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Gothic Literature

Gothic Literature

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Gothic Literature

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  1. Gothic Literature

  2. Gothic Literature • Prepare to enter a bizarre, new, yet perhaps oddly familiar world.

  3. Historic Context • The words Goth and Gothic describe the Germanic tribes (e.g., Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths) which sacked Rome and also ravaged the rest of Europe in the third, fourth, and fifth centuries. • By the eighteenth century in England, Gothic had become synonymous with the Middle Ages, a period which was in disfavor because it was perceived as chaotic, unenlightened, and superstitious.

  4. Gothic Context • The gothic was first used as a Medieval, architectural term to describe a style of building that included gargoyles, scenes of Hell, and souls in torment.

  5. Gothic architecture12th~16th century • Gothic architecture used pointed arches and vaults, flying buttresses, narrow spires, stained glass windows, intricate traceries, and varied details; its upward movement was meant to suggest heavenward aspiration.

  6. Gothic architecture12th~16th century • Gothic architecture used pointed arches and vaults, flying buttresses, narrow spires, stained glass windows, intricate traceries, and varied details; its upward movement was meant to suggest heavenward aspiration.

  7. Horace Walpole24 September 1717 - 2 March 1797 • Walpole wrote what is considered the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (very melodramatic) • Published in 1764 • Inspired by his reconstruction of his home and a nightmare he’d had

  8. Gothic Conventions

  9. A few more gothic conventions • Damsel in distress (frequently faints in horror) • Secret corridors, passageways, or rooms • Ancestral curses - The current generation suffers for evil deeds of ancestors (Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher • Ruined castles with graveyards nearby • Priests and monks

  10. Even more gothic conventions • Body snatching - Grave-Robbing, stealing corpses from graves, tombs, or morgues, illicit trade in cadavers, violation of religious space (Stephen King’s Pet Cemetary) • Sleep, dream, death-like states - Dredge up strong emotions, such as ecstasy, terror, joy; Reveals urges, impulses, desires, even truths about oneself one tries to hide, reveals the future; premonitions (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

  11. Still not done • Entrapment / Imprisonment - being confined or trapped, as shackled to a floor or hidden away in a dark cell, heightens the psychology of feeling there’s “no way out.” (Saw series)

  12. Literary Connection to Gothic Architecture • "gothic" came to describe a certain type of novels, so named because all these novels seem to take place in Gothic-styled architecture -- mainly castles, mansions, and, of course, abbeys ("Gothic...").

  13. “Supernatural props”: vocal and mobile portraits; animated statues and skeletons; doors, gates, portals, hatchways which open and close independently; secret passageways; secret messages and manuscripts; forbidden chambers and sealed compartments; casket lids seen to rise, etc (Harry Potter)

  14. Gothic Counterfeit • Playful fakery of authenticity. The text is presented as a discovery or recovery by the editor, sometimes of an ancient or forgotten text. Cloaks the real writer’s authorship. Complicates the point of view (making things more fun and intriguing).

  15. Almost done • Necromancy - The dark art of communicating with the dead (Ouija Boards “Bloody Mary” myth, séances) • Revenge - The act of repaying someone for a harm caused. Revenge can be enacted upon a loved one, a family member, a friend, an object or area (Poe’s Cask of Amontillado)

  16. Metonymy of gloom and terror • The metonymy of gloom and horror. • Metonymy is a subtype of metaphor, in which something (like rain) is used to stand for something else (like sorrow). For example, the film industry likes to use metonymy as a quick shorthand, so we often notice that it is raining in funeral scenes.

  17. Note the following metonymies that suggest mystery, danger, or the supernatural

  18. Importance of Setting • The setting is greatly influential in Gothic novels. It not only evokes the atmosphere of horror and dread, but also portrays the deterioration of its world. The decaying, ruined scenery implies that at one time there was a thriving world. At one time the abbey, castle, or landscape was something treasured and appreciated. Now, all that lasts is the decaying shell of a once thriving dwelling.

  19. Common elements of setting Cemetaries Haunted House, Castle, or Estate A dwelling inhabited or regularly visited by a ghost or supposedly supernatural being. • A place for the burial of the dead. Caves, temples, mounds, catacombs, churchyards, crypts.

  20. We also need a little ambience • Presence of Mist/Fog - Literary convention used to obscure objects, reduce visibility, or preclude the insertion of something terrifying.

  21. Archetypal Characters • The Gothic hero / villain becomes a sort of archetype as we find that there is a pattern to his characterization. The villain / hero possesses enough heroic qualities to be seen as more than just a bad guy • There is also the pursuedprotagonist, usually isolated either voluntarily or involuntarily, there is also a force present that relentlessly, terminally and unavoidably pursues, persecutes or chastises another for some real or imagined wrong, a crime and retribution cycle, but also can be both the pursued and the pursuer (Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire)

  22. More Characters • Then there is the villain, who is the epitome of evil, either by his (usually a man) own fall from grace, or by some implicit malevolence. • The Wanderer, found in many Gothic tales, is the epitome of isolation as he wanders the earth in perpetual exile, usually a form of divine punishment.

  23. Only a few more The Damsel in Distress The Revenant A ghostly being who returns to life. The return of the dead upon the Living. • A virtuous, idealistic, and usually poetic young woman is pursued by a wicked, older, potent aristocrat. • The pursuit threatens the young lady’s morals and ideals (and often her virginity). • She usually responds with passive courage.

  24. Other important characters • Doppelganger - German: doublegoer. Ghostly counterpart of another person, body double, alter ego, identical other person (Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

  25. Unreliable Narrator • The narrator’s ability to accurately relate events is suspect. • The narrator makes incorrect assumptions or conclusions, or misunderstands situations or other characters ( Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart)

  26. Basic Plot Structure for a Gothic Novel • Action in the Gothic novel tends to take place at night, or at least in a claustrophobic, sunless environment. • ascent (up a mountain high staircase); • descent (into a dungeon, cave, underground chambers or labyrinth) or falling off a precipice; secret passage; hidden doors; • the pursued maiden and the threat or rape or abduction; • physical decay, skulls, cemeteries, and other images of death; ghosts; revenge; family curse; blood and gore; torture; the Doppelganger (evil twin or double); demonic possession; masking/shape-changing; black magic; madness; incest and other broken sexual taboos.

  27. Other Gothic Novels • 1765: Horace Walpole. The Castle of Otranto1794: Ann Radcliffe. The Mysteries of Udolpho1794: William Godwin. Caleb Williams1796: Mathew Lewis. The Monk1798: Regina Maria Roche. Clermont 1806: Ann Mary Hamilton. Montalva or Annals of Guilt1807: Charlotte Dacre. The Libertine1818: Mary Shelly. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus 1820: Charles Robert Maturin. Melmonth the Wanderer1826: Ann Radcliff: Gaston de Blondeville1826: William Child Green. The Abbot of Montserrat or The Pool of Blood

  28. Modern Gothic Novels • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronté

  29. Other Gothic Writers • Anne Rice • Edgar Allan Poe • Joyce Carol Oates • Stephen King • Stephenie Meyer