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About this book

This collection explores global dystopic, grotesque and retold narratives of degeneration, ecological and economic ruin, dystopia, and inequality in contemporary fictions set in the urban space. Divided into three sections—Identities and Histories, Ruin and Residue, and Global Gothic—The New Urban Gothic explores our anxieties and preoccupation with social inequalities, precarity and the peripheral that are found in so many new fictions across various media. Focusing on non-canonical Gothic global cities, this distinctive collection discusses urban centres in England’s Black Country, Moscow, Detroit, Seoul, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Dehli, Srinigar, Shanghai and Barcelona as well as cities of the imaginary, the digital and the animated. This book will appeal to anyone interested in the intersections of time, place, space and media in contemporary Gothic Studies. The New Urban Gothic casts reflections and shadows on the age of the Anthropocene.

Table of Contents


The New Urban Gothic: Introduction

The book opens with a discussion of how the global economic systems of the neoliberal period have exploited our monstrous desires, power, greed and inequalities to such a degree as to have wreaked unrepairable and irreversible damage on our planet. Issues of toxicity, the flows and breaks in urban life, what constitutes inclusion or exclusion, residue and hauntings and precarious urbanities have now all found a way into our Gothic fictions. Examining representations across many different media forms, this introduction to The New Urban Gothic introduces the reader to how our dystopic and grotesque imaginings use the episteme of the Anthropocene to critique the darker side of our sociocultural experience. A particular focus of this introduction is the role of the post-human in this discourse and how anti-landscapes–and anxieties over those anti-landscapes—signal the unsustainability of our human communities.
Holly-Gale Millette

Urban Gothic: Identities and Histories


Exquisite Corpse: The Urban Gothic Mindscape in China Miéville’s The Last Days of New Paris

This discussion juxtaposes Miéville’s novella The Last Days of New Paris (2016) with the Victorian poem ‘The City of Dreadful Night’ by James Thomson (1880). Exploring the psycho-geographic horror and the claustrophobia of cities, it argues that the Mieville’s text moves away from the nineteenth-century depiction of the ‘hidden horrors’ of the city to a space where ‘horrors are made deliberately visible’. Citing the contemporary city as a space of terror(ism), it suggests that the new Urban Gothic speaks to a very immanent sense of threat, battle and anxiety that are rooted in the sense of temporal and spatial dislocation. Bell explores how Miéville’s work marks a significant move away from anxieties that pervade the Urban Gothic tradition, and toward contemporary geographies of stress and fear over navigating political and environmental concerns in the age of the Anthropocene.
Karl Bell

‘Things Are Not as They Seem’: Colonialism, Capitalism and Neo-Victorian London in The Order: 1886

Fuchs examines how the British colonial project is depicted in the videogame The Order: 1886 (2015). A meta-text composed of various myths, tropes and Victorian legends, the game populates London with the undead and uses them to symbolize the vampiric nature of the colonial enterprise. Presenting a narrative that critiques colonialism, Fuchs argues that The Order interconnects with current concerns about globalisation, its addicts and its residue. Ultimately the game shows the city to be an uncanny space which folds the nineteenth-century setting in on itself to create a contemporary double, while repeating the colonialism and capitalist processes that were foundational to that era. Fuchs suggests that while globalisation has obfuscated colonialist and imperialist practices, the processes undergirding Empire are still very much in place in the early twenty-first century.
Michael Fuchs

A Very Queer Black Country

Reading the weird fiction of Joel Lane, this chapter looks at the portrayal of The Black Country and its characters, as examples of the post-industrial Gothic, in flux, contradiction and transition. Arguing that the Black Country is a queer space which is borderless, both green and grey and inherently contradictory, Francis looks at the alienated figure of the queer subject and the unearthing of liminal sexuality which this landscape makes possible. Francis sees the inherent alienation of the queer subject as finding some sense of recognition and acceptance in the decaying Gothic spaces of a Black Country on the edge of the millennium. Here, the sense of place, the borderlessness and geographical contradictions act, both as anti-landscape and as a means through which very particular genders and sexualities are forged or played with.
R. M. Francis

Abjection and Anime in the Anthropocene: Amano and Oshii’s Angel’s Egg

Tembo writes of a contemporary reimagining of the urban Gothic in Anime, through the lens of aesthetic. He suggests that Angel’s Egg brings a surrealist aesthetic to anime that is unique in its dystopia. Locating his discussion within the context of a World’s End tale, Tembo looks at how each part of the text portrays a different image of post-apocalyptic Gothic space and what he terms as ‘psycho-emotional Otherness’. Drawing on Julia Kristeva’s discussion of abjection, this chapter also seeks to examine how Oshii directs his anime in combination with the Gothic and the surreal to represent the Gothic urban space as one of existential stasis, crisis, and reflection.
Kwasu David Tembo

Urban Gothic: Ruin and Residue in the Anthropocene


‘A Weapon in the Cracks’: Wasteways Between Worlds in the New Urban Gothic

Looking at the underside of the city, Sabo explores the material filth, refuse and decaying matter that every city produces. He traces the dynamics of street rubbish in millennial Gothic fictions to suggest that we ignore trash and residue in the Anthropocene at our peril. Placing the texts in a larger context of impending ecological disaster, Sabo examines the Gothic irruptive potential of trash to deconstruct uncanny horrors and the urgent materiality of waste as expressions of one-way anxieties of filth in contemporary cityscapes. In particular, he looks to the dynamics of street rubbish in China Miéville’s The City and the City (2009) and the transcendence of discarded material objects in David Mitchell’s Slade House (2015) to map the wasteways between Gothic worlds and tropes. Sabo argues that the pressing threat of ecological disaster related to the accumulation of waste limits the new urban Gothic’s ability—or even willingness—to craft ontological oppositions that are easily extricable from the materiality of contemporary ecology.
Garth Sabo

The City and the Underground in Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light

Hoedt offers a reading of the version of Moscow presented in two dystopian video games. Particular attention is paid to the notion and inversion of under/overground and its impact on the experience of the (post-apocalyptic) cityscape. Presenting a double-city, players navigate a traditional space that has been inverted such that the underground space becomes more familiar than the ruins of the above-ground city. Drawing on theory from Gothic scholars about the ‘fear of what lies beneath’ and the uses of transmedia, Hoedt looks at the fascinating way these popular video games have turned this concept upside down in the wastes of a world turned upside down and as ‘apoco-tainment’.
Madelon Hoedt

‘Everything Is True’: Urban Gothic Meets the Chthulucene in Multiplayer Online Game, The Secret World

This chapter argues that a new ludic aesthetic has emerged within multiplayer online games enabled by new technological capabilities that produce edgy and contemporary urban Gothic in the Chthulucene. These games relocate screen action to contemporary urban environments in realistically rendered and familiar worlds based on real-life cities. Krzywinska reports on the vertiginous nature of the weird and the psychoactive blend of the urban Gothic and myth. She suggests that this melding of the real with the gaming persona and the very unreal nature of the actual game cultivates a sense of unease and uncertainty that has moved the gaming experience on to something new. Players may gain physical mastery over the game’s interface but in the context of this weird and urban context where factions, histories and interpretations constantly slide, there is forever a spiralling sense of paranoia and uncertainty that overturns the usual certainties and predictabilities found in multiplayer games.
Tanya Krzywinska

Rust Belt Ruins: The Gothic Genius Loci of Detroit

The ruined post-industrial anti-landscapes of Detroit are the setting for Taylor’s chapter. She shows how Detroit, a city now synonymous with the idea and capital-decline of the urban ruin, is now valued for its Gothic decay as much as used to be for its industry. Taylor focuses on two films Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) and It Follows (2014) and argues that there is Gothic pleasure to be had in its representation of the decline and failure of capitalism. Taylor unpacks our fascination with ruins and with the aestheticization of failure and decay in what is come to be known as ‘ruin porn’. Here, ruin lives in a liminal space between place and non-place. The de-industrialization of this urban Gothic ruin speaks to both the pleasure and the anxiety of bearing witness to the failure of capitalism and nature’s comeuppance. Unlike the ruins of antiquity which tell the story of a civilization’s survival, the modern ruin marks its end without the comforting assurance that it will return. Blighted houses in the Anthropocene may be markers of decline, but once torn down, their hauntological remains persist.
Leila Taylor

Global Gothic: Decentring the Urban Gothic


Communal After-Living: Asian Ghosts and the City

This chapter examines common trends in what Ancuta calls ‘Asian apartment horror’. Focusing specifically on ghosts that haunt buildings designed to house a large number of people—condominiums, high-rises and tower blocks, apartment houses and housing estates—the spaces she discusses show the living and the dead existing hard-by one another; side by side. She approaches ghost stories from the Asian perspective: as quintessentially violent confrontations with the past, which shows the choice of the multi-apartment building as the site of haunting to be specific to contemporary Asian clashes of class and social division. Characterised by loneliness and isolation, these places, and their ghosts, appear more visible than the living. Looking at films from several different countries, Ancuta reads these ghosts as representations of a failed dream of economic success that drove people into the cities in the first place. Offering a uniquely dystopian take on the haunted house movie, the films examined in this chapter express a deeper sense of failure, displacement and invisibility in spaces only found in cities
Katarzyna Ancuta

Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness as New Urban Gothic

Slavin looks at the way in which Arundhati Roy demarcates the cities into areas—the colonial and the postcolonial. Arguing that she deliberately writes her protagonists as ‘out of place’, Slavin follows Roy’s protagonists as they reinvent Gothic tropes for the twenty-first century. Questioning ideas of home, Slavin argues that the novel is an example of the urban Gothic trope that enables contemporary Indian urban issues such as inequality and violence to be explored. With an unusually optimistic tone, Slavin argues that The Ministry of Utmost Happiness uses the new urban Gothic sites of Delhi and Srinagar to translate colonial and Gothic conventions for productive, justice-oriented purposes in contemporary South Asian cities.
Molly Slavin

Urban Gothic: Singapore

Wisker examines the underside of the glittering, capitalist, competitive face of Singapore. Arguing that there is a hidden, ghostly, resentful parallel world to that of the outward-facing side of the city, she suggests that it is this dark Singapore that has more to tell us about urban life. Looking at contemporary writing and media, Wisker explores the dark history and undersides of Singapore which are rarely mentioned or acknowledged in public. These texts reflect on the legacy of colonialism and the haunting presences and howling silences of ghosts and secrets which sit parallel to the energy of the present city. She considers the peripheralities and residues that remains imprinted on the spaces, places, buildings and histories of this island city.
Gina Wisker

Suzhou River: ‘On the [Haunted] Waterfront’

By examining the film Suzhou River (2000), Dr. Lopez traces the narrative and aesthetic legacy of a Chinese film that was banned from screenings in China. Often compared to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the film crosses genre boundaries to unsettle the viewer’s sense of certainty. The narrative is complicated by doubles, drownings, mythical creatures and point-of-view shifts; it uses these tropes to both question the reliability of storytelling in general and specifically in China. Through the disjunction between visual evidence and fictional constructs, the film weaves the viewer into its spectral world of ghosts. It uses the eerie, polluted landscape of millennial Shanghai, and the decaying surrounds of Suzhou River to evoke a social and aesthetic malaise stemming from rapid economic and environmental changes in a newly globalized China. The director, Lou Ye, builds his hybrid narrative from flotsam and jetsam of cinematic and literary influences in a wider aesthetic negotiation of the Gothic. Ultimately, he creates a new type of Urban Gothic tale, one that addresses the particular difficulty of telling stories in China, a world haunted by the ghostly proliferation of stories, both untold true stories and discarded fictions.
Annemarie Lopez

A Gothic Barcelona?: Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series and Franco’s Legacy

Aldana Reyes takes a timely look at Barcelona Gothic as marketed in the twenty-first century. Examining Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series (2001–16), he shows how Ruiz Zafón retrojects his stories to the years during and following the Spanish Civil War to present an innovative and controversial corrective to popular touristic representations of the city. With special reference to The Shadow of the Wind (2001), this chapter considers the complexities of Ruiz Zafón’s Gothicisation of Barcelona to suggest that his novels may be best understood as a conscious attempt to produce a regional form of the urban Gothic and as an exploration of the legacies of the Spanish Civil War in one of the cities most affected by it. The chapter shows how the retrojection of the narrative trappings of the Gothic to a dark version of Barcelona deliberately associates the modes' interest in barbaric codes of behaviour with Franco’s oppressive ruling and its ghosts with the war’s forgotten victims.
Xavier Aldana Reyes


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