The Gothic extract


Historical ideas of the Gothic

  • The first official Gothic novel was called the Castle of Otranto written by Horace Walpole.
  • He used a psudonym to publish the story because the Gothic was seen as the 'fiction of shame' and he was the 1st PM's son, he had a reputation to uphold. 
  • Walpole built Strawberry Hill a daringly unconventional home, reflecting his eccentric and odd personality. It's located in Twickenham on the outside of London and normality.

Gothic before the 18th Century - 

  • To ancient Greeks and Romans Gothic meant gloomy, primitive, worthless, barbaric.
  • The British wanted to create a civilised history for themselves by building 'neo-classical' structures.
  • 'The Protestant reformation lead to the Gothic being rejected as Catholic superstition' (16thC). - Andrew Graham Dixon. 
  • Early Renaissance 'identified this style as barbaric, disordered and irrational in opposition to the classical style' (14thC).
  • The Gothic was defined as 'one not civilised, deficient in general knowldge, a barbarian' in the 1775 dictionary. 
  • The Goths were 'remembered as the invaders and destroyers of the great Roman civilisation' (5-15thC).
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Historical ideas pt2

Gothic in the 18th Century -

  • The 18thC started as an age of reliance on reason, enlightenment, rational explanation, very classical. 
  • The Gothic was defined as chaotic, ornate, convoluted (overwritten), wild, uncivilised, overflowing cultural boundaries, exaggerated.
  • On the contrary classical was well ordered, clear rules, limits, simple, pure, these were all Georgian values.
  • It was much later seen as a positive thing 'shift in cultural values', 'resisted the establishment of civilised and well regulated society'. 
  • Many writers insisted these qualities were needed in British culture, it came to be seen as representing virtues and qualities the 'modern world' needed.
  • This classical civilised past the British constructed ignored 'forgotten Gothic history'. 
  • 'Rich people started to build Gothic architecture reflecting anglo-saxon roots' 'the love of ruins became a cult' (Late 18thC). - Andrew Graham Dixon.
  • Ruined architecture showed the power of nature, violence of the world, the end of civilisation itself. 
  • 18th Century nature wasn't barbaric/dangerous yet they admired and were interested in the wild nature of the Gothic' 
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Gothic setting

  • 'The castle is a 'metaphor for the Georgian psyche'. - Andrew Graham Dixon
  • Locked rooms represented the Gothic allowing 'people to whisper darkest fears and secret desires.' 
  • The Bloody Chamber (Angela Carter) - The locked chamber is symbolic of the hell of sexual corruption within the Marquis' mind.
  • The castle is forbidden; an enigma. - David Punter
  • Labryinth means you're trapped, descending further, can't remember how to escape, buried alive.
  • Going down to a basement, descending into the 'recess of the mind'. 
  • Melmoth the Wanderer (Charles Maturin) - The tale is like a labryinth for the reader where they wander around, disorientated by different paths of human evil, there is no escape as they are always lead to Melmoth's almighty evils. 
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho (Anne Radcliffe) - Anthropomorphism is used to show the imitimidating size of the castle that represents how Emily will be imprisoned & overpowered by Signor Montoni. 
  • Dracula - (Bram Stoker) Dracula's castle is described as impregnable, Harker finds it almost impossible to escape. 
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The Sublime

  • "Power is the essence of the sublime style, as it literally moves or transports its hearers" - Longinus
  • "Genesis 1:3, 'And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.' This is an example of the absolute power in which word and effect are one."
  • "Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the idea of pain, and danger...operates in a manner analogous (comparable) to terror, is a source of the sublime; it is...the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling". - Edmund Burke. 
  • 'No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear'.
  • 'The mind is so entirely filled with its object that it cannot entertain any other', all other emotions and reason is put into suspension. 
  • Paintings allowed people to enjoy fear but from a distance, not to be in harms way, e.g Salvator Rosa 'witches at their incantation'. - Andrew Graham Dixon
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The Sublime pt2

  • The sublime reduces insignificant humans to something that should be afraid of the grandeoise of nature. - David Punter.
  • 'Enables the mind to rise above its physical limitations after an initial check to its vital forces'. - Kant.
  • 'The sublime is the way that experience signals an apprehension of the infinite capacities of the minds imaginative powers'. 
  • "The agency of invisible beings is introduced, 'of forms...far mightier than we,' our imagination, darting forth, explores with rapture (intense pleasure or joy) the new world which is laid open to its view, and rejoices in the expansion of its powers." - Aikin's
  • "Passion and fancy elevate the soul to its highest pitch; and the pain of terror is lost in amazement".
  • Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) - The scientist, meets the creature that he has created and feels such terror that he is also overcome with a disturbed awe. 
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Terror vs Horror

  • "Terror stimulates the imagination and often challenges intellectual reasoning to arrive at a somewhat plausible explanation of this ambiguous fear and anxiety. Resolution of terror provides a means of escape." - Anne Radcliffe
  • "Horror appeals to lower mental faculties, such as curiosity and voyeurism...The mind to a state of inescapable confusion and chaos. The inability to intellectualise horror inflicts a sense of obscure despair".
  • "Terror causes the reader to imagine and cross-examine those imaginings, also aspiring to the realm of high literature, whilst horror causes shock and disgust and wallows in a low form of literature."
  • ''Characterising the difference between terror and horror as the difference between "awful apprehension and sickening realisation". - Devendra Varma.
  • 'The central mood of the Gothic is fear. In the Gothic, this mood always has something to do with the past...'the revenant'. - David Punter. 
  • The psychological fear of being imprisoned in ourselves, creates mental prisons around us.
  • The Monk (Matthew Lewis) - Lorenzo discovers the stretched out body of the dying woman & he is shook with horror, to the point that his limbs were unable to support his weight. 
  • The Romance of the Forest (Ann Radcliffe) - Adelaide uses horror to extend her imagination, she is fighting terror within herself so there is little action against the threat.
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  • 'Features stock characters, like the virtuous, imperiled young heroine and stock events like her imprisonment by and flight from the demonic yet compelling villain'. - Kelly Hurley 
  • 'The persecuted heroine, the villanous father.' - Peter Otto
  • 'Oedipal rivalry between father and son.' 
  • The Castle of Otranto (Horace Walpole) - 'The tyrannical Manfred, a prototype for the Gothic hero-villain, his victimized wife, the bland hero selfless, passive heroine.'
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Victorian fin de siecle

  • 'Transplanted them to contemporary Britain to highlight modern concerns' - Greg Buzwell.
  • 'Gothic imagery as a means of drawing attention the social ills afflicting the poor in modern London'.
  • 'It is no longer the physical landscape that provides the location for Gothic tales...the human body itself'.
  • The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Perkins) - The darkening wallpaper represents the woman's deteriorating mental health. 
  • A Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) - Dorian's 'evil' portrait is symbolic of his own immorality, He indulges in every pleasure and virtually every 'sin', studying its effect upon him, which eventually leads to his death.
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