The Gothic, cultural crisis, and negotiating the anxieties of the age


“The Gothic is frequently considered to be a genre that re-emerges with particular force during times of cultural crisis and which serves to negotiate the anxieties of the age by working through them in a displaced form.”
~ David Punter and Glennis Byron

This is a nicely concise statement and it sums up a lot of what is said about the Gothic (consider just the fact that Punter and Byron, cited by Do Rozario, are now being cited by me…). What interests me is that it also rings true, in many ways, of adolescent and children’s fiction. (Do Rozario doesn’t exactly argue this, but perhaps implies it in her essay, ‘Fantastic Books’, from which I take the above quote). Both children’s and adolescent fiction often address the concerns of the age (particularly as they relate to our concerns for the future and to current pedagogy). Even the novels that deal with eating disorders, bullying, or more general adolescent angst often concern themselves with the wider societal changes that enable such difficulties… I wonder how ‘YA Gothic’ negotiates the anxieties of the age…

How do protagonists of YA Gothic face up to their fears and difficulties?

What resources do they have to do so?

What form do their fears and difficulties take in this fiction?

How is this fiction different from ‘adult’ Gothic (if it is different)? And how is it different from any other genre of adolescent fiction?

Note: Do Rozario also cites Allan Lloyd Smith as stating: “The information revolution, by providing too much information and [-p.212] boundless signs without referents, subjects the protagonist to a sensory disarray comparable to the confusions of a Gothic victim.” Again, …Gothic victim/ Adolescent protagonist… there’s a conceptual overlap!

Ref: (David Punter and Glennis Byron, cited p.211; Allan Lloyd Smith, cited pp211-212) Rebecca-Anne C. Do Rozario ‘Fantastic Books: The Gothic Architecture of Children’s Books’ pp.209-225 Eds. Anna Jackson, Karen Coats and Roderick McGillis (c2008) The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders. Routledge: New York

Reference is to: p.39 David Punter and Glennis Byron (2004) The Gothic. London: Blackwell Publishing

p.15 Allan Lloyd Smith (1996) Postmodernism/Gothicism. In V. Sage & A.L. Smith (Eds.), Modern Gothic: A Reader (pp.6-19). Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press.


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