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252 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 of Sherlock Holmes are, in 'A Scandal in Bohemia,' yet more masterfully superseded by 'The Woman' (Irene Adler), whose narrative coup leaves Holmes staggering backwards, white-faced 'with chagrin and surprise.' Finally, Thoms's reading ofcompetingnineteenth-centurynarratives seems incomplete without a consideration of how imperial narratives were imposed on the stories of the colonized. This is a particularly noticeable omission in Thoms's reading of The Moonstone, which does not attend to how the detective narrative told jointlyby the Europeans (a narrative which seeks to discover who has stolen the diamond from Rachel Verrinder) collides· with the story told by the Brahmins (which asserts that the diamond was always already stolen). In the final analysis, then, Thoms's close readings, while illuminating, would have been enriched by a consideration of the broader ideological issues of race, gender, and class. (LISA SURRIDGE) Robert Martin and Eric Savoy, editors. American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative University of Iowa Press. xii, 266. us $32.95 The editors of American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative tell us that they will not force coherence on their collection but will allow the essays to 'resonate' with one another and with contemporary theoretical and political concerns. And indeed, the least satisfying part of this collection is the introductory writing that strains to offer a general account (even if it is an account of why general accounts do not work): The essays in American Gothic engage with classic American Gothic writers (Poe, Hawthorne, and Faulkner), with contemporary drama and fiction (Amiri Baraka, Stephen King, Thomas Harris, and Kathy Acker) and with popular culture (the volume includes an essay on 'suburban Gothic' and on the Gothicizing rhetoric that fashions serial killers for public consumption). While individual sections promise us essays on psychoanalysis and the Gothic, race and the Gothic, women's writing and the Gothic, and the postmodern and the Gothic, the true strength of this collection resides in the interest of some of its individual essays. Of particular note is Lesley Ginsberg's 'Slavery and the Gothic Horror of Poe's liThe Black Cat." I Ginsberg argues that Poe's text 'cries out for contextualization/ and it is this contextualization that her discussion of antebellum slavery discourses provides. Ginsburg points to the use of Gothic language in pro-slavery rhetoric and suggests that the Gothic was used to evade the obvious horror of slavery which was (to quote Ginsberg quoting another Poe tale) 'a little too self-evident.' Steven Bruhm's essay on Lacan and Stephen King is both pleasing and insightful. Bruhm claims, 'King is (or at least appears to be) remarkably in line with contemporary HUMANITIES 253 theories of psychoanalysis.' Bruhm argues that with their attention to the symbolic order and the materiality of the signifier, the writings of Lacan and King are characterized by an Jalmost uncanny resemblance.' And finally essays on nineteenth-century women's writing (essays by Marianne Noble and Mary Chapman on Susan Warner and Louisa May Alcott) are notable for their negotiation of difficult political terrain: they enter into debates concerning the problematically masochistic pleasures of women's fiction. Noble argues that 'the desire for the ecstatic unmaking of identity ... pulses' throughout Warner's The Wide, Wide World. The sentimental heroine may be thrilled by patriarchal violence, but this very bodily experience (the thrill which is also the reader's thrill in identifying with the heroine) works to challenge the oppressive fiction of female disembodiment . Noble concludes that sadomasochism in sentimentality is both repressive and subversive. This is a gesture made by many of the writers in the collection, and in his 'Some.Stations of Suburban Gothic' Kim Ian Michasiw suggests that it has become a bit worn. Perhaps we should get over the fact that (most) literary texts refuse to be assigned a Singular political meaning; isn't this precisely what makes them worth reading in the first place? Many of the contributors to American Gothic credit Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel (1960). And certainly one hears the echo of Fiedler's concerns (the American Gothic is anxious about masculinity and male desire, and it is...


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