The words Goth and Gothic describe the Germanic tribes (e.
g., Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths) which sacked Rome and also ravaged the rest of Europe in the third, fourth, and fifth centuries.By the eighteenth century in England, Gothic had become synonymous with the Middle Ages, a period which was in disfavor because it was perceived as chaotic, unenlightened, and superstitious.
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Gothic architecture today
Today, the word gothic is used as an architectural term to describe the shapes and motifs apparent in medieval buildings such as cathedrals and castles.
Gothic architecture 12-16th century
Gothic architecture used pointed arches and vaults, flying buttresses, narrow spires, stained glass windows, intricate traceries, and varied details; its upward movement was meant to suggest heavenward aspiration.
24 September 1717 – 2 March 1797 Walpole wrote what is considered the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (very melodramatic)Published in 1764Inspired by his reconstruction of his home and a nightmare he’d had
1765: Horace Walpole. The Castle of Otranto 1794: Ann Radcliffe.
The Mysteries of Udolpho 1794: William Godwin. Caleb Williams 1796: Mathew Lewis. The Monk 1798: Regina Maria Roche. Clermont 1806: Ann Mary Hamilton. Montalva or Annals of Guilt 1807: Charlotte Dacre.
The Libertine 1818: Mary Shelly. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus 1820: Charles Robert Maturin. Melmonth the Wanderer 1826: Ann Radcliff: Gaston de Blondeville 1826: William Child Green.
The Abbot of Montserrat or The Pool of Blood
Importance of setting in Gothic literature:
The setting is greatly influential in Gothic novels. It not only evokes the atmosphere of horror and dread, but also portrays the deterioration of its world. The decaying, ruined scenery implies that at one time there was a thriving world. At one time the abbey, castle, or landscape was something treasured and appreciated. Now, all that lasts is the decaying shell of a once thriving dwelling.
Murder Terror Tombs CastlesVampire Curses Dungeons DemonsSpirits Ghosts Suicide DeathTorture Family Secrets Gloomy settings
A few more Gothic conventions
Damsel in distress (frequently faints in horror)Secret corridors, passageways, or roomsAncestral cursesRuined castles with graveyards nearbyPriests and monksSleep, dream, death-like states
Literary connections to Gothic architecture
“gothic” came to describe a certain type of novels, so named because all these novels seem to take place in Gothic-styled architecture — mainly castles, mansions, and, of course, abbeys (“Gothic..
Note the following metonymies that suggest mystery, danger, or the supernatural
wind, especially howlingsighs, moans, howls, eerie soundsrain, especially blowingclanking chainsdoors grating on rusty hingesgusts of wind blowing out lightsfootsteps approachingdoors suddenly slamming shutlights in abandoned roomscrazed laughtercharacters trapped in a roombaying of distant dogs (or wolves?)ruins of buildingsthunder and lightning
The Gothic hero becomes a sort of archetype as we find that there is a pattern to his characterization. There is always the protagonist, usually isolated either voluntarily or involuntarily. Then there is the villain, who is the epitome of evil, either by his (usually a man) own fall from grace, or by some implicit malevolence. The Wanderer, found in many Gothic tales, is the epitome of isolation as he wanders the earth in perpetual exile, usually a form of divine punishment.
Basic plot structure for a Gothic novel
Action in the Gothic novel tends to take place at night, or at least in a claustrophobic, sunless environment. ascent (up a mountain high staircase); descent (into a dungeon, cave, underground chambers or labyrinth) or falling off a precipice; secret passage; hidden doors; the pursued maiden and the threat or rape or abduction;physical decay, skulls, cemeteries, and other images of death; ghosts; revenge; family curse; blood and gore; torture; the Doppelganger (evil twin or double); demonic possession; masking/shape-changing; black magic; madness; incest and other broken sexual taboos.
Classic Gothic novels
Rebecca by Daphne Du MaurierJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontéWuthering Heights by Emily Bronté