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Margaret Mahy’s Gothic Beach

March 27, 2012

There is an essay on Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters, by Rose Lovell-Smith, in The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the borders, which, if the introduction of that essay is anything to go by (they usually are!), should be interesting!

The editors write:

Rose Lovell-Smith’s essay on the Gothic beach in New Zealand literature discusses the importance of history in determing the significance of local landscape. The haunted history of the beach, she argues, makes it possible for the beach to take the place of Europe’s ruined castles or Ameri8ca’s haunted houses as a Gothic site in New Zealand literature. This shift in the location of the Gothic is then responsible for another whole set of changes to, and antipodean reversals of, Gothic conventions: trapdoors lead upward, not downward, houses extend into the landscape rather than open up with inner chambers, the family is not withdrawn and suspicious of strangers but dangerously free with its hospitality, the common motif of incestuous inbreeding is reversed with the family secret having to do with adultery – sexual relations innappropriately external to the family. And the cultural relocation of the Gothic genre Lovell-Smith argues is what enables Mahy to transform a genre in which ‘the realm of the Gothic house is the realm of the patriarch,’ so that the Gothic house in Mahy’s The Tricksters is ultimately identified with, and as the possession of, the central character Harry, one of Mahy’s many astonishingly powerful young heroines.” (6)

Ref: Introduction, pp.1-14 in Eds. Anna Jackson, Karen Coats, and Roderick McGillis (2008) The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the borders. Routledge: New York

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