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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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Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation (2014) – Gothic and the New Weird (Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock)

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Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock

Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation (2014)

Near the end of Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 ‘New Weird’ novel, Annihilation, the first instalment of his Southern Reach trilogy, the novel’s protagonist, known primarily by her function as ‘the biologist’, concludes only that she can reach no definite conclusions. Having been sent as part of a team by a quasi-government organization called the Southern Reach to investigate a geographic anomaly referred to as Area X associated with bizarre occurrences, she finally is forced to abandon the human impulse to master the environment, to confront the limitations on human knowledge and agency, and to acknowledge the strangeness of the universe. Her realization that, ‘Our instruments are useless, our methodology broken, our motivations selfish’, chastens the anthropocentric tendency to consider ourselves, to use Levi Bryant’s language, as ‘the monarchs of being’ (Bryant 2011: 44), and instead foregrounds the precariousness of human existence as we drift through a universe without any true knowledge of what motivates us from within and influences us from without. This realization of human impotence and fragility is the point at which the Gothic and the New Weird converge as the latter substitutes cosmic forces that imperil sanity and life for more conventional Gothic monsters and villains.

The inevitable place to begin in thinking about weird fiction and its relationship to the Gothic is with American author Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s treatise on horror fiction, Supernatural Horror in Literature, first published in 1927. It...

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