Institute of Modern Languages Research
The Haunted House in French Culture
Gothic attics, horrific crypts: the poetics of space in the haunted houses of French cinema
(University of Newcastle)
The haunted house is a significant Gothic motif in literature, film and television. It can be understood as the domestication of the Gothic, as the older concept of the aristocratic ancestral home becomes more diluted, more nuances, by the rise of the bourgeois family. The haunted house comes to represent a variety of thematic concepts: it can be read as revealing the fault lines of gender, sexuality and class, as symbolic of hidden trauma, or it can be interpreted in terms of national history. Such thematic concerns may nonetheless neglect other considerations such as the pleasure we take in haunted house narratives, the expectations of genre and challenges to such expectations, and indeed the very familiarity of this uncanny building.
Many of our traditional perceptions of the haunted house derive most obviously from Anglophone texts on horror and the Gothic. French culture has traditionally eschewed thinking in terms of horror and the Gothic, yet French Gothic scholar Angela Wright has pointed to the debt owed to French literary tradition by British Gothic, while as Xavier Aldana Reyes has noted, horror and the Gothic thread themselves though French cinema almost unnoticed.
The proposed event is an opportunity to explore French Gothic and horror through the prism of the haunted house. The event, in partnership between the Institute for Modern Languages Research, London and the University of Stirling, Scotland, is part of a wider project to consider the haunted house and its role in the horror and Gothic of different cultures.