Ghostly Encounters: Transnational Gothic and the Twenty-First Century Global Novel

Thakur, Dipsikha, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Chakravorty, Mrinalini, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia
Arata, Stephen, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia
Kuhn, Mary, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

This dissertation conceptualizes the analytic of the transnational gothic and locates it in the twenty-first century global novel. The novels that this dissertation explores can be broadly categorized as global anglophone with two exceptions. The anglophone texts examined in this dissertation are White is For Witching (2009) by Helen Oyeyemi, Shalimar the Clown (2005) by Salman Rushdie, The Collaborator (2012) by Mirza Waheed, and World War Z (2006) by Max Brooks. The two translated texts are The Vegetarian (2007) by Han Kang, which is studied in Deborah Smith’s translation and Wicked Weeds (2016) by Pedro Cabiya, translated by Jessica Powell. All of these novels in some way enact the gothic not as explained supernatural but as the fearful marvellous. In doing so, they illuminate the work of the gothic by crystallizing the terrorist figuration of the migrant within the contemporary regime of border imperialism.

In this dissertation, I define the titular term ‘transnational gothic’ as a set of tropes in global fiction that attributes to border-crossing bodies supernaturality, fearfulness, and the grotesque. Characters who cross borders or live under the regime of the border (such as in Occupied places) are written as magical bodies that haunt, lurch, creep, or suffer the effects of haunting. The transnational gothic novel frequently either upholds the implicit monstering of border-crossing bodies seen in the popular imagination, or offers literary counteracts to the racist imaginary of the gothic and invests the same tropes with antiracist affordances. These are the conservative and critical turns of the transnational gothic, respectively. The term provides a vocabulary for the largely unnoticed relationship that the literature of terror has enjoyed with the more mundane subject of borders, immigration, and the rise of nationalism in the twenty-first century in particular.

My method is close reading and my methodology historicist, in that I read contemporary fiction and the cultural and political context in which the fiction is formed not simply in reference to each other but as two ends of a continuity. Furthermore, I read the text and the context as a process of mutual worlding whereby the close reading of the political and the textual enable insights into the complex, fractured, and yet ubiquitous relationship between the generic work of the gothic and the current global regime of border imperialism that has enabled the resurgence of the gothic. To this end, I mobilize a diverse body of theoretical approaches, all of which broadly fall in the category of post-Marxist critical theory, with theorists such as Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Harsha Walia, Jasbir Puar, and others.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
gothic, postcolonial, transnational, global, anglophone
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