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The (Southern) Gothic

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Though there are some similiarities . . . starts with Horace Walpole ... Castle of Otranto elaborates on his gothic concerns. It featured a haunted castle, ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The (Southern) Gothic


1
The (Southern) Gothic
2
Literary Gothicism isnt quite the same as the
pop culture stereotype
Though there are some similiarities . . .
3
Generally, Gothicism is a type of imitation
medievalism
  • starts with Horace Walpoles house, Strawberry
    Hill, which he refurbished with towers, turrets,
    battlements, arched doors, windows, and ornaments
    of every description, creating a kind of spurious
    medieval architecture that survives today mainly
    in churches, military academies . . . and
    university buildings.

4
Strawberry Hill
5
Walpole is also a writer,
  • and his novel The Castle of Otranto elaborates on
    his gothic concerns. It featured
  • a haunted castle,
  • An evil male villain
  • mysterious deaths,
  • supernatural happenings,
  • a moaning ancestral portrait,
  • a damsel in distress,
  • And, as the Oxford Companion to English
    Literature puts it, "violent emotions of terror,
    anguish, and love."

6
  • the literary Gothic emerges from the Romantic
    era, and shares many of the same tropes and
    themes, such as . . .
  • the omnipresence of death and decay
  • The importance of terror as revelatory of truth
  • Exploration of human psychology
  • Supernatural elements, or suggestions of same.
  • Reaction against modernity, often protagonist
    sees the light of supernatural after denying it.

7
Architecture is usually significant
  • The centrality of architecture
  • as model of self/psyche
  • as places of confinement
  • as ancient power structures (castles etc.)

8
  • Literary critic Christoph Grunenberg on the
    centrality of the house in Gothic literature
  • "The house functions as a matrix for memory and
    the exploration of its hidden rooms, forbidden
    spaces, locked doors, closely, and cupboards (a
    standard theme in Gothic fiction as in film noir)
    summons to consciousness displaced and undigested
    experiences and dreams. ("Unsolved Mysteries
    Gothic Tales from Frankenstein to the Hair-eating
    Doll 211)

9
  • the house often contains a madwoman in either
    the basement or the attic . . . think The Yellow
    Wallpaper or The Fall of the House of Usher by
    Poe.
  • Thus the secrets being explored are often
    connected to gender/sexuality.

10
Yet Gothic fiction is really family fiction in
the end . . .
  • it frequently has to do with family secrets
  • family histories
  • memories either forgotten or suppressed
  • deviant sexuality, incest

11
So why Southern Gothic?
  • since Gothic is embedded in yearning for an
    imagined medieval past, its revival in the
    American South was due to a yearning for a
    re-imagined past, where their peculiar
    institution (i.e. slavery) was just one facet of
    a glorious culture that deserves to be mourned.
    (think A Rose for Emily, also an example of the
    form.)

12
  • A lurid or macabre writing style native to the
    American South. Since the middle of the 20th
    century, Southern writers have interpreted and
    illuminated the history and culture of the region
    through the conventions of the Gothic narrative
    (or Gothic novel), which at its best provides
    insight into the horrors institutionalized in
    societies and social conventions. (Source NYPL,
    678).

13
  • The Grotesque
  • includes situations, places, or stock characters
    that often possess some truly awful qualities--
    typically racial bigotry and egotistical
    self-righteousness-- but enough good traits that
    they are nevertheless interesting.
  • Southern Gothic authors commonly use deeply
    flawed, grotesque characters for greater
    narrative range and more opportunities to
    highlight unpleasant aspects of Southern culture,
    without being too literal or appearing to be
    overly moralistic.

14
  • thus the form allows Southern writers to examine
    social institutions in a figurative way horrors
    that are in fact embedded in the historical
    past re-emerge in supernatural or shocking ways
    that actually serve to strengthen their effect.
  • Anne Rice, John Behrendt, William Faulkner,
    Cormac McCarthy, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers
    et al.

15
Flannery OConnor and the Southern Gothic
  • the genre, with all its attendant focus on
    violence, the grotesque, and the family, is
    ideally suited to OConnor, whose mission is to
    shock her audience into an understanding of
    mortality and Christian salvation.
  • more complex than simple horror a la Stephen
    King SG writing is more difficult to read and
    understand, and its effects more complicated.

16
Flannery OConnor and the Southern Gothic
  • the genre, with all its attendant focus on
    violence, the grotesque, and the family, is
    ideally suited to OConnor, whose mission is to
    shock her audience into an understanding of
    mortality and Christian salvation.
  • more complex than simple horror a la Stephen
    King SG writing is more difficult to read and
    understand, and its effects more complicated.

17
Heres OConnor on the subject of her writing . .
.
  • "Whenever Im asked why Southern writers
    particularly have a penchant for writing about
    freaks, I say it is because we are still able to
    recognize one."

18
  • "Anything that comes out of the South is going to
    be called grotesque by the northern reader,
    unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going
    to be called realistic."

19
  • "All my stories are about the action of grace on
    a character who is not very willing to support
    it, but most people think of these stories as
    hard, hopeless and brutal."

20
  • When you can assume that your audience holds the
    same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and
    use more normal ways of talking to it when you
    have to assume that it does not, then you have to
    make your vision apparent by shock -- to the hard
    of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind
    you draw large and startling figures."
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