Gothic Elements in Representations of a Pandemic: Borislav Pekic’s Rabies




Gothic, horror, science fiction, pandemic, Rabies, Borislav Pekic


The paper deals with the Gothic elements in the representation of a pandemic based on the 1983 novel Besnilo (‘Rabies’) by Serbian author Borislav Pekic. The authors start from the premise that the elements ‘borrowed’ from the Gothic genre play a key role in creating the main plot of the novel: a catastrophe caused by an extremely contagious and deadly man-manipulated version of the rabies virus. The theoretical framework is based on Fred Botting’s (1995) and Jerrold E. Hogle’s (2002) views of Gothic writing as a diffused mode that exceeds genres and categories and contributes its various elements to various literary forms. Furthermore, Gothic elements characteristic of Gothic science fiction, such as madness, monstrosity, the Mad Scientist, people meddling with nature with catastrophic consequences, the apocalyptic vision of human future and “the removal of man from his natural, living state and entry instead into a state of being neither completely human or monster, and neither fully alive or completely dead” (MacArthur 2015: 79) are traced in the novel and analysed in the context of literary representations of a pandemic. As Pekic’s novel is a mixture of various genres and is often defined and described as a horror thriller novel, an attempt is made to offer a new reading that would consider its constituent Gothic elements against a backdrop of the deeply and inherently human drama of the everlasting struggle between good and evil. Thus, pandemics are represented as a kind of catalyst that exposes both deeply human and rational, and deeply inhuman and irrational, impulses, leaving the final outcome of that struggle uncertain.


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