This essay considers Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon (2012) as a contemporary Scottish gothic novel that unearths and depicts the systematic demonisation and dehumanisation of characters, such as vulnerable children in care. The constant policing, surveillance and erasure of such others is compared metaphorically with the Scottish nation and its historically uneasy relationship with Anglocentric hegemony. The text liberates its protagonist, Anais Hendricks, from state ‘soul-stealers’ (p. 255), so that she can maintain an identity outwith cartographic power structures. A link can be made between this personal narrative and the wider national story: the orphan Anais’s defiance of state expectations extends to an interrogation and resistance of the stateless nation’s discursive dominance. Instead of accepting the status quo, there is an urgency to seek alternative ways to respond to the neoliberal malaise of contemporary British society from the perspective of post-referendum Scotland. For Fagan, autonomy from repressive authority is enhanced with a relationship that nurtures our link to the outside landscape rather than the simulacra of society and, by curatively embracing an outdoor Scottish gothic, Anais becomes truly a child of her home nation. Her bildung journey to escape the care system can, in turn, be read as Scotland’s socio-political relocation towards an ethical alternative to Anglocentric neoliberalism.


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