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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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Clarence John Laughlin’s Ghosts Along the Mississippi (1948) – Southern Gothic (Timothy Jones)


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Timothy Jones

Clarence John Laughlin’s Ghosts Along the Mississippi (1948)

Although Clarence John Laughlin has been described as ‘Edgar Allan Poe with a camera’ (Kukla 1997: 5), he is not especially well known within Gothic studies. Laughlin produced a body of work that documents his native New Orleans, Louisiana and occasionally, further afield. He is best known for his book of photographs and accompanying essays, Ghosts Along the Mississippi, first published in 1948, which documents the abandoned plantation houses that had been built along the river. The success of the book – which ran to several printings over more than ten years – was a small redress for Laughlin, who, in his artistic prime, struggled to maintain a reputation in photographic circles, perhaps in part due to his abrasive personal style, but also because of his insistence that his photography be accompanied by his often voluminous textual interpretations, a practice often regarded by his peers as a grotesque disruption of his photography (Meek 2007: 25).

The photographs in Ghosts are of two sorts; those which artfully and simply document the houses, and those which offer something more than the real through some manipulation of Laughlin’s – double exposure, collage, the use of a model who does not quite belong amidst the collapsing architecture. Laughlin wanted to extend ‘the individual object into a larger and more significant reality’ (Laughlin 1939: 2). Often these images suggest some other plane or presence, a condition Laughlin termed ‘hyper-reality’....

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