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Expanding the Gothic Canon

Studies in Literature, Film and New Media

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Edited By Anna Kędra-Kardela and Andrzej Sławomir Kowalczyk

This volume offers a survey of analyses of Gothic texts, including literary works, feature films, a TV serial, and video games, with a view to showing the evolution and expansion of the Gothic convention across the ages and the media. The temporal scope of the book is broad: the chapters cover narratives from the early and mid-eighteenth century, predating the birth of the convention in 1764, through Romantic and Victorian novels, to the contemporary manifestations of the Gothic. Primarily designed for graduate and postgraduate students, the book sets out to acquaint them with both the convention and different theoretical approaches. The studies presented here could also prove inspirational for fellow scholars and helpful for university teachers, the book becoming an item on the reading lists in Gothic literature, film and media courses.
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CHAPTER ONE: The Gothic Canon: Contexts, Features, Relationships, Perspectives

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CHAPTER ONE

The Gothic Canon: Contexts, Features, Relationships, Perspectives

ANNA KĘDRA-KARDELA ANDRZEJ SŁAWOMIR KOWALCZYK

1.

The term “canon” can be succinctly defined as “a body of writings or other creative works that are acknowledged as authentic or important” (Ross 2006: 367). Canonical works are held to represent “the texts which authentically define an area of literature, either on grounds of historical importance, literary merit or influence” (Dennis 2008: 124). The concept’s history is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of distinguishing those Biblical texts which were believed to have been divinely inspired and accurately copied down (thus “authentic”) from the apocryphal and thus non-canonical ones. Likewise, different universities compiled lists of literary works “worthy” of study/research in academia, establishing thereby literary canons, which maintained relative stability for decades (Goring et al. 2001: 211).

In the contemporary literary/critical discourse, however, characterized by flexibility, plurality, and indeterminacy in establishing (generic) boundaries, the term “literary canon” may sound at least dated, if not objectionable. This controversy is reflected in a polemic between critics like Harold Bloom, who swear by the literary canon as an “ageless self-governing tradition” and others, who reject the concept of the canon as exclusive and conservative (Ross 2006: 367). Between these two opposite views there are the moderates, who claim that “the literary canon [. . .] has always been open to adjustment and expansion” (367, emphasis added). In our understanding of the concept it is precisely this...

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