Gothic Mash-Ups: Hybridity, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Gothic Storytelling

Over the past year I’ve been slowly working on a chapter for a new edited collection, Gothic Mash-Ups: Hybridity, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Gothic Storytelling, and I’m pleased to announce that both chapter and book are now finally confirmed! Adapted from the CfP:

Under contract with Lexington Books’ Horror Studies series, Gothic Mash-Ups will theorize and trace the way that producers of gothic fiction – from the 18th century to today – appropriate, combine, and reimagine elements from earlier texts and genres. In particular, it will include essays about individual texts (or groups of texts) that bring together characters and storylines from two or more prior gothic narratives or cross gothic storylines with other kinds of stories. From Walpole’s early generic hodgepodge and Universal Pictures’ monster film crossovers to such contemporary “Frankenfictions” (De Bruin-Molé) as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Penny Dreadful, this collection will examine the fundamental hybridity of the gothic as a genre.

My contribution to the collection will be (tentatively) ‘The Franchise That Just Won’t Die: Universal Studios and the Industrialization of the Cinematic Monster Mash-up (1931-2020)’, and will look at the use of mashup as a branding and trademarking tactic in early Hollywood.

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What is Frankenfiction?

Image via Editorial Planeta

The remix, the mashup, and the reboot have come to dominate Western popular culture. These texts are the ‘monsters’ of our age—hybrid creations that lurk at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Like monsters, mashups offer audiences the thrill of transgression in a safe and familiar format. And like other popular texts before them, they are often read by critics as a sign of the artistic and moral degeneration of contemporary culture.

With this context in mind, my research explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix culture and its Others (adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, postmodernism). It often does so by examining remix culture’s most ‘monstrous’ and liminal texts: Frankenfictions, or commercial narratives that insert fantastical monsters into classic literature and popular historical contexts. In this definition, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein serves as a touchstone, offering an ideal metaphor for appropriative creativity in the twenty-first century.

Frankenfiction includes direct appropriations of classic literature, like the bestselling Quirk Classics novels, but also literary-historical dramas like the Sky/Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful (2014–2016), the depiction of monsters through an historical aesthetic in Travis Louie’s photorealistic paintings, and much, much more. It is monstrous not only because of the fantastical monsters it contains, but because of its position on the boundary between remix and more established modes of appropriation. Too engaged with tradition for some, and not traditional enough for others, Frankenfiction is a bestselling genre that nevertheless remains peripheral to critical discussions of remix. 

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