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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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Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters (1998) – War Gothic (Steffen Hantke)


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Steffen Hantke

Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters (1998)

War constitutes such catastrophic breakdown of civilization that it negates civilization. War does not provide an extension of civilization; it is not, as von Clausewitz’s famous dictum would have it, ‘the continuation of diplomacy by other means’. Rather, it is civilization’s Other. Faced with its own negation in the instance of such catastrophic failure, civilization needs either to be silent about war, or to account for it. It needs to explain not only the local occurrence – any specific war at hand – but the universal existence of war. It matters little if this explanation is cast in an apologetic, legitimizing register, or whether it is delivered as an indictment, an accusation, a critique. The discourse of war is civilization’s attempt at recuperating its Other, at re-integrating it into itself so that it can perform useful cultural labour.

Within the framework of such a discourse, war could be presented as an expression of humanity’s worst moral impulses, a scenario in which war would be subject to collective and individual moral choice. Or war could be presented as a result of the species’ evolutionary programming, a scenario that dooms humanity to self-destruction due to a tragic flaw in its essential make-up. Variously, war could be an art, a craft, a profession, a business, a tradition. Culturally speaking, war has been subject to rules and regulations: the code of military honour, the ‘rules of engagement’, or the...

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