Academic journal article Text Matters

In the Flesh and the Gothic Pharmacology of Everyday Life; or into and out of the Gothic

Academic journal article Text Matters

In the Flesh and the Gothic Pharmacology of Everyday Life; or into and out of the Gothic

Article excerpt

Text Matters, Volume 6, Number 6, 2016 DOI: 10.1515/texmat-2016-0014

Barry Murnane

University of Oxford

One of the key questions facing Gothic Studies today is that of its migration into and out of its once familiar generic or symbolic modes of representation. The BBC series In the Flesh addresses these concerns against the background of aneoliberal medical culture in which pharmaceutical treatments have become powerful tools of socio-economic normalization, either through inducing passivity or in heightening productivity, generating chemically adapted biomachines tuned to think and produce. But the pharmakon has always been arisky form of normalization, its poisonous mechanisms threatening to undo its helpful patterns by stealth. This essay discusses the pharmacological and medical contexts of the series in which zombies are subjected to medical management and normalized as PDS sufferers, thereby locating In the Flesh in terms of an already gothicized neoliberal pharmacology of everyday life. It also enquires how the proximity of the symbolic pharmacology of the series to neoliberal medical discourses and practices actually challenges traditional representational patterns of the Gothic and whether the Gothic can still have arole as an alternative cure to societys ills.

In the Flesh and the Gothic Pharmacology of Everyday Life; or Into and Out of the Gothic


Barry Murnane

The Gothic seems to be astrong currency in the neoliberal era. Since the mid-1990s, and certainly with the success of series like The Walking Dead, Twilight, American Horror Story, or the more art-house Les Revenants and In the Fleshfor all their differencesthere has been arecognizable surge in narratives about monstrous gures and spectral apparitions in lm, TV, graphic novels, literature, and music (Spooner 2125). In aseries of articles and in aforthcoming volume, International Gothic in the Neoliberal Age, British critic Linnie Blake has linked the current wave of Gothic productivity to the series of dislocations that free market economics have inicted in our own, global-imperial age and the trauma wrought to global ecology, society, and selves by the vicissitudes of post-1970s global capitalism (Neoliberal Adventures 167; see also Burton and Swinburne; Blake and Soltysik Monnet, forthcoming). According to her powerful reading, if Gothic matters today, it is because it is preoccupied with matters of direct political economic relevance to contemporary audiences. In short, the Gothic is omnipresent because it articulates collective anxieties over resisting and embracing change in the twenty-rst century (Levina and Bui 2).

It is perhaps unsurprising that zombies, vampires, monsters, and ghosts seem to be everywhere in the cultural production of the present day; neo-liberal technologies of everyday life appear to be monstrous, Gothic formations in and of themselves, with biotechnology and organ transplant technologies generating new and confusing states and denitions of living and dying, new vampiric economies of organ and biological trade, and new categories of prosthetic and surgical monstrosity/normality (Murnane, passim). This is suggestive on the one hand of alink between ctions in the Gothic mode and the material reality from which these texts emerge and are anchored, but it also asks serious questions about the status of the Gothic and Gothic Studies itself today, as there appears to be amigration into and out of Gothics once familiar generic and symbolic modes of representation: neo-liberal biopolitics and political economy seemingly emerge through uncanny narratives of their own. This is suggestive of aproximity between neoliberal reality and Gothics ctional representations which challenges traditional understandings of the Gothic as amode of cultural representation.

Gothic Mattersas the matters of the Gothicimplies what critics have understood to be the relationship between ction and reality; these matters include arange of issues, the programmatic core of which has comprisedat least according to the discipline of Gothic Studies that has developed since the early 1980sacritical, and indeed subversive, depiction and radical interrogation of the rationally-based assumptions, envisioned goals and normative dimensions of the twin projects of enlightenment and modernity (on subversion, see Jackson; on Gothic as abject negotiation


Gothic Pharmacology

of bourgeois identities in modernity, see Hogle 29698, and Punter). …

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