Gothic Hauntology: Everyday Hauntings and Epistemological Desire

New book by Joakim Wrethed, Associate Professor at the Department of English

Gothic Hauntology book cover

The study pursues the phenomenon of hauntology within the gothic genre. Hauntings in various forms constitute one of the defining features of the gothic category of fiction from the very Walpolian beginning. Here, hauntology is mainly defined in accordance with Derrida’s central concepts of limitrophy, temporality and the presence of the past in the present. Hauntology is sought on a primordial level of experience in the characters of the narratives. Therefore, hauntology is generally seen as an inevitable affective and experiential phenomenon that highlights a fundamental human predicament. Fiction is an eminent tool for scrutinising such phenomena, which the selection of heterogenous works here emphatically demonstrates. The investigation moves from contemporary works by Atwood, Munro and Ajvide Lindqvist back to older canonised gothic fiction by Polidori, Poe, James and Lovecraft. Hauntology is shown to be a central force in these works in similar but also slightly different ways. By utilising the phenomenological concept of epistemological desire, which is set apart from the desire of needs, the analysis seeks to explicate the human striving for knowledge as a Sisyphus project and as an impossible desire for desire itself. By zooming in on details of experience, parts of the study move within the everyday spheres of the gothic and hauntology. In that way, the gothic and hauntology merge as a realistic force in any life lived and the paradox of absolute indeterminacy seems to constitute the only reasonable way of understanding life as an experiential movement. The gothic has always filled the function of reminding us of our vulnerability and to beware of rational and scientific hubris. This study confirms that this is also the case in contemporary fiction.

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Link to e-book

About the author

Joakim Wrethed is Associate Professor at the Department of English, Stockholm University.