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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 TEN: In the Bowels of a Gothic Microverse: Delicatessen as a Semiotic Palimpsest


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In the Bowels of a Gothic Microverse: Delicatessen as a Semiotic Palimpsest


Gothic texts may at times seem like collages of various literary and filmic traditions, making the genre a playing field of conventions, and therefore a space where signs belonging to different semiotic families assemble, interact, and produce new meanings. The inherent possibility to subcategorise anything Gothic into a number of smaller contributing components of styles and semiotic units is well reflecting of the “boundlessness as well as over-ornamentation,” which Botting refers to as a prime feature of the genre (1996: 3).

A 1991 debut film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro Delicatessen is a tribute to the achievements of Terry Gilliam and visually masterful testimony to the creative talents of the two French filmmakers. Described as “everything from a post-Holocaust film [. . .] to a gore comedy” (“Delicatessen”), Delicatessen can be seen as a product of the rich dialectical processes which take place on the welcoming, eclectic soil of this genre. In a relatively short film, we witness a generic transformation of the little filmic universe, a process semiotically as much as “aesthetically excessive” (Botting 1996: 6).

Delicatessen is set somewhere in post-apocalyptic France where plants have long ceased to grow and food shortages push people to acts of cannibalism. The filmmakers chose to concentrate their vision exclusively on life in a half-ruined tenement house inhabited by the three-generation Tapioca family, brothers Robert...

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