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Gothic Metamorphoses across the Centuries

Contexts, Legacies, Media

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Edited By Maurizio Ascari, Serena Baiesi and David Levente Palatinus

This collection of essays brings together an international team of scholars with the aim to shed new light on various interconnected aspects of the Gothic through the lens of converging critical and methodological approaches. With its wide-ranging interdisciplinary perspective, the book explores the domains of literary, pictorial, filmic, televisual and popular cultural texts in English from the eighteenth century to the present day. Within these pages, the Gothic is discussed as a dynamic form that exceeds the concept of literary genre, proving able to renovate and adapt through constant processes of hybridisation. Investigating the hypothesis that the Gothic returns in times of cultural crisis, this study maps out transgressive and experimental modes conducive to alternative experiences of the intricacies of the human (and post-human) condition.

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Exotic Dystopias: Global Nightmares in Romantic-Period Oriental Gothic

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Abstract: Near the end of the eighteenth century, the Gothic aesthetic started to intersect with the imaginative territories of Orientalism, and Gothic nightmares of power began to interact with pre-existing images of Eastern despotism. This essay examines this nexus in such representative works as William Beckford’s Vathek, Robert Southey’s The Curse of Kehama, Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh and Charles Robert Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer. In doing so, it argues that Romantic-period Oriental Gothic repeatedly fashioned unsettling visions of state systems based on collective coercion, enslavement, torture and repression, thus anticipating the dystopian imagination of later periods, as well as problematizing questions of power within an international and globalized context. Ultimately, this essay confirms how, by projecting images of Eastern perversion and despotism on to a global plane, Oriental Gothic between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries constituted a crucial textual vehicle for conveying the terrifying vistas of a globalized reality which was becoming increasingly present and pressing.

Keywords: Oriental Gothic, Beckford, Southey, Moore, Maturin, dystopian imagination, global Gothic

Is there a connection between classical Gothic and the dystopian imagination? The suggestion may sound implausible, or even misguided. In his recent comprehensive history of dystopia, Gregory Claeys notes that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the “great modern prototypes of monstrosity – and dystopia”, yet cannot ultimately be seen as “portraying a dystopia, for the monster does not affect society as a whole or even a substantial number of people” (Claeys, 76). This essay addresses such reluctance...

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