Gothic Matters of De-Composition: The Pastoral Dead in Contemporary American Fiction
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Against the backdrops of Terry Gifford’s post-pastoral and Fred Botting’s Gothic understanding of the literary corpse as “negative[ly] sublime,” this essay explores the fictional dead as matter unfettered by genre, consistently signifying beyond their own inanimate silences, revealing suppressed and unpalatable themes of racial and sexual violence, child abuse and cannibalistic consumerism. Along with Walker’s story, this study considers these ideas through new readings of Stephen King’s novella The Body, Raymond Carver’s story “So Much Water So Close to Home,” and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. While these writers may form an unlikely grouping in terms of style, each uses pastoral remains as significant material, deploying the dead as Gothic entities that force the reader to confront America’s darkest social and historical matters.