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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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Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796) – Queer Gothic (Max Fincher)


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Max Fincher

Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796)

‘Queer Gothic’ is, by its very nature, elusive to pinpoint and define specifically. To be queer is to actively resist imposed categories and definitions of identity, particularly those of gender and sexuality. In understanding how Gothic texts might be ‘queer’ and ‘queered’ (as a reading practice), it is important to have a sense of what ‘queer’ means and how it is used.

Some of the original meanings of ‘queer’ still provide a groundwork for its definition, in particular ‘strange’, ‘different’, (ex)centric and perhaps most significantly, ‘to cross’, from the seventeenth-century German, ‘quer’ (Cleto). The act of crossing implies breaching boundaries, borders and limits (physical, emotional, moral) that is a recurrent theme of several Gothic texts. An important part of the evolution of the term ‘queer’ is that, by the early twentieth century, it was used pejoratively, to describe a type of person who aroused suspicion, usually connected with their sexuality. This was in contrast to the ‘homosexual’ who was a specified individual identified by psychiatric and social discourse in the late nineteenth century. The homosexual was, as the social historian Foucault describes him, ‘a personage, a past, a case history […] in addition to being a type of life, a life form, a morphology’ (Foucault 1976). Instead, the ‘queer’ could not be so definitively marked out except in terms of a narrative of suspicion, with a witch hunt for evidence to confirm speculation about...

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