“Dislocation” is the destabilizing effect caused by fundamentally unstable and cryptic Gothic narratives in its fragmentary epistolary forms such as Frankenstein where letters from the no man’s land of the Arctic may never reach Margaret, or in the heteroglossic narration of Dracula which is made up of curiously collated newspaper reports, unopened letters and supposedly private journals. The avoidance of a neat arranging of elements and reassuring endings in Gothic narratives leads to the desired dislocation of perspectives and ultimately the disturbance of a smooth reading experience as perhaps part of Gothic narrative’s agenda to challenge assumptions of normalcy in the linear narration and neat resolution of social realist novels. This destabilizing reading experience can be aided by the technique of either the lack of omniscient narrator (as in both Frankenstein and Dracula) as an objective and cohesive voice pulling together the different articles with its comments or by problematizing the omniscient voice (as in Jekyll and Hyde) that frustrates the reader in its deliberate effacement at times.
The abstraction of the Gothic narrative form often parallels the story’s concerns and anxieties when confronting Gothic themes which are notorious for its inability to pin down a stable center of meaning hence also resulting in the pathological effect of dislocation. This is exemplified in the split into “self” and “other” when societal demands are unable to be reconciled with individual impulses especially in the urban Gothic tale of Jekyll and Hyde. However when the boundaries of self/other collapses as when it gets progressively difficult to control the figure of the “Other”/ Hyde, so does it become even more impossible to locate stable identities. The collapse of any single, firm definition is also manifested in Gothic fiction’s use of overdetermined symbols such as “blood” in Dracula which furthers the notion of the genre’s multiplicity. It may be impossible to fix Gothic fiction with a stable meaning however one might say that the dislocation of the reader from a fixed vantage point paradoxically jars one into a greater critical engagement with all elements of the text.
Courtesy of Belinda Loh Mei Lin, National University of Singapore
OAKCLIFFE HALL OR THE FATAL EFFECTS OF FEUDAL QUARRELS. A Tale of the Fifteenth Century [Transcript], Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson