Gulf Gothic

Gulf Gothic

Mexico, the U.S. South and La Llorona’s Undead Voices

By Dolores Flores-Silva & Keith Cartwright

Anthem Impact

Anthem Studies in Gothic Literature

Gulf Gothic examines haunted, secret-laden narratives that emerge from the gulfs between peoples all along the Gulf of Mexico and on both sides of the Rio Grande. The Gulf is presented as a unified region and as dynamic ground zero of North American (and global) cross-culturality and traumas.

Paperback, 90 Pages


November 2022

£20.99, $24.95

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About This Book

Gulf Gothic moves through deep time across languages and borders, presenting haunted, secret-laden narratives that emerge from the gulfs between people all along the Gulf of Mexico and on both sides of the Rio Grande. Collaborating in an interdisciplinary manner, literary and cultural critics Dolores Flores-Silva and Keith Cartwright chart the Gulf as a unified region and ground zero of North American (and global) transculturation.

The Gulf of Mexico has been inadequately appreciated as the dynamic transnational region that it is (taking in the Gulf states of Mexico and the U.S., as well as western Cuba), a cultural matrix that nourished the spread of maize agriculture and the rise of a two-thousand-year-old literary historical tradition that has responded to traumas of colonial conquest and plantation slavery. In this study, the Gulf signifies metaphorically and symbolically—as undead space of contacts and supposed impasses between peoples—as well as topographically. Its gothic modalities carry an urgent charge that demands to be addressed in holistic form

Gulf Gothic addresses modes of representing all that is blocked from free movement and aspiration. Here, the figure of La Llorona haunts boundary waters and shorelines, voicing much that has been occulted by colonial power and national narrative. La Llorona’s Indigenous prototypes, plantation/hacienda atmospherics, and heated storm patterns show up repeatedly in variations of an originary undeadness unconstrained by attempted quarantines and border walls. The authors turn to cinematic horror and the double gaze of ancient Maya texts, to folk-fable and legal documents and popular song, as well as to works by Gloria Anzaldúa, Sandra Cisneros, Leslie Marmon Silko, Joy Harjo, LeAnne Howe, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, William Faulkner, Carlos Fuentes, Vicente Riva Palacio, Jesmyn Ward, and Fernanda Melchor, to attend to forces unbound by traditional gothic modalities and their foundational gulfs. 


"American literature starts here’, Flores-Silva and Cartwright write, where an American gothic originates in response to the violations of Euro-settler colonialism and where presumably ‘impassable gulfs’ become passages binding the living to the undead, where La Llorona, her origins deep in prehistory, haunts the present. A fascinating and generative study"Barbara Ladd, Professor of English, Emory University, USA.

"Every scholar working in southern literary studies right now should read this book. Cartwright’s and Flores-Silva’s scholarship is exemplary, and every comparison they make is compelling. Moreover, Gulf Gothic serves as a model for how collaborative authorship can shape critical inquiry of the future. I predict that this work will become a watershed moment for the field” Gina Caison, PhD, Professor of Southern Literature, Georgia State University, USA; President, Society for the Study of Southern Literature, 2020—2022, author of;Red States: Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, and Southern Studies (UGA Press, 2018).

Gulf Gothic demonstrates that Gothic and undead modalities are not sequestered in old dark British and European houses only and offers a new and wide-ranging map of transcultural crosscurrents in all their insurgent, resurgent, uncanny, Gulf-borne power. All this and more, in lucid and often lyrical prose. I couldn’t put it down!” Eric Gary Anderson, Associate Professor of English, George Mason University, USA.

Gulf Gothic dives into deep time and leaps the border walls of nation-states and national literatures alike. Dolores Flores-Silva and Keith Cartwright—leading scholars of Latin American/Mexican and US southern/African diasporic literatures, respectively—are our expert guides to how ‘the shores of the Gulf of Mexico’ come together as a ‘cross-cultural ground zero’. Flores-Silva and Cartwright focus particularly on variations of the ‘gulf gothic’. Moving beyond discreet models of ‘southern gothic’ and ‘tropical gothic’, their gulf gothic ranges from indigenous tales of La Llorona, via the plantation racial dramas of Faulkner and Fuentes, to the twenty-first century huracán novels of Fernanda Melchor and Jesmyn Ward. A compact, provocative, and genuinely comparative—as well as connective—study”—Martyn Bone, Associate Professor of American Literature, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, author of Where the New World Is: Literature about the U.S. South at Global Scales.

“Dolores Flores-Silva and Keith Cartwright present a culturally distinct Gulf of Mexico, expertly weaving texts and textualities across languages via the haunting presence of La Llorona. Gulf Gothic features all the hallmarks of great scholarship—creativity, accuracy, and expansiveness. A riveting read, this foundational work is sure to inaugurate a field.”— Taylor Hagood, coeditor of Undead Souths and Professor of American Literature, Florida Atlantic University, USA

“With deep historical and geographical sensitivity, Dolores Flores-Silva and Keith Cartwright give voice to the dead and undead inhabitants of the Gulf’s interconnected bioregions, and in doing so, they provide fascinating insight into the darker reaches of our transcultural past, precarious present, and troubling future.”— Robert Azzarello, Professor of English, University of New Orleans, USA.

“Cartwright and Flores-Silva conjure up a magical and illuminating portrait of a Gothic Gulf, mapping a cultural realm most have not suspected. Anchoring their arguments in indigenous history, agricultural patterns, and religious iconography, they reveal the role Latinx—and particularly Mexican—cultures have played in shaping our current hemispheric imaginary.”— John Wharton Lowe, Barbara Lester Methvin Distinguished Professor, Department of English, University of Georgia, USA.

Author Information

Dolores Flores-Silva is a professor of Latin American literature and culture at Roanoke College and the author of The Cross and the Sword in the Works of Rosario Ferré and Mayra Montero (2009).

Keith Cartwright is chair of the Department of English at the University of North Florida and the author of Sacral Grooves, Limbo Gateways (2013) and Reading Africa into American Literature (2002).


Anthem Impact

Anthem Studies in Gothic Literature

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; Introduction. Gulf Gothic; La Llorona’s Undead Voices: Woman at the Borderwaters; Plantation Entanglements: Gulf Afterlives of Slavery; Gulf Atmospherics: Huracán and the Visceraless State; Coda: “Phantasmal Space”; Works Cited; Index


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