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Exploring the Seasonal Gothic in Literature and Television
Drawing upon extensive research into British television listings, and comparative research into other cultures, this paper considers the relationship between the Gothic and the seasons within specific cultural contexts. Various cultures have different associations of horror and Gothic tales with specific times of the year, practices which sometimes have literary or pre-literary roots, but which may also be more modern. For the English, it is the Christmas ghost story, while for the United States horror belongs at Halloween, and in Korea summer is the time for chilling films and television series. The cultural specificity of this seasonal connection with the Gothic is demonstrated by the way that, for example, the inclusion of a supernatural element in a Downton Abbey Christmas special was received with puzzlement by American reviewers, who directly stated that this was a Halloween, not a Christmas element. At the same time, there is an element of cultural influence at play, as the increasing importance of US imports to Britain helped develop Halloween as a more significant festival, while the English dominance of British broadcasting has spread the Christmas ghost story to Wales, Scotland and Ireland, where there was no pre-existing tradition. This paper will present the broad findings of this research, with appropriate specific examples, to suggest why these uses of the Gothic at particular seasons of the year differ, and what this tells us about the cultures. It thus aims to encourage consideration of the hitherto under-studied area of the seasonal in relation to modern cultural production.