Gothic Literature - Dracula and Frankentstein

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Gothic, detective and Science Fiction have been called the literatures of subversion. They have also been read as potentially highly conservative. Rosemary Jackson, for example, argues that these genres are “produced within – and determined by – social context. Though [they] might struggle against the limits of this context, often being articulated upon that very struggle, [they] cannot be understood in isolation from it.” (‘Fantasy: the Literature of Subversion’)

Discuss this view in relation to ALL the following texts: Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, Frankenstein, and Dracula.

Gothic, science fiction and detective fictions are characterised as being subversive. Rowland (Margery Allingham's Gothic: Genre as Cultural Criticism, 2004) labels the gothic as a “literature of transgression,” its purpose to challenge boundaries by going beyond the socially accepted limits of “desire, identity, psyche and knowledge.” In some ways such genres can reinforce social norms, generally by establishing a closure to the novel that is current with conservative notions. I argue that these genres are used as a cultural criticism of modernity – the changing ideas of the 19th Century – the Enlightenment and Industrial revolution. However, they also present a challenge to the conservative social structures through a critical depiction of individuals forced within these social ‘norms.’ In this essay I aim to show how the gothic, detective and science fiction genres both transgress and reinforce social codes, using Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and Conan-Doyle’s detective story – The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire (1887). These texts present the ‘uncanny’ – the familiar made unfamiliar – as a means to challenge the new breakthroughs in scientific enquiry, ideologies of the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution as socially destabilising. Furthermore, it suggests the 'dangers’ of modernity through the re-establishment of the social order at the novel’s...
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