Menu

Gothic Literature

0 Comment

Figures found in ancient folklore, such as the Demon Lover, the Cannibal Bridegroom, the Devil, and assorted demons, later populated the pages of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Gothic novels and dramas. In addition, many seventeenth- and eighteenth-century works are believed to have served as precursors to the development of the Gothic tradition in Romantic literature. These works include plays by William Shakespeare, such as Hamlet (c. 1600-01), and Macbeth (1606), which feature supernatural elements, demons, and apparitions, and Daniel Defoe’s An Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions (1727), which was written to support religion and discourage superstition by providing evidence of the existence of good spirits, angels, and other divine manifestations, and by ridiculing delusions and naive credulity. However, while these elements were present in literature and folklore prior to the mid-eighteenth century, when the Gothic movement began, it was the political, social, and theological landscape of eighteenth-century Europe that served as an impetus for this movement. Edmund Burke’s treatise A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) introduced the concept of increasing appreciation for the nature of experiences characterized by the "sublime" and "beautiful" by depicting and then engaging (vicariously) in experiences comprised of elements that are contrary in nature, such as terror, death, and evil. As a genre, it is generally believed to have been invented by the English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto (Wikipedia).
The effect of Gothic fiction depends on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of essentially Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole’s novel. Melodrama and parody (including self-parody) were other long-standing features of the Gothic initiated by Walpole. Gothic literature is intimately associated with the Gothic Revival architecture of the same era. In a way similar to the gothic revivalists’ rejection of the clarity and rationalism of the neoclassical style of the Enlightened Establishment, the literary Gothic embodies an appreciation of the joys of extreme emotion, the thrills of fearfulness and awe inherent in the sublime, and a quest for atmosphere. The ruins of gothic buildings gave rise to multiple linked emotions by representing the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations- thus the urge to add fake ruins as eyecatchers in English landscape parks. English Protestants often associated medieval buildings with what they saw as a dark and terrifying period, characterized by harsh laws enforced by torture, and with mysterious, fantastic and superstitious rituals. In literature such Anti-Catholicism had a European dimension featuring Roman Catholic excesses such as the Inquisition (Wikipedia) The modern critical view of the Gothic limits it to a set of high reaching artistic achievements: Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796), Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian. or, The Confessional of the Black Penitents (1797), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) are constantly cited as defining the genre (The Trade Gothic). This genre consists of number of forms of Gothicism that influenced canonical romantic poetry and drama. These forms includes "ballad