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'Contemporary Gothic'

Edwards, J (2016) 'Contemporary Gothic' Cambridge Companion Series . Cambridge University Press.

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In the United States, the words ‘contemporary’ and ‘gothic’ go together like zombies and brains. Like a swarming hoard, Gothic is ubiquitous: it is in our novels, our TV programs, on our computer screens and in our movie theatres. It has spread throughout literary and popular culture like a virus, infecting us with a contagion of tropes, figures and images. Gothic consumes and it is consumed by the feeding frenzy of audiences with insatiable appetites. This is seen in the best-selling novels of Stephen King, Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyer, L. J. Smith, Charlaine Harris, as well as in their mutated progeny: films such as The Shining (1980), Interview with a Vampire (1994), Twilight (2008) or TV series such as True Blood (2008-2014) and The Vampire Diaries (2009–). Yet there is also a significant continuity in the aesthetics of the American Gothic from the late 18th century to the present. For instance, there is a continuum between the psychological breakdowns of characters in Edgar Allan Poe’s Gothic stories and those found in Stephen King’s novels. The vampires in works by Rice and Harris are the heirs of the pseudo-vampiric creatures found in H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Hound’ (1924) and ‘The Outsider’ (1926). And the generic hybridization of Gothic and Romance in the sagas by Meyer and Smith mirror the blending of Gothic with Romance in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter (1850) and House of the Seven Gables (1851). Gothic never dies: it just morphs into different forms at different historical moments. Contemporary U.S. Gothic is not homogenous. Nor is it unified through a specific body of texts. Rather, there are multiple strands of contemporary Gothic that range from, among many others, the paranormal romance of Meyer’s Twilight saga to the queer Gothic of Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls (1992) to the eco-Gothic of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) to the Gothic sci-fi of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954) to the apocalyptic Gothic of Max Brook’s World War Z (2006). Contemporary Gothic is, like that which came before it, an adaptable mode. It is a shape-shifter: it transforms into different beasts to match the demands of new audiences whilst simultaneously reflecting the deep-rooted personal, social and cultural anxieties of the day. These are a myriad of fears which include, but are not limited to, new forms of advanced technology, ecological devastation, the migration of people, the speed of hyper-capitalism and the powerful forces of Globalization. These phenomena threaten to unsettle the homely American nation, transforming it into an unhomely place, an alien nation.

Item Type: Book
Divisions : Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Electronic Engineering > Centre for Vision Speech and Signal Processing
Authors :
Edwards, J
Date : 1 September 2016
Uncontrolled Keywords : Gothic, American literature, Contemporary culture
Additional Information : Copyright 2016 Cambridge University Press. Full text may be available at a later date.
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 21 Oct 2015 13:46
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 17:45

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