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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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Richard Marsh’s The Joss: A Reversion (1901) – Imperial Gothic (Johan Höglund)

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Johan Höglund

Richard Marsh’s The Joss: A Reversion (1901)

In Richard Marsh’s The Joss: A Reversion (1901), Pollie Blythe, impoverished, hungry, bullied by her employer, stumbles through the streets of London only to be accosted by three abject foreigners, one with a ‘hideous, hollow-cheeked, saffron-hued face’ (12), another with ‘almond-shaped eyes which looked out of narrow slits; a flat nose; a mouth seemed to reach from ear to ear’ (16). So strange are these apparitions to Pollie that she cannot make out if they are ‘man or woman or what’ (11). One of the characters thrusts into her hand a small object, a strange froglike thing, a curiosity or ‘tiny representation of some preposterous heathen god, with beads for eyes’ that seems to move as she holds it in her hands (28). Pollie is frightened by the object and tries to throw it away, only to have it appear again on her body when she wakes up.

Marsh’s The Joss seemingly combines the author’s previous Gothic novels The Beetle (1897) and The Goddess (1900). As in The Beetle, The Joss tells the story of how a supernatural force from the periphery of the Empire, has entered London to haunt the novel’s female protagonists. The foreign force is overtly Oriental, and gender unstable, but Chinese rather than of Egyptian origin as in The Beetle. Like The Goddess, the terrible otherness of the invader is housed partly within an animate and uncanny...

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