Category Archives: Gothic

Troubled and Twisted (485)

We’re moving on from Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives but I wanted to suggest the the ways that text and the ad hoc genre of domestic noir intersect with the course as a whole.

As we said in class the home is often idealized as a space of intimacy and nurturance– a sanctuary from the stress and low-grade violence of the streets. This view of domesticity maps directly onto the well-established ideology of “separate spheres,” a gendered distinction between public and private that has historically coded the home as feminine and the world of business and politics as its masculine obverse. Yet you’ll recall that in the Manifesto Marx and Engels note one of the key characteristics of capitalist modernity is the tendency for market relations to permeate even the institution of the family. There is no real outside to the demands of capital– its compulsions to compete and exploit.

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Van (303/485)

Just a heads-up: beginning Tuesday we’ll have four class meetings on Frank Norris’s strange novel Vandover and the Brute. My passionate hope is that everybody’ll have that reading completed (including appendices) by Thursday 3/29 if not by Tuesday 3/27. In the meantime I want you all thinking about “the duality of man”– as Sgt. Joker would phrase it. Consider yourself: are you good or bad? What would the EVIL version of yourself look like? Would such a strange doppelgänger— your Dark Twin— simply intensify your own worst traits?

The character of Vandover embodies some of the most disturbing cultural anxieties of the fin-de-siècle (end of the century) era. Among these fears is the eugenicist paranoia that Western Civilization necessarily saps natural vitality, generating cohort after cohort of neurasthenic degenerates. Pay close attention: we have arrived at the moment when a naturalist version of the Gothic has entered the labyrinth of Race– that ultimate social fiction.

Die! Die! My Darling!/ Fanatic

From Hammer Films ca. 1965. A gawping, strawberry blond Donald Sutherland plays a more vacuous version of Simple Jack alongside Stefanie Powers as the plucky yet oddly anodyne American beauty visiting her dead fiance’s psychotic mother– the inimitable Tallulah Bankhead speaking in a voice seasoned by two million unfiltered cigarettes.

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