'Demons from the deep': postcolonial Gothic fictions from the Caribbean, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

  • Alison Rudd

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the field of Postcolonial Gothic, initially through an examination of theories of the Gothic and the postcolonial and their points of intersection. Homi Bhabha’s notion of the ‘unhomely’ as the paradigm for postcolonial experience, particularly with regard to migrancy and Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject are identified as particularly productive for a Postcolonial Gothic framework, which is then applied to a survey of the way the Gothic is figured on the individual and the Local, regional or national levels in the context of Caribbean, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand postcolonial writing and demonstrates how the Gothic as a mode of writing furnishes postcolonial authors with a narrative strategy to express the traumas of colonialism and their postcolonial legacies. In coming to terms with the past, historical temporality and authority are rendered problematic by postcolonial writers because the physical and psychic violence of colonialism and its effects on the individual and on society are compounded by the repression of past trauma. The effects of such trauma threaten to resurface despite resistance. These experiences underpin the images of postcolonial revenants as hybrid, distorted and monstrous figures, which arise out of cultural contact between colonised and coloniser. The ghost, the phantom, the revenant, gain new meanings in the service of the postcolonial, where the duppy, and the soucouyant, from the Caribbean; the Bunyip from Australia and the shape- shifting figure of Coyote from Canada are hybrid manifestations created from European, indigenous and cross-cultural remains and they speak of culturally specific histories, traumas and locations. The thesis is arranged into four chapters: Caribbean gothic, Canadian Gothic, Australian Gothic and New Zealand Gothic. Each chapter provides an overview of the Gothic in the national or regional context, placing the emphasis on the postcolonial and then focuses on the way the Gothic is utilised by both dominant and marginal cultures: by white settlers and indigenous peoples in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, by the descendents of people forcibly mobilised through slavery in the Caribbean, and by other more recent migrants to, or between these locations. The writers discussed have different tales to tell about the effects of colonialism on the individual and on their society, but they have chosen the Gothic as means of expression for some of the most violent and unspeakable acts of colonialism and their legacy in the postcolonial
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorJanet M Wilson (Supervisor)

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