In traditional literary histories the Gothic begins with
Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. 1 In this chapter I argue that
insofar as it has an origin, the Gothic starts life, not as a novel, but
as an aesthetic. The ‘Gothicaesthetic’, as I shall call it, was part of
that general shift in taste around the mid to late eighteenth century we
have come to call ‘pre-Romanticism’, although, as
This chapter contains collection of texts between 1670 and 1826 connected with the Gothic Aesthetic. A rash of translations from the German in the early 1790s, including Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller's novella The Ghost-Seer, had a decisive impact on the development of Gothic fiction in Britain. Ann Radcliffe's final work of fiction, Gaston de Blondeville, was published posthumously in 1826. This was first published separately in the New Monthly Magazine, as an independent essay in aesthetic theory. It suggests the continuing importance of Shakespeare, and contemporary methods of staging his plays, as an example for modern writers employing effects of terror, specifically the supernatural. The originality of William Collins's Ode lies in the fact that personified Fear is positively wooed rather than avoided by the aspiring poet. It can be measured against another, far more conventional, 'Ode to Fear' by Andrew Erskine.
Since 2005 Tim Burton’s imagination has frequently turned to Victorian-related
subjects. Focusing primarily on Corpse Bride (2005),
Sweeney Todd (2007) and Alice in Wonderland
(2010), this article argues that Burton’s response to (neo-) Victorian culture
is a distinctly Gothic one. Unlike other more literary and canonical types of
neo-Victorianism it engages with the popular and strongly Gothicised conceptions
of the Victorian that emerged through the horror cinema of the twentieth
century. It is also Gothic in the way that it self-consciously blends the
Victorian with other cultural trends. As a result, rather than offering a
strongly theorised, academic view of the Victorians, Burton remediates them for
his own aesthetic purposes.
Representations of Lower-Class Voices in Ann Radcliffe’s Novels
This paper investigates lower-class voices within the context of anti-Gothic
criticism, using Ann Radcliffe’s novels and early Gothic critic Joseph Addison’s
essays to highlight the ways in which Radcliffe reassigns value to the Gothic
aesthetic. It further emphasizes Radcliffe’s reconfiguration of domestic roles
as she positions patriarchal figures as anti-Gothic critics, the heroine as
reader of gothic narratives, and lowerclass voices and tales as gothic texts.
The Mysteries of Udolpho and Romance of the
Forest subvert critical discourse and its motif of servants’ contagious
irrationality. In Radcliffe’s novels, ‘vulgar’ narratives as superstitious
discourse do not spread fear to susceptible heroines, embodiments of bourgeois
virtue, but demonstrate the ways in which fear is a construct of patriarchal
discourse. Servants and country people, in turn, construct a pedagogy for
reading gothic texts that permit heroines to deconstruct metaphors of ghostly
haunting embedded in their tales and resist patriarchal hegemony and
interpretative authority over gothic texts.
Ever since the publication of Frankenstein, the Gothic has been
read as an expression of the fears associated with scientific, technological,
and medical advances. This essay argues that obstetrical medicine, from
midwifery to obstetrics, is the most Gothic of medical pursuits because of its
blurring of boundaries between male and female, natural and supernatural,
mechanical and organic, life and death. From subterraneous passages to
monstrosity, the professionalization of obstetrics over the course of the
eighteenth century and into the nineteenth reads like a Gothic novel. Tracing
the parallels between the Gothic aesthetic and several fictional and
quasifictional accounts of obstetrical ‘stories’ - from the Warming Pan Scandal
of 1688 to the work of Scottish obstetrician William Smellie and man mid-wife
William Hunter - this essay demonstrates the Gothic nature of reproductive
Gothic Landscapes and Grotesque Bodies in Mary Shelley‘s The Last Man
In The Last Man, Mary Shelley builds on Edmund Burke‘s aesthetic theory and Ann Radcliffe‘s definition of Gothic terror as elevating and imaginative by projecting sublime terror onto her landscapes. Yet, her characters’ identification with sublime landscapes insufficiently articulates their visceral pain; Shelley also emphasises the horrible, physical dimensions of her characters’ suffering, asserting the primacy of their bodies as sites of their identities and afflictions. The freezing, grotesque horror of disease conflicts with the landscapes elevating sublimity, as the Romantic and Gothic aesthetic categories of terror and horror collide in Shelley‘s efforts to articulate the materiality of her characters’ traumatic experiences.
This book investigates discursive structures intermittently recurring through Gothic writing, and provides intertextual readings, exemplifications of contemporaneously understood, discursively inflected, debate. By drawing on the ideas of Michel Foucault to establish a genealogy, it brings Gothic writing in from the margins of 'popular fiction', resituating it at the centre of debate about Romanticism. The book stresses that the intertextual readings form the methodological lynchpin for interpreting Gothic writing as self-aware debate on the character of the subject. Foucault's theory of discourse enables readers to gain an historical purchase on Gothic writing. The book traces the genealogy of a particular strand, the 'Gothic aesthetic', where a chivalric past was idealized at the explicit expense of a classical present. It introduces the reader to the aspects of Gothic in the eighteenth century including its historical development and its placement within the period's concerns with discourse and gender.
Felicia Hemans and Burial at Sea in the Nineteenth-Century
This article identifies sea-burial as a topos of the early nineteenth-century imaginary
that draws on both Gothic tropes and Romantic reformulations of Gothic aesthetics in order
to signal a sea changed poetics of shifting dislocation, decay, and denial in the work of
Felicia Hemans. The loss of a corpse at sea makes visible the extent to which any act of
posthumous identification relies upon a complex network actively maintained by the living.
This article will also develop our understanding of the ways in which Gothic tropes of
burial might extend into specifically maritime literary cultures of the early nineteenth
century. This strand of a nautical Gothic reflects not only nineteenth-century anxieties
about nautical death but the corporeality of both individual and cultural memory. Such
representations of sea-burial negotiate a nautical Gothic aesthetic that might propel new
understanding of the relationship between poetry and the material dimensions of affective
This book develops insights into the vexed question of Carter's textual practices through the dusty lens of the Gothic. It argues that European Gothic is vital to illuminating and understanding the tension between politics and aesthetics in Carter's work. The book shows how a more concerted focus on Carter's European literary inheritance sheds light on her particular and perverse engagements with androcentric literary and cultural frameworks. It emblematises the tension between her textual extravagancies and her self-declared 'absolute and committed materialism'. Her firm belief 'that this world is all that there is, and in order to question the nature of reality one must move from a strongly grounded base in what constitutes material reality'. The book examines the fraught relationship between Carter's sexual and textual politics. Exploring the ways in which Carter's work speaks to broader discussions about the Gothic and its representations, the book is especially concerned with analysing her textual engagements with a male-authored strand of European Gothic. This is a dirty lineage that can be mapped from the Marquis de Sade's obsession with desecration and defilement to surrealism's violent dreams of abjection. The book not only situates Carter as part of a European Gothic tradition but theoretically aligns her with what Jane Gallop, in her book on Sade, describes as France's "deconstructive" feminism, daughter of antihumanism.
The aim of this book is to make available a body of texts connected with the cultural phenomenon known as Gothic writing. The book includes many of the critical writings and reviews which helped to constitute Gothic as a distinct genre, by revisions of the standards of taste, by critique and by outright attack. Together, this material represents a substantial part of the discursive hinterland of Gothic. The chapters on supernaturalism, on the aesthetics of Gothic, and on opposition to Gothic contain a number of the standard references in any history of the genre. They are juxtaposed with other more novel items of journalism, religious propaganda, folk tradition, non-fictional narrative, poetry and so on. The book also includes chapters on the politics of Gothic, before and after the French Revolution. Therefore, it includes extracts from Tacitus and Montesquieu, the authorities that eighteenth-century commentators most often referred to. The story of Britain's Gothic origins, although implicitly progressivist, was to be re-fashioned in the cultural and sociological theories critical of modern society: that vital eighteenth-century trend known as primitivism. The book also broadly covers the period from the height of the Gothic vogue (in the mid-1790s) to the mid-nineteenth century. The author hopes that the book will encourage students to follow new routes, make new connections, and enable them to read set works on the syllabus in more adventurous and historically informed ways.