Borderline experience: madness, mimicry and Scottish Gothic

Brewster, Scott (2005) Borderline experience: madness, mimicry and Scottish Gothic. Gothic Studies, 7 (1). pp. 79-86. ISSN 1362-7937


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This paper will draw on Julia Kristeva’s concept of ‘borderline’ experience, a feature of psychotic discourse, to examine the representation of madness, split personality and sociopathic behaviour in Gothic fiction, particularly James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. For Kristeva, the borderline patient is split between the positions of actor and spectator, ‘a manipulator of seeming, a seducer who uses masks which remain more or less foreign to him’ and ‘a commentator, a theoretician, a commander of signs’. Just as the borderline case shifts between the roles of actor and ‘impresario’, so the analyst must mimic, or inhabit, borderline experience, oscillating between detachment and involvement. Kristeva’s articulation of borderline experience has suggestive and challenging implications for an understanding of literature that ‘presents’ us with madness, delusion or psychopathological disorder. Many of the main characteristics of borderline experience - a concern with authenticity and the proper name, fractured temporality and the undecidability of inside and outside, truth and delusion - are clearly evocative of Hogg’s Confessions. The discussion will assess the value of borderline discourse in encountering the madness of Gothic, and will conclude by establishing links between Hogg and contemporary manifestations of Scottish Gothic, in particular John Burnside’s The Locust Room.

Keywords:Gothic Literature, Scottish Literature, James Hogg, John Burnside, Julia Kristeva, Madness and literature, Scottish Gothic
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q323 English Literature by topic
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:15043
Deposited On:25 Sep 2014 08:49

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