Haunted Castles and Zombies: Adapting the Gothic

Posted by Franz Potter on May 07, 2009 in Dr Franz Potter, Guest Blog tagged with
“Elizabeth lifted her skirt, disregarding modesty, and delivered a swift kick to the creature’s head, which exploded in a cloud of brittle skin and bone.”
This week I have been reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and well…it has me thinking. Admittedly, placing zombies in search of fresh meat into an Austen landscape has its advantages as well as disadvantages. On one hand, for those who don’t ‘prefer’ Austen it may enliven the narrative for this is a zombie apocalypse genre with a regency twist. Here we find polite society full of heroines fighting for the attentions of young zombie killers and fancy balls mingled with zombie blood baths. In short, it is good zombie mayhem. However, on the other hand, this sort of parody is bound to be problematic. I think most Austen purists will consider the inclusion of zombies as symptomatic of the depths to which some modern novelists have now fallen, using a worn framework of familiar set themes, motifs and characterizations, borrowed, manipulated, and then restructured into an ‘interesting’ novel for the less sophisticated reader. But it is precisely that idea of recycling or adapting a worn set of motifs and characterizations that has me interested.
As you are aware the adaptation of familiar motifs, themes and tropes was essential to the life of the Gothic; it was a sign of activity rather than stagnation, decay and decadence. It kept the genre alive and innovative. The adaptation of the Gothic, whether of specific motifs and characterizations or stories themselves, indicates a continual interaction between the author and reader. This acknowledgement is important, I think, for not only does it allow such adaptations to be seen as important to the growth and sustainability of the Gothic, but also because it allows the tradition to continue to be viewed in the larger context of evolving discourses. With that said, I wonder if one could adapt an old school Gothic novel that would appeal to modern reader. It is clear, I think, that haunted castles, rotting corpses, devilish monks and nasty nuns don’t always appeal to most modern readers, but are zombies the answer?

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