sure no other girl on earth had got to know the dark tract between her legs the way I knew mine…I was afraid that one day I’d reach down there and my fingers would brush over its wet nose.31

In traditional Gothic the growth from innocence to experience was inevitably the result of the heroine having survived sexual predatory behaviour at the hands of the villain. Walpole’s Isabella, Lewis’ Antonia, Shelley’s Elizabeth and even Le Fanu’s Rose Velderkaust all attract the unwanted attentions of sexual predators who seek to claim and to possess no matter what the consequence. Virginity and


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sexual purity were qualities to be preserved at all costs; sexual defilement was the ultimate horror—a stain on the character that the heroine could ill afford be marked with. In these early examples the virtue of the heroine ultimately remained intact as a consequence of fortuitous and timely intervention by the young hero who would appear just in the nick of time to save the heroine from not only her pursuer, but also the life of shame that would be the inevitable result of defilement. In Tokyo Hayder absolutely rejects this motif, this mark of ‘male Gothic’32 and gives it a very modern spin in that Grey, a sexually active young woman, effectively becomes responsible for her own survival. With no prospect of a dashing young hero to intervene, Grey must learn—albeit the hard way—that Jason is a dangerous predator and that it is not just her virtue and her morality that are at risk, but her life: Jason, I thought, getting to my feet and brushing down my coat, Jason, believe me, you are stranger, stranger and more insane than I have ever been. What I did was ignorant and wrong, but I was never as wrong as you are.33

With the parting shot that she has ‘just made the biggest mistake of her life’34 and that she will regret it until the day she dies, Grey realises this she is very much in a race against time to secure her safety against not only the monster Jason himself, but also the monsters he has brought to her door. Grey’s detachment from Jason, and her growing awareness as to exactly what he is becomes an imperative part of her growing self-awareness and her ability to reconcile with what she did to her unborn child. She is on the cusp not of innocence, as befitted the traditional gothic heroine, but the cusp of maturity. When confronted with Jason’s evil Grey is able to fully recognise evil when she comes face to face with it, and crucially she does not recognise it within herself: I’ve got something important to tell you. You’re wrong when you say we’re the same. We’re not…ignorance…is not the same as insanity. It’s not the same as perversion, or evil, or any of the other things you could accuse me of. Some people are crazy, and others are sick, and there are others still who are evil or freaky or whatever you call it. But this is very important…They are not the same as the ignorant.35

Through Jason Grey has managed to learn a very important lesson—and with this lesson comes clarity and perspective that hereto were out of her reach. It is no coincidence that after this showdown with Jason that Grey returns to her room with a new outlook and a new focus; one which allows her to connect the dots between the information she has been given and to finally begin to realise exactly what it is that she is looking for. The item that she has been charged with identifying is of course the mummified remains of Chongming’s daughter; the baby that was stolen from its mother’s belly by Junzo Fuyuki. Fuyuki has over the course of decades been slowly eating these remains, believing that within them he has found an elixir, a holy grail that essentially is keeping him alive. This aged war criminal’s cannibalism is about far more than retaining health and vitality—far more than healing even. It is about power and the complete control and domination over others; it is about deliberate defiance of those social and moral boundaries that provide security and stability:

Re-defining the Genre with Mo Hayder


Gothic terrors activate a sense of the unknown and project an uncontrollable and overwhelming power which threatens not only the loss of sanity, honour, property or social standing but the very order which supports and is regulated by the coherence of those terms.36

Fuyuki’s transgression invokes all the requisite ‘terrors and horrors’37 of gothic writing. His cannibalism is at one level a variation upon the theme of vampirism within gothic novels of the Victorian era, but it is also indicative of the growing tendency within contemporary Gothic to expose the dangers of consumer culture. Certainly, the Gothic ‘adapts itself well to the conditions of late capitalism’,38 Fuyuki’s overwhelming brutality absolutely results in the complete domination of those around, people who become mere resources to seize and utilise as befits his desires. Fuyuki is the ultimate consumer, driven perhaps by the ‘­consumptioncompulsion that drives the culture of late capitalism’.39 He is a self-made man of power, commanding allegiance and obedience. He does not expect to be challenged, undermined or have his dominance threatened in any way. Like so many of his villainous predecessors, Fuyuki is a collector; his vast collection of war memorabilia for example demonstrates quite clearly his desire for ownership. It is through acquisition that Fuyuki creates the illusion of power—a behaviour that he learnt back in Nanking, where the display of scalps attached to his belt invoked both terror and admiration; depending of course on which side of the gun scope you sat. What distinguishes Fuyuki from many of his gothic predecessors is the lack of sexual motivation behind his transgression. Early gothic texts are readily identifiable by their strong sexual charge—villains are highly sexually motivated, sexual predators overwhelmed by lust and desire. Similarly Victorian Gothic is largely defined by its concept of unrestrained sexuality as both inhumane and extremely dangerous. Within Tokyo there is of course the suggestion that unchecked sexual desire is not without its risks, but it is certainly not the only danger present within the narrative. Indeed sexuality within the text can not be examined or understood without clearly linking it to the overwhelming theme of entitlement that dominates the narrative. If we look for a moment towards the historical aspect to the novel we can perhaps begin to see just how this theme of entitlement begins to take shape, and identify the extent to which contemporary Gothic is ‘inherently concerned with the incursions of the past into the present’.40 In 1937 Japan was a nation struggling for resources, in economical difficulty and social turmoil. Supremely Nationalist, yet acutely aware of the disparity between its own wealth and the wealth of Western colonial powers, Japan needed a strategy by which to both procure the resources it needed in order to facilitate economic growth and consequently achieve sustainability and stability. This desire for power, wealth and stability led directly to the invasion of Nanking, the events of which serve as the catalyst for the novel. Of course the Nanking invasion was part of a much greater attempt by imperial Japan to conquer republican China; namely the Second Sino-Japanese War, and by the time the Imperial army reached Nanking they had already achieved control of


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Manchuria and carried out successful invasions of Beijing and Shanghai. Riding the crest of these successes the Japanese army advanced towards Nanking and in December of 1937 the massacre began. What we need to ask ourselves, given the context of events, is why Tokyo—a gothic novel—would find a home within these events? What is it about this particular atrocity that sparks imagination? It is in attempting to answer these questions that stability becomes an interesting concept. Ensuring stability is indeed a fundamental part of gothic writing which is ultimately all to do with survival and achieving relevancy and purpose through ancestral lineage or through immortality. The desire for relevancy grows out of the fear of inconsequentiality and of invisibility, and also out of the arrogance of a culture of entitlement. The transgressions of gothic villains throughout all of the various manifestations of the genre have been motivated by the desire for relevancy. In order to fulfil this desire they act with arrogance and entitlement, simply taking the resources that they need in acts of excessive and unchecked procurement. If we can understand and accept this as a motivation, then it becomes clear as to why a modern gothic novel such as Tokyo would find a natural home within these specific events. The Imperialist Army becomes the perfect villain—taking what it needs in order to fulfil its objective without conscience, rationale or self-control. China in turn becomes the perfect victim; possessing the resources, the population and the size that when occupied successfully will bring to Japan not only economic success and stability, but it will send a message to the rest of the world that Japan matters. China was also undergoing massive internal conflict at the time of the invasions, specifically the conflict between Old China—her folklores and beliefs— and New China as she sweeps towards industrialisation and modernity that threaten to leave Old China behind. This is important to note because what makes a gothic victim susceptible to being victimised is her presenting to the villain as someone on the cusp of change; immaturity into maturity, innocence into experience for example. Whatever the root of the change is ultimately does not matter. What matters is that in that moment of change the victim belongs to neither camp and in that moment is effectively without identity, and consequently her vulnerabilities are exposed. Chongming’s wife, Shujin, represents Old China—her way of life, her code of conduct and even her morality are bound in folklore and tradition, and Chongming in contrast represents modernity. Throughout the course of their marriage he is unsympathetic, frustrated and even ashamed of their union: The time I spend fretting about my wife! Thinking about our differences…I had always expected to make a sensible alliance, maybe with someone from the university, one of those forward thinkers…what a disastrous match; the village girl with her ri shu almanacs, her lunar calendars…When the marriage took place…I told no-one.41

The marriage of Shujin and Chongming represents the internal conflict within China at the period; but despite Chongming’s many protestations, for Shujin the voice of the past is too loud to ignore; it is too much a part of her identity for her

Re-defining the Genre with Mo Hayder


to even contemplate moving away from it. Shujin’s behaviour carries a clear moral message—that we none of us can escape our pasts, and nor should we attempt to do so for they are our pasts, our personal and our collective histories and they matter, they matter very much indeed. It is a conclusion that Chongming himself does in the fullness of time come to realise, but the realisation comes to him too late. He and Shujin do not manage to flee Nanking successfully, and her unwavering belief that she will die in Nanking comes true. The role of prediction, legend and prophecy within Tokyo is significant, as it always has been within traditional Gothic. Chongming is dismissive of his wife’s dreams and sense of foreboding, and he pays the ultimate price for this. Indeed faith and belief hold enormous importance within the novel. Not religious faith and belief as typified early gothic writing, but beliefs of tradition and culture. Chongming’s greatest sin is his arrogance in refusing so steadfastly to take the beliefs of his ‘backward’42 wife. Since earliest boyhood Chongming has been embarrassed by his roots; his traditional family and their ‘superstitious and backward ways’.43 Desperate to be regarded as enlightened, progressive and modern Chongming adopts an arrogance and a pride that unfortunately brings about tragedy. He confesses: I tremble with embarrassment when I consider her, when I consider all my backward and superstitious family…Maybe I’ll never escape either, and maybe this is the worst of the enduring truths about me: the proud young linguist from Jinling University, who is underneath just a boy from a China that doesn’t look forward and doesn’t change – that only stands still and waits for death…I wonder, can I hope to escape my past?44

In contrast, Grey is a character who is acutely aware of the link between her past and her present, and very much connected to her personal history. Throughout the text she reveals details about her upbringing, the beliefs and attitudes of her parents in particular, with honesty: ‘I was afraid of my parents, especially of my mother’45 she confesses, explaining that her mother ‘had always been so certain that she was in control of what I knew and thought about’.46 In contrast to Chongming, Grey’s understanding of the whats and the whys of her actions are clear, and her personal choices are explained with clarity and logic: I know. It’s terrible, and I’ve got no excuse for – for crying about it. I know that. But I didn’t mean to – to kill her. I thought she would live. I’d read about the Nanking babies, in the orange book, and I – I don’t know why, but I thought maybe my baby would live, too…I thought she’d be ok and they’d take her away and hide her somewhere, somewhere my…my parents couldn’t find her.47

One of the strongest themes within the text is that which explores the relationship between acts committed out of ignorance and acts committed out of evil. Understanding the difference between ignorance and evil is paramount for Grey as she navigates her way through the emotional understanding of what she has done. As part of the rite of passage that she must undergo as part of her role as gothic heroine, Grey is required to face head on her deepest fears. For her, these fears lie in the belief that she might fail in her quest to discover the proof of what she read in that little orange book. For Grey the consequences of this are enormous—as


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finding this evidence will allow her to move from under the umbrella of perceived evil and instead rest under the one of ignorance. It is this difference in intention that is the core difference between Grey and Chongming. Grey clearly believed that her baby would live, whereas Chongming handed over his daughter clear in the knowledge that she would die: Suddenly I understood why Shi Chongming had kept this film secret for so many years. What I was watching, I realized, was him measuring and weighing his life against the value of the baby in his arms.48

The film turns out to be somewhat of a double-edged sword; as is typical of modern Gothic things are rarely what they seem and watching it does not bring about the resolution that Grey was hoping for, rather it shows her that there is a longevity associated with the acts that we carry out and the decisions that we make. In a novel that is all to do with the role of the past and the bearings that the past has on our present and our futures of course simple resolution was never going to be an option. Just as Chongming comes to realise with ‘sudden furious determination that China must survive’49 as the China he grew up in and that he is wrong to fight against his heritage, Grey has a similar awakening as a result of having watched the film. In a moment of real introspective clarity she realises that finding the film offers no closure and no escape from the past: …something terrible and inescapable stood up in me: the knowledge that there wasn’t going to be a quiet escape. Alive or dead, our children would hold us. Just like Shi Chongming I was going to be eternally connected to my dead baby girl. Shi Chongming was in his seventies, I was in my twenties. She would be with me for ever.50

What the film does instead, is offer a chance for Grey to forgive herself, to finally understand that she is not evil—ignorant, unlucky possibly, but not evil—and this realisation is crucial to her fulfilling her role as gothic heroine. Marking as it does the ‘end of innocence’51 that is such a defining part of modern Gothic, it belies a growing maturity, self-awareness and understanding that marks the transition from adolescence to maturity. The film also offers an opportunity for Chongming to confront his personal shame. It offers some retribution as it shows that the decision to hand over his daughter was not one borne of evil; cowardice, fear, even poor judgement possibly, but not evil. Following Grey’s success Chongming is of course reunited with his daughter’s remains and in an act of honour and atonement finally lays those remains to rest on the hillside where the horrific events took place. Without doubt the great success of this novel comes from Hayder’s exceptional ability to link the past, the present and the future. And it is this theme that provides the strongest and most credible link to the Gothic. The Gothic is a genre that has never moved away from the core belief that we are not independent creatures moving independently through the paths of our lives. Whether this belief occurs through prophecy, fate, hidden history or our ancestral past and cultural heritage to some extent is irrelevant—what counts is that within the Gothic, and within Tokyo we are all shown to be part of a much bigger scheme—a force far greater than that which we believe ourselves to be part.

Re-defining the Genre with Mo Hayder


If we accept that throughout history the Gothic ‘takes the form of a series of revivals, each based on a fantasized idea of the previous one’52 then Tokyo should certainly be regarded as a novel with a very modern gothic spin. Villains and horrors abound aplenty, suspense and dread are wonderfully built up within a very dangerous environment and throughout it all, we root for Grey’s success and happiness. The novel questions ‘the dynamics of family’ as much as it does ‘the limits of rationality and passion’53 in much the same way that early gothic novels did. Like many traditional gothic texts, it has a moral too, and perhaps a very modern ‘social significance’,54 in that it is only through accepting our responsibilities that our burdens cease to become negative energies that we carry around with us, and instead they become part of us—a facet of our character that becomes a source of strength rather than shame; an anchor that tethers us to the world around us.


1. Spooner, Catherine, Contemporary Gothic (Reaktion Books, London: 2006), p. 8. 2. Ibid., pp. 156–7. 3. Botting, Fred. Gothic (Routledge, London: 2003), p. 45. 4. Ibid., p. 44. 5. Spooner, op. cit., p. 12. 6. Ibid., p. 21. 7. Bruhm, Steven, The Contemporary Gothic: Why We Need It, in Hogle, J. (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Gothic (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 2002), p. 259. 8. Ibid., p. 261. 9. Hayder, op. cit., pp. 48–9. 10. Punter, David. The Literature of Terror Volume 1 (Essex, Longman: 1996), p. 184. 11. Ibid., p. 183. 12. Spooner, op. cit., p. 156. 13. Ibid., p. 157. 14. Hayder, op. cit., p. 457. 15. Ibid., p. 53. 16. Ibid. 17. Botting, op. cit., p. 170. 18. Spooner op. cit., p. 29. 19. Hayder, op. cit., p. 89. 20. Ibid., p. 91. 21. Spooner, op. cit., p. 98. 22. Hayder, op. cit., p. 274. 23. Ibid., p. 224. 24. Botting, op. cit., p. 2. 25. Ibid., p. 1. 26. Spooner, op. cit., p. 103. 27. Ibid., p. 104. 28. Botting, op. cit., p. 11. 29. Bruhm, op. cit., p. 267. 30. Ibid., pp. 267–8. 31. Hayder, op. cit., pp. 159–60.

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32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54.

Spooner, op. cit., p. 104. Hayder, op. cit., pp. 279–80. Ibid., p. 317. Ibid., p. 316. Botting, op. cit., p. 7. Ibid., p. 7. Spooner, op. cit., p. 126. Ibid., p. 127. Ibid., p. 12. Hayder, op. cit., pp. 79–81. Ibid., p. 82. Ibid., p. 79. Ibid., pp. 79–80. Ibid., p. 23. Ibid., p. 24. Ibid., 453. Ibid., p. 450. Ibid., p. 429. Ibid., p. 453. Spooner, op. cit., p. 23. Ibid., p. 32. Bruhm, op. cit., p. 259. Punter, op. cit., p. 13.

Bibliography Botting, Fred. Gothic (Routledge, London: 2003). Bruhm, Steven. The Contemporary Gothic: Why We Need It. In Hoglr, J. (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Gothic (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 2002). Hayder, Mo. Tokyo (Bantam Books, London: 2005). Punter, David. The Literature of Terror Volume 1 (Longman, Essex: 1996). Spooner, Catherine. Contemporary Gothic (Reaktion Books, London: 2006).

Stephen King Brian Jarvis

There is a revelatory moment in Misery (1987) when the captive writer Paul Sheldon discovers a scrapbook compiled by his captor Annie Wilkes. The tome is ‘as thick as a family bible’ and documents its author’s long history of h­ omicide.1 For anyone approaching the work of Stephen King and perhaps especially for those whose livelihood involves writing, Sheldon’s response to Annie’s magnum opus is emblematic: ‘[t]his book, dear God, this book was so big’.2 The King oeuvre is intimidatingly monumental. The hardbacks of his novels have the heft of a small headstone. At the time of writing—and this will almost certainly be out of date at the time of reading—King has published 57 slab-like novels and over 150 short stories. Typically, the ‘Stephen King short story’ is really a novella. ‘The Mist’ (1980), for example, weighs in at a very solid 134-pages. Collectively, these fictions contribute to a vast and intricately interwoven multiverse in which characters and key locations crossover. At the centre of this topography lies King’s home state of Maine and fictional towns such as Bridgton, Castle Rock and Derry. These are rendered with a level of detail that rivals Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. In terms of genre, most of King’s world-building belongs to a variegated gothic terrain. In ‘Tales of the Hook’, the writer divides his kingdom into three domains: ‘I try to terrorize the reader. But if… I cannot terrify… I will try to horrify; and if I find I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud’.3 King’s Gothic encompasses the melancholy lyricism of an old woman making a final journey (‘The Reach’, 1985), a young boy being chased by his Roque mallet-wielding father (The Shining, 1975) and a surgeon on a desert island who amputates and then eats his own body parts (‘Survivor Type’, 1981). These diverse gothic landscapes constitute the King heartland, but there are also frequent intersections with and departures into the realms of science fiction and fantasy, westerns and social realism, crime and prison dramas. In addition, King

B. Jarvis (*)  Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s) 2020 C. Bloom (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic,



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has written a number of essays—often on the subject of writing—as well as screenplays and poetry. The reach of the King empire extends further when one takes into account that each of his works appears in multiple editions and formats including audiobooks, eBooks, graphic novels, musical homage and theatre. There has also been over 80 film and TV adaptations of King’s work. Recent and forthcoming contributions to this ever-burgeoning field include imminent TV series based on Lisey’s Story (2006), The Outsider (2018), The Stand (1978), a second season of Castle Rock (2018–) and big-screen versions of Pet Sematary (1982), In the Tall Grass (1999) and Doctor Sleep (2013). ‘Chapter 2’ of IT (1986) appeared in the summer of 2019 and followed in the footsteps of the highest grossing horror film of all time. Simultaneously, Netflix released season three of Stranger Things: a hugely successful show whose storylines and a line-up of geeky teens would be unthinkable without King’s IT and other coming of age tales such as ‘The Body’ (1982). It is a testament to King’s shaping influence on the landscape of popular culture that he appears as himself in The Simpsons and the show frequently alludes to his canon. King’s first published novel, Carrie (1974), is alluded to in several episodes of The Simpsons and has been referenced over 350 times in TV shows and films.4 Carrie: The Musical (1988) has been performed on Broadway and by the RSC in Stratford. The first and most influential adaptation was Brian De Palma’s film version which appeared in 1976 and made over $33 million for a relatively modest budget of $1.8 million. This success stimulated sales of the original novel. In 1979, King rather modestly declared that ‘the movie made the book and the book made me’.5 By 1980, King was the bestselling author in the world. Sales of his novels and short story collections have exceeded 350 million copies and produced an avalanche of adaptations and spin-offs. In reference to his evolution from aspiring bard to global brand, King has noted wryly: ‘I started off as a storyteller; along the way I became an economic force’.6 According to legend, the origin of this economic force was a wastebasket. The writer Tabitha Spruce married Stephen King in 1971. Her husband has confessed that his bride-to-be’s ownership of a portable typewriter was a not inconsequential factor informing his marriage proposal. In the early years of their marriage, the young couple lived in a trailer home and experienced serious financial and creative difficulties. When King threw away the first three pages of a short story about a teenage girl called Carietta White who was both gifted with and cursed by telekinetic powers, Tabitha rescued them from the wastebasket, encouraged her husband to finish the work and offered to help him to develop the female perspective. According to some of his critics, however, the wastebasket is where Carrie and King’s subsequent work belongs. For those wedded to a romantic or modernist model of the artist, suspicion or even hostility is perhaps inevitable when a writer occupies such a prominent position in the marketplace. Harold Bloom is at the forefront in the academy of those who have caricatured King as an assembly line rather than an artisan. When King was awarded a Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2003 by the National Book Foundation, Bloom was in the vanguard of a backlash. (More recently, in 2015, King was granted the National Medal of Arts by President Obama and in 2018 he received the PEN American Literary

Stephen King


Service Award.) Bloom described the award as ‘another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life’ and went on to make a mock prediction that the Nobel prize for Literature would shortly be conferred on J.K. Rowling.7 The Yale Professor contended that King is ‘an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, p­ aragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis’ and that his work does ‘little more for humanity than keep the publishing world afloat’.8 Literary scholarship is part of the publishing world which King has helped to save from drowning and in 2009, Bloom himself chose to edit a collection of essays on this ‘immensely inadequate writer’. Whilst he was now willing to concede the sociological significance of his subject as a publishing phenomenon, Bloom also continued the harangue against King’s fictional ‘monstrosities’: ‘cliché-writing, flat characters who are names upon the page, and in general a remarkable absence of invention for someone edging over into the occult, the preternatural, the imaginary’.9 When an author has produced so much it would be difficult not to find at least occasional examples of stylistic deficiency. King’s critics routinely remark on the reliance on stereotype in characterisation, excessive description and italicisation, interminable digressions and the crippling flatness of his figurative prose. King has echoed some of these deprecations: ‘[a]ll I can say is - and this is in response to the critics who’ve often said that my work is awkward and sometimes a little bit painful - I know it. I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got’.10 In the ‘Afterword’ to Different Seasons (1982), King refers to his work as the ‘literary equivalent of a Big Mac and a large fries from McDonald’s’.11 King’s readership has leapt to his defence. Stephen Spignesi opens his study of Stephen King: American Master with evidence of literary craftsmanship in the following sibilant simile from The Regulators (1996): ‘and surrounding everything like an auditory edging of lace, the soothing, silky hiss of lawn sprinklers’.12 The aesthetic virtue or otherwise of King’s writing can of course be debated, but the distinctive features of his literary voice are surely incontestable. King typically writes in the first person and often with shifting focalisation. The accessibility of his work is aided by an exhaustive inventory of reference to TV shows, films, music and commercial products— King is the poet laureate of American pop culture—and a vernacular voice which assumes a confidential intimacy with the reader. The opening line of Needful Things (1991) appears on a separate page in upper case and 20-point type: YOU’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE

The following line at the start of the next page continues: ‘Sure you have’.13 King’s prose privileges a vivid immediacy of voice over stylistic flourishes. The opening, or ‘hook’ line is crucial in this regard and King has cited Needful Things as one of his best examples. All there by itself on one page, inviting the reader to keep reading. It suggests a familiar story; at the same time, the unusual presentation brings us outside the realm of the ordinary. And this, in a way, is a promise of the book that’s going to come… Sometimes it’s important to find that kind of line: one that encapsulates what’s going to happen later without being a big thematic statement… I don’t have a lot of books where that opening line is poetry or beautiful. Sometimes it’s perfectly workman-like.14


B. Jarvis

In Misery, King’s surrogate author Paul Sheldon is acutely aware of the workmanlike nature of his romantic genre fiction but still takes professional pride in the gift of the ‘gotta’: the ability to craft stories which compel the reader to turn the page and leave his fans, like Annie Wilkes, ‘dying to find out what happened next’.15 Obsession is both a core theme and an M.O for an author who returns compulsively to certain character types, sites and subjects. Whilst there may be some inconsistencies in the quality of the writing across King’s career there is also a marked continuity in content. The metafictional preoccupation with writers, writing and creative struggles evident in Misery is also prominent in ’Salem’s Lot (1975), The Shining (1977), The Dark Half (1989), Bag of Bones (1998) and Duma Key (2008) as well as short fiction such as ‘The Blue Air Compressor’ (1971), ‘Word Processor of the Gods’ (1985), ‘Secret Window, Secret Garden’ (1990), ‘Umney’s Last Case’ (1993) and ‘1408’ (2001). This cohort of work stages a dynamic tension between writers and artists, characters and readers. King has a devoted readership that includes fellow authors such as Sherman Alexie, Colson Whitehead and Bret Easton Ellis whose Lunar Park (2005) is an extended homage to King. Ellis has testified to the formative influence of King on his literary upbringing: He was a major writer for me as a kid, and as an adolescent. I was thrilled every time a Stephen King book came out. I’d spend pocket money on hardbacks. Man, they were the first hardbacks that I demanded my parents get for me. I remember buying IT and thinking it was the most epic horror novel—that it was the Ulysses of horror.16

For much of his career, King has enjoyed a healthy and productive relationship with his fans that includes regular appearances at conventions and book signings as well as an active presence on social media (he has over 5 million followers on Twitter). In 1977, he wrote the first 500-words of a story entitled ‘The Cat from Hell’ and invited readers to complete it. There have also been, however, significant breakdowns in this relationship. During the period in which Misery was written and then published, King was getting mobbed when he left his house and receiving thousands of letters each week including requests and even demands that he resurrect certain subjects. Someone sent him a box full of bones and hair from dead kittens. In 1991, Tabitha King arrived home to discover an intruder with a bomb who claimed he was going to kidnap her husband. The intruder insisted that Stephen King had broken into his aunt’s house over 150 times and stolen from her the ideas for several novels (including Misery). When Stephen King heard that John Lennon had been murdered there was an additional horror because the killer, Mark Chapman, had recently approached the writer in the street and identified himself as King’s ‘number one fan’. In the context of these incidents, Misery reads like hate mail from a writer to his readers. At the same time, much of the King oeuvre constitutes an extended love letter to the gothic and horror genres. King is both a horror author and fan whose aficionado knowledge and manic enthusiasm for the genre bursts from every page he has written. Since his very first published contribution to the genre—a short story entitled ‘I Was a Teenage Grave Robber’ serialised in Comics Review in 1965—King has eagerly disinterred and reanimated seminal gothic

Stephen King


scenarios and horror tropes. A passion for the genre is underscored by explicit dedications and allusions to favourite authors and in particular Poe, Lovecraft and Jackson. King’s short essay on ‘The Genius of “The Tell-Tale Heart”’ is accompanied by an updated revision entitled ‘The Old Dude’s Ticker’ (1999) which features a Vietnam vet who has a hypersensitive hearing. In a similar fashion, ‘Dolan’s Cadillac’ (1993) reworks Poe’s ‘Cask of Amontillado’ in a modern setting when a schoolteacher traps and then buries a gangster inside a car. Poe lay much of the groundwork for American gothic literature in the nineteenth century and Lovecraft renovated the genre in the twentieth: Now that time has given us some perspective on his work, I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale… Lovecraft […] opened the way for me as he had done for others before me…. it is his shadow, so long and gaunt, and his eyes, so dark and puritanical, which overlie almost all of the important horror fiction that has come since.17

The shadow of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror is cast over King’s fiction in its summoning of weird towns and old houses with cryptic sounds coming from the walls, in its staging of occult rituals and portals to alternate dimensions, in its invention of monstrous abominations such as giant rats and elder unnameable gods (see, for example, the novels From a Buick 8 [2001] and Revival [2014] as well as a host of short fiction including ‘I Am the Doorway’ [1978], ‘Jerusalem’s Lot’ [1978], ‘Crouch End’ [1979], ‘The Mist’, ‘Nona’ [1980], ‘Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut’ [1985], ‘Gramma’ [1985], ‘The Sun Dog’ [1990], ‘In the Tall Grass’ [1999] and ‘N.’ [1999]). Shirley Jackson is not too far behind Lovecraft in terms of King’s ardent advocacy. Firestarter (1980) is dedicated to Jackson and Danse Macabre includes a substantial critical commentary on The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and ‘The Lottery’ (1948) as Gothic landmarks in addition to highlighting affinities between The Shining (1976) and The Sundial (1958). King’s own writing may not achieve the sinuous elegance of Jackson’s prose, nor the syntactical sophistication and lexicographic exuberance of Poe and Lovecraft, but it has left its own indelible mark on the literary history of the Gothic, cosmic horror and the weird. In addition to the trinity of Poe, Lovecraft and Jackson, King has singled out as shaping influences William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954), Robert Bloch’s Psycho (1959), Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1967) and The Stepford Wives (1972) as well as the science fiction of Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and Richard Matheson. In r­ elation to influences from visual culture, King has cited the impact of horror and ­science fiction comics, television (The Outer Limits [1963–1965] and The Twilight Zone [1959–1964]) and film (1950s cold war cinema such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1956] and Jack Arnold’s work, Robert Wise’s The Haunting [1963] and the zombie films of George Romero (with whom King collaborated on with Creepshow [1982])). Returning to the gallery of key characters in King we find—alongside the writer—the teacher. In one of his earliest published short stories, ‘Here There Be Tygers’ (1968) a small boy who believes there is a big cat waiting for him in the school bathroom is humiliated by a mean teacher. The teacher in this instance,


B. Jarvis

uncharacteristically for the ex-English teacher King, is insensitive to her pupil’s needs and imaginative faculty. Elsewhere in King’s fiction from early work such as ’Salem’s Lot (1975), The Dead Zone (1978), ‘Sometimes They Come Back’ (1978) and ‘Suffer the Little Children’ (1978) all the way through to ‘UR’ (2015), the instructor tends to be depicted as a creative and nurturing soul. High School and College are frequent locations in which we find another key demographic. The problems faced by kids and teenagers as well as their gifts and potential is at the heart of King’s work. The young are seen to possess paranormal abilities and connections to the supernatural sphere in Carrie, The Shining, Firestarter, IT, Desperation (1996) and The Institute (2019). Ki