Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Encyclopedia of the Gothic - Review



“Infinity made imaginable.”


A review of The Encyclopedia of the Gothic (2016), edited by William Hughes, David Punter and Andrew Smith. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1-119-06460-2. (880 pages).

     The general editors (William Hughes, David Punter and Andrew Smith) begin their Introduction to The Encyclopedia of the Gothic by employing the now well-known story of the Chinese encyclopedia, popularized by Jorge Luis Borges and by Michel Foucault in The Order of Things (1970). Although they choose to employ the definite article in their chosen title, their enlightened emphasis on ‘provisionality’ hints at the struggle with the ‘epistemologically firm structure of an encyclopedia’ (p. xxxiv). Indeed, the evidence of diversity and the proliferation of resources [FN1] on gothic appears to challenge the possibility of constructing an encyclopedia in fixed media. Fortunately, the online version will provide an opportunity to interact with the suggestions of readers in order to cope with ‘an ever evolving genre’ (p. xxxviii). Nonetheless, the print version marks an excellent opportunity to take stock of the current state of play in gothic studies and to critically survey this gargantuan domain of academic research.

     In one sense, it might be proposed that academic canonicity originates in the authority and the legitimacy of scholars recruited to the project. In addition to the esteemed general editors the reviewer counted some 40 professors amongst the 131 contributors writing on 244 topics. It is also reassuring for the health of the subject that many early career scholars have joined forces with the influential writers who have been transforming the theoretical directions of Gothic studies since the 1980s.

     In short, it’s a highly impressive and monumental effort of collaborative scholarship. I do not envy the task of the editors who must bear the burden of their judiciousness: what to include, what to exclude. Digging deeper reveals that there are underlying narratives and a sense of shared assumptions about the Gothic project and approaches to reflecting on the diverse phenomena conceptually and theoretically.  Given that the gothic genre is not confined to a canon of literary texts the critical project is all the more arduous and the monster of possibility spreads out in all directions. Gothic has become a global project, national and transnational in its replication and migration. As if nodding to the academic industry that has fuelled the dissemination of gothic the editors kindly offer an entry at the centre of their encyclopedia around which all other entries circulate: the International Gothic Association (IGA), whose inaugural conference was held at the University of East Anglia in 1991. Incidentally, two of the general editors, Andrew Smith and William Hughes, are co-presidents of the International Gothic Association, and the latter is also the founding editor of Gothic Studies, the refereed journal of the International Gothic Association.

     It is rather impertinent to question whether a book of this kind is really needed when so much is already available elsewhere, and more material than ever is available on open access. Indeed, the IGA website (www.iga.stir.ac.uk) is a useful place to start. Google Scholar throws up 442,000 references to ‘gothic’ so it’s undoubtedly very helpful to have some guidance to refine the search terms. Certainly this volume compares well with a range of other histories, guides, and companions that have been designed to cater for the undergraduate market. It’s obviously also a safe place to start for students who want to research a specific topic, or to improve their awareness of key themes, concepts, and theoretical approaches. The editors have managed to meet the need for accessibility without falling into the trap of a gross over-simplification of complex ideas. Entries range in length from a thousand words, up to five thousand for ‘period’ surveys. The general policy of the editors has been to offer a survey of the gothic field that covers ‘periods, places, people and media.’ (p. xxxvii) Short bibliographies accompany each entry, together with cross-references. A well-constructed traditional index also helped this reviewer to track down more minor topics that I had deemed to have been missed out.

     Comparison with the much demonised Wikipedia reveals the value of having an erudite collection of short articles that serve as a trusted introduction to key topics in the field of Gothic studies. In terms of geography there are well-informed entries on the regional, national, or wider traditions: African American Gothic (Carol Margaret Davison), American Gothic (Charles L. Crow), Anglo-Caribbean Gothic (Carol Margaret Davison), Asian Gothic (Katarzyna Ancuta), Australian Gothic (Ken Gelder), Canadian Gothic (Faye Hammill), Dutch Gothic (Agnes Andeweg), European Gothic (Francesca Billiani), French Gothic (Terry Hale), Japanese Gothic (Katarzyna Ancuta), Jewish Gothic (Ruth Gilbert), New England Gothic (Faye Ringel), New Zealand Gothic (Timothy Jones), Russian Gothic (Neil Cornwell), Scandinavian Gothic (Yvonne Leffler), Scottish Gothic (Carol Margaret Davison), Southern [US] Gothic (Meredith Miller), and Welsh Gothic (Jane Aaron); but curiously British Gothic and English Gothic are omitted as self-standing entries. One assumes that these categories were sufficiently represented elsewhere, like a background noise that is unnoticed, or a torture to which we have so long submitted that we no longer feel the pain of its presence. (I note that Wikipedia has an entries on ‘Tasmanian Gothic’ and ‘Southern Ontario Gothic’; whereas the Encyclopedia offers ‘Fin-de- siècle Gothic’ (Emily Alder) Wikipedia supplements with an entry on ‘Mal du siècle’.)

     The notion of transnationalism and the migration of Gothic tropes and narratives is evidently becoming more urgent as a focus for international scholarship and collaboration. In this regard David Punter’s entry on ‘Theory’ notes: ‘it involves the constant contact, now prevalent more than ever before because of the globalized spread of cultural interchange, between Western textualities and “indigeneous” folktales and related material.’ (692) Undoubtedly the traffic is multi-dimensional and therefore the encyclopedic projects of a Western intelligentsia and the habits of cultural consumers need to be constantly alerted to the notion of the key role of ‘provisionality’ and ‘interaction’ previously noted.

     Psychoanalytic and other theoretical approaches to Gothic are well served in this volume, perhaps revealing the interest of the general editors and the academic readership that the book targets. Taking a lead from Dale Townshend’s The orders of Gothic: Foucault, Lacan and the subject of Gothic writing, 1764-1806 (2007) David Punter’s entry on ‘Theory’ notes that theory ‘does not have to bifurcate into, on the one hand, purely historical study and, on the other, an attempt to demonstrate “universal” aspects.’ (692)

     Many entries bear the bite marks of the kiss of theory and most are commendable for their clarity and accessibility; examples include:  Abjection (Elisabeth Bronfen); Blood (William Hughes); Commodity Gothicism (Tricia Lootens); Criticism (William Hughes); Cryptonymy (Cynthia Sugars); Doubles (Dale Townshend); Environment (Gregg Garrard); Female Gothic (Diana Wallace); the Grotesque (Maria Parrino); Liminality (Katie Garner); Monstrosity (Jerold E. Hogle); Phobia (Anthony Mandal); Poststructuralism and Gothic(Julian Wolfreys); Psychoanalysis (Roger Luckhurst); Queer Gothic (Max Fincher); Sex (Ruth Anolik); Spectrality (Julian Wolfreys); the Sublime (Max Fincher); the Uncanny (Anneleen Masschelein) and Zombies (Fred Botting). All entries pay lip service to a theoretical approach but it would not be kind to assert, or to give the impression, that a theory-driven agenda dominates and overwhelms other kinds of critical appreciation and historical enquiry. In this case, the gothic church is highly accommodating and tolerant.

     Curiously, the entry on Future Gothic (Nema Montezero) appears without any References or Further Reading. Is that the Shape of Things to Come? Media topics are represented by entries on popular TV, Film (Stephen Carver), Games (Tanya Krzywinska); Radio (Richard  J. Hand), and many more. The longest entries (up to five thousand words) in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic tend to be devoted to the surveys of periods and movements. These entries provide a convenient route for students who are embarking on the study of the gothic for the first time and who need a judicious summary rather than an awesome monograph. Given the high cost of downloading academic articles, it is evident that a modest investment in a resource such as The Encyclopedia of the Gothic clearly represents excellent value for undergraduates, independent scholars and general readers. The theoretical approaches will also prove an essential resource for those seeking to engage with current academic research on the gothic.

Ian McCormick, M.A.(St Andrews), PhD (Leeds).

FN1: 'Nobody ever complains of having too little to read, as Richard Fisher, the managing director of Cambridge University Press’s academic division, has put it at many conferences.' See Martin Paul Eve, Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

TOPICS COVERED:
  • Abjection
  • Abyss
  • Adultery
  • African American Gothic
  • Aickman, Robert
  • Ainsworth, William Harrison
  • Alcohol
  • American Gothic
  • Amityville
  • Angel
  • Anglo-Caribbean Gothic
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Apparition
  • Architecture, Gothic
  • Asylums
  • Atwood, Margaret
  • Australian Gothic
  • Avatar

  • Barker, Clive
  • Baudelaire, Charles
  • Beckford, William
  • Benson, E. F.
  • Bierce, Ambrose
  • Blackwood, Algernon
  • Blood
  • Bluebooks
  • Braddon, Mary Elizabeth
  • Brite, Poppy Z.
  • Brown, Charles Brockden
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Bulwer-Lytton, Edward
  • Burger, Gottfried
  • Burton, Tim
  • Byron, George Gordon, sixth Baron

  • Cabell, James B.
  • Campbell, Ramsey
  • Campus Gothic
  • Canadian Gothic
  • Carter, Angela
  • Coleridge, Samuel Taylor
  • Collins, Wilkie
  • Colonial Gothic
  • Comic Gothic
  • Comics and graphic novels
  • Commodity Gothic
  • Confession
  • Coover, Robert
  • Corelli, Marie
  • Counterfeit
  • Crime
  • Criticism
  • Cronenberg, David
  • Crowley, Aleister
  • Cryptonymy
  • Cult Fiction
  • Cults, Gothic
  • Curse

  • Dacre, Charlotte
  • Davis, M. E. M.
  • De Quincey, Thomas
  • de Sade, Marquis
  • Degeneration
  • Dickens, Charles
  • Disability
  • Domestic Gothic
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor
  • Doubles
  • Drama
  • Dream
  • Drugs
  • du Maurier, Daphne
  • Dutch Gothic

  • Editorship
  • Ellis, Bret Easton
  • Environment
  • European Gothic

  • Family
  • Fate
  • Faulkner, William
  • Female Gothic
  • Film, Gothic
  • Folklore and Gothic
  • Freeman, Mary Wilkins
  • French Gothic
  • French Gothic Film
  • Friday the 13th
  • Future Gothic

  • Games
  • German Expressionism
  • German Gothic
  • Ghost Stories
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins
  • Godwin, William
  • Goth
  • Gothic 1900 to 1950
  • Gothic 1950 to the Present
  • Gothic Revival Architecture
  • Graveyard Poetry
  • Grotesque, The

  • Halloween
  • Hammer
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel
  • Herbert, James
  • Hill, Susan
  • Hoffmann, E. T. A.
  • Hogg, James
  • Hope-Hodgson, William
  • Horrid
  • Horror Fiction
  • Hypnotism

  • Imperial Gothic
  • Incest
  • Inheritance
  • Inquisition
  • International Gothic Association, The
  • Intertext
  • Ireland, William Henry
  • Irish Gothic

  • Jackson, Shirley
  • James, Henry
  • James, M.R.
  • Japanese Gothic
  • Jewish Gothic

  • Kafka, Franz
  • King, Stephen
  • Kipling, Rudyard

  • Lathom, Francis
  • Law and the Gothic
  • LeFanu, Sheridan
  • Lemoine, Ann
  • Lesbian Gothic
  • Lewis, Matthew
  • Liminality
  • Lovecraft, H. P.
  • Lugosi, Bela

  • Macabre, The
  • MacDonald, George
  • Machen, Arthur
  • Magazines
  • Manga
  • Marsh, Richard
  • Masks, Veils and Disguises
  • Matheson, Richard
  • Maturin, Charles 
  • McCabe, Patrick
  • McCarthy, Cormac
  • McGrath, Patrick
  • Mediumship
  • Melodrama
  • Melville, Herman
  • Misogyny
  • Modernism
  • Monster Movies
  • Monstrosity
  • Mummy
  • Music

  • Necromancy
  • New England Gothic
  • New Zealand Gothic
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Nordier, Charles

  • O’Connor, Flannery
  • Oates, Joyce Carol
  • Occultism
  • Odoevsky
  • Opera

  • Penny Dreadfuls
  • Phobia
  • Poe, Edgar Allan
  • Poison
  • Polidori, John
  • Popular Culture
  • Portraiture
  • Postcolonial Gothic
  • Postmodern Gothic
  • Poststructuralism and the Gothic
  • Protestantism
  • Psychical investigation
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Psychological Thrillers

  • Queer Gothic

  • Race
  • Radcliffe, Ann
  • Radio
  • Reeve, Clara
  • Reynolds, George
  • Rice, Anne
  • Rohmer, Sax
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Romanticism
  • Rosicrucianism
  • Ruins
  • Russian Gothic

  • Scandinavian Gothic
  • Schiller, Friedrich
  • Science and the Gothic
  • Scottish Gothic
  • Secret Histories
  • Secret societies
  • Sensation Fiction
  • Sensibility
  • Sex
  • Shelley, Mary
  • Shelley, Percy Bysshe
  • Shilling Shocker
  • Sinclair, May
  • Slasher movies
  • Slavery
  • Southern Gothic
  • Spectacle
  • Spectrality
  • Spiritualism
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis
  • Stoker, Bram
  • Straub, Peter
  • Sturm und Drang
  • Sublime, The
  • Suburban Gothic
  • Supernatural, The

  • Taboo
  • Tales of Terror
  • Teaching Gothic
  • Technologies
  • Teenage Gothic
  • Tegg, Thomas
  • Television
  • Terror
  • Theory and Gothic
  • Thompson, Alice
  • Translation
  • Twilight

  • Uncanny, The
  • Urban Gothic

  • Vampire fiction
  • Victorian Gothic
  • Village Gothic
  • Voodooism

  • Walpole, Horace
  • Wells, H. G.
  • Welsh Gothic
  • Werewolf
  • Wharton, Edith
  • Wheatley, Dennis
  • Wilkinson, Sarah
  • Williams, Tennessee
  • Witchcraft
  • Wordsworth, William

  • Zombies

CONTRIBUTORS:

Aaron, Jane University of Glamorgan UK
Alder, Emily Edinburgh Napier University UK
Ancuta, Katarzyna Assumption University of Thailand Thailand
Anderweg, Agnes Maastricht University Netherlands
Anolik, Ruth Villanova University USA
Armitt, Lucie University of Salford UK
Bak, John S. Nancy Université France
Balmain, Colette
UK
Barlett, Mackenzie

Bennett, Mark
UK
Berthin, Christine Universite Paris Quest France
Billiani, Francesca University of Manchester UK
Billingham, Peter
UK
Blake, Linnie Manchester Metropolitan University UK
Botting, Fred University of Lancaster UK
Bronfen, Elisabeth Englisches Seminar Switzerland
Byron, Glennis University of Stirling UK
Campbell, James University of Stirling UK
Carver, Stephen Norwich School of Art and Design UK
Carver, Stephan University of East Anglia UK
Chaplin, Susan Leeds Metropolitan University UK
Chromik, Anna Institute of English Cultures and Literatures
Collins, Richard Louisianna State University USA
Cologne-Brookes, Bath Spa University UK
Conrich, Ian Birkbeck College, University of London UK
Cooper, Andrew Georgia Institute of Technology USA
Crow, Charles
USA
Curl, James Stevens
UK
Daly, Nick University College Dublin ROI
Davison, Carol Margaret University of Windsor Canada
Edwards, Justin University of Surrey UK
Fincher, Max
UK
Fischer, Benjamin Franklin
USA
Foley, Matt Stirling University UK
Franklin, Caroline Swansea University UK
Freeman, Nick Loughborough University UK
Garrard, Greg Bath Spa University UK
Gelder, Ken University of Melbourne Australia
Germana, Monica University of Westminster UK
Gibson, Matthew
UK
Gilbert, Ruth
UK
Hale, Terry Hull University UK
Hammill, Faye University of Strathclyde UK
Hand, Richard J. University of Glamorgan UK
Hartnell-Mottram, Elaine Liverpool Hope University UK
Heholt, Ruth Falmouth University UK
Hoeveler, Diane Long Marquette University USA
Hogle, Jerrold University of Arizona USA
Hollington, Mike

Horner, Avril  Kingston University UK
Huang, Chiung-ying Bristol University UK
Hughes, William Bath Spa University UK
Inouye, Charles Tufts University USA
Jones, Tim Victoria University fo Wellington New Zealand
Joshi, S T

Kahan, Jeffrey
USA
Killeen, Jarlath Trinity College Dublin ROI
Krzywinska, Tanya Brunel University UK
Leffler, Yvonne University of Gothenburg Sweden
Lippert, Conny University of Bristol UK
Lloyd, Rebecca Falmouth University UK
Lootens, Tricia University of Georgia USA
Luckhurst, Roger Birkbeck College, University of London UK
Mandal, Anthony Cardiff University UK
Mason, Diane
UK
Masschelein, Anneleen Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Belgium
McClure, Nancy
USA
McDowell, Stacey University of Bristol UK
McEvoy, Emma University of Westminster UK
McWilliams, Ellen Bath Spa University UK
Menegaldo, Gilles University of Poitiers France
Meyers, Helene Southwestern University USA
Michasiw, Kim York University Canada
Milbank, Alison Nottingham University UK
Miles, Robert University of Victoria Canada
Miller, Meredith Falmouth University UK
Monk, Nicholas University of Warwick UK
Mousoutzanis, Aris
UK
Mulvey, Roberts University of the West of England UK
Munford, Becky Cardiff University UK
Murname, Barry Martin-Luther  University UK
Ni Chonaill, Siobhan University of Cambridge UK
Nordius, Janina University of Gothenburg Sweden
O'Gorman, Farrell De Paul University USA
O'Keefe, Ciaran

Owen, Tomos Cardiff University UK
Packham, Jimmy University of Bristol UK
Palmer, Paulina
UK
Parrinder, Patrick University of Reading UK
Parrino, Maria Bristol University UK
Peach, Linden Edge Hill University UK
Pittard, Christopher Newcastle University UK
Pittock, Murray University of Glasgow UK
Potter, Franz National University USA
Powell, Anna Manchester Metropolitan University UK
Punter, David University of Bristol UK
Purinton, Marjean Texas Tech University USA
Purves, Maria Lucy Cavendish College UK
Raghunath, Anita Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam The Netherlands
Redford, Catherine University of Bristol UK
Ringel, Faye U.S. Coast Guard Academy USA
Roberts, Marie Mulvey University of the West of England UK
Round, Julia Bournemouth University UK
Royle, Nicholas
UK
Ruddell, Caroline St Mary's University College UK
Sage, Vic University of East Anglia UK
Sausman, Justin Birkbeck College, University of London UK
Scahill, Andrew University of Texas at Austin USA
Scullion, Val
UK
Smith, Andrew University of Glamorgan UK
Smith, Andy W. University of Wales, Newport UK
Spooner, Catherine Lancaster University UK
Stelle, Ginger University of St Andrews UK
Stephanou, Aspasia University of Stirling UK
Stoddard Holmes, Martha California State University USA
Sugars, Cynthia University of Ottawa Canada
Talairach-Vielmas, Laurence Universite de Toulouse II France
Thomas, Ardel City College of San Francisco USA
Thompson, Douglass H. Georgia Southern University USA
Townshend, Dale University of Stirling UK
Voller, Jack Southern Illinois University USA
Wallace, Diana University of Glamorgan UK
Warwick, Alex University of Westminster UK
Watson, Rory University of Sterling UK
Weinstock, Jeffrey Central Michigan University USA
Whatley, John Simon Fraser University Canada
Wheatley, Helen University of Warwick UK
Williams, Anne
USA
Willis, Martin University of Glamorgan UK
Wisker, Gina University of Brighton UK
Witchard, Anne University of WestminsterUK UK
Wolfreys, Julian Loughborough University UK
Worrall, David Nottingham Trent University UK
Wright, Angela University of Sheffield UK
Wright, Elizabeth Bath Spa University UK
Wright, Angela University of Sheffield UK
Zapp, Andrea Manchester Metropolitan University UK
Zlosnik, Sue Manchester Metropolitan UK