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Reading Gothic FictionA Bakhtinian Approach$
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Jacqueline Howard

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198119920

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119920.001.0001

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Theories of the Gothic

Theories of the Gothic

(p.12) 1 Theories of the Gothic
Reading Gothic Fiction

Jacqueline Howard

Oxford University Press

This chapter first states the usefulness of Bakhtin's theory of dialogism for an understanding of the structure of the Gothic, which is often considered to be an inferior genre because of its lack of structural and/or thematic unity. This is followed by a consideration of the main issues or problems in recent discussions of the Gothic's thematic and structural dimensions. In the process, it takes up suggestions by Marxist critics that 18th-century Gothic narratives can be read as part of a process of cultural mythmaking and that ‘fantasy’ elements provide the Gothic's potential for subversion. With reference to the work of Tzvetan Todorov, Rosemary Jackson, and Gerhard Hoffmann, it discusses how we are to theorize the literary fantastic and its place in Gothic fiction. The final section of the chapter outlines Bakhtin's concepts of dialogism, heteroglossia, stylization, and intentionality as presented in The Dialogic Imagination, in order to suggest an approach to reading Gothic texts which foregrounds their hybrid nature and enables us to reconstruct some of their semantic potential for the readers to whom they were addressed.

Keywords:   Marxism, Gothic narratives, Gothic fiction, dialogism, heteroglossia, stylization, intentionality, The Dialogic Imagination

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