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Speaking the Language of the Night

Aspects of the Gothic in Selected Contemporary Novels

Adriana Raducanu

This study contributes to the emerging field of Global Gothic. It focuses on the survival and evolution of Gothic subgenres and tropes in selected contemporary novels, produced in geographies and histories far away from its Western cradle. Some Gothic features identified as universal such as the relationship between space and character, the sublime, the process of Othering, uncanny doubles and the dissolution of identity are explored. This study maintains that the novels under scrutiny, written by a wide variety of authors such as Adiga, Desai, Ishiguro, Müller, Pamuk, Roberts and Rushdie, facilitate a fruitful dialogue between West and East under the sign of Gothic. A diverse critical apparatus is employed, including texts from Bhabha, Kristeva, Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida, Mishra and others.
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← 8 | 9 → Introduction


to The Cambridge Companion to Gothic notices that “Gothic fiction is hardly ‘Gothic’ at all”, but “an entirely post-medieval and even post-Renaissance phenomenon” (Hogle: 9). To sustain his claim, he also remarks on the fragmentary, hybrid nature of the initial Gothic writings, “from ancient prose and verse romances to Shakespearean tragedy and comedy” and points out that:

← 9 | 10 → […] the first published work to call itself “A Gothic Story” was a counterfeit medieval tale published long after the Middle Ages: Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, printed under a pseudonym in England in 1764 and reissued in 1765 in a second edition with a new preface which openly advocated a “blend (of) the two kinds of romance, the ancient and the modern,” the former “all imagination and improbability” and the latter governed by the “rules of probability” connected with “common life.” (Hogle: 9)

In commenting on the hybrid nature of this new type of writing, Walpole seems to have made an uncanny prediction, especially when assessed in the context of the directions of contemporary Gothic fiction and criticism. Always miscellaneous, the contemporary Gothic trends are increasingly displaying all the characteristics of an amalgam and a formless entity operating with a variety of tropes and within theoretical frameworks.

Clearly, once the ‘return to origins’ (i.e. to Walpole’s canonical Gothic text) is attempted even the most ardent supporters of a uniform tradition, which was born in eighteenth century England and has continued unabashed until the present...

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