A new $100(!) book of essays from the academic publisher Ashgate, Transnational Gothic: Literary and Social Exchanges in the Long Nineteenth Century. The “Long Nineteenth Century” was a Marxist term for the period 1789 (French Revolution) to 1914 (First World War), which implicitly positions communism as the fulcrum of history. This increasingly well-reviewed collection tries to wriggle free of the tribal academic mindsets that apparently… “concentrate exclusively on race, gender, or nation” in the gothic, litcrit studies in which… “every nineteenth century haunting seems to be based on race” and “with few exceptions, the focus is limited to national borders”. This new book tries instead to see the gothic as a global network of aesthetic influence — something which would seem to be obvious to a historian, but which mainstream literary academics writing on the gothic have apparently been blind to.
The book’s Introduction is available on Amazon’s “Look Inside”, or via the free 10% sample for your Kindle ereader. The Kindle version is cheaper, but is still $58(!). You can also get to Google Books chapter previews, but only by Google Search.
There are a couple of essays of tangential relevance to Lovecraft:
“Demonizing the Catholic Other” develops the accepted history in which the roots of horror fiction lie in folk tales re-crafted to serve as anti-Catholic propaganda tales (Beware the Cat etc), by suggesting that anti-Catholicism was later complicated and developed by the rising and secularising middle-classes. By having been demonised, a conversion to Catholicism was inadvertently positioned as an alluring form of cultural rebellion for middle-class youth. But if gothic horror fiction really sent readers into the clammy hands of the local Catholic priest, then I suspect there were more than a few disappointed converts. Most literary-minded Catholic converts probably just had a simple yearning for a sumptuously embroidered and censer-smelling alternative to parental cold-water Christianity or secular boredom, rather than any hopes for orgies with vampire nuns and the like. Although perhaps some gay converts such as Montague Summers actually got the dark sensual frisson they were looking for. As the English-speaking world modernised, the spread of middle-class education and toleration of Catholics meant that horror’s cliched anti-Catholic elements had outlived any practical usefulness in the culture. But the social acceptability of horror had been established due to its past political usefulness, and thus horror found itself in a cultural space where it could become a formularised and tolerated commercial titillation for the literate secular middle-classes. A formula against which Lovecraft later rebelled in his best work.
The another interesting essay, “A Transnational Perspective on American Gothic Fiction” questions the rigid boundaries which mainstream academics have apparently set up between British and American gothic fiction. I’m no expert on mainstream gothic litcrit, but it seems a convincing overview and is pointed out in reviews as one of the best essays in the book.
“Gothic Prosidy: Monkish Perversity and the Poetics of Weird Form” also looks as though it might have some slight interest to historians of weird poetry. It… “examines the way Romantic-period poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edgar Allan Poe invented unique stanzas and meters for poems that involve horror or the supernatural.”
David Haden said:
“But the social acceptability of horror had been established by its past political usefulness, and thus horror found itself in a cultural space where it could become a formularised and tolerated commercial titillation for the literate secular middle-classes.”
It strikes me that much the same political operation and fallout occurred in the 1959-79 period, when literary and visual porn was used as a political weapon by the liberal left, only for the left to find that they couldn’t conveniently put the genie back in the bottle when they turned puritan in the 1990s.
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