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FAQ : What is Gothic?. Les vestiges du gothique. Persistence as Resistance. If one is to judge from the thousands of sites available on the web, it is indeed a frequently asked question. A question which it may be worthwhile asking at the outset of this convention — if only to remind ourselves that only what is questionable is worth discussing. There are things that are gothic that many Gothik sex dislike. There are things that some people think are gothic that are not gothic, and there are things that do not call themselves gothic even if they are considered gothic by most people.

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I am certainly not a Grand Gothic Judge, and I am not going to answer the above-mentioned frequently asked question. David Punter, who is a shrewd Gothicist, has a similar non-answer to the question, in the Preface to his excellent Companion to the Gothic. After all, it is not the job of academics to answer questions, but to ask them.

Imagine what life would be like, if we, teachers, had to. What I would like to do is ask the question in my own, very superficial, very naive, simple-minded way, without the slightest ambition at finding a satisfactory answer.

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Is Gothic — as the most intellectually-challenged among us used to believe — nothing more than a literary genre which flourished during the second half of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, say between and ? A speculation largely discredited but which still deserves mentioning however dated and absurd as a possible, if remotely related, source for later developments.

Or is Gothic precisely what followed, or remained, in a more diffuse way, throughout the nineteenth century — like dead fingers knocking at gothik sex, mad women in the attic, vampires on the loose, or such things as go bump in the night? The remains of the. Or by Gothic are we supposed to understand what the late Leslie Fiedler understood, viz.

Moreover, Fiedler "smells of sulphur" as we say in French, or smacks of heresy in some critical comers, because, as can be gathered from what we have just heard, his approach is completely homocentric and he has "masculinized" the Gothic. Like for instance those penny-dreadful "gothic" novels published in the United States by the hundreds of thousands in the sixties and early seventies?

They all proclaim themselves to be "Gothics" and they, indeed, reproduce practically all the themes, figures, tropes and topics of the original gothic — with a difference: the characters and situations are adapted to the twentieth-century consumer society; they are easily recognizable by their cover gothik sex, inevitably representing a distressed female fleeing from a distant castle, with only one window lit, in the background. And they are indeed identifiable "remains" of the eighteenth-century tradition. The examination of a hundred or so of such covers is very revealing: the Heroine is always beautiful, white why have black women been, as it were, excluded from the American Gothic tradition?

One more question so far left unanswered. Sometimes putting on a smile of confidence which she is far from experiencing, typically red-haired and sophisticated, she is often frightened and distressed, looking at times really tormented by what is happening to her; always courageous, at times even daring, she is a modem version of the original eighteenth-century Gothic heroine, who had indeed her own problems, as illustrated by contemporary artists. Perhaps threatened in a more explicit way by the obvious, what past heroines were in fact in danger of, was losing only their lives.

The heroine of modem times, equally vulnerable, is often confronted like her foremothers, with the abyss. Standing on the edge of a yawning chasm the question is: gothik sex she fall?

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Or jump? Her choice, of course, is almost always a very dramatic one. On the other hand, the modem governess or nurse employed in the mansion of a wealthy family — and her eighteenth-century aristocratic ancestress, are equally capable of aesthetic gothik sex, of moments of sublimation, yesterday like today heavily symbolized by flights of birds. The castle, with which the heroine is so completely identified that the modem artist sometimes represents her as an emanation of the architectural structure, is of course the other essential element of mass-market Gothic. Heavily medieval in style, it normally boasts as many towers and battlements as its eighteenth-century counterpart, although some modem cover illustrations have been produced in the "House of the Seven Gables" style.

On most covers, the inside of the house is as impressive as the outside. However, whatever the style of the mansion, one of its major attributes is its towers, whose role is just as important as it was in the original stories; they often appear in the titles of modem Gothics, as they did in those of the eighteenth century. Doors finally, gothik sex so far as they enclose space, confine, immure and encompass, are interesting elements of the Gothic decor.

How many Emilies have trembled in the past, on seeing the handle of their door turn slowly — a door without an inside lock of course, opening onto architectural depths which obviously metaphorize abysmal depths of a psychological or sexual nature. Faced with the horror of such an image, one can only ponder, ruminate and moan.

What about the graphic representations of action? The titles often inform us that there generally is a legal aspect to it, such as problems of inheritance or the misappropriation of funds. Action proper always takes place at midnight. It does happen that this light, piercing through darkness, allows her to see what it was imperative that she should not see: a ghost.

Strangely enough, spectres are still there, in this sophisticated twentieth-century popular literature: real or explained away at the end, often mentioned in titles, the phantoms are sometimes graphically represented on the covers. What about the hero? He is more often than not represented as a rather shadowy character — a threatening shadow — whose blurred outline, superimposed on the image of the heroine, could well be interpreted as a metaphor for the male "I", or superego, keeping a close watch, a close eye, on his alleged victim.

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Or else, the hero is represented in the background, seemingly following the heroine, pursuing her as it were, and keeping her under constant surveillance. The story ends, when the real nature of the main male character has been unveiled and when, to use an eighteenth-century title, all " Mysteries " have been " Elucidated.

But before the final, edifying love scene, the castle, or mansion which has been the geographic centre of the action, must bum down, like Thomfield Hall, or Manderly. Of course, eighteenth-century Gothics also had their fires, more or less clumsily represented by contemporary artists. Then, but only then, after the "fall of the house," can the couple at last gothik sex, if suggestively, embrace. Once this last difficulty overcome, then complete surrender into brawny arms is made possible.

The graphic representation of couples in the eighteenth-century was on the whole tamer than its twentieth-century counterpart. No physical contact at least on the engravings between male and female. Love at first sight, or "coup de foudre" was graphically represented by a Of course The Monk is. So emblematic of the fate of Woman in the modem world, as conceived by a certain school of thought, that it will need to gothik sex discussed at some length.

But for the moment, my first conclusion from what precedes, is that Gothic not only lends itself to illustrations, but can hardly do without them. The heroine is one of those fiction writers who writes Gothic potboilers she calls them "costume gothics" to make a living.

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These books, with their covers featuring gloomy, foreboding castles and apprehensive maidens in modified nightgowns, hair streaming in the wind, eyes bulging like those of a goiter victim, toes poised for flight, would be considered trash of the lowest order. This may be true; just as may be true the opinion of those who claim that in reading gothics, women are reproducing their oppression; but the gothics also served the purpose of making women and hopefully some men aware of those "degrading stereotypes.

And rightly so.

Which brings me back to the "frequently asked question" earlier mentioned. Indeed, Gothic is more than a mere label pasted on a book cover. It is by many thought to be a powerful metaphor for female experience. And as such, it is believed to have a not negligible potential of subversion. And by subversion I mean something different from "revolutionary. But Gothic is subversive. The traditional images of Womanhood it conveyed to an estimated readership of sixteen million women for Harlequin Gothics alone — women under the influence of what Anna Sonser, in her.

But confinement is not necessarily physical and "escape" literature can also ify the desire to break free from the laws of the symbolic order. According to Tania Modleski,6 a television commercial for Harlequin Romances, in the seventies, showed a middle-aged woman lying on her bed holding a Harlequin novel and preparing for what she calls her "disappearing act": vanishing into the "wonderful world of Harlequin Romances.

Perhaps Gothic is an adequate metaphor for this "disappearing act," or — to put it in a more abstract way — for the subversion of twentieth-century domestic ideology. Perhaps those haunted mansions from which, on the covers of modem Gothics the heroines flee a graphic version of the "act of disappearance" are fantasmai images which express what Suzanne Becker in her Gothic Forms of Feminine Fiction, calls "the ideological enclosure of feminity" Modleski 18 in a culture of a patriarchal nature.

Gothik sex is female not only because it has been written by a vast majority of women authors for a vast majority of women readers, but because Gothic explores family life from a gender vantage point, and describes marriage as gothik sex institution which perpetuates male supremacy.

Female Gothic, to use a well-known phrase, illustrates the belief that, as Helene Meyers puts it in her Femicidal Fears: Narratives of the Female Gothic Experience, "heterosexual romance constitutes the key to female identity and security," or that "it is the norm that provides women with happiness and security. And of course it has been true that married women have been bereft of legal and economic rights. The "wrongs of woman," so pathetically described by Mary Wolstonecraft in Maria have unfortunate historical grounds.

Although such extreme situations have largely disappeared, there are critics who observe that the culture in which we live has, even today, comparable effects. To quote Helene Meyers again, women routinely face such horrors as "economic dependence and vulnerability, sexual victimization, psychological battering from an androcentric culture. I am not an unconditional supporter of the feminist cause. Like all established persuasions, Feminism has its factions, its divisions and At this point, it may be relevant to consider a more specific orientation which Gothic criticism has recently taken.

Because Gothic is such a subversive genre, it can gothik sex militantly used as a genre to denounce what Adrienne Rich calls "compulsory heterosexuality"8; it can be used to cast off the shackles of sexual choices, imposed by the hetero-patriarchal social and moral environment. Gothic is in fact the genre best able to justify all transgressive attitudes towards feminine sexuality. The lesbian couple "vampirises" the traditional pattern of fiction, moves and settles into the narrative structure of a "normal" text, which it transforms from within into a gothic novel.

Since I used the word vampirise, may I add that a large area of vampiro-gothic production films and fiction has lesbian connotations. I earlier said that I was not an unconditional supporter of the feminist cause. Take Cesare Lombroso, for instance: a highly respected Italian university professor and criminologist. In a famous and infamous contribution to gothik sex Contemporary Reviewhe wrote: "In figure, in size of brain, in strength, in intelligence, woman comes nearer to the animal and the. The only positive point about women, according to Lombroso, is that the natural form of regression in them is prostitution rather than crime.

Woman is the absolute Other. In a culture which has allowed such ideas to be widely circulated and taken for granted, women had serious reasons to fear. But if Gothic does imply a confrontation with Otherness, "femicidal fears" are only part of the Gothic landscape. What characterizes Gothik sex is its high degree of indefinition.

It is the site of competing speculations, where one interpretation is as good as the next. Gothic is also an adequate metaphor for the dark side of life, for the world of cruelty, of horror, lust, perversion, and crime, that is reflected in certain forms of contemporary fiction or films. Instead of talking of Gothic in terms of remains, at the outset of the twenty-first century, perhaps it would be more adequate to speak of it in terms of a spreading process and imperialist conquest of the whole human experience.

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Marsiella

Welcome to a special on SexVid.
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Bernete

Sexuality in the Gothic definitely advances a male-dominated hetero-normative agenda.
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