JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 293
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however, that redefines a culture's "return of the repressed" in terms of
an ethnic group's or nation's occluded social and/or political history and
identity.2 This gothic includes Nathanial Hawthorne's wrestling with a
deleterious material and psychological Puritan legacy in The House ofthe
Seven Gables; Mary Wollstonecraft's and Thomas Paine's extensive use
of gothic tropes in their political essays to denaturalize certain reaction-
ary ideological effects and render those effects uncanny (the overbearing
"grip" of outmoded and unjust customs or traditions is represented as a
dead hand clasping the present from beyond the grave); Thomas de
Quincey's exploration of states of psychological disintegration and
demonic othering as he attempts to ratify a British imperial agenda in The
Confessions of an English Opium Eater; and Toni Morrison's Beloved,
in which a baby girl seems to return from the dead, a ghost made flesh,
leading a family and community to revisit the multiple traumatic legacies
Because the gothic is a genre concerned with how a repressed or
denied past intrudes into the present in an unwanted, fear-inducing guise,
it is a genre well-suited to explore the continuing effects of traumatic
history, whether individual or collective. Further, it is a narrative mode
whose oft-noted formal features-repetition and fragmentation-mirror
the incompletion and uncertainty of trauma survivors' stories, as they
struggle to narrate events from their own past and to survive (see Langer).
The gothic, because of its decidedly non-mimetic view of reality, due to
its inclusion of supernatural manifestations and effects, is also particu-
larly adept at exploring and staging extreme or disavowed psychological
states. Del Toro invokes the gothic in The Devil's Backbone to interrogate
what Spain psychologically and ideologically represses about the Civil
War and its ongoing legacy. As a discursive mode, the gothic shapes a
particular response and understanding of this historical trauma, one that
foregrounds the challenges such a national catastrophe presents simulta-
neously to representation and (self)knowledge. The Devil's Backbone, as
a gothic film, rewrites Spanish Civil War history in respect to its traumatic
impact on intelligibility, to a coherent sense of self, and to the possibility
of catharsis or closure. To investigate how the film engages with these
issues, I identify a gothic of dispossession, wherein del Toro shows how
being subjected to violence and becoming a violent subject in turn enact
a dispossession of self, creating a disfigured, diminished self; a gothic of
the uncanny, in which certain recurrent, quasi-hallucinogenic, non-
narrative images stage the seemingly insurmountable life-in-death affect
of trauma; and a gothic of unintelligibility, in which the film's represen-
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/39/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .