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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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Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015) – Vampire Gothic (Simon Bacon)


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Simon Bacon

Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015)

If there is one thing that marks out the vampire, it is its mutability. Even in Bram Stoker’s seminal text Dracula, the vampire Count is able to become young again as well as transform from human shape to bat, to rat, to wolf, and even into elemental mist. His powers are such that, as Professor Van Helsing notes, ‘He can, when once he find his way, come out from anything or into anything’ (Stoker 1897: 258). And yet, Vampire Gothic, in terms of its self-referencing (Weinstock 2012: 1), is an amazingly consistent genre, more often than not constructing its narrative around a few key plot points, or what might be called vampiric sign-posts. These are, but are not limited to: a journey, sometimes metaphorical, to ‘the land beyond the forest’ (this is not necessarily the cause of the vampire appearing but can also be because of it); the appearance of a beguiling stranger – often only the protagonist knows that this is a vampire – who threatens to destabilize the established order (this can be in regard to any gender, sexuality and power hierarchies); the coming together of a band of vampire hunters/killers – often known as the ‘crew of light’; and an uncertain ending where the vampire possibly is, or is possibly not, destroyed (see also Cohen 1996).

Much of this can be seen to have evolved as far back as the ‘vampire plague’ that spread...

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