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Eruptions of the Abnormal: Gothic/Horror Episodes of Mainstream Television Series and the Dominance of Rational Worldviews
This paper will explore the relationship between the eruptions of the abnormal which are a key part of the Gothic genre across media, and the use of the genre within mainstream television series to provide an occasional special episode that breaches the normality of that programme. Such episodes typically occur at particular parts of the year: at Christmas in Britain and at Hallowe’en in the US. The supernatural element of these episodes forms a wound of irrationality in series which typically depend upon an essentially rational mode, such as detective series like Bergerac, Castle and Hawai’i Five-O. This echoes the specialness of the time of the year in those particularly seasonal episodes, times which have been perceived as wounds or weakenings in the boundary between the natural and supernatural worlds. But even in episodes broadcast at other times of the year these intrusions of the abnormal into the apparently normal serve to open up the normative rationality of the texts to suggest a wider universe and the existence of spiritual and supernatural possibilities, possibilities which can be safely contained by the typical rationality of the shows with the exception of these occasional eruptions. These programmes thus suggest that rationality remains the dominant and most useful way of understanding the universe in a post-Enlightenment Western culture, as long as the possibility of the irrational is accepted.