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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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Introduction (Simon Bacon)


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Simon Bacon


What is the Gothic?

The ingredients of the Gothic have been characterized as ‘decaying Gothic castles, ruined chapels, underground passages, dark forests and ghostly groanings’ and as ‘[s]hocks, supernatural incidents and superstitious beliefs’, all of which ‘promote a sense of sublime awe and wonder […] entwined with fear and elevated imaginations’ (Botting 1996: 29, 46). The need to shock, jolt, unnerve, or even produce awe is at the core of the Gothic in its many forms, from the pre-Victorian era to the present day – and beyond.

This volume offers an introductory roadmap to the Gothic, exploring the many areas, sub-genres, mediums, and modalities associated with the concept. Not merely a genre on its own, the Gothic haunts and intersects with many other genres. The influence of the Gothic changes the way in which one can read or interact with any text, bringing to it a Gothic lens through which one can view and interpret the text anew.1 In this sense, the Gothic can also be considered as a modality in that it creates a very particular kind of engagement with a medium – for example, film, gaming, and comics – which produce very different expressions of the Gothic while still referencing core themes and tropes. ← 1 | 2 →

The Uncanny

At the core of the readings of the Gothic in this book is the concept of the uncanny. Although it is not the only core...

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