The Strange Case of Love and Death -or- The Gothic Tapestry

The Strange Case of Love and Death in the Historical Novel

In memory of my teacher and mentor Professor Peter Seidmann, who has recently past on. Peter Seidmann trained me in the pragmatic use of the tools of depth psychology, and case study methods for clinical psychological practice.


Art of Darkness in World Literature -or- The Spectral Poetics of the Gothic Novel

The opening line of Daphne du Maurier's gothic novel "Rebecca" (1938) reads; "Last night I dreamt of Manderley again." Rebecca was adapted to the silver screen for what was to become a classic Hollywood Hitchcock. Tracing the literary pedigree (1) of the gothic novel, we find its' literate ancestry in Horace Walpole's "The Castle of Otranto" published in 1765. By his own admission, the ghosts, horrors and death found in the works William Shakespeare, were Walpole's precursor. Walpole's gothic fiction experiment heralded the romantic age of spectral poetic ideas, portraying dark romanticism and its' art of darkness (2).

The gothic literary tradition and canon, includes the English works of Radcliffe, Lewis, Shelley, Stevenson, Stoker, Poe, Hawthorne, Lovecraft, du Maurier, Angela Carter and Steven King. The gothic novels' use of psychogeographic literary devices (3,4,5) creates a gothic road map, its' uncanny itinerary takes the tourist reader on a scopophilic tour of the bizarre exhumed antiquarian artistic imagery of the epic angst ridden territories of the nightmares' labyrinthine passages. Found along these gothic "momento mori" poetic "routes", are desolate cryptic landscapes, castles, dungeons, graveyards, and monumental ruins, creating a psychosomatic effect of paranoid-depressive fears of social decline, disintegration, death and decay (6) .

Walpole's home "Strawberry Hill" is a dream house whose architecture is one of gothic revival. Of course, like so much else, the origins of the novel are to be found in an uncanny dream that Walpole reported having. The Gothic castle can be seen as a psychological symbol and nightmaric symptom of the prison house of collective narcissistic neurotic fears (7,8). Gothic romance writers make the reader at home with the "dramatis personae" of the "evil eye", Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, werewolves and a dark host of other monsterous figures found lurking in the collective shadows of nightmares.

Those who write Gothic romances attempt to re-vitalize the depth-psychological function of the fairy tale language of magical thinking (9). Said differently, the gothic categorical imperative is the re-animation of the collective unconscious, the uncanny, the supernatural and the numinous (10) in psychological literature and civilization. In a literary and scientific field that had become soaked and bleached by the intense light of the tyranny of rationalism, the gothic serves the artistic reality of the guilty pleasures of the dark fantastic(11).

The Enlightenment Age (circa 1715 - 1789) politics of rationalism created a "dissociation of sensibility", which all but destroyed the fertile poetic depths of the sub-lime (12) fabric of the language of magical imagination, mystery, and mysticism. The gothic becomes an aesthetic response intended to subvert (13,14) the rational body political social order. This gothic aesthetic sensibility of the fantastic (15) is featured in such art works as Fuselli's "The Nightmare" (1781), and Goya's "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" (1797) and Geiger's "Necronom IV" (1976).

The fantastic contrivers and peddlers of gothic nightmares and the pleasures of melancholy horrors (16) continue to invade our dreams. Shakespeare's Macbeth (ca. 1599-1606?) says, "I have supp'd full with horrors." Horror seems to always lead us down a fatal tragic (17) path to a dead end, yet when it is mixed with genres such as scientific romance, or technoromanticism's (18) gothic artistic "suspension of disbelief" it can provide a revolutionary path. Romantic adventure tales such as Jules Verne's "Around the World in Eighty Days" and H.G. Wells "The Time Machine" fueled the literary creation of "planetary romance" stories, giving rise to SciFi space opera franchise films such as Star Wars, Star Trek and Alien.

We mimetically receive the deep psychohistorical fairy tale language structures of collective memory (19,20,21) and dreams, shaped by existential dream vision "Angst". This monsterous host of dark obsessive compulsive ritual impulses features a fear conditioned cultural photomontage of stock horror images which lurk in the dark gothic driven dream spaces (22) of the collective imagination. Then, we generationally reproduce this oneirophrenic cast of socio-cultural anxieties, threats, dangers, neuroticism, hallucinations, and "bogeymen (women)", thereby renewing and fueling children's fears (23), nightmares (24), traumas (25), maladjusted self defenses, suffering and Weltschmerz.

The child learns (26,27,28,29) and receives this collective narcissistic-nightmare-fear driven gothic machinery, thereby creating the children's nursery inheritance of the fear conditioning of the sleep of reason and the nightmare of history. This generational culture of fear is driven and conditioned by a historical traumatic repetition compulsion of psychological disorders, where our collective phobic dream spaces are generationally re-populated by the gothic horrors perpetrated by the never ending hordes of monsterous killers of the dream. The epic artistic portrait of the gothic tapestry can be found circulating in the hostile literary landscapes of the nightmare of history. As James Joyce character Stephen Dedalus tell us; "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."

In Joseph Conrad's "The Heart of Darkness" (1899), the character Kurtz before dying whispers, "The horror! The horror!" Kurtz's sentiment only echoes the graphic words the ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus in "The Persians" (472 BC) had placed into the mouths of the Persian chorus of elders, "Oh horror, horror". The Persians features an ancient Greek war theatre, a "dream sequence" and a ghost, amounting to the gothic dream vision demarcation between "Eastern" and "Western" civilization. Had the Persian expedition against Greece been successful, an alternate Western political history can be envisioned. Ironically, the film "Apocalypse Now" featuring the more modern day killing fields of the South East Asian war theatre, has the American Colonel Kurtz whisper with his last dying breath, "...The horror... the horror...". The meta-historical horrors of political enmity, war, genocide, murder and hubris have fueled the gothic imagination, the nightmare of history and the art of darkness.

Conducting a forensic autopsy of our epic dream vision frame story we discover the gothic mimetic dream world machinery that generates and artistically drives the phantasmagoria of the spectral poetics of nightmare visions. The epic theatrical nightmare presents an uncanny organic dark host of characters, plots, and settings, whose death drive propulsion is the dramaturgical stuff of dark romance (30). Said differently, using the cultural dream vision apparatus what we find artistically projected onto the oneiric (31) film screen (32,33),is a meta-historical dramaturgical adaptation of humanity's psychodynamic (34) journey seen as the "gothic tapestry" of the epic suspense of nightmares, horrors and terrors of history.

Screening the Gothic imagination visually produces uncanny organic and psychological violent shock effects of the polymorph perverse (35) body image impulses of interpersonal attraction and repulsion (36), that lie beneath the dramaturgical surface of the civilized (37) mask's veneer of appearances (38,39). Hidden behind the camouflage of our civilized masquerade, lurks the Gothic images of the dark host of the monsterous, which lays in wait. The gothic nightmare is a psychophysical sub-liminal (40) imagistic labyrinthine realm of startle responses to the dark fantastic shock value of the malevolent actions of the disgusting,the macabre, the ghastly, the violent, the criminal, the insane, the cruel, and the deadly.

The strange case of the urban gothic manifold features the spectacle of the medical, legal and criminal investigation into the aetiology of the uncanny polymorph perverse impulses that hides within the anxious subject (41). Urban gothic iconography can be divided into male (42,43,44) and female (45,46) poetic fear and nightmare driven liminal modes and genres. Camille Paglia, in "Sexual Personae" explores the historical nature of the deep erotic structures of masculinity and femininity and the decadent artistic effects of a repressive sadomasochistic (47,48) master and slave driven Western art culture (49).

Such a shocking urban gothic dark triad of misanthropic,misandric and misogynous collective dream world (50,51) landscape is exemplified in Eugene Sue's dysfunctional body political (52,53) social order found in "The Mysteries of Paris" (published as a serial between 1842-43). The literary growth of the popular literary genre of gothic city mysteries makes transparent the dark romantic dreams and nightmares found employed in "Sin City" (54,55). Dark romanticism's dreams and nightmares are circulating and washing over the planet as we speak. The sado-masochistic (56,57,58,59) grammar of dark romanticism's lurid tastes created by "malignant narcissism" and grotesque body political rhetoric (60) speaks of the poetics of ressentiment, hate (61), malice (62), deceit (63), betrayal, rejection, disgust (64), humiliation (65), rage, and revenge (66). This dark romanticism is the generationally perpetuated by the gothic politics of the "family romance" story (67), creating the decadent genealogical life cycle of art history as a nightmare.

Edvard Munch's The Scream(1893) artistically renders an aesthetic iconography of the gothic sense of "night terrors" and the horrors of life. In film, Janet Leigh's unforgettable scream in the shower scene of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" (1960) is one of the best known murder scenes in Hollywood dream factory history. With "Psycho's" one central murder, the trend in more recent horror films is to sadistically kill off as many characters as possible within the running time. Viscerally, the Gothic blazon anatomique (68,69,70,71,72,73) genre creates a cold shudder down the spine, shaking and trembling (74), sweating, hyperventilation, and racing palpitations of the heart, paralyzing our voluntary will (75).

As a historical portrait of the wellspring of the gothic iconic persistence of vision, the romantic landscape painter David Casper Friedrich gave us "The Dreamer" (painted ca 1820-40). In the painting, we see a man who is sitting on the ledge of the great gothic window of a ruined monastery. Via mimetic (76) mirror identification (77,78) with the seated man, we can begin to contemplate and imagine the gesamtkunstwerk of the gothic visual memory of the ruins of meta-history. Through the gothic window, we can see the dramaturgical scenic tapestry of the poetic spectralization of the art history museum of 1001 Dream and Nightmare Tales.

The literary philosophical leitmotif of the spectral art of darkness and light of these tales is structurally (79,80) driven by the collective unconscious poetic grammar (81), logic (82) and diction (83) of gothic romanticism's antinomies (84) of profane and sacred (85), malevolence and benevolence,enmity and amity, slave and master, negation and affirmation, death and life (86), disenchantment and enchantment, nightmare and dream, anomie and nomos, destructiveness (87) and creativity, war and peace (88), madness and sanity (89), unreal and real, dystopia and utopia, de-sublimation and sublimation, suggesting both an artistic landscape of melancholy (90,91) despair and a new poetic horizon of expectation for hope (92,93).

The European historical novel (94) of collective involuntary memory of dream vision carries the collective emotional baggage of the dark reminiscences (95) of nightmares' labyrinth, featuring the art history of the horrors of dark romanticism (96), political terror and brutality (97). The artistic rise of Gothic romanticism (98,99) can be seen as a dream vision allegory of the surge of European revolutionary forces of freedom signaled by the ending of the dark religious age of the terrifying horrors of the "Inquisition" and marking the political horizon of the impending raging storms of the American (1765) and French (1789) revolutions, which rejected the British Empires' colonial imperialism and the repressive French monarchy.

Although not advertised as such, the American and French revolutions were politically influenced by gothic criticism, playing an important role in the rhetorical (100,101) attack on the estate politics of the social order of the times. The American and French revolutions (102) promoted the incorporation of the body political freedoms and the equality ideals of human and civil rights which then were cemented into the American "Declaration of Independence" (1776) and the French "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen"(1789). Edmund Burke "Reflections on the Revolution in France" (1790) attacked and criticized the French Revolution, advocating for the traditional political estates.

Mary Shelley's mother Mary Wollstonecraft "A Vindication of the Rights of Men" (1790) responded with a feminist critique of Burke's male body political rhetoric. Wollstonecraft tells Burke and her readers; "Man preys on man; and you mourn for the idle tapestry that decorated a gothic pile, and the dronish bell that summoned the fat priest to prayer." Wollstonecraft pointing to the grotesque dehumanizing practices of the French "Ancien Regime" asks; Why was it a duty to repair an ancient castle, built in barbarous ages, of Gothic materials?" Gothic criticism provides the psychological and artistic tools to make transparent the tapestry (103,104) of the art of darkness and history as nightmare. Jean Jacques Rousseau ground breaking autobiographical self portrait "Confessions" makes bare his dark impulses, accusing society of its' collusive role (105) in the generational European gothic cycle of the political corruption of the innocence (106) of children (107,108,109). Rousseau's solution is the transparency (110) of political communication in society to help begin the educational process of the desensitization of the pathological fear conditioning of children.

Sigmund Freud (111) and Carl Jung (112, 113) would develop their own personal narcissistic equations and literary post mortem brands of artistic, scientific and medical gothic criticism of children's dreams and nightmares. Freud's Epimethian retrospective "Revolutionary Dream" (read Field Note,114) focuses on the harmful social developmental symptoms caused by the failed European political revolutions of 1848 on the already repressed and conflicted European psyche (115). Carl Jung's Promethian prospective dream vision (read interpretation "The Waste Land of WW I") focuses on the gothic horizon of the unleashed repression later seen in the horrific political violence of WW I (1914-18).

Jung's access to the collective artistic unconscious allowed him to see the "Waste Land" (116) rubble of civilization washing Europe in a sea of bloodlust. If the Gothic is a critical literary portrait of civilizations' nightmare realized, and there are a myriad of horrific "death driven" body political conflicts and wars raging on the planet as we speak, then we must ask ourselves; Is the dream of world literature beyond repair, hopelessly broken by the ever escalating schizotypal nightmare of the deleterious historical culture of necrophilic cycles of the horrors and terrors of war (117)? Have the dead already been calculated, and the death certificates, and the epitaphs of the gothic victims of the impending apocalyptic nuclear Armageddon already written?

The post-modern (118) epigenetic cycle (119) of the gothic (120) provides the basis for a body political theory of art history as nightmare featuring the dark organic undercurrents of the incarnations of monsterous "malignant narcissistic" impulses of everyday horror (121,122), terror and psychopathology. Leslie Fiedler "Love and Death in the American Novel" sees in the gothic novel the "cheapjack machinery of the hidden blackness of the human soul and human society." The gothic seeks the eternal spectral residence of the 'magic and phantasmogoria' of the heroic and the dark artistic host of the monsterous found lurking in the American Nightmare. Angela Carter's "The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman" provides insight into the post-modern media driven dream factory which mimetically influences and re-produces the gothic city's surreal landscape of the dark magical realism of love, death and social alienation (123).

Such a disenchanted gothic cityscape of alienation, depersonalization and paranoid despair is found operating in the opening line of Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" which reads; "When Gregory Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monsterous vermin." In our post-modern "Kafkaesque" fractured fairy tale nightmare (124,125), the monsterous impulses and inner gothic transformation leaks out, creating "narcissistic mortification", caused by narcissistic injuries in the face of an alienating bureaucratic "iron cage" and the prison house experience of everyday life.

Is there a no way out of gothic romanticism's monsterous "intertextual" labyrinth of history as nightmare?

Walter Benjamin's (126) revolutionary (127) brand of gothic criticism employed the Angel of History (128,129) as an art historical retrospective (hindsight) and prospective (foresight) literary vehicle to provide the ways of seeing the "optical unconscious" phantasmogoric history of the Western dream world. Benjamin believed that we need to dramaturgically (130) purge and cleanse our dream world of the epic gothic philosophical cycle which corrupts the child's mimetic creative imagination (131,132, 133), cognitive-affective-sensibility processes and the collective unconscious dream world. Quoting Benjamin; "The history of dreams has yet to be written [...]." More accurately the art history of dreams and gothic nightmares has yet to be written. Employing Benjamin's dream theory mantra "every epoch dreams the one that follows", we can envision the child's ageless art of darkness conflicts (134) and the gothic death driven pathology (135) of history as nightmare (136).

Benjamin in "The "Story Teller" views the fairy tale (137) as an epic oral and literary mode and device for the child's reception of the cultural inheritance of the conditioning of the epic artistic language of dreams generated by the "historical unconscious" of collective memory. Benjamin states: "The first true story teller is, and will continue to be, the teller of fairy tales." The fairy tale in fact provides a gothic medium (138) for magical thinking (139) and the dark fantastic. Is it a coincidence that Freud (140) found Grimm's fairy tales playing out in many of his patients' thoughts and dreams, expressing dark desires, conflicts and anxiety? Wilhelm Wundt "Volkerpsychologie" (Folk Psychology) believed that the fairy tale was the oldest narrative genre and revealed the artistic psychology of primitive humans. Benjamin believed that the artistic landscapes of surrealism (141) had sounded the historical clock alarm (142) to shock and awaken humanity from the fairy tales' gothic cycle of the fear conditioned art of darkness and visual culture's language (143) of the dark nightmare of history.

"Field Notes of a Dream Researcher" presents its' own post-modern "black comedy" (144) "carnivalesque" brand of gothic forensic criticism of our collective epic dream factory, focusing the reader's attention on the ethological and cultural anatomical cyclical modes (145,146) operating in dreams and nightmares. Darwinian literary criticism (147,148), acts as an ecological "Silent Spring" umbrella, and "creative synthesis" for all other critical story telling forms. The evolution of the mimetic (149) spectral poetic genre of gothic romance (150) in the digital age has achieved what can be called "technogothic", allowing the artistic screening (151) of the dark psychological canvas (152) of the gothic death conditioned "stream of consciousness" undercurrents of visual culture's collective memory (153).

When Field Notes virtual architectural construction of the meta-communicational base and superstructure of the Eastern and Western dream world memory palace (154,155,156) is completed, a virtual tour of the 1001 technoromantic windows will provide a unified artistic vision (157, 158,159). This postmodern Dreamer's art of memory portrait will illuminate (160,161) the spectral iconographic machinery (162,163) creating a polyphonic intertexual montage of the living past of ancestral antiquarian collective memory. Field Notes are "In Search of Lost Time" of collective dreaming and the "Great Conversation" of history.

Field Notes act as an ethological (164,165) bridging and salvation device (166) found in the museum (167) of dream vision. The Gothic artistic forms of the anatomy of influence (168,169) finds expression in the symbolic (170,171) fear factor dream factory domains of urban architecture (172), politics, economics, art, literature, music, film, fashion, criminology and the medical humanities (173). By collecting (174) the epochal surreal (175,176) archeological language fragments (177) of the archival ruins of involuntary memory, we can redeem the gesamtkunstwerk of the vital medical language of dreams and the gothic cognitive-affective priming (178, 179) machinery of nightmares. By employing Benjamin's Angel of History visual thinking perspective to write the medical case history (180) of gothic horror and terror we can develop an everyday Hippocratic "healing dream" cure (181,182,183) to restore the sublime (184) cosmic dream vision (185,186,187) of the numinous, mystic, and oceanic (188,189) unity of our antiquarian collective memory (190) and mimetic dreaming by the book (191) fragments that washes over the planet. Here is a sample of the Field Notes that speak about the Gothic tapestry of the forensic fears, horrors and terror found in the dark room (192) of nightmares. Welcome to My Nightmare.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.