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    ‘Somewhere I Had to Go’ : The Postmodernist and Posthumanist Gothic Transmutations of Ramsey Campbell’s Longer Fictions, 1981—2016

    O’Sullivan, K. M. C. (2021) ‘Somewhere I Had to Go’ : The Postmodernist and Posthumanist Gothic Transmutations of Ramsey Campbell’s Longer Fictions, 1981—2016. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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    Abstract

    This thesis redresses the critical neglect of British horror writer Ramsey Campbell within Gothic studies and, more generally, within contemporary horror literature. Despite respect from peers, Campbell’s work has not been accorded substantial attention or theoretical contextualisation. Focussing on Campbell’s largely ignored longer fictions, this study establishes the author’s unique style and distinctive mediation of the Gothic tradition, and interprets his work through postmodernist paradigms drawn from Baurillard and Lyotard as well as emergent posthumanist theory. It discloses not sensationalism or apolitical parochialism, but a liberal and interrogative perspective engaged with cultural, aesthetic and broader philosophical concerns. The thesis employs textual analysis of eleven representative texts from Campbell’s oeuvre to expound the development of a nuanced and iconoclastic vision of the status of the subject, writer and writer as subject in contemporary Britain. Campbell’s work, denoted by scepticism and agnosticism, is first shown to deconstruct prevailing religious metanarratives as a means of interpreting the experiential world. The thesis goes on to demonstrate how Campbell’s critique of prevailing secular metanarratives within capitalist society, articulated as psychological horror via the generic serial killer trope, both anatomises causes of violence and satirises the horror fiction industry and the relationship between author and audience. Close readings of two poioumenomic novellas then showcase Campbell’s engagement with literary form and concepts of writers, readership, fiction, time and reality – all stable concepts challenged by postmodernism. Campbell’s work is shown to combine paranoia as predictive response with scepticism towards associated notions of debilitating simulacrisation and impotence of the subject. Finally, the thesis examines the extension of both traits presented by Campbell’s metaleptic postmillennial narratives, in which digital technology is, simultaneously, source of fear and of life. The late fictions show incursion of an alterity conferred with sentience upon the subject, whilst simultaneously precipitating debate as to the ontological status of these transformed or new posthuman lives.

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