Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Something wicked this way comes...

Well these two aren't particularly wicked - they're the two friendly gargoyles (sorry, that should be 'grotesques' as they don't have water spouts coming out of their mouths - info from Saint Stephen Fry on QI) that live in our garden. But taking their photo set my mine to mulling on all things Gothic.

Grim...

and Grimmer...

I wrote my Master's dissertation on aspects of the Gothic in selected works of Thomas Hardy, and am a fan of Gothic literature in general. But why? I like the escapist element (one good reason the classic Gothic novel was removed in time and space from when and where it was written), I like the sheer grandeur of much of the poetry, and I like the emotions this literature tends to arouse in readers. We all like to be pleasantly scared by a book or film. As David Punter describes it in The Literature of Terror: The Gothic Tradition, there is, 'an emphasis on portraying the terrifying, a common insistence on archaic settings, a prominent use of the supernatural, the presence of highly stereotyped characters and the attempt to deploy and perfect techniques of literary suspense...'. So what's not to like?

This literary appeal to the emotions goes back to the cult of the sublime in the eighteenth century, and Edmund Burke's Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756), where Burke attempted to show a connection between the sublime and terror. He writes 'Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the idea of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible subjects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is a productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling'. So it takes more than stroppy teenagers with dental problems to create a classic Gothic novel (yes Twilight, I'm talking to you...).

More info...
Some Gothic links...
The Literary Gothic, The Gothic Society

Books on the Literary Gothic
The Literature of Terror David Punter
The Gothic Fred Botting
Gothic Readings Edited by Rictor Norton

And some of my favourite Gothic works...
Paradise Lost Milton
Elegy in a Country Churchyard Thomas Gray
The Mysteries of Udolpho Ann Radcliffe
The Monk Matthew Lewis
Caleb Williams William Godwin
The Ancient Mariner Coleridge
The Eve of St Agnes Keats
La Belle Dame sans Merci Keats
Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
The Woman in White Wilkie Collins (strictly speaking it was a 'sensation novel' as it brought the Gothic out of the past and into 19th century society, but let's not be pedantic...)
Desperate Remedies Thomas Hardy (how could I not mention him...)
Jude the Obscure TH (Gothic architecture, the dangers of Catholicism, heroines leaping from windows... I rest my case)
The Return of the Native TH (the sublime, supernatural, death etc etc etc)
The Poetry of Thomas Hardy
Dracula Bram Stoker
The Turn of the Screw Henry James (the Oxford World's Classics edition has got the scariest looking child on the front... seriously creepy)
Rebecca Daphne de Maurier
Any of Victoria Holt's novels
Interview with the Vampire Anne Rice
John Connolly's Charlie Parker novels

3 comments:

Mum said...

Can't say that I enjoy the gothic but I di agree that it is the scariest child on the front cover!

Ruth said...

The mere thought of Thomas Hardy brings me out in a cold sweat. I've never recovered from The Trumpet Major for 'O' Level English!

Christopher said...

Great list of Gothic-related lit! I have read everything but 'Paradise Lost', 'Udolpho', the Victoria Holts, and Connolly's novels. Milton is on my TBR for 2011. Cheers! Chris

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