Dr Marco Petrelli (University of Bologna and University of Turin)

Tuesday 4 May 2021 at 4.15pm

Dr Marco Petrelli (Uni of Bologna, Uni of Turin)

Ghosts of Time and Space in Contemporary Southern Gothic: C.E. Morgan’s The Sport of Kings

Event organized by Elisa Pesce (University of Glasgow)

If you'd like to attend, email Dr Laura Rattray (Laura.Rattray@glasgow.ac.uk) and you'll receive a secure Zoom link on the day of the talk.

Thanks to the successful tradition of dark pastoral literature that flourished below the Mason-Dixon Line, the adjectives ‘Southern’ and ‘gothic’ have often been treated as near-synonymous. Scholars and contemporary authors have demonstrated how the U.S. South’s literary output doesn’t necessarily contain canonical gothic elements, and how gothicism can survive outside its customarily white and post-agrarian dimension. In spite of that, so much literature of the Southern United States is still characterized by a distinctively sinister atmosphere, and by a (typically gothic) obsession with the past often rooted in the region’s antebellum mythology and in its troublesome historical heritage. As Anderson, Hagood and Taylor write in their introduction to Undead Souths, there is a “pervading presence of diverse forms of undeadness—racial, ethnic, political, economic, historical—in ‘the South’ as we understand it.” The decadence of the Old South’s pastoral landscape continues to haunt the literary unconscious of this cultural-geographic area, but it is in turn haunted by the other spatial and existential dimensions upon which it was forcefully superimposed as a means of erasure and concealment by the neo-agrarian hegemonic discourse. C.E. Morgan’s The Sport of Kings, a novel literally and figuratively pervaded by the ghosts of time(s) and space(s) past, is a perfect example of how contemporary Southern Gothic survives through this spectral dialectic of repetition and difference. Set in a former Kentucky plantation turned into a breeding stable for racing horses, it tells the tragic and violent stories of two families inextricably woven together: a rich Southern dynasty obsessed with power and purity, and the downtrodden descendants of the slaves owned by its forefathers. Morgan takes the genre’s preoccupations with class, race and history and turns them against themselves by addressing and conjuring the silenced deathscape that lies just beneath the surface of the aristocratic South’s faux-Arcady. Situated at the intersection of hauntology and the spatial analysis of literature, this paper seeks to analyze how The Sport of Kings stands both as a noteworthy, classic example of the Southern Gothic and as a text that criticizes and deconstructs its traditional themes and motifs.


Marco Petrelli Marco Petrelli is adjunct professor of Anglo-American literature at the University of Bologna and the University of Turin. He received his Ph.D. from “Sapienza”, University of Rome with a dissertation on space and myth in Cormac McCarthy’s novels. His research interests include Southern Studies, Geocriticism, the American gothic, and graphic narratives. He is the author of Paradiso in nero: spazio e mito nella narrativa di Cormac McCarthy, and a number of essays on contemporary American literature and culture in Italian and international journals.


First published: 15 March 2021