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Gothic Literature

Gothic literature in the postmodern era!

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Gothic literature
(by Wikipedia)

Gothic fiction, sometimes referred to as Gothic horror, is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. 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. The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of 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 Gothic writers 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 (in southern European countries such as Italy and Spain).


Gothic Literature

The Gothic culture has always drawn attention in terms of various aspects related to the same. Amongst the many facets, Gothic literature is known the world over due to the particular distinct qualities associated with this form of writing. This literature has even influenced other different genres of writing styles. There are certain prominent traits about Gothic literature that set it apart from the rest. Here is an in-depth look at some interesting facts with relation to Gothic literature.

Gothic Literature: Tales of Mystery and Terror?
Mention Gothic literature and the one name that crops up in the mind is Horace Walpole. This English writer/politician was known for his novel titled ‘The Castle of Otranto’. This novel is also considered to be the first Gothic novel, which gained immense popularity and became the trendsetter for other authors of Gothic style literature. The plot makes the use of many supernatural events with the inclusion of ghosts and a lot of blood!

Gothic fiction is therefore considered to be the kind that involves a horror element, which is strangely combined with romance! ‘The Castle of Otranto’ thus set a trend that saw many more works being published in the same genre. Tales that belong to the typical Gothic literature revolve around mysterious castles, mansions, remote areas, murder, treachery, superstitions, curses, secrets’ etc. If this has already sent chills down your spine, then this was just a word of warning. Gothic literature is also about villains, terrifying monsters, vampires, ghosts, devils and even demons. Gothic literature thus has always been at its ‘horrifying’ best! Many Gothic novels revolve around supernatural plots and the settings are often medieval with the mention of castles, crumbling ruins, Gothic buildings, etc. One can thus see the fascination writers had for medieval architecture and ruins. Stories that formed a part of Gothic literature often portray characters that have innocent young women who face men with all the shades of negative. Often such characters were set against haunted mansions! Supernatural fiction thus enjoyed a different status from thereon. During the Victorian Era, one saw a definitive change from the ghostly settings to a focus on the psychology of the characters.

Amongst the many books that belonged to the Gothic literature, ‘The Horrid Mysteries’ written by Peter Will is a Gothic novel that has invited criticisms as well as praise. Yet another famous novel worth a mention is ‘The Castle of Wolfenbach’ penned by Eliza Parsons. Both these novels are rated amongst the top seven horrid novels ever! ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ written by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of his best selling works that discussed the psychology of split personality. The character of Hyde is shown as the evil side of Dr. Jekyll. This book is known for its descriptive narrative of the condition called as multiple personality disorder.

Yet another factor associated with Gothic literature was the character of the vampire. Vampires have been used in many romantic stories that have the twist in the tale. The book, ‘The Monk’ penned by Matthew Lewis also discloses yet another aspect about Gothic literature. This book talks about the distrust towards Catholicism and some of the darker sides related to the Catholic monks. An anti-Catholic approach as well as parody was also an integral part of Gothic literature.

Thus you can see the distinct characteristics of Gothic literature and how it created a niche in the world of literature.

By Kashmira Lad (author at



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