Friday, 2 March 2012

STRAY THOUGHTS ON THE LATE-CAPITALIST GOTHIC REVIVAL

The pictures of the Hogwarts CGI models are interesting:


Weird that this supposed to be a conflation of Durham Cathedral and Alnwick Castle. I can see the Durham Cathedral part but mostly it's just wildly exaggerated fantasy gothic (as you might expect, I suppose).

There definitely seems to be something timely about this return to the gothic. What's worrying though is the absence of any underpinning Puginian/Ruskinian ethos.

This is culture as consumer pastoralism, a solipsistic fantasy artificially inseminated in the mechanised laboratory of late-capitalism.

3 comments:

David W. Kasper said...

As with the 80s, Toryism brings with it a 'gothic' tone - feudal nostalgia mixed with fantasies of demonic masculine omnipotence, dark goings on in dark hidden rooms; and magnified - almost cartoony - master/slave melodrama. Gothic is the ghost of primitive accumulation - supernatural as a replacement for the natural, and indeed the social.

However, the death of subculture since the 90s means that this is unlikely to be reflected in youth culture or nightlife. Rather, it will be reflected in the 'top-down' mainstream; with most of the ambiguity or subversion ironed out: Harry Potter, Downtown Abbey, Thatcher the Alzheimer's Tragedy (our venerable 'madwoman in the attic'), murder mysteries gloating on torture and inherent corruption, a government of bounders offering to keep the 'barbarians within' at bay, 'evil' as predestined, unexplained condition - the metaphor overwhelming the society that created it.

Alex Niven said...

Yep I couldn't agree more with this. I think a big part of the problem is that even the "countercultural" gothicists (Iain Sinclair, Alan Moore, zombie-philes) tend towards a fetishistic aesthetic rather than a Blakean or Ruskinian sense of the gothic as a visionary, enlightening social force.

David W. Kasper said...

Point taken about Sinclair, Moore etc. - one thing that connects them is a certain disengagement, either that aloof, raised-eyebrow tone Sinclair adopts, or Moore's convoluted self and popcult referencing (or indeed how 'pop' genres not only refer to their 'heritage' now, but their own marketable tropes - recurring subplot: 'this is an advert for itself'. A kind of sealed loop. Compare Downtown Abbey to Upstairs/Downstairs, and it's striking how 'outward' and 'forward' the latter was, despite its obvious budgetary limits). Or even Harry Potter vs. Narnia, which, for all its reactionary aspects, was at least deeply felt.

I'm a fan of Moore and Sinclair, but they're getting as nourishing as an austerity diet. That they invoke Blake so much only highlights how Blake strove to be a world figure - revolutionary movements in the New World were as much a part of his work as his own visions. The key to understanding him are the conflicts of his time, not the trends of his industry, or his 'media profile'. The difference between mere fetishism and iconoclasm.