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The new labyrinth : reading, writing and textuality in contemporary Gothic fiction

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  • Additional Information
    • Contributors:
      Townshend, Dale; Byron, Glennis
    • Publication Information:
      University of Stirling, 2013.
    • Publication Date:
    • Collection:
      University of Stirling
    • Abstract:
      This thesis examines the forms and functions of self-consciousness in contemporary Gothic fiction. Though self-consciousness is an often-mentioned characteristic of Gothic writing, it has yet to be explored in sufficient depth. In particular, critics have failed to recognise the manner in which the myriad forms of textual and generic self-reflexivity at work contribute to the fiction’s fearful agenda: how self-consciousness in the Gothic is itself Gothicised. This thesis argues that, rather than being an ancillary quirk of generic coherence or an indication of creative exhaustion, self-consciousness has become an integral part of the genre’s terroristic project, a new source and representational mode of terror. In the wake of postmodern and post-structural theory, the genre’s longstanding interest in reading, writing and textuality has been renewed, re-contextualised and redeployed as a key feature of the Gothic ‘effect’. My original contribution to knowledge is a charting of the intersections between the Gothic and this critical perspective on the text. In particular I explore how the Barthesian reorientation of the text is redeployed in Gothic fiction as a source of terror. Rather than pursuing an author-centric division of chapters I have organised the thesis around types of self-conscious commentary that occur throughout the contemporary Gothic. These are: a focus on the process of writing and textual composition; the internalisation and Gothicised representation of critical theory; an acute awareness and meta-commentary on the critical and commercial contexts of Gothic; and intertextuality. Key texts include Stephen King’s Misery (1987), Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000), Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted (2005), A.N. Wilson’s A Jealous Ghost (2005), R. M. Berry’s Frank (2005) and Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein (2008). This selection of texts is representative of a varied but coherent inward turn in the Gothic fiction of recent decades. It is, however, by no means exhaustive and supplementary evidence will be provided from additional texts. Equally, it is important to contextualise this contemporary turn in relation to an established vein of self-consciousness in the Gothic, present since its inception. As such, my approach is firstly to trace a lineage of reflexivity and to draw upon that tradition in demonstrating how contemporary Gothic writers have honed this technique to a uniquely terrifying purpose.
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