Graphic novels represent one of the most popular and fastest-growing types of young adult literature. The genre began in 1978 when cartoonist William Erwin Eisner created ‘A Contract with God’, a collection of stories about a poor, crowded Jewish Bronx neighbourhood, and coined the term “graphic novel” to describe a complex story told in comic book format in 64 to 179 pages. As a visual medium, graphic novels are engaging and often written for a mature audience. ‘Maus I’, a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman, won the Pulitzer Prize (this was later combined with ‘Maus II’ and reissued as ‘The Complete Maus’ ), and ‘Nam’ (1987), a graphic novel by Douglas Kear Murray, won the Best Media of the Vietnam War Award given by Bravo Organization, a veterans group. In 2002, the American Library Association annual conference featured a pre-conference workshop on graphic novels, and the American Library Association 2002 Teen Read Week theme was “Getting Graphic @ Your Library.”
The madness of Scottish Gothic — it is all the same difference. When you read James Hogg’s ‘The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner’, you can not help seeing double. The haunting footfalls of this text of shadows can be heard behind other recent Scottish narratives that encounter the familiar face of an uncanny, second self. This article will draw on Julia Kristeva’s concept of “borderline” experience, a feature of psychotic discourse, to examine the representation of madness, split personality and sociopathic behaviour in James Hogg and in one contemporary, muted form of Scottish Gothic, John Burnside’s ‘The Locust Room’ (2001). For Julia Kristeva, the borderline patient is split between the positions of actor and spectator, “a manipulator of seeming, a seducer who uses masks which remain more or less foreign to him” and “a commentator, a theoretician, a commander of signs”.1 Just as the borderline case shifts between the roles of actor and “impresario”, so the analyst must mimic, or inhabit, borderline experience, oscillating between detachment and involvement. The uncertain task for the analyst is “to propose theoretical fictions in order to […] push back the frontiers of ghosts, visions, experiences of possession.”2
There is no doubt that the Gothic as a mode or genre, much like many of its representative texts, engenders feelings of dread and confusion among readers due to its inherent ambiguity; as the respected Gothic critic David Punter has rightly observed, the Gothic is a term which has “a wide variety of meanings.” This is compounded by the fact that literary Gothic is so often associated with locales imbued with a mysterious antiquity. So how can a nation and a region which is supposedly “historyless,” which lacks ruins, which stresses rationality, progress, optimism and a belief in the future be said to have a Gothic literary tradition?
Considering the relatively short history of Latvian literature as such, Latvian genre literature seems like a granddaughter in relation to its European grandmother, and horror literature seems ludicrously young, even in the context of Latvian genre literature. To date, only a handful of Latvian authors have turned to writing horror stories and novels, and their contribution in this field has been quite limited.
As David Punter points out, in a literary perspective the term “Gothic” is generally related to those novels written between the 1760s and the 1820s by authors such as Horatio Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, John William Polidori or Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley1. This group of literary works is characterized by common features such as an interest in the terrifying, the use of ancient settings, the frequent description of some supernatural event, the employment of stereotyped characters and the ability to create expectation and tension. This is the reason why these Gothic novels are usually set in ghostly castles where the hero or heroine is prey to appalling terrors and horrors caused by supernatural events or by a villain who may be a human but also a vampire, a ghost, a werewolf or even a monster.
Readers of late Victorian gothic fiction have long recognised the animality of many of the monstrous figures that people its pages, but the relationship between animal and monster that such recognition calls into question has remained curiously under-theorised. Under rubrics as varied as “degeneration”, “racial panic”, “gender inversion” and “polymorphous perversity”, the gothic sensibility at the end of the nineteenth-century has plausibly been ascribed to fears inspired by mass movements and class mobility, to cultural anxieties concerning Britain’s others at a time of increased imperial expansion in the face of global economic recession or, alternatively, to the proliferation of discourses on sexuality that both resist and account for mechanisms of social normativity. Yet, the phenomenon of the gothic has seldom been studied in the context of an equally expansive discourse on the social, philosophical and scientific status of the animal that pervaded late Victorian England. The monsters’ animality, in existing accounts, is acknowledged only to be dismissed as a mark of their radical alterity.