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.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book aims to make available a body of texts connected with the cultural phenomenon known as Gothic writing. Some of the texts document the ideological and aesthetic environment which gave rise to the new form of writing; its conditions of possibility. 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. It covers the period from 1700-1820 of the Gothic vogue to the mid nineteenth century. The book contains a number of the standard references in any history of the genre, which it would be perverse to exclude. It includes extracts from Tacitus and Montesquieu, the authorities eighteenth-century commentators most often referred to.
This chapter contains a collection of gothic texts between 1706 and 1750 connected with supernaturalism. It is a commonplace that Gothic writing developed in reaction against the rules of neo-classical criticism. The aim of John Dennis's treatise as a whole was to show the necessary interdependence of religion and poetry, and the importance of strong emotions in both. Shakespeare saw how useful the popular superstitions had been to the ancient poets: he felt that they were necessary to poetry itself. Although William Collins ostensibly eschews the use of 'false themes' for himself, his emotive treatment of the supernatural material he recommends to Home makes him a precursor of the Gothic novelists. In the 1790s, Ann Radcliffe frequently cited his poetry in her fiction and journals.
This chapter contains collection of texts between 1777 and 1818 connected with Gothic origins. In terms of debate about Gothic origins, Thomas Warton's other main contribution was his controversial claim that romance was ultimately of Saracen origin. Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico and Germania of Cornelius Tacitus are two important classical sources for the political debate on the Goths. The most striking feature of the Letters is Richard Hurd's insistence that Gothic art has its own distinct logic, derived from the social structure of feudalism, and its cultural expression, chivalry. The works of 'Ossian' appeared at the same time as the first Gothic fictions, and together they represented a new area of taste within literary culture. In the Dissertation, John Pinkerton takes issue with earlier writers on a variety of points, including the place of origin of the Goths, which he locates in Scythia, in the Middle East.
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.
This chapter contains a collection of gothic texts between 1709 and 1814 connected with the Anti-Gothic. John Dunlop's magisterial history deals briefly with English Gothic fiction. The extracts include his general comments on the genre, bracketing a survey of works by Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve and Ann Radcliffe. But Horace's Ars Poetica was by far the most frequent resort of opponents of Gothic fiction and drama. Sophia Lee's The Recess, which relates the adventures of two invented daughters of Mary, Queen of Scots, provoked some unease concerning the mingling of fiction and recorded history. William Beckford was the author of the orientalist Gothic tale Vathek, which was compared to the Arabian Nights on its first appearance. In spite of the praise lavished on Shakespeare's scenes of supernatural terror, and their popularity with audiences, there was strong critical opposition to the introduction of the marvellous into contemporary dramatic writing.
This chapter contains a collection of gothic texts between 1776 and 1801 connected with Gothic and Revolution. As the minutes make clear, radical opinion interpreted the events of 1789 in terms of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. For many historically minded commentators, a key aspect of Gothic writing was the mirroring of the Glorious and French Revolutions where the balance of similarities and differences found itself repeatedly disturbed by stubborn anxieties. Gothic imagery is used to evoke the immanence of the past within the present, for instance in the description of the French constitution as a ruined castle, or of the state 'grasped as in a kind of mortmain for ever'. Ann Radcliffe's husband was editor and proprietor of the Whig newspaper, the English Chronicle. The newspaper enthusiastically welcomed the French Revolution, while Radcliffe's own family had links with the same Dissenting culture that included Priestley and Price.
This chapter contains a collection of gothic texts between 1797 and 1845 connected with Gothic Renovations. William Godwin was one of the leading radical intellectuals of the Romantic era. Thomas Carlyle finds romance in the phantasmagoria of common experience; romance exists 'in Reality alone'. The logic of Carlyle's position is that one should no longer seek the supernatural in the manners of the Middle Ages, and therefore in Gothic romances; one finds it, rather, in the theatre of everyday life. Anna Laetitia Barbauld, nee Aikin, was a radical Dissenter and an important figure in the history of Gothic writing. The 'Gothic', in the shape of Sir Walter Scott's version of historical romance, supports the cause of conservative idealism. This thesis is antithetical to that of the essay by Godwin and demonstrates the way in which Gothic writing remains a site of contention.