What is Gothic studies today? From a professional standpoint, the discipline thrives, with ever-more academics and students drawn to the study of all things dark. It was not ever thus of course. Indeed, the Gothic was a scandal – a determinedly low-brow genre, a footnote to the aesthetic development of the novel and thus to study such a field was something of a waste of time – the Gothic was too base, too unserious to be worthy of serious consideration. Thankfully this response has seemingly died away, confined to the occasional column in the Daily Mail or other conservative propaganda websites.
The Dark Arts Journal is another sign of the growth of the Gothic, in both its scope and importance. In an era where the virtual has become ever more Real and more thoroughly woven into the fabric of daily life, where technology has advanced at a dizzying pace and the spectral forces of neoliberal capitalism commodifies every aspect of life ever more completely, Dark Arts 3.1 serves to highlight the essential role of the body. It is to the body that we return throughout this issue. Rachid M’Rabty highlights the libertine philosophy of the Marquis de Sade, finding in the physical excesses that de Sade details a model of political nihilism and transgression that demands our attention as we seek ways of resisting the annihilationist forces of contemporary capitalism. It is the same capitalism that would seek to turn history itself into a product, transforming the horrors and violence of the past into a purchased experience. Alicia Edwards explores this intersection in her case study of one of the many “Ripper tours” that occupy London. Violence and transgression become part of the narrative we accept about the urban environment. In her piece, Jessica Janeiro Obernyer explores the urban environment through three tales, tracing the ways in which the home and the city have been molded by, and respond to a haunted and troubled subjectivity. It is the idea of consciousness that John Sharples turns to, tracing the cultural presentation of the automaton Chess player which re-emerges throughout history, embodying concerns and anxieties around the human and our relationship with technology. With technology threatening the role of the human, perhaps there is now little that separates us from the monsters who populate Gothic texts. Claudia Bubke examines the ways in which the distinction between the human and the monster has become ever more unstable in some of the most popular examples of the contemporary vampire text.
Dark Arts then continues to demonstrate the importance of examining this ever more hybridized and proliferating cultural form whilst at the same time allowing new and emerging voices the time and space to provide us new ways of examining the darkest reaches of the cultural imagination. Finally, the DAJ would not exist without the hard work of many hands, but particular thanks to the Dark Arts reviews editor, Dr Richard Gough Thomas, without whom the journal would not continue to survive. We’re committed to continuing and building on the work done in the first three years – more reviews will continue to be uploaded and DAJ 3.2 will be our first ever special edition. Thank you to all the contributors and the readers who have made this such a success so far.