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Expanding the Gothic Canon

Studies in Literature, Film and New Media


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 TWO: Gothic Castaways: Dreams, Demons and Monsters in Early Modern Desert Island Narratives


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Gothic Castaways: Dreams, Demons and Monsters in Early Modern Desert Island Narratives


Of all early modern genres, desert island narratives, otherwise known as robinsonades,1 seem least likely to be associated with the Gothic, not only chronologically, but also on account of their apparently radically different dominant characteristics: a relatively simple plot combined with a mimetic representation of the lonely life of a middle-class castaway on a desert island, focusing on his/her survival arrangements and psychological or religious experiences as opposed to the diversified complex plots centred around aristocratic characters involved in supernatural and fantastic events, usually set in medieval times. And yet, in the light of Williams’s comments about the origins of the Gothic in English literature, the link may not be as exotic and far-fetched as may appear at first sight:

Although earlier critics insisted on the importance of foreign-especially German-imports, many scenes and episodes in canonical literature belong to a kind of quasi-“Gothic” tradition that may be traced from Beowulf (the landscape of Grendel’s mere) through several episodes of The Faerie Queene, certain scenes from Shakespeare, much of Jacobean drama, to Milton’s “Il Penseroso,” verse by Anne Finch, and Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard. (1995: 13)

Indeed, in pre-1767 desert island narratives, numerous scattered and bundled elements, often shared with other genres such as the romance and travel narrative that would later be taken as constitutive features of ← 51 | 52...

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