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Module 1: Introduction to the Gothic: Gothic Motifs

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Gothic and Identities

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Video 1: The Gothic and Identity
Hello and welcome to this week's lecture. In this final session on the Introduction to the Gothic I am going to talk about the nature of identities which gets reflected in Gothic fiction, the Gothic is also a useful sub-genre to talk about the entire colonial identities and it also is a very useful generic conduit to talk about contemporary and anxieties. Now, let us see how the English identity is going through a flux in the late 18th century. ‘In 1790s England, an expanding Empire, a growing diaspora of English settlers in foreign territories, and spreading political unrest in Ireland and on the European continent all helped to contribute to a destabilization of British national Identity’. In this critical comment you can see a list of factors which are kind of threatening the British cultural identity, national identity. What does it mean to be British? What is the ideal British characteristic? Now, this identity is being challenged or threatened or be changed by the expanding Empire of Britain, Great Britain and there is further a growing diaspora between a large number of British people living elsewhere. We have English settlers across the continent as well as in the eastern colonies as well. So, there is further increase in political unrest in Ireland as well as in the European continent. So, all these political changes kind of lead to this shift in social cultural identity with regard to the British and the British character becomes something which is an entity which seems to be changing. ( 2:41) Now, we see that the “Englishperson” the reference to the “Englishperson” is changing and let us kind of connect this with the fiction written from the land of Great Britain. ‘With the definition of “Englishperson” in flux, Ireland, France and Italy, nations which are prominently featured in Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest, the Mysteries of Udolpho and the Italian and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. So, there is a kind of understanding that these fiction- Udolpho, The Italian, Frankenstein are somehow making sense of the threats to the nation’s cultural integrity, the cultural identity as well. So, the threats posed to the nation's cultural integrity are not on homeland but elsewhere. So, it is very interesting how you know the threat seems to be coded in foreign soil and those are some of the threats, the fiction seems to tell its readers and that the home ground should be aware of, be cautious of. So, it is a very interesting way to kind of talk about indirectly, subtly the problems within the home ground as well. So, whatever subjects are problematic, they are kind of transported off the foreign countries, foreign settings and then it is kind of discussed in a fictionalized manner. So, the nature of the identity as well is kind of discussed through all these Gothic sections, so the villains seem to belong the foreign, seem to belong for a different time and there seems to be a suggestion that the readers, the English leaders seem to, should understand that they should not imitate all these elements which do not belong to the English national character. So, those things to be the subtle lessons which are being imparted in these, some of these Gothic fiction that you can also think about Frankenstein where the excesses of science, it is kind of portrayed and then it is also a cautionary tale in which the readers are told that if science is not handled very-very cautiously that it will come to harm humanity. So, all these factors are kind of discussed and put elsewhere in a different setting. ( 5:31) Now, let us talk about the idea of the primitive and the colonized within the framework of the Gothic sub-genre ‘because the people of these European countries were stereotypically perceived as being economically impoverished victims of political and “popish” tyranny, it would have been easy to construct them in popular and literary discourse as being both socially similar to the primitive indigenous populations of colonized territories and as uneasy reminders of England's own “premodern” past’. Now, if you look at all these Gothic fiction which are said elsewhere the people of these European countries are represented as economically deprived generally speaking and this economic deprivation seems to be caused by the political and “popish” tyranny, the Catholic institutions these countries are usually Catholic countries or the families who are affected are kind of influenced and victimized by Catholic families. So, that religion seems to be particularly threatening and evil. So, we have that category you know victims of “popish” tyranny as one kind of you know victimized people and then we have another category where we have primitive and indigenous populations of colonized territories as kind of representing the “premodern” past than itself. So, you can see how very subtly this fiction is talking about the other, the other as “popish” people, the other as you know economically deprived, the other as somebody who is uncivilized and who belongs to the past of Britain. So, Britain is something which all these categories are not, Britain is not “popish”, Britain is not economically deprived, Britain is not uncivilized. So, these are some of the meanings that seem to emerge through this Gothic fiction. ( 7:57) We can see the Gothic has involved in a particular project, a project which has to fold intentions. So, the first intention is, it attempts to account for the Gothic’s frequent – albeit subtle - use of imperialistic rhetoric, which is largely encoded within the novel's representations of sublimity, sensibility and domesticity. So, you can see how very carefully the project of the Gothic is embedded within the narrative framework of Gothic fiction. So, according to the critic here the point is that there is an imperialist rhetoric within the structure of Gothic fiction and that rhetoric can be found in relation to the way the ideas of the sublime, the ideas of notions of sensibility and domesticity represented in this particular sub-genre. So, Gothic tells the reader what is the ideal sublimity, what is real, really truly sublime, what are the things which should be seen and kind of you know appreciated. For example, if it is a picturesque setting which is rather harmless to the English characters then it is really sublime and then sensibility what is the right kind of sensibility, you know what is the ideal you know sentimentality which are represented in. Say, for example, The Mysteries of Udolpho with reference to the central female character Emily St. Aubert and others and what is the perfect domesticity, of course, it would be in English domesticity, where all these ideal sentiments are prevalent. So, this novel seems to do the cultural work of telling the readers and reaffirming to the readers that what is essentially British is the other ideal that is ultimately triumphant in the novel and all the “popish” characters and the destabilizing elements and characters are eventually discarded at the end of the narrative. ( 10:28) The second project of the Gothic is that it kind of tests and reaffirms the salience of bourgeois English identity by placing English or Anglo-inflected characters in conflict with “monstrous” continental others. So, this is a very-very crucial point in relation to the cultural function of the Gothic fiction. The Gothic fiction seems to kind of put two things in opposition to one another, one is the English identity, the middle class English identity which is largely English or Anglo-inflected characters and these characters come in opposition, come in conflict, they battle with the “monstrous” continental Others and it could be colonial Others as well. So, in this battle you know the English characters or the Anglo-inflected characters emerge supreme. So, what is affirmed, what becomes triumphant is the importance and the righteousness of the middle class English identity through this Gothic project. So, these are some of the crucial points that we need to constantly remember, one is the imperial rhetoric, which I discussed just a minute ago, that imperial rhetoric can be seen in relation to sublimity, sentimentality and domesticity and the other is how the foreign is always another, what is the threat posing to the cultural identity of the English. ( 12:14) We thus realize that the Gothic fiction is a type of writing that covers a lot of very thematic pursued, it is an umbrella term and it is so varied in style and the narrative effects are so different that an overarching definition becomes problematic and even undesirable. But there is a crucial common factor which is that you know this novel tries to deal with various notions by trying to evoke a particular kind of response which is the response of fear, which is common to all human beings. So, through fear various subjects are discussed in different manners in this fiction.

Video 2: Gothic and Contemporary Anxieties
Now, the contemporary Gothic draws on an already fragmented and heterogenic artistic tradition and it is less a genre than a vestigial type of writing with that which tries to resuscitates older horrors and formulas and filters them through the echo chambers of a morning preoccupation with the social value of transgressive literature. The contemporary Gothic drawing on an already fragmented and heterogeneity kind of tries to rework old formulas and older horrors and what it does is that it tries to filter them through the modern preoccupation, it tries to kind of apply those older fears to the current anxieties and now the contemporary Gothic has somehow become associated with transgressive literature. So, all the taboos which are not usually discussed, are in the mainstream literature are kind of genres through this kind of contemporary Gothic mode. ( In a century when the Gothic has once again exploded in popularity and following a period of strong institutionalization of its study in the 1990s and 2000's establishing some of its key modern manifestations and core concerns becomes a pressing issue. So, Gothic has exploded in popularity, have become immensely popular today, Gothic literature is enjoying a lot of readership and one of the ways in which this genre has been strengthened is through institutionalization of its study. There are academic courses, there are you know academic research areas, well-established areas in which the subject is discussed, studied, researched and its boundaries established more or less. And these factors kind of give fresh impetus to the study of this particular sub-genre. ( 15:14) Now, the Gothic can be an useful sub-genre to talk about contemporary anxieties, the Gothic maybe fruitfully separated from horror, a genre premised on the emotional impact it seems to have on readers, as a type of literature concerned with the legacy of the past on the present. And more importantly with the retrojecting of contemporary anxieties into times considered more barbaric. When you read this comment you can see how this comment has moved away from the old definition which strives to distinguish between terror and horror in the previous centuries with regard to Ann Radcliffe, you understand that you know terror is something which is useful to the expansion of the soul, horror has an opposite effect on the soul, it is supposed to be debilitating, it has no useful effect on human psyche. But here you can see how horror and terror are used in different ways and Gothic becomes a type of literature, which is concerned with the legacy of the past on the present. So Gothic becomes separate from the genre of horror and Gothic is slightly more sophisticated in this kind of a criticism by Reyes that because it is trying to discuss a very settling, fictional manner, the legacy of the past or the present and what the Gothic does is also that it kind of projects back contemporary anxieties into times that are considered to be less civilized. So, the present is thrown into the past in order to kind of discuss the complications of the present in a different setting, in a different time with different peoples. ( 17:12) Neo-Victorian fictions are also one of the kinds of contemporary Gothic fiction that has emerged in recent times, these have been increasingly manifested in Neo-Victorian fictions and in stories where settings are haunted by forgotten or repressed events but also by weird fiction, where encounters with beings and substances from unplumbed cosmic depths lead to a comparable temporal discombobulation. So, there are two categories here are discussed in this comment on the slide, one is the Neo-Victorian fictions where we have things and people and settings from the Victorian period be used in contemporary settings and this talk about forgotten or repressed events but we also have a different kind of fiction where we have characters and substances and beings from cosmic depths which are extra territorial and these lead to a confusion in temporality. So, all kinds of weird fiction as well as aspects which are taken from the past and are treated in the present, rewritten in the present are kind of treated as Gothic fiction in the contemporary context. ( 18:34) We also have this intertextual mosaics, so the contemporary Gothic which borrow from and recycle well-known myths and figures such as Dracula or Frankenstein's monster in order to show their continued relevance or else to adapt the recognizable narratives to the early 21st century. In other words the contemporary Gothic borrows these characters, well-known Gothic characters such as Dracula or Frankenstein's monster because these are very iconic Gothic elements and these are used in contemporary fiction in order to point out the idea that these characters continue to have relevance even to this day and we need to kind of think about these fiction as Gothic to 21st century Gothic which continues to rework the traditions of the past. ( 19:30) Finally, the Gothic, as a type of literature that is quickly becoming defined by the cultural work it carries out and by its transnational reach, has found in monstrosity, especially in its mediation of alterity, of traumatic national pasts and of the viral nature of the digital age, a fertile ground for the proliferation of new nightmares. What Reyes is trying to suggest here is that this Gothic sub-genre in the contemporary world is becoming defined by the kind of cultural work it does today and it has a transnational reach, a fiction written in India is read by people in Canada, so there is a transnational reach for fiction book Gothic and otherwise and especially if it is Gothic, the idea of monstrous, amongst monstrosity is kind of being disseminated across the globe and the idea of the other itself is changing constantly in the contemporary world, the other is not easily foreign, the other is not easily catholic, the other is something else. And Gothic fiction also talks about, the Gothic fiction of today also talks about the traumatic or the complicated or the painful national past and the viral nature of the true age and its impact on the human psyche is also a subject for the Gothic literature and this Gothic becomes a really fertile conducive domain to talk about or the increase in new nightmares. So, the nightmare, if you think about Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, is the creation of a new life from the dead so that becomes a nightmare of a science gone wrong, but now we have various nightmares and all these nightmares are kind of channelized through Gothic mediation, and meditation. So, the Gothic seems to meditate, the Gothic sub-genre seems to meditate upon this idea of alternative, the idea of the other and other is becoming more complex. Now than it has ever been. ( 21:49) The term Gothic is usually confined to places far away from the Indian subcontinent. Yet it is important to recall that the Gothic occurs in literature other than from the cultures of Europe or the United States, the Gothic is something just not pertaining solely to the cultures of Europe or the United States, the Gothic is not a genre which is confined to Great Britain, it is not just Shelley's Frankenstein or Radcliffe's works or any of those are fiction which are going to be discussed in this course. The Gothic is also a subject, a type, a mode which is used by other cultures to talk about their pasts and the complications of their present, so let us briefly see what those are. ( 22:42) Outside of the United States yet and yet still on the North American continent, is found Southern Ontario Gothic, so we have the southern Gothic which talks about other Gothic which are produced in southern states of the United States of America, but we have here Southern Ontario Gothic, a sub-genre of the Gothic novel that employs the use of the bizarre and the grotesque typical of Gothic tales. Similarly, literature from 20th century South Africa display Gothic traits so you can see how Gothic is something which is prevalent almost everywhere on this globe, so anything that pertains to the bizarre and the grotesque and how these are strange topoi or characteristics are used to talk about the nation's trauma become an example of Gothic sub-genre. So, as you can see South African fiction also displays Gothic traits. ( 23:45) Now, let us briefly look at the idea of the Indian Gothic. It is interesting to see that old bungalows of the British Raj in India also carry a Gothic feel. The sahibs, or Englishmen, who traveled across the plains and the hills of the Indian subcontinent often stayed at these dark bungalows as they were called and many a tale is told of the eerie happenings within. So, you can see how the Gothic is also captured within the colonial setting, the old bungalows of the British Raj are ideal settings to talk about a Gothic narrative, the sahibs are who have traveled across the plains and the hills of in the Indian landscape, often stayed in these dark bungalows and in these dark bungalows which are usually not very much inhabited and rarely occupied, many strange happenings are told in these narratives. So, like the Gothic castles that we see in Radcliffe or Mathew Lewis’ Monk or in other very common Gothic fiction we have these old bungalows becoming representations of terror and horror. So, these old bungalows which are administrative spaces, they become administrative spaces because Englishmen occupied them for travelling across the length and breadth for the Indian to do the job for the Empire. So, these spaces become spaces of oppression and connected to the space of oppression we have all these Gothic tales being offered. So, you can see the connection between the historical happenings and the literary of fantasies if you want to call it that, emerging from those spots. ( 25:35) “Many writers of the Raj have made reference to these bungalows, which also find a place in local folklore… the dark bungalow as one of the spaces that is essentially the Indian Gothic. It draws on literary as well as historical accounts of the space and sees how it is simultaneously Indian and British.” So, one of the fascinating elements of this kind of structure is that it is both Indian as well as British. It is on Indian soil but it is British owned and managed and for that reason it has a dual quality and an uncanny quality which is very-very interesting and it becomes fantastically exploited in Gothic fiction. And you can see how the narrative seems to suggest that it is the occupants who have turned this place Gothic, a kind of transformed this place into a place of strangeness and eeriness, so that kind of interpretation can also be brought out. The dark bungalows are equivalent to the Gothic castles that we find in the Western narratives of the Gothic and there is also an understanding that dark bungalows are also referred to in local folklore. ( 26:52) Kipling’s “My Own True Ghost Story” is short fiction but it is a fantastic example of how the old dark bungalow becomes Gothic and atmosphere and how that Gothic atmosphere is turned into a kind of a setting for a story by the English narrator, by the white man. ‘The narrator who stays the night in a rather sinister old dak-bungalow kind of tells the tale to the readers. During the night he hears the ‘unmistakable’ sound of a game of billiards being played in the non-existent room next door. In the morning the ancient servant tells him that in old times there had been a billiard-room there, and that one night one of the sahibs had fallen dead across the table. The narrator is excited to have found what seems to be an authentic ghost story, but then he hears the sound again it was a little rat running to and fro inside the ceiling cloth, and his imagination had down the rest’. So, you can see there is a comic ending to this narrator but that is not the point of the story, the point of the story is that the old dak-bungalow is so eerie, so strange and bizarre that it becomes an ideal setting, the ideal setting for ghosts kind of inhabited. And further you can also realize that the caretaker, the Khansama is trying to trick the English narrator as well. So, he comes to support and who is kind of resisting the practices of the British as well. So, there is a kind of an anti-Imperial, anti-British threats subtext of this story by Kipling. It has a humorous ending, it kind of showcases the English narrator as being somehow duped to a certain extent by the Khansama, but the Gothic atmosphere stays through a larger portion of this story and does have a very profound effect on the reader. ( 28:52) Now, there are distinct tropes of the Anglo-Indian Colonial Gothic fiction, there is this haunted bungalow, the murderous servant, and the exotic Indian landscape. So, you can see how there is a particular set of attributes which are associated with the Anglo-Indian Colonial Gothic and we have the short stories of women writers being included in this context as well. Bithia Mary Croker and Alice Perrin are treated with the context of Victorian Gothic in nineteenth-century fiction and these women writers talk about socio-cultural factors and there is the reference to the Mutiny of 1857, Darwinian theory, and racial science are kind of discussed in the fiction of these women writers and these are and the writings can be categorized as Gothic because of the presence of all these Gothic elements and these Gothic elements tries to, try to make sense of all these factors. ( 29:55) Now, contrary to the Imperial Gothic you know which is usually dominated by male writers based on the distorted experience of British colonizers throughout the empire. The Anglo-Indian Colonial Gothic is concerned with the lived experience in British India. So, what this critic is trying to suggest is that this is more realistic compared to the ideological projections of male writers who belong to this category called Imperial Gothic. So, and the Imperial Gothic you can have Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone as a stunning example. However, the Anglo-Indian Colonial Gothic is written by people who are really experienced in India, who have fantastic close connections to the people and the landscape and this is not distorted and this is truer to the lift of reality of this particular land mass. So, these are some of the general trends associated with the Gothic which is away from the homeland and the homeland here referring to the British Gothic. So, the British Gothic is one particular kind of Gothic, we have the American Gothic, we have the Southern Gothic, we have the Gothic which comes from Canada, we have Gothic in South Africa, we have the Indian Gothic, we have the Imperial Gothic, but it is a massive area which cannot treated exhaustively this 12-week course. So, what I am trying to do is, I am looking at the most popular Gothic fiction which has emerged from the British side and I am going to encourage you to go and look at other Gothic fiction which has emerged from the rest of the globe. Thank you for watching, I will continue in the next session.