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  • 2019RandallPhD

    Final published version, 2.47 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 25/10/26

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Impure shores: contemporary narratives of sunshine gothic and American coastlines

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2021
Number of pages322
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Traversing the coastal spaces of contemporary American narratives, this thesis pioneers a new frontier of Gothic consideration: Sunshine Gothic. An addition to the contemporary climate of fast-evolving, mainstream Gothic, the term as I label it applies traditional Gothic discourse and theory to sun-soaked spaces that appear antithetical to its constitution.

Zeroing in on the shoreline, one of Sunshine Gothic’s more prominent spaces, this analysis examines how vacation spots, tourist attractions and sandy beaches both consciously and unconsciously engage in Gothic conversations.

Concentrating specifically upon contemporary American texts (1981-present) to explore this new theoretical frontier, this thesis discusses how the transposition of traditional American Gothic features to the iconography of the American coastline creates a new coastal manifestation of the frontier. These spaces, I argue, come to mirror the ‘territorial claustrophobia’ (Schama, 2012) of its centre. Shorelines become landscapes of fear where sunshine exposes the anxieties and traumas of modern America, from nation to the individual self.
This thesis also discusses how the geographical margins of coastlines reflect the liminal space of contemporary Gothic, arguing that such spaces accentuate its malleable nature by repositioning its recognisable features in unrecognisable spaces. Sunshine Gothic, by way of the coastal, creates new interpretations while also testing the boundaries that haunt the notion of evolving Gothic.

Moving between explicitly Gothic fictions, such as Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! (2011) and Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987), and non-Gothic cultural narratives like tourism advertising, this thesis combs multiple versions of America’s sunshine shores, positing that ‘Sunshine Gothic’ is a term with potential for larger scope. Looking at the relationship between the Gothic space and the individual, and the Gothic individual and space, this thesis examines the dark side of sunshine, shedding new light and marking new territory in Gothic, spatial, and American cultural studies.