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The Gothic

A Reader


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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Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) – Postcolonial Gothic (Tabish Khair)


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Tabish Khair

Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

The basic Enlightenment perspective, as Kenan Malik repeatedly highlights in The Meaning of Race, was that of the ‘sameness’ of humanity. Writers like the nineteenth-century English anthropologist E. B. Taylor, whose work drew heavily on Enlightenment traditions, believed that it was ‘no more reasonable to suppose the laws of the mind [to be] differently constituted in Australia and in England […] than to suppose that the laws of chemical combination […] vary’ (Malik 1996: 142). On the other hand, in roughly the same period, there were people like the French writer Hippolyte Taine, ‘who mocked the Enlightenment belief that “men of every race and century were all but identical”’ (142).

Any discussion of the Postcolonial Gothic – simplistically, fiction employing obviously Gothic tropes but written by postcolonial writers – has to be poised between these two perspectives: essential sameness and basic difference.

The Colonial or Imperial Gothic usually makes much of the difference of the colonized subject – and her beliefs, habits, gods, etc. The devil is often cast in the colour and with the features of non-Europeans in the Imperial Gothic (see Malchow 1996; Khair 2015). Faced with this heavily accented ‘difference’, the colonizer – as in Kipling’s short story, ‘The Mark of the Beast’ – often resorts to force in order to capture, reduce or annihilate the non-European Other, an outcome that implicitly justifies the politics of colonial domination. The colonized reality – as with Imperial...

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