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Introduction to March Blogs(03 Mar 2014)
By Miss Sunday Swift
In the Gothic Reading group at Lancaster University, we read Stephen king's Joyland. After a lengthy discussion, despite containing many of the tropes we've come to associate with the Gothic, the group agreed that Joyland was not Gothic. Why not? Perhaps, at its heart, Joyland was not a Gothic enough plot. Maybe it just didn't have enough Gothic tropes. Or maybe it was just not consistent enough in how those tropes were used. Either way, whether it used recognisable Gothic tropes or not, Joyland wasn't 'Gothic enough' for us.
And then there are other things that, by plot alone, really should not be that Gothic. A teenage girl at a new school befriending outsiders and struggling with romance and growing up - could be the plot of a sitcom, could be a plot for a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It seems to me that it is not just how many tropes are used within something potentially Gothic, but how those tropes are used, that determines whether we will accept it or not. Consistency, it seems, is paramount, in recognising Gothic.
As Gothicists, we often focus on the more overt examples of Gothic – books, television shows and films that not only employ the accepted traditional Gothic tropes, but also use them in a consistent manner. Buffy, for example, is relatively easy to defend, not just because of the presence of vampires and other phantasmagoria, but because it effectively and consistently reuses the aesthetic signifiers (graveyards, night time, dark shadows, blood dripping, etc) as well as situational themes (claustrophobia, haunting of the past, etc) that we’ve come to identify as ‘Gothic’.
My interest in the Gothic, however, has always gravitated toward the question, ‘what is Gothic enough?’ For my entries on this blog, I will doing something a little different - I am not looking at recognisably Gothic texts. I will be, instead, looking at several classic British and American television shows that are not recognised as 'Gothic': shows that, in most cases, have no business in a Gothic discussion. And indeed, I would stress that I argue against reading any of the programmes I am going to as Gothic.
It's easy to forget that Gothic tropes don't always have to be used by Gothic texts: there is no monopoly on the Gothic technique. As such, my interest lies in how effectively the Gothic, as a process, can be utilised within non-Gothic texts on occasion. These blogs are focusing on the simple idea of trying to recognise what happens when a decidedly non Gothic television show utilises Gothic processes. Can even the most saccharine sitcom manage to produce, even if for a single episode, something Gothicists might acknowledge as ‘Gothic enough?’