Gothic Literature

Fiction can take many forms. It can be poetic, brief or long. One of the most influential types of fiction to arise was Gothic Literature. Its name comes from the particular style of building in which many of these books are set. The style was very much suited to stories that have dark themes which both frighten and intrigue readers. This essay will delve into a few aspects of this much beloved genre.

When did it originate?

In the late 1700’s a novel called “The Castle of Otranto” was written. Its author, Horace Walpole, devised it in an attempt to bring together aspects of older styles and what was modern at the time of his writing into something new. He felt that realism was too heavily adhered to by his contemporaries yet medieval tales should have been a bit more realistic. This particular book was falsely passed off as both medieval and Italian in order to gain acclaim. This proved astute as the truth led to a reversal of previous acclaim.Despite this rocky start, the style took off and many emulated it thereafter.

What are the key features found within these books?

There is some measure of variety although enough plot themes most definitely recur for them to be called characteristic of the Gothic style. Heroines would lose consciousness with some level of frequency. Heroes would brood, rooms would contain secret doorways and quite often there would be a curse on the family of a main character. Also present in this style is what came to be known as the ‘explained supernatural’. Through this, events that are originally set up to seem out of this world are in the end revealed to be nothing out of the ordinary. These lent the books an air of dark mystery which many readers both then and now consider appealing.

How the genre evolved

As more authors attempted to use this particular genre, darker elements as well as parody of cherished institutions such as the church were included in it over time. In keeping with the popularity of magic, the dark arts became a central plot feature of many of the works released in the early 1800’s. Even writers who were critical of the genre often borrowed heavily from its plot devices perhaps unwittingly due to its popularity.

There are still echoes of the Gothic novel in works of Stephen King, Anne Rice and many other more recent writers.

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