Undead Subculture


Book Pages: 456 Illustrations: 67 illustrations Published: April 2007

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Music

Since it first emerged from Britain’s punk-rock scene in the late 1970s, goth subculture has haunted postmodern culture and society, reinventing itself inside and against the mainstream. Goth: Undead Subculture is the first collection of scholarly essays devoted to this enduring yet little examined cultural phenomenon. Twenty-three essays from various disciplines explore the music, cinema, television, fashion, literature, aesthetics, and fandoms associated with the subculture. They examine goth’s many dimensions—including its melancholy, androgyny, spirituality, and perversity—and take readers inside locations in Los Angeles, Austin, Leeds, London, Buffalo, New York City, and Sydney. A number of the contributors are or have been participants in the subculture, and several draw on their own experiences.

The volume’s editors provide a rich history of goth, describing its play of resistance and consumerism; its impact on class, race, and gender; and its distinctive features as an “undead” subculture in light of post-subculture studies and other critical approaches. The essays include an interview with the distinguished fashion historian Valerie Steele; analyses of novels by Anne Rice, Poppy Z. Brite, and Nick Cave; discussions of goths on the Internet; and readings of iconic goth texts from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to James O’Barr’s graphic novel The Crow. Other essays focus on gothic music, including seminal precursors such as Joy Division and David Bowie, and goth-influenced performers such as the Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson. Gothic sexuality is explored in multiple ways, the subjects ranging from the San Francisco queercore scene of the 1980s to the increasing influence of fetishism and fetish play. Together these essays demonstrate that while its participants are often middle-class suburbanites, goth blurs normalizing boundaries even as it appears as an everlasting shadow of late capitalism.

Contributors: Heather Arnet, Michael Bibby, Jessica Burstein, Angel M. Butts, Michael du Plessis, Jason Friedman, Nancy Gagnier, Ken Gelder, Lauren M. E. Goodlad, Joshua Gunn, Trevor Holmes, Paul Hodkinson, David Lenson, Robert Markley, Mark Nowak, Anna Powell, Kristen Schilt, Rebecca Schraffenberger, David Shumway, Carol Siegel, Catherine Spooner, Lauren Stasiak, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock


Goth: Undead Subculture provides an exceptional read on the Goth subculture, which itself proves a unique subject for any subcultural study. This book is for those who want to delve into the dark waters of the Goth subculture or for anyone who just wants to learn a little more about the origins and orientations of an often misunderstood and misrepresented subculture.” — Maryanne Mangano, M/C Reviews

Goth: Undead Subculture is an incisive book on the subject. The editors have struck a perfect balance that both engages and entertains, and that’s no small feat. The very idea of trying to encompass everything from musical tastes, to the spiritual practices of Goth without exhausting potential readers is what makes this book a great read. Not only will it grace the shelves of many Goths’ private collections, but stands to become a definitive text. Naturally, it’s beautifully designed and would be a handsome complement to any coffee table and is sure to spark lively conversations at house parties, cafés, clubs and classes alike! Five out of five coffins!” — Kit McAllister, Morbid Outlook

Goth: Undead Subculture, Lauren M. E. Goodlad and Michael Bibby's collection of scholarly essays (the first such book devoted solely to the scrutiny of all things goth, the editors claim), succeeds when its contributors take clearly delineated topics and time frames (Tim Burton's nostalgia for 1950s and '60s monster movies, or Buffalo's nightclub scene from 1982 to 1984) as their objects of inquiry. The pièce de résistance in this mode is Bibby's stunningly precise reading of Joy Division's history.” — Andrea Walker, Bookforum

“[A]s the first anthology of its kind, it offers a timely and welcome contribution to scholarship in this field.” — Michelle Phillipov, Media International Australia

“[O]ffers an excellent account of goth culture. It allows the reader a long glimpse into goth’s rich and varied history, making it a very interesting read for insiders and outsiders of goth culture. For researchers from any discipline it will be required reading for goth-related research; for general as well as detailed information.” — Ilona van de Bildt, Popular Music

“Dust off those whips and chains! Editors Goodlad and Bibby manage to take a marginalized area of popular culture and turn it into something everyone can and will relate to. Using international experts from the academy, as well as the ‘real world,’ Goth: Undead Subculture speaks to a broad, though educated, audience. From masochistic fashion to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this powerful text illuminates the historical and theoretical impact of the Gothic subculture, taking readers on a ride through Tim Burton films, Poppy Z. Brite novels and everything in between. No stone is left unturned as the text offers a multitude of visual examples throughout, my favorite being a CD cover of Gen from the Genitorturers clad in leather biker-gear while piercing her tongue with some kind of skewer. Ouch.” — Rebecca Housel, Journal of Popular Culture

“Here are 22 essays that will appeal to the pop-culture critic, academic or general reader who’s always been curious about those mysterious, often mushroom pale individuals who wear head-to-toe black in the summer time. . . . [A] reader who picks and chooses at this book’s dark buffet . . . will find much to enjoy.” — Theresa Starkey, Paste

“Like most of the subcultures to which people make allegiance in youth, but maintain to some degree in adulthood, Goth is a confluence off hobbyism and a passionate sense of the constructed self. This is well understood by those pieces in this intelligent collection of writings that are primarily documentary accounts of the authors’ involvement in, and self-identification with, Goth, or those which celebrate the fashion, the music, and the books.” — Roz Kaveny, TLS

“The book’s strength lies in both its multiplicity of voices and rich modes of analysis. . . . This book helps to strategically place goth within a nexus of music, fashion, literary, and related subcultural phenomena. An extensive bibliography facilitates further research. Recommended.” — G. R. Innes, Choice

“The essays in this collection discuss all the traditional areas of cultural studies—performance, community, self-representation, gender relations—but also consider some of goth’s more oblique elements, such as literary styles, song lyrics, nostalgia, fetishism, and its connections with religion and apostasy. . . . [R]efreshingly free of the kind of heavy theoretical jargon that would make even the palest goth blanch in dismay.” — Mikita Brottman, Chronicle Review

“This academic-minded book is best suited to cultural studies aficionados and Goths themselves, but may be useful to anyone seeking to understand the ideologies and lifestyles of the black-eyeliner set. It exhumes the roots of goth in punk rock, vampire lore, Renaissance fashions, and other sources; probes identity and community; and traces goth’s arc in pop culture, from David Bowie and Siouxie Sioux to Edward Scissorhands and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” — Keith Goetzman, Utne Reader

“This collection of essays, focusing heavily on goth and gender, demonstrates the complexity of an often misunderstood subculture.” — Jenna Humphrey, Curve

Goth: Undead Subculture is a very engaging read—a nice mélange of ethnographic anecdote, cultural criticism, and historical analysis—in which a multidisciplinary crew of contributors analyzes an important and complex subculture through its fashions, music, dancing, literature, sexual practices, aesthetic ideals, theatrical displays, historical precedents, and ideologies.” — Robert Walser, author of Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music

“Goth creates its distinctive way of life by appropriating materials from a vast array of cultural phenomena—post-punk music, gothic literary tradition, pre-Christian mythology, sexual nonconformity, aesthetic avant-gardes—all of which it adopts primarily as style. Goth style is thus both dizzyingly heterogeneous and instantly recognizable. It is hard to imagine a single book that could do this subculture justice; yet by assembling contributors from a range of disciplines and judiciously including many voices of subcultural participants themselves, Goth: Undead Subculture manages to depict, while also reflecting critically on, this subculture’s enduring appeal. This collection will be the definitive work on its topic.” — Tim Dean, author of Beyond Sexuality


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lauren M. E. Goodlad is Associate Professor of English and a member of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Victorian Literature and the Victorian State: Character and Governance in a Liberal Society.

Michael Bibby is Professor of English at Shippensburg University. He is the author of Hearts and Minds: Bodies, Poetry, and Resistance in the Vietnam Era and the editor of The Vietnam War and Postmodernity.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction / Lauren M. E. Goodlad and Michael Bibby 1

I. Genders

Dark Admissions: Gothic Subculture and the Ambivalence of Misogyny and Resistance / Joshua Gunn 41

Queens of the Damned: Women and Girls’ Participation in the Two Gothic Subcultures / Kristen Schilt 65

Peri Gothous: On the Art of Gothicizing Gender / Trevor M. Holmes 79

Men in Black: Androgyny and Ethics in The Crow and Fight Club / Lauren M. E. Goodlad 89

II. Performances

This Modern Goth (Explains Herself) / Rebecca Schraffenberger 121

Playing Dress Up: David Bowie and the Roots of Goth / David Shumway and Heather Arnet 129

Undead Fashion: Nineties Style and the Perennial Return of Goth / Catherine Spooner 143

“Goth Damage” and Melancholia: Reflections on Posthuman Gothic Identities / Michael du Plessis 155

III. Localities

“To commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant”: Music and Death in Zero City, 1982–84 / Mark Nowak 171

“Ah am witness to its authenticity”: Gothic Style in Postmodern Southern Writing / Jason K. Friedman 190

The (Un)Australian Goth: Notes toward a Dislocated National Subject / Ken Gelder 217

IV. Artifacts

Atrocity Exhibitions: Joy Division, Factory Records, and Goth / Michael Bibby 233

Material Distinctions: A Conversation with Valerie Steele / Jessica Burstein 257

Geek/Goth: Remediation and Nostalgia in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands / Robert Markley 277

The Authentic Dracula: Bram Stoker’s Hold on Vampiric Genres / Nancy Gagnier 293

V. Communities

“When you kiss me, I want to die”: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gothic Family Values / Lauren Stasiak 307

The Cure, the Community, the Contempt! / Angel M. Butts 316

“We are all individuals, but we’ve all got the same boots on!”: Traces of Individualism within a Subcultural Community / Paul Hodkinson 322

VI. Practices

That Obscure Object of Desire Revisited: Poppy Z. Brite and the Goth Hero as Masochist / Carol Siegel 335

God’s Own Medicine: Religion and Parareligion in U.K. Goth Culture / Anna Powell 357

Gothic Fetishism / Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock 375

The Aesthetic Apostasy / David Lenson 398

References 405

Contributors 425

Index 429
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3921-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3908-3
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