Who has not been on an amusement park ride that proceeds through a haunted house, complete with cobwebs, coffins, once opulent furnishings, and a ghost or two? It is an idea that we have encountered countless times in novels and movies alike yet one that continues to mystify us. How did the trope of the haunted Gothic castle/mansion materialize so quickly in the late eighteenth century? Although we have more or less recognized Walpole’s castle of Otranto as its prototype, we are yet unacquainted with the rapid construction of the so-called “haunted castle/mansion/house” trope, particularly between 1777 and 1800. This essay contends that far from being accidental, the foundations of this trope were heavily impacted not only by populist histories that detailed the beginnings of Britain’s stately castles, abbeys, and houses and the dark tales of their presiding tyrants, but more significantly by the simultaneous campaigns for parliamentary reform and religious toleration. I demonstrate how historians began to identify the chief features of Gothic architecture as Norman during a period in which reformers and radicals were also beginning to revive the myth of the Norman Yoke and stir up resentment against the church and aristocracy. I also show how reformers were increasingly inclined to deploy architectural metaphors in their discussions of Britain’s political institutions and establishments: just as conservatives argued for the retention of the Gothic castle, progressives argued for its destruction, regarding it in some instances as either haunted or filled with harpies (i.e., Jeremy Bentham). Finally, I analyze the means by which Jacobin and Gothic novelists adopted the Gothic castle as a criticism of Britain’s so-called “establishments” and, more interestingly, came to explore the idea of identification between villains and their dark abodes in their novels.
This article investigates how and why the Gothic can be described as camp. Examining the ascription of ‘camp’ by Susan Sontag and others to describe the Gothic, it suggests that the Gothic is camp because it is queer. Moving away from a reading of camp as a style stripped of its queer meanings (in particular the reading of the Gothic as camp because it is ‘theatrical’, ‘hyperbolical’ or ‘artificial’) a reading of camp is offered that uses queer theory which questions the naturality and authenticity of gender. In particular, Fabio Cleto’s idea of how camp represents a crisis of reading the signs of naturality can be applied to the Gothic’s use of the supernatural. The queer valency of Gothic writing, especially in texts such as The Monk, emerges in how the body can be misinterpreted. In The Monk, the voice and the gaze as conduits of desire and phobia are those signifiers of the body that are shown to disturb a sex-gender binary and to provoke a crisis of reading. This anxiety about seeing and understanding desire in not-so-easily visible bodies (like the supernatural) connects to socio-cultural anxieties about how reading gender to read same-sex desire is unstable in the early nineteenth century. An overview of how queer helps us to understand why the Gothic is camp is offered, and then a specific analysis of where the camp effects occur in The Monk is provided through a close reading.
In this essay, I suggest that the central section of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – the creature’s description of his first experiences – echoes Hume’s and Bacon’s discussions of inductive reasoning. Because the creature must learn the causes of phenomena the reader takes for granted, his story defamiliarizes both the reader’s world and the process of induction itself. The creature’s tale thus functions as a travel narrative, and produces the cognitive estrangement associated with science fiction. I then examine the prominence of inductive reasoning in the novel as a whole, and discuss Victor’s and the creature’s singular situations as resistant to inductive understanding. I argue that Shelley uses various narrative techniques (such as embedded narratives and character doubling) to invite and frustrate readers’ attempts to use induction to solve the novel’s central moral questions. The reader’s inability to form coherent inductive patterns in part accounts for the novel’s radical ambiguity. Finally, I suggest some consequences for Frankenstein’s relation to the gothic: the novel departs from gothic conventions in its unusual use of the doppelgänger, and its rhetorical goals in invoking induction.
This essay explores the transformations of the female demon in Dacre’s Zofloya and Brontë’s Wuthering Heights in relation to issues of femininity and domestic space. The mutability of the Gothic genre allows for the emergence of a new female demon introduced by Dacre and rewritten by Brontë. Tracing the domestication of Victoria and Catherine reveals the significance of the role of performance in the female demon’s acceptance into this feminized space. Masculinity and sensibility are also examined since the female demon is guided into the domestic sphere by effeminate male characters and then fall prey to their more masculine demon lovers. This essay argues that although the female demon’s newly acquired skill of performance and transformation allows her to explore the realm of the domestic, Dacre and Brontë suggest, by ultimately reverting to traditional Gothic perceptions of femininity, that her domestication is her demise.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, has historically been read as a “timeless” allegory dramatizing the fundamental conflict between the “good” and “evil” elements of human nature. More recent readings of the novel, however, have put forth historicized interpretations of the text emphasizing its engagements with the cultural developments of late-nineteenth-century Britain. This article builds upon these historicized readings, arguing that Stevenson’s novella is reflective of the anxieties engendered by current theories of evolutionary degeneration and, more specifically, its manifestations in illicit behaviour, especially in the areas of alcohol consumption and sexual expression. Stevenson’s novel actively critiques those cultural sites most vocal in articulating such anxieties, namely the temperance and social purity movements of the later nineteenth century. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thus deploys a language of (in)temperance to interrogate the potentially destructive results of an evolutionary model which posits the subject as already split between his or her civilized (moral) and barbaric (immoral) selves.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been seen as the nineteenth century prototype of the workings of the criminal mind. Similarly, current psychoanalytic readings of the novel suggest that it serves as a precursor to Freud’s theories on the structural model of personality, and repression and that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can provide insight into the psychology of addiction, multiple personality disorder and borderline personality disorders, as these terms have currency in the discipline of modern psychology. Indeed, Stevenson’s novel can even be seen as a precursor to the very genre of Freud’s “case” study. In fact, current readings of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde continue to focus on its case study aspects, claiming that the novel shows “the composition and operation of the criminal mind” (Thomas qtd in Rosner, Spring 29). “Much Ado About Handwriting: Countersigning with the Other Hand in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is concerned with making a Gothic case “the composition and operation of the criminal mind,” but not because the word “composition” denotes a mental constitution that merely pre-exists the text or that the text refers to or represents a substantive criminal mind; instead the word suggests that there exists a displaced link between writing, reading, interpretation, and criminality as the shadowy “place” where the “other” begins and collusion enters the scene. Taking as a premise Jacques Derrida’s contention that “it is the ear of the other that signs,” this paper is concerned with “composition,” signatures and encryption as a way of exploring how these texts pose insoluble psychic double binds regarding the determination of criminality.
Readers of Dracula have been assured repeatedly that the novel is all about sex. Indeed, every sexual practice, fantasy and fear imaginable has been thrust upon its pages: rape (including gang rape), aggressive female sexuality, fellatio, homoeroticism, incest, bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia, and sexually transmitted disease. Words have been twisted to yield new meanings, passages have been examined out of context, and gaps in the text have been declared intentional omissions. Furthermore, critics comb every aspect of Stoker’s life looking for evidence for their particular brand of psychosexual analysis, sometimes even inventing “facts” to support flimsy theories. The preponderance of such readings of Dracula demands re-assessment. While it would be folly to deny any erotic content in a novel about biting and sucking, the incessant pursuit of this path has led us down the slippery slope of revisionist biography and reductive textual nit-picking. Such readings may be a product of the late twentieth century’s voyeuristic obsession with sexuality, coupled with a determination to project (sometimes in condescending fashion) its own self-proclaimed sophisticated and liberated views onto a Victorian text - and its author.
Scientific ideologies swirl throughout Stoker’s two most gothic novels, Dracula (1897) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911), and this essay will address those ideologies as literary manifestations of just some of the “weird science” that was permeating late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Europe. Specifically, the essay examines racial theories, physiognomy, criminology, brain science, and sexology as they appear in Stoker’s two novels. Stoker owned a copy Johann Caspar Lavater’s five-volume edition of Essays on Physiognomy (1789), and declared himself to be a “believer of the science” of physiognomy. The second major “weird science” infecting the gothic works of Stoker is the new field of criminology, or the bourgeois attempt to codify, control, and exterminate criminal elements in the human population. Stoker drew on both Havelock Ellis’s The Criminal, published in 1890, and the Italian Cesare Lombroso’s work, Uomo Delinquente (1876), a book that was available to Stoker in a two volume French translation published as L’Homme Criminel (1895). Stoker derived a number of his passages about the workings of the brain from the theories of the well-known professor of physiology, W. B. Carpenter, founder of the notion of “unconscious cerebration,” a concept developed in his book Principles of Mental Physiology (1874). Finally, Richard von Krafft-Ebing published his pioneering text on sexuality in 1886, Psychopathia Sexualis, with Special Reference to Contrary Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Legal Study, and invented the scientific study of sex. Of a piece with criminology, sexology attempted to categorize and medicalize human behaviors in such a way that all would become clear to the informed and enlightened bourgeois consciousness. As another weirdly scientific effort to “discipline and punish,” sexology sought to transform crime into perversion, and the man or woman suffering from vampiric tendencies became just another case study of sexual deviancy.
The vampire/human split in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles is structured like a racial split. Becoming a vampire constitutes an essence, a shared material difference that is not something humans can come close to understanding. In the process of erasing actual racial differences through the "Dark Gift," Rice relies on embodiments of ethnicity and racial specificity in her management of gay male desire (a major factor in her popularity). The complexity of the relationships that shift and multiply between desire, race, sexuality and otherness is captured most strikingly in the fourth novel of the series, Tale of the Body Thief. After establishing the gender and sexuality work accomplished by Lestat’s body-switching, the paper examines David Talbot's switch into a young male body himself. Talbot’s own becoming-other, and becoming-vampire thereafter, are instances of both general and specific racialized embodiment. Lestat's experience of the human flesh is different from Talbot's, and in fact does more to constitute identity as gender and sexuality than as race. Talbot's assimilation into Lestat's identity formation (erasing ethnicity by way of becoming an other) still produces a specificity, one that exoticizes a youthful otherness overcoded by Portugal, Africa, India and Brazil. However, the othered body can only be animated by an aging white British gentleman’s mind and manners.