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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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Otsuichi’s Goth (2002) – Japanese Gothic (Katarzyna Ancuta)

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Katarzyna Ancuta

Otsuichi’s Goth (2002)

In 2000, Henry J. Hughes made a case for the recognition of Japanese Gothic as both an inherently Asian tradition, rooted in ancient Chinese literature, and a transcultural category demonstrating that ‘subversion of religious and social norms, an obsession with sex and death, and a fear of the supernatural or unknown … are human qualities, not the province of one culture’ (Hughes 2000: 60). Hughes notes that Japanese literature has a long history of Gothic inclinations, and argues that while Japanese Gothic is reminiscent of its Western counterpart it has evolved under specific socio-cultural conditions and remains closely aligned with the local religio-philosophical system built upon Buddhist, Shinto and Confucian teachings. Japanese Gothic stories are thus unsurprisingly ‘draped in darkness, where submerged monsters may safely surface, where rape and murder may be carried out unseen’ (83) but their resolution reflects the conviction that good and evil are intricately connected, and that to restore the balance to the universe one needs to accommodate evil rather than destroy it. Furthermore, Japanese Gothic heroes do not seek the affirmation of their individualism but rather strive to empty the self of desire, always on the lookout to merge with the sublime nothingness (mu) and be freed from life’s suffering.

Hughes’s survey of the Gothic elements in Japanese literature is impressive, although he does not fail to notice Japanese critics’ apprehension that ‘accomplished native writers will be cheapened by the label Gothic,...

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