Edited By William M. Reynolds
Chapter Twenty-Six: Grotesque Stories, Desolate Voices: Encountering Histories and Geographies of Violence in Southern Gothic’s Haunted Mansions
Grotesque Stories, Desolate Voices: Encountering Histories and Geographies of Violence in Southern Gothic’s Haunted Mansions
“She would of [sic] been a good woman,” said The Misfit, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
—Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
“When witches don’t fight, we burn.”
—“Bitchcraft,” American Horror Story: Coven
Southern Gothic is a mode of expression in literature, art, film/television, and other mediums that employs the grotesque, the forgotten, the failed, and the macabre (sometimes through supernatural devices) to unearth and displace the values of the American South (Savoy, 1998; Yaeger, 2005). Southern Gothic appropriates stylistic devices of the much older European Gothic tradition, a tradition that includes “a pushing toward extremes and excess…of cruelty, rapacity and fear, passion and sexual degradation” that offers through closure in its endings a reinforcement of “culturally prescribed doctrines of morality and propriety” (Lloyd-Smith, 2004, p. 5). Whether lurking in bleak castles, moonlit graveyards, or atop a craggy cliff overlooking a crashing sea, Gothic characters “are generally up to no good, disbelieving in the significance of virginity and proclaiming their own superiority and inherent freedom as rational beings above the shibboleths of convention and religious faith” (p. 5). We imagine yoked nobility or disavowed aristocracy in the fading, ragged images of Heathcliff, Count Dracula, Miss Havisham, or Mrs. Danvers. In Southern Gothic texts,...
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