chapter  9
10 Pages

AMERICAN GOTHIC

ByTeresa A. Goddu

American Gothic, like Gothic more generally, is haunted by history. Instead of fleeing reality, Gothic registers its culture’s anxieties and social problems. Often framed in terms of institutional power and oppression, Gothic records the pleasures and costs of particular social systems. Issuing from the context of New World slavery, American Gothic tells stories of racial desire and dread, of economic instability and anxiety. In eighteenth-and nineteenth-century US literature and beyond, the spectre of slavery often inhabits Gothic texts, conjuring forth how American Gothic’s psychological and physical terror and its racialised narratives of darkness are grounded in the everyday realities of chattel slavery. From Poe’s tales of terror to Toni Morrison’s ghost story, Beloved (1987), the Gothic becomes the mode through which to speak what often remains unspeakable within the American national narrative – the crime of slavery.