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“That was a real story. All of my stories are real”: Metamodernism and the Return to History in Twenty-first Century Gothic Fiction

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posted on 2023-04-17, 03:23 authored by Samira Aziz

This thesis focuses on the twenty-first century Gothic. Drawing on the construct of metamodernism, Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker’s proposed term for the cultural paradigm of the twenty-first century, I investigate the ways that the contemporary Gothic has shifted in its engagement with history.

The Gothic has always problematized how the past is depicted and the accuracy orauthenticity of the historical record. In the later decades of the previous century, the Gothicfound an affinity with postmodernism in its preoccupation with cultural anxieties, fragmentedsubjectivity, and unreliable history. With the waning of postmodernism and the contemporaryinclination towards authenticity and realism, the Gothic has taken in these concerns as well,particularly in its engagement with history and the past. This shift is manifested in a number ofcontemporary Gothic novels, which I examine in my thesis. My primary texts are Gould’s Book ofFish (2001) by Richard Flanagan, The Historian (2005) by Elizabeth Kostova, Monsters ofTempleton (2008) by Lauren Groff, The Accursed (2013) by Joyce Carol Oates, The Incarnations(2014) by Susan Barker, The Night Ocean (2017) by Paul La Farge, and finally, Melmoth (2018) bySarah Perry. These novels show a strong concern about history and ethics. In its changingdepiction of the past, the metamodern Gothic helps us to understand the genre’s versatility – thatit supports historicity, hope, and progress.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

English Literature

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre, Media Studies and Art History


Jackson, Anna; Ferrall, Charles