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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 EIGHT: Competing Genres in the English Country House: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters


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Competing Genres in the English Country House: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters


The English country house has appeared in a variety of literary genres. From the country-house poem it ventured into Jane Austen’s novel of manners, Dickensian Gothic and Wilkie Collins’s sensational novel. Agatha Christie’s murder mystery found the estate to be an ideal location for criminal investigation and Evelyn Waugh made it the object of both scathing satire and nostalgic eulogy to class in England. Across the different forms and genres the country house acquires different meanings and iconographies. Austen’s genteel country houses represent enclosed, “knowable communities” (Williams 1993: 165) that speak of social rank, position and privilege. In Gothic fiction, the country house reconnects with its roots in the medieval castle and becomes the locus of excess and transgression. In murder mystery, the manorial space becomes “the place of isolated assembly of a group of people whose immediate and transient relations were decipherable by an abstract mode of detection” (Williams 1993: 249).

Contemporary fiction revels in the different meanings of the country house.1 One of the most inspiring and productive dialogues involves contrasting visions of the country house inscribed in two generic traditions: the novel of manners and Gothic fiction. While the first defines the country house as “a carrier of culture,” a “great good place” (Kelsall 1993: 4-7); the other evokes the “the symbolic language of the Norman ← 173 | 174 → conquest,...

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