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Gothic and the Built Environment: The Architectural Uncanny and the Urban Sublime

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Publication date30/09/2019
Host publicationThe Edinburgh Companion to Gothic and the Arts
EditorsDavid Punter
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISBN (print)9781474432351
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameEdinburgh Companions to Literature and the Humanities
PublisherEdinburgh University Press


Since antiquity, stories have persisted of human sacrifice when laying built foundations. In the superficial logic of such sacrifices (imagined or real), the resilience of the construction is ensured with death. Defying time, the durable edifice requires a blood payment. This trope crystallises the two themes of this chapter: the way that Gothic representations of the built environment imply that although the built environment is created by human beings, it can paradoxically be deathly to the human, yet simultaneously host to unnatural ‘life’, to an alien and malevolent agency.

This chapter will explore some of the most characteristic manoeuvres in the symbolic repertoire of the Gothic of the built environment. I will approach the built environment not only in terms of the lone haunted house, but as conglomerations of structures; less single edifices than structures en masse, including city streets, fantastical architectures that blend castle and city, urban tunnels and catacombs, carceral architectures of contemporary detention, and (future) ruins of twenty-first century science.