Rewriting the Canon in Contemporary Gothic

Authored by: Joanne Watkiss

The Gothic World

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415637442
eBook ISBN: 9780203490013
Adobe ISBN: 9781135053062


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As Franz Potter has argued, the act of recycling has been integral to the Gothic mode since its emergence in the eighteenth century (Potter 2005: 8). Flying flagrantly in the face of the Romantic discourse on original genius, early writers of the Gothic often gave themselves over to the tireless reworking of set themes, characters and scenarios, to the extent that, for its detractors, the Gothic became a hackneyed, clichéd and thoroughly overworked mode. In modern and contemporary culture, this tendency to rewrite and recycle other texts has remained a consistent feature of the form: several recent Gothic productions, too, seem parasitically to feed off and plagiarize one another, uncannily echoing and repeating certain familiar characters, themes and plot-lines across a variety of texts and media. At least in part, this process would appear to be driven by the general postmodern assault upon notions of origin and originality, pervasive theoretical reservations rendered all the more acute by the already thoroughly intertextual nature of Gothic writing itself. This chapter explores the contemporary rewrites of three canonical Victorian Gothic fictions, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw (1898), in Will Self's Dorian: An Imitation (2002), John Marks's Fangland (2007), and John Harding's Florence and Giles (2010) respectively, demonstrating the extent to which the act of rewriting in the contemporary Gothic is based upon the productive alignment of different historical contexts and locations, an alignment that suggests not so much the timelessness of Gothic as the creative, engineering forces of historical process and change.

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