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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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Ron Honthaner’s The House on Skull Mountain (1974) – Zombie Gothic (Sarah Juliet Lauro)

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Sarah Juliet Lauro

Ron Honthaner’s The House on Skull Mountain (1974)

It may start with a journey that ends at a strange house. This is a mainstay of the Gothic with which we are familiar. But the zombie narrative, as it has developed as a subgenre of horror, may seem to subvert this trope. The house in the zombie film is most often not the container of strange, evil forces but the fortress that must be defended from outside threats. We might think of the zombies as outside, banging on the shuttered windows, as with Richard Matheson’s protozombie vampires in I am Legend. The house is the last bastion protecting the survivors from the evil without: and the ‘house’ can be a space as diverse as a shopping mall, as in Dawn of the Dead (1978), or a pub, as in Shaun of the Dead (2004), or a prison, as in The Walking Dead comic books upon which the television series is based. And yet, it is rarely that simple, for within the house the survivors contend with their own loss of humanity as they face annihilation, turning against each other, and struggling with moral dilemmas.

The farmhouse from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) is arguably the most famous house of zombie cinema. This farmhouse on the outskirts of Pittsburgh is not only threatened by the ghouls that surround it, but it represents the breakdown in social structures,...

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