The Emergence of Irish Gothic Fiction - Histories, Origins, Theories?
Jarlath Killeen, Trinity College Dublin
Pub Date: 2014
ISBN 13: 978-0-7486908-0-0
Read This Book
Conditions of Use
The author, Jarath Killeen argues, " . . . the gothic as a genre of global significance", and this is well-achieved. Towards the end of the book, he read more
The author, Jarath Killeen argues, " . . . the gothic as a genre of global significance", and this is well-achieved. Towards the end of the book, he suggests that Longsword should be read as, ". . . imaginative rapprochement with Catholics (though not Catholicism) and the medieval as a means of preparing imaginatively for a potential social rapprochement between political bedfellows in Ireland, like himself and Charles O’Conor." Given the length of the book, it is incredibly comprehensive. The introduction makes it clear what the primary focus is to be, as well as the slant it will take. While the book, even stated in the title, is about history, origins, and theories, it is not something merely in the past and of the past, but rather, something that continues actively in work and thought of today. Contributing to the comprehensiveness is the author's consistent use of connections between the historic, his argument as to the lens in which the work should be interpreted, and where the Irish Gothic, sometimes in the form of strong influences, is seen in various contemporary works. The interconnectedness makes this book far more comprehensive than one would initially think. Additionally, the use of definition brings the reader into considering the power of cultural definitions. What defines a "monster", and why, and the shifts the definition takes, is particularly germane to understanding Irish Gothic literature. Another is "Madness". The author goes into depth with only two specific works of Irish Gothic literature (The Adventures of Miss Sophia Berkley and Longsword), but in so doing, they become a portal to understanding concepts and other works. Adding to the comprehensiveness is the author's use of different points of views, and well-explained theories, or claims, made by other often cited critics. Every layer adds to every other layer, and as with the Gothic Tales, a net is woven. I would recommend this book, and sections of it can be of good service for courses other than Irish Gothic Literature. General Fiction, Women's Studies, History, Film Studies, to name a few.
The book is historically accurate. The author is fair, and the analysis very convincingly well-supported, but as there is more than one opinion among experts in the field, there is a sort of bias. It does appear unbiased, however, in respect to how the author gathered information, and then came to a conclusion. To be fair, there are writings, stories, mentioned where the author extrapolates, summarizes and retells, that were new to me. I looked up some. I trust it to be accurate.
Because Irish Gothic literature is a generative source for much of the work, films as well as writing, we see today, this book will maintain its relevance. Updating will be relatively easy in order for the book to maintain its relevance to students, adding new references as they occur and history progresses. For example, films and writing, often in reaction to current events, will influence the ways in which Gothic sensibilities play out. This additionally will influence the way students respond to the historical events, all the way from the origins of Irish Gothic Literature. As a result, in addition to simply updating references, a bit more information regarding how things evolved would will be needed to well tie things together. A good example of the author having done this is with the mention of The Crying Game. One of the strong pluses about the book is how it ties everything together historically: art, sentiments, religion, biases, gender, and so on. For the same reason I liked the book so much, it would be problematic as a primary text for Community College level or Undergraduate level. That said, I would still use it, but I would focus in on one or two aspects and provide further information for my students. The book is set up well to fascinate doing this because of the examples used to illustrate the author's claims.
Less advanced students would need additional help understanding some of the technical terminology used. In particular, because this book could be used across disciplines, those coming at it more from an Irish historical slant may not be familiar with the literary terms, and visa versa. Other than that, I found the prose accessible, and it is certainly lucid in logic and analysis as well as clarity of prose. Adequate context is provided. (What is provided piqued my interest for more.) The further into the book one gets, the more accessible, and casual, the language becomes. I learned a lot more about the history of Ireland, and in turn felt the interpretation of works was enriched.
I found no problem with consistency. There were sections which could well have veered too far from the main focus, as one thing lead to another. However, the author always pulled the connections back to the main focus of his analysis, and Gothic as a genre. I found some of what was presented so interesting that I was on the verge, and was welcoming when the author brought me back on point. Helping with this is the use of existing criticism, which the author reviews historically.
The book was not overly self-referential. Much appreciated. Chapters are divided by Roman numerals, but readability, accessing sub-sections,could be improved. Sub-titles are underused. The author's use of titles for the chapters, including the accompanying quote, bring an extra dimension and focus, highlight if you will. It helped to individualize the chapters in a way that helped categorized. This, rather than just Roman numerals, could be done for subheadings. For the level of students with which I work, I would not assign this book as a whole unless teaching a course on Irish Gothic Fiction. I would, however, assign particular sections depending on the course I was teaching. For example, a Science Fiction class would benefit from "Monsters" and an Introduction to Fiction class would benefit from Chapter One, talking about typical Gothic Plots (and what that is) found in such works as Stephen King's "Salem" and Chuck Palahnuik's "Fight Club." Or from Chapter 2, "The Creeping unknown: Re-making meaning go the Gothic Novel for a look at symbolism in John Carpenter's "Halloween". Or the use of allegory and metaphor in fiction.
The organization, structure and flow follow a very logical progression. The introduction could work as a stand alone. Through more dry than the rest of the book, it is well-organized and puts forth the author's theses, the aspects, and support the reader can expect. The contract is well-fulfilled, with the historical roots delineated in a timeline, fashion, with every chapter supplying contemporary references. This supports why what is being talked about matters today, and in the future. I felt particularly enlightened when brought to understand the rise of Catholic "monstrosity" in the Gothic novel. The conclusion, partnering with the introduction, also reinforces what's to be gained from understanding the history of Gothic Fiction. The author brings information into current history and perspective. It presents the rationalizations used, making it no longer profitable to demonize Catholics as power passed out of the hands of Irish Anglicans. Like a sandwich, the ingredients of the middle are well contained by the introduction and conclusion.
There were no charts or illustrations, so nothing to comment on there other than I would have appreciated a few illustrations. Students, on the whole, are increasingly visual in terms of attention span. The writing, particularly in the introduction, was dense, and the layout added to the sensation of a brick coming my way. I don't just mean the writing, I mean it was visually very dense. Off putting. There was no problem enlarging the text, but it was not possible to open it up by double spacing the work. For 250 plus pages, the layout could be a lot friendlier. I had no problem with highlighting, underlining, imbibing comment and so on, but because of the spacing, or lack there of, I grew impatient and made notes on a separate word document. Making note of the page numbers helped in re-finding information. Additionally, frustratingly, notes I had made on the manuscript were lost when I had to close out and return later. Scrolling through the pages worked okay, but it felt particularly inadequate in terms of cross referencing different sections. I also wanted to see more than one page at a time, and with so many references, all appreciated, being able to do so would be a real plus. In filling this out, I was unable to put titles appropriately in italics, or underlined, and therefore used, wrongly but intentionally, quotation marks.
Free of grammatical errors. Spellings were in accordance with British, rather than American. I liked this, especially given the topic. The only error I noticed was a typo on page 40. There is an extra apostrophe. Should be Steven King's Salem's Lot. Not Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot.
Religion, politics and literature are deeply, inseparably, intertwined in Ireland. Religion and politics remain tricky to navigate, but because Killeen grounds his work historically, and presents multiple points of view, I do not find the book to be culturally insensitive in any way. I agree with another reviewer that in this way the book can be especially beneficial to American students, or any non-Irish student. I have been to Ireland as a tourist and as a Writer in Residence, and I am returning again shortly for another residency. I have been given explanations, but Killeen's book helped bring perspective and clarity. The complexity of view points are emotionally loaded, so Killeen's more scholarly approach served well in providing perspective via fact. Despite the changes in Ireland, the book's cultural relevance is clear, and strong.
Debate over the definition of the word monster (149-150) is key in interpreting Gothic Irish literature and to Killeen's claims, but is also germane for approaching other literature, politics and psychology. I quite appreciate what was presented regarding demonizing others, particularly in view of what is seen constantly in the news, and the current President of the United States. This adds to the book's cultural relevance, somewhat sadly, but hopefully in a way that stands to help students navigate current trends as well as literary ones. Thank you Mr. Killeen.
The subtitle of the book is History, Origins, Theories, and these aspects of Irish Gothic Literature are the main focus of the book. In examining read more
The subtitle of the book is History, Origins, Theories, and these aspects of Irish Gothic Literature are the main focus of the book. In examining these aspects the author is very, very thorough, demonstrating a wide-ranging knowledge of the Gothic mode and its development not only in Ireland but in other nations and cultures as well. Killeen also makes numerous links to the expression of the Gothic in film and television, fields which he seems to know quite well. Index entries showing the scope of Killeen's inquiry into this topic include works familiar to the general public, such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Godfather films, as well as less well known books and films. There is no glossary, but that element would be problematic as the author spends a great deal of time exploring the loaded and shifting meanings of terminology which has been used in this field. The index also demonstrates Killeen's familiarity with oft-cited critics such as Bakhtin and Kristeva, as well with critics in the more specialised fields of Irish literature and Gothic fiction. His political knowledge of Irish history and its effect on Irish literature is enormous and impressive. When it comes to the literature itself, only 2 works of Irish Gothic literature are examined in depth as case studies, although the author is clearly extremely familiar with many other works which are not treated as thoroughly.
The book was extremely accurate. The author does a good job of examining multiple points of view and how they are affected by nationality, time, and circumstances. The author has an excellent command of his field, and I do not see any evidence of bias.
In terms of longevity, the book will be easy to update by inserting references to newer books and films as a way to ground the reader in the Gothic, and in conceptions of Irishness. Most of the book explores the origins of the Gothic, so no need to update those sections. Relevance to students is another issue, however. I would only use this book at an advanced level (undergraduate senior or graduate student), where I think it would be very helpful as a resource, to students studying the Gothic or other forms of Irish fiction. It's so thorough in its exploration of the political field that it could even be used in a history course. But for undergraduate students at lower levels, this book is too dense and too theoretical to be useful as a textbook, despite the author's accessible language and amusing descriptions.
The author has an extremely readable and accessible writing style. Technical terminology is explored in detail and placed in context.
No problems here. The book is well organized and consistent.
The chapters do have sections divided by Roman numerals, but no real breakdown in the table of contents to make the reasoning clear. Also, even those sections are quite long. However they could be divided further and labeled, which would be quite helpful. As of now, I don't see a clear path to rearranging subunits.
Yes, this makes sense. The author begins by grounding his subject in the areas he lists in the subtitle, and then moves to specific examples to make meanings clear.
I did not see images or charts, but nothing was blurry or distorted. The system of scrolling through a page felt a bit clunky to me, especially when I was moving from one page to the next--when I got to the following page I would sometimes be jumped to the middle and would have to scroll back to the beginning. A couple of times I also ended up pages back but did not understand how or why that happened.
Perfect. Killeen is a gifted writer.
Irish politics is a touchy field, and it is impossible to divorce Irish literature from politics, so writing about either or both can be tricky. Killeen does an excellent job, however, especially in presenting multiple points of view. In this respect, the book can be especially helpful to American students of Irish literature, who often have no idea of the complexity of points of view and the loaded meanings of particular terms. In terms of inclusivity, the focus is inevitably on Ireland, but Killeen does bring in references to other cultures in discussing otherness, for example. I did notice at least one use of the "f" word--didn't bother me but perhaps would bother students?
I thought it was a wonderful book, and I am glad to have had the chance to read it. As I stated earlier, perhaps not suitable for lower level undergrads.
The Emergence of Irish Gothic Fiction examines in great historical and cultural detail the foundations of Irish Gothic literature in the 17th and read more
The Emergence of Irish Gothic Fiction examines in great historical and cultural detail the foundations of Irish Gothic literature in the 17th and 18th centuries through the present day. The main argument that Killeen puts forth is that the Irish Gothic has roots in political and cultural divisions opening up within the Irish Anglican community in the 1750s; he sees the Irish Gothic novel as a "fictional instrument of liberal Anglican opinion in a changing political landscape" (12). Killeen thoroughly and comprehensively documents that changing political and social landscape, and gives a full survey of critical opinions relating to Irish Gothic fiction. Killeen is specifically interested in the emergence of the Gothic as a genre in Ireland, but he also offers a comprehensive survey of the critical literature and many references to later works in the genre. Someone working on Bram Stoker, for instance, will not find a specific chapter on Dracula (a later, 19th C text), but they would find references to Stoker as well as crucial information about the critical arguments that help to contextualize work on a writer like Stoker. I will recommend this book to any future student writing on Irish Gothic texts.
Killeen's arguments are convincing, and the historical events referenced are accurate. I would not call this an "unbiased" work; Killeen's investment in these arguments about the range and function of Gothic literature in Irish culture is longstanding and deep, and as such, this is often a work immersed in opinion. The book is all the better for Killeen's unique perspective on the critical history, Irish political life, and the development of trends in Irish Studies more generally. It is accurate, but biased in the way that good criticism should always be biased.
This book is a necessary and welcome addition to the study of Irish Gothic literature, and I believe that Killeen's clear, reasoned arguments about the historical contexts of the Irish Gothic will remain relevant into the future. This is a work of literary scholarship, and is not, properly, a textbook, and it is unlikely that there will be any necessary updates to this text in the near future. Some of Killeen's pop cultural references to contemporary films could potentially be updated or expanded as new gothic/horror/monster films and novels enter the culture. The final conclusion, with its reading of the Gothic through the Celtic Tiger and post Tiger years of Irish political life, will likely need expansion in the coming years.
This book was a joy to read, because Killeen's voice is so clear on the page. The reader feels the hand of a steady guide through the material, and as someone with a passing but far from comprehensive knowledge of Irish Gothic fiction, I learned a great deal about both the history of Ireland in the 18th Century and the critical arguments surrounding Gothic fiction more generally. The clear, jargon-free prose was very welcome. This is an excellent book for scholars at all levels. A clever undergraduate could find a path through this work, but it will be equally valuable to more advanced students and scholars.
The book is consistently focused on Gothic as a genre, and successfully argues for the inclusion of little known and undervalued works as a part of that tradition. The author's interest in examining both the historical context along with substantial literature review of the existing criticism keeps the tone and purpose of the chapters consistent throughout the book.
I can easily imagine using individual chapters of this book as secondary critical reading for my graduate students in Irish Studies. This isn't a textbook; it's a very focused work of literary criticism with chapters centered around specific texts and historical circumstances. Individual chapters will be more useful in my classes than the book as a whole, which I would be unlikely to assign unless I was specifically teaching a course on Irish Gothic Fiction.
The book starts with a comprehensive, well-organized introductory chapter that puts forth the author's thesis and substantial literature review. The individual chapters address the historical roots of the Gothic as a product of 18th C Anglican anxiety; the allegorical and historical treatment of women in Irish culture; the 1641 rebellion and the rise of Catholic "monstrosity" in the Gothic novel; and Thomas Leland's historical romance Longsword. The conclusion proffers a witty and convincing argument about the death of Irish Gothic in the Celtic Tiger years, with (in true Gothic fashion) the re-emergence of Gothic tropes in Irish political culture in the years of austerity that followed. The deep immersion in the cultural history of Gothic fiction is paired in every chapter with contemporary political, cultural or artistic references, and this balancing of the historical with the long view of Irish history and culture from the vantage point of the present moment helps to establish the stakes that make knowing this history of Gothic fiction so necessary. It's very well-organized and clearly written.
I didn't find any significant interface issues, but other than the cover art, this is a book without images, charts or graphs.
Free of error, with few exceptions. I found a typo on page 16: "..it becomes clear that the Gothic has always been configured as an impure..." I believe the phrase was meant to be "impure genre", but a word is missing.
The work addresses the difficult history of Anglican and Catholic communities in Ireland, and there are arguments made about the representation in Gothic fiction of Catholic "monstrosity". The book, however, takes a scholarly approach to these arguments, and grounds them in their historical and cultural moment. There is nothing here that should be offensive to anyone, Catholic, Protestant or otherwise. The critics whose work Killeen takes to task may find his counter-arguments difficult to swallow, but that's the nature of academic debate. There's nothing intentionally offensive or insensitive here, and Killeen's treatment of Irish national history is well-supported and grounded in the critical literature.
I am very happy to have read this book, as someone who frequently teaches and writes about 20th and 21st C Irish fiction. I do not work specifically in the Gothic genre, but as someone who also works within Irish Studies, I found the author's perspective on many of the critical controversies in our shared field very interesting (and his political arguments in the concluding chapter very well-stated and amusing). I deeply appreciated his willingness to stake a claim in the many critical arguments surrounding Irish Studies and the Gothic in particular, and to support those claims with very precise historical references. There were times when the "literature review" sections of chapters seemed a bit longwinded, but in every case, I was grateful for them, too, because I could see the usefulness of those sections to anyone who is writing on these texts. Killeen is very clear about the space he is carving out for his arguments within the existing canon of Gothic critique, and I will use his work in the future both for the content and as a model of form for my graduate students. This is a smart, thorough, interesting book, and it was a pleasure to read because of the author's firm command of his arguments and because of the clarity of his prose.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Zombieland: From Gothic Ireland to Irish Gothic
- 1. Braindead: Locating the Gothic
- 2. The Creeping Unknown: Re-Making Meaning in the Gothic Novel
- 3. Mad Love: The Adventures of Miss Sophia Berkley and the Politics of Consent
- 4. The Monster Club: Monstrosity, Catholicism and Revising the (1641) Rising
- 5. Undead: Unmaking Monsters in Longsword
Conclusion: Land of the Dead
About the Book
Provides a new account of the emergence of Irish gothic fiction in mid-eighteenth century. This book provides a robustly theorised and thoroughly historicised account of the ‘beginnings’ of Irish gothic fiction, maps the theoretical terrain covered by other critics, and puts forward a new history of the emergence of the genre in Ireland. The main argument the book makes is that the Irish gothic should be read in the context of the split in Irish Anglican public opinion that opened in the 1750s, and seen as a fictional instrument of liberal Anglican opinion in a changing political landscape. By providing a fully historicized account of the beginnings of the genre in Ireland, the book also addresses the theoretical controversies that have bedevilled discussion of the Irish gothic in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. The book gives ample space to the critical debate, and rigorously defends a reading of the Irish gothic as an Anglican, Patriot tradition. This reading demonstrates the connections between little-known Irish gothic fictions of the mid-eighteenth century (The Adventures of Miss Sophia Berkley and Longsword), and the Irish gothic tradition more generally, and also the gothic as a genre of global significance. Key Features * Examines gothic texts including Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Charles Robert Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer, (Anon), The Adventures of Miss Sophia Berkley and Thomas Leland's Longsword * Provides a rigorous and robust theory of the Irish Gothic * Reads early Irish gothic fully into the political context of mid-eighteenth century Ireland This title was made Open Access by libraries from around the world through Knowledge Unlatched.
About the Contributors
Jarlath Killeen is a Lecturer in Victorian Literature at Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of British Gothic Literature, 1824-1914 (University of Wales Press, 2009), The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde (Ashgate, 2007), Gothic Ireland: Horror and the Irish Anglican Imagination in the Long Eighteenth Century (Four Courts Press, 2005), The Faiths of Oscar Wilde: Catholicism, Folklore and Ireland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), and the editor of Oscar Wilde: Irish Writers and Their Work (Irish Academic Press, 2010)