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The Gothic of the Normal:
The Horrid Monotony of Pointless Suffering

Liverpool Hope University

What may be identified as the “Gothic of the Normal” necessarily dovetails into conventional critiques of the Gothic. Yet it entails a very different way of looking at the Gothic text as it focuses upon the significant presence in the text of the mundane. For, whilst Gothic literature foregrounds the purportedly deviant – whether sexual, sacrilegious or otherwise – it exhibits an equally Gothic focus upon the normal. More specifically, it depicts anxiety about what may be termed the “will to normalization.” But what is meant by the “will to normalization”? By way of an analogy, we may look at Foucault’s conception of the “will to truth”: the pragmatic creation of “truths” in a given society that fit the age and at least some of the needs of that society. The posited “will to normalization” runs along similar lines. A society is structured by, and functions upon, notions of the normal. The resultant demonization of deviancy places the individual subject in an endless state of self-violence as she or he constantly questions whether or not she or he is “normal”. As readers we want to read about Gothic villains because their lives are so much more exciting than our own. However, we also want to read about ourselves. This we can do when we read fictionalized accounts of the less spectacular characters in a Gothic text and their relationship with the “will to normalization”. The “Gothic of the Normal” is illustrated through a discussion of three of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories.

Gothic, “Gothic of the Normal,” “will to normalization,” Foucault, Hawthorne, mundane, deviancy, normative


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