New and Forthcoming Books. Part 1.

Posted by Glennis Byron on November 14, 2011 in Blog, News tagged with

There’s quite a few books of interest recently published or forthcoming, so look out for Part 2 coming soon.  All summaries are taken from Amazon uk unless other wise stated:

Hilary Grimes, The Late Victorian Gothic: Mental Science, the Uncanny, and Scenes of Writing, Ashgate, September 2011.

Examining the automatic writing of the spiritualist seances, discursive technologies like the telegraph and the photograph, various genres and late nineteenth-century mental science, this book shows the failure of writers’ attempts to use technology as a way of translating the supernatural at the fin de siecle. Hilary Grimes shows that both new technology and explorations into the ghostly aspects of the mind made agency problematic. When notions of agency are suspended, Grimes argues, authorship itself becomes uncanny. Grimes’ study is distinct in both recognizing and crossing strict boundaries to suggest that Gothic literature itself resists categorization, not only between literary periods, but also between genres. Treating a wide range of authors – Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Du Maurier, Vernon Lee, Mary Louisa Molesworth, Sarah Grand, and George Paston – Grimes shows how fin-de-siecle works negotiate themes associated with the Victorian and Modernist periods such as psychical research, mass marketing, and new technologies. With particular attention to texts that are not placed within the Gothic genre, but which nevertheless conceal Gothic themes, “The Late Victorian Gothic” demonstrates that the end of the nineteenth century produced a Gothicism specific to the period.

Julian Hanich, Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers: The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear, Routledge, September  2011. To be reviewed by Xavier Aldana Reyes.

Why can fear be pleasurable? Why do we sometimes enjoy an emotion we otherwise desperately wish to avoid? And why are the movies the predominant place for this paradoxical experience? These are the central questions of Julian Hanich’s path-breaking book, in which he takes a detailed look at the various aesthetic strategies of fear as well as the viewer’s frightened experience. By drawing on prototypical scenes from horror films and thrillers like Rosemary’s Baby, The Silence of the Lambs, Seven and The Blair Witch Project, Hanich identifies five types of fear at the movies and thus provides a much more nuanced classification than previously at hand in film studies. His descriptions of how the five types of fear differ according to their bodily, temporal and social experience inside the auditorium entail a forceful plea for relying more strongly on phenomenology in the study of cinematic emotions. In so doing, this book opens up new ways of dealing with these emotions. Hanich’s study does not stop at the level of fear in the movie theater, however, but puts the strong cinematic emotion against the backdrop of some of the most crucial developments of our modern world: disembodiment, acceleration and the loosening of social bonds. Hanich argues that the strong affective, temporal, and social experiences of frightening movies can be particularly pleasurable precisely because they help to counterbalance these ambivalent changes of modernity.

Simon Hay, A History of the Modern British Ghost Story, Palgrave Macmillan, October 2011.

A History of the Modern British Ghost Story places the ghost story in the contexts of historical period and literary form. It reads ghost stories as continuously engaging with, or even a kind of shadow form of, the novel: as the dominant mode of novelistic writing moves, in the nineteenth century, through the historical novel, Dickensian realism and naturalism, ghost stories develop new modes and techniques for exposing and critiquing these novelistic forms. Throughout this period, the book argues, ghost stories are one of the key ways that literature has addressed empire, class, property, history and the traumatic emergence of capitalism. By the end of the nineteenth century, usually considered the genre’s golden age, ghost stories begin to seem set on autopilot, the same basic techniques repeated with minimal variation. But this book follows the way that modernist and then postcolonial writers deploy ghosts in new contexts, radically changing the work that the figure of the ghost does: in modernism, the ghost becomes a central image for representing not the past’s persistence into the present, but the alienation and abstraction of modern life; and in postcolonial writing, where both the emergence of modernity and the pressures of the past are different, the ghost plays a key role figuring the intersection of indigenous traditions with those of capitalist modernity, in the emergence of magic realism.

David Punter, ed. A New Companion to the Gothic, Blackwell, forthcoming January 2012. To be reviewed by Neil McRobert, University of Stirling

The thoroughly expanded and updated New Companion to the Gothic, provides a series of stimulating insights into Gothic writing, its history and genealogy. The addition of 12 new essays and a section on ‘Global Gothic’ reflects the direction Gothic criticism has taken over the last decade.

  • Many of the original essays have been revised to reflect current debates
  • Offers comprehensive coverage of criticism of the Gothic and of the various theoretical approaches it has inspired and spawned
  • Features important and original essays by leading scholars in the field
  • The editor is widely recognized as the founder of modern criticism of the Gothic

Arthur Redding, Haints: American Ghosts, Millennial Passions and Contemporary Gothic Fictions, University of Alabama Press, September, 2011.

In Haints, Arthur Redding examines the work of contemporary American authors who draw on the gothic tradition in their fiction, not as frivolous or supernatural entertainments, but to explore and memorialize the ghosts of their heritage.

Ghosts, Redding argues, serve as lasting witnesses to the legacies of slaves and indigenous peoples whose stories were lost in the remembrance or mistranslation of history. No matter how much Americans willingly or unwillingly repress the true history of their ancestry; their ghosts remain unburied and restless.
Such authors as Toni Morrison and Leslie Marmon Silko deploy the ghost as a means of reconciling their own violently repressed heritage with their identity as modern Americans. And just as our ancestors were haunted by ghosts of the past, today their descendents are haunted by ghosts of contemporary crises: urban violence, racial hatred, and even terrorism. In other cases that Redding studies—such as James Baldwin’s The Evidence of Things Not Seen and Toni Cade Bambara’s Those Bones Are Not My Child—gothic writers address similar crises to challenge traditional American claims of innocence and justice.
Finally, Redding argues that ghosts emphasize a growing worry about a larger impending crisis: the apocalypse. Yet the despair the apocalypse inspires is vital to providing the grounds for new solutions to modern issues. In the end, the armies of the dispossessed enlist the forces of the spirit world to create a better future—by ensuring that mistakes of the past are not repeated, that Americans do not deny their heritage, and that accountability exists for any given crisis.

David Sandner, Critical Discourses of the Fantastic, 1712-1831, Ashgate, October 2011.

Challenging literary histories that locate the emergence of fantastic literature in the Romantic period, David Sandner shows that tales of wonder and imagination were extremely popular throughout the eighteenth century. Sandner engages contemporary critical definitions and defenses of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century fantastic literature, demonstrating that a century of debate and experimentation preceded the Romantic’s interest in the creative imagination. In “The Fairy Way of Writing”, Joseph Addison first defines the literary use of the supernatural in a ‘modern’ and ‘rational’ age. Other writers like Richard Hurd, James Beattie, Samuel Johnson, James Percy, and Walter Scott influence the shape of the fantastic by defining and describing the modern fantastic in relation to a fabulous and primitive past. As the genre of the ‘purely imaginary’, Sandner argues, the fantastic functions as a discourse of the sublime imagination, albeit a contested discourse that threatens to disrupt any attempt to ground the sublime in the realistic or sympathetic imagination. His readings of works by authors such as Ann Radcliffe, William Beckford, Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Walter Scott, and James Hogg not only redefine the antecedents of the fantastic but also offer a convincing account of how and why the fantastic came to be marginalized in the wake of the Enlightenment.

Anne Styles, Popular Fiction and Brain Science in the late nineteenth century, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming December 2011.

In the 1860s and 1870s, leading neurologists used animal experimentation to establish that discrete sections of the brain regulate specific mental and physical functions. These discoveries had immediate medical benefits: David Ferrier’s detailed cortical maps, for example, saved lives by helping surgeons locate brain tumors and haemorrhages without first opening up the skull. These experiments both incited controversy and stimulated creative thought, because they challenged the possibility of an extra-corporeal soul. This book examines the cultural impact of neurological experiments on late-Victorian Gothic romances by Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, H. G. Wells and others. Novels like Dracula and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde expressed the deep-seated fears and visionary possibilities suggested by cerebral localization research, and offered a corrective to the linearity and objectivity of late Victorian neurology.

John C. Tibbetts, The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction in the Media, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

The Gothic tradition continues to excite the popular imagination. John C. Tibbetts presents interviews and conversations with prominent novelists, filmmakers, artists, and film and television directors and actors as they trace the Gothic mode across three centuries, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, through H.P. Lovecraft, to today’s science fiction, goth, and steampunk culture. H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Robert (Psycho) Bloch, Chris (The Polar Express) Van Allsburg, Maurice Sendak, Gahan Wilson, Ray Harryhausen, Christopher Reeve, Greg Bear, William Shatner, Tim Burton, James Cameron, Terry Gilliam and many more share their worlds of imagination and terror.

Joanne Watkiss, Gothic Contemporaries: The Haunted Text, University of Wales Press, forthcoming February 2012. To be reviewed by Laura Kremmel, Lehigh University.

This book is the first of its kind to align selected 21st century fiction with a revised understanding of the gothic. Through close reading, the author demonstrates how 21st century novels are reworking traditional ghost stories of the past. Themes explored are the links between memory and haunting; the architectural function of language; the uncanniness of writing; the Law and its associations with mortgage, death and hospitality; the poison of inherited lineage; the position of thresholds and traces of violence within space.

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