Damning Eroticism in Psycho and Turn of the Screw

Eroticism and the politics of sexuality haunt the Gothic style. Analyse the narrative function of sexuality and the erotic in your chosen texts.

Damning Eroticism in Psycho and Turn of the Screw
Morgan Pinder

When the gothic meets the erotic the audience finds themselves in uncomfortable grey areas that subvert sexual norms and create a sense of deviance and madness. This technique of deploying deviant sexual behaviour to demonstrate the fragility of the human psyche and what separates the socially accepted human from the psychologically damaged, animalistic criminal can be found in both Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho and Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, texts which examine the nature of sexuality

and eroticism and how they link in to violence and madness. Sexual desire, real or imagined, is catalyst for the down fall of both predator and prey. In both texts the problematic nature of dealing with sexual deviance and madness is explored in particular in relation to when the child/carer relationship is exposed to the problematic nature of desire.
It is moral outrage and repression in the governess and Norman Bates that is the driving force for them to kill the object of that desire. Whilst Norma Bates is a figment of Norman’s imagination, the idea of his mother and her values, as Norman perceives them, have taken on a separate split personality that allows Norman to kill as his mother rather than taking responsibility himself. When confronted by their own sexuality Norman conjures up his mother, the governess conjures up the grounds keeper, Quint and her disgraced predecessor Miss Jessel both of whom died in the course of their employment.
A common theme in gothic fiction is the loss of innocence, in particular the loss of innocence in children and maidens. These themes tie in strongly with sexuality as sexual transgressions are particularly potent ways to demonstrate madness or immorality. Both the movie Psycho and the short story Turn of the Screw features young, single professional women succumbing to temptation. The governess in Turn of the Screw is so taken with her new employer that she compromises her safety and the safety of the children by maintaining a state of isolation as per his request, whereas Marion of Psycho, in addition to being tempted into an affair with a married man commits theft in order to assist him with his financial woes and secure their future relationship. Both women, by succumbing to temptation, set in motion a disastrous series of events that will result in death. Marion’s move from a state of relative innocence to criminality is signified by a change of wardrobe, from white clothes to black. The governess begins to hallucinate or see ghosts as the consequences of her desire begin to drive her to madness, (Renner, 179) seeing in addition to the corrupting groundskeeper, his partner, the disgraced former governess, who could be read as a projection of what could happen to the governess should she give in to her most transgressive desires:
“Another person – this time; but a figure of quite as unmistakable horror and evil: a woman in black, pale and dreadful – with such an air also, and such a face! – on the other side of the lake. I was there with the child – quiet for the hour; and in the midst of it she came.” (James, 35)
This passage, when read with the governess’s potential madness in mind perhaps begins to point at a much more devastating desire, that the fallen woman appears when she is alone with the child could perhaps be indicative of paedophilic desires, for in this moment the uncle and master of the house is nowhere to be seen. These desires could be symptomatic of her psychotic break or the catalyst for it.
In the child as a sexual being is one of the more confronting devices deployed in gothic and crime fiction and is used as both the symptom of paranormal phenomenon and in the post Freudian Gothic canon as pathological disturbance. It can be read both ways in James’ Turn of the Screw (Miall, 307). It is possible that the governess is seeing the ghosts of the people who abused her young charges Miles and Flora, meaning that the evil nature of their deeds caused them to be damned to haunt the home, or alternately that Miles, in particular is conjuring the ghosts into being because he has been exposed to sexual deviance  and evil by the Quint the groundskeeper and Miss Jessel. From a less paranormal or spiritual perspective the governess is quite clearly having a psychotic break and is herself engulfed by inappropriate desire for his uncle or even Miles himself, as evidenced by her obsession with the virtues of the young boy:
[Miles] made the whole charge absurd. My conclusion bloomed there with the real rose-flush of his innocence: he was only too fine and fair for the little horrid unclean school-world, and he had paid a price for it. (James, 22)
Her desire and her natural revulsion of such a desire are in constant conflict with each other leading to her externalising these impulses leading to the hallucinations of the corrupting ghosts. Her affection for the child grows worrying and increasingly inappropriate with James creating ambiguity as to who instigates the inappropriate affections, but on rereading we find that it is the governesses reflections that betray her true preoccupations. These reflections can appear innocent in isolation, but cumulatively the implications for a psychological reading of the text reveal a portrait of a woman obsessed with a child though the implications remain ambiguous:
We continued silent while the maid was with us – as silent, it whimsically occurred to me, as some young couple who, on their wedding journey, at the inn, feel shy in the presence of the waiter. He turned round only when the waiter had left us. “Well – so we’re alone!”(James, 91)
Norman Bates sexually subversive nature is somewhat more politically problematic, tying into the contemporarily accepted transphobia and homophobia. Whilst today transgender is somewhat less controversial than it was in the 1960s when Psycho was made it is important to acknowledge the view of transgender and transsexuality as  deviant sexual behaviour in the contemporary society of the film and its initial audiences. The film was made in the wake of the apprehension of serial killer Ed Gein, whose use of corpses to make macabre artefacts created awareness of product killers (those who kill for purpose of having the corpse at the end) in the zeitgeist (Sullivan,1). With the supposed transgender killer as the inspiration for first the book Psycho and then its cinematic adaption, the allure of Freudian psychoanalytical explanations of the overbearing mother and her effeminate murderous son prove irresistible. His complex oedipal relationship with his mother and desire to be a woman, or recreate a particular woman, would be seen as the driving force behind his crimes and informed the relationship between Norman Bates and his mother as explained by the psychologist:
RICHMAN:  A man who dresses in women’s clothing in order to achieve a sexual change…or satisfaction…is a transvestite. But in Norman’s case, he was simply doing everything possible to keep alive the illusion of his mother being alive. (Psycho, 1960)
The dangers of repressed desire are explicitly expressed in the film Psycho. While the psychologist Richman has some unusual points to his theory on Norman’s psychology, we have to take his opinion as expert in the Psycho universe. His speculation on Norman’s motive is very clear, it is Norman’s revulsion and suppression on his own sexuality that leads to the death of Marion and any previous victims, including his mother, for whom he has an unhealthy desire towards.
Rejection of his own sexuality is being expressed by the Norma Bates side of his personality through which he is able to express his own disgust with himself and to take action to stop himself from succumbing to desire. The state of gender distress exacerbates Norman’s fragile mind in its state of arrested development and pushes him into a psychotic, homicidal rage, thus rendering him more monstrous in the eyes of the audience (Sullivan,1). In hindsight “Norma’s” outrage is a direct outline of the perception of transgenderism as in direct conflict with his “natural” adult sexual attraction for Marion (Palmer, 12) when he tries to invite her for dinner:
NORMAN: [voiceover as his mother] I won’t have you bringing some young girl in for supper! By candlelight, I suppose, in the cheap, erotic fashion of young men with cheap, erotic minds! … “Mother, she’s just a stranger!” As if men don’t desire strangers! (Psycho,1960)
Contemporary views of masculinity directly effect the use of sexuality in both Psycho and Turn of the Screw. The masculinity of the uncle is not in question despite the fact that his neglect of his niece and nephew is borderline criminal. This neglect does not detract from his appeal to the young governess, whereas the implied crimes of the grounds keeper make him a menacing masculine force. Distance from the home front does not impact on the masculinity of the lord of the house whatsoever, but the only adult masculine figure in the recent history of the domestic life of Bly House comes immediately under suspicion. Miles then, as an emerging masculine force also comes under suspicion despite being still a child. This suspicion of the masculine role in the domestic environment plays a part in the governess’s gradually changing perception of the boy, who she begins to see as irredeemably corrupted and therefore corrupting. This loss of innocence robs Miles of his rights to safety as a child in the eyes of the governess as he becomes akin to the ghosts who haunt her.
What it was most impossible to get rid of was the cruel idea that, whatever I had seen, Miles and Flora saw more – things terrible and unguessable and that sprang from dreadful passages of intercourse in the past. (James, 59)
The horrifying eroticism of the ghosts as a projection of the subconscious of the governess (Miall, 325) and her desire to go against her sheltered upbringing by lusting after the uncle has the effect of transferring her transgressive impulses on to not just the ghosts themselves but by extension Miles and his young sister, Flora, robbing them of their innocence with no further proof than the testimony of her own unreliable narration. Her comments when referring to the young boy in particular become increasingly paranoid and accusatory: “He couldn’t play any longer at innocence; so how the deuce would he get out of it?” (James, 52)
In Psycho the viewer is confronted with an image of Marian Crane as an erotic figure, frequently depicted in her underwear, who ultimately meets her end naked, in the shower and at the mercy of a man, albeit a man dressing as a woman. She is the object of desire throughout the film, with very few male characters failing to objectify her in one manner or another. This erotic portrayal of Marion invites audience judgement, opening the door to viewing Marion as a woman of limited morality who is in conflict with the conventional, patriarchal social contract (Palmer, 12). Her affair with Sam, who unlike Norman is the perfect picture of 1960s masculinity, therefore he is allowed to indulge his desires, allows the audience to suspend disbelief that a nice girl could commit theft against people who trust her. The film therefore has the need to paint her as a vixen, rather than a maiden in distress. This invoking of the Madonna/whore dichotomy provides a method of objectifying Marion, allowing the film to carry on without her after her death, because while she is a relative innocent she is also the object that allows the story of Norman Bates to be told (Palmer, 15). She is an object of desire, and as such is bound to be doomed as in much preceding gothic fiction. Notable doomed objects of desire that set such a precedent include:  Lucy Westerna of Dracula (Stoker, 1897), Isobella Thorpe of Northanger Abbey (Austen, 1817), Lucy Audley (Braddon, 1862), Dorian Gray (Wilde, 1890) and Elizabeth the bride of Doctor Frankenstein (Shelley, 1818). Whilst not all of these characters deliberately position themselves as erotic or desirable, once they have been deemed as such within a gothic story their fate is essentially sealed.
The death of an innocent, or an innocent corrupted is perhaps the most striking similarity between the two texts, and many other gothic texts preceding it. Whether the viewer or reader subscribes to Marion as an innocent who is undeserving of her fate, and similarly accepts Miles as an innocent undeserving of his fate determines whether the parallel can be found between the death of Marion at the hands of Norman Bates and the possible death of Miles at the hands of his governess. Both the governess and Norman are in positions of power and their victims are very much at the mercy of their tortured and insane whims. Norman’s position as predator is strongly implied in the discourse over dinner, where both the camera angles and setting leave the viewer in no doubt that Marion is in some kind of danger. Not only does the camera angle put Norman in a domineering position by shooting from below him but he has birds of prey positioned behind him, whilst Marion has little birds, the prey of the predators, positioned around her;
The sexuality in these gothic texts is depicted as perilous and corrupting, with Marion and Miles being the ultimate victims of sexually linked psychosis. There are no clear victors in these texts, and the morality and sexuality of the audience is called into question with Hitchcock and James creating a confronting portrait of madness and dysfunctional psychoanalytically inspired eroticism, most poignantly during childhood developmental stages, gone disastrously, horrifically wrong.

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References
Austen, J. (2009). Northanger Abbey. [Auckland, N.Z.]: Floating Press.
Braddon, M. (2009). Lady Audley’s secret. [Auckland, N.Z.]: Floating Press.
James, H. (2014). Turn of the screw. New York: Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller.
Miall, D. (1984). Designed Horror: James’s Vision of Evil in The Turn of the Screw. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 39(3), 305-327. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3044807
Palmer, R. (1986). The Metafictional Hitchcock: The Experience of Viewing and the Viewing of Experience in “Rear Window” and “Psycho”. Cinema Journal, 25(2), 4. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1225456
Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock. (1960).
Renner, S. (1988). Sexual Hysteria, Physiognomical Bogeymen, and the “Ghosts” in The Turn of the Screw. Nineteenth-Century Literature, 43(2), 175-194. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3045173
Shelley, M., Bennett, B., & Robinson, C. (1990). The Mary Shelley reader. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stoker, B. & Luckhurst, R. (2011). Dracula. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sullivan, K. (2016). Ed Gein and the figure of the transgendered serial killer by K.E. Sullivan. Ejumpcut.org. Retrieved 11 June 2016, from http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC43folder/EdGein.html
Wilde, O. (2009). Dorian Gray. London: Penguin.

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Playing the Heroine and Distorting the Abbey – Northanger Abbey and Lady Audley’s Secret

Analyse the nature of parody (as exaggeration, imitation, or mockery, for example) as a narrative device in your chosen texts.

Gothic texts have often utilised parody to critique cherished foundational archetypes, twisting noble patriarchs into benevolent tyrants, heroes into anti-heroes and supernatural aids into deceitful harbingers of destruction. These decadent and flawed tropes of gothic fiction have been relied upon by writers in the genre, from Walpole onwards, as the building blocks of the gothic novel, but their definition and role in these texts are altered and changed as new texts are brought into the canon (Hanoosh, p.114). As the gothic novel alters the classical and even romantic archetypes, it continues further distort archetypes of its own creation through parody and invention. Parody in particular often adds a new dimension to the tried and tested character types such as in the novels Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1818) and later Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1862).

Whilst many of the characters within these two 19th century texts fit commonly accepted archetypes (Frye, 94) their position within these roles is not a comfortable one, with many, particularly Catherine Moreland of Northanger Abbey and Lucy Audley of Lady Audley’s Secret feeling the pressure of conforming to their roles. It is certainly the role of the heroine that is most problematic in both these novels as the women who are expected to fulfil them are not entirely built for the purpose. Catherine is established early in the novel as being not at all heroine or maiden material, she is not predisposed to fulfilling the cultural expectations of her time but works to maintain some semblance of Georgian feminity. Austen leaves us in no doubt of Catherine’s unsuitability for the task asserting amongst telltale signs of a lack of feminine interests that “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine” (Austen, p.1). It is important to both the novel as a parody of gothic fiction and Jane Austen’s style as a whole that her protagonist is not what the reader has come to expect in Georgian fiction, as Catherine’s sometimes irrational curiosity and artless manner lays the foundation for the story that lies ahead (Shaw, p.594). In the hands of a more suited heroine, one who does not also border on the eternal child archetype, Northanger Abbey would be a rather dull romance.

Lucy Audley as a parody of the maiden archetype is not at all like her Georgian counterpart, she is stunning, deceitful and decisive. Taken at face value she is the very picture of a Victorian heroine, beautiful, charming and compliant, but Braddon takes this archetypal damsel in distress and turns her into cunning and murderous con artist. It is desperation, not curiosity that drives Lucy’s actions, and it is the appearance of virtue, without the substance of it that defines that parody at play within the text. She has been downtrodden and mistreated, but finds a way to pull herself up into a stately and comfortable position. In a different context her story would almost be a hero’s quest, but the social and moral transgressions she commits in order to secure her position make her abominable in the eyes of those around her when they are revealed making her ultimately fit the shape shifter archetype. The complex heroine would come to be an archetype in itself, but Lady Audley’s Secret “exploit[s] moral ambiguity and disclose[s] the more complex reality beneath the Victorian bifurcation of women as angels or demons” (Felber, p.472). She appears to be the demure, pretty and inoffensive heroine of her times, but in reality she is spiralling out of control. Her apparent madness shows her to have been clever, strong willed, manipulative and utterly self sufficient. Or as self sufficient as a woman of little means can be in the time. These virtues and flaws set her up as being the opposite of what she appears to be. Her beauty, rather than being a blessing, as with other heroines, becomes her curse: “Did she remember the day in which that fairy dower of beauty had first taught her to be selfish and cruel, indifferent to the joys and sorrows of others…”(Braddon, p.202).

Architecture plays a huge role in characterising the gothic; from the catacombs of The Monk (Lewis, 1796) to the sinister halls of The Mysteries of Udolpho (Radcliffe, 1795), the setting of these tales of misfortune and human failing plays as much of a role in creating a sense of foreboding, and foreshadowing events to come as any of the Archetypal gothic characters the reader encounters in these texts. Braddon constructs a similarly complex and divisive building to house the secrets of Lady Audley, imitating the secret passages and hidden chambers of her predecessors, with telling artefacts, such as the pre-Raphaelite portrait of Lucy Audley which portrays her true, almost demonic nature, to demonstrate the layers of secrecy and deception at play within the story. The portrait itself as described from the perspective of Robert Audley is a mockery and distortion of Lucy Audley as the Victorian heroine, with normally beautiful or striking features transformed; “… all combined to render the first effect of the painting by no means an agreeable one” (Braddon, p.50). The painting is arguably a more accurate representation of the lady of the house than the subjective, immediate acquaintance with her person could convey, leading the reader to question which is the parody; Lady Audley’s portrait or her everyday demeanour and facade of perfection.
By contrast Northanger Abbey has all the appearances of hiding a sinister, gothic secret, but instead holds a rather mundane, if ugly, domestic truth. This is best exemplified by the horror felt by Catherine during the night when staying at the abbey and the reality of her “horrific” discovery, the papers that turn out not to hold some deep dark truth (Glock, p.33), but rather an old laundry list. To be fair on our unexpected heroine her expectations of the abbey are heightened by not only her own extensive reading of gothic novels and the abbey’s gratifying compliant appearance; “Northanger turned up an abbey, and she was to be its inhabitant. Its long, damp passages, its narrow cells and ruined chapel, were to be in daily reach.”(Austen, p.31), but also by Henry Tilney’s jovial evoking of a classic formula of gothic fiction on their way to the abbey; “And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as ‘what one reads about’ may produce? – Have you a stout heart? – Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?” (Austen, p.147). The imagined gothic adventure playfully related by Henry gets to the heart of what Austen is trying to achieve in her parody, it is an expression of the dangers and folly of succumbing to the tantalising and alluring world of the gothic novel, and letting in permeate through the psyche, manifesting it’s clichés and tropes in the mundanity of real life.

Austen deliberately conjures up such tyrannical patriarchs and archetypal ruler as Manfred in Castle of Otranto (Walpole, 1793) when developing the character of General Tilney. Whilst the general’s motivation for his abrasive conduct are not nearly so carnal and debased as Manfred the reader and indeed Catherine are lead to believe that he is just the sort of man who could be capable of immense cruelty, and even murder or imprisonment of his long suffering wife. In a text full of misdirection and miscommunication it is the conduct of General Tilney as a parody of the gothic patriarch that sets in motion the greatest misunderstanding and false assumption that places Catherine’s future happiness in jeopardy; “But the inexplicability of the General’s conduct dwelt much on her thoughts. That he was very particular in his eating, she had, by her own unassisted observation, already discovered; but why he should say one thing so positively, and mean another all the while, was most unaccountable!” (Austen, p.203). This confusion at the general’s conduct and Catherine’s knowledge of the trope of gothic fiction allows her to construct a dangerous fiction in which she fantasises that Mrs Tilney, as a parody of the gothic wronged woman, was perhaps murdered or still imprisoned within the walls of the abbey;  “…and the probability that Mrs. Tilney yet lived, shut up for causes unknown, and receiving from the pitiless hands of her husband a nightly supply of coarse food, was the conclusion which necessarily followed” (Austen, p.179). His financial motivations when revealed do not excuse his cruelty but rather move him from the realm of the gothic villain into something much more mercenary, but still villainous.

Braddon also plays games with our expectations of the masculine archetypes in her text. Robert Audley as parody of chivalry and the quest hero goes on a journey in which he must overcome challenges and faces trials of his moral and intellectual fortitude, but unlike the classic hero he acts in a thoroughly unchivalrous manner, but he is still possessing of the ideals of the masculine hero, he is of stately rank, good breeding and is well educated. However he is bitterly adverse to the opposite sex  (Braddon, p.142) and this hatred can been seen as a parody of the masculine attempts to subdue the feminine during a time of heavily gendered power. He goes so far as referencing the biblical misdeeds of Eve, and is rather cavalier with his cousins emotions, feigning ignorance of her affection and intentions towards him, until such time as it suits his needs. This is a far cry from the tales of sacrifice and courage that dominate the hero quest stories that precede it.

Braddon and Austen, whilst taking very different routes in getting to their goal, play with character archetypes to make the reader consider the reality of the maiden archetype in a masculine hegemony. Braddon utilises the tools of sensation fiction to construct a caricature of the perfect heroine in the facade projected by Lucy Audley (Schroeder, p.87) , whilst underneath the facade, the desperate Helen Tallboys lies dormant, until she is discovered. Conversely Austen’s most blatant parody is that of the father figure, and how this overbearing presence can be misconstrued by the heroine, whose happiness is ultimately at his mercy.

Northanger Abbey and Lady Audley’s Secret use the idea of the archetype heroine, hero, patriarch or gothic labyrinth in order to set up their reader’s expectations for the narrative which makes the eventual twist or deception more effective, and even shocking. The parodic nature of taking gothic and romantic tropes and manipulating them serves not only a narrative purpose but strikes a jarring note in the collective unconscious, providing both incidental a deliberate social commentary, ever so slightly changing and shaping the gothic archetypes for those that are to follow.

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References
Austen, J. (1903). Northanger abbey. Champaign, Ill.: Project Gutenberg.
Braddon, M. and Taylor, J. (2011). Lady Audley’s Secret: Edited with Notes by Jenny Bourne Taylor and with an introduction by Jenny Bourne Taylor with Russell Crofts (Penguin Classics). Cambridge [England]: Proquest LLC.
Felber, L. (2007). THE LITERARY PORTRAIT AS CENTERFOLD: FETISHISM IN MARY ELIZABETH BRADDON’S LADY AUDLEY’S SECRET. Victorian Lit. Culture, 35(02).
Frye, N. (1951). The Archetypes of Literature on JSTOR. [online] Jstor.org. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4333216 [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].
Glock, W. (1978). Catherine Morland’s Gothic Delusions: A Defense of Northanger Abbey. Rocky Mountain Review, 32(1), pp.33-46.
Hannoosh, M. (1989). The Reflexive Function of Parody. Comparative Literature, 41(2), p.113.
Lewis, M. (1796). The monk. London: Printed for J. Bell.
Morris, D. (1985). Gothic Sublimity. New Literary History, 16(2), p.299.
Radcliffe, A. (1795). The mysteries of Udolpho. Boston: Printed by Samuel Etheridge, for J. White, W. Spotswood, Thomas & Andrews, D. West, E. Larkin, W.P. Blake, J. West, and J.W. Folsom.
Schroeder, N. (1988). Feminine Sensationalism, Eroticism, and Self-Assertion: M. E. Braddon and Ouida. Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, 7(1), p.87.
Shaw, N. (1990). Free Indirect Speech and Jane Austen’s 1816 Revision of Northanger Abbey. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, 30(4), p.591.
Walpole, H. (1793). The castle of Otranto. London: Printed for Wenman and Hodgson.

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“They be nowt but air-blebs” – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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After the eerie subtlety of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw it has come as quite a shock to be confronted by the chilling, violence of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
A bit of context for this reading:
As a child nothing terrified me so much as vampires. The viewing of a 10 second snippet of Interview with the Vampire at the age of 7 was enough to keep me awake at night, and a Goosebumps book or two had me convinced that vampires were everywhere. I even became convinced on a holiday to visit extended family that our hosts were all vampires, particularly my tiny 4 year old cousin. Because if there was anything that my brief education of vampires had taught me, it was that they had no quarms feeding on the young. Even to this day, and I consider myself to be a skeptic, I still find myself hiding, unusually well for a less than petite, 6 foot oaf, under my doona and looking over my shoulder at night after reading or watching anything involving vampires.
So I may be more susceptible to this particular variety of gothic horror than others. I have tried to read Dracula several times with limited success.
In short I am a wuss so please remember that when reading this.
Back to the novel at hand:
I would describe Dracula as a brutish but inventive example of the genre. The mix of realism and horror, combined with the use of journals and letters rather than a more direct narrative approach gives the impression of the tale unravelling as you read, which is what you expect from a good story, but with Dracula the unravelling is a bit more like barbed wire than yarn cutting and catching the reader as it goes. Flawed metaphor… I totally get that, but hopefully you see where I’m going with it.
One of the revelations upon this reading of Dracula is the strength of the character of Mina for the time Bram Stoker was writing. Actually there are quite a few progressive gems to be found within the text that I only found this time around.

High point: Mina and the strength that she shows and is acknowledged for.

Low point: A few random acts of barbarism that serve no narrative purpose.

Grim moment: Renshaw replicating a sadistic food chain in his cell in the asylum

Funny moment: The old man saying that old legends, ghosts and superstitions are “nowt but air-blebs”

♤♡♢♧ morgan mushroom ♤♡♢♧

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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Taken from momentum books. Com. Au

The place, Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, has secured as one of the key psychological and gothic horror novels is certainly evident, even from a cursory reading. But let me first say one thing about Turn of the Screw;
That shit is creepy as fuck

Nothing much really, or at least concretely, happens of a horrific nature, all of the fear or unease comes from the fallibility of the governess as a narrator. The text invites speculation about the nature of corruption, sanity and innocence, predominently through inference. It is the shifting and vague nature of the novel which makes it a bewildering and worrying tale, even though none of the suspicions the governess has about her two creepy child charges are ever made explicit. Is she going crazy?
Other critiques of the tale have illuded to the sudden ending being an “incomplete” ending. But I would argue that we can derive something of a conclusion, albeit not an all encompassing one, from the introduction of the story by Douglas at the very beginning, who knew her after her time at Bly.
♤♡♢♧ morgan mushroom ♤♡♢♧

Over-compensating for recent failures: Revisiting the Castle of Otranto

Study period 4 coincided with moving house, Christmas  and my partners 30th birthday… a more organised individual might have kept up with the 5 subject work load. Alas I am NOT an organised individual and so I was forced accept a withdrawal mark, and due to fluke of unit scheduling, I am looking at delaying graduation a whole year. Not impressed by resigned to my fate I am pre reading ALL of my texts for my gothic literature unit. Most of these texts by a happy coincidence are contained within a book I have owned for over a decade and have read cover to cover on several occaisions:
The Gothic Treasury of the Supernatural.
Its somewhere on the bus, where it has cunningly hid despite its impressive girth, and illudes my vain attempts to discover it.
So I have started my preparation for engx206 using libravox recordings and have chosen Walpole’s ‘translation’ of the plight of the inhabitants of Otranto.
I’ll confess difficulty in persisting with past readings beyond the bizarre spectacle of the giant metal helmet that kills Prince Conrad but on this outing, be it though the accessibility of the audiobook format, the clear diction of the narrator or just an additional 10 years of reading experience on my part, I have been able to suspend my incredulity sufficiently to find myself, 6 hours later, at the end of the text.
What’s the verdict? Well, unwelcomed stormy sound effects aside, the reading itself was very well done, especially for a volunteer effort. But the appeal of the story still illudes me. Ridiculous, dull and long winded, I have no new love of this excercise in early dupernatural horror. Touted as one of the first gothic novels, I can certainly see its worth in the context of the evolution of a style and genre of texts, but on its own merits… I struggle to recount any part of the text which resonated with me… actually I lie, the intergenerational consequences, or the motif of the “sins of the father” struck me as quite interesting. But aside from that I am at a loss.
I don’t know what threads of literary worth I will expected to extract from the text, but I can only hope they won’t be value judgements.
Has anyone found joy in “The Castle of Otranto”?
If you have please comment, is there something I’m missing?

♤♡♢♧ morgan mushroom ♤♡♢♧

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