• Confronting the Legacy of Historical Trauma through Gothic Historical Television Drama

    Derek Johnston (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, Horror, Television Studies
    Television programs, Gothic fiction, Public history, Historical television programs
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Progression, Regression and Transgression in Gothic World Literature Symposium, A Gothic-Without-Borders International Gothic Association Symposium
    Conf. Org.:
    International Gothic Association
    Conf. Date:
    29 September-2 October 2023
    Gothic, Television aesthetics, Television drama, Historical drama
    Permanent URL:
    This paper examines the use of the Gothic mode in historical television drama to suggest it is used to emphasise engagement with historical traumas, and suggest that these traumas still have relevance today. This emphasis works by engaging with the associations that are acquired around the Gothic mode through experience, recognising the aesthetic of cold desaturated colours, a limited palette, high chiaroscuro, etc. and common elements such as the representation of violence and constraint. These signal the likelihood that certain themes will be present, such as the oppression of particular groups for profit. This research thus builds on work by historians such as Jerome de Groot and Marnie Hughes-Warrington, in considering how the specific modes of historical television influence engagement with and interpretation of history, as well as by television scholars such as Helen Wheatley in considering the Gothic mode of television. Through a range of examples including Taboo, Peaky Blinders, Black Sails, Spartacus and Picnic at Hanging Rock this paper will highlight key themes that have been observed through this ongoing research. In particular, these series recognise the importance and power of narrative. This offers up opportunities to consider how history has been written, and who has been left out of many histories in the past. The Gothic historical television drama is thus partly about constructing new representations of a past which are more inclusive, while still presenting the traumas endured as a result of patriarchal, imperialistic, extractive capitalism. Through selective anachronism and address, these series also tend to suggest the continued relevance of these traumas in a present that is grappling with historical legacies.
    Last Updated:
    5 months ago


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