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The Gothic

A Reader

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Edited By Simon Bacon

What is the Gothic?

From ghosts to vampires, from ruined castles to steampunk fashion, the Gothic is a term that evokes all things strange, haunted and sinister.

This volume offers a new look at the world of the Gothic, from its origins in the eighteenth century to its reemergence today. Each short essay is dedicated to a single text – a novel, a film, a comic book series, a festival – that serves as a lens to explore the genre. Original readings of classics like The Mysteries of Udolpho (Ann Radcliffe) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Joan Lindsay) are combined with unique insights into contemporary examples like the music of Mexican rock band Caifanes, the novels Annihilation (Jeff VanderMeer), Goth (Otsuichi) and The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters), and the films Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro) and Ex Machina (Alex Garland).

Together the essays provide innovative ways of understanding key texts in terms of their Gothic elements. Invaluable for students, teachers and fans alike, the book’s accessible style allows for an engaging look at the spectral and uncanny nature of the Gothic.

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Arthur Machen’s The Three Impostors (1895) – Victorian Gothic (Justin Sausman)

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Justin Sausman

Arthur Machen’s The Three Impostors (1895)

Gothic has been viewed as declining during the Victorian era, but although there may have been less readily identifiable Gothic novels compared to the late eighteenth century, the familiar tropes of Gothic continued to appear in a range of literary works from sensation fiction to Penny Dreadfuls. Indeed, Victorian culture can seem implicitly Gothic ‘with its elaborate cult of death and mourning, its fascination with ghosts, spiritualism and the occult’ (Warwick 2007: 29).

The fin de siècle, however, witnessed a revival of Gothic fiction that produced some of the most iconic works such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898). These works intensified earlier Victorian fears surrounding crime, empire, science, religion and the impact of industrial modernity and are often accounted for as an oblique reflection of the intensified anxieties of the final two decades of the Victorian era, a period often discussed in terms of crisis, decay and degeneration. Gothic, in this approach, is the dark side of modernity, a confrontation with historical fears given a monstrous form that is transgressive of the late Victorian social and moral order (Botting 1996: 1). Yet through defeating the monstrous Other, Gothic becomes a conservative form, a way of containing threats to the social order represented by...

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