Over the past two decades, recognition of the many influences of Gothic and postmodern literature have led critics to formulate several subgenres of the Gothic in order to address contemporary works. Fred Botting’s notion of the postmodern Gothic shares postmodernism’s concern with “[t]he loss of human identity and the alienation of the self from both itself and the social bearings in which a sense of reality is secured.” This loss of identity manifests “in the threatening shapes of increasingly dehumanised environments, mechanic doubles and violent, psychotic fragmentation.” Allan Lloyd Smith sees postmodernity’s dehumanization of the social environment as resulting from a “[c]ontemporary scientific materialism [which] opens the possibility of what exceeds our understanding; the system running itself, for itself; and hence generates antihumanism, plots beyond comprehension.”
Since the creation of the character in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, Batman has produced an incredibly vast franchise spanning animated and live-action TV series, cinematic films (there have been eleven films released since 1943), video games and merchandise products. Comic books such as Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and Grant Morrison’s ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ — which are some of the most celebrated graphic novels of the past decades — and the cinematic films by Timothy Walter Burton and Joel T. Schumacher have all contributed to the creation of an intense scholarly debate on what has been considered as “the most complex character ever to appear in comic books and graphic novels.” All of these disparate texts have often influenced each other, generating a series of borrowings, adaptations and a “web of cross-references” from which the “Caped Crusader” definitely emerges as an intertextual character.
This article features essays that develop this line of inquiry, focusing on how the Gothic attempts to matter in concrete and critical ways, and mapping its rhetorical and aesthetic strategies of intervention and narration, affect and influence. The pun in the title of this volume — “Gothic Matters” — is intended to acknowledge both the material concerns of the Gothic as a genre and the continuing relevance and value of the cultural work performed by the Gothic, for instance; why it matters.
In attempting to explain the inexplicable, in striving to control phenomena over which there is no control, in the search for means of expression, humankind has sublimated the mysteries of the world by turning them into metaphors. Art is a metaphor for life: to create art is a way to apply “one kind of thing, quality or action […] to another, in the form of an identity instead of comparison1.” In all forms of art, the receptive party is expected to ignore that one is looking at canvas, figured movement, or coloured light thrown on a screen without “purpose,” and to temporarily believe that what one appreciates is real, that it is life. Moreover, what is a more common trope for describing this than to say that “art reflects life?”
Narratological theories construct events as building blocks of the plot, defined as changes of state, or transitions from one state to another. Death, too, is a genuine change in state, a transformation from one kind of being to another kind of (non)being, and as with any narrative element, death happens in a specific place and at a particular time. Consequently, as a narrative event, death both affects characters and leads the story in some direction.
The underlying reason for this main difference between magical realism and fantasy fiction regarding their treatment of setting, and an influential one at that can be traced back to the locations these two genres have originated from and continue to be produced. It probably would not be a stretch to state that fantasy fiction in its modern fictional form, mostly as novels, mainly emerges from the Western world while magical realism has its origins in Latin America as well as the postcolonial and developing world. Thus, an analysis of these two literary genres and the differences between them reflect the particular cultural and socioeconomic characteristics of the societies they come from. This paper argues that at the basis of explaining these differences are the different stages of capitalism present in the countries and societies from which these two genres of fiction mainly emerge.