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    The necropolitan gothic

    Luckhurst, Roger (2021) The necropolitan gothic. In: Bloom, C. (ed.) The Palgrave Handbook of Gothic Origins. London: Palgrave, pp. 263-280. ISBN 9783030845612.

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    Abstract

    This chapter explores the representation of the grave and burial grounds from the proto-Gothic Graveyard Poetry of the 1740s, via the use of the horror of the individual corpse in 1790s Gothic romance and popular tales of bodysnatching in the 1820s to Dickens’ pivotal use of the pestilential inner city burial ground in his novel Bleak House (1853). It tracks these shifts as a reflection of a cultural change in Britain from favouring the local churchyard or urban graveyard to the suburban ‘garden cemetery’ that became realised by the 1840s. This shift is part of a response to the pressing hygiene issue of how to manage the increasing number of dead as urbanisation concentrated large numbers of the poor in inner city areas. As a problem of number, the essay suggests that Utilitarian and public health reformers had developed, by the 1830, a new kind of ‘necropolitics’—an extension of the biopolitical management of living bodies to the issue of the numberless dead. Book synopsis: This handbook provides a comprehensive overview of research on the Gothic Revival. The Gothic Revival was based on emotion rather than reason and when Horace Walpole created Strawberry Hill House, a gleaming white castle on the banks of the Thames, he had to create new words to describe the experience of gothic lifestyle. Nevertheless, Walpole’s house produced nightmares and his book The Castle of Otranto was the first truly gothic novel, with supernatural, sensational and Shakespearean elements challenging the emergent fiction of social relationships. The novel’s themes of violence, tragedy, death, imprisonment, castle battlements, dungeons, fair maidens, secrets, ghosts and prophecies led to a new genre encompassing prose, theatre, poetry and painting, whilst opening up a whole world of imagination for entrepreneurial female writers such as Mary Shelley, Joanna Baillie and Ann Radcliffe, whose immensely popular books led to the intense inner landscapes of the Bronte sisters. Matthew Lewis’s The Monk created a new gothic: atheistic, decadent, perverse, necrophilic and hellish. The social upheaval of the French Revolution and the emergence of the Romantic movement with its more intense (and often) atheistic self-absorption led the gothic into darker corners of human experience with a greater emphasis on the inner life, hallucination, delusion, drug addiction, mental instability, perversion and death and the emerging science of psychology. The intensity of the German experience led to an emphasis on doubles and schizophrenic behaviour, ghosts, spirits, mesmerism, the occult and hell. This volume charts the origins of this major shift in social perceptions and completes a trilogy of Palgrave Handbooks on the Gothic—combined they provide an exhaustive survey of current research in Gothic studies, a go-to for students and researchers alike.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Book Section
    School: School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Research Centres and Institutes: Aesthetics of Kinship and Community, Birkbeck Research in (BRAKC)
    Depositing User: Roger Luckhurst
    Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2022 15:30
    Last Modified: 24 Jan 2022 15:30
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/47226

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