'Dirty Mamma'

Horror, Vampires, and the Maternal in Late Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fiction

in Volume 15 (2003): Issue 3 (Dec 2003): 'New' Female Sexualities 1870–1930. Guest Editor: Emma Liggins
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The most intricate element shared by both psychoanalysis and gothic narratives is their preoccupation with the past and its complex impact on the genesis and state of the present. This is the case from a historical and cultural perspective as well as from the point of view of subjectivity and identity. Who are we, how do we relate to the world around us, and what threatens our sense of ‘being present/in the present’ – these questions are at the centre of any psychoanalytic inquiry and simultaneously seem to inform what could be referred to as a gothic narrative structure. The concept of haunting, the hidden spectre in the past/of the past ready to strike when we least expect it are intrinsic to both the psychoanalytic discourse per se and any tale of horror and terror where an unsuspecting hero (or more often a heroine) has to develop strategies to fight off the unspeakable monstrosities attacking him or her. Thus, what Victor Sage and Allan Lloyd Smith regard as particular to the Gothic: ‘it is a language, often an anti-historicising language, which provides writers with the critical means of transferring an idea of the otherness of the past into the present’ could also be defined as a specific element of any psychoanalytic discourse.