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Please Kill Me: Euthanasia and the Imperial Gothic
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Languages. (Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3293-6324
2013 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Although separated by a century, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1898) and the AMC television series The Walking Dead (2010-) both describe how Gothic forces transform Western subjects into contagious, abject and cannibalistic Others that need to be disposed of through ritualized violence: in Dracula with the stake through the heart, in The Walking Dead through the headshot. In both narratives, the killing of the Gothic Other is celebrated as a heroic confrontation between good and evil. In their readings of the Victorian gothic, Stephen D. Arata and Patrick Brantlinger have both argued that these absolute categories must be understood in relation to Empire where gothic Others such as Dracula represent Oriental invaders, set on vengeful, reverse colonisation of the Empire. Similarly, more recent scholarship by Kyle Bishop, Timothy Fox and Christian Thorne suggest that the modern Gothic also relies on an imperial dynamic and that the zombie often personifies the Middle Eastern terrorist or Asian imperial competitor. In this way, the killing of the transformed Gothic Other can be understood as encouraging a form of metaphorical imperial violence.

 

While this reading of the Victorian and modern Gothic is fundamentally convincing, it should be noted that the violence perpetrated against the Gothic Other is sometimes seen as deeply tragic and needs to be understood as a form euthanasia rather than as heroic intervention. In Dracula, Arthur Holmwood reels when he has finally finished driving the stake through the heart of his undead fiancée Lucy. In The Walking Dead, survivor Morgan Jones shakes with tears and grief as he aims his hunting rifle on his now cannibalistic zombie wife who stumbles through the streets below. In fact, those infected by the Gothic Other often ask to be euthanized before the transformation is complete: “Please kill me”. Those who respond are seen as performing acts of terrible mercy rather than combating gothic evil.

 

These sequences subtly complicate the imperial reading of these and other Gothic texts. Focusing on euthanasia in the Gothic, this paper discusses the different reasons why the border between the modern citizen and the Gothic Other is so porous and easily transgressed. If late nineteenth-century British imperialism argued that racial, social and cultural categories are absolute, the Gothic often introduce those same categories only to have them infect each other. In this way, the infectious and invasive nature of the gothic Other always allows a certain amount of metaphorical transculturation or counterculturation to occur. As Rick Grimes observes in The Walking Dead, “we are all infected”.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013.
Keywords [en]
Euthanasia, gothic, empire, imperial gothic, US empire
National Category
Specific Literatures Cultural Studies
Research subject
Humanities, English literature; Humanities, Film Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-28077OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-28077DiVA, id: diva2:640236
Conference
Gothic: Culture, Subculture, Counterculture, 8th-9th March 2013, Twickenham
Projects
Concurrences
Funder
Swedish Research CouncilAvailable from: 2013-08-13 Created: 2013-08-13 Last updated: 2018-11-16Bibliographically approved

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Höglund, Johan

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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