At first glance, the Gothic and the capitalist are not an immediately obvious pairing; the former is a consciously fictional creative output intended to entertain, to teach, or to reflect upon the world around us, whereas the latter is frequently considered part of the ‘real world’, something that has a tangible and measurable effect on people’s lives, and which influences almost every element of contemporary society in some form or another. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear how intertwined these disciplines are in both social and cultural, as well as academic, circles. From the designation of the financial institutions bailed out following the 2008 crash as ‘zombie banks’ to studies of death drive in the market, and discussions of the vampiric nature of corporations that continue to bleed the average worker dry, the vernacular of the Gothic has well and truly infiltrated the logic of capitalism.
Whilst this invasion of the body of capitalist language by the conventions and characters of Gothic literature has, in fact, an established legacy – Marx, after all, noted the haunted nature of capitalism as early as 1848 — it is only in the recent post-crash era that scholars are starting to take note of this phenomena as worthy of substantial recognition and study. A Journal of American Studies special issue entitled ‘Fictions of Speculation’ presents, from a number of perspectives, the argument that rather than looking to realist fiction for a method of encapsulating and articulating the intricacies of capitalism and the financial market, as is Katy Shaw’s approach in Crunch Lit (2015), cultural scholars should instead look to genre fiction as the most appropriate mode through which these intricacies can and should be explored. Hamilton Carroll and Annie McClanahan argue that, as forms that already deal with monstrous beings that live on after death, with futures that are tangibly malleable in the present moment, and with global crises that bring on the apocalypse, gothic, science fiction, dystopian writing, and other genre fictions are pre-equipt with both the language and the intellectual concepts required for an understanding of the capitalist market as it stands in the twenty-first century. Moreover, New Economic Critics are now starting to apply this same logic retrospectively to older texts in which the capitalist context of their creation has been canonically overlooked. Andrew Smith, Gail Turley Houston, and Peter Jaros, among others, are at the forefront of this application in a specifically gothic context, with focuses on Ebeneezer Scrooge as being haunted by his financial partner, to Dracula bleeding money, to Edgar Allan Poe’s fictional doubles signifying emerging understandings of corporate personhood.
With this in mind, The Dark Arts Journal’s publication of this special issue on Gothic Capitalism is particularly exciting, given the spotlight it intends to shine not only on this still very emergent sub-formation of gothic study, but to showcase the voices of emerging scholars in this field and postgraduate work in particular. Louise Benson James’s piece presents tackles the capitalist commodification of the female body as a consumer good in Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales, an article with particular poignancy given the contemporary movement towards female empowerment in light of the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo #TimesUp movements. Dr. Jon Greenaway explores the scope for Marxist readings of horror films produced after the 2008 financial crash, and the influence of recession horror on contemporary Gothic studies. Finally, I explore the definition of Gothic doubling and its prominence and effects in capitalist settings in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Pit, and American Psycho, three texts that whilst seemingly unconnected, in fact provide a literary blueprint for the intensification of capitalist second selves in an increasingly financialized world. Together, these articles provide new and challenging readings that make great contributions to the growing field of capitalist study of the gothic genre.
This special edition is produced with thanks and gratitude to Richard Gough Thomas for giving me the opportunity to be guest editor, to Edward Jackson and Alexander Moran for their assistance and expertise, and to the whole team at the Dark Arts Journal for their continued support.
Louise Benson James (University of Bristol) researches the intersections between medical hysteria and the Gothic in fiction by women.
Dr. Jon Greenaway is Associate Lecturer in English and Film at Manchester Metropolitan University and one of the founders of the Dark Arts Journal. His research interests are literature and theology, gothic and horror studies and Marxist theory. He tweets as @thelitcritguy.
Amy Bride (University of Manchester) researches the interaction of finance and slavery in American Gothic fiction, as well as Technogothic, Gothic Cities, and 1980s cinema.