Horace Walpole, Gothic Classicism, and the Aesthetics of Collection
in Gothic Studies
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Scholars of eighteenth-century literature have long seen the development of the Gothic as a break from neoclassical aesthetics, but this article posits a more complex engagement with classical imitation at the origins of the genre. In Horace Walpole’s formative Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto, his Gothic drama The Mysterious Mother, and in the curiosities in his villa, classical elements are detached from their contexts and placed in startling and strange juxtapositions. His tendency towards the fragmentation of ancient culture, frequently expressed through the imagery of dismemberment, suggests an aesthetic not of imitation, but of collection. Moreover, rather than abandoning or ignoring the classical, Walpole reconfigures literary history to demonstrate elements of monstrosity and hybridity already present in Greek and Roman texts.

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