Editor's Introduction

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Givenness and Loss: Gender, Genre, and the Ghost Story

Julian Wolfreys, University of Portsmouth

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The logic of the ghost story requires certain assumptions from its audience. There must be that willing suspension of disbelief from the very start. Part of this is, doubtless, an assumption that we take the spirit, spectre, phantom, phantasm, ghost or apparition at face value, that we believe what it seems as a sign of what it is, or if no long ‘is’, then ‘was’: the revenant in the form of a man or woman, a trace of either. Yet, is it really that straightforward? Can we be so certain? Is it not the case that our logic is in fact haunted by this play of presence and absence, and that the spectral trace is, in ‘reality’, merely a figure of loss? To assume the ghost as mere representative is to enter into a logic that is traditionally, conventionally, masculine, metaphysical and phallocentric. The ghost is always haunted by a masculinity not necessarily its own, and by a certain relation to the very question of Being itself. Yet, the ghost also ‘gives’. Its appearance is an event of what Jean-Luc Marion calls ‘givenness’, the appearance of the other that escapes and exceeds metaphysical thinking, and which calls to its audience to respond ethically, and to bear witness. Pursuing this line of inquiry, in this essay I propose to consider the question of givenness in relation to the ghost story, and to take a line through the argument that challenges the implicit ‘gender’ of the logic that haunts the ‘genre’. In order to do so, I will consider the way in which, in the stories of Henry James, Margaret Oliphant, and Thomas Hardy, amongst others, trouble our epistemological certainties through a play on form that challenges, as much as it relies on, the conventions of form and the logic underpinning it.

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Replacing People and Reinforcing Family in Stephen King’s ‘The Man in the Black Suit’

R. Mac Jones, Extended University at USC-Columbia

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Stephen King’s ‘The Man in the Black Suit’ has garnered less critical attention than one  might expect given its status as an O. Henry Award winner. The short story’s antagonist,    a fairly familiar image of a dapper Devil, and stated intention as an homage to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’ belie, though, its complex treatment of family. ‘The Man in the Black Suit’ can be argued as supporting a retreat into an idealized view of family, an innocent view, as a means of combating evil: a rare stance for one of King’s stories, and one best understood in relation to the story’s setting.

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‘Stop All The Clocks’: Elegy and Uncanny Technology

Rebecca Mills, University of Plymouth

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I examine subjective representations of time and space in elegy from the 17th century to the 21st century, focusing on how ordinary objects affect the elegiac environment. I argue that the defamiliarising of technological devices by the elegist creates uncanny sites of contact with the world of the dead. Using elegies by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, W. H. Auden, Sylvia Plath and Anne Carson, among others, I demonstrate a persistent motif of technological devices and scientific imagination in the genre. Stopping a clock interrupts the passage of time. Photographs create a static space where the past is present. The telephone allows connection to the dead. Studying the effects of these devices allows the interrogation of a critical narrative of shift from nature to science in the elegiac tradition, and the associated shift from healing to hopelessness, and emphasises the uncanny element of elegy and its impact on the space and time of mourning.

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The Gamification of Gothic Coordinates in Videogames

Tanya Krzywinska, Falmouth University

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Videogames may rely on the highly logical nature of computing technology, but that does not mean they are immune to the dark touch of Gothic; far from it. Gothic themes, characters, stories, and environments can be found across a wide range of videogames, from puzzle games to multiplayer online games and from shoot ‘em ups to strategy games. More wide-ranging and focused work is certainly required as there is a major lack of sustained scholarly engagement with Gothic in videogames.[1]

In an effort to begin the task of remedying this and as part of a more extensive project (a book entitled ‘Gothic Games’ [forthcoming]), this paper plots some initial coordinates of the domain, locating some of its major features, and provides a framework for evaluating the uses of Gothic in games. The foundation on which this analysis rests is an amalgam of two materials. The first is comprised of concepts, models and ideas that have been developed specifically for the analysis of videogames within what has become known as Game Studies. The second is drawn from concepts, models and ideas developed for the analysis of Gothic within what has become known as Gothic Studies. Game and Gothic Studies are both based in the Humanities and share through the lens of Cultural Studies a common attentiveness to the formation and reception of certain types of texts and their “meaning potential”; laden with signification and organized around patterns, texts both carry and are constitutive of culture. As Mikko Lehtonen puts it, “texts are not stuck on top of the rest of the world, as messages detachable from it, but participate in a central way in the making of reality as well as forming our image of it”(2000, 11). Gothic Studies evaluates texts, the way they are used and engaged with across a range of media and cultural practices. Game Studies focuses specifically on the formal specificities of games and the way they are played and engaged with. This paper calls on material from both provinces to fulfil its primary aim of understanding the effect that videogame media have on the appearance of Gothic in games and to stage its argument that videogame media has the capability to produce a powerful and compelling addition to Gothic fiction’s arsenal of affect.

[1] While there is work focused specifically on horror games, such as Perron’s collection Horror Video Games (2009), there is no book or edited collection on the topic of Gothic in games. The author has however written several articles on the Gothic in games including entries in Blackwell Guides to the Gothic.

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Consuming Appetites and the Modern Vampire

S. Brooke Cameron and Suyin Olguin, Queen's University, Ontario

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This article looks at food and the role of appetitive consumption in modern representations of the vampire. Most critics have read vampire as embodying Victorian fears surrounding fin-de-siècle desire and sexual decadence. We instead want to shift the discussion to food and eating rituals. Using Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a bridge text, “Consuming Appetites and the Modern Vampire” compares the British tradition, which advocates disciplined appetites as defense against Dracula’s demonic invasion, with modern American texts, which celebrate the vampire as a reflection of its own culture of excess consumption. The vampire is marked as Other precisely by his inability to control his appetite, and the disciplined appetite is essential insofar as it differentiates between the human and vampiric Other. It is this legacy of appetitive excess which continues to inform our modern interpretations of the vampire, whether this figure is a direct inheritor of Dracula or a more sympathetic, even domesticated, vampire.

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Creative Work

The Burnt Boy

Sophie Playle,

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Eley Williams,

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Divided Loyalties

Dru Pagliassotti, California Lutheran University

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Daniel Harris and Rupert Loydell,

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Poetry Collection

Russell Jones,

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A Christmas Present

Tom Scott,

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Women’s Ghost Literature in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Melissa Edmundson Makala

Joellen Masters, Boston University

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Book of the Lost, Emily Jones & The Rowan Amber Mill

Angeline Morrison,

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The Spectralities Reader: Ghosts and Haunting in Contemporary Cultural Theory, María del Pilar Blanco and Esther Peeren, (editors)

Murray Leeder, The University of Calgary

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Welsh Gothic, Jane Aaron

Jamil Mustafa, Lewis University

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Malady and Mortality: Illness, Disease and Death in Literary and Visual Culture, Conference Falmouth University, 19-20TH September 2013

Helen Thomas, Falmouth University

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Notes on Contributors

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