Literature is a beautiful subject, but everything in literature is not about beauty. There is a genre that steers away and deals with everything that is conventionally considered the opposite of beauty. But why would people read that? Well, it is one of the most popular genres even today after centuries of its inception. Gothic literature or what is often called Gothic horror is a popular genre with dedicated fan-following. Although it may seem a recent phenomenon, due to the surge in movies being made and literature being published of the genre lately, it has an ancient history dating back to the 17th century.
Literature may seem like a subject all about Shakespear’s sonnets and Jane Austen’s romance, but there are themes beyond them that are just as relevant and make up an important part of literary history. So, for a genre so unique, the elements that go into the making of it must also be just as fascinating. But first, let’s get started by understanding the basic concept of Gothic literature before we go on exploring.
Gothic literature or Gothic fiction is a genre of literature that focuses on themes of horror, death and at times,even romance. Prominently,it builds an atmosphere of mystery and terror. It intends to stress the reader’s emotions and take them on an experience beyond themselves to produce a “pleasurable terror.” The sublime is the key element in such novels that widely deals with concepts that are not commonly encountered by people day-to-day. To understand the concept better,have a look at the history of it.
Gothic literature is said to have peaked in the 1790s but it has undergone many revivals in the subsequent centuries. Horace Walpole has been widely credited to have started the genre but it has been found that the components of such novels had a rich history before he had published his first novel. The genre is called Gothic as it draws from the Gothic architecture of medieval buildings and ruins, which are commonly used as the settings for such novels. These castles or buildings are usually equipped with trapdoors, hidden underways and panels, dark passages, battlements,etc. to create the dark impulse. Some early contribution to the field was made by William Thomas Beckford, Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, and Matthew Lewis. A sensational type of Gothic romance that had themes of violence and horror emerged in Germany in the 1700s, with Matthew Gregory Lewis’The Monk being published in 1796. In the 19th century revival, the classics - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and later Dracula by Bram Stoker were published, which grew to be prominent works in the genre. Being extravagant with the themes made them easy targets for satire, which lead to their fall but Gothic themes persisted in being used by major writers like the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens. In the 20th century, such novels had a mass following due to the element of mystery and crime, with popular contributors like Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Toni Morrison,etc.
As mentioned above in the history section, Horace Walpole is widely credited with the inception of the Gothic genre with his novel, The Castle of Otranto which was published in 1764. He was a writer, art historian, a whig politician and was the Earl of Orford. His novel is considered the first Gothic novel ever. In the second edition of the novel,he used the word ‘Gothic’ in the subtitle - “A Gothic Novel.” It used a style of terror that was followed by all the successors of the genre. The aesthetics of his book have shaped modern-day Gothic literature, films, music, art,and the Gothic sub-culture.
So, have you wondered: what are the things that make Gothic literature what it is? There are certain elements that produce the effect of horror and evoke the desired emotions of terror, surprise, gloom, etc. You don’t need to search for online assignment help every time for this. These are the general elements that make up any classic Gothic novel:
There has been plenty of Gothic literature that has been published and is currently being written. Here are some of the popular ones:
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