Northern Stories: The Arctic in Contemporary Scottish Gothic

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Recent definitions of Scottish Gothic emphasise the importance of the journey north, where northern spaces are seen as challenging essentialist conceptions of national identity or tradition. Sarah Moss’s Cold Earth (2009) and John Burnside’s A Summer of Drowning (2011) both utilize Gothic tropes in their portrayal of imagined or intentional communities at the border of the Arctic circle. Rather than reading the novels simply in terms of Gothic, however, both texts can profitably be seen as meditations on the value of storytelling itself; both authors expand the geographic and aesthetic horizons of Scottish Gothic to reflect on the relation between haunting, narrative, and community. Storytelling in these novels provides a basis of relation for diverse groups of people and allows individuals and communities to come to terms with death. By foregrounding ghost stories both as fictional constructs and as an important component of community, Burnside and Moss highlight the value of storytelling and suggest a broader understanding of the role of self-reflexivity in contemporary Scottish Gothic than has previously been acknowledged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-36
Number of pages16
JournalC21 Literature: Journal of 21st-century Writings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


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