Gothic Criticism in the Twentieth Century: Who is this that is coming?

Brewster, Scott (2022) Gothic Criticism in the Twentieth Century: Who is this that is coming? In: Twentieth-Century Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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Item Type:Book Section
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

This chapter traces the development of Gothic criticism during the twentieth century, identifying its main features, obsessions and contradictions. Firstly, it will examine early accounts of Gothic by critics such as Dorothy Scarborough, Edith Birkhead and Eino Railo, which tend to situate Gothic fiction within a broader literary history and view it as a minor strand of the novel tradition. It will then explore the work of figures such as Montague Summers and Devendra Varma, who ascribe much greater literary and cultural significance to Gothic, and identify many of the features – its ambivalent, countercultural appeal, capacity for ceaseless reinvention across different historical moments, and visionary purpose - that have continued to preoccupy Gothic criticism in recent decades. The chapter then evaluates the burgeoning of Gothic scholarship pioneered by David Punter’s The Literature of Terror (1980). After this foundational moment, where the study of Gothic begins to assume the status of a discipline, Gothic attracts a diversity of theoretical perspectives, ranging from psychoanalysis, feminism, gender studies, Marxism and postcolonialism to film studies and cultural theory. Throughout, this essay assesses the benefits and limitations that have arisen from Gothic’s gradual transition from marginality to the mainstream, transgression to respectability, interloper to invited guest. While much of this critical energy is invested in embracing the subversion, danger and playfulness of Gothic, the chapter will ask whether this transformation actually became a new conformism that tempered, even tamed, its ability to shock, challenge or unsettle.

Keywords:the Gothic, Gothic Literature, Literary criticism, literary theory
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q323 English Literature by topic
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:46044
Deposited On:24 Aug 2021 14:22

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