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Gothicka: Vampire Heroes, Human Gods, and the New Supernatural

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 330
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The Gothic has taken a revolutionary turn in this century. Today’s Gothic has fashioned its monsters and devils into heroes and angels and is actively reviving supernaturalism in popular culture. Nelson argues that this mainstreaming of a spiritually driven supernaturalism is a harbinger of what a post-Christian religion in America might look like.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06540-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xv)
  4. ONE WHITE DOG, THE PREQUEL Between Imagination and Belief
    (pp. 1-19)

    What does a Tokyo teenage girl dressed in a demure but mildly sinister Little Bo Peep outfit known as “Elegant Gothic Lolita Vampire Romance” (“Goth Loli” for short) have in common with London’s St. Pancras train station or virtually any midwestern U.S. college building erected in the 1880s, male strippers performing at a romance writers’ convention, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (a 2009 mash-up of the Austen classic), a Lovecraftian secret society called the Bate Cabal, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, any horror movie you watch on late-night television, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, the heavy...

  5. TWO FAUX CATHOLIC A Gothick Genealogy from Monk Lewis to Dan Brown
    (pp. 21-43)

    We have seen it on the big screen any number of times: the possessed woman writhing, screaming, face morphing (courtesy of computer-generated imagery) into a hideous leer as despairing relatives edge prudently away from the imminent prospect of projectile vomiting.

    Demon possession, open-and-shut case. Who you gonna call?

    Not your rabbi, imam, or Methodist minister. No, you want that Roman Catholic priest with his collar, cross, holy water, and Vulgate Bible—all the papist trappings that Protestant Americans shun in real life but absolutely demand for a convincing onscreen exorcism. A mild-mannered Episcopal reverend or a megachurch preacher in a...

  6. THREE GOTHICK GODS The Worshipful World of Horror Fandom
    (pp. 45-71)

    Picture a deserted Montauk beach on a hot summer’s night. The year is 1965. A teenage boy prostrates himself on the sand and prays to Cthulhu, monstrous “Great Old One” from outside space and time, fictional creation of the Gothick horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Reciting the only sentence Lovecraft provided in the entity’s tongue Aklo—Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn—the boy cries, “Cthulhu! Cthulhu! Appear to me!”¹

    “And then?” I ask, listening to this tale some decades later.

    “I went home and went to bed,” said the distinguished scholar telling me the story.

    With his cephalopod head,...

  7. FOUR DECOMMISSIONING SATAN In Favor of His Man-God Whelps
    (pp. 73-93)

    “A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind”—so the horrified narrator describes a stone statuette of the entity Cthulhu in H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu.”¹

    Substitute snakes for octopus feelers and you have the unpleasantly transformed Lucifer in the final pages of Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, whose “hands and feet were armed with long talons . . . over his huge shoulders waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was...

  8. FIVE GOTHICK ROMANCE The Danse Macabre of Women
    (pp. 95-115)

    “The Age of Romance,” Thomas Carlyle said a long time ago, “has not ceased; it never ceases; it does not, if we will think of it, so much as very sensibly decline.”¹

    I first read Jane Eyre at the age of twelve, in a Signet paperback edition with a fake sepia cover drawing of a young woman considerably more beautiful than Charlotte Brontë’s heroine claims to be. It was summer in Encinitas, north San Diego County, California; I’d already burned through the paperbacks on the single rack at the town’s Rexall drugstore, so I mail-ordered it (along with Ivanhoe, which...

  9. SIX THE BRIGHT GOD BECKONS The New Vampire Romance
    (pp. 117-147)

    Before they were invited in the open window of Gothick and Romantic literature slightly more than two centuries ago, vampires barely figured in the Western European record. Unlike the indigenous werewolf, whose legendary paw prints lead from Greek and Roman antiquity through twelfth-century French lais and English histories, vampires are exotic transplants.¹ Their story is native not to Hungary or Transylvania, as is almost universally believed, but rather to a different well-defined eastern territory that includes Silesia, Bohemia, the southern Slavic regions, and Greece. Vampires were unknown in Western Europe by either name or bloodsucking habits until the late sixteenth...

  10. SEVEN POSTAPOCALYPTIC GOTHICK That Means Zombies (and the Occasional Zampire)
    (pp. 149-167)

    Plakanek Valley, Bohemia, sometime in the near future: Under a tree an Englishman sketches the fourteenth-century Kost Castle as an American writer interviews him about the crucial role this imposing Old Goth fortress, and many others across Europe and the British Isles, played during the great Zombie War of the early twenty-first century. The global epidemic, which followed directly on the heels of the Iraq War, has been over for more than a decade, and the artist is compiling several volumes’ worth of drawings to commemorate the service these localized fortifications performed in helping save humanity.

    Castles, the Englishman says,...

    (pp. 169-187)

    Until 2006, when street violence by outsiders finally closed it down, the night of October 31 in San Francisco’s Castro district was a bacchanal of several hundred thousand revelers, gay and straight, cavorting in outrageous and lascivious costumes more reminiscent of Brazilian Carnival than Halloween. The street celebration still goes on in other urban U.S. centers, notably Greenwich Village in New York. There is also the Halloween Ball in New Orleans (originally an Anne Rice vampire fandom event), other large costume balls, and millions of private parties across the Americas, Europe, and many parts of the rest of the world....

  12. NINE THE TEN RULES OF SITGES Global Gothick Horror and Beyond
    (pp. 189-217)

    Fifty miles south of Barcelona in the almost autonomous state of Catalunya, Spain, lies the pretty, slightly overpolished resort town of Sitges. In this former fishing village full of date palms and red tile roofs that is now completely given over to the tourist trade, you find yourself walking down, down, down winding narrow cobblestone streets toward that magic patch of blue framed in an archway—the Mediterranean.

    Sitges is home every year to the largest festival devoted to fantasy cinema in Europe. Besides the kind of film the word fantasy suggests, the festival features a wide range of formerly...

  13. TEN CATHEDRAL HEAD The Gothick Cosmos of Guillermo del Toro
    (pp. 219-237)

    Among the dizzying array of grotesque entities crowding our vision in the Troll’s Market scene in Hellboy II, a creature in a fur-trimmed red velvet robe flashes briefly across the screen. Over its simian eyes and muzzle where a forehead should be, sits a miniature cathedral complete with double towers and decorated archivolts. “Originally the idea was to have little humans running around the ramparts,” this creature’s only begetter, the movie’s writer/director Guillermo del Toro, cheerfully reported, “but the budget wouldn’t allow it.”¹

    One of about thirty “throwaway” creatures del Toro created for a bravura tableau clearly intended to trump...

  14. ELEVEN THE NEW CHRISTIAN GOTHICK The Shack and Other Cathedrals
    (pp. 239-259)

    For a devout Christian of the twelfth century entering Abbot Suger’s cathedral of St. Denis, the procession from the porch into the luminous nave was a journey out of darkness into light. The essence of divine radiance is captured in the tinted glass of the rose window, embodying the soul’s ascent to heaven and reflecting back, as all living things on earth do according to their capacity, the absolute light of God the Creator.¹

    We have seen how this upward movement to the light was reversed, in the post-Enlightenment literary Gothick, into a downward plummet to darkness and destruction, as...

  15. TWELVE EPILOGUE Questions without Answers
    (pp. 261-266)

    In 2009 the New York Times carried a story about a thirteen-year-old boy who told his ex-Catholic father and nonobservant mother one day that he wanted to go to church, and he promptly began attending a nearby Protestant chapel that “fit his idea of what a church should look like.”¹ One of his top motivations for doing so was reading fantasy literature, including works predicting the world would end in 2013. Given that possibility, the boy reasoned, getting acquainted with God might not be a bad idea.

    This is, as we have seen, the familiar “You never know” bet-hedging stance...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 269-318)
    (pp. 319-320)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 321-333)