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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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A. S. Byatt’s ‘The Dried Witch’ (1987) – Postmodern Gothic (Maria Beville)


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Maria Beville

A. S. Byatt’s ‘The Dried Witch’ (1987)

The Gothic is an intensely discursive mode of literature which has been adopted and appropriated into postmodern writing for its propensity to challenge dominant narratives and to undermine hegemonic discourses such as those of patriarchy, empire, and capitalism. The Gothic and postmodernism have a shared agenda in terms of the subversion of grande narratives and the suggestion of fluid subjectivities, and as such, when combined in literary fiction, the Gothic and postmodernism often work as a cohesive poetics designed to promote feminist, postcolonial and neo-Marxist ideals of equality. A. S. Byatt’s short fiction evidences this Gothic-postmodernist subversion at work and in the case of her story ‘The Dried Witch’, the Gothic structures a narrative which unpacks patriarchal ideology from a feminist perspective and through a definitively postmodern revisionist framework. In this study, ‘The Dried Witch’ will be examined and textual analysis of the work will illustrate the Gothic conventions which are the foundation for the postmodernist fabulation that Byatt weaves into the tale.

I use the term fabulation here with reference to Robert Scholes’s consideration of early postmodern experimental writing. The postmodern writing of the 1970s and 1980s was noted for its likeness to magical realism but also for its profound self-reflexive perspectives. As literature that came to be later defined by its own fictionality, postmodernism maintains an interest in not only the fabulous, or fantastic, but also ‘the fable’: a narrative...

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