• Historical Power, Historical Trauma and the Gothic Historical Drama

    Derek Johnston (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, Television Studies
    Public history, Television programs, Television--Study and teaching, Historical television programs, Gothic fiction
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Critical Studies in Television 2023: Behind the Scenes and Screens - People and Power in Television
    Conf. Org.:
    Critical Studies in Television
    Conf. Loc.:
    Edge Hill University, England
    Conf. Date:
    5-7 July 2023
    Television style, genre studies, Colonialism, trauma
    Permanent URL:
    This paper proposes that there are a number of historical television dramas which make use of the aesthetics of the Gothic in order to signal their focus on historical traumas which still have contemporary resonance. This is part of a wider use of a Gothic mode in these dramas in presenting and considering these traumas, not just as the individual experiences of specific characters, but as socially structured, as we see the individual characters placed into conflict with their social and cultural structures. These dramas use elements of anachronism as part of their signalling that these are not just historical traumas, but traumas that are still active or have active legacies today, such as racism, sexism, colonialism and capitalist imperialism. Presenting these dramas through the Gothic mode is not only a way of signalling that these productions deal with traumas and issues that are still relevant, but is also a way of appealing to different audiences from those conceived of in relation to the cosy heritage drama. This is done in part through the overt use of sex, violence, modern obscenities, as part of a subversion or distortion of the expectations of the classic heritage drama. It also makes use of changes in the aesthetic possibilities of television production and distribution technologies, and uses these aesthetics to stand out from other historical productions and to potentially attract different audiences. Gothic historical dramas stand at the nexus of social change, technological change and the demands of streaming in reassessing our relationship with the past in the present.
    This is the script for the paper delivered at the conference, so may differ from what was actually delivered.
    Last Updated:
    8 months ago


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