My Gothic Body: Stone, part 4.1 – Work Life, Bag Life

Part 1part 2part 3.1, Part 3.2

TW: Living with a nephrostomy bag, almost certainly TMI

Sunday, after I got home from the emergency department, I had a couple of packages from Amazon. One contained Amazon Essentials sweat pants, and the other a netted bag, attached to a belt, I could use to hold the nephrostomy bag under the baggy sweats. I was ready to return to work on Monday.

If I was a normal, well-adjusted person I’d probably coordinate with my doctor and my HR people to figure out a reasonable amount of time to be out, perhaps come back working part days, figure out how to use an oddball bank of benefit hours that got grandfathered in when they changed benefit policy a few years ago, etc. But, as many people have have told me plainly over the years – I am not normal, and as a lifetime of insight has demonstrated to my satisfaction, I am not well-adjusted.

I’m afraid of my HR department. They fired one of my colleagues for having cancer. OK. That’s a pretty simplified version but I think that’s a fair summation. (If you want to know what happened I’m appending the story at the bottom of this post.) It is sufficient to say my fear is real.

And, I’m afraid of my doctor. That is, I’m afraid of annoying him to the point he does something mean to me. So I didn’t want to bother him with too many paperwork questions. (I did, though, ask plenty of questions about the procedure, possible alternatives, what to expect, ways to reduce the likelihood of it happening again, etc. I didn’t then want to start asking him to fill out paperwork for my HR department.) Did I mention that I’m not well-adjusted?

It is a novel experience to stand in front of a classroom knowing urine is pouring out of my body into a bag hanging next to my thigh. Knowing that when I’m done I’ll have to empty it because it’s getting pretty full. Wondering if they can see the outline of the bag as I move around the lectern. Maybe they didn’t see it at first but as it swells with urine they notice it! Did I ever think of that? Yes!

My mindset and energy in those early days was good. I could tolerate five weeks of this.

What happened though, is that it was hard to sleep. If this was a permanent condition, or if I were living with it more long-term, I would have purchased a “night bag.” A larger bag to use at night so I didn’t have to get up as often to empty it. I probably should have bought one even though it was only five weeks. I could have used that sleep. OR, I could have adopted this strategy much earlier than I did – remove the bag and cap the tube and don’t worry about emptying the bag. My bladder and kidney were working fine. The bag was there as a measure of precaution.

I chose to sleep kind of sitting up with my bag resting on a low bedside table. It had to be below my kidney and I got kind of squicked out sometimes when I imagined it above my kidney and urine flowing back into my body. Fortunately, I don’t think that ever happened.

Between the awkward position and getting up 3 times a night to empty the bag I quickly started missing sleep time. Sweet, sweet sleep time.

Then there was the nearly persistent discomfort of getting poked by the stent. Sometimes I’d find a satisfactory position but it never lasted long enough. Eventually I’d have to move and there’d be more discomfort.

There was also an ongoing worry about the tube connecting my body to my bag getting caught on something in the bathroom, so I moved (usually) very mindfully and cautiously if the bag and tube were ever exposed.*

to be continued…

*Eventually (perhaps in the next post) I’ll include the heart-dropping moment when I nearly pulled the tube from my back. That was a real eye-opening moment.

I’ll append the story of my colleague’s employment termination at the end of part 4.

Gap in the Literature – Economic Precarity and the Gothic Novel part 1: Walpole

It’s possible this scholarship is out there and I just haven’t found it. But I don’t see a lot about economic precarity and the Gothic novel.

Let me start with Walpole.

While Walpole lived a life of privilege and doesn’t seem to have faced any real financial crisis in his life, he lived in a world of economic precarity. He had acquaintances who went to debtor’s prison. He was often mocked for using cheap materials to fulfill his vision of Strawberry Hill House (some elements were constructed with papiermâché, or illusions were added with trompe-l’œil methods). His aspirations were bigger than his budget. So, while economic hardship never seriously disrupted his life, he was surrounded by it.

Perhaps it’s this environment that led him to be fascinated by old castles and the ghosts that haunt them.

Walpole’s dream of a romantic past is saturated with wealth. It takes a lot of money and human resources to build and maintain a castle. One (or many) must be able to marshal daily meals for the work force and for the working animals. You have to pay the crafts people. You have to be able to protect everyone and everything. Walpole’s Castle of Otranto contains a yearning for power, and the wealth that allows one to achieve that power.

This yearning for wealth and power became one of the principle tropes of the Gothic novel. Perhaps the most significant trope. We see it thread its way through almost every Gothic work and adapted by romance works targeted to female audiences.

Some women facing personal economic precarity were able to find success through writing gothic. And other women, also confronted with economic precarity, turned to the fantasies of glorious wealth to escape the reality of their own financial limits.

There’s a lot to unpack here. I’m going to turn to the following in the next few posts.

Next: Women consume a lot of works addressing economic precarity and fantasies of escaping into economic security.

Next: Ann Radcliffe Makes Bank

Next: Banditti Are Everywhere

Next: Gothic Writers Doing It For The Money

Next: Mid-20th Century Gothic Obsession with Stuff and Things Rich People Have

A Brief Aside: My Tumblr Fandom

After I dropped all my social media one of the things I missed was my Instagram page. It was filled with images of art and photography. One of the internet pacifications I still enjoy is scrolling through long lists of images. So, I dialled up my moribund Tumblr account and filled it with lots of cartoons, cartoonists, art and artists, photographers and photographic images. So many pretty pictures!

I eventually expanded a little into SFF fandom. I’ve always been intrigued by fandom but never really been very good at it (which probably deserves a longer post to unpack). Over the months I noticed lots and lots of references to a wide variety of fandoms. Where’s MY fandom I cried, I whined, I pouted. Everybody else gets to have a fandom. Why can’t I be a fan, I lamented.

But last night I realized I DO have a fandom. I’m a fan of scholarship. My whole adult life I’ve loved to read scholarship.

FLASHBACK: My friend JT told me once that (unbeknownst to me) I influenced his decision to go to grad school. I was just some yahoo working in a sandwich shop but I was telling him about the Foucault book I was reading (this was back in the early 1990s). He thought (he later told me) huh, perhaps academia isn’t completely isolated from the rest of the world. Perhaps I can be an academic and still reach a popular audience. /FLASHBACK

So, if you visit the blog page you’ll now see a Tumblr feed for my Tumblr blog (a blog of scholarly fandom!). Or, you can find the page here – or (or, if you’re into RSS –

I expect it to mostly be cool articles I find as I skim through Google Scholar (my preferred way to kill time on the internet).

One of the things that appealed to me about studying history, and later librarianship, is that both lend themselves to being a generalist. You can study the history of anything, and librarians try to organize the knowledge of everything. I’m very much a person of broad interests, not deep.

At Tumblr I describe my fandom this way –

My Tumblr Fandom

I think I finally figured out my Tumblr fandom! I really love scholars and scholarship and spend a lot of time browsing Google Scholar. I especially love historians of all stripes and critical theorists. Also some superstars like Rachel Armstrong, Rosi Braidotti, and Tim Ingold. I’m not a scholar but read a lot of scholarship. So, when I find some scholarship that catches my eye I’ll post it here. I’ll try to tilt toward open source but I’m sure some restricted access works will make their way into the mix.


I’ll let Tim Ingold conclude for me.

“Personally, I don’t much like the notion of interdisciplinarity. It tends to reproduce the colonial idea of the discipline as a bounded terrain of knowledge with an exclusive claim to represent a particular segment of the world. In just the same way, the international order reproduces the idea of the sovereignty of the nation state over its territory. As the world is carved up geopolitically between nations, so it is divided intellectually between disciplines. Dealing with other disciplines calls then for treaty negotiations, as in interdisciplinary conferences. But real disciplines are not like that. They are more like conversations. Each conversation is composed of multiple lines which, while converging in some regards, diverge in others. In practice these bundles of lines have no boundaries, nor do they lay claim to territories. Each line is rather looking for a way through. There is nothing to stop anyone from departing from one conversation in order to join another. One has to cross no boundaries in order to do so.

“So we don’t really need interdisciplinarity. That only creates boundaries where none were there before. What we need is accessibility, responsible scholarship, and conversation.”

Here’s to accessibility, responsible scholarship, and conversation!

My Gothic Body: Stone, part 3 – Bag Life 2: Emergency

Part 1, part 2, part 3.1

TW: life with nephrostomy tube and bag; emergency room visit

I stayed in the hospital the night of February 7 to be monitored. Mostly, I think, to make sure the internal bleeding was under control before being allowed to leave. (The surgeon nicked my ureter during the procedure, which prompted him to halt the operation. He rescheduled a second attempt for after my ureter healed.)

The first night home, Thursday, February 8, I felt a little disembodied. Presumably due to the anesthesia and the shock of the unexpected new life thrust upon me. That night was the only night I took any of my prescribed narcotics. It wasn’t that I was in pain exactly, it was more that I felt entirely discombobulated and didn’t know how to categorize all the new sensations my body was experiencing.

Alvin the dog was not happy with my arrival. I smelled weird, I moved weird, and I was carrying a white bag, which, presumably, smelled of urine because it was filled with urine. He was uncomfortably interested in my nephrostomy bag and so I started carrying that bag in a cheap cloth grocery bag, later replaced with a purse-like bag with a shoulder strap meant to be used for carrying dog-related stuff when out walking the dog.

Due to anesthesia and then oxycodone my bowels weren’t moving as they should and by Friday the constipation was increasingly uncomfortable. I first tried to rectify this with the stool softeners prescribed by the doctor. When that didn’t work I asked J to run out and get me an over-the-counter laxative from CVS. It was a pretty crummy day overall, discomfort from constipation, discomfort from the surgical wound in my back, and discomfort from trying to find positions in which I could sit without pressing on the nephrostomy tube worming its way from my back, and anxiety about going through all of this and still going to work on Monday.

Fortunately, the laxatives had their desired effect around 10pm and I imagined I would be able to get some rest.

At 4am Saturday morning I found myself wide awake and experiencing a calm lucidity. I went online and ordered new sweatpants and a special bag with a belt for carrying the nephrostomy bag. I had to be back at work on Monday and needed to figure out how to live life with this unexpected development.

Confident I had everything sorted out I did almost nothing on Saturday except rest.


Over the course of Saturday I experienced some problems with the bag. At least, what I perceived as problems. Until Saturday the bag collected urine consistently. Starting Saturday there would be stretches of time when nothing went into the bag.

I had been told by the nurse to expect this and presumed it was time to clean the tube with a special syringe apparatus they gave me just for this purpose.

Here’s the process —

  • turn the stopcock to off to stop fluid from flowing into the bag,
  • detach the bag,
  • attach the special syringe full of sterilized water,
  • turn the stopcock back to allow the syringe water to flow into the tube,
  • squeeze the water, slowly but deliberately, into the tube,
  • turn the stopcock to off,
  • remove the empty syringe,
  • reattach the bag,
  • turn the stopcock again to allow urine to flow from my kidney into the bag.

I spent a lot of time online trying to find reliable information about the whole nephrostomy bag process, but didn’t have a lot of luck.

The drainage continued to be erratic over the course of the day. By bedtime I’d flushed the tube multiple times and thought everything was working as it should. I awoke in the middle of the night with nothing in my bag. By dawn the bag was still empty and it looked like it was time to visit the emergency room. (An NHS site said that if nothing flowed into the bag for 10-12 hours I probably needed professional help.) If this had been a weekday instead of a weekend I could have gone to the doctor’s office, but, because Sunday morning, I had to visit the emergency room (which my local hospital calls an emergency department). When J woke up I explained the situation. There was no rush but I needed someone to help me understand why urine had stopped moving from my kidney to my bag.

We arrived at the hospital emergency department around 9am on Sunday morning. If nothing else, that seemed like it would probably be a time when not many people would be there. And, there weren’t. Still, there was a wait and the nervousness of not knowing what the end result might be. My hope was that I’d only need to swap out my current bag for a new one. But who knew?

We were eventually moved into a small examination room where we waited some more. Just before being moved to the room I’d peed in the bathroom and so there was nothing available when the nurse asked for a urine sample. I started diligently drinking from my water bottle to generate a sample while we waited to see a doctor. There was a door leading to a hallway used by staff and it was open. Several nurses worked at computer stations in the hallway and we passed the time listening to them gossip. They had a lot to complain about.

Eventually one nurse (wearing a paramedic t-shirt, so maybe a paramedic?) came in and listened to my tale and said I probably needed to have my tube replaced. I didn’t really appreciate what that might entail but it sounded reasonable. She left and we never saw her again.

Not long after she left two doctors came in. One I recognized from the morning after the operation. He’d come by to check on my progress and he’s the one that told me officially that the procedure had been shut down. He was part of the urology team, a resident I believe. His associate was an impossibly young-looking woman, very out-going and positive, and she did all the talking. I learned later (though she didn’t mention it at the time) that she had also been part of the team that did my operation.

“We finished our surgeries and rounds for the morning and saw that you’d been admitted to the emergency department and thought we’d swing by and see what was happening.”

I explained how the bag wasn’t collecting anything despite multiple cleanings.

She detached the bag (without turning the stopcock) and using a syringe withdrew urine directly from my kidney (there’s the sample!). Weird sensation. She also cleaned the tube. In retrospect, I think whatever she did ended up fixing the problem. The tube was blocked somehow? Regardless, it worked after she was done.

I mentioned that she didn’t turn the stopcock and she explained that the stopcock wasn’t for stopping the urine flow. Instead, it was meant to hold the stent in place. Every time I’d turned the stopcock I’d loosened the wire holding the stent in place. I think that ended up dislodging my stent ever-so-slightly leading to increased discomfort as time passed. I’d seen the wire retreating into the tube more and more every time I tried to flush the tube but didn’t realize its purpose was to hold the stent into place. I didn’t really understand what purpose it served.

She didn’t mention it during the visit but shortly afterwards I got notice from the doctor that I needed to come into the office to have the 3-way stopcock attached.


Remember this conversation from my night in the hospital?

“What’s this?” Nurse Mary asked Nurse Cindy. They were looking at my back and I couldn’t tell what they were talking about. I was still wrapping my head around what it would mean to live with a bag attached to my body.

“I don’t know.”

“Did you put it on?”

“No. It was like that.”

“Well, take it off. It’s redundant. We don’t need it. See (and she fiddles with something I can’t see) you can just twist this instead.”

“OK.” Nurse Cindy leaves the room to retrieve all the bandages and stuff Nurse Mary directed her to collect for me to take home.

In retrospect it seems clear that Nurse Mary removed the 3-way stopcock and incorrectly identified the stent lock as the flow control element. Possibly the stent would have been uncomfortable regardless, but I kind of think constantly loosening the stent lock led to increased discomfort.

Once the impossibly young doctor finished flushing the tube and taking a urine sample the bag started working as it should. She mentioned that if she were the lead urologist she would have capped the tube and not made me wear a bag. She offered to phone my urologist to see if he was willing to do the same. She stepped out of the room to make the call and returned a few minutes later saying my urologist wanted me to wear a bag.

She sent me to get an x-ray to make sure the stent wasn’t wildly out of place and then I was sent to the waiting room until she could review the x-rays. About 30 minutes later I was discharged, bag once again collecting urine from my kidney.

Wow! Such a long entry. Still to come — working and living with a bag, bacterial infection, and farewell to sleep. Oh! And ultimately, it all works out and my health is returned.

The Burkean Sublime

I think of sublime as something that invokes a sense of awe.

In the 18th century Edmund Burke wrote about the philosophy about taste and gave sublimity a unique spin that became quite popular with writers of Gothic and Romantic literature.

The sublime, for Burke, was inextricably interwoven with fear.

“Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.”

So, the sublime is the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling, and what sparks that emotion is anything that:

  • excites ideas of pain,
  • excites ideas of danger,
  • is in any way terrible,
  • is conversant with terrible subjects,
  • operates in a manner analagous to terror.

For Burke the sublime equals pain, danger, and terror, and these feelings are the strongest human emotions. The emotion of pain is stronger than the emotion of pleasure.

Burke also argues that once one gains some distance from terror there is an ineluctable delight to be had.

“When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances, and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delighful, as we every day experience.”

And this is the seed of Gothic/Horror/Terror fiction according to Burke. As long as we can have some distance from the experience, pain, danger, fear, and terror can be delightful. And the success of these types of stories is rooted in their ability to engage the most deeply felt human emotions.

Burke, for those unfamiliar with the name, has long stood as one of the intellectual founders of modern conversative political theory. You may remember from some US history class that Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, defending the French Revolution, was written as a response to Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, condemning the revolution.

Originally, this post contained a long meditation about the connection between conservative political ideology and horror. It quickly became unwieldy and riddled with qualifiers and confusion. I decided I needed more background info before I could write cogently about the connection between horror and conservativism.

To that end I’m starting with The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart by Noel Carroll (review). Carroll addresses this concept specifically. More later!

The Themes, Gothic and Otherwise

This post is to help me organize some of the broad themes percolating around my Gothic project.

One of the early sparks was reading Gail Carriger’s Heroine’s Journey. I realized I’d never really read many books/stories, or watched many movies/shows that were marketed for women. Despite my white, male, cishet, middle-class liberal proclamations about how I’m interested in all things human, and the human experience, I seemed to have meticulously avoided much that wasn’t directly marketed to white, cishet, male, middle-class me. heh. *embarrassed blush*

It turns out my claim to Terence’s motto — “I am human, and I think nothing human is alien to me” — is, despite my naive good intentions, a load of horseshit. Most of human experience is alien to me, and often because of specific choices I have made, intentionally or not.

So, rolling around in the back of my brain was this idea that I wanted to find an entry into reading romance. Easy enough to do in practice but I wanted some kind of framework so that maybe I could write about it.

So, one theme is reading/watching works created for a female audience.

One example of this are movies of the 1940s. While men in Britain and the US were displaced because of the war, movie studios made some movies targeted to women. The Wikipedia entry for Woman’s Films discusses this.

“The woman’s film genre was particularly popular in 1930s and 1940s, reaching its zenith during World War II. The film industry of that time had an economic interest in producing such films as women were believed to comprise a majority of movie-goers. In line with this perception, many woman’s films were prestigious productions which attracted some of the best stars and directors.”

The second theme I expect to write about/mull over, is my body as an object. I clearly objectify my own body in ways I barely recognize and I’m sure in ways I don’t recognize at all. I also live in a world and in a time where the human body is often considered a collection of objects. My recent experience living with an external bladder attached to my internal kidney highlighted this. (I was a wetware cyborg!)

The third is to think more about the tropes surrounding Gothic literature: hauntings, the supernatural, ruins, etc. And to learn more about the cultural trappings surrounding peaks of Gothic production.

So the three threads I want to braid together in this project are:

  • reading works created for women and to-this-point ignored by me;
  • meditating and writing about my conceptions of my body and bodies in general;
  • the tropes of Gothic literature and cinema, a set of lenses I can use to study whatever I’m thinking of at the moment.

Initially this all added up to exploring Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, especially the creature and its manifestations since its inception. But as the project ferments I see I’ll want to broaden it somewhat. Shelley’s work will still play an important role but perhaps not quite so central as I once thought.

My Gothic Body: Stone, part 3 – Bag Life 1

Part one, part two.

TW: back tubes and bags attached

My mindset the night of February 7 was pretty good. There was little pain. I knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep because the nurses would be checking in constantly. I got lucky and got a private room. I was disappointed the procedure didn’t work but, you know, things happen. I was bored but able to doze on and off and so made it through the night.

Nurse Manny, I liked. He attached some air compression leggings to my calfs that massaged my legs through the night. (These wrapped around each leg, from knee to foot. Each was attached to a machine that forced air into one, let it out and then forced air into another, alternating between legs to give each an air pressure squeeze. They are sold commercially as air compression leg massagers.) He helped me walk around the room when I couldn’t tolerate lying on my back any more and just generally had good vibes.

Nurse Mary was weird and alarming. She came across as way too hyper and happy. I immediately didn’t trust her. She was awkward interpersonally and out of nowhere wanted to shake my hand. It was weird.

She also broke the news to be that I’d be living with a nephrostomy bag until the next procedure. This was unexpected and a little hard to hear. I was not emotionally prepared.

My urologist, it turns out, is the cautious sort. Not every doctor in this situation would recommend living with a nephrostomy bag but given all the possible scenarios we might face moving forward, it was his preferred method of treatment.

A nephrostomy bag attaches to a nephrostomy tube. The nephrostomy tube is a tiny tube with one end in the kidney and the other end hanging out of the body. In my case, hanging out of my back. The bag attaches and fills with urine, fresh and direct from the kidney.

Nurse Mary was bossing around Nurse Cindy as she prepared to teach me how to care for the bandage that covered place where the nephrostomy tube entered my back, and how to care for my bag. Before she taught me these things she taught Nurse Cindy these things while also rattling off a long list of stuff Nurse Cindy needed to go fetch for me to take home.

I’m going to highlight this part of the conversation I overheard because it will be important later.

“What’s this?” Nurse Mary asked Nurse Cindy. They were looking at my back and I couldn’t tell what they were talking about. I was still wrapping my head around what it would mean to live with a bag attached to my body.

“I don’t know.”

“Did you put it on?”

“No. It was like that.”

“Well, take it off. It’s redundant. We don’t need it. See (and she fiddles with something I can’t see) you can just twist this instead.”

“OK.” Nurse Cindy leaves the room to retrieve all the bandages and stuff Nurse Mary directed her to collect for me to take home.

Nurse Mary looks at me slightly exasperated. “I was going to show her how to flush the tube,” and she shakes her head slightly, still grinning like a goon.

-Then you should have told her that instead of expecting her to read your mind, I thought.

Nurse Mary then explained to me how to detach the bag. There was a stopcock I’d turn to stop the flow of urine from my kidney to the bag. To flush the tube, I’d attach this special syringe I could screw onto the tube, and push in the pre-filled liquid into the tube, thereby clearing the tube. I might need to do this a couple of times a week. Then, I’d reverse — remove the syringe, attach the bag, and turn the stopcock so the fluid could flow.

She also showed me how to change the bandage, information I’d convey to J.

Eventually they determined everything was flowing the way it was supposed to. There was still a lot of blood in my urine (or, it seemed like a lot, but, as the emergency room nurse would tell me in a few days, blood is like food dye, it only takes a few drops to make everything reddish). The fluid in my bag was the color of a Jolly Rancher watermelon candy.

I got dressed in the gray sweats and hoodie I wore to the hospital, and carried out clear plastic bag full of syringes, gauze bandage packages, a urine collector/container (for unexplained reasons), my spirometer (a tube to breathe into to promote breathing and diminish the likelihood of pneumonia), and holding onto my nephrostomy bag. They loaded me into a wheelchair and escorted me to the waiting room where I waited for my prescriptions (oxycodone and stool softener) and for J to arrive to take me away.

to be continued…

Bibliography/Filmography so far

Project started August 2023.

Books and articles

Asma, Stephen T. On monsters: An unnatural history of our worst fears. Oxford University Press, 2011. – Not very useful for this project.

Brown, Sherri L., Carol A. Senf, and Ellen Justine Stockstill. A Research Guide to Gothic Literature in English : Print and Electronic Sources. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. – Terrific resource. Helped me identify lots of resources for research. 

Byron, Glennis, and Dale Townshend, eds. The Gothic World. London ; Routledge, 2014. – I need to check this out again. Rich resource.

Carriger, Gail. The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture. USA: Gail Carriger LLC, 2020. – This is the book that really got me thinking about work produced specifically for female audiences. (This will turn out to be one of the major threads of this project – I am haunted by misogyny in ways I still don’t/barely recognize.)

Clery E. J. 1999. The Rise of Supernatural Fiction 1762-1800 1St pbk. ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. – Roughly covers gothic literature but through the lens of the supernatural instead of Gothic.

Chandrasekera, Vajra. “Walpolitics.” January 25, 2024. – interesting take on the term “serendipity” coined by Horace Walpole.

Copley, Stephen, and John Whale, eds. Beyond Romanticism: New Approaches to Texts and Contexts 1780-1832. Routledge, 2016. – collection of essays. Mostly interested in “The wanton muse : politics and gender in Gothic theory after 1760” by Harriet Guest, which I read but don’t remember. 

Fothergill, Brian. The Strawberry Hill Set: Horace Walpole and His Circle. Faber & Faber, 2013. – Looks at Walpole’s circle of friends. Divides Walpole’s circle of friendships – strawberry, politics, literature, schoolhood friends, antiquaries, last years. Mostly off-topic for this project. Somewhat useful description of Walpole’s friendship with Thomas Gray.

Gaunt, Peter. Oliver Cromwell. Vol. 5. NYU Press, 2004. – Brief sketch of Cromwell’s life. Read for background.

Gordon, Charlotte. Romantic Outlaws : The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley. First U.S. edition. New York: Random House, 2015. – Excellent book. Interesting parallel structure. Well written. The structure might be problematic on a scholarly/academic level, but definitely an enjoyable read. 

Hoeveler, Diane Long. Gothic feminism: the professionalization of gender from Charlotte Smith to the Brontës. Penn State Press, 1998. – Great book. Hoeveler is key scholar. Need to reread this after a few months of research.

Modleski Tania. 19841982. Loving with a Vengeance : Mass-Produced Fantasies for Women. New York: Methuen. – Early critical analysis of Harlequin Romance. Also a section on Gothic Romance and a chapter on soap operas. Notable for being a serious look at mass pop culture created for female consumption. Overly Freudian analysis. Draws some good points from Joanna Russ. Explains the formula of Harlequin (the scoundrel is not a scoundrel).

Mowl, Timothy. Horace Walpole: the great outsider. Faber & Faber, 2014. – Deserves credit for bluntly addressing Walpole’s gender/sexual identity instead of ignoring it or referring to it only obliquely. However, Mowl is not a particularly sophisticated gender historian.

Paige, Lori A. The Gothic Romance Wave: A Critical History of the Mass Market Novels, 1960-1993. McFarland, 2018. – Weak. A few good references. More a defense of mass market gothic romance than a critical analysis. Often contradictory.

Reeve, Matthew M. Gothic architecture and sexuality in the circle of Horace Walpole. Penn State Press, 2020. – Focuses on architecture instead of literature. Wonderful work. Just a really great book. Terrific bibliography. Great collection of images. Pretty nuanced and comprehensive. This book bears returning to toward the end of this research project. Read in January of 2024.  

Russ, Joanna. “On Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.” To write like a woman: essays in feminism and science fiction. Indiana University Press, 1995. – Not good. Russ doesn’t have a good grasp of Shelley’s work, history, and context.

Russ, Joanna. “Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband: The Modern Gothic.” Journal of Popular Culture 6, no. 4 (1973): 666. – Good analysis by professional writer (rather than academic/scholar). Points out the obsession attention clothes and the heroine’s passivity. Great list of tropes at the end.

Uden, James. Spectres of Antiquity: Classical Literature and the Gothic, 1740-1830. Oxford University Press, USA, 2020. – excellent. Worth re-reading.

Urstad Tone Sundt. 1999. Sir Robert Walpole’s Poets : The Use of Literature As Pro-Government Propaganda 1721-1742. Newark Del: University of Delaware Press. – read for background about Walpole-era politics and publishing.

Watt, James. Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre and Cultural Conflict, 1764–1832. Vol. 33. Cambridge University Press, 1999. – Excellent book. Introduces concept of Loyalist Gothic, makes argument that gothic is and has always been contested, and that some works (Walpole, Monk, Waverly) are kind of not-gothic.

Watt William Whyte. (1967)(1932). Shilling Shockers of the Gothic School; a Study of Chapbook Gothic Romances by William W. Watt. New York: Russell & Russell. – slim volume explains a little what shilling shockers are and provides an amused description of several. Shilling Shockers are cheaply published, usually anonymous, often plagiarized popular works. The era’s penny dreadful, or pulp magazine. Readily identified by cheap, pale blue covers.


DeMatteis, J. M. and Robert Kanigher, et alCreature Commandos. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2023.

Lewis, Matthew G. The Monk. New York. Grove Press, 1952. – so scandalous!

McGill, C.E. Our Hideous Progeny: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2023. – Novel. About the great-niece of Viktor Frankenstein.

Radcliffe, Ann. The Mysteries of Udolpho. London: Dent, 1962. – I think this may be the wrong citation. Two volumes. Really enjoyed this. 

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: the 1818 text. Penguin, 2018.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. The Annotated Frankenstein. Harvard University Press, 2012. – Good. Could be better. 

Walpole, Horace, William Beckford, John William Polidori, George Gordon Byron Byron, and E. F. (Everett Franklin) Bleiler. The Castle of Otranto. New York: Dover Publications, 1966. – So far have only read Otranto. This volume also contains Vathek by Beckford, and Vampyre by Polidori, and some Byron fragments.

Movies with Frankenstein, the Creature, or Mary Shelley

  • Mary Shelley (2017)
  • Gothic (1986)
  • Frankenstein (2004) miniseries
  • The Munsters (Rob Zombie version)(2022)
  • Hotel Transylvania (2012)
  • Depraved (2019) – ptsd
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) – branaugh, hb carter, deniro – the worst
  • The Bride (1985)
  • The Strange Life of Frankenstein (2018) – documentary of novel and creature
  • Frankenstein (2015) – Carrie Ann Moss & Danny Huston
  • Frankenstein: The True Story (1973) – written by Christopher Isherwood. Very queer. 
  • Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966)
  • The Lazarus Effect (2015) – solid blumhouse entry, good script, realistic performances
  • Frankenstein (2004) – originally both Dean Koontz and Martin Scorsese were involved but both withdrew as production veered off course. Meant to be a pilot for a series. Staring Parker Posey.
  • Frankenstein (miniseries) (2004) – most faithful to the book. Hallmark miniseries of 2 episodes for a total of ~3hrs. 
  • Son of Frankenstein (1939)
  • Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943)
  • House of Frankenstein (1944)
  • Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023)
  • House of Dracula (1945)
  • Blackenstein (1973)
  • Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
  • Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
  • Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
  • Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
  • Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
  • Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
  • Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
  • Poor Things (2024) – More of a Re-animator than a Frankenstein.

Gothic Movies, TV Shows, & Series – casting a wide net here since I’m still refining my definition of Gothic and online recommendations are all over the map. I’d probably characterize only about 8 or 9 of the following as Gothic.

  • The Black Sleep (1956)
  • Vampyr (1932)
  • Northanger Abbey (2007)
  • House of Usher (1960)
  • Cat People (1942)
  • My Cousin Rachel (2017)
  • The Batman (2022)
  • Rebecca (1940)
  • Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948) (not gothic but Romance)
  • Suspicion (1941)
  • Fall of the House of Usher (Flanagan mini-series) (2023)
  • Midnight Mass (Flanagan miniseries (2021)
  • Gaslight (1940) – original British version
  • House of Dark Shadows (1970)
  • The Hound of Baskervilles (1959)
  • The Old Dark House (1963)
  • Christmas Carol (many adaptations)
  • Dickensian (miniseries) (2015)
  • The Essex Serpent (2022) – recommended as Gothic. Maybe? But just barely.
  • A Hazard of Hearts (1987)

My Gothic Body: Stone, part 2

TW: hospital, medical procedure

After learning about my stone I made an appointment with a urologist to discuss my options. He suggested a percutaneous nephrolithotomy as the procedure with the highest possible success rate for the large non-obstrutive stone in my kidney.

This means approaching the stone through a tiny incision in my back. Additionally a tube is inserted through the urethra, bladder and ureter into the kidneys to allow fluoroscopic guidance (i.e. the ability to introduce a contrast agent to allow better visualization when using bursts of x-ray to see what’s going on inside me in real time). I agreed to the procedure and we set a date.

On Wednesday, February 7, 2024 I awoke early and showered. After drying I wiped my body with some anti-bacterial wipes provided by the hospital, dressed in comfy clothes, and headed off, nervous but ready to get this over with.

Let me pause a moment to acknowledge my extraordinary privilege. I’m exceedingly lucky to have an awesome partner helping me with all this. J drove me to the hospital, hung out as I got settled into the pre-op gurney, and was there to provide whatever help I needed. Throughout all of this process I have been profoundly conscious of how lucky I am and what extraordinary privilege I have to be able to do this. I’m a mid-career professional with solid health benefits and the economic means to cover what my insurance does not. It’s a fucked-up world that restricts those not as lucky as I am to access to the kind of health care I received.

Eventually I was settled in, J left to get to work, and I alternated between dozing and working on my mindfulness meditation. While curtains kept me from seeing the others who were also in gurneys and also awaiting surgery, there was plenty to eavesdrop on.

One male Indian nurse was called aside by the head nurse and told he’d been taken off a patient. He was defensive and upset and the head nurse trotted out some balderdash about how some older women in the south expect to be called ma’am. What she didn’t say, but I think the talk might have gone better if she had, was — look, this racist lady doesn’t like your accent and complained. Let’s move on. But, instead of calling out the racist old lady, the Indian nurse kept getting signals that he was somehow doing something wrong, but without any clear direction on how to do things differently.

I recited my birthday a hundred different times for various doctors and nurses and eventually they switched on the anathestic and I slipped into a narcotic slumber.

I came to in the post-op holding room, a room of unknown dimension that held an unknown (to me) number of gurneys laden with folks coming out of surgeries of their own.

Apparently I had just missed the doctor but J was there and conveyed the news.

The procedure was called off before it could be completed. The stone remained untouched. It turns out I have an abnormally narrow ureter and in the process the lining was nicked slightly. To avoid causing any further damage the surgeon canceled the procedure and made the decision to try again at a later date with a slightly different strategy.

Next: Bag Life

to be continued…

Valancourt Books

Despite the quantity of titles published, Gothic novels of 1790-1820 era are scarce. Valancourt Books is currently the best go-to for this particular niche.

In addition to publishing the list of “horrid novels” mentioned by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey, they also publish a representative list of Minerva Press titles (I count twenty-two).

Valancourt’s whole catalog is worth checking out if you’re interested in the following:

  • Gothic & Romantic
  • Victorian & Edwardian
  • Literary Fiction
  • Vintage Thrills and Chills
  • Horror & Science Fiction
  • Rediscovered LGBT Literature

Arno Press went through a phase of publishing novels from this original Gothic (OG!) era in the 1970s. These were published for the library market and many are still available through interlibrary loan. On the open market, though, they can get kind of pricey.

Broadview Press is another strong contemporary source for some of the early Gothics. (Though these can be pricey.)

My current less-than-methodical pursuit has me reading a 1970s paperback with the traditional lady fleeing the spooky house cover written by Gil Brewer. Brewer interests me because he was a local writer and much of the crime fiction he wrote under his real name takes place in the Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater metropolitan area. Some of his crime fiction work is quite good.

He wrote some Gothics in the early 1970s under the pseudonym Elaine Evans.

“The mansion had been built more than a hundred years ago by Brady Holloway, who had made his fortune in Pennsylvania before moving to the Louisiana bayou country. Brady was known as a demon, and his rages were infamous throughout the countryside. When he fell in love with the beautiful Charlene, some hoped that he would settle down. But instead his raging way of life continued — until Charlene was found brutally murdered. Shocked, Brady Holloway converted his entire fortune –$750,000 — into gold, and disappeared from the world. Now, more than a hundred years later, another beautiful young woman was coming to the mansion renamed Malpoindre — Evil Dawn — after Charlene’s murder. Would Kirsten Holloway, too, meet her doom on these haunted grounds?”

I just finished a scholarly work about the Gothic paperbacks of the 1960s/1970s. It wasn’t that great. The next on my TBR pile will take me back to Walpolian England. And after Black Autumn I’ll probably turn to The Graveyard School.

“The poetry of the Graveyard School—gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards—was immensely popular in 18th-century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings.”