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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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Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967/1975) – Australian Gothic (Ashleigh Prosser)

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Ashleigh Prosser

Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967/1975)

As David Punter and Glennis Byron note, ‘the Gothic remains a notoriously difficult field to define’, and the ‘Australian Gothic’ is no exception (Punter and Byron 2004: xviii). Many works that appear to portray a uniquely ‘Australian’ vision of the Gothic sensibility are themselves textual hybrids, encompassing elements of ‘Imperial’ and ‘Postcolonial Gothic’ traditions (see Gelder and Jacobs 1998; Turcotte 2009). Furthermore, in recent years, ‘Aboriginal Gothic’ has become increasingly recognized as a distinct narrative form, through the works of contemporary Indigenous Australian writers, artists, and filmmakers that critically engage with Gothic traditions to redress the historical horrors and enduring traumas of European colonization for Indigenous Australians, as Katrin Althans has explored in her ground-breaking study Darkness Subverted (2010). Since the interpretive potential of what one might mean by the ‘Australian Gothic’ is comparable to the vast expanse of the continent itself, this study will explore some of the key features of the Australian Gothic tradition through two of its most iconic texts, Joan Lindsay’s classic 1967 novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Peter Weir’s famous 1975 film adaptation of the same title.

Widely considered a landmark publication in Australian literary history, Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock is ‘a ghost story, precise in its accrual of evocative and haunting detail’, as Jane Gleeson-White explains in Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Work (2007: 133). Likewise, the 1975 critically acclaimed...

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