The Return of the Repressed

Gothic Horror from The Castle of Otranto to Alien

By Valdine Clemens

Subjects: Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture
Paperback : 9780791443286, 274 pages, September 1999
Hardcover : 9780791443279, 274 pages, September 1999

Table of contents


Introduction: What Gothic Nightmares Do

1. Precedents for "Gothic" Fear: Medieval Life, Jacobean Drama, and Eighteenth-Century Attitudes

2. Sexual Violence and Woman's Place: The Castle of Otranto

3. Sentiment versus Horror: Generic Ambivalence in Female Gothic and Ann Radcliffe's A Siciliann Romance

4. Public Censorship and Personal Repression: The Monk

5. The Industrial Demon: Frankenstein

6. The Descent of Man and the Anxiety of Upward Mobility: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

7. The Reptilian Brain at the Fin de Siecle: Dracula

8. American Gothic: Historical and Psychological Critique in Stephen King's The Shining

Epilogue: Alien and the Future of Gothic


Works Cited


Examines the psychological, cultural, and political implications of Gothic fiction, and helps to explain why horror writers and filmmakers have found such large and receptive audiences eager for the experience of being scared out of their wits.


Exploring the psychological and political implications of Gothic fiction, Valdine Clemens focuses on some major works in the tradition: The Castle of Otranto, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, The Shining, and Alien. She applies both psychoanalytic theory and sociohistorical contexts to offer a fresh approach to Gothic fiction, presenting new insights both about how such novels "work" and about their cultural concerns.

Clemens argues that by stimulating a sense of primordial fear in readers, Gothic horror dramatically calls attention to collective and attitudinal problems that have been unrecognized or repressed in the society at large. Gothic fiction does more, however, than simply reflect social anxieties; it actually facilitates social change. That is, in frightening us out of our collective "wits," Gothic fiction actually shocks us into using them in more viable ways.

Valdine Clemens is a Research Affiliate with the University of Manitoba, Canada.


"Clemens convincingly points out that the Gothic use of images is not simply to evoke terror but to identify collective problems. I particularly like her application of Jungian archetypal theory. Although the word 'repressed' in the title suggests psychological, Clemens balances the psychological with the historical and political." — Charlotte Spivack, University of Massachusetts, Amherst